Yankees 2014 IFA Class: First Impressions

The Yankees spent a record amount of money on this year's International free agent class and many of them got their first taste of baseball in the United States at Instructs, including, but not limited to, Dermis Garcia, Alexander Vargas, Hoy Jun Park, Miguel Flames, and others. Here are the first impressions as they get set for their debut seasons in 2015.

In the photo above from left to right are Dermis Garcia, Alexander Vargas, Hoy Jun Park, and Miguel Flames.

OF, Jonathan Amundaray: One of the youngest International free agents signed this year, this Venezuelan native, who won't turn 17 until next May, is clearly one of the better athletes. He shows above average running, above average defensive abilities, displays a rock-solid body that should only get stronger as he matures, and showed both good patience and the plate and advanced pitch recognition. Power is always the last tool to develop so it remains to be seen if his current gap power will materialize into more down the road, but already he shows intriguing two-way potential in the field and at the plate.

SS, Diego Castillo: Still just 16 years old [he doesn't turn 17 until December], this Venezuelan native brings a lot of energy to the baseball field akin to fellow countryman Francisco Cervelli. And like Cervelli, Castillo shows excellent plate discipline, pitch recognition, and patience. The Cervelli comparisons continue power-wise as Castillo appears to be more of a gap-to-gap hitter, one who displays an advanced feel for using the whole field, but doesn't project to be a big home run hitter down the road. Defensively he didn't get a lot of reps at shortstop but in limited views he showed heady defensive play, good hands, and average arm strength. He is a good candidate to eventually get some reps at second base to increase his versatility too and in that regard could also compare favorably to fellow countryman Jose Pirela as an average power, average running, average defensive shortstop whose intangibles could allow his game to play a tick higher than average.

OF, Juan De Leon: Gregarious and out-going, this Dominican native just turned 17 in September and already shows excellent adaptability and he is extremely coachable. He also displays plus patience and pitch recognition, as well as plus bat speed. He also shows an uncanny blend of playing with a high energy level while also being able to slow the game down too. Offensively he looks like a pure hitter from the right side in the early going but how he projects to be on a baseball diamond remains to be seen; the power potential right now appears to be average, perhaps a tick above, and speed-wise he is a bit of tweener, probably more above average than plus. He is a superb athlete with a good body and excellent makeup to boot, but how the tools progress in the coming years will remain a question mark.

C, Miguel Flames: Big-bodied and strong, Flames shows very good discipline and patience at the plate. The Venezuelan native just turned 17 years old in September and already shows good long-term above average power potential that conjures up images of some of the better offensive catching prospects the Yankees have had over the years [probably a step behind Jesus Montero and Gary Sanchez]. Defensively he didn't get any reps behind the plate at Instructs but he shows above average arm strength in practice. He has a thick lower-half, however, and he'll need to work on his agility and mobility going forward. Weight concerns could be an issue if they're not kept in check and his overall lack of foot speed could limit his position flexibility down the road if progress isn't made defensively behind the dish, but he has the chance to be an above average run producer at the catcher's spot if he can continue to make defensive strides.

3B, Dermis Garcia: Plus power potential and plus arm strength are the two noticeable traits in this 16-year old Dominican native [he doesn't turn 17 until January]. Quite big and still very young, there's the chance he isn't done growing yet either and already physically resembles a cross between Gary Sanchez and former Yankee prospect Peter O'Brien. While that bodes well for his long-term power potential, it could create some problems defensively at third. He shows the requisite agility around the bag right now but still has a lot to learn defensively, and he will have to keep up on his conditioning as he gets older. With his plus arm strength, however, right field could always be a long-term option as well if things don't work out at third base. He shows excellent patience at the plate and good pitch recognition at a young age. He should be an above average to plus run producer if he continues his development.

3B, Nelson Gomez: Like Garcia, Gomez, a Dominican native who turns 17 on Wednesday, has light-tower power projection and plus arm strength. He didn't get many reps defensively at third base at Instructs, however, so it remains to be seen just how good his agility is at the current time. Body-wise though, he is somebody who will absolutely need to keep up on his conditioning in the coming years as he looks more like a true slugger than an actual athlete. It's tough to gauge 16-year olds in their first taste of professional baseball but he appears in the early going to be a very aggressive hitter and will need to employ more patience and better pitch recognition right out of the gate.

SS, Hoy Jun Park: The oldest of this year's top International free agents, this 18-year old [he will turn 19 in the first week of April] Korean native shows more 'now' ready baseball skills, including good plate discipline, good patience, and above average to plus bat speed. While the hitting ability does seem advanced, he may take some time to get used to the consistent plus velocity he was unable to experience in his home country. He has the reputation for being an advanced defender as well but didn't get a whole lot of reps at Instructs. He appears to be the most prepared for transitioning to pro baseball in the United States but the language barrier and impending cultural adjustments should not be underestimated.

RHP, Alexander Vargas: The Dominican native looks like a potential horse on the mound, standing 6-foot-4 and a rock-solid 210 pounds. He just turned 17 years old in late July and is already sitting 91-92 mph with good movement, and shows advanced feel for both an 11-5 power curveball and a changeup, both of which display long-term above average potential. More than the stuff, however, is his mature presence on the mound. He shows an advanced feel for pitching and his command looks solid in the early going. Stuff-wise he is further advanced than Ivan Nova at the same stage in their respective development.

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