Thunder player thumbnails & Newman weighs in

Once Yankees’ senior vice president of Baseball Operations Mark Newman figured out how to use his new iPhone Monday, he could not say enough about the depth of pitching in the farm system and how that wealth of arms should make Double-A Trenton a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern league again in 2010.

Newman also is pretty high on second baseman David Adams, too.

“What you have is really good starting pitching and good arms in the bullpen,” Newman said. “The infield defense will be solid and although we are probably not going to hit a ton of home runs there, we have not done that in Trenton the past few years anyway. There are some really high on-base guys. This is a good club and we really like the those starters.’’

The starting infield features Kevin Smith at first base, Adams at second, Luis Nunez at shortstop and hard-hitting Brandon Laird at third base.

“Adams is a professional,’’ Newman said. “He’s a very good defender, a gap power hitter that doesn’t give away at bats and doesn’t phone in games. Kid plays hard. Good player.’’

The starting outfield will be Dan Brewer in right field, Austin Krum in center and Damon Sublett manning left field.

Edwar Gonzalez returns after a disappointing 2009, but likely will get many of his at bats as the designated hitter.

Top Double-A prospect Austin Romine is the catcher, while Marcos Vechionacci and Justin Snyder will come off the bench.

Here is a thumbnail look at the key players on a Thunder roster that will need to be trimmed to 24 before Thursday’s opener.

Starting pitchers

Jeremy Bleich (LHP) – Rushed to Double-A last season due to injuries and did not fare well. Was 3-6 with a 6.65 ERA and allowed five or more earned runs four times. Eastern League hitters batted a robust .318 against him.

Christian Garcia (RHP) – Garcia is a former top pitching prospect that has been injured much of his career. Threw only 62 1/3 innings between 2007 and 2008 and made just five starts (2-0, 0.71 ERA) for the Thunder last season before being shelved by a second elbow surgery. Opening night starter.

D.J. Mitchell (RHP) – Combined to go 12-7 with a 2.63 ERA in 25 Single-A appearances in Charleston and Tampa last season. Second among all Yankees’ minor-leaguers with 125 strikeouts and was tied for second in wins. Very high ceiling.

David Phelps (RHP) – Phelps was 13-4 with a 2.38 ERA at Charleston and Tampa in 2009. Is 21-6 with a 2.49 ERA in 41 career minor-league starts.

Ryan Pope (RHP) – Record of 5-12 and 4.78 ERA for the Thunder in 2009 did not paint a completely accurate picture, as Pope turned in 141.1 innings and was the most durable starter on an injury-riddled staff with 25 starts.

Relief pitchers

Wilkin De La Rosa (LHP) – Converted outfielder and, like Garcia, is a member of the Yankees’ 40-man roster. Landed on the disabled list three times at Trenton, but held opponents scoreless in four of his last eight starts and finished the year with 13 consecutive shutout innings.

Josh Schmidt (RHP) –  Caught in another numbers crunch at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, Schmidt did all he could do at Double-A last season with eight wins along with a team-leading 1.61 ERA. Held the opposition scoreless in 32 of 41 relief appearances.

Eric Wordekemper (RHP) – Also unable to break through at SWB, the veteran Wordekemper was 3-2 with two saves and a 3.38 ERA in Trenton and Scranton last season.

Others: Lance Pendleton (RHP), Grant Duff (RHP), Noel Castillo (RHP), Wilkins Arias (LHP) and Cory Arbiso (RHP).

Catcher

Austin Romine – Second-round pick in 2007. Rated the second-best prospect in the Yankees’ farm system by Baseball America. Named the “Kevin Lawn Minor League Player of the Year’’ by the organization after hitting .276 with 28 doubles, 13 home runs and 72 RBIs in 118 games for Tampa. Also named the Florida State League Player of Year. Son of former major leaguer Kevin Romine.

Others: Jose Gil, Neall French

First Base

Kevin Smith – Excellent defender in need of a bounce-back season after hitting just .247 with two homers and 14 RBIs in 48 games with the Thunder.

Second Base

David Adams – The Thunder’s top infield prospect, Adams had a combined 55 extra-base hits at Charleston and Tampa last season. Tied for third among all Yankees’ farmhands with 75 RBIs.

Third base

Brandon Laird – Laird spent most of the spring with the Yankees in big league camp. Can play first or third base. Career .281 hitter with 44 home runs and 190 RBIs in the minors.

Shortstop

Luis Nunez – The sure-handed Nunez hit .276 with just 11 errors in 74 games at Tampa and Triple-A Scranton in 2009.

Center field

Austin Krum – Combined to hit .249 with 75 runs scored and 31 extra-base hits between Tampa and Trenton.

Right Field

Dan Brewer – Brewer delivered a combined .306 batting average with 70 runs and 22 stolen bases at Single-A Charleston and Tampa.

Left Field

Damon Sublett – Batted .270 with 68 runs and a .376 on base percentage with Tampa.

Designated hitter/Outfield

Edwar Gonzalez – Saw a frightening drop in production (.232, 4 HR, 37 RBIs) last season. Hit .326 prior to an oblique strain that kept him out close to a month last spring.

Utility

Marcos Vechionacci, Justin Snyder

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