Juan Miranda: Miranda's plus power potential and ability to hit to all fields gives him the highest ceiling among the current crop of first base prospects. He has very good plate discipline, and as good as his professional debut season was last year, there is a lot more potential in his bat considering he had a two-year layoff from baseball after defecting from Cuba.
He won't dazzle anybody with his range, which is lacking, but he will make the plays on balls anywhere around him. Arguably better suited as a designated hitter in the American League, his plus offensive potential and serviceable defensive play makes him one of the better first base prospects in the organization.
Closest to the Majors
Eric Duncan: Possessing high-ceiling talent of his own, the former first round pick has been rushed through the minor leagues and, along with dealing with some back injuries, hasn't lived up to his potential as of yet. Like Miranda, he has good power to all fields and has shown an ability to hit to the opposite field with regularity.
Also like Miranda however, this former third baseman does not play above average defense and is known more for his offensive potential. Seemingly ticketed for another season in Triple-A, and with his career being a disappointment of sorts so far, he not only is the first base prospect closest to the majors but he also needs to make his mark at the plate soon to start living up to his potential.
Brandon Laird: Still primarily a third baseman right now, should he ever make the permanent move to first base he would easily slot into the 'highest ceiling' category. A .339 hitter in his professional debut season last year with eight home runs, the former Orange County High School Player of the Year has one of the highest offensive potentials in the entire organization.
|HE COULD MAKE THE MOVE: Laird played 12 games at first base last season and could see more action there in 2008. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Wady Rufino: A big-ticket signing back in the summer of 2003, reported disciplinary problems kept him in the Dominican Summer League for the better part of three years. He also had to repeat the Gulf Coast League level last season, and set to turn 23 years old in the first week of the 2008 season, he certainly could carve a spot for himself in the 'Need to Make Their Move' category.
But he still has plus power potential and one of the better overall games at the position, showing an adept ability to scoop balls out of the dirt and he has excellent footwork around the bag. He also hit .345 last season and he has one of the better eyes at the plate. Some have given up on him due to his age, but the Yankees are still very high on him and that is enough to let him fly under the radar a bit now.
Need to Make Their Move
Cody Ehlers: The 2006 Florida State League Hitter of the Year had a substandard follow-up season with the Trenton Thunder last year. Battling some nagging injuries and struggling to find consistent playing time, he never found his groove at the plate and hit just .252 with eight home runs. Hitting 31 doubles however in just 385 at-bats, he showed the power he had in Tampa the previous season was no fluke.
Arguably the best defensive first baseman in the Yankees farm system, and one who has shown to be one of the more professional players around with his demeanor, even at 25 years old he can't be written off and could most certainly fit into the sleeper category. But with the likes of Juan Miranda and Eric Duncan ahead of his on the current depth chart, he is going to have make his mark soon.
The Jury is Still Out
Alberto Acosta: A raw player who was signed for his plus power potential, the former volleyball player is just now learning the game. He impressed the Yankees with his advanced eye at the plate in the Dominican Summer League last season, especially considering his lack of experience, but he still has a long way to go to jump into the first base mix.
Roy Gomez: He hit .328 for DSL Yankees1 last season with four home runs, but it was his fourth straight year in the Dominican Summer League program. He'll need to get States-side before he is even considered a long-shot in prospect discussions.
Taylor Holiday: The centerfielder chipped in and played 42 games at first base for the Staten Island Yankees [most on the team] in his professional debut season last year. His speed is a huge plus there but he lacks the size of typical first baseman and doesn't project to remain there long-term.
Christopher Malec: Like Holiday, Malec - a second baseman - was playing out of position last year and certainly didn't embarrass himself defensively. He hit a combined .316 and even showed a little bit of pop, smacking nine home runs. His plate discipline is outstanding as well. While he doesn't project as a full-time first baseman, he is quickly proving to be a legit big league utility prospect.
Raymond Nunez: Signed late in 2007, too late to get an official minor league at-bat, he reportedly has the talent to fit into the 'Highest Ceiling' category. The early reports have him as a great defensive first baseman with a plus bat, including some of the best power potential in the farm system, but we'll reserve judgment until we see for ourselves.
Chris Raber: After slugging 17 home runs in his senior year of college for Coastal Carolina, the left-handed slugger hit just two home runs for the Staten Island Yankees and was more of an afterthought as he lost playing time to Holiday. He'll need to bounce back with a productive 2007 campaign to keep in the fray.
Kevin Smith: A superb defensive first baseman, he had an awesome second-half with the Charleston Riverdogs last season, hitting .299 with 17 doubles and eight home runs in just 234 at-bats after the All-Star break. He'll be out to prove his late-season success was no fluke.