Abraham Almonte: His numbers haven't exactly been overwhelming to date, especially after his disastrous second-half to the 2008 season that saw him finish hitting .228 with the Charleston Riverdogs. And while he shows flashes of brilliance defensively, his transition to centerfield hasn't been without its bumps along the way.
He does cover a lot of ground in the outfield though and he has a strong arm too. He just needs to learn the position more. He also has arguably the best power-speed combination in the entire organization, as well as a very patient approach and solid contact hitting ability for such a young player, and he's a switch-hitter. The continued comparisons to Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes are for Almonte's ceiling - it's that vast.
Kelvin De Leon: The Yankees' top International signee from 2007 had a solid professional debut season last year, hitting .289 with a team-leading nine home runs and 16 doubles in just 63 games. The 18-year-old also stole eight bases and while his defensive game is quite raw when it comes to running routes, he does offer good range and a plus arm.
His power isn't just projectable long-term, it's also a plus tool right now. De Leon has the potential to be a five-tool talent down the road, but in order to fulfill that kind of immense ceiling he will need to smooth out his defensive game and get better at recognizing offspeed pitches. Comparisons to Jermaine Dye have been thrown around.
Eduardo Sosa: While De Leon's five-tool talent is more based on long-term potential, Sosa's five-tool package is far more polished and a bit more bankable. He not only has plus speed, good power [definitely not the plus power De Leon has], a polished swing with good contact hitting ability, and a plus overall defensive game, but he handles breaking pitches well and he already has a patient approach.
|MENTAL ADJUSTMENT: Urena needs to show more between the ears to take his game to the next level. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Carlos Urena: Few have Urena's power potential and run production abilities, especially when also considering his plus defensive abilities in the outfield. He can hit home runs in bunches and can literally carry his team for extended stretches.
Spending his first two seasons in the Dominican Summer League, however, has been a designed plan to get him to make the necessary mental adjustments. He has all of the physical tools to be an elite player someday. Now he has to learn a little more humility, a better work ethic, and to listen to the coaches more. His off-the-field altercation last season where he was shot just might be his wake-up call to bring the mental game with his impressive physical game.
Closest to the Majors
Colin Curtis: Curtis often gets overlooked in the outfield prospects discussions because he doesn't have the one great tool in his game. He is solid in all phases, however. He can hit, he has some power and some scouts believe he has some hidden power potential as well, he can run a little bit, and he's a very good all-around defensive outfielder [which might be his best tool]. That makes him a sleeper of sorts.
He has spent the last season and a half in Double-A and he has held his own, enough at least to advance a level and be on the short list of possible big league reserve outfielders in the not-so-distant future. Several team insiders believe he has more game left in his tank, and his offensive and defensive versatility has him on the doorstep to the big leagues.
Austin Jackson: The former high school basketball standout certainly has one of the higher ceilings among the outfield prospects, but now after a full season in Double-A he is also one of the few prospects actually close to the big league level.
His numbers last season don't exactly jump off of the page - .285, 9 home runs, 19 stolen bases. However, it's his transition from raw athlete to a more polished player, while still offering the promise of more potential down the road, that has many scouts still very high on his game. He should see significant time in Triple-A in 2009 and he is the emergency backup should the Brett Gardner-Melky Cabrera combination not work out in centerfield in the immediate future.
In Part Two we'll examine the sleepers, the outfield prospects who need to make their mark soon, and the ones where the jury is still out.