If you're a Yankees fan, you might have a tough time deciding between a ticket to Yankee Stadium & Waterfront Park this season. At least when the season starts. And if you're watching your wallet.
The Trenton Thunder will showcase some of the finest talent in the Yankees farm system at the park by the river. Here's a preview.
Pitching To Keep Your Eye On: Manuel Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren
What You'll Get: Kids with veteran-like composure. A lot of strikeouts.
Spotlight: Adam Warren* (started season at Triple-A Scranton)
"Coming out of the bullpen, I had to lock in mentally."- Adam Warren, 2010
That quote came from Warren after relieving Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, whose rehab included time with Trenton and it was a standout moment for the 23-year-old. He did not appear rattled on the mound and if there were any nerves, he overcame them. It was a perfect showcase for the kind of pitcher Warren is. Warren dominated with the Staten Island Yankees in 2009, finishing with a 1.43 ERA in 56.2 innings of work. In 2010 he played at Tampa and Trenton, pitching a career-high 132 innings. His ability to control and command his fastball, sitting 93-94 and clocked as high as 96, has often made him appear to breeze through innings. If he continues at the same pace, that can only benefit the Yankees. And that includes increasing his trade value.
Catching To Keep Your Eye On: Austin Romine, Jose Gil* (started season at Triple-A Scranton)
What You'll Get: Behind the plate skill from Romine. Focus on offensive improvements. Pitching staff relying on Romine's strong leadership.
Spotlight: Austin Romine
"You have to keep working everyday, or those aspects of your game are going to fail. Never sit back." - Austin Romine, 2010
Romine, 22, had to go through a lot of tough growing pains at the plate and behind in 2010. The constant swirling subject of the competition between him and Jesus Montero seems a distraction, but it's also part of the challenge Romine faces. What he can't do is be Montero at the plate. What he can do is improve as a hitter and continue to grow and excel as a catcher. His excellent defense is well-documented. But what stood out in 2010 was that he expressed a desire to have a great working relationship with his catchers in an early conversation. At season's end, top prospect Andrew Brackman cited Romine as hugely important to his success on the mound. The importance of Romine to his pitchers can't be overstated. But his spring training results - hitting .180 in 14 games - prove he's got a lot of room to improve offensively.
New coaches: Justin Pope, Julius Matos (hitting coach)
What You'll Get: Youthful leadership from Pope. Focus on offensive improvement for several key players. Continued steady guidance from manager Tony Franklin.
Spotlight: Tony Franklin
"I don't mind the losses. We're going to get beat. But as you're being beaten, there's a measure of character you show." 2010
Franklin's approach has been a constant. But don't be fooled by his quiet manner. He is a passionate leader, unafraid to be a firm disciplinarian. He has seen many of the current crop of Yankees top prospects through the early part of their growing process, including Jesus Montero. His fifth season could be his most important at the helm. Will he finally get that much-deserved Eastern League Manager of the Year honor?
New faces: INF Brad Suttle, OF Melky Mesa, pitcher Graham Stoneburner and many more. Thunder has quite a new look for 2011.
What You'll Get: A glimpse at some guys you may not be entirely familar with. A tighter offense and defense. The Florida State League MVP in Mesa.
Spotlight: Corban Joseph
"I haven't really had time to adapt to it. [Double-A pitchers] can fool you better." 2010
Joseph will not be an entirely brand new face in the lineup, but he never really did get to do much adapting. 2011 will be all about that. He spent some time at Trenton, playing in 31 games, but he struggled to find his groove after coming from Class-A Tampa. Starting the season for the Thunder could lead him to being more ready to handle the challenge that seemed to come upon him too quickly.