Zoilo Almonte: He doesn't have the great speed or top flight defensive ability to be the high-end type of top prospect, nor does he have the special power projection of some of the other farmhands, but this switch-hitter can flat-out rake. His career .243 average at the lower minor league levels may say otherwise, however, but most scouts love his approach and swing mechanics already.
The 18-year old does have very good power projection and he hits the ball hard into the gaps with regularity. He also has pretty good loft in his swing for such a young player and his power could materialize sooner than some realize. He gets a bit buried with the likes of Jose Tabata and Austin Jackson, but his bat has the chance to be special and it should take him far.
Josue Calzado: Unlike Zoilo, Calzado is a virtual tool-shed. He is an above average runner, he has plus power potential, he is an elite defensive player, and his outfield arm is among the best professional baseball has to offer. He gets overlooked by many by his somewhat advanced age for an international signee at the lower minor league levels.
Yes, he spent the first three years of his career in the Dominican Summer League, and yes, he turned 21 years old this offseason, but he is hardly old and his progress has been slow and steady. He gets a bad reputation as being a bad breaking ball hitter, which is simply not the case. An elite fastball hitter, he has made good strides learning to layoff breaking pitches outside of the zone and does get good swings on ones inside the zone already. If he can keep improving in this facet - the lone weakness in his game - he could really take off and he has the look of a big-time sleeper.
Seth Fortenberry: Being drafted in the 11th round and signed after your senior year in college is a good start towards becoming a sleeper, especially when you bring the kind of tools that Fortenberry brings to the table. He finished second in the Yankees farm system last season with 18 home runs and his 25 stolen bases with the Charleston Riverdogs were actually disappointing for a player with his plus speed.
|A SOLID PACKAGE: Grote might lack the one great tool but his overall skill-set is very impressive. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Taylor Grote: Last year's eighth round pick out of The Woodlands High School in Texas doesn't have the one great tool in his game and that might prevent him from ever being considered a top prospect. But while he might not have plus speed or plus power potential, he does a lot of things well and he has shown an ability to be a very good hitter overall.
He has one of the more mature approaches at the plate, especially for such a young player, and his confidence is unreal for somebody with no professional experience. He might not have the exciting tools of some of the top guys but he does offer the organization a nice safe pick of reaching his ceiling and those guys tend to fly under the radar, and have productive careers.
Need To Make Their Move
Tim Battle: One of the toolsiest players at the minor league level - including being one of the best outfielders and fastest players - Battle saw his career average dip down to .238 after hitting just .218 for the Tampa Yankees last season.
He has been working hard on shortening his swing, eliminating movements in his hitting mechanics, and laying off of the breaking pitches outside of the zone. He'll need to make marked improvements in all of those areas to start tapping his potential. Now entering his sixth season with the Yankees, time is starting to run out for him to do just that.
|A BIG TEASE?: Mesa's tools are very tantalizing but he needs to make more consistent contact. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
He isn't great defensively in the outfield and he has virtually no speed, and while he did hit .330 in the Dominican Summer League back in 2006, his extreme pull tendencies don't exactly project him to hit anywhere near those levels as he moves up. He needs to learn to use the entire field more in a hurry because his bat - which does have holes - is where his sole value lies.
Melky Mesa: Unlike Dioncio, Mesa's incredible defensive abilities, plus power potential, and plus speed should keep him around for a while. But like Battle, however, his rather long swing and inability to lay off bad breaking pitches outside of the strike zone overshadows the fact he is one of the best fastball hitters in the farm system.
He is still only 21 years old and could have a breakout season at any point once he learns to stay back longer at the plate, but with two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and two more in the Gulf Coast League, time is running out for him to start tapping his vast potential to avoid having younger players overtake him on the depth chart.
The Jury Is Still Out
Taylor Holiday: The Yankees 19th round pick last season had a solid season playing some outfield and first base for the Staten Island Yankees, hitting .290 with three home runs and stealing 16 bases. At 5-foot-11, he doesn't profile as a starting first baseman and how he fits into the Yankees long-term outfield plans remains to be seen.
Isaiah Howes: Drafted in the 11th round last season out of Lousville, Howes had a forgettable professional debut season after hitting just .193 with the Staten Island Yankees. He did, however, manage to hit 18 home runs in his senior year of college and he he has shown some impressive power in the cages. How he transfers that batting practice power into actual game production will be crucial to his career in Pinstripes.
|A FUTURE SLEEPER?: Krum has the talent to be a real sleeper but he'll need to prove last year was just an adjustment period. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Arielkis Lapaix: One of the Yankees 'July 2nd' signs from 2006, Lapaix struggled to make any consistent contact in his debut season with DSL Yankees1 last year when he hit just .202 with 78 strikeouts in just 188 at-bats. He is a much better player than his stats indicate, showing good power potential and a strong arm in the outfield. He might not be ready for the United States just yet but he's one of the players to watch in the coming seasons with his overall talent.
Matt Morris: The UC-Irvine product struggled in his debut season with the Staten Island Yankees last season, hitting just .216 and showing little patience at the plate. He has a little power and some speed, but it's hard to figure out where he fits into the outfield mix. He'll need to bounce-back this coming season to fight for some more playing time.
Henry Pena: Signed last 'July 2nd' Signing Day, the left-handed hitter has sound hitting mechanics already at such a young age. He shows decent power for a 17-year old kid and his overall game is quite solid.
|SOLID ALL-AROUND: Pena might not have plus power potential yet or great speed, but he does everything well. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Andres Perez: Signed as an undrafted free agent last offseason out of Stonybrook University, the New York native is actually very intriguing. He hit just .237 at four different minor league levels but hit seven home runs and stole ten bases in just 274 at-bats. He has very good tools, including impressive power, and has the body of a professional athlete. One of the best hitters in Spring Training last season, he'll need to secure a starting spot somewhere to stay in the mix but he does have sleeper potential.
Alvaro Ramirez: Signed considerably later than most international signees, the soon-to-be 22-year old has yet to play a game in the United States. His plus-plus speed - he has 38 stolen bases and 12 triples in his first 122 games - and incredible defensive abilities will keep him around. He'll need to make his way States-side, however, before anybody gets too excited.
Jahdiel Santamaria: The Panama native has nothing left to prove in the Dominican Summer League after hitting a combined .312 there over three seasons. He has very good plate discipline, surprising power potential, and very good speed. He'll need to prove his worth in the United States but the overall package is very solid.
Eduardo Sosa: One of the top international signings last year from Venezuela, the left-handed hitting speedster is getting ready to begin his minor league career this coming season. He is a plus defensive outfielder with plus speed and some scouts believe he has enough power in his game to develop into a Johnny Damon-type down the road. The tools are there but his power is far from a sure-thing.
David Williams: The former Rutgers product had a so-so professional debut season with the Staten Island Yankees last year. He hit .276 and showed good plate discipline, but it was a disappointing year power-wise. One of the more physically imposing figures around, he failed to hit a home run in 221 at-bats last season and how that happened was one of the bigger mysteries in the NY-Penn League. He has the look of a sleeper candidate but will need to be more productive to become one.