Tampa Yankees Boast a Lethal Lineup in 2004

The High A New York Yankees affiliate, the Tampa Yankees arguably are the best and possibly the most talented Bomber's Farm Team. However, the part that has stood out the most is their ferocious lineup and the offensive out put that they can produce. They are also the team that has the most depth of talented prospects to go along with some higher expectations as well. But, there lineup has done nothing but produce and there have even been some surprises along the way too.

Even though the Yankee farm system has been taking a lot of heat for producing very little good prospects and even less successful teams in the minors. However, on the contrary, the Tampa Yankees have shown, lead by their vicious lineup, they have shown that not only can they compete but are a powerhouse in the Florida State League. As of Friday, Tampa's record sat at 33-28 but had fallen out of first place after their pitching struggled most of last week. Either way, this is a different team from most any other Yankee farm team. This team, despite good pitching, is truly characterized but their offensive lineup. Now, let's take a look at just what makes this monster Tampa lineup tick like it has for most of the 2004 season.

Leading it off. No matter who has been there, be it Gabe Lopez, Melky Cabrera, or Kevin Thompson, the leadoff spot for Tampa has led the charge and has set things up for run producers in the middle of the lineup. Lopez is the man that started off in this spot this season. He started off very well but has cooled off over the past few weeks. Since then, the exciting Melky Cabrera has steeped in to play a few games in this spot. Like he has done all year long in Battle Creek and now with Tampa, he also excelled. However, when Kevin Thompson returned from the disabled list in early June, the T-Yanks found that Cabrera had more value in the second or third spot in the order while Thompson was more of the ideal leadoff man. Up to this point, Thompson is batting .364.

Middle of the Lineup. Well, the middle of the lineup has not exactly been a set spot by any means for the Tampa Yankees but whoever has been there seems to have produced. But, the catalyst for power on this team has been the big man, Shelley Duncan. Shelley leads the team in home run with 10 and RBI with 36. Jayson Drobiak, despite having a lot of trouble keeping his batting average above .240, is also providing some production with seven home runs and 30 RBI. And what else can we say about Jared Koutnik, who has meant the world to this team as he has shocked the Florida State League with his output on offense. Koutnik has blasted seven home runs to go along with 36 RBI and a .306 batting average. Bronson Sardinha has also been in the middle of the Tampa lineup all year long. Despite being possibly the team's most consistent hitter as far as batting average is concerned and leading the team in hits with 73, Sardinha has shown very little power with only one home run. However, he has driven in 31 runs as he has proven that he can hit with runners in scoring position.

Bottom of the Lineup. Here is the part of the lineup that has possibly bee the key to the whole machine that this offense has become. With players like Tommy Winrow down there, who is heading to the Florida State League All-Star game, the bottom of the lineup has been in pretty good shape. Gabe Lopez has also been steady near the bottom of the lineup as well. The cast has moved in and out but the bottom line is that no matter if it Sandy Madera, Deivi Mendez or Jon Mark-Sprowl, they have done their job to keep the pitcher from getting a break in the lineup.

Supporting Cast. This is a very long list of bench type or platoon players that have done a bang up job for the Tampa Yankees so far this year. Players like Deivi Mendez and Eric Verbryke have chipped in here and there to contribute to an already productive lineup. The one struggling player that has even lost some playing time has been shortstop, Ferdin Tejada. However, he has began to get red hot as of late.

The Resurgence. The man who was somewhat written off by the scouts as a top prospect has suddenly shot back up the charts with his consistent hitting this year. This player is Bronson Sardinha. Sardinha struggled mightily through many portions of last season but now boasts a lofty .329 batting average so far here in 2004. Also, Tommy Winrow has also come of a merely OK season with a team leading batting average of .345 in this 2004 season.

Surprises. There is only one true surprise that even the best scout could not say that he saw coming. This is the offensive performance of Jared Koutnik. Koutnik, who prior to this season was considered a very weak hitter that had average defense at best is now an offensive force to be reckoned with in the Tampa lineup. So far this season, Koutnik is batting .306 with 7 home runs and 35 RBI.

Offensive MVP So Far. Jared Koutnik. He has been the main man for Tampa this season and most would agree that he is the offensive MVP. He has driven in runs, hit for power and average and hit in clutch situations. Will this huge surprise continue throughout the year? Just like the rest of the Tampa lineup, we'll just have to wait and see.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories