This Is 40: Roster Moves & Fun Facts

It’s that time of year. On Wednesday, the RailRiders’ parent club, the New York Yankees, made a number of moves to its 40-man roster. The highlight name as it relates to the RailRiders – Corban Joseph, who was outrighted to Triple-A. After blazing out of the gates and for a time filling what was an otherwise never truly filled leadoff role for Dave Miley‘s club in 2013, Joseph also enjoyed a two different stints with the big league team. His time with the Yankees included playing in a pair of games as the team’s 26th man for a May 13 doubleheader at Cleveland. He played first base in the opener, working a walk in three plate appearances, and doubled for his first Major League hit in the nightcap when he played second and Robinson Cano served as the DH. Alas, he would have trouble upon his return to SWB as his average dropped to .239 after an 0-for-4, 2K showing at Durham on May 31. He later hit the DL and did not return to game action on the campaign.

No surprise, the Yankees added a number of their highly-touted prospects to the 40-man roster including their top rising star, the offensively talented catcher Gary Sanchez who is ranked as the farm’s top chip by most entities. Sanchez is still just 20 years of age and comes off a solid split season between Adv.-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton where he hit a composite .253 with 15 homers and 71 runs driven in. FUN FACTS: Sanchez is considered by many to be the top catching prospect in baseball. However, scouts would often criticize his defense. In 2013, Sanchez led the Florida State League in caught-stealing efficiency, helping to nab 46% of would-be base stealers. The league’s runner up, Clearwater (Philadelphia Phillies) receiver and Scranton native Logan Moore, cut down men at a 41% rate while Matt Koch of Fort Myers (Minnesota Twins) ranked third at 27%. Sanchez kept his clip high even after his promotion to Double-A as he and Trenton’s pitching staff combined to gun down 39% of foes with a thieving mind. If he had enough games played to qualify, that would have placed Sanchez third in the loop just behind Andrew Susac (40%) of Richmond (San Francisco Giants). Sanchez, who did not receive his promotion to Double-A until August, was signed by the Yankees at the age of 16 for $3 million. At the time, that was the record for the international signing of a non-Cuban player.

The Bombers also added outfielder Slade Heathcott and three right-handed pitchers, Jose Campos, Shane Greene and Bryan Mitchell. Heathcott spent the season at Double-A, but played in just 103 games (.261/.327/.411) with 22 doubles, seven triples, eight homers and 49 driven in. He played mostly center field where he is know for giving maximum effort constantly, sometimes to his physical detriment. The left-handed bat oddly stroked better against southpaws (.298) than he did against right-handed arms (.246), but ended the year well hitting over .300 overall in both July and August. Due to his prospect status and solid conclusion to the season, he’s a name RailRiders fans should keep an eye on for possible time in SWB in 2014. FUN FACTS: A first-round pick (29th overall) in 2009, Heathcott’s decision to turn pro meant not going to LSU on a baseball scholarship in favor of a reported $2.2 million signing bonus. He was the first position player taken by the Pinstripes in the first round since 2005. The player taken after Heathcott by the Yanks that year? One of the RailRiders’ best players in 2013, catcher J.R. Murphy. The Yankees by the way were set to have the 25th-overall pick in the first round that year, but lost that choice to the Angels due to the Mark Teixeira signing. The man the Angels took with that pick? The 2012 A.L. Rookie of the Year and two-time MVP runner-up, Mike Trout.

Campos, who the Yanks netted in the Jan. 2012 Michael Pineda trade, was 4-2-2 with a 3.41 ERA in 26G/19GS for Low-A Charleston. While he mostly started, only once did he last more than four innings for the RiverDogs. However, like Heathcott, his second half was much better than his first. After the All-Star break, Campos was 3-0-2. His ERA dropped from 4.70 before the break to 2.09 after and his batting average against did the same (.267-.229). Diving a bit deeper, all six of his July outings were starts, his last nods of the season, and in those efforts he went 1-0 with a 1.44 ERA and just four walks against 18 strikeouts in 25.0 innings. FUN FACTS: The 21-year-old native of Venezuela is currently with Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League where one of the team’s catchers is former SWB receiver, Jesus Montero. Montero and righty Hector Noesi were dealt for Campos and Pineda.

Greene split the season between Tampa and Trenton, starting 26 of his 27 combined appearances. The 25-year-old’s numbers improved after his promotion. With Tampa, he went 4-6, 3.60 in 13G/13GS while eating innings. He lasted six or more frames eight times. He also showed strikeout stuff with as many as 12 whiffs in a single game, a May 8 road win against Fort Myers, and 69 in total against just 10 walks over 75.0 innings. For the eventual Eastern League champion Trenton Thunder, Greene excelled to the tune of an 8-4 record and 3.18 ERA. Half of those wins came in six August starts. That included a complete-game effort in his last regular-season outing, an Aug. 31 win at Portland (Boston Red Sox). Greene posted a pair of great playoff starts, going 2-0, 1.64 with 11K in 11.0 innings and an uncanny airout-to-groundout ratio of 19:1. He was the only Thunder player to earn more than one win in the playoff run including the victory in the title-clinching game at Harrisburg. FUN FACTS: A 15th-round pick by the Yankees in 2009, Greene was drafted out of Daytona Beach Community College. He originally planned to attend the University of West Florida, the Division II power that has had 18 players drafted and won the 2011 national championship. However, Greene required Tommy John surgery in May 2008 and the Argonauts pulled his baseball scholarship forcing his move to Daytona.

Mitchell, who struck out more than a man per inning with Low-A Charleston in 2012, spent most of the 2013 season with Adv.-A Tampa. There, the Reidsville, N.C. product went 4-11, 5.12 over 24G/23GS. Walks proved a problem (3.8/9 IP) as did bad single performances. While the numbers were not pretty, consider this – 10 times he lasted five innings or more and allowed two or fewer earned runs. He gave up five or more earned runs four times, walking 13 men in 15.1 innings over those nods to skew his season significantly. On the bright side, the running theme of strong finishes fits Mitchell as well. A 16th-rounder by the Yankees in 2009, Mitchell finished the year with three Double-A starts and a 1.93 ERA in those appearances. He also walked just five while whiffing 16 over his 18.2 Eastern League innings. The EL hit a modest .208 against him. FUN FACTS: Mitchell is still just 22 years old and is coming off of just his second full season of pro ball. He was a South Atlantic League All-Star in his first with Charleston in 2012, and in 2013 started a pair of playoff games for Trenton to add to his growing résumé. While he’s known for his high-velo fastball and devastating curve, Mitchell’s wrinkle in 2013 was the addition of a cutter.

The other surprise regarding the 40-man additions revolved around a trade. The Yanks shipped right-hander Ben Paullus to the San Diego Padres in exchange for versatile infielder Dean Anna, who was added to the 40. Paullus, who had a career 5.56 ERA entering 2013, split the season relieving for Charleston and Tampa. Starting in mid-May, he served in a closing role for the RiverDogs, posting nine saves in 13 tries. He logged a 2.54 ERA in the SAL and struck out 60 men in 60.1 innings while holding the league to a .208 contact clip. However, in his six appearances in the FSL, he posted a 5.56 ERA and .300 BAA. Anna, a 26th-rounder in 2008 by the Pads out of Ball State, has been a career minor leaguer to this point and a very solid one at that. In his first season at the Triple-A level, Anna was an All-Star for Reno where he led the league with his .331 average. FUN FACTS: He started at second, short and third for the Aces and ranked among the PCL’s top five in hits (3rd, 165), doubles (2nd, 38), OBP (3rd, .410), runs scored (T-4th, 90) and total bases (T-4th, 240). Anna spent time this off-season playing for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Winter League where one of his teammates was Miguel Sano, considered one of baseball’s top prospects.

A few names that were not added to the 40 raised eyebrows as well including one SWB fans are quite familiar with – right-hander Chase Whitley. After injury forced a late start to the season, Whitley became a glue guy in the bullpen, a more-than-capable fill-in starter and one of the most positive people in the clubhouse. His name was mentioned often by scouts and swirled in the media as a possible piece in what became the Corey Black for Alfonso Soriano trade. Other notable omissions included southpaw Fred Lewis who spent time at three levels including one SWB appearance. He tossed 11 innings and did not allow a single run in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. Right-handers Danny Burawa and Tommy Kahnle are hard-throwing relievers that should be appealing to teams looking for help via the Rule 5 draft. Burawa missed 2012 (torn oblique) and struggled with his command in 2013. While he went 6-3, 2.59 with Double-A Trenton, he blew five of his nine save tries and walked 42 men in 66.0 innings. Burawa did toss four scoreless innings with just one walk in the Thunder’s playoff run. Kahnle was Trenton’s stopper with 15 saves in 16 tries in the regular season. He struck out 74 men over 60.0 innings and allowed just four of his 14 inherited runners to come home. However, he also walked 45 men including a dozen over 14.2 innings in August. Kahnle made two playoff appearances, both saves, and did not allow a run.

OFF THE RAILS: No. 40 was worn by a Yankee at the end of the season…That man? Former SWB RailRider, Matt Daley…The number has also been worn as a Yankee by three other 2013 SWB players – Chien-Ming Wang (2005-09), Alberto Gonzalez (2013) and Thomas Neal (2013)…Former SWB catcher Francisco Cervelli wore it for the Yanks in 2012…Other notable names to wear the number for the Yankees – Tony Cloninger as a coach (1992-01), Gene Michael as a coach (1984-86) and Don Zimmer as a coach (1983, 86)…Thanks to YankeesNumbers.com for the jersey data.

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