New York Yankees Minor League Winter League Report

With the New York Yankees battling it out for a spot in the World Series their minor leaguers are taking the field in a much warmer climate to help hone their skills and make a name for themselves in the Winter Leagues.  At present 21 Yankee players are playing in the four leagues currently underway in Arizona, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and in Mexico.

 In the premier winter league, the Arizona Fall League, the Yankees have seven players on the roster of the Surprise Rafters.  Three Yankee players are looking to earn a spot on the 40-man roster or open eyes for other organizations to earn a Rule-V selection.

 Outfielder Colin Curtis split the 2009 regular season between Double-A and Triple-A hitting .250 between the two levels.  After 30 at bats split between 7 games he is hitting .367 in the Arizona Fall League including two games where hit had 3 hits.  He currently has 2 homeruns, a triple and 2 doubles for Surprise.  Profiling as a solid major league fourth outfielder Curtis could find himself repeating Triple-A next season.

 Right-handed relief pitcher Grant Duff made tremendous strides this season after splitting time between Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.  Duff reportedly has touched 99MPH with his fastball with Trenton this season.  In three appearances in Arizona he has not allowed a run on 2 hits but has walked 3 in 3.1 innings.

 Lefty reliever Zach Kroenke is no stranger to the Rule-V draft, he was selected last year by the Florida Marlins but never got a real shot.  After returning to the Yankees he dominated Triple-A earning a 7-1 record with a 1.99 ERA, striking out 55 in 72.1 innings.  So far in the AFL he has a 2.25 ERA through 4 innings of work in 3 games.

 Ian Kennedy is continuing his return to pitching with a stop in the Arizona Fall League.  Kennedy was 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in 4 games for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees before landing on the DL.  So far with Surprise he is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA after 7.1 innings.  The final Yankee pitcher in the Fall League is left-hander Mike Dunn.  Dunn is looking to keep his spot on the 40-man roster after a strong season in the minors.  In two games he has struck out two but has allowed 3 walks and 2 hits with Surprise.

 The final two Yankees with the Surprise Rafters is a pair of Single-A batters who could see time with the Trenton Thunder next year.  Austin Romine who is a lock to start the 2010 season with Trenton is batting .400 in 15 at bats spread out between 4 games.  He is joined by Brandon Laird who is batting .379 with 2 doubles and 8 RBIs.

 Infielder Walter Ibarra is the lone Yankee in the Mexican League where the utility man is hitting .500 with a double in 6 at bats.  Four baby bombers are suiting up in the Dominican League including Ivan Nova and Jose Valdez who are looking to earn a spot on the 40-man roster.  They are joined by Wilkins Arias and Jonathan Ortiz.  Arias is struggling a bit allowing 4 runs in 3.2 innings on 3 hits and 3 walks.  Ivan Nova has 3 strikeouts while Valdez has 2 in 2 hitless innings of work a piece.  Jonathan Ortiz allowed a hit and hit a batter in 0.2 innings, striking out 1.

 Nine baby bombers are demonstrating their skills in the Venezuela Winter League including the only switch-pitcher in professional baseball, Pat Venditte.  Venditte split the 2009 season between Charleston and Tampa, continuing the success he had in his first professional season.  In two games with the Aguilas del Zulia he has allowed 3 runs in 3.1 innings for a 5.40 ERA.  He has allowed a walk and 6 hits including a homerun.  He is joined by Josh Schmidt who has started two games allowing 3 hits and a walk in 11 innings while striking out 7.  Infielder Luis Nunez has appeared in 7 games for the Aguilas hitting .240 with a double.

 Right-hander Romulo Sanchez has split the winter league between two clubs in the Venezuela Winter League where he has a 1.59 ERA in 5.2 innings.  Edwar Gonzalez is batting .226 in 31 at bats for the Cardenales de Lara with 2 RBIs and 2 stolen bases, he is joined on the roster by Carlos Mendonza who spent half the 2009 season as a utility man in Double-A and Triple-A before taking a coaching job with the Staten Island Yankees.  He has only 1 at bat in two games and has no hits.

 The final Yankee currently playing in the winter leagues is the slugging catcher Jesus Montero who makes his return after spending the second part of the 2009 season on the DL.  In 18 at bats he has only 3 hits, with 2 runs scored in 5 games.  He has not homered yet in the Venezuela League.

 Two more Winter Leagues are expected to start soon.  The Puerto Rican League has not released their rosters yet while the new Florida Winter Baseball League has released partial rosters for their four teams.  Newly signed first baseman Trent Lockwood will be playing for the Lake County Black Bears in the FWBL.

Robert M. Pimpsner

Robert joins Gotham Baseball after spending 7 1/2 years as the owner and senior writer for providing independent coverage of the Staten Island Yankees and their alumni for thousands of visitors. In July of 2009 he joined Gotham Baseball, bringing his coverage of the Baby Bombers.

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