Montero just about ready for prime time

Catcher among several youngsters set to make Major impact

Jesus Montero ranked second in the Yankees system in batting and homers. (Tony Farlow/

By John Parker / Special to | November 22, 2010 5:00 AM

This offseason, will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.

The Yankees organization had yet another strong season from top to bottom in 2010. Their top three farm clubs made their respective league playoffs with Class A Advanced Tampa winning its second consecutive Florida State League title. And though Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has proven willing to part with prospects for Major League help, his system still features talent that will keep the Bombers at the top for years to come.

Yankees organizational All-Stars

Catcher -- Jesus Montero, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (123 games): Considered the Yankees' top prospect heading into the 2010 season, Montero did nothing but burnish his reputation, batting .289 with 21 homers and 71 RBIs. He ranked second in the system in batting, slugging and longballs playing as a 20-year-old in the Triple-A International League.

Reportedly a key piece of a potential trade for then-Mariners ace Cliff Lee this summer, Montero was relieved to remain with the Bombers.

"All my dreams are with this team," he told the Scranton Times-Tribune. "Whatever they do, I'm going to have to live with it. But I want to stay here. I love the Yankees."

With longtime backstop Jorge Posada apparently relegated to designated hitting duty next season, Montero will be given every chance to win the starting catcher's job in Spring Training. Though his defense is considered a work in progress, his bat seems likely to take him far.

First baseman -- Luke Murton, Charleston (106 games): The younger brother of former Major Leaguer Matt Murton, the 24-year-old batted .282 with 12 homers in his first full season as a professional.

Murton, a 2009 19th-round pick, did most of his damage on the road, where he hit .311 and slugged all but one of his longballs. Though his production slumped in the second half, he finished the campaign with an 11-game hitting streak.

The Georgia Tech product was a South Atlantic League midseason All-Star and earned Hitter of the Week honors at the end of May, a stretch during which he was 11-for-22 with five doubles, a homer and three RBIs.

Second baseman -- Corban Joseph, Tampa (98 games)/Trenton (31 games): A 2008 fourth-round pick, Joseph has proven himself a solid left-handed hitter in two full seasons. After batting .300 for Class A Charleston in 2009, he hit .302 over 98 Florida State League games before a promotion to Double-A Trenton. He mustered a .216 mark with the Thunder, struggling against left-handed pitchers (5-for-42, 16 strikeouts).

A midseason All-Star in the FSL, Joseph is a stellar defensive second baseman. He missed the Eastern League playoffs -- and a stint in the elite Arizona Fall League -- due to a wrist injury that required surgery.

Third baseman -- Brandon Laird, Trenton (107 games), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (31 games): Selected by the Yankees in the 27th round of the 2007 Draft, Laird enjoyed a career season in 2010 that saw him lead the system in homers (25) and RBIs (102) while being named Eastern League MVP and Rookie of the Year.

The younger brother of big league catcher Gerald Laird, Brandon twice matched the Trenton club record for RBIs in a single game, plating seven runs on both May 16 and June 24. And on May 26, he completed the second cycle in Thunder history with a walk-off two-run blast against Erie.

Laird is considered an average third baseman, but with the Yankees set at the position for the foreseeable future, they sent him back to the AFL to learn the outfield.

"If you look at the corners up there, there are two great players -- Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira," Laird told Baseball America. "With me going to the outfield, left and right field, it gives me two more positions. I can play third, if someone needs some rest I can play first, left, right, even DH. I think that's going to be my best bet to get to the big leagues the quickest way."

Honorable mention: Robert Lyerly

Shortstop -- Eduardo Nunez, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (118 games), New York (30 games): The 23-year-old Nunez was an International League mid- and postseason All-Star and capably filled a utility role for the Yankees late in the season. His .289 Minor League average tied him for second in the system and he stole 23 bases while being caught only five times.

The Dominican-born Nunez was also sharp with the glove, posting a .976 fielding percentage (among the best in the IL) en route to a spot on the Topps Triple-A All-Star squad.

Outfielders -- Melky Mesa, Tampa (121 games): Mesa clubbed 19 homers -- third-most in the Yankees system and tied for second in the Florida State League -- and stole 31 bases en route to being named FSL Most Valuable Player. The 23-year-old led Tampa to its second straight league title.

The speedy center fielder also boasts a strong throwing arm and has all the tools to become a superlative outfielder. But he needs to work on his plate discipline -- his 129 strikeouts tied for fourth-most in the organization. Nevertheless, the Yanks think so highly of him that they placed him on the 40-man roster, despite his lack of experience above Class A.

Justin Christian, Trenton (87 games), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (16 games): The veteran had a solid season in his return to the Yankees after a year in the Orioles organization. His .289 average tied for second-highest among Yankees farmhands and his ability to put the ball in play and get on base served him well: he drew 48 walks against 56 strikeouts and stole 22 bases.

Christian, whose strong season came less than a year after undergoing surgery on his shoulder, really warmed up toward the end of the campaign. He collected hits in 19 straight games for Trenton between Aug. 17-Sept. 5, including a streak of five homers in five games between Aug. 29-Sept. 2. The 30-year-old also broke the Thunder's all-time stolen base record on Aug. 19.

Daniel Brewer, Trenton (136 games): Brewer, who turned 23 midway through the season, flashed an intriguing mix of power and speed for Trenton. His 84 RBIs and 34 doubles ranked second in the system while his 29 stolen bases were fifth-most. After a slow start in his Double-A debut, the former eighth-round pick batted .321 after the All-Star break and dramatically reduced his strikeouts.

"He can hit. He's a good basestealer. He doesn't make mistakes and he's a manager's-type player," Thunder manager Tony Franklin told the Trenton Times. "Just put him in there and let him do what he does -- and that is to win and play good baseball."

Designated hitter -- Juan Miranda, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (80 games), New York (33 games): Miranda, whom the Yankees dealt to Arizona on Nov. 18, ranked fifth in the system with 15 homers in 80 Minor League games in 2010. He added three more in the Majors. The Cuban-born 27-year-old was a solid bat over four seasons in the organization, posting a .367 on-base percentage with 62 homers but was deemed expendable with Mark Teixeira ensconced at first base and several proven sluggers vying for the DH spot in the Bronx.

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Dellin Betances, Tampa (14 games), Trenton (three games): The Yankees were blessed with a glut of strong right-handed prospects in 2010, but Betances, coming off a disappointing season that included elbow surgery, stood out. Joining Tampa in early June, the a 22-year-old proved nearly unhittable in the Florida State League, where he went 8-1 with a 1.77 ERA in 14 starts. After struggling with his control in previous seasons, the former eighth-rounder struck out 108 while walking only 22 over 85 1/3 innings overall. He held FSL foes to a .169 batting average, with Eastern Leaguers doing only slightly better at .200.

With concerns about his health seemingly behind him, Betances has tremendous upside potential for the Yankees.

"Right now, I am just trying to go out every day and improve and be consistent with my mechanics," Betances said after combining with reliever Phillip Bartleski on a one-hit shutout for Tampa on Aug. 2. "Last year, my delivery wasn't fine. I am happy to go out there every five days and give the team a chance to win."

Honorable mention: Graham Stoneburner, David Phelps, Ivan Nova and Hector Noesi

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Shaeffer Hall, Charleston (10 games), Tampa (15 games): Hall was splendid in his first full season since being selected in the 25th round of the 2009 Draft. Control was key for the 22-year-old, who struck out 103 and walked only 21 over 137 innings. After posting a 1.85 ERA in 10 starts for the RiverDogs, Hall was less dominant in the Florida State League but finished the campaign with a 2.89 ERA, good for sixth in the system.

He saved some of his best work for the playoffs. In two postseason starts, Hall allowed one run on six hits over 12 innings.

Though lacking overwhelming stuff, his command and poise leave him well-suited to succeed as he moves up the Yankees' ladder.

Relief pitcher -- Jonathan Albaladejo, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (57 games), New York (10 games): Albaladejo led the Minors and smashed the single-season International League record with 43 saves in 45 opportunities for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (the previous mark of 38 was set by Richmond's Matt Whiteside in 2004) -- and he earned the win in the other two games.

The right-hander, who turned 28 following the season, held Minor League opponents to a .170 average while striking out 82 and walking 18 over 63 1/3 frames.

"I've told countless people that I don't know where we'd be without Albaladejo," Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Dave Miley said. "He's a big part of what we've been able to accomplish so far."

He also impressed Toledo manager Larry Parrish, against whom Albaladejo tied the IL save mark on Aug. 13.

"He's marching it up there at 95 and he has a good breaking ball," Parrish said. "There's a big gap between his fastball and his off-speed stuff.

"But he also has the right makeup. He likes to be out there when the game is on the line."

Honorable mention: Pat Venditte

John Parker is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More