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Top Ten Prospects: New York Yankees
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Josh Boyd
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2004.
2. Eric Duncan, 3b
Age: 19. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195.
Background: Duncan emerged as an early-round target for the Yankees at the 2002 Area Code Games, and he followed up with a strong spring. He collected three hits to earn the MVP award in a high school all-America game played near his New Jersey home before signing for $1.25 million. Managers rated him the No. 1 prospect in the Gulf Coast League.
Strengths: Duncan’s approach reminds the Yankees of Nick Johnson, though Duncan can drive the ball to left field with more power. He has similarly solid plate discipline and a short, simple stroke. His even-keeled nature is ideal for New York and he embodies the Derek Jeter blueprint of ability, durability and character.
Weaknesses: Some teams compared Duncan’s lefthanded power potential to Jim Thome’s. As with Thome, Duncan’s defense at third base may force him to move across the diamond to first. He can get pull-conscious, which should be corrected as he adjusts to wood bats.
The Future: Duncan could move to high Class A with a good spring. He profiles as a middle-of-the-order run producer. His arrival in the Bronx could coincide with the end of Jason Giambi’s contract.
3. Rudy Guillen, of
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200.
Background: After signing for $100,000, Guillen showed tremendous power potential by launching a Rookie-level Dominican Summer League-best 11 home runs in 2001, most coming at the spacious Jose Rijo complex. In 2003, he moved to center field, the position at which scout Victor Mata first spotted him, and made the jump to full-season ball.
Strengths: An exciting athlete, Guillen makes the game look easy with his graceful actions and projectable tools. He’s an above-average runner with a strong arm and solid instincts for center field. He still shows more raw power than game power, but the ball jumps off his bat.
Weaknesses: Guillen is a bit of a wild swinger. An aggressive hitter early in the count, he too often falls behind and is susceptible to breaking balls. He worked on becoming more selective this offseason at the Yankees’ complex in the Dominican. Last summer he drew 13 of his 32 walks in August, more than enough to win a dinner bet with Dodgers prospect Joel Guzman over who would draw more free passes.
The Future: Guillen has as much upside as any player in the system. He’ll spend 2004 in high Class A.
4. Joaquin Arias, ss
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175.
Background: When Victor Mata first saw Arias as a wiry, 140-pound 16-year-old, he almost didn’t give him a chance to swing the bat at a workout. Once Mata heard the thump of the ball coming off his bat, he kept Arias at the Yankees’ academy for nearly a year. Arias signed for $300,000 after growing up in a house with a dirt floor and no furniture. His brother Alberto pitches in the Rockies system.
Strengths: Nicknamed “Spiderman” because his arms and legs appear to be going in every direction at once, Arias displays good body control in the field. He’s flashier than New York’s other shortstop prospects, showing plus-plus range and speed to go with a plus arm. He has outstanding bat speed and raw power.
Weaknesses: Arias hits out of a slight crouch and tends to swing uphill, and the Yankees would like to see him level his stroke out. He’s too aggressive at the plate, though he demonstrates a good feel for the bat head and makes consistent contact.
The Future: Like Guillen, Arias has five-tool potential and will continue to move at an aggressive pace. He’ll start in high Class A this season as a 19-year-old.
5. Ramon Ramirez, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 185.
Background: Released by the Rangers in 1998 after one season as an outfielder in the Dominican Summer League, Ramirez signed with the Hiroshima Carp as a pitcher in 2002 but pitched just three innings in the Japanese majors. After he impressed Yankees scouts in winter ball, they outbid the Phillies by purchasing his rights from the Carp for $350,000. Ramirez later signed for $175,000.
Strengths: Ramirez got better as the 2003 season went on, learning to mix his pitches better and to work effectively behind in the count. His fastball maxes out at 95 mph and sits at 92-94, while his power curveball features hard downward bite and is his best pitch.
Weaknesses: Ramirez had Japanese-style mechanics with a hip-turn and hesitations, but pitching instructors Billy Connors and Greg Pavlick converted him to a more conventional over-the-top delivery.
The Future: Ramirez led the Arizona Fall League with a 1.44 ERA, earning a job in the Triple-A rotation. His stature and two power pitches might make him a better candidate for short relief in the future.
6. Robinson Cano, 2b
Age: 20. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170.
Background: The Yankees’ willingness to advance highly regarded prospects at a rapid pace under former player personnel chief Gordon Blakeley is well illustrated by Cano’s progress in 2003. After a hot start in Tampa, he collected just four extra-base hits in his last 142 at-bats before moving to Double-A. His father Jose reached the majors briefly in 1989.
Strengths: One of the most confident hitters in the system, Cano can sting hard line drives to right field with an easy, level swing. He’s capable of producing more power than he did last year because he has plus bat speed and natural strength, but he needs to learn to lift the ball.
Weaknesses: As Cano has filled out, especially in his lower half, he has lost his quickness. He doesn’t get down the line well and on defense, his range is lacking at second base, which could prompt a move to third.
The Future: Cano has the arm strength and projects to hit for enough power to justify a move to the hot corner. For now, though, he’ll remain at second base and return to Double-A.
7. Ferdin Tejeda, ss
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 170.
Background: Signed for $35,000 in February 2000, Tejeda had his pro debut postponed for a year by an abdominal strain. He finished second in the Dominican Summer League with a .330 average in 2001. Last season, Tejeda was sidelined several times with hamstring injuries but recovered to hold his own in the Arizona Fall League. He’s nicknamed Pescado because he eats only fish.
Strengths: A switch-hitter, Tejeda handles the bat well from both sides and uses quick hands and an efficient line-drive swing. He puts the ball in play, though not with the same authority as Joaquin Arias. Defense is Tejeda’s true calling card. He has one of the best arms in the system, athletic actions and soft, quick hands.
Weaknesses: While he stays back on breaking balls, Tejeda tends to be too aggressive early in the count. He has to gain more control of the strike zone to handle a jump to Double-A in 2004.
The Future: Tejeda brings a lot of positive energy to the game, but remains coachable and willing to address his weaknesses. His AFL stint should help prepare him for the Eastern League.
8. Jorge DePaula, rhp
Age: 25. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190.
Background: DePaula was among the Latin American players to have his identity and date of birth corrected in the visa crackdown after Sept. 11. Formerly known as Julio DePaula, he’s eight months older than previously reported. After spending five years in the lower minors, he made an impressive big league debut in September. Yankees catcher Jorge Posada’s father signed DePaula for the Rockies.
Strengths: As he has gained experience, DePaula has made strides with his ability to vary his pitches. He sets hitters up with a deceptive changeup and runs his fastball between 88-93 mph. He wasn’t fazed at all by pitching in the majors.
Weaknesses: DePaula doesn’t possess a true out pitch. His fastball can get straight and he has a tendency to leave pitches up, leading to a career-high 23 home runs allowed. He throws a slurvy slider with inconsistent break, though he has become more effective working it in.
The Future: DePaula will vie for the final spot in the New York bullpen during spring training. The Yankees hope he can emerge as a Ramiro Mendoza type.
9. Estee Harris, of
Age: 19. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 170.
Background: Bronx-based Yankees scout Cesar Presbott netted the club’s top two choices in 2003, Eric Duncan and Harris. With two premium picks in the New York area, Yankees scouts were able to get extended looks at both. Scouting director Lin Garrett measured one of Harris’ high school home runs at 470 feet.
Strengths: The Yankees went against the consensus to snag Harris in the second round, but they love his bat. A good athlete with a lightning-quick swing and plus power potential, Harris has drawn comparisons to a young Garret Anderson and could produce 30 home runs annually once he matures. He displays a natural feel for the barrel through the zone and has good pitch recognition.
Weaknesses: Harris has a funky throwing motion and a well-below-average arm that will limit him to left field. An inexperienced hitter, he’ll need to become a more selective as he moves up.
The Future: Harris’ pro debut was encouraging, as hitting six home runs in the Gulf Coast League isn’t an easy feat, especially for a high school player. Harris will get his first full-season exposure at low Class A Battle Creek in 2004.
10. Bronson Sardinha, 3b
Age: 20. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195.
Background: Sardinha’s brothers Dane (Reds) and Duke (Rockies) are also developing prospects. After showing signs of progress in 2002, when he hit 16 homers in his first full season, Bronson took a step in the wrong direction last season but regrouped after a demotion to Battle Creek. He worked with hitting coach Ty Hawkins and went back to an old stance.
Strengths: Sardinha displays good rhythm at the plate with a nice, fluid stroke. He’s a pure hitter with more of a line-drive approach, but there’s natural loft in his swing. He projects to hit lots of doubles and have above-average power. He’s a plus baserunner with an innate feel for game situations.
Weaknesses: Drafted as a shortstop, Sardinha moved to left field late in 2002 and then to center to start last year. His hands and arm are fine, but his range and lack of first-step quickness are best suited for third base, where he’ll move in 2004.
The Future: After working year-round in Tampa in the past, Sardinha was given a break this offseason. The 2004 season will be critical in his development, as it’s time for him to move forward.