Top Five Instructs Winners

In what has evolved into a less publicized rite of passage on the farm, each year certain prospects make a charge up the rankings with a good showing at Instructs. Here are this year's Top Five winners at Instructs.

Note: These rankings are about how much a player has improved his prospect standing in the organization based on the strength on their Instructional League showing and not about what they've done in 2014 as a whole.

1. SS, Jorge Mateo: The ultra-toolsy shortstop saw limited playing time in the Gulf Coast League this past season [15 games] after hurting his wrist. The injury prevented him from having the real breakout season many had expected from him but he used his time at Instructional League in front of many scouts the past three weeks to open everyone's eyes with his rapidly developing game.

Forget the fact that continues to be a plus-plus runner and the fact that he showed off his at least average big league power potential, it was the consistency with the bat and his smooth defensive plays in the field that proved his game is going from 'toolsy' to productive. He made all of the routine plays defensively and even made some difficult ones seem routine, and he hardly ever swung at a pitch out of the zone. He's sky-rocketing up the rankings.

2. 3B, Miguel Andujar: If there's someone who didn't want the 2014 season to end it was this Dominican native. He finished his first year in the full-season leagues hitting .319 with an .822 OPS in the second half and looked even better at Instructs this year. He finished his Instructional League performance going 5-6 with two home runs in his last six at-bats, and the lone out came on a 12-pitch at-bat.

He hasn't just been locked in offensively either, he's been sterling defensively too. He committed just six errors in his final 53 games with the RiverDogs and made some big league defensive plays at Instructs, both on slow rollers and hard-liners down the line. Like Mateo, Andujar's defensive tools are rounding more into smoother plays in the field. Already one of the better prospects entering the season, he's inching his way up even higher with his strong finish to the year.

3. C, Luis Torrens: Unlike Andujar, Torrens started off his 2014 season in strong fashion, hitting .337 in his first 26 games for the Staten Island Yankees but then tailed off at the end, batting just .185 in his final 22 games. But just like Andujar, however, Torrens entered the season a borderline top ten prospect and finished his tremendous Instructional League camp this year making a strong case for Top Ten consideration.

Like Andujar he was spraying line drives all over the field and even deposited some long home runs over the fence, and defensively he's gone from once flashing some tangible plus tools to becoming an absolute defensive stalwart consistently. A strong argument could be made that he's the best defensive catching prospect the Yankees have had in the past 15 years and that alone has his stock soaring.

4. SS/2B, Thairo Estrada: Unlike the other aforementioned names who have had top tools turning into viable production and at least garnered Top Ten prospect potential as a result, Estrada entered the season more in bottom-half when it came down to pure ceilings. An injury plagued 2014 campaign that limited him to 17 games didn't help him either.

However, he proved at Instructs that he does have the chops to develop into one of the better prospects on both sides of the ball. The natural shortstop saw some time at second base and made some absolute highlight reel defensive plays at the new position, and offensively he had great at-bat after great at-bat. He too was hitting liners all over the field and he conjures up images of a younger, better defensive shortstop version of Jose Pirela as somebody who has some limitations tools-wise but the entire package makes him an average or better potential big leaguer.

5. OF, Leonardo Molina: Pitchers Anyelo Gomez and Alexandar Vargas could make strong arguments to be included in the top five here, as could 18-year old shortstop Hoy Jun Park [Gomez in particular proved he could be a quick mover up through the minor leagues givem his advanced age], but Molina, who didn't have great numbers in his debut season this year in the Gulf Coast League [.193, one home run] but was lauded for his professional approach, is beginning to look more and more comfortable.

Unlike Andujar and Torrens, who have been in the system for at least a couple of years already, he isn't a consistent performer yet but the consistency is getting better on the field. He had some great at-bats at Instructs, went to the opposite field with more regularity, and he even hit a huge home run in the final week, and defensively he's earning the reputation as a top-notch outfielder, one who shouldn't be tested on the base paths with his plus arm strength. Like Andujar and Torrens as well, two guys who didn't have standout performances in their debut seasons, Molina is a better prospect than his numbers suggest and his stock is beginning to rise behind the scenes at a young age.


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