Minor league spring training is officially underway down at the Himes Complex in Tampa and with that the first workout groups have been released. Among those on the Double-A workout group roster are players like Cale Coshow, Caleb Smith, Billy Fleming and Michael O’Neill.
While those players are likely to see some time with the Trenton Thunder this season there are others that will be at the lower levels like Donny Sands, Kyle Holder, Chris Breen, Zack Zehner and Alexander Palma.
Let’s take a look at a few players to keep an eye on in the Yankees Double-A workout group roster.
Dan Camarena – LHP
In the 20th round of the 2011 draft the New York Yankees drafted LHP Dan Camarena out of Cathedral Catholic HS. In 56 games in the minors he has a 11-17 record with a 3.66 ERA and 210 strikeouts in 272 2/3 innings pitched. His best season was 2014 where he went 7-11 with 112 strike outs in 143 innings between Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. He was also named a mid-season All-Star that year. Camarena sat out the entire 2015 season with an elbow injury. He does not throw hard with a fastball in the high 80s-low 90s, a 12-6 curveball changeup and slider he uses his command and control to get batters outs. If he is healthy in 2016 he figures to return to Double-A as part of their rotation.
Chris Gittens – 1B
Chris Gittens was drafted by the New York Yankees and made appearances in 11 games in 2014 for the Gulf Coast League Yankees with 10 hits in 35 at bats, good for a batting average of .286. Of those 10 hits, 4 were doubles and he drove in 5 runs while scoring 6 runs. He walked 7 times during the season and struck out 10 times.
Gittens returned to the Gulf Coast League for the 2015 season and in 41 games he hit .363 with 45 hits in 124 at bats. He hit 9 doubles, 1 triple and 8 homeruns while driving in 29 runs and scoring 25. He walked 17 times with the GCL Yankees and stole 2 bases. His success earned him a brief 5-game cameo with the Tampa Yankees at the end of the season. In 14 at bats in the Florida State League he had 2 hits and 1 RBI, walking once.
Billy Fleming – 1B
Billy Fleming is another non-drafted free agent that was signed by the Yankees and one that has the ability to contribute in the minors as well. He signed on July 23, 2014 and started his career hitting .330 in 31 games between the GCL and the NY-Penn League. He started the 2015 season with 5 games in Tampa in May, hitting .364 with 2 walks before going back to extended spring training.
Fleming then was assigned to the Pulaski Yankees where he continued to hit, hitting .338 in 15 games and began bouncing the system. He spent 26 games with the Charleston RiverDogs where he hit .330, 14 games in Double-A Trenton where he hit .250 and eventually 2 more games in Tampa where he went hitless to lower his season average to .235 with the T-Yanks.
Billy also bounced around the field, playing 4 different positions in 2015 and a total of 5 different positions as a professional. In his short minor league career, he has played 45 games at second base, 17 at third base, 14 games at first base, 8 games at shortstop and 1 game in left field. All 14 games at first base came in 2015 and 11 of them in Double-A. With the recent injury to Greg Bird it is possible he could find himself getting more reps at first base in 2016.
Donny Sands – 3B
In 2015 the New York Yankee selected infielder Donny Sands with the 243 overall pick in the eighth round of the First-Year-Player Draft out of Salpointe Catholic High School in Arizona. On June 22, 2015 he made his professional debut in a Gulf Coast League game between the GCL Yankees 1 and the GCL Phillies at the Yankees complex, in that game he went 1-for-4 with 1 RBI.
Samds went on to become one of the Yankees top hitters in the league hitting .309 in 48 games. Of his 50 hits, 9 were doubles, and he also drove in 26 runs while walking 24 times and striking out just 15 times in the GCL.
Though neither of the GCL Yankees qualified for the post-season Donny’s season did not end there. He earned a late-season promotion to the South Atlantic League where he appeared in 7 games for the Charleston RiverDogs. With the RiverDogs he hit .310 in 29 at bats with 1 double, 4 RBIs and 1 walk.
During his high school career Donny played mostly shortstop but the Yankees felt he has the tools and the ability to