Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order)
Shelley Duncan: A career .256 hitter at the minor league level, Duncan's trademark is his power. He clubbed 19 home runs in 424 at-bats last season and would rank in the top ten if he didn't accomplish that feat in the Florida State League at 24 years old.
Ben Jones: Jones is an intriguing power prospect. He hit 6 home runs in 150 at-bats in his professional debut with the Staten Island Yankees in 2004. A little old (23) for short-season A-ball, we want to see Jones post good power numbers at the higher levels before we get too excited. He is one to keep an eye on.
John Urick: Urick hit 15 home runs at Battle Creek in 2004. Not your prototypical power hitter, Urick is a good contact hitter cut in the same mold as John Olerud. While he might not ever hit 30-35 home runs at his peak, he seems to be the safest bet to hit 20+ home runs as he matures. Urick should supplant either Andy Phillips or Mitch Jones on this list in the coming years, simply due to his legitimate shot of contributing at the Major League level.
Top Ten Power Hitting Prospects
10) Andy Phillips: You would think Andy would rank higher on this list, considering he hit 26 bombs at the highest minor league level last season. He does have nice power, but the fact that he'll be 28 years old once the season begins, that power production appears to be his ceiling. It remains to be seen if Phillips will be utilized by the Yankees anytime soon and get his shot at the Major League level. If so, he has decent power but he does not project to be a full-time player merely because of his age.
9) Nathan Phillips: It is tough to put a guy so young and with no professional home runs to his credit among the top ten power hitting prospects for the Yankees. But many scouts believe this Phillips has a chance to be a very good power hitter as he matures, despite not hitting a home run in 157 at-bats for the Gulf Coast League Yankees in 2004. Making the move from shortstop to catcher, the Yankees feel he could be the heir apparent to Jorge Posada in a few years. Some scouts believe he has 30 home run potential down the road, which easily would put him in the top ten power hitting prospects for the Yankees. He'll need to post the power numbers soon to remain in our top ten however.
8) Rudy Guillen: An injured ankle all season in 2004 robbed Guillen of his promising power production that he displayed in Battle Creek in 2003. Yes, he hit just one home run in 2004 but we're ready to give Guillen a wash for last season after clubbing 13 dingers for Battle Creek a year ago. He has plus power and projects to hit 25+ home runs at his peak. He ranks only slightly higher than Nathan Phillips because he does have 17 career home runs to his credit. Let's not forget that Guillen just turned 21 years old and seems destined to open up the 2005 campaign at AA-Trenton.
7) Estee Harris: A wiry thin outfielder (6'0", 170 lbs), Harris has tremendous bat speed that can generate a lot of power. The 2003 second-round draft pick struggled in Battle Creek when he began the 2004 season in low-A ball, but did manage to hit 10 home runs in 380 combined at-bats between three levels last season. Some scouts say he resembles a left-handed version of Alfonso Soriano as a thin guy with good power because of his bat speed. Harris just turned 20 years in January and should be a part of the Charleston team next season, with the potential for a breakout year.
6) Mitch Jones: He probably deserves to be ranked atop this list, but the fact that he's 27 years old without one professional at-bat at the AAA level hurts his projection...despite the fact he hit 39 home runs at AA-Trenton in 2004. He truly does have tremendous power, but time is running out for this big-time power hitter to make his mark with the Yankees. Like Andy Phillips, the fact that age is catching up to him hurts his overall ranking.
5) Erold Andrus: Andrus is just 20 years old and he hit 12 home runs for Battle Creek in 2004. He's got a very projectable body. At 6'2" and 170 lbs, Andrus has some room to fill out with useful muscle mass and add even more power to his game. Several scouts agree he has the chance to be a very good power hitter as he matures and will look to make that next leap in his numbers while playing for high-A tampa next season. With strong hands and good bat speed, he has 30-home run potential as he matures.
4) Melky Cabrera: Keeping projection in mind, Cabrera has to be near the top of any ranking of the Yankees' top power hitting prospects. All he does is drive the ball with authority! In fact, Tampa Manager Bill Masse believes Melky is perhaps the best breaking ball hitter for his age he's ever seen. "His ability to hit a breaking ball, with authority, is not seen too often in hitter at this level or at even higher levels", said Masse. It is Melky's innate ability to make adjustments that is going to aid his power game. He'll continue driving the ball into the gaps and the home runs totals will come.
3) Eric Duncan: Reminder! Duncan just turned 20 years old in December and will see time at the AA-level in 2005. Blessed with one of the sweetest strokes in minor league baseball, it is Duncan's opposite field power that is truly amazing, and the mark of a special power hitter. He hit 16 home runs in 461 at-bats in two stops between Battle Creek and Tampa in 2004, his first full year of minor league baseball. He has been compared to the likes of Chipper Jones and Hank Blalock for his hitting and power potential, and those comparisons are legitimate. Duncan has the look of a 30-home run hitter as he matures and is one of the safest bets around.
2) Marcos Vechionacci: As good as Cabrera and Duncan are at such young ages, "Nacci" appears to have an even higher ceiling. He just turned 18 years old last summer and already has over 200 professional at-bats to his credit. Vechionacci has one of the best eyes at the plate and a mature approach to hitting. Like Duncan, "Nacci" goes the other way a lot. And like Andrus, he has a very projectable body that will generate even more power as he fills out. The sky is the limit for this budding, superstar prospect.
1) Jonathan Poterson: Drafted in the supplemental first round in the 2004 draft, this kid is blessed with tremendous power and appears to have the highest power ceiling of any of the Yankees' hitting prospects. Poterson hit 7 home runs in 198 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League last year, despite struggling almost the entire first half of the season. He's a masher in every sense of the word, but he's not merely a hacker. His .202 average last season was a mirage. He is a much better hitter than his average indicated and is easily the strongest kid in the Yankees' farm system. As good as Duncan is going the other way, Poterson's opposite field power is truly remarkable for such a young hitter. Poterson is a name to remember in the power department.