Zoilo Almonte: Like most 'sleepers' on this list, Almonte doesn't have the greatest set of tools but he does have at least one that gives him a good chance of having a big league impact someday. In his case it's his hit tool.
A year ago he was in the 'Need To Make Their Mark' category and that's just what he did in 2009, hitting .274 with a team-high 20 doubles, smacking seven home runs and stealing 15 bases for the Staten Island Yankees. He'll need to back that up with another solid season in 2010, but perhaps he's got the bat going in the right direction.
Dan Brewer: Like Almonte, the Yankees' eighth-round pick in 2008 doesn't have the one elite tool but his overall hitting is a major strength. In fairness to the career .302 hitter thus far, he did manage to steal 22 bases last year but his overall speed is merely average.
He has a strong arm, decent speed, okay power, good defensive abilities, and decent plate discipline. Brewer does a little bit of everything, and while he might not project to be an impact big leaguer for the Yankees down the road, he does have enough game to potentially have a reserve role someday.
Kelvin Duran: A strong argument could be made to include Duran in the 'highest ceiling' category because his overall skillset isn't all that dissimilar from Eduardo Sosa, but there is one rather big difference - overall size.
The power has shown up at the lowest minor league levels, but at 5-foot-10 and just 165 pounds, he doesn't have the type of frame to get much stronger and that could possibly be a limiting factor down the road. The rest of his game is in place though - speed, defense, contact hitting ability - so much so that he already projects as a potential big league bench player.
Austin Krum: Krum is a left-handed version of Brewer in that his best tool is the intangibles he brings to the game more so than the physical ones. He does have good speed, above average defensive ability and outfield versatility, and a good idea of the strike zone.
|SMALL PACKAGES: Mack is a smaller player for sure, but he does have power and hitting ability. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Deangelo Mack: Mack is the epitome of a 'sleeper' because he has two overall limiting factors [size and speed] that cloud his big league potential. He can flat-out hit though, as evidenced by his .306 debut season in Staten Island last year, and he has good power for a smaller player too.
His below average speed limits him to just a corner outfield position for now unless he can somehow improve his speed and add centerfield to his defensive repertoire. He'll have to hit his way to the big leagues and he just might have the kind of bat to do just that.
Neil Medchill: He set the single-season Staten Island home run record last year with 14 home runs and he did it with his wrist less than 100 percent down the stretch. His power is legit and that will give him a real chance at a potential big league career.
He did strike out 66 times in 62 games, however, and his batting average dipped down to .278 by season's end. So while the power is enticing, there are still some overall question marks about his hitting ability. For that reason he does fly under the radar a bit.
Henry Pena: Like most of the names on this list, Pena lacks the overall tools to project as a big league starting outfielder but he does swing the bat well enough to have a chance. He hit .315 in the Dominican Summer League last year and his patience is unreal for such a young player, drawing 74 walks in his first 108 professional games.
He falls into the Deangelo Mack camp, however, of players whose speed limitations means he'll have to continue to hit his way up the big leagues. The fact that he is a corner outfielder only at this point means there is very little margin for error in his development, but the hit tool does make him a 'sleeper'.
Ravel Santana: Unlike the other 'sleepers' on our list, the 17-year old is about as toolsy as they come. In fact, with plus, plus arm strenth, above average power, good speed, and advanced plate discipline, he could fit nicely into the 'highest ceiling' category.
But with a .234 average in his debut season, he also has a lot to prove in transitioning his tools into actual game production. He doesn't have the same infield defensive capacity, but he is very similar to Melvin Mora. Like Mora, Santana might not ever reach his ceiling and there's a chance he might not ever be fully appreciated for what he brings to the field.
Need To Make Their Move
Seth Fortenberry: His plus speed, defensive ability and versatility, and decent power makes this 26-year old a bit of mild 'sleeper', but he hit just a combined .169 over two minor league levels in 2009. He needs a bounce-back season immediately.
Edwar Gonzalez: The 27-year old re-signed with the Yankees this offseason after hitting just .232 with four home runs for Double-A Trenton last year. He is more of an organizational player, but he'll still need a rebound season in 2010 to continue to get his chances.
|THE TIME HAS COME: Grote has good ability but it's time to start producing consistently. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Ray Kruml: Kruml has two big pluses in his corner - great speed and plus defensive abilities. Those two alone should carry him pretty far, but he hit just .246 and failed to hold a starting outfield position in the long-season leagues last year. He has some abilities but he really needs to grab a stranglehold on a starting job soon to gain some prospect traction.
Melky Mesa: It's weird to see a player with his kind of tools coming off of a 20-home run season included in this company, but the fact is Mesa hit just .225 last season and struck out 168 times. He is entering his seventh professional season and it seems less than likely that his plus tools will ever materialize into game production.
Jack Rye: Just a career .261 hitter with only three home runs in 417 at-bats, the 24-year old has the look of an organizational player. He'll need a huge season to change that label.
Carlos Urena: The ultra-toolsy outfielder has one of the highest ceilings in the organization, but just a career .220 hitter and failing to get out of the Dominican Summer League in his first three professional seasons, Urena is the poster boy for this category. Getting in better physical condition and taking his development more seriously is a good first step.
The Jury Is Still Out
Ramon Flores: One of the Yankees' top International signings in 2008, his numbers in his debut season [.208 and one home run] belie his true talent. The fact is his plate discipline is a plus tool and he has very good bat speed, but it remains to be seen just how good his other tools are at this point.
Edwin Fulgenicio: His power is as legit as it comes. In fact, his four home runs in his debut season in the Dominican Summer League are just the tip of the iceberg of what he can do power-wise. But with a .172 average and 95 strikeouts in only 53 games, there is a ton of work to do.
Judd Golsan: Drafted out of high school last year, Golsan has good speed and natural defensive abilities, but he hit just .224 in his debut season with the Gulf Coast League Yankees and he has very little power. A guy whose best tool is his speed needs to get on base a lot more frequently than he's shown thus far.
Daniel Lopez: Lopez can run like the wind. He has been clocked as fast as 6.3 seconds in the 60-yard dash, giving him elite speed. Like Golsan, however, Lopez hasn't shown an ability to get on-base consistently yet. He hit .259 in limited duty last year, but he struck out more times than games played. There is some work to be done with the bat to make his speed a true asset.
Justin Milo: The former University of Vermont hockey player grew up splitting time between two sports so he's a little bit of a mild 'sleeper' because nobody knows what he can really do if he concentrated on baseball full-time. He shows decent speed and okay power, and his plus discipline is tremendous. He'll get his chance to prove himself more in 2010.
Victor Reynoso: This is one of the guys who could fit into multiple categories. With one of the best outfield arms in baseball and plus power potential, he has one of the highest ceilings in the organization. And he has decent speed too. But while the tools package is unbelievable, it remains to be seen if his contact hitting abilities [he struck out 61 times in 62 games last year] can improve.
Melvin Rosario: He hit .297 with good power and speed in his debut season last year, and he wasn't a big-ticket free agent signing. Because of that he is a 'sleeper' of sorts, but he is very skinny and it remains to be seen if he can add on the necessary muscle mass to carry over his power to the higher minor league levels. He's one to keep an eye on though.