Zoilo Almonte: Almonte's career .243 average thus far is nowhere even close to being a true indicator of his hitting ability or hitting potential. The switch-hitter has some of the best hitting mechanics in the farm system already and he is very good at taking pitches to the opposite field. The line-drive hitter also works from gap to gap and he stays within himself, so much so most scouts believe he will be a perennial .300+ hitter in due time.
Carmen Angelini: Getting set to begin his professional career, the reason why so many insiders believe he has the chance to debut in the long-season leagues is due to his advanced bat. He is extremely patient at the plate, adept at driving pitches to the opposite field, and he has the plate presence of a seasoned veteran. His good speed should also allow him to leg out quite a few hits over the course of a season. He'll be one to watch in the coming years.
Kyle Anson: Like Almonte, Anson's career .267 average disguises the fact that he is a one of the better hitters around. His plate discipline is arguably the best in the farm system, drawing more walks than striking out in his career thus far. A switch-hitter, he is actually one of the better hitters from the left side in Pinstripes. As soon as he gets more comfortable defensively behind the plate, he should start putting together some .300+ seasons.
Francisco Cervelli: Cervelli's plus-plus defensive abilities overshadows the fact that he is a very, very good hitter. He hit just .279 with the Tampa Yankees last season, but he was hitting well over .300 for a large portion of the season before tiring down the stretch in his first full year catching. His plate presence, patience, and contact hitting ability are all above average, and he barely missed cracking the Top Ten.
Reegie Corona: A .293 hitter in 2006, the switch-hitter struggled a bit offensively last season, hitting just .258 in his first year making the transition to shortstop. That kind of move does affect a player's comfort level at the plate. Don't be fooled by his average last season - his patience and pitch selection are both above average, enough to be a solid .300 hitter.
Prilys Cuello: Cuello has been remarkably consistent over his first two seasons - hitting .279 in the Dominican Summer League and .283 with the Gulf Coast League Yankees last season - and he has just scratched the surface of his hitting ability. The switch-hitter, despite being a bit too aggressive at times, has an uncanny knack of putting the fat part of the bat on the ball. He is one of the better looking young hitters in the organization.
Kelvin De Leon: The 6-foot-3 17-year old is a huge physical specimen, surely looking the part of a developing slugger. De Leon, however, isn't just about the power. He has very solid hitting mechanics, a good plan at the plate, and most insiders believe he will be a high-average hitter when it's all said and done.
|THE ONE TOOL THAT MATTERS: Grote lacks great tools except for the key one - an ability to hit for average. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Taylor Grote: Like Angelini, Grote is getting ready to make his professional debut in 2008. He might not have the great tools in either the speed or power departments, but his bat control is certainly a plus tool. He is very patient in his approach, has a natural line-drive swing, and his extreme confidence allows him to be unfazed against any pitcher. He has the look of a special high-average hitter.
Christopher Malec: The switch-hitter went from hitting just .229 in 2006 to hitting .316 last season, putting together one of the more impressive one-year turnarounds in recent memory. Possessing great plate discipline, drawing 29 more walks than striking out in his career so far, he's more the .300 hitter he was last season and it's his ability to put the ball in play that has some scouts believing he could be a future big league utility man.
Jose Mojica: One of the top international signings last year, while everybody is highly impressed with his defensive abilities in the field, it's his polished bat that has team officials very excited about his potential. He has loose hands, quick wrists, and one of the more sound swings among the younger prospects. He projects to potentially be a special hitter and one of the better prospects real soon.
Jesus Montero: The influx of some polished hitters in last year's draft pushes the Venzuelan slugger out of the Top Ten...for now. He made huge strides shortening his swing in his professional debut season last year and hit a very respectable .280. He is also very patient and selective at the plate, especially for such a young player, and he has the look of a good hitter for average - enough so that he should rejoin the Top Ten down the road.
|YOUKILIS PART TWO? Pruitt could wind up being the Yankees version of Kevin Youkilis - a great hitter who develops power late. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Braedyn Pruitt: Finishing eighth overall in minor league baseball and second in the NY-Penn League with a .347 average last season, obviously a strong argument could be made to include him in the Top Ten right now. Scouts aren't convinced, however, that he will hit for enough power to secure a corner infield or outfield spot and he'll need to do that to project as one of the better high-average hitters at the big league level for the Yankees someday. For now he's a great hitter worth watching his power progress.
Austin Romine: Like Cervelli and Anson, Romine is another extremely disciplined hitter at the catcher's position. His plate presence, patience, and approach are so rare for such a young hitter, and most scouts and team officials believe he will be a high-average hitter [with power] year in and year out. Like Angelini, he has the talent to headline this list down the road.
Marcos Vechionacci: How 'Nacci' hasn't come close to hitting anywhere near .300 in the long-season leagues yet is one of the more vexing questions in Yankee-land. A very good contact hitter, he is one of the toughest guys to strike out but he has struggled with consistency. Prone to putting together good streaks, he'll have even longer droughts while he has been working on his swing. It could come together for the switch-hitter at any time and be the .300+ hitter most scouts have believed he would become.
Chase Weems: Romine isn't the only good hitting catcher the Yankees drafted out of high school last year. The sweet-swinging lefty has the look of being one of the more solid hitters and a potential on-base machine. He has already proven to be a pesky out in his first two Instructional League camps, and while his lack of 'now' power kept him out of the Top 50 this year, his polished bat makes him a lock to find permanent residence in the Top 50 going forward.
Top Ten Hitters For Average
10) Colin Curtis: Curtis detractors will look at his .242 average in his half a season with the Trenton Thunder last season and shake their collective heads in disbelief with his inclusion in the Top Ten. Don't be fooled by a player struggling in his first-full season to hit at the Double-A level initially. He has one of the most sound swings mechanically and his plus ability to take pitches to the opposite field in Cano-like fashion projects him to be a high-average hitter.
9) Juan Miranda: As is the case with Curtis, most stat-junkies won't agree with Miranda being in the Top Ten. Yes, he only hit .265 between high-A and Double-A in his debut season with the Yankees, but that was quite an accomplishment for a player who had a two-year layoff from the game of baseball while defecting from Cuba. Getting used to a new country, a new culture, and acclimating himself to the organization as a whole, he started becoming the .300+ hitter most scouts believed he would become in the Arizona Fall League. He is a professional hitter all the way.
|HE CAN RAKE: Scouts don't believe Snyder's season last year was a fluke. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
7) Justin Snyder: Posting a .459 on-base percentage, at any minor league level, is an unbelievable accomplishment. Drawing 58 walks in just 73 games and hitting .335, that's exactly what Snyder did in his debut season last year. He is very good at taking pitches to the opposite field and his plate patience is way above average. Able to play a multitude of positions well, and with the type of bat control he has, gives him a very good chance as a future big league utility man, at minimum.
6) Abraham Almonte: Just a career .268 hitter thus far, Almonte has a much better bat than most realize. His patience is superb, drawing 76 walks in his first 116 games. His bat speed is a huge plus and so is his pitch recognition. He also has very good power in his swing, enough that the opposing defenses have to play him back and then he has the great speed and bunting ability to outrun many infield hits. He can beat teams in a lot of different ways and his ability to hit for average is one of them.
|COMING TOGETHER: Jackson always had the ability to hit for average and learned to do so by slowing things down. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
4) Austin Jackson: The natural athlete learned to become a professional baseball player last season, essentially due to his ability to slow the game down. He learned to sit back on pitches longer and drive them to where he was pitched instead of getting out in front on everything. While some might want to be a bit more patient with his half-season success in Tampa last year [where he hit .345], wanting him to prove it again, the fact is he always had the potential to hit for high averages and that trend should continue moving forward.
3) Brandon Laird: Sure his numbers were a bit inflated in the Gulf Coast League - a level arguably not challenging enough for him - last season when he hit a team-high .339, but that doesn't detract from his pure hitting ability. Possessing advanced plate discipline, good pitch recognition, and natural contact hitting ability, Laird should hit wherever he plays. His high school coach also coached Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart [a career .295 hitter] and is on record saying Laird is at least Stewart's equal with the bat, and like Stewart, Laird should have some special offensive seasons in his career.
2) Mitch Hilligoss: A combined .395 hitter in his last two years of college, the sweet-swinging lefty has hit .304 so far in his young professional career. Still learning to be a bit more patient at the plate, the scary part is he has the potential to be even better as he improves his walk totals and power production. Think of a left-handed hitting version of Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia [a career .308 hitter in the minor leagues who hit .317 in his rookie season] for a good comparison batting average-wise. He can flat-out hit.
1) Jose Tabata: The best fastball hitter and best breaking ball hitter in the farm system, the right-hander has excellent plate coverage. Even at just 19-years old he has some of the best discipline in the organization and his middle-to-opposite field approach is quite natural. He works primarily from gap to gap and his .305 career average should only get better now that his hamate injury, which limited his playing time the past two seasons, appears completely healed. He projects as a future #3 hitter at the big league level and that's where the best hitters reside.