The Tampa Yankees had an abysmal 2013 season, finishing the first half of the season in the basement of the Florida State League North Division. They had a better second half, but still ended the year with a 58-78 record. While the Yankees were one of the more successful FSL teams in getting on base, they struggled to bring runs home and had very little power in their bats. Yankees pitchers put together the most strikeouts in the league, but they also owned the highest ERA. Their opening day roster boasts a few prospects who could help in those areas, though it remains to be seen whether it will be enough to get them to the FSL playoffs.
On the offensive end, Tampa fans will get to watch Greg Bird man first base. Bird had a very strong 2013 season with Charleston, hitting .288/.428/.511 with 20 homers, 36 doubles and 84 RBIs. If that isn’t enough to get you excited, Bird’s 107 walks were the most in the Minor Leagues last year. Across the infield from Bird will be Peter O’Brien, a second round pick from 2012. O’Brien played the first half of last season in Charleston before being promoted to Tampa. Between the two teams, he hit .291/.350/.544. Jake Cave will join the Tampa outfield, having put together a nice 2013 in Charleston after missing 2012 after knee surgery.
Cito Culver will return to Tampa, where he will continue to try to hit well enough to move up the ladder. It is well established that Culver is a fantastic defensive player at shortstop, but his bat has kept him from moving very quickly through the system. Culver had some good moments in Charleston and was showing some improvements at the plate, earning a promotion to Tampa where he suddenly found his swing. In the sixteen games he played in Tampa last season he hit .355/.394/.484. Of course, there is virtually no chance he will match those numbers through a full season in the FSL, but if he can continue to make some improvements at the plate over his last couple seasons it will be a success.
Finally, there should be some pitching performances to watch in Tampa, particularly as Rafael De Paula returns. After a strong turn in Charleston to start his first full season stateside, De Paula was promoted to Tampa. The Dominican righty led Yankees minor league pitchers in strikeouts last season, notching 146 while walking just 53 batters. Jose Campos will also be on the mound for Tampa. He missed most of 2012 with injuries, but put together a nice season last year in Charleston. Campos seemed to show some improvement in his control last year, as he struck out 77 and walked just sixteen over 87 innings of work. Nick Goody, a relief pitcher out of LSU should make his way back to Tampa after undergoing Tommy John surgery. After a great first professional season in 2012, Goody looked like he could move quickly through the system, so it will be interesting to see if he can pick up where he left off.
Overall, Tampa’s Opening Day lineup has a few players that are well worth watching, but it looks like it could be another tough year for the Yankees. Of course, sooner or later some of the talent up in Charleston may make their way down to Florida and that could turn things around.