Garrison Lassiter: The Yankees' 27th round pick slipped in the draft due to signability concerns, but make no mistake - the kid can rake. He has a sweet left-handed swing with good contact hitting abilities, and most scouts believe his power will develop as he matures and gets stronger, so much so he could possibly handle third base offensively.
Style-wise he's a Wade Boggs type as a bare-handed lefty hitter who should hit for high averages in his career, but questions surround his range in the field as to whether or not he can remain at shortstop. He isn't flashy in the field but he is gritty enough to get the job done. If he can remain at shortstop, he has the offensive game to be a high-ceiling player at the position.
Jose Mojica: A torn ACL in Spring Training ended Mojica's professional debut season last year before it ever had the chance to begin. He doesn't have blazing speed, but yet he is extremely rangy at shortstop and his plus arm strength and even quicker release makes him one of the better defensive players already.
Even without playing an official minor league game yet, he has a very mature opposite field approach at the plate. And despite being somewhat skinny [although he has gotten noticeably stronger in the upper-body since first signing], he gets a powerful charge in his swing to hit for good power. Some scouts have compared him to a young right-handed hitting version of Jose Reyes, minus the obvious difference in natural speed.
Closest to the Majors
Ramiro Pena: A defensive stud - one of the best at his position at the minor league level - Pena has gone from a no-hit, physically weak hitter to one that has gotten stronger over the years and slowly developed into a respectable offensive player.
The switch-hitter has put on nearly 25 pounds of muscle since first signing in 2005 and he reached career highs in several categories last season. He has nearly 1,000 Double-A at-bats in his career and he should be a mainstay in Triple-A in 2009. Defensively he's ready for the big league right now and his offensive game isn't all that far off either.
Carmen Angelini: The Yankees' tenth-round pick in 2007 had a disappointing debut season last year statistically. He hit just .236 with only four home runs with the Charleston Riverdogs while committing 42 errors in the field, and that has brought out the skeptics. However, with makeup off the charts, many scouts believe he has the maturity and confidence to bounce back.
|DON'T LET THE NUMBERS FOOL YOU: Judging Angelini's defensive game by his error totals would be a huge mistake. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Addison Maruszak: Anytime you're drafted out of college in the 17th round and have some solid tools, you're immediately a sleeper. Throw in the fact you back it up with a solid professional debut season and you jump a bit more on to the radar. That's what Maruszak did in 2008.
He hit .317 with six home runs for the Staten Island Yankees. Playing under the tutelage of Tino Martinez in college, Maruszak has the intriguing combination of plus plate discipline, good bat control, solid power, and unbelievable arm strength to sneak up on people. His questionable range in the field is the only thing holding him back from becoming a legitimate high ceiling shortstop prospect, but his great makeup caps him off as a sleeper.
Need to Make Their Move
Walter Ibarra: One of the more publicized International signings by the Yankees back in 2005, Ibarra struggled with nagging injuries in his first two professional seasons and got lost in the shuffle as a result. He quietly had a solid first full season in 2008, hitting a combined four home runs in 196 at-bats over three minor league levels.
He has decent power, good plate discipline, and outstanding defensive abilities, so much so he's a bit of a sleeper in his own right. His problem, however, will be securing playing time over other shortstop prospects in the immediate future. He needs a starting job to bounce back on to the prospect scene.
Eduardo Nunez: Nunez has the best overall skillset of any of the Yankees shortstop prospects, enough to clearly have one of the highest overall ceilings in the entire organization at any position. His problem over the years, however, has been translating his top-shelf tools into actual production.
The former switch-hitter struggled mightily from the left side in prior seasons and he went exclusively to the right side in the second-half of 2007. Since then he's been turning his career around, evidenced by tying a career high with six home runs last season. He could break out at a moment's notice and he has the great talent to supplant Jeter someday, but entering his sixth professional season, he needs to prove it now by becoming more consistent.
The Jury is Still Out
Kelvin Castro: An injury-riddled 2008 season derailed the little bit of momentum the slick-fielding Castro had developed. He has an intriguing set of tools on both sides of the ball to be a sleeper of sorts, but he hasn't had the opportunity to show it yet. He just turned 21 years old though so time is running out before he has to start making his mark.
Jose Toussen: One of the key International signings in 2006, he had a better second season in the Dominican Summer League last season. He hit .269 [34 points higher than in '07] and doubled his walk totals, not to mention he stole 14 more bases. He has gotten physically stronger since first signing and his game is slowly coming together. Until he matures a bit more and proves it in the United States, however, the jury is still out at to what kind of prospect he could develop into.