Coming off of winning the World Series, the New York Yankees have some holes to fill in their 2010 roster (like outfield spots, the bullpen, the starting rotation, and the bench). Will they fill those holes with homegrown players or spend money on the free agent market? The Yankees players in the Arizona Fall League are hoping they can help the Yankees sometime in 2010.
After making his major league debut in his first full season in 2007, Ian Kennedy is trying to make his way back into the Yankees starting rotation. A first round pick out of USC in 2006, Kennedy has mound presence to go along with above average major league baseball command. He struggled in the majors in 2008 and faced a setback in 2009 when dealing with an aneurysm in his arm, though he did make it back to the majors at the end of the season. Kennedy is using the AFL to pick up the innings he missed when recovering from the aneurysm (pitched just 22.2 innings in 2009). In the AFL, Kennedy has picked up the innings (24.2) but has also struggled a bit in 6 starts (4.74 ERA with 25 hits allowed) though he has struck out 23 and has only allowed one homerun and 5 walks. With some question marks surrounding the Yankees starting rotation besides CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett, Kennedy may get a second chance to secure a rotation spot in spring training.
It has been a whirlwind year for lefty reliever Michael Dunn. He began the 2009 season in Double-A Trenton (where he was an Eastern League All-Star), was later promoted to Triple-A Scranton, and received a September call up to New York. The former 33rd round draft pick as an outfielder in 2004, became a full-time reliever at the end of the 2008 season, which led to increased velocity with his fastball. Before joining the Surprise Rafters in the AFL, he had the opportunity to dress up as the Riddler from Batman, courtesy of his veteran Yankees teammates. Dunn’s biggest weakness is his command, which leads to too many walks. In 2009, Dunn walked 46 batters in the minors and 5 in the majors. In the AFL, Dunn has 7 walks in just 8.1 innings. However hitters only accomplished a .216 batting average against him. Dunn relies on his excellent slider. Dunn will be given an opportunity in spring training to beat out Phil Coke and veteran Damaso Marte as one of the lefty relievers. If not, he will have to battle one of his Rafters’ teammates to be the first lefty reliever called up if Coke or Marte struggle.
That lefty reliever teammate is Zach Kroenke. Kroenke was selected by the Florida Marlins in the 2008 Rule V draft (though he was returned near the end of spring training). Kroenke, a 5th round draft pick in 2005 out of the University of Nebraska (and a teammate of Joba Chamberlain), could be auditioning for another MLB club while he is in the AFL. Though his strikeout numbers were not spectacular, he was one of the best relievers on his Triple-A Scranton team, as he was also an International League All-Star. In Scranton, Kroenke was 7-1 with a 1.99 ERA in 36 games (72.1 innings) and opponents only hit .213 against him. Kroenke has versatility as he can pitch in short relief or as he showed in 2009, he can be stretched out and make spot starts.