Success of Yankees rookies blocking path of others stuck in minors

ByColey Harvey ESPN logo
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

NEW YORK -- Between cranking second-deck homers and reveling once again in the adoration of Yankee Stadium's Bleacher Creatures, former New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher spent part of this past weekend doing something else he loves to do: talking.

When it came to raving about the parade of young, up-and-coming stars who have spent time in the Bronx this spring, he just couldn't shut his mouth.

"It's almost like our Triple-A roster is a major league roster," the always energetic Swisher said at Sunday's Old-Timers' Day festivities, chuckling as the octaves in his voice went up. "It's almost like we're running out of space ... which is a good problem to have."

Good problem for the organization, yes. Bad problem at the moment for certain players who have been stuck in the minor leagues because of the top-to-bottom depth the Yankees have at a number of positions.

But hey, that's business and baseball.

With the likes of 21-year-old Gleyber Torres and 23-year-old Miguel Andujar excelling and contributing to the Yankees' early-season success, opportunities have dried up for some others.

"I mean, these kids are so good nowadays. Everywhere from rookie ball up to Triple-A," Swisher said. "It's amazing to see the talent level."

In addition to Torres and Andujar, rookie pitchers Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga -- two starters coming off solid performances in winning their previous outings -- will headline the group of young talent the hot Seattle Mariners will face when they visit the Yankees for a three-game series beginning Tuesday.

As for those the Mariners won't see? Brandon Drury, Tyler Austin and Ronald Torreyes are a few of the Triple-A players even general manager Brian Cashman has said deserve to be big leaguers.

Lately, the effects of New York's talent backlog at the major and minor league levels has tested the patience of a few deserving players.

Outfielder Clint Frazier, another player who was on Cashman's list before he was called up Monday, admitted feeling a little weary of the lack of big league playing time he has had this year. While proclaiming his pride in the way the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders have performed this season, like any hungry young ballplayer, he wants it known that he'd rather be with the Yankees on a more regular basis.

"It's hard not to be unhappy about the situation," Frazier said, "but I'm just happy now that I've got a change of scenery."

Barring a disabled list stint for veteran Brett Gardner, who is nursing a sore knee, Frazier likely will be up for only a couple of days before heading back to the minor leagues. He has been in four major league games this year and has played 42 in the minors.

In Monday night's makeup game against the Washington Nationals, Frazier led off the seventh inning by getting hit by a pitch to spark a rally that gave the Yankees a necessary insurance run in the 4-2 win.

Back at Yankee Stadium on Old-Timers' Day, it was clear that while pausing to celebrate the past, some former Yankees icons were eager to discuss their team's future.

"They've got these great young talents and veteran pitching, great bullpen. They have all the makings of a championship team, no doubt about it," said Jason Giambi, who was a three-time All-Star when he played in New York between 2002 and '08.

Former second baseman Willie Randolph raved about Torres, a rookie whose bat has made Yankees fans giddy. Often, it seems when the Yankees have needed a clutch hit, Torres has been there to deliver. He has three game-winning hits and has hit 13 home runs since he was called up from Triple-A in April.

"All these things are there," Randolph said. "He's got great hands, you can see that he's not intimidated with the moment. All the things you like to see in a young player, he has."

Torres' offense isn't his only tool. He has the kind of range that can put a lot of second basemen to shame, and he has the kind of arm that could make some shortstops envious. His overall game has placed him in the early Rookie of the Year race.

Randolph agrees such glowing praise might be appropriate for Torres in time, but he wants the baseball world to go a little easy on hyping the up-and-coming star.

"Kind of take the time and let him develop," Randolph said. "We sometimes in this town and this culture we live in, we anoint greatness too quickly. He's a really fine player with a great young talent, and I just enjoy watching him do his thing. So all I'm saying to you is, enjoy this ride that this kid is taking you on. He's the future of the franchise."

Rest assured, Swisher, named this offseason to a special advisory role that has him spending time with the minor leaguers, will be enjoying the ride that Torres and the rest of the young Yankees take him on, wherever it might lead.

"They've got the 'it' factor," Swisher said. "For myself to be part of the band again and to enjoy these guys and to watch these guys have success, it's been a lot of fun."

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