Reymond Nunez: His career numbers aren't too shabby for a younger player still trying to find his groove offensively - .254, 24 doubles and 15 home runs in 151 career games - but he has yet to have that breakout season most team insiders believe he's capable of posting. A hamstring injury limited his playing time last year, however.
His power potential is right up there with the likes of Jesus Montero, giving him the ultra-high ceiling needed to break into a power-hitting position like first base for the New York Yankees. And defensively he shows good hands, solid range, and an ability to pick it. He just needs to show a consistent short swing as he can be a little long at times. Should he be more compact and continue getting more patient offensively, he'll be one to watch out for in the coming years potentially.
Closest to the Majors
Brandon Laird: Last year's Double-A Eastern League MVP [.291, 23 home runs, 90 RBI] finally put together the quality start to a season he had been seeking, but struggled in his first taste of Triple-A in the last month of the season. Unlike Nunez, he has shown he can be a consistent run producer for long stretches, especially when he sticks to his middle-to-opposite field approach.
He still has to pass the Triple-A test going forward, however, and it remains to be seen if the third baseman and recently turned outfielder will continue to get reps over at first base, but with decent range defensively and a solid track history offensively, he is now on the short list of potential first basemen available from the farm system should the need arise at the big league level.
Jorge Vazquez: The former ten-year veteran of the Mexican League will be 29 years old once the new season starts, making him too old to be a legitimate prospect in traditional terms. However, don't let his advanced age or fuzzy 'prospect' status detract from his actual abilities. While he hardly walks at all and thus keeps his on-base percentages pretty low, he does own a .302 career minor league average in the United States and has 31 home runs in just 143 career games.
|POWERFUL BAT: Vazquez doesn't walk but he hits the ball extremely hard. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Kyle Roller: Built like an NFL middle linebacker, Roller has the natural size and strength to make a name for himself as a prospect going forward. Last year's 8th round pick out of East Carolina University had a solid professional debut season, hitting .272 with five home runs for Staten Island last year, but he has a lot more left in the tank.
He doesn't have the greatest range defensively because of his size, conjuring up images of former Yankee first base prospect Juan Miranda [traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks], but like Miranda, Roller has a good eye at the plate, will draw walks, and has average big league power potential. He won't grab headlines as a prospect and most of his value is built into his bat, but don't be surprised if he sneaks up some pundits as he climbs up the minor league ladder.
Need to Make Their Move
Gian Carlos Arias: Signed as a shortstop and moved to catcher, the switch-hitter actually saw most of his action at first base last year. He has a great eye at the plate and some nice hitting potential overall, but he doesn't really have the power potential needed at first base. He needs to find a position and perhaps more importantly, find a groove offensively to reverse his fading prospect status.
Elio De La Rosa: Like Arias, De La Rosa, who was signed back in 2008, has toiled down in the Dominican Summer League for far too long to be considered anything but a fringe prospect at the current time. He did hit six home runs last year, however, and has some decent overall hitting ability, but his chances at first base for the former third baseman seem to be a longshot at best.
Damian Taveras: Taveras is arguably the only 'sleeper' among this group, thanks in large part to his above average power potential. He has split time between catcher, first base, and designated hitter, and there is some significant potential offensively here, but at 21 years old he has to start proving it now. He needs a big year immediately.
The Jury is Still Out
Robert Lyerly: He led the entire farm system with a .312 batting average last season and he has shown some impressive opposite field gap power in the early going, but scouts are split on his long-term power potential. His hitting ability will continue to give him reps at both first and third base, but it remains to be seen if he can hit enough to remain at the corners long-term.
Luke Murton: Like Lyerly, his Charleston teammate last year, Murton has had a solid career thus far - .287, 20 home runs in 175 career games - but lacks the plus power potential to garner national attention as a long-term possibility at the corners. Not real toolsy, he will need to continue to hit his way up towards the big leagues to continue getting his chances.