The consensus around the Yankee organization and Richmond County Bank Ballpark seems to be centered not only around the decent chance of Penn League success in '11, but mainly centered around the thought of potential Yankees passing through this year. With Cito Culver and potentially a mix of Evan Rutckyj, Angelo Gumbs, Mason Williams, and many others -- How can you blame 'em?
From 2005-2009 the SI Yanks were arguably the most feared team in the New York Penn League. Jeff Karstens, Ian Kennedy, Daniel McCutchen, and Francisco Cervelli (yep), it's not all that surprising. Being crowned League Champs three of those years, it was a surprise when the 2010 Staten Island Yankees finished not only last in their division, but fourth worst in the New York Penn League. However, few baseball fans who understand the way the New York Penn League works from an organizational standpoint know that winning ballgames in short-season ball is the least important component when measuring potential success for the team that's dependent on Penn League player triumph, the New York Yankees.
In other words, as long as each and every player expected to hop their respective hurdles does so, everyone is happy. So, player progression is most important and for the SI Yanks, it's something expected especially with the talent that's assumed to be there. As I recently pointed out in the Tri-City Valley Cats preview, 1/3 of Penn League rosters aren't decided until after the draft. Basically, 1/3 of SI Yanks who will start the season with the team will have been drafted, quickly signed, and suited up just days before Opening Day. Another third are currently making strides down in Extended Spring Training, and the last third are already decided. Before we get in to that, let's discuss the road that the Yanks will have to travel this year.
The SI Yanks open the season on the 17th of June against Frank Viola and his Brooklyn Cyclones in Staten Island. Shortly after the game, they'll cross the Verrazano and head to Coney Island to face similar foes, the Cyclones, for two games before heading back home to face the Renegades. Right after that game, they'll travel with the Renegades to Hudson Valley before they head to Aberdeen shortly thereafter to take on the Ironbirds. Yes, a tiring, complicated, strenuous, ridiculous, and strange schedule to start the year. Unfortunately, the first few weeks of the NYPL season for the Yanks are against some pretty good teams. However, again, wins and losses don't matter and rosters are drastically different every year. Ah, that's right, speaking of those preliminary rosters...
- Wilton Rodriguez -- 6'3/190 RHP -- Wilton started the year off with the Charleston Riverdogs before being sent to Extended Spring Training after an unsuccessful stint in Low-A. He's expected to be on the Staten Island Yankees roster barring any unexpected circumstances.
- Gavin Brooks -- 6'3/220 LHP -- Unfortunately for Brooks, he spent most of the 2010 season on the shelf following a stellar start to his pro career in '09. When he was in the NYPL in 2009, he showed real good fastball movement and was quite deceptive with his semi-crossfire delivery which helped him get a lot of batters swinging. He seems healthy and ready to go, the only question is whether or not his stuff will be as good as it was prior to his injury. Last I saw, he had a real loose arm and was able to attack hitters with several pitches. He limits fly balls and isn't afraid to attack batters, two things managers and scouts wouldn't mind seeing in a pitcher.
- Cito Culver -- 6'0/185 S/R -- I still think Cito Culver would be a much better pitcher than a hitter. In fact, if he was on the mound I'd say he could be a really good pitcher, especially with his plus stuff despite it being extremely raw. He was selected by the Yankees in the 1st round in 2010 and while a surprise, he was highly touted even out of the Draft. He has tons of speed and has good plate approach despite being a little too aggressive. He has little power, but he's not expected to go deep too often. However, his makeup and raw tools are features that have impressed scouts so far, and sky's basically the limit for him.
- Dustin Hobbs
- Bryant Cotton
- Will Oliver
- Bryan Mitchell
- Richard Martinez
- Zach Vance
- Francisco Arcia
- Nick McCoy
- Casey Stevenson
- Shane Brown
- Kevin Duran
As you can see, it's a bit more than a third. Alas, the rest of the roster will be filled by a combination of draftees and current prospects in Tampa. Just something to note, as Frankie Pilierre noted today, the Yankees are interested in Dillon Howard and Brandon Martin with their first pick, 51. It's not yet known if either are expected to be available, but from what I'm hearing Dillon Howard probably wont make it there.
We're less than a month away from Opening Day. If you were wondering, I have my notebook, scorebook app (on the iPad), blog (heh), and radar gun ready to go. If only we can get this thing started already. Back to the Yanks, you almost can't predict how they'll do. What you can predict is a fact, actually. And that's that there will be lots of talent floating around the ballpark, a beautiful ballpark to say the least, throughout the year. If you're a talent junkie such as myself, it's going to be a fun year. And if you're a New York Penn Leaguer, it's probably going to be even more fun.