Patrick Teale

Here's a breakdown of the GCL Yankees1 in 2015, both team-wise and prospects-wise.

The Gulf Coast League Yankees1 had just a disappointing season in 2015, finishing the year with a 26-32 record, good for last place in the Northwest division and 13 games out of first place. 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 opened up the season with a three-game losing streak and followed it up with a season high seven-game losing streak nearly a week later, creating a sizeable hole that they couldn't dig out of for themselves.

Offensively it was a good year for the team though, finishing first in the entire 16-team Gulf Coast League in team batting average [.267].  They also finished first in doubles [97] and OPS [.723, 31 points higher than the next club], second in triples [22], third in runs scored [266] and walks [218], fourth in total bases [663, although nearly 100 less than in 2014], and had the third fewest strikeouts [386].

As good as they were offensively though, they were nearly equally as bad on the mound.  The team finished 15th in team ERA [4.27] and WHIP ratio [1.48], walked the most batters in the league [252], and allowed the second most home runs [26].  The only silver linings in otherwise bad team showing was the fact they allowed less hits [432] than innings pitched [462] and finished a respectable ninth in total strikeouts [415].

The Greatest Depth

As the aforementioned statistics bear out, 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 first baseman Chris Gittens who finished third in home runs [8] and tied for third in RBIs [29], and third baseman Donny Sands ended seventh [26] in the same category and also finished seventh in hitting [.309].  Outfielder Cesar Diaz finished fifth in runs scored [34] and tied for fourth in walks [28], and shortstop Wikerman Garcia finished tenth in walks [24].  Both shortstop Danienger Perez and first baseman Victor Rey finished tied for fifth in doubles [12], and Gittens would have led the league in hitting with his .362 average if he had enough at-bats to qualify.

Top Position Prospects

While the team had contributions from many in 2015, the team isn't exactly loaded with sure-fire top prospects.  The clear-cut top prospect from the team was shortstop Wilkerman Garcia.  One of the top International free agents signed in last year's massive Yankee Latin America overhaul, he essentially skipped the Dominican Summer League [he had just six at-bats there before moving up] and finished his debut season hitting a solid .281 with more walks than strikeouts.  Considering his above average tools and already smooth defensive game, few can match both his 'now' game and lofty projection, and he's already garnering Robinson Cano comps from the scouting community, albeit a switch-hitting shortstop version.

It wasn't exactly the type of sophomore campaign many had expected from Leonardo Molina this season, the Yankees' top International free agent signing in 2013 [he hit .247 with nine doubles and two home runs in his return trip to the GCL], but he did show a lot of progress playing most of the season as an 17-year old.  He cut down on his strikeouts, saw more physical growth and strength, and has begun refining his coordination.  He's not quite at the prospect level that Garcia is at this point but the sky-high ceiling he possesses can't be ignored either, even if he isn't quite as safe a long-term projection.

The Biggest 'Sleeper'

While the team doesn't exactly boast a ton of top prospect talent among their position players, they have considerable depth of quality 'sleeper' prospects, including, but not limited to infielders Chris Gittens, Donny Sands, and Danienger Perez, and even outfielder Cesar Diaz.

Gittens, a 12th round pick out of junior college in 2014, is a monster of a man, standing 6-foot-4 and weighing a conservatively listed 250 pounds.  As his bio would suggest, he has immense power potential and he can flat-out hit too, showing an advanced ability to use the whole field.  He has production in his corner too, hitting for both average and power early on in his career.  However, there are some issues to iron out moving forward, most notably his less than chiseled physique.  A little more work in the gym in the name of trimming down and gaining a bit more athleticism would go a long way in not only refining an okay defensive game at first base but it could help him better handle the wear and tear of the long seasons headed his way.  Should he do that he has the talent to be a top prospect someday.

Sands, this year's eighth round pick out of high school, doesn't have quite the same enormous ceiling that Gittens possesses but he has also has far fewer question marks.  Solid in all phases of the game already, it's his rather surprising polish at a young age that has allowed him to become an immediate 'sleeper' prospect for the Yankees.  Like Gittens, he shows an advanced feel for hitting at a young age, including better than average plate discipline.  He is also a solid defender at third base and has a tick better than average speed for a corner guy too.  He doesn't have quite the same power potential, however, and that could allow him to fly under the radar as he ascends the minor league ranks.  .

Perez is the shortstop version of Sands.  In fact, he was almost immediately a 'sleeper' prospect upon signing with the Yankees as part of their massive International signing class in 2014, flying under the radar of top shortstop signings like Wilkerman Garcia, Diegeo Castillo, and Hoy Jun Park.  However, don't let his overlooked signing cloud judgment, he has some significant talent too.  Like Sands he is already solid in all phases of the game and he's wiry strong.  In fact, he amassed an impressive 20 doubles in his debut season in just 240 at-bats over three minor league levels.  He's also a better hitter than his .246 average would suggest and he's as reliable defender as there is at the lower minor league levels.  Don't sleep on him because of the impressive Yankee shortstop depth, he can play.

Diaz falls into the Sands-Perez category as more solid than 'toolsy' and it starts with his impeccable plate discipline and advanced feel for hitting.  The switch-hitter just completed his second professional season and his career average stands at .314 with a .430 on-base percentage.  As remarkable as those numbers are, it's his 63 walks in just 90 games with only 28 strikeouts that is truly remarkable.  Throw in his 27 stolen bases this past season [and 40 career swipes thus far], there is a lot to like numbers-wise.  He doesn't have a whole lot of home run power and he's more solid than spectacular defensively, and he gets dinged by scouts since he was signed as an older player [he's already 22 years old], but there's just enough in his entire game for him to be a viable long-term 'sleeper' prospect for the Yankees.

If you're looking for a deep REM 'sleeper' it could possibly be infielder Bryan Cuevas. Like Diaz, Cuevas recently turned 22 years old and he still hasn't made his way into the long-season leagues yet but he still has the solid-across-the-board skills to potentially play his way into a bigger role down the road.  He shows a good feel for hitting, has decent speed and power, and he can play more than serviceable defense at a number of positions.  There's some Jose Pirela-like qualities to his game, he just needs the opportunity and the in-game reps, a tall task for a Yankee middle infield prospect these days.

Not Just Yet

Both Brian Reyes and Jerry Seitz are hit-first catchers who are slowing progressing defensively.  They get lost in the shuffle at the lower levels right now as the Yankees have a fair number of above average, borderline elite defensive backstops making some noise at a defense-first position, but eventually even those guys have to hit some and that's where Reyes and Seitz should not be overlooked as potential contributors.  Their respective defensive games are slowly progressing but they're also not quite yet at the point where they can force-feed themselves more playing time.  Keep an eye on both of them though as they have intriguing bats.

Infielder Victor Rey was once one of the top International signings by the Yankees but took a mid-90s fastball to the face in his debut season in 2012 and didn't really shake off the injury until last year.  He's battled his way back though and had a fine United States debut this year, hitting .279 with a team-high 12 doubles.  The third baseman was always known more for his hitting than his defensive game and he's even begun shifting to playing more first base lately.  He's even been tried at catcher too.  There's some offensive ceiling here worth keeping an eye on as he tries to find a defensive home.

Top Prospects On The Mound

While the GCL Yankees1 have a couple of top prospects and a number of 'sleeper' candidates among their position players, the same can not be said of their pitching staff unfortunately.  In fact, the top pitching prospect from the team this year, Alexander Vargas, really isn't even among the top pitching prospects in the Yankee farm system as a whole just yet.

Signed last year as their top International free agent pitching prospect, Vargas, a Dominican native, had a solid albeit unspectacular follow-up season in 2015 after posting a 2.08 ERA in five Dominican Summer League games a year ago.  He posted a 4.97 ERA in the Gulf Coast League this year and issued just 13 walks in ten appearances, and he showed average to above average stuff across the board, including a 91-93 mph fastball.  However, while the stuff plays and he does throw strikes, he hasn't shown a feel for pitching just yet, especially command-wise.  He has some Ivan Nova-like upside but has some work to do to get to that point and Nova wasn't exactly a top prospect himself coming up through the lower levels either. 

The Biggest 'Sleeper'

The GCL Yankees1 squad doesn't offer a whole lot of depth in the 'sleeper' pitching category either.  The best bet is right-hander Anyelo Gomez given his 93-95 mph fastball and a curveball that ranges between above average to plus.  Like Vargas he can throw strikes with the best of them too but doesn't yet have the needed command either.  The 22-year old can miss bats though and could begin to move a bit quicker if he were transitioned to the bullpen full-time; that's where he has his most value as a potential 'sleeper' candidate.

Not Just Yet

When it comes to a 'live arm' and 'pure stuff', left-hander Anderson Severino really should be considered a special talent.  The diminutive southpaw routinely dials it up in the mid-90s and he flashes a plus breaking ball at times too.  However, unlike Vargas and Gomez, Severino has a very difficult time throwing strikes.  He doesn't pitch with control yet let alone command and that is problematic.  He walked 33 batters and struck out just 32 in 41.1 innings this season, and that lack of control can't allow him even to be on the pitching radar just yet despite his special arm.  The 21-year old has to start pounding the zone a lot more.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories