GCL Yankees1 Season In Review

The Gulf Coast League Yankees1 had a superb season in 2014, finishing the year with a league best 38-22 record before falling to the GCL Red Sox in the Championship series. We take a look at where was the team's greatest depth, which prospects stood out, which ones could be 'sleeper' prospects down the road, and more.

They shot right out of the gate with a ten-game winning streak to start the season and didn't have a losing streak longer than four games all year. And they finished the season nearly as strong, going 9-4 in their final 13 games to secure the league's best record.

Offensively, they finished first in total bases [764] and doubles [126], third in runs scored [294], batting average [.260], and OPS [.720], and tied for fourth in home runs [22].

They fared equally as well on the mound, finishing fourth in ERA [3.36] in the 16-team league, tied for fourth in WHIP ratio [1.30], and led the league in strikeouts [500].

The Greatest Depth

Certainly one of the more balanced minor league teams for the Yankees prospects-wise in 2014, while the GCL Yankees1 had some impressive individual pitching performances, the greatest depth of long-term prospects was among their positions players.

The Bats

The club had a few offensive league leaders this season, including outfielder Alexander Palma leading the league in RBI [45] and one other in the top ten [Bridges], middle infielder Bryan Cuevas leading the league in OPS [.969], and Cuevas also finished second in batting average [.356].

Top Position Prospects

While Cuevas and Palma were clearly the most consistent performers for the team in 2014, neither are considered the top position prospects from this year's squad. Shortstop Jorge Mateo, who was limited to just 15 games due to a wrist injury, clearly takes home those top honors. He batted a solid .276 with eleven stolen bases in limited duty and he brings plus-plus speed, average power, and plus defensive skills to the table. He has the chance to be very, very special.

The numbers might not exactly support it [.193, one home run] but outfielder Leonardo Molina, the Yankees' top International free agent signing in 2013, is also one of the team's best prospects. He bypassed the Dominican Summer League entirely this past year and debuted as a 16-year old in the United States. A plus defender, internally the Yankees were very impressed with his professional approach and demeanor, and he has the chance to be a five-tool contributor down the road.

The Biggest 'Sleeper'

While the team doesn't exactly boast a ton of top prospect talent among their position players, they exude a ton of depth of quality 'sleeper' prospects, including, but not limited to outfielders Alexander Palma and Kendall Coleman, as well as infielders Drew Bridges and Bryan Cuevas.

Palma has production [.305 average to go with the league-best 45 RBI] in his corner, but with just three home runs he gets a little underrated by most despite the fact he is extremely adept at putting the ball in play [he struck out just 15 times in 52 games]. There's some legitimate Jose Tabata-like upside here, perhaps with even more power potential. The kid can flat-out hit.

Coleman, drafted in the 11th round last year, brings a sky-high ceiling of his own. He put on nearly 30 pounds of muscle over the offseason last year but missed most of the 2014 season with a serious shin splints injury. An extremely patient batter with long-term above average or better power potential, he seemed ready to break out this past year before getting hurt.

Like Coleman, Bridges, another left-handed batter, brings advanced plate patience and burgeoning above average or better power potential but he too is still learning to walk the line between seeing a lot of pitches and knowing when to be aggressive. There's some Greg Bird-like offensive potential here if he can master that balance and that could take some time, but don't disregard his potential. He is making progress defensively at first base too.

Cuevas, a Dominican native, is very Jose Pirela-like in that he doesn't have one plus tool to boast but is solid pretty much across the board. He too isn't great defensively at shortstop and is much better served playing second base, but he brings some defensive versatility, a solid swing path, good plate discipline, and average power-speed combination. He'll continue to be underrated as he moves up but he has the kind of game that could emerge someday at the big league level.

If you're looking for a deep REM 'sleeper' it could possibly be catcher Alvaro Noriega. The 19-year old is rapidly becoming an exceptional catch-and-throw guy and the bat is starting to come around. He hit just .252 this past season with no home runs but behind the scenes he's noticeably getting stronger and putting more of a charge into balls. A Colombian native, he just hasn't been exposed to top-level baseball for long but the tools are there to be an intriguing prospect someday.

Not Just Yet

Dominic Jose, a Stanford University product, didn't get much playing time in college but he brings a lot of tools to the table, including some intriguing power potential, and just needs to get more at-bats but the ceiling is certainly there. He hit .300 with 12 doubles in his debut season but at 21-years old the switch-hitter is still a project for the time being.

Cesar Diaz, a Dominican native, is a switch-hitter with a discerning eye at the plate and above average tools across the board. He signed late though and like Jose, he too is 21 years old and playing against much younger talent. He'll also needs to prove his mettle against older players before becoming more of a legitimate prospect.

Top Prospects On The Mound

Just as is the case with the position players from the GCL Yankees1 team, New York boasts a pair of high-ceiling arms that are clearly the top two prospects in the form of right-handers Simon De La Rosa and Austin DeCarr.

De La Rosa, a Dominican native, had a solid first season in the United States this year, posting a 4.43 ERA and striking out 53 batters in just 42.2 innings. He sits in the 92-95 mph range with easy arm action and his curveball has become a legitimate big league plus offering, but the changeup and overall command, while improving, remain a work in progress. He's just not a consistent performer yet but the ceiling is vast.

Drafted in the third round this past year out of high school, DeCarr brings a nice blend of 'now' stuff, long-term projection, and an advanced level of consistency for somebody his age. The 19-year old already has a plus big league curveball and a fastball that will sit mostly 91-95 mph, and he can throw both for strikes, but the changeup, a pitch he hardly threw in college, is a developmental mantra going forward. Should he get his changeup up to par with his breaking ball, he could have frontline starting potential someday.

The Biggest 'Sleeper'

Just as is the case with the position players, there is a dropoff talent-wise from the top two prospects but there is still some significant 'sleeper' depth, highlighted by the likes of right-handers Juan Jimenez and Luis Cedeno, and left-hander Orby Tavares.

Jimenez, another player signed at an older age, brings a De La Rosa-like ceiling to the table with his 92-95 mph fastball and quality secondary pitches, and he has proven to be a good strike-thrower, but he hasn't had a lot of time on the mound and the overall pitch-ability is still in its infancy stage. He should be missing more bats than he has thus far but the recently turned 21-year old [he will be 21 for the entire 2015 season] still has some time on his side.

Cedeno on the other hand is nearly the polar opposite. The Venezuelan 20-year old is a smallish [5-foot-11, 175 pounds] hurler who won't light up the radar gun [he sits mostly 90-91 mph] but he is a premiere strike-thrower with three average big league offerings. He doesn't have the kind of stuff that scouts drool over but the high level of pitch-ability could allow him to sneak up on folks in the comings years.

Tavares was signed just a year ago out of the Dominican Republic and already he's a bit of an enigma. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 225 pounds, he should be more of a power pitcher than he really is. He sits mostly in the 88-91 mph range and the secondary offerings, while quality for somebody with as little experience as he has, remain a work in progress. It's quite possible that his stuff could see a significant uptick at any point but for now the ceiling is more on the average side until it does.

Not Just Yet

Right-hander Reynaldo Polanco has been around for a few years now and has spent the majority of his time reinventing himself on the mound, going from an over the top arm slot to more of a low three-quarters/high-side-arm delivery. It has taken some time but he's becoming an intriguing guy, one who can sit in the low to mid-90s with a tailing fastball and a breaking ball with some serious movement. He posted a solid 2.29 ERA in the Gulf Coast League this year but he's already 21 years old and he needs to start moving quicker soon to garner any realistic prospect status. There's some talent here though.

Hayden Sharp, once one of the more promising arms in the Yankee farm system, retired from baseball in 2013 while dealing with some nagging injury issues but returned to the mound in 2014. At 6-foot-6 and once sitting in the 94-96 mph range, he had a world of talent and it's now slowly coming back. On pure stuff alone he should be considered one of the better prospects but the soon to be 22-year old hasn't made it any out of rookie ball yet and until he does he can't be considered as such. His time could be coming soon though.

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