Ten On The Comeback Trail

The Yankees continue to increase their depth of quality prospects up and down their farm system and the number of opportunities have started to dwindle for some. These ten prospects have an opportunity to make the system even deeper with bounce-back seasons in 2009, and in many cases need to do so to resurrect their individual prospect status.

OF, Zoilo Almonte: One of the key International free agents signs back in 2005, Almonte's career hasn't exactly gotten on-track as of yet. The switch-hitter has shown decent power for a younger player, hitting 16 home runs in 160 professional games thus far, but his bat continues to run hot and cold.

But where Almonte is starting to get a bit buried is on the defensive side of the ball. He plays just a serviceable left field in the early going, not really showing an arm for any other position. Looking more like a designated hitter is never a good thing for a teenager [Gerardo Rodriguez and Prilys Cuello are prime examples] and Almonte needs to show a more consistent bat and better outfield play to hold his place in the prospect line.

C, Francisco Arcia: The switch-hitting catcher does a little bit of everything well - he can hit for some power, he has a good eye at the plate, he has a solid defensive game, and he even brings some speed to a normally stagnant position. He seemed poised to make his mark early in his young career.

He hit just .128 in limited duty with the Gulf Coast League Yankees last season, however, and now he is slowly starting to get buried by the depth of quality catchers at the lower levels with the likes of Kyle Higashioka, Chase Weems, Jhorge Liccien, and newcomer Jackson Valera now all vying for playing time. Arcia needs to bounce back in a hurry.

C, Francisco Cervelli: One of the best defensive catchers in the organization and already a member of the 40-man roster, Cervelli has a bit of stranglehold status-wise right now, especially with the way he can handle a bat too.

However, he missed most of the 2008 season after a Spring Training collision put him on the shelf and he still only has 386 career at-bats in the long-season leagues. And considering he has hit just two home runs during that time, it would behoove the energetic receiver to put together a solid offensive campaign in 2009. Being a stud defensive catcher can only take one so far.

3B, Mitch Hilligoss: Nobody's place in the Yankees organization might be more precarious than that of Hilligoss. Hitting nearly 70 points lower from the year before has virtually eliminated him from serious prospect discussions, especially when his greatest attribute is his bat.

Throw in the fact he hasn't show much power or patience, and the fact that he has quick-rising Bradley Suttle looking to leap-frog him for playing time, Hilligoss needs to come out swinging and find the holes almost immediately out of the Spring Training gate to turn around his doubters.

RHP, Tim Norton: Shoulder surgery derailed the power-pitcher's career back in 2007 and he has been rehabbing his way back ever since. When healthy, he has some impressive stuff and the mental makeup to be the complete overall package on the mound.

He turns 26 years old this coming May, however, and he has just five games in the long-season leagues under his belt. He is the kind of pitcher that's tough to bet against making a full recovery and finding success upon his return, but he'll need to do just that to fend off the growing depth of young, high-ceiling hurlers competing for his same spot.

LHP, Garrett Patterson: Like Norton [who happens to be one of his best friends], Patterson's biggest problem to date has just been staying healthy. Unlike Norton though, his injuries haven't been arm related at the professional level. Patterson has suffered chronic blister problems in the past and broke his foot in Spring Training last year.

He has a very intriguing fastball-slider combination, but command issues have plagued him since signing back in 2005 and his inability to stay on the field long enough to correct them hasn't helped. Patterson has the natural ability and raw stuff to put together a Phil Coke-like season in 2009, and he just might have to do that to resurrect his prospect status.

RHP, Ryan Pope: There is certainly nothing wrong with the numbers Pope has posted so far in his career, going 10-7 with a 3.79 ERA since being selected in the third round in 2007. And his control is second to none, walking just 33 in a little more than 154 innings.

However, reportedly once sitting in the 90-93 MPH range in college, his velocity hasn't touched that at the professional level and it has even been on a steady decline. It's tough to argue with his high level of pitch-ability, but he'll need to prove his bouts of dead-arm are a thing of the past and rediscover his old velocity to keep his place among the better pitchers.

LHP, Angel Reyes: There has been arguably nobody with better raw potential who has also been more disappointing than Reyes over the last season and a half. Able to hit 95 MPH with his fastball and handcuff batters with one of the better curveballs around, there's no denying his plus stuff.

But his command has been spotty at best, often times disappearing on him for long stretches, and he can walk the park at times. Throw in the fact he was served a 50-game PED suspension last season, Reyes needs to quickly turn things around if he has any hope of avoiding falling out of favor permanently within the organization. He has the talent to do it, now the question is will he actually prove it.

1B/OF, Wady Rufino: Few have had the roller coaster career Rufino has had thus far. He started out as the Yankees top International signee back in 2003, struggled with inconsistent play and reported attitude problems the following three seasons [not including being suspended for a whole season in 2004], and then bounced back with two solid seasons.

He has shown a much more selective eye at the plate over the past two years and he has clubbed 14 doubles and 11 home runs in his last 74 games. Rufino, who will be 24 years old this coming season, still has strong supporters within the organization but he'll need to stay healthy in 2009 and keep up the hot-hitting to become one of the top prospects many scouts predicted he would become many years ago.

3B, Marcos Vechionacci: Nacci's career hasn't exactly lived up to the talent level thus far. The career .266 hitter and 18 home runs in nearly 1,900 at-bats have hardly scratched the surface of his natural, raw skills, and with six professional seasons under his belt it's not like he hasn't had the opportunities.

He still has a lot working in his favor, however. He is a switch-hitter, he has gotten physically stronger over the years, he has a very good arm, and he is one of the smoothest defensive players at the hot corner. In his defense, he battled injuries throughout the season last year, but time is running out for him to start tapping that vast potential of his and once again become one of the top prospects in a Yankee uniform.

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\r\n \r\n\r\nOF, Zoilo Almonte: One of the key International free agents signs back in 2005, Almonte's career hasn't exactly gotten on-track as of yet. The switch-hitter has shown decent power for a younger player, hitting 16 home runs in 160 professional games thus far, but his bat continues to run hot and cold.
\r\n
\r\nBut where Almonte is starting to get a bit buried is on the defensive side of the ball. He plays just a serviceable left field in the early going, not really showing an arm for any other position. Looking more like a designated hitter is never a good thing for a teenager [Gerardo Rodriguez and Prilys Cuello are prime examples] and Almonte needs to show a more consistent bat and better outfield play to hold his place in the prospect line.
\r\n
\r\nC, Francisco Arcia: The switch-hitting catcher does a little bit of everything well - he can hit for some power, he has a good eye at the plate, he has a solid defensive game, and he even brings some speed to a normally stagnant position. He seemed poised to make his mark early in his young career.
\r\n
\r\nHe hit just .128 in limited duty with the Gulf Coast League Yankees last season, however, and now he is slowly starting to get buried by the depth of quality catchers at the lower levels with the likes of Kyle Higashioka, Chase Weems, Jhorge Liccien, and newcomer Jackson Valera now all vying for playing time. Arcia needs to bounce back in a hurry.
\r\n
\r\nC, Francisco Cervelli: One of the best defensive catchers in the organization and already a member of the 40-man roster, Cervelli has a bit of stranglehold status-wise right now, especially with the way he can handle a bat too.
\r\n
\r\nHowever, he missed most of the 2008 season after a Spring Training collision put him on the shelf and he still only has 386 career at-bats in the long-season leagues. And considering he has hit just two home runs during that time, it would behoove the energetic receiver to put together a solid offensive campaign in 2009. Being a stud defensive catcher can only take one so far.
\r\n
\r\n3B, Mitch Hilligoss: Nobody's place in the Yankees organization might be more precarious than that of Hilligoss. Hitting nearly 70 points lower from the year before has virtually eliminated him from serious prospect discussions, especially when his greatest attribute is his bat.
\r\n
\r\nThrow in the fact he hasn't show much power or patience, and the fact that he has quick-rising Bradley Suttle looking to leap-frog him for playing time, Hilligoss needs to come out swinging and find the holes almost immediately out of the Spring Training gate to turn around his doubters.
\r\n
\r\nRHP, Tim Norton: Shoulder surgery derailed the power-pitcher's career back in 2007 and he has been rehabbing his way back ever since. When healthy, he has some impressive stuff and the mental makeup to be the complete overall package on the mound.
\r\n
\r\nHe turns 26 years old this coming May, however, and he has just five games in the long-season leagues under his belt. He is the kind of pitcher that's tough to bet against making a full recovery and finding success upon his return, but he'll need to do just that to fend off the growing depth of young, high-ceiling hurlers competing for his same spot.
\r\n
\r\nLHP, Garrett Patterson: Like Norton [who happens to be one of his best friends], Patterson's biggest problem to date has just been staying healthy. Unlike Norton though, his injuries haven't been arm related at the professional level. Patterson has suffered chronic blister problems in the past and broke his foot in Spring Training last year.
\r\n
\r\nHe has a very intriguing fastball-slider combination, but command issues have plagued him since signing back in 2005 and his inability to stay on the field long enough to correct them hasn't helped. Patterson has the natural ability and raw stuff to put together a Phil Coke-like season in 2009, and he just might have to do that to resurrect his prospect status.
\r\n
\r\nRHP, Ryan Pope: There is certainly nothing wrong with the numbers Pope has posted so far in his career, going 10-7 with a 3.79 ERA since being selected in the third round in 2007. And his control is second to none, walking just 33 in a little more than 154 innings.
\r\n
\r\nHowever, reportedly once sitting in the 90-93 MPH range in college, his velocity hasn't touched that at the professional level and it has even been on a steady decline. It's tough to argue with his high level of pitch-ability, but he'll need to prove his bouts of dead-arm are a thing of the past and rediscover his old velocity to keep his place among the better pitchers.
\r\n
\r\nLHP, Angel Reyes: There has been arguably nobody with better raw potential who has also been more disappointing than Reyes over the last season and a half. Able to hit 95 MPH with his fastball and handcuff batters with one of the better curveballs around, there's no denying his plus stuff.
\r\n
\r\nBut his command has been spotty at best, often times disappearing on him for long stretches, and he can walk the park at times. Throw in the fact he was served a 50-game PED suspension last season, Reyes needs to quickly turn things around if he has any hope of avoiding falling out of favor permanently within the organization. He has the talent to do it, now the question is will he actually prove it.
\r\n
\r\n1B/OF, Wady Rufino: Few have had the roller coaster career Rufino has had thus far. He started out as the Yankees top International signee back in 2003, struggled with inconsistent play and reported attitude problems the following three seasons [not including being suspended for a whole season in 2004], and then bounced back with two solid seasons.
\r\n
\r\nHe has shown a much more selective eye at the plate over the past two years and he has clubbed 14 doubles and 11 home runs in his last 74 games. Rufino, who will be 24 years old this coming season, still has strong supporters within the organization but he'll need to stay healthy in 2009 and keep up the hot-hitting to become one of the top prospects many scouts predicted he would become many years ago.
\r\n
\r\n3B, Marcos Vechionacci: Nacci's career hasn't exactly lived up to the talent level thus far. The career .266 hitter and 18 home runs in nearly 1,900 at-bats have hardly scratched the surface of his natural, raw skills, and with six professional seasons under his belt it's not like he hasn't had the opportunities.
\r\n
\r\nHe still has a lot working in his favor, however. He is a switch-hitter, he has gotten physically stronger over the years, he has a very good arm, and he is one of the smoothest defensive players at the hot corner. In his defense, he battled injuries throughout the season last year, but time is running out for him to start tapping that vast potential of his and once again become one of the top prospects in a Yankee uniform.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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