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Yankees prospects who could replace Curtis Granderson

02/26/2013 9:25 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Melky Mesa is set to play in the WBC, but would he be better served staying in Yankees camp?(AP)
Curtis Granderson will be out approximately 10 weeks because of a fractured forearm suffered on Sunday, and the Yankees already seem to the framework of a plan in place to replace him; general manager Brian Cashman said the team will look internally to find a short-term stand-in, and manager Joe Girardi said that depending on where that person is most comfortable, he would consider moving now-center fielder Brett Gardner or right fielder Ichiro Suzuki over to left field in the interim.

Within those statements, however, there are a couple different ways to interpret the internal options that Cashman and company could consider; one line of thinking is that it could open up an extra spot for one of the veteran non-roster invitees, while the other could see the Yankees call on a prospect from within the organization – whether he is currently on the 40-man roster or not – to fill Granderson’s shoes.

There are plenty of choices within either scope, and the names below are the guys who might best fit the bill if Cashman and Joe Girardi choose to go with a true Baby Bomber.

Zoilo Almonte
Now 23, Almonte has been in the Yankees system since 2006 and put up a line of .277-21-70 with 15 steals in 106 games at Double-A Trenton last season. Brian Cashman said Sunday that the team has “future everyday right fielder” grades on Almonte, and he has shown that he has a similar combination of power, speed, and defensive ability as Granderson. He’s also on the 40-man roster, which means the Yankees could live with putting Granderson on the 15-day disabled list come April 1 or could save a roster spot for someone else if they move him to the 60-day.

Donnie Collins, who covers the Triple-A Yankees for the Scranton Times-Tribune, posited on Monday that “if you’re going to try to catch lighting in a bottle for a month with a prospect you don’t think is quite ready, this is one that you might be more willing to push,” further saying that “Almonte won’t hurt the Yankees in left field defensively and should be OK hitting in the No. 9 spot.”

One other thing working in Almonte’s favor: he hit a massive two-run home run in his first spring at-bat on Saturday, and unlike others on this list, he won’t be leaving camp for the World Baseball Classic. Add it all up, and he could be the leading candidate.

Melky Mesa
Now 26 and fresh off a September 2012 call-up that saw him make his Major League debut, Melky Mesa has all the credentials to be considered “ready” for the Majors; overall, he hit .264 with 23 home runs, 67 RBI, and 22 steals between Trenton and Scranton last year, bashing nine of those homers in just 133 at-bats at Triple-A. He rates perhaps even higher than Almonte in the speed-power-defense balance, is also on the 40-man roster, and is a natural center fielder, a trait that would allow the Yankees to have a “backup” for Brett Gardner if need be; Cashman has said that’s not a priority, but it isn’t a bad luxury to have, either.

Mesa is still scheduled to leave camp at the end of the week to go play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, and while he has said that he will back out of the WBC if the Yankees ask, Joe Girardi said he doesn't plan on doing making that request; during his media session Monday, Girardi said that bench coach Tony Pena, who will manage the Dominican team, has said Mesa will get a lot of playing time in the WBC, and Pena can evaluate him first-hand.

Of note is that Mesa started two Mesa has started two of the team’s first three Grapefruit League games and was scheduled to start on Wednesday, so Girardi will get a good long look at him before he leaves - and likely will see Mesa again in the starting lineup when the Yankees host the Dominicans on March 6.

Ronnier Mustelier
Profiled as one of the players to watch this spring, Mustelier has rocketed through the system since signing in 2011 and hit everywhere he’s gone. The 28-year-old Cuban has a .324-18-96 line in 150 games at four levels, and he hit .303-10-49 in 89 games at Triple-A last year. Mustelier has also played all three outfield positions as well as second and third base in the Minors, but scouts have said that he isn’t spectacular defensively at any one position. Still, given his hitting, the Yankees could take a chance, hoping that playing in an outfield with Gardner and Ichiro will mask any deficiencies and/or finding a way to get Mustelier in as the DH on some of the days where a lefty starts for the opposing team.

Other Options
There are plenty of outfield prospects in camp, but any beyond the big three listed above are likely longshots at best. Joe Girardi said Monday that neither Slade Heathcott nor Tyler Austin are true candidates to make the team, and it’s likely that Ramon Flores and Mason Williams fall into the same boat; of that foursome, only Flores and Austin have any experience whatsoever above Class-A, and they were only promoted to Trenton last September.

That leaves corner outfielder Rob Segedin and center fielder Adonis Garcia, who both split last season between Tampa and Trenton, as the only other options, but given that Garcia has 57 games of American experience and Segedin hit just .188 after his call-up to Double-A, they’d likely need to have outstanding springs to even be considered.

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