While the unexpected success of veterans like Wells and Hafner dominated the early headlines, lately it's the kids getting the bulk of the spotlight as the Yankees continue to get helpful contributions from rookies. 5 in all have made their Major League debut already this season, something that the Yanks haven't done since guys like Mo and Jeter debuted back in '95. For a team that's had its MiL system defined by a lack of upper-level impact talent, it's notable not only for the number of players but also for the fact that the team continues to win ballgames and have those rookies be major contributors to those victories. Vidal Nuno throwing shutout starts, Preston Claiborne getting late-inning outs in big spots, David Adams raking from the middle of the order, it's all great.
Whether you're a prospect hugger or not, something like watching a bunch of homegrown rookies come up and play well is always exciting from a fan's perspective. Those guys are easy to root for and I always find myself paying more attention to their at-bats and plays in the field to see how they look as Major Leaguers. For a number of reasons, I hadn't watched a live Yankee game in a couple weeks up until last night's ESPN broadcast. I got my first ever look at Adams and Austin Romine last night, two guys who I ID'd last year as rookies I expected to contribute this season, and as a fan and a pseudo-prospect hugger here's my take on them.
He's not a super big dude, but David Adams has the look of a baseball player to me. When a former player on commentary uses the "he just looks like a ballplayer" cliche, David Adams is the type of guy who comes to my mind with the way he carries himself. Cool, calm, relaxed, like he's totally oblivious to the fact that he's out there covering for $40 million worth of injured former All Stars. My first impression of his offensive game was a good one after watching him hit a home run on the second pitch of his first AB. Any time you see a young player track an offspeed pitch like that and wait on it to square it up, that's a good sign. I do think Adams' swing is a bit long right now, and I think once pitchers start to get a book on him he'll get in trouble a bit with that due to his pre-swing movement, but there's real pop in his bat. When he makes contact he gets his money's worth, and as he gets more experience and starts to smooth out his swing mechanics I think he's going to hit just fine at this level.
Defensively I was really impressed with Adams last night, more than I thought I would be. Since being moved to third base last year, Adams has drawn positive reviews for his work there and is considered by some to be the best defensive third baseman in the system. I figured a big part of that was due to there not being a lot of defensive talent at the position, but Adams really has some skill out there. He moved quickly and smoothly to his left to snare a line drive one-hopper in the top of the 1st and set his feet quickly to make a good throw. Adams was really good about setting his feet, and his lower half in general, in the right position to make a strong throw on multiple plays last night, both when he was on the move and stationary. I thought he charged the ball well on balls hit on the grass, and although he doesn't have the greatest arm in the world I think it'll do. He showed, at least last night, that he can make the routine play and the tough play.
Romine didn't impress me at all at the plate. His batting stance and swing both look very stiff and robotic and it didn't look to me like he was getting much drive from his lower half. And the swing itself was long and slooooooow, like really slow. Romine's not clueless up there, he knows what he's doing and doesn't seem strategically overmatched by Major League pitching. I just don't see how he's going to consistently hit for average or much power with a swing like that. It needs to be shorter and quicker or he's going to get blown away. Behind the plate was a different story. I thought Romine moved pretty well to catch low balls and block balls in the dirt. I thought he did a good job framing pitches on the corners, something that's always important with the Yankee staff. I don't know how much of the game he was involved in calling, but overall Romine looked good back there.
I joked on the group email chain last night that maybe the Yankees should use A-Rod and Youkilis as a platoon for the righty platoon DH role once they come off the DL. With what Adams has done in his short time in the Majors and with those two gentlemen's knack for not staying healthy, maybe I was only half-joking. It's a very small sample size but Adams looks like he can definitely stick as a Major Leaguer, at least as a solid bench player, and Romine does look like he can be an average Major League catcher. They both have things to work on for sure, and their ability to make adjustments once the league adjusts to them will tell the true story, but I liked what I saw last night.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)