There has been and likely will continue to be a lot of great discussion surrounding the merits of the recent Michael Pineda–Jesus Montero deal, but I thought I would leave that topic largely alone in this post. Instead, the less-publicized acquisition of teenage RHP Jose Campos got me thinking about the Yankee farm, and in particular, the highly impressive array of talent that will likely be suiting up for the Yankees’ low-A club, the Charleston Riverdogs, next season.
Campos, who tore up the short-season Northwest League (equivalent to the New York-Penn League) for the Everett AquaSox is likely to be a fixture of Charleston’s 2012 rotation to begin the season. Since he has already pitched a season in the Northewest League, however, I imagine he will be on the fast track to Tampa if he repeats his dominant 2011 performance. The Sally League is not a tremendous jump in competition from the Northwest League, so it is certainly conceivable that Campos could have similar success there in his Yankee debut.
Campos will likely be joined in the Charleston rotation by several other intriguing Yankee prospects, including bonus babies Evan DeLuca and Bryan Mitchell. Both DeLuca and Mitchell have struggled with control on occasion, and their results have not yet matched their raw stuff. These pitchers will likely be supported by several of the Yankees’ most intriguing relief prospects in Phil Wetherell and Branden Pinder, both power arms who were able to pile up strikeouts in their short stays in Staten Island after being drafted. If he’s finally healthy, Caleb Cotham could start 2012 with Charleston, working out of the bullpen most likely.
In addition to their strength on the pitching side, the Riverdogs look to be deep in positional prospects as well. The Riverdog infield will likely include Dante Bichette at 3rd, Cito Culver at short, Angelo Gumbs at second, and either Rey Nunez or Tyler Austin at 1st (with Austin also getting some time at 3rd and DH possibly). Mason Williams will likely hold down centerfield for the Riverdogs (though he could be on the fast track if he tears it up from Day 1) and Ben Gamel will join him at one of the corners. Isaias Tejada, who raked last year in the GCL could wind up being the everyday catcher in Charleston (though more likely he ends up in Staten Island). If Tejada doesn’t make it to Charleston, catcher could be a bit of a weak spot, with glove-first guy Jhorge Liccien likely seeing the bulk of the playing time.
As a whole, the Riverdogs should be a very exciting team to follow next season. They will have a rotation and bullpen both full of hard-throwers, as well as a good mix of speed (Williams and Gumbs) and power (Bichette, Austin, Nunez) throughout the lineup. The group contains at least 6 of the Yankees’ top 20 prospects (Bichette, Williams and Campos are all top 10, plus Culver, Gumbs, and Austin) and a number of other guys who would get top 30 consideration (Pinder, Wetherell, Mitchell, and Gamel). There is also a lot of breakout potential in this group, as guys like Bichette and Williams in particular have the potential to shoot way up the prospect charts with strong seasons in Charleston (and elsewhere). Williams is probably the only guy in this group who would make the BA preseason Top 100, but he could be joined by several others from this squad if all goes according to plan.