Third base becoming the Yankees' latest hot spot of organizational depthDespite some injuries, inconsistencies, Yankees getting more than they bargained for
Depending on how you look at it, the diamond on that side of the diamond is likely either David Adams or Dante Bichette Jr.; the latter, of course, was the Yankees' top pick in the 2011 draft and is now in his second year at Class-A Charleston, while Adams finally broke through to Triple-A in 2013 and is excelling despite a career filled with setbacks and turbulence.
Adams is at the "top" of the depth chart simply by being in Triple-A, but he's also the third baseman with the least experience there of anyone at the top four levels of the Minors; the 26-year-old, who spent most of his career as a second baseman, had just 14 games experience at the hot corner - all at Charleston in 2009 - before switching to third late last season at Double-A Trenton.
He has played third almost exclusively this year in Scranton, and through the first five weeks of the Triple-A season was hitting .325 with two home runs, six doubles, and eight RBI, and had made just two errors against 29 assists.
Those numbers may have been enough to get promoted when Kevin Youkilis went on the disabled list, but unfortunately, it was Corban Joseph - Scranton's regular second baseman, but someone who got a lot of reps at third this spring - who got the call.
Part of that, at least, was simple roster math; Joseph is on the 40-man roster, and Adams was not only not there, he wasn't even eligible to be promoted; because of his release back in March when the Yankees signed Vernon Wells, Adams was restricted from being brought to the Majors until mid-May - something he could have seen as another missed opportunity in a career that has seen numerous injuries, near-inclusion in a pair of proposed blockbuster trades, and now a position switch.
"I was shocked (by the release) at first, but in the end I understood it; ultimately, this is a business and I hadn't been on the field, and when the team can pick up a guy like Vernon Wells who can help the club right away, you understand where they're coming from," Adams said back in early April.
Still, Adams did come back, feeling the Yankees were where he wanted to be, and he knows that if he can show the club he can stay healthy and perform at a high level, he'll get his chance.
"We shopped around a bit, but this was our best opportunity to advance quickly to the Majors, and given all the injuries right now, if I can stay hot and stay healthy, I have a shot to do some damage," Adams said. "I'm a firm believer that if you perform, someone will find you and you'll get an opportunity somewhere. For me personally, I haven't performed at that level yet, but I have high expectations for myself this year and hopefully I can be consistent."
Meanwhile, three steps down in Charleston, the Yankees have a baseball legacy; Dante Bichette Jr. is of course the son of former Rockies slugger and current Colorado hitting coach Dante Sr., so a lot may be expected of him, but that's nothing he hasn't dealt with before.
"It puts a little bit of pressure on, but honestly I enjoy it and perform better under it; that's part of being in the family, and it's been that way for me since I was 10 years old, so I've gotten used to it," Bichette Jr. said of his legacy. "Family is everything for me, and when I make it, it will be a tribute to them."
Bichette has struggled a bit at the start of his second season in Charleston, but he knows that despite this being his third year in the system, he's just now truly getting into the swing of pro ball.
"Last year was my first full season, so I learned how long the season really is, but now that I've been through it once, I know how to handle it, and the energy level you have to bring every day," he said. "It can't be too high or too low, and I think the biggest part is just having a daily consistent routine."
In between the two, the Yankees have numerous other players who have already accomplished enough to be on the radar. Although he will miss the rest of the season with a hip impingement, Rob Segedin was tearing up Double-A Trenton early this season, posting a .338-3-17 line in 18 games.
Segedin had switched to the outfield last year in Tampa and was a Florida State League All-Star, but moved back to his natural spot at the hot corner this year; he said it was disappointing to learn of his injury, but he knows that even though his development has been halted for now, what he's done already is something no one can take for granted.
"You can't focus on the guys ahead of or behind you, you just have to focus on working on your game, and, hopefully, your results will show the Yankees that you're ready and deserve a chance to move on to the next level," Segedin said. "And, the more positions I play, the more tools I have under my belt. I'm back to third bsse now, but having the outfield there is beneficial to me."
In the meantime, Kevin Mahoney - who himself hit 11 home runs in Trenton in 2012 - will likely man the hot corner for the Thunder, but when Walter Ibarra, who got a lot of reps as a utility infielder in Yankees camp this spring, returns from the disabled list, he could see time there too.
"I felt really good this spring, and it was great to be with the Major Leaguers and get some experience," Ibarra said. "I was happy knowing I was going to play a lot, and hopefully that will help me here."
And, down in Tampa, while the roster has been besieged by numerous injuries, several players have had more than a few games at the hot corner; Zach Wilson, the nominal starter, was hurt less than a week into the season, and Anderson Feliz and Fu-Lin Kuo have gotten the most time at third in the interim.
All in all, that means a stockpile of third basemen - and as the Major League Yankees have already found out in 2013, that's never a bad thing.