Dan Brewer: The Yankees' eighth-round pick last season brings an intriguing combination of tools and polish. He hit .296 with a team-leading 19 doubles for the Staten Island Yankees in his professional debut season last year, and while his walk-strikeout ratio wasn't great [21-65], his track history in college suggests that could get better.
He has decent speed, a strong arm, good defensive abilities, contact hitting, and solid power. It remains to be seen if he can improve enough to turn himself into legitimate big league starting outfield prospect, but his defensive versatility and offensive tool-set are enough to be a reserve candidate.
Kelvin Duran: Reportedly one of the more promising International free agents back in 2007, his apparent contract demands were too high before the Yankees signed him as a passover prospect last summer. He hit .278 in just nine games for DSL Yankees1 [the extent of his professional experience thus far] while battling some injuries, but his skillset is quite impressive already.
Offensively he has a wonderful blend of tools and polish for an 18-year old. He employs a patient approach at the plate, he has good power for a smaller player, above average speed, and he shows good bat control. In fact, he has been compared to current Yankees prospect Eduardo Sosa offensively. That's the kind of potential he has. Defensively though, he's not nearly as polished but he does have the tools to possibly stick in centerfield. He has "sleeper" written all over him.
Seth Fortenberry: The 25-year old often gets overshadowed by some of the higher-ceiling and younger players in the organization, but he also oozes tools. He is a plus defensive outfielder at all three outfield positions, he has a very strong arm, very good power, and plus speed [his 30-yard dash time has been clocked the quickest in the organization at times].
|OLDER, BUT TOOLSY: Don't let Fortenberry's age disguise the fact he is sleeper. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Austin Krum: The left-handed hitter is also quite toolsy. He has decent power, good speed, he is a very good defensive and versatile outfielder, and he has shown he can be consistent hitter at times. He hit .272 with eight home runs and twelve stolen bases for the Charleston Riverdogs last season.
He projects best as a potential big league reserve outfielder, but it's his ultra-intense attitude and all-out hustle that leads some to believe he could be more down the road. He is one of the ultimate gamers around and the word quit is just not in his vocabulary. His makeup and work ethic, as well as his solid set of tools, makes him an intriguing sleeper.
Ray Kruml: Kruml can flat-out fly even though his 13 stolen bases with the Staten Island Yankees last season didn't exactly prove it. Physically he resembles Boston Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, and he does have that kind of speed and range in the outfield too. However, there's a lot of work to be done to have that kind of impact.
He showed little patience at the plate and not enough consistent contact to be that top-of-the-lineup type of hitter to utilize his plus speed better, but he does show those kinds of skills from time to time. He'll need to be more consistent in that area to maximize his potential, but his plus speed and plus defensive abilities are enough to make him quite intriguing.
Need To Make Their Move
Zoilo Almonte: One of the more high-profile International signees by the Yankees back in 2005, the now 19-year old outfielder has struggled to get out of the rookie minor league levels. The switch-hitter has shown flashes of plus offensive ability, but he hasn't been nearly consistent enough to fend off his competition to date. He is a sub-par defensive outfielder so he'll need to improve at the plate to keep his value to the organization.
Tim Battle: Battle is an elite athlete and one of the toolsiest players at the minor league level, but his inability to become a consistent offensive force has kept him in A-ball for six seasons. He has employed a shorter stroke at the plate over the last year - that's the good news. The bad news is his patience hasn't gotten any better and that needs to improve for him to make his mark.
|A BIG TEASE?: Mesa's tools are very tantalizing but he needs to make more consistent contact. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
The Jury Is Still Out
Taylor Grote: The Yankees' eighth-round pick in 2007 had a pretty disappointing professional debut season last year, hitting just .223 and striking out a team-leading 73 times in just 56 games for the Staten Island Yankees. He played well in Extended Spring Training, however, and he does offer a nice combination of confidence and tools. He just needs to show an ability to make adjustments and he does have youth on his side.
Arielkis Lapaix: We said a year ago that Lapaix was a much better player than his stats indicated coming off his 2007 campaign where he hit just .202 in the Dominican Summer League, and he followed that up by hitting .292 last season. He has a strong arm, good power, and decent speed. He's a sleeper of sorts but he needs to show a little more consistency before being labeled as such.
Henry Pena: The far majority of first-year players come into the professional ranks being overly aggressive at the plate - that was clearly not the case with Pena. He hit just .167 in the Dominican Summer League, but drawing 32 walks, he simply took way too many pitches. He's a bit like Taylor Grote ability-wise, and like Grote he'll need to show a willingness to make adjustments.
Francisco Santana: The 20-year old Dominican native had a tremendous season last year, hitting .307 with six home runs and 19 stolen bases in the Dominican Summer League. He offers above average speed, decent power, and some hitting ability, but at his age [and considering he played three years in the Dominican Summer League] he'll need to prove it a little more in the United States before he garners serious attention.
Chris Smith: The book on last year's fifth-round pick was that he was supposed to be a less athletic but a more polished bat than Austin Jackson at the same age. That didn't exactly materialize in his debut season since he hit just .142 with the Gulf Coast League Yankees. He does have some raw ability and nice potential, and both he and the Yankees are hoping last season was just an adjustment period for him.