According to Bronx Banter and others, the last roster spot up for grabs on the Yankees is a utility infielder being contested between Ramiro Pena and Angel Berroa. Pena is 22 years old and due to a hot Spring and tremendous defensive ability, he has now entered the discussion as the heir apparent to Derek Jeter. Berroa won the Rookie of the Year in Kansas City in 2003, but has never had an OPS+ higher than 81 since, and only played 93 games in the last two years in the MLB.
A quick look at Pena's minor league stats (primarily at AA) shows a line of .258/.316/.319. In the last two years, he has only 3HRs and 15 SBs in 163 games while striking out 109 times to 63 walks. That would be pretty anemic, even if it wasn't accumulated two levels below the majors.
Here are their lines this Spring.
Pena - .305/.359/.373
Berroa - .379/.390/.621
Not to go too overboard with Spring stats, but Berroa clearly has some pop, while Pena still does not. Berroa is not nearly the infield defender that Pena is, but what are the chances that Girardi lifts Jeter for a late inning defensive replacement? I say slim to none. Cody Ransom is already basically a defensive replacement at third and neither of the two guys in competition are significantly better with the lumber.
I'm guessing that the Yanks will go with Berroa. If they really believe that Pena is the shortstop of the future, then I don't think sitting him on the major league bench and only allowing him to play a couple of innings every couple of games would be the best way to continue his development. Let Berroa take the spot, and if he falters, Pena will be waiting in the wings.
My guess is that this has already been determined and they are letting Pena play out the string and expose him to some pressure on the big stage. Going with Berroa is a better diction for now because he is a better hitter, and for the future, because Pena needs to continue improving down in the minors.
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