Who to Watch with the Bronx in Mind:
Zoilo Almonte: Almonte made quite a splash in Spring Training, before being assigned to Trenton. He had a strong stint with Tampa to start 2011, but struggled to find his stroke when he was promoted. Almonte has become notorious for needing some time to adjust when he moves up a level, but that should be behind him when he starts this season. If so, he should provide a big spark for the Thunder offense, especially with his reputation as someone who can come through in clutch situations.
Graham Stoneburner: Stoneburner had steadily moved up the ladder but experienced his first major hurdle last season. He injured his neck in April and found himself on the DL for a good portion of the season. When he came back he did not have his best stuff, but he seems to be past the injury and should return to form, which will give the Thunder a strong arm in their rotation.
David Adams: Adams will also give Trenton a big lift as he returns from his 2010 ankle injury. He was owning Trenton in 2010, hitting .309/.393/.507 and showing some strong defense at second base. His ticket to Triple-A looked like it was on its way but instead an injury ended his season and he spent most of 2011 rehabbing and working his way back. Adams ankle is not yet 100%, but he has made progress and should return to Trenton as he tries to get his career back on track. A highly regarded prospect before the injury, this year could tell us a lot about whether he will return to form.
Others to Watch:
Pat Venditte: Ever since he was drafted, it has been clear that the Yankees’ switch-pitcher was not regarded as much of a prospect. He has, however, continued to surprise everyone, putting together strong season after strong season. 2011 was the first time Venditte had an ERA over 2.21, though a 3.40 ERA is nothing to scoff at. He led the Thunder in appearances with 51 and shows no signs of giving up. I do not particularly think Venditte will ever stick in the majors, but I would like to see the Yankees give him a shot at it. He has worked hard and consistently delivers, but he seems to be nothing more than an afterthought. He is going to have to make it impossible for the Yankees to ignore him if they are going to give him a chance.