Brandon Laird: The former Orange County High School Player of the Year and brother of Texas Rangers' catcher Gerald Laird slipped down to the Yankees in the 27th round of the draft last season, and he responded by hitting .339 with a team-leading eight home runs in his professional debut season with the Gulf Coast League Yankees. Some insiders believed he would have hit equally as well for the Staten Island Yankees and most scouts believe he will continue to hit at every minor league level, and hit with power.
Defensively, his less than stellar range is the only thing truly lacking and he has put forth the goal of improving his body and agility. With Alex Rodriguez tied up for the next decade at the hot corner, however, the Yankees can afford to be patient in that aspect of his game. His offensive potential can play anywhere but the Yankees will give him every opportunity to stick at third.
Closest to the Majors
Mitch Hilligoss: It's a bit of an oddity when a third baseman from low-A ball - coming off of his first full professional season - is the one closest to the big leagues. But considering the Yankees have no need for a full-time third baseman anytime soon, and throwing in the fact Hilligoss is the most versatile third sacker in the farm system [able to play shortstop, second base, and left field as well], he could reach the big leagues sooner than the rest.
He is an elite two-strike hitter, a great situational hitter, a catalyst on the base paths, and equally hard-nosed defensively. His power should increase as he learns to shrink his own strike zone and drive better pitches. His hitting ability and tremendous work ethic should allow him to move quickly.
Jimmy Paredes: Signed as a projection player in July of 2006 out of the Dominican Republic, the 6-foot-3 switch-hitter has made huge strides adding muscle weight over the last year and a half. He has plus power potential in a very athletic frame. His swing is a bit long at times, and he swings at most pitches, but he has an uncanny knack for making contact.
|THE COMPLETE PACKAGE?: Paredes has all the tools to become a big-time prospect. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Bradley Suttle: The Yankees fourth round pick last season, who signed for first round money, hit .359 with 12 home runs for the University of Texas last season as a draft-eligible sophomore. He signed too late to get any significant minor league at-bats before heading out to the Hawaiian Winter League.
He hit just .100 in 29 games for the Honolulu Sharks and already his doubters are jumping ship despite the fact he was instituting numerous changes to his swing mechanics. Defensively he's solid - not a real standout - but his makeup is tremendous. Few insiders believe he won't make the necessary changes and become a very productive hitter at third base. With expectations pretty low now, he can fly under the radar.
Need to Make Their Move
Marcos Vechionacci: 'Nacci' has one of the higher ceilings and he's also a bit of a sleeper now that he is no longer considered a top ten prospect. And oddly enough, heading to Double-A this coming season, he is close to the big leagues as well but his slowly developing power game is the reason he best fits in this category. Preparing to enter his sixth professional season, he has yet to hit double-digit home runs in any one season.
He has the ability to be a good hitter too but yet only boasts a career average of .263. He has a ton of ability and could easily be a big league All-Star in the making, but the time is now to start showing it on the field. He'll need to do just that to grab a 40-man roster spot next offseason. It's not about the numbers at the lower minor league levels but they do become more of a factor at Double-A and above.
The Jury is Still Out
Elio De La Rosa: Signed during last year's 'July 2nd' signing period, the Dominican native has advanced hitting mechanics and team officials believe he has some good power projection as well, even drawing comparisons to a young Adrian Beltre. He plays a solid third base defensively too. Unless Paredes skips a minor league level and starts the season in Staten Island, however, De La Rosa seems headed to the Dominican Summer League so we'll remain cautious for now.
Kelvin Castro: He split time between shortstop and third base with the Gulf Coast League Yankees last season and hit a solid .277 in his first year in the United States. He also made significant progress in becoming a more polished defensive player. He has some power and speed as well, but how he fits into the Yankees plans has yet to be determined.
Braedyn Pruitt: Finishing second in the NY-Penn League last season with an incredible .347 batting average, Pruitt is a bit of a sleeper in the grand scheme of things with his ability to hit. He walked more than he struck out and he is pretty solid defensively, but at 6-foot-2 and just 175 pounds - while he did hit four home runs last season - there are some doubts whether or not he can hit for enough power to play a corner infield position over the course of a long season.