In all the talk about a right-handed outfielder, much is mentioned about Matt Diaz, Melky Mesa, Russ Canzler, and even Zoilo Almonte. One name goes overlooked in the organization, not because he hasn’t performed, but because of his age. The 28-year old Cuban outfielder, Ronnier Mustelier, is not only a candidate, but he may be the favorite to win a spot on the 25-man roster.
The Yankees signed Mustelier in the beginning of the 2011 season, and after a short and successful stint in the GCL, the organization promoted him to High-A Tampa. In his 136 plate appearances, the outfielder hit 3 home runs and 13 doubles, good for a slash of .333/.378/.524. Intrigued by his 157 plate appearances, the Yankees sent the outfielder to the Arizona Fall League, where in 65 plate appearances, he again hit .344/.354/.516.
In 2012, the organization thought highly enough of him to start him Double-A Trenton, where he continued to pound the ball in his 114 plate appearances, hitting .353/.412/.598. He was in Scranton almost immediately, and Mustelier saw much more competition closer to his age group, yet still managed to hit 10 home runs in 385 plate appearances, good for a slash of .303/.359/.455. He was again sent to winter ball this offseason, and in his 233 plate appearances, he hit .284/.345/.471 with 9 home runs. His final line on the 2012 season was .304/.364/.482, 24 homeruns, and 19 stolen bases in 733 plate appearances.
“When we signed Ronnie, we weren’t sure what he was gonna be,” Girardi told BBD. “Then he hit in rookie ball, he hit in the fall league, he hit in Double-A, hit in Triple-A and he played a couple of positions, second and third base, too. What has really impressed me about him has been his bat speed. In spring training he had no problem turning around 96 or 97 mph fastballs.”
In the same piece, Girardi mentions that the Yankees have considered calling up Mustelier multiple times. With the Yankees in need of a right-handed hitting outfielder, and some third base depth, Mustelier fits the bill this Spring Training. He’s been on fire with the bat, but mostly against much younger competition. He’s played great defense in the outfield, and has some experience as a third baseman. If he can continue to show off his bat in March, there’s reason to believe he could beat out the current options.
While there are plenty of pro’s to be optimistic about, there are quite a few negatives to this story. Although Mustelier has shown some speed on the bases, he’s a stocky 5 foot 10 inch outfielder at 28-years old. And as much as every Yankee fan wants to believe in a late bloomer, it’s all too uncommon. Statically speaking, Pecota only predicts a slash of .242/.281/.355 with 7 home runs if he sees 442 Major League plate appearances.
There will be a number of outfielders to try out in March, and the roster spots will be granted based on how these players perform in March. Mustelier has overcome mighty odds to get this far, and one good month could translate to a Major League debut in April.