Brandon Laird: Drafted as a third baseman, Laird played a little third with the Charleston Riverdogs in 2008 but played the majority of his time over at first. We said in this very same article a year that he would move into the highest ceiling category once he made move to first, and now he has.
His final .273 average disguises the fact he hit .301 over the final three months of the season and he led all Yankees minor league hitters in home runs . He can hit for both power and average, and he shows some pretty good range over at first base. His bat will carry him a long way, but his defensive game is pretty good too.
Closest to the Majors
Juan Miranda: The signing of Teixeira closed any possible door Miranda might have had opened to secure the starting first base position. He battled some nagging injuries in 2008, but yet still managed to hit .287 with 12 home runs in 356 at-bats for Triple-A Scranton.
He is a deadly hitter against right-handed pitchers, posting a .973 OPS against them last season [which is better than David Ortiz], and he plays a more serviceable defensive first base than he's reputed to have. He could become an intriguing bench option for the Yankees.
Mitchell Delaney: With the immediate and long-term needs at first base now being addressed with the Teixeira signing, it opens the door for some high-ceiling bats to develop. Delaney, a Canadian native and 21st round pick of the Yankees last season, fits that bill.
|THE BAT IS INTRIGUING: Delaney's combination of approach and power has some potential. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Kevin Smith: Like Delaney, Smith is a later-round pick and that allows him to easily get overlooked. He doesn't hit for much power at all [just five home runs in 2008], but he does all the other things well enough to help out the big league team in a reserve capacity.
He is a superb defensive first baseman, easily the best in the Yankees farm system. He has great range [so much so that it's not unreasonable to think he could even man second base in a pinch], soft hands, and a strong throwing arm. He also is a very good contact hitter, supported by his .291 career average, and a solid situational hitter that would be ideal on the bench.
Need to Make Their Move
Eric Duncan: In a strange turn of events, the one-time former first round pick and top prospect seems so far away from the big leagues despite having 958 career at-bats at the Triple-A level. Not a great defensive option at either first or third base, his best asset is his bat and with just a .247 career average, that puts him in the dire straits category.
Exposed to the Rule 5 Draft each of the past two seasons, Duncan is in desperate need of the breakout season so many scouts have been waiting on. Anything less than that in 2009 will most likely be the end of his career in Pinstripes.
Wady Rufino: The soon-to-be 24-year old is a little bit of a sleeper considering he hasn't gotten above the low-A level yet and has slugged 11 home runs in his last 228 at-bats. However, he has battled injuries each of the last two seasons and he has yet to reach the high-A level.
He is a bit athletic and he has shown marked improvement defensively at both first base and in the outfield, but time is running out for him to show the promise he had when the Yankees signed him back in 2003.
The Jury is Still Out
Alberto Acosta: A low-risk/high-end signing two years ago, one who was a volleyball player who has spent his time learning the game of baseball, Acosta has intriguing power potential. He still strikes out too much and making consistent contact has been a problem, but he still has time on his side.
Christopher Malec: More of a utility man than a true first baseman, and a bit of a sleeper in that capacity, Malec has played more first base than any other position over the past two seasons. A switch-hitter, Malec has great plate discipline, ideal contact hitting abilities, some power, and defensive versatility. He makes this category merely because it remains to be seen if he will be used as a first baseman down the road, but the talent is there to be a contributor.
Reymond Nunez: Like Acosta, Nunez was signed for his high-ceiling power potential. He is a rather large teenager, standing 6-foot-4 and listed at 210 pounds [although he is probably more like 240 pounds in reality], and he does have great power to all fields. He is still a very raw hitter, however, often times getting fooled on breaking pitches. Nunez has gotten better in this area of the game and once he becomes a better overall hitter, his power could really take off. He's a potential sleeper down the road.
Jahdiel Santamaria: The Panamanian native is a solid overall hitter [.300 career hitter] and he has some defensive versatility. He's solid in the outfield and he has gotten quite good defensively over at first base since moving there a year ago, showing good range and soft hands. His limited power potential, however, has some believing he is more of an organizational player at this point. He could move to the "Need to Make Their Mark" category soon if the power doesn't come around.