Eric Duncan: A year ago the Yankee prospect world was swirling over talks of Duncan's impending move to first base. A year later, those same talks are still permeating the air. Duncan didn't register one game at first base during the regular season in 2005 before playing a handful of games there during the Arizona Fall League. The Yankees have stated publicly that he'll be playing first base in 2006. He has the highest upside offensively in the farm system and thus, he has the highest ceiling no matter which position he plays.
Despite being somewhat overmatched at the plate, the 20-year old Duncan still managed to club 19 home runs and draw 59 walks as one of the youngest players at the AA level. While he had 27 errors at third base, the early prognosis is Duncan is capable of playing a serviceable first base. The minute his move to first base becomes permanent, he has the highest ceiling.
Angel Fermin: Fermin's power potential was already well known even before setting foot on U.S. soil in 2005 with the Gulf Coast League Yankees. Not one of the more selective hitters at the plate, Fermin still makes good contact and the ball usually goes a long way. Like Duncan, Fermin's strongest attribute is his offensive potential. He projects to be a plus power hitter and top notch run producer. Fermin plays an adequate first base, but is probably better suited for the designated hitter role.
Closest to the Majors
Andy Phillips: Most teams would kill to have a first baseman smack 48 home runs and hit well over .300 in less than two full seasons at the highest minor league level, but yet Andy Phillips inexplicably has struggled to break his way into the Yankee lineup. It seems as if his best shot to remain in the Bronx will be in 2006. With the way he terrorizes left-handed pitching (.365 against them in 2005), he could be the perfect platoon for Jason Giambi.
John Urick: A stress fracture in his foot plagued his production in 2005. He hit just .238 with the Tampa Yankees but still managed to collect over 42% of his hits for extra-bases in a notorious pitching friendly Florida State League. The Yankees put him on the AAA reserve roster this past offseason, virtually protecting him from selection in the Rule V Draft. He'll be in AA Trenton in 2006, sharing time at first base and designated hitter with Eric Duncan. Urick is one of the better defensive first base prospects and his game compares favorably to John Olerud.
Kyle Larsen: Also a John Olerud clone, Larsen is a sweet-swinging left-handed hitter who boasts a slick fielding glove. He can hit for average, some power, provide in the clutch, and pick it with the best of them at first base. Larsen went undrafted after his final two seasons of college despite one of the more polished all-around games. The odds of making the big leagues are stacked against undrafted free agent signings, but if there's one who could defy the odds, it is Kyle Larsen.
|CLUTCH IS HIS NAME: Jones, who hit .328 with runners in scoring position, hit 9 of his 14 home runs with men on base. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Need to Make Their Move
Mitch Jones: Another year, another monster season with the power numbers for Jones. After hitting 39 home runs in 2004, Jones clubbed 27 home runs in 2005 with the AAA-Columbus Clippers. Prone to high strikeout totals, Jones was hitting as high as .301 as late as July 26th before a 13-85 slide to end the year dropped his average down to .268 for the season, tying his career high. Jones has little to prove at the minor league level and is simply awaiting an opportunity to strut his stuff in the Majors.
Shelley Duncan: Shelley smacked a career high 34 home runs in 2005 with the AA-Trenton Thunder, 15 more than his previous career high set in 2004. More of a Mitch Jones clone, Duncan's game is predicated on impressive raw power with a lack of consistent contact hitting. He hit just .240 in 2005 and struck out a career high 140 times. He'll never develop into a solid hitter for average, but he's on the short list of backup power hitters for the Yankees.
The Jury is Still Out
Cody Ehlers: Ehlers, a four-year player for the University of Missouri who hit 18 home runs in his senior year, split time with Ben Jones as the first base/designated hitter platoon with the Riverdogs in 2005. One of the more patient hitters in the organization, Ehlers hasn't shown enough consistency with the bat to force his way into legitimate first base prospect discussions. He has proven to be a solid clutch hitter but he'll need to show a bit more power to overtake some of the names higher on the depth chart.
Felipe Garcia: Drafted in the 34th round of the 2005 MLB Draft, Garcia filled in admirably as the backup first baseman to Kyle Larsen in Staten Island last summer. Injuries limited him to just 162 at-bats. He failed to hit a home run in his final year of school and as a late round draft pick, he'll have to hit his way up the minor league ladder. Garcia might find that task a little hard as he appears ticketed for Charleston as the backup first baseman in 2006.