GCL Yankees2 Season In Review

The Gulf Coast League Yankees2 had a really strong season in 2014, finishing the year first in the Northeast Division of the Gulf Coast League with 35-25 record. 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 overcame a disappointing 8-13 record in their first 21 games to win 25 of their final 38 games.

Offensively, they finished first in home runs [40] by a comfortable margin [the second place team had 25 home runs] and led the league in walks [266], placed second in OPS [.740], and fourth in team batting [.258].

They did not do nearly as well on the mound though, finishing ninth in the 16-team league team ERA [3.57], 12th in WHIP ratio [1.40], and walked the second most batters [256], but still managed to finish third in the league in strikeouts [467].

The Greatest Depth

Perhaps a bit more of a coin flip as to where its greatest depth resided, despite their first-place finish the GCL Yankees2 team wasn't exactly flush with top prospect talent in 2014 but there was a bit more depth on the position prospect side.

The Bats

The club had a few offensive league leaders this season. Both Junio Valera [.316] and Angel Aguilar [.311] finished in the top ten in batting this past season, Aguilar finished tied for second in home runs [7], fifth in runs scored [34] and 8th in RBI [31], and the trio of Aguilar [4th], Allen Valerio [7th], and Valera [11th] finished in the top 11 in OPS.

Top Position Prospects

As solid an offensive showing as the team had in 2014, there really isn't a true elite position prospect in the group. The closest would be shortstop Angel Aguilar. The Venezuelan native led the team in most categories as previously mentioned and he clearly has the most advanced game on the team, but while the numbers were way above league average the tool set is more on the average side than anything right now.

He shows average power, average speed, and a selective but not overly patient approach at the plate, but the lack of plus foot speed could be a determining factor long-term whether or not he sticks at shortstop. He has played some third base and certainly has the athleticism to play second base so he could develop into a solid utility prospect. Offensively he would retain more prospect value if he can stick at second where he could become one of the better prospects because the there isn't a whole lot of power projection to his game at third base and defensively he pales in comparison to other shortstop prospects defensively.

The Biggest 'Sleeper'

The team doesn't boast a ton of true 'sleeper' prospects either but does have a few 'what if' candidates in the form of Junior Valera, Allen Valerio, and Frank Frias.

Valera has the arguably best chance among the trio since he possesses one plus tool with his foot speed and a second burgeoning one with his rapidly developing defensive game. He also shows good plate discipline and above average patience, but he has only been switch-hitting for a couple of years now, has very little home run power, and he just turned 22 years old and has yet to make it out of rookie ball. There's some ceiling here as a potential leadoff type but he needs to start moving quickly.

Valerio, like Valera is a Dominican native, also shows some 'now' baseball skills, including a solid bat and average power. His problem, however, besides being 21 years and still at the rookie level, is that he plays a power-hitting position at third base and doesn't have much power projection to his game. Throw in average at best defensive abilities and he's going to have hit his way up the minor league ladder.

Frias, a 20-year old Dominican outfielder, has arguably the best chance among the group, at least age-wise. A superb athlete with average to above average tools across the board, he also shows a knack for hitting consistently. He has battled some injuries the past two years, however, and he's a bit of a 'tweener, one who isn't quite as adept defensively as other centerfielders in the farm system and might not have the power potential scouts are looking for from a corner guy either. Like Valerio he just needs to keep making the most of his opportunities.

If you're looking for a deep REM 'sleeper' it could possibly be non-drafted free agent signing Tyler Palmer. A fourth round pick in 2011 out of high school by the Miami Marlins, he suffered a freak injury days before signing and had to fight his way back through the collegiate route. He has a ton of tools, including above average speed, average to perhaps slightly above average power potential, infield versatility, and he once had a plus throwing arm. He's had a long road back and the road to becoming a top prospect could be even longer, but there is some definite talent here that bears watching.

Not Just Yet

Shortstop Yancarlos Baez, one of the top International free agent signings two years ago, has some intriguing tools too. He is quite athletic, shows average or better speed, and the kind of frame that could easily get stronger down the road, but is very new to switch-hitting so the bat could take some time and he still has a lot to learn defensively. There's some real ceiling here but it could take the recently turned 19-year old some time to develop.

Top Prospects On The Mound

The Yankees GCL2 team certainly did not boast a ton of depth among their pitching prospects in 2014. In fact, they had really only had one top-shelf pitching prospect -- right-hander Domingo Acevedo.

Standing 6-foot-7 and a conservatively listed 190 pounds [he is probably more like 220 pounds], he has an elite arm. He'll sit mostly in the 94-96 mph range but will have spells where the average velocity will tick even higher, he tops out at 99 mph, and has a plus changeup already in his arsenal. He even has a slider that will flash plus potential at times but it isn't a consistent weapon for him just yet.

He conjures up images of a young Dellin Betances due to his size and stuff but there is a major difference -- mechanically Acevedo hasn't shown the same issues at the same stages in their careers throwing strikes and that bodes well for his future. He does need to improve the slider and overall pitch-ability, but the ceiling doesn't get any higher.

The Biggest 'Sleeper'

There is a significant dropoff from Acevedo, both figuratively and literally. Arguably the next best pitching prospect from the GCL Yankees2 team is left-hander Nestor Cortes, who stands all of 5-foot-11. He doesn't throw particularly hard, sitting mostly in the 88-90 mph range, but both his curveball and changeup are above average or better offerings and he shows an advanced level of pitch-ability.

He posted a solid 2.27 ERA in what essentially was his debut season this past year, struck out 38 batters in 31.2 innings, and walked just five batters. There are some viable comparisons to Double-A southpaw Daniel Camarena, and like Camarena, Cortes could fly under the radar despite his real knack for pitching simply because he won't light up a radar gun. He should not be overlooked though.

Not Just Yet

There are some other names that could wind up emerging down the road, including, but not limited to right-handers Melvin Morla and Jonathan Padilla, or perhaps even left-hander Derek Callahan, but there is still some significant growth needed for all three to push their way up even to the 'sleeper' group. The one pitcher who could get there the quickest, however, is left-hander Carlos Diaz.

The 19-year old Dominican southpaw has true swing and miss stuff, thanks in large part to the great movement he's able to generate with all three pitches, which currently already grade out as big league average or better, but it's his wild tendencies [39 walks and 12 wild pitches in just 37 innings] that will need to be corrected for him to become a long-term factor. He'll sit mostly 90-92 mph and can top out in the mid-90s, but the good velocity won't do him any good if he can't throw more strikes. There's talent here to be a 'sleeper' prospect but there is still a ton of work to do to get there.

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