Just as the start of 2012 brought a lot of excitement to Charleston, the Tampa Yankees reaped the benefits in the latter half of the year. Unfortunately, a slow start to the season put the Yankees in a big hole in the Florida State League and they ended the year with a 65-70 record, their first losing season since 2005. Additions of Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez and Tyler Austin revived them somewhat, but in the end their inconsistencies early in the season were too much for the Yankees' hottest prospects to salvage.
While inconsistency was a problem for the Yankees on both offense and defense in 2012, they should have some solid players on both sides of the field this year. Combined with some strong players waiting for promotions down in Charleston, it could be enough to propel the Yankees back to a winning season, if not another FSL championship. Williams and Sanchez will anchor a strong lineup, with Angelo Gumbs probably starting in Charleston. Gumbs could spend most of the year with Tampa and be another great asset for the Yankees' High-A club. Yankees fans will also recognize a few of the people guiding the young hopefuls, as Luis Sojo will continue to manage the Tampa Yankees. Marcus Thames will join Tampa as the batting coach.
Who to watch with the Bronx in mind: Mason Williams: The young outfielder has gotten more and more attention over the last couple years. He had a strong year in Charleston last year, hitting .304/.359/.489 over 69 games in the Sally league. He ended the year in Tampa, where he still looked good before he injured his left shoulder, ending his season prematurely. Williams will likely start the season back in Tampa, but should move up to Trenton at some point, especially if he continues to progress the way he has over the last couple years.
Gary Sanchez: One of the other top Yankee prospects, Sanchez should be following a similar path as Williams. He played the bulk of last season for the RiverDogs, but made 48 appearances with Tampa. He should be headed back to Tampa to start 2012, where there is little doubt will still impress with his bat. His goal, however, will be to continue to prove that he can stick behind the plate and play some solid defense. By all accounts, Sanchez has made some good strides with his defense and should see some time in Trenton before the year is over.
Bryan Mitchell: The righty will likely anchor the Tampa pitching rotation, after putting in a decent year in Charleston last season. He racked up 121 strikeouts over 120 inning of work for the RiverDogs, allowing 72 walks. Mitchell has a lot of potential and should be fun to watch as he starts to get closer to the big leagues. He owns one of the best curveballs in the Yankees system and has picked up some decent velocity. If he can get figure out his control issues from last year he may really start to make an impression.
Who else to watch: Angelo Gumbs: The young infielder will likely start in Charleston this year, but should see the bulk of his playing time in Tampa, assuming all goes well. Gumbs had a slow start to 2012, but once he found his stride he started to show off all of the raw talent that gets the Yankees excited. He dealt with some injuries, but appears to be healed and should contribute to both the Charleston and Tampa lineups this season. Second base is still a relatively new position for him, but Gumbs has the potential to not just be a strong offensive player, but to impress defensively.
Nick Goody: While Mark Montgomery has garnered a lot of excitement after he quickly moved through the minors last year, Goody seems to be following in his footsteps. The LSU reliever who was drafted in the 22nd round last year zipped through Staten Island and Charleston after signing his contract. He appeared in four innings for Tampa, where he will likely start his 2013 campaign. Across those three levels and 32 innings, Goody owned a 1.13 ERA and struck out 52, walking just nine. He has yet to give up a homer in professional ball and could continue to move swiftly through the majors this season. Also, his middle name is Gunnar which seems like a great name for a pitcher.