Abraham Almonte: Technically not even out of the Gulf Coast League yet, and with very few games at the outfield position to his credit, it might be surprising for some to see Almonte being included in such elite company already. Lack of professional experience aside, few can match his dynamic play.
The switch-hitter is the complete package: power projection, plus speed, contact hitting ability, plus patience offensively, and the early returns defensively have been more than favorable. His ceiling is as high as any other player in the farm system and he could start to move quite quickly, starting in 2008.
Kelvin De Leon: Like Almonte, De Leon's overall skill-set and raw talent overshadows his lack of professional experience. In many ways he is a lot like Almonte in that he has all five tools in his game. He doesn't have the plus speed of Almonte but his power potential is among the best in the farm system.
He has slightly above average speed, a plus arm in the outfield, and he has already shown to be very coachable. At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds already, and still just 17 years old, it stands to reason his plus power potential might only get better as he continues to grow. He has the chance to be a special player.
Austin Jackson: A mainstay in the "highest ceiling" category since he signed with the Yankees back in 2005, Jackson began proving his immense talent in the second-half of the 2007 season when he hit .345 with ten home runs in just 258 at-bats for the Tampa Yankees.
Like the other names in this category, Jackson is a five-tool player who is just now starting to scratch the surface of his talent. The only limitation in his game is the lack of plus arm strength, but it is more than solid to man either centerfield or left field as an everyday big league player.
Jose Tabata: The number one ranked player in our Top 50 this season, the polish that Tabata has brought in all phases of his game has been uncanny for a player who just turned 19 years old late last season. He owns a career .305 average and displays an innate up the middle to opposite field approach at the plate.
|DON'T BE FOOLED: Urena's low batting average in the DSL last season disguises the fact he could a very good hitter down the road. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Carlos Urena: Urena, despite hitting just .237 in his debut season in the Dominican Summer League last year, is another five-tool talent. Like most 17-year olds beginning their career, however, he is just starting to learn how to become a professional ballplayer.
One of the elite fastball hitters, one prone to getting pull-happy, he is working on using the entire field and staying back in his swing longer. He has all the tools in his game - including already being one of the best defensive outfielders in the farm system - and his ceiling is sky-high. He might the riskiest in this group, however, in terms of reaching his ceiling with his pull tendencies and that will be a focus in his development, but he has the tools to make Austin Jackson-like adjustments in due time.
Closest to the Majors
Matt Carson: The career numbers haven't been very impressive, hitting just .250 in his six years in the Yankees organization, but the potential has always been there. He has had some good seasons, including last year when he hit a team-high 16 home runs [tied with Miranda for third most in the farm system] for the Trenton Thunder. He is also one of the best defensive outfielders and could be a viable fifth outfielder at some point soon.
|THE POWER WILL COME: Curtis already has power but he's looking to transfer it from the cages to the games. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Colin Curtis: It's quite rare to claim a player coming off of his first full season of professional baseball is one of the closest to the big leagues, but that's exactly the type of offensive and defensive polish Curtis brings. He has a great swing, a mature approach, solid speed, and developing power. In fact he has more power than some folks realize, and that alone makes him a sleeper of sorts, but he won't be in the minor leagues for long. He should break in as a very good fourth outfielder soon but has enough potential in his game to develop into something more.
Brett Gardner: Like Curtis, Gardner - despite having Triple-A experience and some success at the higher minor league levels - is a sleeper to some because of his lack of power numbers. While insiders believe that facet of his game is coming, his game-changing speed, patient approach at the plate, bunting ability, and great defensive play have him on the cusp of helping out in the Bronx real soon at minimum. It might not be long after that point that he forces himself into the everyday mix.
In Part Two we'll examine the sleepers, the outfield prospects who need to make their mark soon, and the ones where the jury is still out.