Best Hitter For Average: Jose Tabata - It should be noted that Vechionacci, despite his .255 average in 2006, projects to be a high average hitter as well. But Tabata's ability to hit for a high batting average is greater. His propensity to take pitches the other way, with power, is uncanny for a player his age.
Best Hitter For Power: Jose Tabata - It is kind of odd selecting the player with 16 less home runs, but even though Ben Jones hit for much more power this past season, Tabata projects to hit for the most power at the big league level someday. He hits for moderate opposite field power right now, but many scouts believe his power the other way will be a plus tool down the road.
Best Fastball Hitter: Tim Battle - There are a few really good fastball hitters on the Charleston squad this year - Nunez, Vechionacci, Tabata, and Jackson - but nobody can turn on the better fastballs than Battle. His bat speed is a plus tool right now and his percentage of hits off of fastballs is tops on the team.
Best Breaking Ball Hitter: Jose Tabata - Tabata gets a small nod over Vechionacci in this category, a very good breaking ball hitter in his own right. Both are extremely patient hitters with enough bat speed to catch up on breaking balls when sitting on fastballs, but Tabata's bat is just a shade quicker.
Best Plate Discipline: Marcos Vechionacci - Nobody has a better idea of the strike zone than 'Nacci' and his long arms, combined with his patient approach at the plate, makes his hitting zone bigger than most. He walked more times than he struck out in Charleston this past season and his career walk-to-strikeout ratio is off the charts for a player his age.
Best Bad Ball Hitter: Reegie Corona - Corona has an innate ability to hit pitches most players have no business swinging at and it is that trait that has allowed him to hit for a higher average.
Best Left-Handed Swing: Marcos Vechionacci - 'Nacci', a switch-hitter, wins this award by default as the Riverdogs had very few left-handed bats in the lineup. Corona, also a switch-hitter, actually had a higher average from the left side of the plate in 2006 but Vechionacci's swing is more fluid.
Best Right-Handed Swing: Jose Tabata - Tabata's swing from the right side of the plate is a swing of beauty. It is short and compact and with his bat speed and strength, he's able to power balls the opposite way. In fact, his swing has been compared to that of Manny Ramirez as they both have similar motion.
Best Base Runner: Mario Holmann - Holmann is home on the base paths. Whether he's reading pitchers to get big jumps on stolen bases or taking third on a single to the outfield, his base running is a plus tool.
Best Raw Speed: Austin Jackson - Both Jackson and Holmann have plus speed, but Jackson's athletic ability and agility are better. He stole 37 bases in his first full professional season this past year and that was primarily due to his raw speed. Once he learns to read pitchers better his stolen base totals should increase even more.
Best Athlete: Austin Jackson - Jackson's basketball ability and raw athleticism give him an edge over everybody else. His lateral movement and hand-eye coordination are off the charts. He's one of the top athletes in the entire farm system. The Yankees are now trying to mold his athleticism into baseball skills at the professional level.
Best Untapped Talent: Eduardo Nunez - You could make a strong argument with Austin Jackson, but because Nunez struggled to make consistent contact in 2006, he gets a slight edge here as too many observers might be a little too quick to write him off. His talent is unquestionable and he could take off as soon as next season.
(We didn't consider either Christian Garcia or Jason Stephens in these categories due to a limited number of games.)
Deepest Repertoire: Eric Wordekemper - Despite pitching mostly out of the bullpen for the Riverdogs, Wordekemper has one of the deeper repertoires on a staff devoid of any truly deep arsenals. He boasts both a two-seam fastball and a four-seam fastball, a slider, and a splitter.
Best Fastball For Starting Pitcher: Garrett Patterson - It was an up and down year for Patterson in 2006 as he struggled with injuries, mostly blisters. But when he's healthy, not many can bring the heater like Patterson. His fastball sits 92-95 MPH and he can hit the high 90's at times, including a few 97's in 2006 in an injury-plagued season.
Best Fastball For Relief Pitcher: Cory Stuart - Wordekemper doesn't throw as hard as Stuart, but he deserves some consideration in this category for his pinpoint control with his fastball. But Stuart sits 91-93 MPH with his fastball with good control as well and his plus slider makes his fastball appear even quicker.
Best Curveball: R.J. Swindle - Bryan Villalona has the top curveball among the Charleston starters, but Swindle's slow hooking curveball bends the knees of many opposing batters, especially lefties. He can throw it as slow as the high-50's and scouts have likened him to a left-handed version of Chad Bradford because of it.
Best Slider: Cory Stuart - While Zach Kroenke had one of the best sliders among the starting pitchers, and Wilkins Arias had a really good one towards the end of the season, Stuart's slider is not only the best on the Charleston Riverdogs, but it is arguably one of the best in the system. He throws a power slider in the 80-84 MPH range and it moves more like a curveball but it has late-biting action.
Best Changeup: Erick Abreu - If we had included Christian Garcia in our Top Tools for Charleston, his changeup actually would have ranked the best, it made that much progress. But aside from Garcia, Abreu gets the nod. He gets a lot of deception and movement on his changeup.
Best Control: R.J. Swindle - On any other team, Eric Wordekemper would have snagged this category. But Swindle's control is as close to perfect as it gets. He makes his living around the strike zone and walked just five batters in 44 1/3 innings.
Best Mechanics: Eric Wordekemper - He's not a guy that's going to blow anybody away with his stuff, but with his pinpoint control and polished mechanics, Wordekemper is the type of pitcher that may sneak up on critics all the way until he get to the big leagues.
Best Raw Arm: Garrett Patterson - Patterson's a flame-thrower with a good feel for his secondary pitches. But with the number of injuries in his amateur days and now in his short time in the professional ranks, it would be truly amazing to see how much progress he could make if he stayed on the field long enough to strut his stuff.
Best Overall Potential: Garrett Patterson - Again, taking Garcia out of the equation, Patterson has the most potential from the Charleston pitchers this past season. His combination of a plus fastball, good curveball and slider, and make-up on the mound translate the best for big league success.
Most Polished Pitcher: Eric Wordekemper - Swindle is a polished pitcher in his own right, but the Yankees are tinkering with his arm slot. Wordekemper may not have ceiling of some of the other pitchers on the Charleston team, but the Yankees are comfortable putting him on the mound anywhere at any time, they are that impressed with his polish.
Best Defensive Pitcher: Zach Kroenke - Jason Stephens would probably take home this honor had he logged enough games to be considered, but Kroenke is nearly as good on a good defensive pitching staff for Charleston this past season.
Best Defensive Outfielder: Tim Battle - The Riverdogs had an athletic outfield this past season with the likes of Battle, Jackson, and Tabata. But Battle's arm, speed, and range are clearly the best.
Best Defensive Infielder: Marcos Vechionacci - As talented as the Charleston outfield was in 2006, their infield as just as strong, if not stronger. While Mario Holmann and Eduardo Nunez are plus defensive players as well, Vechionacci's combination of smooth hands and plus arm gives him a clear advantage.
Best Defensive Catcher: Kevin Nelson - Nelson's receiving skills were perhaps too advanced for the South Atlantic League, but his developing bat lagged behind Rojas and Muich, which cut into his playing time. Defensively though, he was superior.
Best Outfield Instincts: Austin Jackson - This is essentially a coin-flip between he and Battle, but Jackson has an uncanny knack for shagging down line drives for a player with his lack of baseball experience. Both outfielders however have more work to do on their positioning and consistency in the outfield.
Best Outfield Range: Tim Battle - Battle is hands-down one of the fastest players in the farm system and boasts one of the best ranges in the outfield as a result. He has moved over to right field in 2006 in favor of some other players, but that has more to do with his arm than lack of range.
Best Outfield Arm: Tim Battle - Tabata has the reputation of having a better arm among some publications, and by choosing Battle we might be splitting hairs just a tad. But Battle's arm just appears to be a shade better than Tabata's, with neither profiling as having a true big league right fielder's arm.
Best Infield Arm: Marcos Vechionacci - Tried at catcher, second base, and shortstop in his young career already, the Yankees moved Vechionacci over to the hot corner to take advantage of his plus arm. He not only has the best infield arm from the Charleston team, he arguably has one of the best ones in the entire organization.
Best Infield Range: Eduardo Nunez - You could put Mario Holmann at second base here and not be wrong, but part of Nunez's problems with errors has been his plus range at shortstop. He gets to many balls most shortstops can't get to and with a strong arm as well, he often times tries to make the spectacular play when it's better served putting it in his back pocket.
Top Tools - Charleston
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