Five Lower Level Breakout Candidates

Year in and year out every farm system has their fair share of prospects who seemingly put it all together and have a breakout season to move them up further in their organizational rankings. Five lower level prospects in particular seemed poised to have that kind of season for the Yankees in 2015.

RHP, Domingo Acevedo: There are some eery similarities between this Dominican native and current top prospect Luis Severino; they both average mid-90s with their fastball and can reach triple digits on occasion, they both have plus big league changeups, and they both have advanced strike-throwing abilities. And a strong case could be made that both have had similar sliders at similar points in their careers, the kind that shows flashes of being a plus pitch but still a pitch that is very inconsistent.

With all of those similarities in mind, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Acevedo could have Severino-like breakout season this coming year, breaking in low-A ball and moving relatively quickly given his propensity to fill up the strike zone. Should the slider tick up from a consistency standpoint it would further increase the likelihood of it all playing out. Acevedo, however, stands 6-foot-7 and physically is a monster so there are a few less durability questions too. So while there are a lot of similarities there are also some bigger positives too, and the whole scenario is a recipe for breaking out in 2015.

3B/1B, Drew Bridges: We've waxed poetic of this former 20th round pick's high-ceiling potential for the better part of a year now. In fact, just drafted out of high school in 2013, we placed him in the "Others On The Breakout Watch" category [see below] heading into the 2014 season. He didn't have the breakout season some were expecting though, hitting just .222 and striking out a bit too much [65 times in 52 games]. However, he did lead all GCL Yankees batters in doubles [15] and walks [29] so there were some very encouraging signs.

In retrospect he himself admits to not exactly knowing what kind of shape he needed to be in for the rigors of a full season and has taken to the task of physically being better prepared for the 2015 season. Throw in the experience gained from learning when to be patient and when to be aggressive, Bridges seems poised to make a monumental step in his development this coming season. There's some Greg Bird-like offensive potential here if things begin to click for him given his special power. We're betting on him being able to show folks what he an actually do.

OF, Kendall Coleman: There's a similar sky-high ceiling with this eleventh round pick back in 2013, perhaps even higher. Photoed above, he's hit just .137 thus far two short years into his career but you can throw those numbers out considering he's amassed a grand total of 51 at-bats while dealing with a couple of different injuries. Like Bridges there is some advanced plate patience and pitch recognition that suggests some real long-term hitting ability, and he has above average or plus power potential too.

He was one of the real standouts in regular Spring Training a year ago and then once again in Extended Spring Training, and was seemingly poised for a huge 2014 regular season, but serious shin splints limited him to just 23 regular season at-bats. For him it's all about being healthy. If he can remain healthy in 2015 it appears more than likely that the breakout numbers will follow him.

SS, Thairo Estrada: Like with Acevedo there has been some middling success statistically thus far from Estrada [.276 average and .739 OPS in first 257 professional at-bats] that wouldn't make a potential breakout year from being a total surprise but at the same time his recent numerical success is really only scratching the surface of his long-term potential too. This Venezuelan native missed the better part of two months last season with a pulled left hamstring and it limited him to just 81 at-bats over two lower minor league levels.

When he's been healthy, however, he has been a standout performer at times, including hitting two monstrous home runs in two Gulf Coast League playoff games last season as well as turning heads at Instructional League. As is the case with every prospect who puts on the uniform, staying healthy is objective number one for any potential success. Should Estrada do that, however, with his plus plate discipline, above average or better speed, above average or better defensive abilities, and burgeoning average or better power he could follow a Rob Refsnyder-like path up the minor league ladder, one who gets better each season, and it could begin happening in 2015.

C, Alvaro Noriega: This Colombian native just turned 20 years this offseason and defensively he is already a plus catcher in every sense of the term; plus receiver, plus arm strength, and exceptional at blocking balls in the dirt. He even has that intangible trait of building a rapport with his pitchers and despite his inexperience he knows the nuances of callings pitches. In fact, behind the dish there isn't much of a difference between he and the highly regarded Luis Torrens.

Offensively, Noriega has not been a standout but that doesn't mean he hasn't shown signs of some real offensive potential either. His .257 career average thus far disguises the fact that he is quite adept at putting the ball in play [he struck out just 17 times in 43 games last year] and he has 26 doubles in his first 470 at-bats. Extrapolate that over the course of a full minor league season and power-wise he's on par with the likes of J.R. Murphy and even Luis Torrens. Noriega was playing in the shadows of Torrens' high prospect luster and now with Torrens out for the 2015 season it would not be surprising for Noriega to take a step up in his absence and have a breakout season of his own. He seems poised to do so.

Others On The Breakout Watch

Sean Carley, Jordan Foley, Kevin Gonzalez, Jonathan Holder, and David Palladino.


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