After a Cal Ripken Jr like run of one consecutive week, residual tryptophan levels in my bloodstream were so high that I was too comatose to get the Minor League Monday post ready in time for yesterday. Either that or I had actual work to do that got in the way.
One way or another, a day late and several dollars short, here's this week's look at a Yankee minor leaguer. After profiling recent 40 man roster addition Kevin Russo last week, this week we'll take a look another infielder recently added to the 40 man: Reegie Corona.
Corona is a 23 year old switch hitting second baseman/shortstop who has also seen minimal time at third base and in the outfield in his professional career. A native of Venezuela, the Yankees signed him at age 16 in 2003. He made his stateside debut the following year, seeing action in 36 games for the Yankees entry in the Gulf Coast Rookie League. He split 2005 between short season Staten Island and high-A Tampa, 2006 between low-A Charleston and Tampa, and 2007 between Tampa and AA Trenton.
After spending all of 2008 in AA, Corona was selected by the Seattle Mariners with the second pick of last year's Rule 5 Draft. Corona couldn't crack the M's 25 man roster though, and he was returned to the Yankees just prior to Opening Day. Assigned to AAA for the first time, Corona struggled miserably at the plate, batting just .200/.241/.300 in 177 PA. Shipped back to AA for the third time, the light hitting Corona turned in the best offensive performance of his career, posting a .287/.397/.397 line over his 368 AA PA. His performance earned him mid-season All-Star honors in the Eastern League.
Corona is currently playing winter ball for Los
Recent offensive surge aside, Corona is reputed for his glove work and his speed. He's demonstrated himself to be a slick fielder at second base and capable at shortstop. He's had three minor league seasons of 20+ stolen bases and has a career success rate of 80.3%.
As we mentioned when looking at the 40 man roster last week, the Yankees currently have a glut of middle infielders on their 40 man roster: Corona, Russo, Ramiro Pena, and Eduardo Nunez. That's about twice as many as they rightly need. Brian Cashman has made allusions to last year's 3 for 1 Nick Swisher trade, suggesting a similar deal could be in the works to open roster space. If so, it's likely the Yankees would try to make at least one of those four part of the deal. Pena and Russo have the best defensive and offensive reputations respectively and are the most Major League ready.
The stories being bandied about in the wake of the 40 man roster additions were that between the Trenton keystone combination Corona was the glove man and Nunez had the bat. That may well be true; I hadn't heard much detail about either prior to their being added to the 4o man. But 2009 was the first good offensive season posted by Nunez. Even with a superior offensive season in 2009, Nunez still posted a lower LD% than Corona, and Nunez' AVG and BABIP seem to be bolstered by an abnormally high GB%. For their careers, Corona's .262/.338/.342 isn't much different than Nunez' .271/.313/.366. Perhaps Nunez' .322/.349/.433 mark in 2009 is the start of a trend for him. But until that's proven, I think I'd prefer Corona's .076 IsoD and 9.88 BB%; plate discipline is not a skill that's easily learned.
For what it's worth, Corona and Ramiro Pena have spent about equal time at the different rungs of the Yankees' ladder and Pena's career minor league line of .255/.315/.320 is poorer than Corona across the board. Pena wasn't nearly as overmatched in the Bigs this year as initially feared, so perhaps there's some hope for Corona as a future utility man. Pena does have a leg up as a natural shortstop, but Corona's plate discipline and speed give him skills that Pena doesn't have. Corona is also 16 months younger.
If he's not traded, Corona is likely headed to Scranton, site of his early 2009 struggles. His 2009 line at Trenton has an equivalent of .270/.374/.369 at Scranton, which given his performance there early last year seems like a bit of a stretch. Perhaps his familiarity with AA his third time through helped with his performance in Trenton last year.
On the off chance Corona reaches the Bronx next year, CAIRO projects him at .246/.325/.335 with a .303 wOBA, CHONE has him at .248/.317/.342, and ZiPS has him at .250/.313/.347 with an OPS+ of 78 while providing very good defense at second and average defense at short. It's worth mentioning that all three projection systems have Corona being offensively superior to Pena and only CHONE shows Russo being offensively superior to Corona.
At the surface, Corona may be the least dazzling of the four utility infielders currently on the 40 man roster. Russo and Nunez are considered the offensively superior players, while Pena is both the incumbent utility guy and the resident defensive whiz. But looking below the surface a bit, Corona may actually have a future as a bench player. He's versatile with a good defensive reputation, has value on the basepaths, good plate discipline, projects to do as well or better as his more offensive counterparts, and may have experienced an offensive breakthrough last year. If the Yankees try to use another "3 for 1" type deal to clear space on the 40 man, they may look to sell high on one or two of the other infield options and give Corona a shot.
(Photos from Mike Ashomore's Thunder Thoughts and the Scranton Time-Tribune)