Ranking the New York Yankees' Brightest Young Players to Watch

Ryan GauleCorrespondent IFebruary 19, 2014

Ranking the New York Yankees' Brightest Young Players to Watch

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    The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

    As the 2014 season is quickly approaching, the New York Yankees are gearing up for a major turnaround from an injury-plagued 2013 season in which they failed to make the postseason for only the second time in 19 seasons.  

    Led by captain Derek Jeter, who will be playing his last major league season this year, the Yankees will look to make it back to the top of the standings in 2014. 

    With the key additions of veterans Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees offense seems primed to make a run at another World Series title.  

    Add in the signing of Japanese starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, and you can see why the Yankees are regarded as one of the preseason favorites to make a run at a title.  

    However, there are a number of young players with potential to be great one day. A few of them will likely have the chance to perform this season, whether it's off the bench or on the mound.  

    Here is a look at five young players who can make an impact for the Yankees in 2014.  

    *All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.

Zoilo Almonte, O.F.

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    At 24 years old, outfielder Zoilo Almonte looks to improve in what could potentially be his first full major league season.  

    The Yankees signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2005. In 2013, Almonte broke through to the big leagues, hitting one home run and batting .236 in 34 games for the Yankees. While the average doesn't jump out at analysts, his style of play certainly does.  

    When he first came up last season, Almonte played well through his first few series hustling after every ball and making a few outstanding plays in the outfield.

    While the Yankees are already stacked in the outfield with a current backup in Ichiro Suzuki, it will be difficult for Almonte to make the team out of spring training.

    However, if he has a stellar spring and gets the call to be a backup, the Yankees will have much-needed depth on their bench.  

    He has the tools to be an everyday outfielder. If 2014 is an improvement for Almonte, the Yankees could see the development of another great player.

Cesar Cabral, RP

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    Another Domincan-born player the Yankees have is relief pitcher Cesar Cabral, who also broke through to the majors in 2013.  

    The 25-year-old showed a lot of promise for New York last season. In only 3.2 innings pitched, Cabral struck out six batters while walking only one. 

    A solid arm in the bullpen is exactly what the Yankees need this season as they have already bolstered the starting rotation with the signing of Tanaka.  

    Last season, Cabral's fastball sat consistently around 92 miles per hour topping out around 95 on the radar gun.  

    Expect manager Joe Girardi to call on Cabral often as he is tested early on in the season. If he succeeds, the Yankees will have a much-needed reliable arm to call on in the later innings of ballgames.  

Dellin Betances, RP

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    One of the "Killer B's," Dellin Betances has a shot at making the Opening Day roster in 2014.  

    It seems like it has been a decade since Betances was highly touted as a top prospect for the Yankees, yet he is only 23 years old.  

    His entrance into the roster has been so highly anticipated for a few seasons, and this may be the year it all comes together for Betances.  

    In eight career major league games, Betances has pitched to a 9.39 ERA over 7.2 innings of work. While the small sample size of innings is too little to make a fair judgement of his potential, it has been well known that he must work on his command in order to succeed at the major league level.  

    Over those 7.2 innings, Betances has walked eight batters. Simply put, that just won't cut it in the major leagues, and Betances knows that.

    If he improves his command, however, there isn't much this kid can't do, and he will look to prove that in 2014.

Manny Banuelos, RP

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    The other "Killer B," Manny Banuelos will look to bounce back from a 2013 season in which he underwent Tommy John surgery.  

    At only 22 years old, he has yet to throw a pitch in the major leagues, so it is uncertain whether he will make the Opening Day roster. However, if he returns healthy, he has the potential to be a dominant major league pitcher.  

    Over five minor league seasons, Banuelos owns a 3.12 career ERA in 86 games. His 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings is very respectable, showing he has the ability to fan batters, which is something the Yankees will need in pressure situations out of the bullpen.  

    Still, it is uncertain whether the Yankees will stick with his development as a starter or attempt to turn him into a full-time relief pitcher.  

    Either way, Banuelos is likely to make some noise when he does eventually get the call to the major leagues.  

Michael Pineda, SP

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    When the Yankees traded top prospect Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners for starting pitcher Michael Pineda, they thought they got what they needed that season, which was another starting pitcher.  

    Unfortunately, Pineda has been injury-plagued over the last two seasons, having yet to throw a single pitch for New York.  

    According to a report from John Harper of the New York Daily News, Pineda is returning to form this offseason. Girardi was quoted as saying, "I felt the ball was coming out easier, and he’s had some time to clean up some things mechanically.”

    Pineda rocked the stage in his rookie season with the Mariners in 2011, striking out 173 batters and pitching to a 3.74 ERA in 28 games.

    With a rotation that is lacking a quality fifth starter, the Yankees are hoping to see more improvement out of Pineda.  

    If he is back to his old self come the beginning of the season, he could be the best fifth starter in all of baseball, as he has all the makings to be an ace when healthy.