Robert Pimpsner

Here's a breakdown of the Staten Island Yankees in 2015, both team-wise and prospects-wise.

The Staten Island Yankees had a solid season in 2015, finishing the year in first place in their division with a 41-34 record and advancing all the way to the New York Penn League 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.

Just as it was the Pulaski club, consistency was Staten Island's biggest strength in 2015, albeit more to the .500 center of things.  They really only had one losing streak of note, a five-game stretch from July 24-29, and it was really only one of two losing streaks of at least three games all season long.  Conversely, they had just one winning streak of note too, a six-game streak towards the end of the season in September that helped them edge Aberdeen for a slim 1.5 advantage for the McNamara Division crown.

Offensively while it wasn't a standout season as a whole it was a better than average year for the club.  In fact, they finished in the upper-half in the 14-team league in every major offensive category.  They finished fourth in home runs [32], tied for fourth in runs scored [344], doubles [128], and OPS [.676], finished sixth in total bases [901] and walks [235], and tied for seventh in team batting average [.252].

Showing nice balance, the pitching staff was also above the league average in nearly every category too, finishing third in strikeouts [602], fifth in ERA [3.26], sixth in WHIP ratio [1.27], and seventh in walks allowed [225].

The Greatest Depth

While the statistics show the team has nearly identical depth of long-term prospects between their positions players and pitchers, the fact is it's the pitchers that not only show the greater long-term impact but the better depth too.

The Arms

The club had just a couple of league leaders this season, most notably right-hander Domingo Acevedo.  Battling blister problems earlier in the season, he fell just two innings shy of qualifying for the ERA title but would have won it in a landslide, finishing the year with a 1.69 ERA [the official league leader had a 2.23 ERA] and it's one of the reasons he won New York Penn League Pitcher of the Year honors.  He would have also finished tied for fourth in WHIP ratio [1.08] had he had enough innings to qualify too. Right-hander Luis Cedeno finished fourth in ERA [2.73]

Top Pitching Prospects

Though he pitched in just three games this season due to the fact he signed rather late, clearly the top pitching prospect from the staff is right-hander James Kaprielian.  This year's first round pick out of UCLA, he tossed just nine innings and struck out twelve but he already possesses the best combination of now polish, stuff, and long-term ceiling.  Standing 6-foot-4, he boasts an above average fastball that blossomed into a plus pitch by season's end, averaging 93-96 mph during Instructional League, and two above average to plus breaking pitches with his curveball and slider.  Throw in a big league changeup and above average command and he is arguably the best equipped to be a quick mover through the minor leagues.

While there is a drop-off in now polish, there might even be a bigger ceiling with the aforementioned Domingo Acevedo.  Standing 6-foot-7, the Dominican native throws extremely hard, averaging 94-97 mph with his fastball and routinely topping out at 100 mph or more in every outing.  He also boasts a plus changeup to boot, making his already plus fastball even more effective, and he can throw strikes consistently.  His slider, while clearly still his third best pitch, has come a long way in the early going.  In fact, it flashes big league average potential already.  Like Kaprielian, Acevedo seems poised to move very quickly and has one of the highest ceilings in the entire organization.

Like Kaprielian, Jeff Degano, this year's second round pick out of Indiana State University, didn't get a whole lot of exposure in Staten Island this year but it doesn't detract from his significant long-term potential.  He tallied just 10.2 innings this year for Staten Island and struck out 14, and the left-hander boasts an above average fastball-curveball combination that could also make him a relatively quick riser through the minor leagues.  The fastball has shown plus potential in spurts too, getting as high as 95 mph, and the changeup, a pitch he didn't throw much in college, shows some significant long-term potential too.  Staying healthy and throwing the changeup more will be keys to his development going forward but there's a rather high ceiling here.

The Biggest 'Sleeper'

The Staten Island staff just doesn't offer top pitching prospects right now either, it also has a good number of 'sleeper' pitching prospects who could find their way into similar elite company with some more development.  Case in point, right-hander Will Carter.  This year's 14th round pick out of the University of Alabama has the look of being the steal of the draft already.  He averages 93-95 mph with his fastball, has topped out at 98 mph, and he shows a curveball-changeup combination that has above average to plus potential.  He was relegated to bullpen duty in his debut season this year more so than anything to help limit his innings after a long college season, but there's already talk about moving him into the starting rotation in 2016.  The pitch-ability is akin to another former 14th round pick of the Yankees -- David Phelps -- but with better stuff and a much higher ceiling.

Venezuelan right-hander Luis Cedeno might not have the same type of arm strength or even secondary pitch arsenal yet but he too offers some significant 'sleeper' potential.  Standing just 5-foot-11 and with room to fill out, he averages more in the 89-91 mph range with his fastball but did top out at 95 mph this past season, suggesting there's more power potential coming down the road.  Throw in a solid changeup and his innate ability to pound the strike zone, he has the necessary foundation in place to keep making steps forward.  He still has work to do on his curveball and he has to learn to trust his stuff more, but if the velocity can keep creeping up and if the breaking ball continues to get better he could surprise some folks down the road.  The 21-year old keeps getting better.

Not Just Yet

The Yankees have a pair of college-drafted arms that could work their way into the 'sleeper' category down the road with a little more work; left-hander Josh Rogers and right-hander Brett Marks.  Rogers, this year's 11th round pick out of the University of Louisville, shows a solid three-pitch big league mix, giving him a nice foundation to work with.  He'll need one of the pitches to tick up to above average, however, especially with the breaking ball, to have a better shot the higher he climbs.  Marks, this year's 15th round pick out of the University of Tennessee, has the kind of reliable sinker that could play much better at the higher levels but will also need a put-away secondary pitch at some point to get advanced-level hitters out.  His splitter is his best long-term secondary weapon right now.

Top Position Prospects

While Staten Island has a number of legit, high upside pitching prospects, the team is a little devoid of having that long-term impact bat.  The closest to being that are shortstop Thairo Estrada and outfielder Trey Amburgey.

Estrada, a 19-year old Venezuelan native, seems to be the best equipped to make a long-term big league impact due to his plus plate discipline, above average defensive abilities, above average or better speed, and innate feel for the game.  He has makeup through the roof and the kind of advanced overall game that should make him one of the steadier performers as he climbs the minor league ladder.  The only thing preventing him from becoming an elite prospect is the lack of plus power potential.  Boasting more average than anything power, while he might not ever be a top overall prospect, the fact that he has very few weaknesses in his game [if any] means he has arguably the best chance to have a flourishing baseball career.

Amburgey, this year's 13th round pick out of junior college, already is and probably will continue to give Will Carter a run for his money as the steal of this year's draft.  He hit a ridiculous .346 with a .923 OP S in his debut season this year between the Gulf Coast League and New York Penn League.  Like Estrada it's his complete game that makes him stand out, not necessarily the one standout tool.  It's also one of the reasons, most notably his average to perhaps slightly above average power potential, that he isn't considered an elite position prospect at this point.  Still, while he might not be an overall impact prospect for the Yankees, he does show some similar traits to current Toronto outfielder Kevin Pillar and like Pillar he could be a quick riser through the minor leagues.

The Biggest 'Sleeper'

The team not only doesn't have a true impact top position prospect but even their 'sleeper' candidates come with significant long-term question marks too.  In fact, all of the ensuing names could easily fall into the 'Not Just Yet' category.  Case in point, outfielder Jhalan Jackson, arguably the team's best 'sleeper' prospect.  This year's seventh round pick certainly has the above average or better power potential to make him very intriguing but there are some questions as to how well he's going to hit against more advanced level pitchers, especially as he begins to see a steadier diet of offspeed pitches going forward.  He's a decent fielder and a better hitter than some pundits realize, but he is going to have to hit his way up the minor league ladder.

Corner infielder Drew Bridges, like Jackson, has the natural size and above average or better power potential to easily be a legit 'sleeper' candidate but also has similar question marks as to whether or not he's going to hit consistently enough to make optimal use of that power.  He hit just .211 this season in Staten Island which is right in line with his career .206 mark three seasons into his development and that's not a great sign for a player noted more for his offensive potential than his defensive prowess.  Until the production is turned around he's more of a marginal 'sleeper' prospect despite his rather lofty potential.

Jeff Hendrix, this year's fourth round pick out of Oregon State, entered the system noted for his solid abilities to hit, run, and with adequate power.  However, he hit just .229 with six doubles and no home runs.  While the talent is there to be much better, the fact is he has a lot more to prove and has more questions marks than answers at this point to be anything more than a mild 'sleeper', especially in a farm system with some tooled-up outfield prospects.  Like Bridges, he needs some immediate production.

Nearly a carbon copy infield version of Hendrix is shortstop Kyle Holder, this year's second first round pick out of the University of San Diego.  Like Hendrix, Holder is a premium defender in the middle of the field who shows a nice blend of bat control and strike zone discipline to potentially be a solid hitter for average in due time but has yet to do so in the early stages of his career.  He is different from Hendrix, however, in that the speed-power combination is below average so hit he must so his plus-plus defensive abilities can be maximized on a daily basis.  Improving on his .213 average in Staten Island will be imperative to cement his 'sleeper' potential.

Brandon Wagner falls more into the Drew Bridges' group as a potentially plus offensive player given his average or better power potential.  Like Bridges he shows ample patience at the plate and a quick-twitch bat with explosive bat speed, but also like Bridges, Wagner, a sixth round pick this year out of junior college, isn't exactly noted for his defensive abilties as much as his offensive potential and he hit just .228 in his debut season this year.  The former third baseman is attempting to make the transition over to second base where his bat would profile better and he's shown glimpses of proving to be adequate but still has a long way to go to smoothe out the rough edges.  He too has legit long-term 'sleeper' potential but still has a lot of work to do to get there.

Perhaps the best now-ready 'sleeper' prospect from the Staten Island team is outfielder Junior Valera.  A career .296 hitter thus far, the Dominican native has plus speed, plus defensive abilities, and a knack for consistently hitting in his corner.  However, while he has speed to burn, he hasn't been able to translate that into stolen base production yet and he isn't exactly a high on-base guy either.  Throw in below average power potential and the fact that he is already 23 years old without a single long-season league to his credit and, like many of the aformentioned names, he has some things working against him too.

If you're looking for a deep 'REM sleeper' is very well could be Zach Zehner, this year's 18th round pick out of Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo.  Standing 6-foot-4 and a rock-solid 215 pounds, he certainly looks the part given his average or better power potential, average or better speed, above average patience at the plate, and above average defensive abilities.  He hit .232 in his debut season with five home runs and twelve stolen bases this year, and the Yankees may just have something with Zehner.  However, like Valera he's 23 years old and will need to improve his production in the near future.  Still, there are some Amburgey-like qualities worth tracking for the time being.

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