As exciting as their offense looks, the RiverDogs should have some good pitching this season as well. Jose Campos should start the year in Charleston, after playing for Short Season Everett last season, in the Seattle Mariner’s system. While he was not the centerpiece of the Jesus Montero trade, Campos is not a player to sleep on. Bryan Mitchell should also see time in Charleston this season. If he can continue to work on some consistent mechanics, he could be a huge boost for the team.
Who to Watch With the Bronx In Mind:
Gary Sanchez: It seemed a bit surprising when it was announced that Sanchez would start the year in Charleston, but it will be good for the young catcher. He struggled early in 2011, going back to extended Spring Training, and was given a hard time for some attitude issues. He was still pretty young so I personally don’t worry too much about those maturity issues, though I do not want to see them reappear this year. Sanchez eventually found his swing and was putting together a strong campaign in Charleston before an injury ended his season. He is one of the most exciting players in the Yankees system and a strong start with the RiverDogs could earn him a promotion to Tampa before the 2012 season ends. Sanchez will need to continue to improve his defense, however, as he has shown what he can do with a bat but still has a lot to learn behind the plate.
Dante Bichette, Jr.: The Yankees first draft pick of 2011 had a lot of people scratching their heads, but Bichette wasted no time in signing his contract and setting out to prove his doubters wrong. He absolutely tore up the Gulf Coast League in his first professional season, where he hit .346/.446/.505 and has tempered some of the early speculation that he would not stick at third base. He was the MVP of the GCL, a Post-Season All-Star and earned MiLB Organizational All-Star honors. Bichette has been praised for his work ethic and the Yankees seem to be showing some real belief in the kid, having him skip Staten Island and head to Charleston for his first full season of professional ball.
Mason Williams: Williams did not come out of nowhere, but his 2011 season with Staten Island sure woke up a lot of people. He hit .349/.395/.468, showed off his speed and defense and has found himself jumping up in the prospect rankings. Much like Bichette, it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to his first full season after dominating last year.
Jose Campos: While most eyes and pressure will be on Michael Pineda to prove trading Jesus Montero was worth it, Campos will continue his march to the majors in Charleston. He is an exciting pitcher who throws a lot of strikes. Campos will turn 20 in July and was ranked by Baseball America as the 3rd best prospect in the Northwest League last season. He will need to continue to work on his curveball and changeup, but will be a fun pitcher to watch for the RiverDogs.
What Else to Look For:
Honestly, I could probably spend all day coming up with things to watch on this club, but I do have a few other things I should do, so here are some more highlights.
Cito Culver: The Yankees first pick in 2010 has gotten mixed reviews from the start, but put together a good year in Staten Island in 2011. The biggest question mark for him seems to be whether he should continue switch hitting, as hit hit .324 from the right side of the plate, but only .224 from the left.
Tyler Austin: Another highly ranked prospect, I have seen quite a few people talk about how they expect him to be one of the people to watch on this talent-laden squad. With Bichette at third, Austin will probably spend more time at first base this season, a move that has been somewhat expected as his defense has been the weakest part of his game.
Angelo Gumbs: The young middle-infielder shows some great potential in all parts of his game, but also lacks consistency across the board. He has a tendency to chase bad pitches, has good speed but does not always make the best decisions on the bases. He primarily played outfield in high school and is still adjusting to second base, where he shows a strong arm and fantastic range, however, Gumbs still has some learning to do at the position.