Like many others on the Gulf Coast Yankee teams, Aguilar spent last year training in the Dominican Summer League and is making his debut in the United States. For Aguilar, coming to Tampa is the first step in fulfilling a dream he’s had since he started playing baseball at the age of five.
“It’s been great so far here,” he said through the help of a translator. “My goal from last year was to come here this year. I feel like I’m receiving better instruction here. I feel I have more room to improve and am getting better every day.”
Aguilar’s self-assessment is correct. In 15 games with the GCL Yankees2 team, he has hit the same amount of home runs [three] as he did in his entire tenure in the Dominican Summer League in 2012 and 2013 [111 games].
In a competitive business, making first impressions is everything, which is why Aguilar wasted no time getting to work for skipper Pat Osborn.
“He stood out from day one,” Osborn said. “Angel is a gifted ballplayer, he’s been blessed with a lot of natural ability. I believe he was at the top in almost every offensive category for us in Extended Spring [Training].”
As far as physical tangibles go, Aguilar doesn’t appear to be your prototypical power hitter. While he is built muscularly, he stands an average 6-foot-0, 170 pounds, begging the question: where does all this juice come from?
“You look at him and you don’t see it from just looking at his physical appearance. But the kid has something in there. I don’t know if it comes from his hands or his wrists... the ball is different off his bat somehow,” Osborn marveled.
It’s important to consider the fact that Aguilar will get stronger in the coming years. He only turned nineteen about a month ago and will continue to develop until he reaches his early twenties. With time, his power numbers should only increase.
A developmental point for Aguilar going forth is plate discipline. His current average (.222) hints that he may be chasing a bit too much at times and his coaches have noted that he can be “pull heavy” at the plate.
Few know more about his mechanics than Drew Henson, his hitting coach. Henson stressed that Aguilar needs to work on his approach at the plate and diversify where he hits the ball.
Aguilar agrees and knows he has to work on making even the most minute adjustments.
“I’ve been working on hitting, defense, and the little things, like base running, trying to get good jumps on pitches, he said. “Changing my routine has been a big adjustment.”
On the field, Aguilar is adept at making routine plays and seems to have a natural feel for the position. Osborn noted that increased agility and reactiveness on the diamond will enhance his defensive abilities, but praised Aguilar for his rare ability to be a dual-threat shortstop.
“His ability to play shortstop is impressive," Osborn remarked. "It’s hard to find that combination in this game, a guy who can play shortstop defensively and also be a weapon at the plate. It’s special."
In the Yankees farm system, the shortstop position is in an interesting state of affairs at the moment. Former first round pick Cito Culver has struggled offensively in High-A Tampa and standout Abiatal Avelino has been hampered by a quad injury in Charleston.
While they have a lot of developing to do, players like Aguilar and the aforementioned Mateo have generated a lot of buzz around a position that isn’t necessarily the most stocked. When eyeing the upper rungs, there’s not a huge selection of players to be excited about.
Shortstops Ali Castillo (Trenton) and Carmen Angelini (Scranton-Wilkes Barre) have had uneventful offensive seasons thus far. Thairo Estrada of Staten Island and Avelino, when healthy, have sparked considerable interest, but on the whole there hasn’t been one specific player that’s been flat out magnificent in 2014.
When looking at the Gulf Coast League, however, the prospectus is a bit brighter. According to Coach Henson, shortstop play has been top notch.
“We’re really lucky right now, we have a lot of good young shortstops at the moment. Aguilar’s right in that group. Hopefully that’s a good problem to have a few years from now,” he concluded.