Friday, March 14, 2014

Mostly homegrown bullpen for 2014 Yankees?

The New York Yankees get loads of flak for failing to develop their own talent. That said there have been a number of players in the not too distant past that came up through the Yankee organization and became superstars. The core four of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada come to mind, and that Bernie Williams guy was a decent player.

However, the Yankees are seen by many as a team which relies on the free agent market to build its roster and those sharing such a viewpoint would not be entirely wrong. $500 million-plus spent this offseason pretty much speaks volumes about their strategy.

There is a developing situation in this 2014 spring training camp which could counterbalance the argument slightly. The bullpen could be configured by as many as four (maybe five) homegrown Bombers when camp breaks, and potentially more as the season progresses.

We know that David Robertson is going to be the closer for this team and I recently wrote he will excel in 2014. Robertson is the first of the homegrown relievers on the roster.

It is almost sure thing that barring injury lefty Matt Thornton and righty Shawn Kelley will lock down spots. After that the Yankees could fill the remainder of the slots with homegrown talent. Who are they?

I predicted that Michael Pineda will claim the last rotation spot in 2014 which would leave David Phelps a place in the bullpen. Phelps, a former Baby Bomber, I argued could actually end up with an important late-inning role this season.

Adam Warren also figures to come up short in the battle for the fifth spot and will likely find a home in the pen as the Yankees long man. Warren came up through the Yankees’ system beginning with the short season Staten Island Yankees in 2009.

Dellin Betances has had an impressive spring so far. In eight innings the big right-hander has struck out seven batters and has yet to allow a run. The former top-prospect, converted to a reliever last season, which was seen as a last ditch effort by the Yankees. It may be paying off. At 23-years-old, Betances could very well break camp with the team.

Preston Claiborne’s spring has not been nearly as good as Betances’ but he did throw some important innings in the Bronx in 2013. His experience on a big league mound, might make some difference in the Yankees selection process.

There are two other righties in camp who may crack the MLB roster either as camp breaks or at some point during the season.

Mark Montgomery, a hard-throwing 23-year-old has not allowed a hit or a run in three innings of spring work and spent a majority of his time at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2013. He recorded a 3.38 ERA in 40 innings, racking up 49 strikeouts in the process with the RailRiders. Montgomery ranked 15th on MLB.com’s Yankees’ prospect list for 2014.

Danny Burawa has shown some promise this spring as well (one earned run in five innings). Burawa topped out at Double-A Trenton in 2013, working 66 innings in relief. He struck out 66 batters and held opponents to a .202 average.

Lastly, the Yankees have one more homegrown reliever with a chance to see some major league time this season, southpaw Fred Lewis. Lewis split time at three levels of the Yankees' system last season, but most of his work was done with Trenton. There, he tossed 43.1 innings and notched a 2.28 ERA. He had a very high WHIP (1.523) due to a poor walk rate (4.2 per 9 IP). He has thrown 5.1 innings of scoreless ball this spring.

If I were to guess, I could see the Yankees carrying at least four homegrown players right out of camp (Robertson, Phelps, Warren and Betances). There is a chance one of the others mentioned could make it five. Regardless of who breaks camp, I suspect we could see all of these players in New York at some point this season.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.

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