COMMENTARY | If the Yankees place Mark Teixeira on the disabled list, as they're expected to do this week, the team should forget about recalling major league castoffs like Brennan Boesch or Dan Johnson and call up hot-hitting prospect Zoilo Almonte.
Almonte, a switch-hitting outfielder, is hitting .425 (17-for-40) over his last 10 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and is batting .297 with a .369 OBP for the season.
Ranked the team's tenth-best prospect by MLB.com entering the 2013 season, the Dominican native has been on the Yankees' 40-man roster since the end of the 2011 season (to protect him from the Rule 5 draft) and deserves a shot at playing in the big leagues. Last year at Double-A Trenton, he batted .277 with 21 homers and 70 RBIs in 106 games.
Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2005, one week after his 16th birthday, Almonte has been posting minor league All-Star numbers since 2009 and turned heads in spring training earlier this year, leading general manager Brian Cashman to describe him as "one of those guys that we have future everyday right fielder scouting grades on."
If the Yankees are serious about filling holes from within their own organization, promoting Almonte is something that should have been done earlier in the season. Rather than trading for a corner outfielder, why not see if Almonte can handle major league pitching? What's the worst that can happen? That he replicates Vernon Wells' recent dismal numbers.
In addition to Almonte, the Yankees should, at some point, think about calling up catcher J.R. Murphy and outfielders Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams. These moves would require finding room on the 40-man roster, although players like Boesch, Melky Mesa, Reid Brignac, and Chris Bootcheck would be expendable once Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson return from the disabled.
Once he's recovered from a recent injury, outfielder Ronnie Mustelier, who was hitting .280 for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being placed on the disabled list, also deserves a big league opportunity. Signed for a mere $50,000 in 2011, the 28-year-old Cuban defector batted .303 with 10 home runs and 7 stolen bases in 89 games last season for the Triple-A club.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.
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