April 6, 2009 - South Atlantic League (SAL) - Charleston RiverDogs
CHARLESTON, SC - Six of the New York Yankees\' top 30 prospects, according to Baseball America, will be a part of the Charleston RiverDogs 2009 opening-day roster, the 26-time World Champion New York Yankees announced Monday.
Towering righty Andrew Brackman, rated No. 3 in the Yankees farm system by the publication and left-hander Manny Banuelos highlight the young prospects for the 2009 season in Charleston. The RiverDogs will have a veteran presence to begin the campaign as eight members on the opening day roster have previously donned a Charleston uniform.
Despite the youth with an average age of just under 22, Charleston will again have a battle-tested club. A total of 17 of the 25 players on the opening day roster played significant roles for 2008 New York-Penn League\'s McNamara Division-winning Staten Island Yankees.
According to PinstripesPlus, an independent scouting service that provides in-depth coverage of the Yankees farm system by Scouts.com, the RiverDogs begin the season with six of New York\'s top 23 prospects. Brackman, the former NC State standout, tops all RiverDogs on the Pinstripe Plus list, placing third overall among all Yankee farmhands. This will be the 2007 first-rounder\'s professional debut having lost the entire \'08 season due to Tommy John surgery.
Joining Brackman in the Charleston rotation is the recently turned 18-year-old Mexican southpaw Banuelos (No. 14 Baseball America/No. 9 PinstripesPlus). Banuelos, the youngest member of the \'09 RiverDogs, scouts are impressed by his poise at such a young age. Despite his unassuming physique, Banuelos commands a fastball that runs between 90-92 mph.
Clemson University standout right-hander D.J. Mitchell (No. 24 Baseball America/No. 11 PinstripesPlus) returns to South Carolina to make his professional debut. Mitchell signed too late to pitch professionally in 2008, but the athletic righty looks to continue his swing and miss approach on the mound as he struck out 106 batters in 98 innings in his last year at Clemson.
Brett Marshall (No. 22 Baseball America/No. 21 PinstripesPlus) was drafted in the sixth round in \'08 and decided to sign with the Yankees instead of enrolling at Rice University. The power righty has one of the system\'s best raw arm strength, topping out at 94 mph in instructional league. Marshall embarks on his first full season as a professional. Righty David Phelps, who at Staten Island last year posted an 8-2 record with a 2.72 ERA, rounds out the starters. Phelps has a big league changeup that is expected to bewilder South Atlantic League hitters.
Catchers Chase Weems (No. 39 PinstripesPlus) and Mitch Abieta will have the duties in handling one of the most prospect-laden rotations in recent RiverDogs history. Weems saw a taste of the South Atlantic League playing in five games for Charleston in 2008, while Abieta at Staten Island threw out 40.7 percent (22-for-54) of New York-Penn League base stealers.
A trio of infielders from the \'08 squad returns to Charleston led by 20-year-old shortstop Carmen Angelini (No. 28 Baseball America/No. 23 PinstripesPlus). The Louisiana native looks to continue to develop and grow in his second full season as a pro. First baseman Brian Baisley gives the RiverDogs a formidable power bat as he knocked in 65 RBI between Staten Island and Charleston last season. Infielder Walter Ibarra saw action at three different levels in \'08, but an ankle injury cut short Ibarra\'s season. However, a strong season in the Mexican Pacific League should have him at full strength.
Former University of Virginia infielder David Adams (No. 38 PinstripesPlus) and Garrison Lassiter (No. 34 PinstripesPlus) look to compete for time in the infield. Adams hit .333 in the New York-Penn League playoffs for Staten Island last year while Lassiter is a former AFLAC All-American from North Carolina. Lassiter appeared in only six games for the GCL Yankees in \'08.
Northeastern University and a 24th round draft pick in 2008, Mike Lyon was a New York-Penn League midseason All-Star selection. Former University of Cincinnati infielder/catcher Neall French hit .345 in 35 games for the GCL Yankees, which led the team in average but did not amass enough at bats to qualify among league leaders.
Abraham Almonte (No. 30 Baseball America/No. 18 PinstripesPlus) returns to Charleston to lead a youthful RiverDogs outfield. He was named by PinstripesPlus as the Best Base Runner in the Yankees system. His speed should consistently give the RiverDogs an added spark when on the bases.
Dan Brewer, Taylor Grote, Ray Kruml, and Melky Mesa join Almonte to fill the outfield roles. Brewer, an eighth-round pick last year out of Bradley University, was tied for fourth in the Yankees system with a .294 batting average in 66 games for the short-season Staten Islanders. Grote\'s solid all around tools but very raw talent shows great potential. Selected in the 11th round last year out of the University of South Alabama, Kruml immediately became a contributor for Staten Island as he hit .294 and stole 13 bases in 65 games. A Dominican native, Mesa led Staten Island in home runs last season and 14 of his 27 hits were for extra-bases.
Third-year manager Torre Tyson hopes that his closer, Pat Venditte, will continue to mow down batters with his switch-pitching abilities. In \'08 with Staten Island, the ambidextrous Venditte made 30 relief appearances and yielded only three earned runs for a miniscule 0.80 ERA while he converted all 23 save opportunities.
Cory Arbiso made his professional debut with Staten Island after leading Cal-State Fullerton in wins his senior season. Casey Erickson made three appearances for Charleston in \'08, but spent a majority of the year with Staten Island where he went 5-1 with a 2.76 ERA in 16 appearances. Former Notre Dame standout Dan Kapala made appearances in three levels in the Yankees\' system, including a cup of coffee with Charleston. Spending a majority of the \'08 season with Staten Island, Kapala shut down NYPL batters with a 2.10 ERA.
Selected in the 18th round, Brandon Braboy has raw talent with exceptional arm strength, as he was named NYPL pitcher of the week, between 7/21 and 7/27 he did not allow a run in two starts and struck out 10 in 11.0 innings pitched. Hector Noesi split \'08 between Staten Island and the GCL Yankees, and in his 14 starts, he scattered 18 earned runs in 44.2 innings pitched while striking out 55. Right-hander Brad Rulon commands two swing-and-miss pitches between his major league fastball and above-average curve.
The RiverDogs begin the \'09 season at the friendly confines of The Joe on Thursday, April 9, with the opener of a four-game series against the Rome Braves. Following a rare early-season off day, the RiverDogs tackle the defending SAL champion Augusta GreenJackets, an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, for a quick two-game set before tackling their first road trip.
Tickets for all 70 home games may be purchased at the Riley Park Box Office, on-line at www.riverdogs.com or by calling (843) 577-DOGS (3647).