OF, Kendall Coleman: We pegged this former eleventh round pick back in 2013 for a breakout season in this very same article a year ago but a broken thumb late in Spring Training had him playing catch up most of the season upon his return. He hit just .236 for short-season Pulaski last year but did finally start showing some signs of the sky-high ceiling he possesses the further he got away from his injury when he hit .356 over his final 25 Appy League games.
An extremely patient hitter -- almost to a fault -- he got better the more aggressive he got at the plate. He has a discerning eye at the plate, he has tweaked his swing mechanics, and he put on over 25 pounds of excellent weight this offseason too. A little Aaron Judge-like from the left side from an upside standpoint, he's just now beginning to scratch the surface of his talent and he's still just 20 years old. If he can prove his final month of the season last year was not a fluke and have some more immediate success to start the 2016 campaign there's no telling where the brimming confidence can take him. He appears better equipped than most to sky-rocket his way up the rankings in 2016 even though Charleston, his minor league destination, isn't exactly a hitter's haven.
OF, Leonardo Molina: There are some similarities between Coleman and this former top International free agent signed back in 2013, most notably the longer limbs [although Molina isn't quite as tall as Coleman] and the propensity to sit perhaps a bit too long on his pitch. The progress in his first two professional seasons has been more slow and steady than dramatic but the similar sky-high ceiling talent is still very much evident. He hit .247 with two home runs repeating the Gulf Coast League level last season and he's still growing into his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame.
Still just 18 years old [he doesn't turn 19 until the end of July], Molina's breakout might not jump off the page numbers-wise as he still has to gain experience playing under the lights but he's far too talented not to see a significant rise in the prospect rankings in 2016. An above average defender, one who has much better speed than his modest stolen base totals thus far would suggest, he's slowly learning how to balance his above average plate patience with a bit more aggressive style. He should start showing some of that top-shelf talent more and seems poised for a breakout of sorts in 2016
SS/2B Danienger Perez: The Yankees have some unprecedented high-ceiling middle infield depth in the organization right now, especially at the lower minor league levels, and it has allowed this Venezuelan native to seriously fly under the radar. Signed as part of the massive 2014 International free agent class, it's not like he's been around for all that long either and yet he had one of the more unheralded debut seasons last year, hitting a combined .246 with 26 extra-base hits and advancing all the way to short-season Staten Island in his first year last season.
Nicknamed 'Danger', Perez falls a bit into the Thairo Estrada mold as a quality shortstop prospect who just may have to find more at-bats at second base given the abundance of shortstops in the organization right now. Like Estrada too Perez is also very hitter-ish, showing a nice combination of advanced plate discipline, above average bat speed, and an ability to use the whole field. He too has just began scratching the surface of his potential and it may not be long before his name is mentioned in the same breath as some of the top middle infield prospects in the Yankee farm system. He's a big-time 'sleeper' on the verge of breaking out soon.
RHP, Freicer Perez: There's something brewing with this 6-foot-10 towering Dominican right-hander. An under the radar signing, he immediately drew some comparisons to now top pitching prospect Domingo Acevedo due to his innate ability to throw a ton of strikes despite his taller frame. He pitched to a 3.23 ERA in the Dominican Summer League in his debut season last year and walked just 17 batters in 69.2 innings, mostly on the strength of a somewhat fastball-only repertoire, one which flashed some 95s on the radar gun.
Fast forward to just one year later in his first Spring Training camp and the stuff is starting to blossom. The 95s he flashed on the gun a year ago are now beginning to be his sitting range as he averaged 94-95 mph in camp and the once rather non-existent secondary arsenal is slowly beginning to take shape too. In fact, he snapped off some breaking balls with plus potential this spring. He still needs a better changeup and he's not where he needs to be just yet from a consistency standpoint, and while he does throw a ton of strikes he's far from a command pitcher either but he sure is showing the signs of a young Acevedo, one whose stuff is really beginning to percolate. Don't be surprised if he has a rather substantial breakout season in the short-season leagues in 2016.
OF, Carlos Vidal: This Colombian native has nearly all the earmarks of what a potential breakout candidate should look like; he hit .303 with a career-high nine home runs in short-season Pulaski last year and did so while skipping over the Gulf Coast League level entirely. He also reported to camp this spring in great shape, putting on a solid 10-15 pounds of good weight that should only help him not just with his endurance but his surprising power surge over the past calendar year. In fact, with his entire game on the upswing it was rather shocking to see he would once again begin the 2016 season back in Extended Spring Training.
Still, just as long as Vidal doesn't press too much at the plate in attempt to prove the higher-ups in the organization were wrong for not pushing him to a higher level many industry insiders believed he earned he still could very much be poised for the breakout season many had envisioned for him. Getting to Charleston is certainly not out of the question and the hit-first left-hander [he actually hit left-handed pitching better than righties last season] still has plenty of time to continue turning heads. A back-end Top 50 prospect entering the season, another solid year could have his stocking moving pretty steadily up the charts.
Others On The Breakout Watch
Cody Carroll, Will Carter, Ricardo Ferreira, Jhalan Jackson, and Jason Lopez.