Name: Yefri Carvajal
DOB: January 22, 1989
"To me he is the guy that really gets you excited," Padres' director of scouting Randy Smith said. "Very aggressive player. The ball makes a different sound coming off his bat. I think he is going to have power to all fields. A line drive guy that hit it to the deepest part of the park and his other tools are good. He throws well. He runs well. He is not going to be 6-foot-4, but he will be a Kirby Puckett/Jay Payton type of build that, like I said, the ball coming off his bat just makes a different sound."
The Padres showed the confidence they have in the youngster when they bypassed the Dominican Summer League and brought him stateside to monitor his progression. They wanted to have him close to monitor his nutrition, put him into a weight-training program and keep that swing close so they could hear the sweet sound.
"He went to the Instructional League and did a good job. He went to spring training and was hitting the ball pretty well but then hurt his hand, which didn't allow him to be ready at the beginning of the Arizona League," international scout Felix Francisco said. "He needed a lot of rest because his hand was not 100 percent yet."
At 18-years old, Carvajal has superstar potential. It is easy to see why the Padres salivate over the possibilities. Most of the hubbub surrounds his bat.
"You hear us talk about him and you have seen him but he hasn't really put the number up to warrant all our praise – yet," Padres' minor league field coordinator Bill Bryk said. "I am looking for him to. He is going to have to start putting up numbers but remember he turned 18 in January. I personally think we are going to see a guy come out and be worthy of the praise we are talking about."
Carvajal, a right-handed hitter, never got into a rhythm this year for the Arizona Rookie League Padres, netting just 75 at bats around a hand injury that resulted in surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone. He had stretches where the confidence was high but there was some hesitancy in his swing.
He admitted as much in the Padres Instructional League, then just 17-years old. While he went 11-for-30 over one eight game stretch with four of his five extra base hits, he managed just eight hits in his other 45 at bats.
"With that hand injury last year and getting only 70 at bats he never got on track," said Smith. "This guy can make an awful lot of noise with his bat."
What he does well is keep the movement in his swing to a minimum. His bat maintains itself evenly through the hitting zone and he generates tremendous bat speed, producing a thwack when bat meets ball – often described as "a different sound when it comes off his bat."
"Yefri is definitely a talented kid," AZL Padres hitting coach Manny Crespo said. "All he needs is to play. Once he starts playing he will be fine. He didn't get to play that much this year with his broken hand. When he comes back and comes back in shape and starts playing everyday he is going to be something.
He is working on his foot positioning in the box to square his stance up better and his balance will play a factor in how soon it all comes together. With a wide base that includes tree trunks for legs, Carvajal's ability to pound the ball is aided by his lower half striding through the ball.
"He is a guy we have a lot of high hopes for," said Francisco. "He can do everything except running – I think that is the only tool that is not average. He is a good hitter, can hit the ball out of any park, can play the corner outfield spots."
Carvajal is a very aggressive hitter and he knows he can hit. That has led to him chasing pitches and swinging early in the count, leading to more strikeouts than he would like.
With his toolset, he should be drawing more walks and waiting for his pitch to crush.
He has placed an emphasis on being more selective this off-season in an effort to see more pitches and take advantage of his natural power.
The torque he generates in his swing is unparalleled in the system. While he has quick hands, he propels through the zone with a strong lower half.
"That kid can hit anything," Crespo added. "He is just a hitter. Sometimes he looks a little awkard, a little funny, but it is only because he knows he can hit anything.
"Senior Linea. Mr. Line Drive. That is him. He has to learn to be a little more patient and hit his pitches but that is the thing, he pretty much hits any pitch so he wants to hit any pitch.
"We will work on him. He is only 18. He has a long future."
"He has very good tools," said 2006 AZL Padres manager Carlos Lezcano. "He hits the ball and it comes off his bat a little differently than everybody else. He is 18 and needs to work on every aspect of the game, defense, knowledge of the game. The only organized baseball has come when we signed him. He went to Instructional League and played a lot there."
There are some scouts who worry about his weight but it is more a product of heavy legs and trunk than fat. It will be interesting to see if his upper half becomes too big as he matures and slows his innate quickness.
"That is not because of weight," Francisco countered. "That is because he is a strong kid. I know people have told him to keep his weight low but it is not anything to worry about. He is a strong kid with a wide base."
Tool-laden, speed is the only area of his game which is considered below average. He has good initial quickness but lacks top-end speed. He will never be much of a threat as a basestealer and is a below average runner for an outfielder.
Splitting time between left and right fields this year, Carvajal projects soundly in right. He moves around well for a man who won't ever be termed a speed demon. For his age, he has an advanced feel for reading the ball off the bat and gets good jumps.
He has a plus arm with good accuracy and can rifle balls on the fly to any base with tremendous velocity.
He is, by all accounts, a four-tool player that is plus across the board. His bat is the special case and many project him to be a 60 in power on the traditional 20-80 scouting scale and a perennial 30-plus home run threat at the big league level. His average also rates out high with .300 potential each stop he sees.
"He loves to play and runs everything out," Smith also noted.
ETA: Carvajal has a long ways to go before reaching the major leagues but the Padres believe he can become an impact bat at the professional level. Right now, it comes down to getting at bats, and, more importantly, smarter at bats. His potential is unmatched in the San Diego system and the projections have him hitting over .300 with 30 to 40 homers in the big leagues – a true power hitting threat – that will play solid defensively. The only tool that isn't considered above average is his speed. Meeting all the goals and objectives will be the true challenge for the young Dominican and there quite a few who believe he will soon be the top prospect in the organization – and we agree.
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