Last year, career minor leaguer Jon Weber was the feel-good story of spring training. He hit everything in sight and made a run at the Opening Day roster before being demoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre. Weber’s story ended nightmarishly; the veteran outfielder was suspended in mid-season for a third violation of baseball’s drug policy, and rather than take a 100-game ban, he opted to retire.
Let’s hope that the story of Jorge Vazquez ends far better than that. Like Weber, Vazquez is no prospect. He’s soon to turn 29 and will never be a regular in the major leagues. But he has legitimate right-handed power, is versatile, and could be a useful backup player in the Bronx. It’s only been a few games, but the career minor leaguer and ex-Mexican League standout has been rapping line drives around the Grapefruit League, putting himself in position to make an outside run at the 13th and final spot for position players.
Vazquez spent most of 2010 at Scranton/Wilkes Barre, where he slugged .526 as a part-time third baseman and first baseman. There’s little doubt about his power; he twice exceeded the 30-home run mark in Mexico, and has hit long balls at a similar rate in the high minors of the Yankee system. Now the down side. He’s the ultimate free swinger, having never walked more than 25 times in a full season. So let’s call him Celerino Sanchez with power.
Vazquez’ best shot at making the team rests on his ability to continue hitting this spring, along with a potential breakdown by Eric Chavez, who is also vying for a spot as a backup infield cornerman to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. I think the Yankees would like to see Chavez make the team, based on his pedigree of left-handed power and defensive supremacy at third base. But if Chavez cannot stay healthy (a big IF for a guy who hasn’t played a full season since 2006) or if he fails to show any of his past power, then the door might open for Vazquez
As with Weber, I’ll be rooting for Vazquez. I guess I’m just a sucker for career minor leaguers. …