Pitching will continue to be the main question for the Yankees. Jose Quintana gave Tampa a strong 2011, going 10-2 over twelve starts and thirty appearances with a 2.91 ERA. He signed with the White Sox during the offseason, however, so someone will need to step up and fill those shoes. Solid pitching prospects Nik Turley and Mark Montgomery should provide some help on the mound for Tampa. If they can put together some decent pitching, the Yankees could contend for another FSL Championship.
Who to Watch with the Bronx in Mind:
Slade Heathcott: All eyes will be on the Yankees’ 2009 First Round Draft pick, once he returns to action. It is likely, the toolsy outfielder will be out until some time in June after suffering a shoulder injury last season. Heathcotts troubles both on and off the field have been well-documented, however, he’s still young and has all kinds of talent. How he bounces back from this injury will show us whether he will continue on his fast track towards the majors.
Ramon Flores: Picking up South Atlantic League All-Star honors in 2011, Flores looks like he is adding some power to his game. He turns 20 in just a few days and continues to work on his fielding and running game, but he should provide a great offensive threat for Tampa.
J.R. Murphy: During the last few years we have heard a lot about the Yankees’ catching prospect trio of Jesus Montero, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez. Apparently no one told Murphy that he was being excluded from that group because he made lots of noise in Charleston last year, hitting .293/.343/.457, before being bumped up to Tampa. His numbers dropped a bit, but he still showed some good stuff and should adjust accordingly this season. A strong showing at the start of this season could earn him a promotion to Trenton before 2012 is over, as the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate seems to be lacking the exciting catching prospects they have gotten used to over the years.
Mark Montgomery: Montgomery is a hard throwing pitcher who has been compared to David Robertson. I saw at least one person state that they think he could skip Tampa and go straight to Trenton to start the season, as he pretty much baffled hitters during his time in Charleston last season.