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Yankees open Minor League Camp

First-day assignments give early idea of top prospects' destinations
03/05/2013 1:02 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro
The Yankees in Major League camp had a day off on Monday, but the organization as a whole wasn't inactive.

Monday was opening day for the Minor League camps, with the 100 or so Baby Bombers who didn’t report to Major League camp officially getting started in Tampa, and with that opening comes the assignment of players into four work groups whose names correspond to one of the Yankees’ top four Minor League affiliates.

Of course, the groupings themselves don’t always mean that the players listed will begin the season with that affiliate; players will often trickle down once others are cut from Major League camp, and because there is no true group for players who will spend 2013 at short-season Class-A Staten Island or on one of the Yankees’ two rookie ball teams in the GCL, a lot of lower-level prospects are used to fill out those four groups wherever they are needed most by position.

However, within that caveat, the groupings do give a good idea at where the top prospects not in Major League camp and some established players in the system will end up; for example, outfielder Mason Williams’ placement in the Tampa group more than likely means he will begin 2013 in the Florida State League, while the assignment of RHP Zach Nuding to the Trenton group means that his strong 2012 season at Tampa may have earned him a promotion to Double-A.

You can check out the full official list of work groups courtesy of Chad Jennings and the LoHud Yankees Blog, but here are some notes of interest:

-LHP Shaeffer Hall has been assigned to the Scranton work group, which likely means that unless the Yankees end up signing a veteran to stash in Triple-A (a la Ramon Ortiz in 2012), Hall will earn a promotion and begin the season in the RailRiders’ rotation; on the flip side, with Austin Romine and Bobby Wilson still in Major League camp, the three backstops in the group – Ryan Baker (two games at Triple-A in 2012), Jeff Farnham (.192 in 30 games at Double-A), and Nick McCoy (.288 in 17 games at Low-A Charleston) are just there for the work.

-First baseman Kyle Roller, who hit 18 home runs at Tampa last season and was in Major League camp until Sunday, is listed with the Trenton group, as is pitcher Dan Burawa, who missed all of 2012 after splitting 2011 at both Class-A levels. Also in the group is pitcher Jose Mesa Jr., who was the team’s 24th-round pick last year but did not play in the system. Double-A would be a very aggressive assignment for a 19-year-old with no pro experience, so he, along with outfielder Mikeson Oliberto (spent 2012 in the GCL) and pitcher Derek Varnadore (Staten Island), are prime examples of lower-level prospects filling spots.

-Players joining Williams in the Tampa group include first basemen Saxon Butler, who hit .273 between Staten Island and Charleston after being drafted last June, and Matt Snyder, a former member of “Hank’s Yanks” who hit .299 at Staten Island; if Roller does end up in Trenton, they will likely be in line to be the first base/DH combo for the T-Yanks this year.

-The final group in Charleston includes the Yankees’ top four overall picks from 2012 as well as their top two international prospects, RHP Rafael DePaula and CF Ravel Santana – but it also includes their top 2011 pick, third baseman Dante Bichette Jr., and 2010 second-round shortstop Angelo Gumbs, both of whom spent all of 2012 with the RiverDogs and appear ready to repeat that assignment in 2013.

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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