Patrick Teale

PinstripesPlus hands out various hitting prospect awards for the 2015 season.

Rather than merely hand out awards like the Hitter of the Year and the like, we hand out various prospect superlative awards including, but not limited to; the "Robinson Cano Award" to the hitter who finally started tapping his potential at the higher levels, the "Austin Romine Award" to the lower level hitting prospect who is much better than the national media realizes, etc, etc.

The Robinson Cano Award goes to the prospect who showed lower level promise at one time and then struggled somewhat, but then finally started showing that offensive potential once again after getting to the higher minor league levels.

This year's award goes to Scranton outfielder Ben Gamel. While clearly not on the same level potential-wise as Cano, Gamel had always had the look of a far better hitter than his rather pedestrian batting averages at the middle minor league levels had suggested.  He hit just .267 between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton in 2013 and then just .264 for Trenton a year ago, and his lack of extra-base power left little to be desired.  However, just like Cano had done in his minor league career, Gamel began to find his stride at the Triple-A level this year.

He not only hit an even .300 average in the International League -- his first time hitting the .300 mark since his 2012 campaign in low-A Charleston -- but he chipped in with career-highs in triples [14] and home runs [10] as well as runs scored [77] and RBI [64].  It should be noted that Gamel's turnaround at Triple-A this year came in his age 23 season; Cano's breakout season came during his age 22 season.  It doesn't mean Gamel is nearly the same prospect that Cano was at nearly similar points in their respective careers but it could mean Gamel is far from done from tapping his true potential.

The Jesus Montero Award is given to the hitting prospect who proved to be an impact hitter from start to finish the entire season.

While a strong argument could be made to put Gary Sanchez here, this year's award goes to Tampa and Charleston shortstop Jorge Mateo.  Mateo's impact was more offensive all-around than purely with his bat, stealing a minor league-leading 82 bases between the two A-ball levels in his first taste of the long-season leagues in 2015.  While his impact was far greater on the bases than it was in the batter's box, he still had quite a consistent season.  He hit a rock-solid .275 in the first-half of the season in low-A Charleston and then .283 in the second half that included a promotion to the Florida State League.  And considering his batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage all improved in Tampa, he only got stronger as the year went on.  He was a remarkably consistent performer all season long.

The Austin Romine Award is given to the hitting prospect whose full season statistics are seemingly weighed more than they should and thus rendering him underrated on the national prospect scene.

This year's award goes to Trenton third baseman Eric Jagielo.  His numbers in 2015 were very solid, hitting .284 with 16 doubles and nine home runs, but they don't exactly do him justice considering they all came in the first half of the season before an injury ended his season prematurely.  It's easy to forget months later that he was not only one of the more productive hitters in the entire organization prior to the injury but one of the more consistent performers in all of minor league baseball at the time.  It would be wise to not look solely at his whole season statistics and take his injury into serious consideration in terms of his long-term offensive potential.  He is a far better prospect than most pundits realize and than his 2015 numbers suggest.

The Austin Jackson Award is given to the hitting prospect who had to repeat a level and finally figured it out in his second go-around.

This year's award goes to Tampa and Charleston shortstop/second baseman Abiatal Avelino.  To be fair, Avelino's less than impressive numbers in Charleston a year ago had more to do with his nagging quad injury than anything else and the lost time was clearly the primary reason he had to repeat the South Atlantic League level to start the 2015 campaign.  Still, he went back to Charleston this year and quickly improved on his numbers, hitting .301 in 20 games for the RiverDogs after hitting just .232 there a year ago, and then had another solid showing upon his promotion to high-A Tampa, hitting .252 and finishing the season second in the organization with 54 stolen bases.  And just as was the case when Jackson was coming up through the Yankee organization, Avelino's turnaround in his repeat season is really only now beginning to scratch the surface of his true long-term potential.  There's more to come down the road for this Dominican native.

The Eduardo Nunez Award is given to the lower-level hitting prospect whose overall talent belies the pedestrian numbers he has posted and whose game suggests he'll come out of nowhere to have better success down the road at some point.

Last year Avelino took home this award and as was mentioned above he took a big step forward in his development this season, and this year there's no shortage of qualified candidates in this spot here.  Both third baseman Miguel Andujar and shortstop Hoy Jun Park have the talent to "come out of nowhere" a year from now and burst on to the national scene prospect-wise, but both also had somewhat solid seasons of their own numbers-wise that would make such a jump just mildly surprising.  This year's recipient of the Eduardo Nunez award is shortstop Wilkerman Garcia, a far better candidate considering he collected just seven extra-base hits and six stolen bases in his debut season this year.  Those numbers don't exactly jump off the page when in actuality he has the above average or better tools in both areas to be a true impact player in short order.  The circumstances with Garcia are eerily similar to Jorge Mateo; a high-ceiling, lower-level talent who didn't post eye-popping numbers in his first taste of playing in the United States who could very realistically become one of the top prospects in the game a year from now and seemingly coming out of nowhere on the national scene.

The Damon Sublett Award is given to the college pick selected later in the draft [after the third round] and chipped in with a good offensive showing in their debut season in Staten Island.

This year's recipient, Trey Amburgey, is about as big a slam-dunk winner for this category as the Yankees have had in many years.  In fact, Amburgey, this year's 13th round pick out St. Petersburg Community College had arguably the best debut for a college drafted player for the Yankees in Staten Island since Sublett's tremendous showing back in 2007 [.326, 8 home runs, 10 stolen bases, 43 walks] and for whom this award is named after.  Amburgey hit a combined .346 with eleven doubles, five home runs, and 21 stolen bases between the Gulf Coast League and Staten Island this year.  Both Amburgey and the Yankees are hoping that he, unlike Sublett, can prove to be the same kind of productive player as he climbs the minor league ladder.

The Kevin Russo Award is given to the hitting prospect who, despite being selected later in the draft and not really showing great tools, puts up decent numbers and has a solid enough game to be considered a sleeper prospect.

This award goes to outfielder Zach Zehner, this year's 18th round pick out of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. Lost in his rather pedestrian .232 showing in Staten Island this year is a pretty refined and patient offensive approach.  In fact, he drew a very respectable 24 walks in 63 games and he chipped in with 15 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases.  None of his tools grade out as above average in the grand scheme of his long-term potential but he does have the solid all-around game in all phases that does allow him to be a mild 'sleeper' among the Yankee outfield prospects.  Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 220 pounds, he certainly looks the part physically and he's a solid defender in the corner outfield spots too.  He'll have to hit his way up the minor league ladder and he may never be a game-changing prospect, but don't sleep on his potential.  At worse he has the look of a Russo-like organizational type who just may find his way on to a big league roster someday.


Pinstripes Plus Top Stories