Five Upper 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 upper level prospects in particular seemed poised to have that kind of season for the Yankees in 2015.

SS, Abiatal Avelino: Few got the opportunity to see the real Avelino last season as he dealt with a quad injury for a good portion of the year. He's proven in spurts to be one of the steadier performers around on both sides of the ball when he's healthy. He hit .294 with nine doubles and eleven stolen bases in his first 29 games with low-A Charleston last year, putting him at a 44 double, 54 stolen base pace before pulling up lame with the quad injury [he hit just .158 in the 24 games after the injury].

There aren't a whole lot of weaknesses in his game and the prevailing thought entering last season was that he could be a quick mover through the minor leagues. While the injury and resulting limited 53-game trial in low-A last year would have most expecting a lot more seasoning coming for the Dominican native at the low-A level, the fact is considering how mature his game is already and with the glut of shortstop prospects coming up behind him he should still be on an accelerated track. If he can remain healthy in 2015 it would not be outlandish to see a breakout performance from him at the high-A level, especially now that he's gotten some time to adjust playing under the lights.

OF, Jake Cave: If there's a player ready to erupt you need not look any further than this former sixth round pick. He's been more than solid through his first two healthy minor league seasons thus far, hitting a combined .288 over the past two years, including a .294 average over two minor league levels last season. The patience has improved, his defense has progressed further, and the power is really only now just starting to come around [he slugged 60 points higher in Double-A last season].

The fact that he's distancing himself even further from the knee problems he endured through his first two professional seasons and the fact that he's only been facing live pitching for just two seasons can't be highlighted enough; he's just now getting his proverbial sea legs under him. There's a lot more potential left in the tank and with his high-energy style of play and tremendous makeup he could be in store for a huge season in 2015.

OF, Dustin Fowler: Often lumped in the same breath as Cave for his hitter-ish ways and intriguing power from the left side, this 18th round pick out of high school in 2013 had a very solid first full season last year, hitting a respectable .257 with nine home runs for low-A Charleston after beginning the season clobbering the ball in Extended Spring Training. In fact, it should be noted that he hit the exact same number of home runs as Aaron Judge did in Charleston and did it in just one more game played; that's the kind of power potential he has flashed.

Like Cave he is still learning how to balance when to be aggressive and when to be a little more patient to sit on the pitch he's looking for, and he's also trying to spray the ball a bit more to all fields. But make no mistake, there's some thunder in his swing and he offers just enough speed-defense combination too that should make him more than a mere slugger. Throw in a rather low strikeout ratio, the whole package is very intriguing for a 20-year old who is seemingly ready to tackle the high-A level in 2015.

RHP, Nick Goody: Here's the perfect recipe for a breakout candidate -- take somebody who was dominating early before an injury, be able to work his way back from the injury, show some immediate return to normalcy when he does get back, sprinkle in just a little bit of disappointing results, and just add a little more time to it all. Goody fits all that criteria and has all of the makings of a monster breakout season.

He missed the majority of the 2013 season with Tommy John surgery and returned last year to some mixed results. The stuff seemed all of the way back, hitting as high as 97 mph, but the command was off and the numbers suffered [posting a 6.75 ERA in Double-A Trenton]. In fact, he went from walking well under three batters per nine innings earlier in his career to walking over five and half in Trenton last year. The experts say it takes a full 18 months after Tommy John surgery for the full command to come back and Goody will be 24 months out once the 2015 season starts. Throw in a vastly improved changeup and a business-like approach on the mound, he could be in line for a special season this year.

3B, Eric Jagielo: The same underlying Goody-like circumstances hold true somewhat with this first round pick out of the University of Notre Dame in 2013. He had more than a solid first full season last year, hitting a combined .256 with 18 home runs over two minor league levels and he did it while dealing with an oblique injury for a good portion of the season last year [he missed seven weeks due to injury].

A full healthy season would do wonders for him breaking out even further but it's more than just that; it's also keeping in mind he will be entering just his second full season and bringing with him all of the firsts he experienced last season. Throw in a vastly more patient approach than most folks realize as well as more refined plate discipline than the numbers might suggest and Jagielo seems poised to break out offensively in 2015. Of course it will also help getting out of the pitching-friendly Florida State League too. The whole scenario spells potential breakout.

Others On The Breakout Watch

Rookie Davis, Gabe Encinas, Dietrich Enns, and Caleb Smith.

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