Abraham Almonte: Almonte is the rare player where a strong case could be made for his inclusion in any of our five categories. His combination of power, speed, and defense gives him one of the highest ceilings in the organization, and his lackluster statistical performance over nearly three seasons means the jury is still somewhat out on him.
The fact is though that his .368 average over the last five weeks of the 2009 season not only could mean that he turned a corner in his development, it kept the doubters off of his back for now. He has every tool in the game and he's finally developing consistent swing mechanics from both sides of the plate. Think a Jose Reyes-Jimmy Rollins hybrid for his offensive upside.
Yeicok Calderon: Few International players have the kind of terrific debut season that Calderon had in the Dominican Summer League last year, hitting .321 with three home runs and nine stolen bases. But beyond those numbers, however, it was the stellar plate discipline and mature patience at the plate that really turned some heads.
He is a pure hitter in the early going and he has the other tools in his game to make him one of the safer projections at this point. He still has to conquer the cultural and competition barriers of playing in the United States, but the overall ceiling can not be denied. Think Cliff Floyd for his upside.
Kelvin De Leon: Talk about upside! The Yankees' top International signee from 2007 has strung together two quality seasons to begin his career and the combined numbers [.280, 29 doubles, 16 home runs, 74 RBI, and 13 stolen bases in just 436 at-bats] are quite special for a player who just turned 19 years old.
His power doesn't just project to be a plus tool, it already is. He also has a very strong arm and he has made strides learning the nuances of defense. While the ceiling is tremendous, however, he does have a major question mark: can he learn to hit the better breaking pitches? If he can do that in the coming seasons, watch out. Comparisons to Jermaine Dye have been thrown around for a while now.
Slade Heathcott: Last year's first round pick is an elite athlete, plain and simple, being both a standout in baseball and football in high school. He was also a two-way baseball player in high school, both an offensive centerfielder and hard-throwing, left-handed pitcher.
He has great speed, good power, a plus outfield arm, and what brings his five-tool talent together is an unrivaled intensity. It's because of the all-out hustle that he is continually labeled as a 'throwback' player. There have been some comparisons to Indians' outfielder Grady Sizemore, but think Lenny Dykstra in his prime ceiling-wise for Heathcott. He has that kind of intensity.
Ericson Leonora: One of the best kept secrets in the Yankees farm system is Leonora's upside. Because of that he could fit into our 'sleepers' category, and his rather high strikeouts thus far and whether or not he can transition to second base are two question marks that could put him in the 'Jury Is Still Out' classification too, but the bat speed and running speed are both elite tools. Think a Marquis Grissom in his prime type of player for his upside.
|OFFENSIVE UPSIDE: Leonora has the chance to be an extra-base hit and stolen base machine. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Eduardo Sosa: It's been a tale of two seasons for the ultra-talented outfielder. He hit .315 and showed both good power and great speed in his debut season two years ago before hitting just .200 and seeing noticeable dips in both his power and speed last season in his first year in the United States.
It was a bit of a perfect storm for him in 2009. Not only did he have a hard time adjusting to the many cultural differences in the United States, including the language barrier, but he had his own personal issues to endure back home. The fact is, when he's going right and comfortable, few can match his bat speed, running speed, arm strength, and special defensive abilities. Johnny Damon comparisons have been thrown about for his upside and his floor is that of an Endy Chavez type.
Closest to the Majors
Colin Curtis: Where the Yankees absolutely get fairly criticized is for their lack of positional prospect depth at the upper minor league levels and nowhere is that more evident than at the outfield position. Curtis, whose tools grade out as average across the board, is the only legitimate outfield prospect at Double-A or above at this point.
A career .264 hitter to this point in his career, one who has shown modest power and speed at best, is known more his defensive prowess and outfield versatility than anything. He projects best as a big league reserve outfielder. With the Yankees dearth of right-handed bats though, the left-handed hitting Curtis has an uphill battle ahead of him to gain big league playing time in Pinstripes.
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.