Yankees Prospects 2-10
Age: 19. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSHonolulu, 2001 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Gus Quattlebaum.
Background: Bronson was named for his mothers favorite actor, Charles Bronson. His brothers Dane (named after a famous Hawaiian surfer) and Duke (named for John Wayne) play in the minors for the Reds and Rockies. Sardinha signed with the Yankees for $1 million, turning down the chance to be the third Sardinha to play at Pepperdine.
Strengths: Sardinha has a quiet, professional approach at the plate. Hes short to the ball and has learned to stay back and trust his hands. He uses the whole field and hit for surprising power in his first full pro season. He worked hard to make himself an above-average runner, and his arm strength is a plus.
Weaknesses: Scouts werent sold on Sardinhas ability to stay at shortstop, so the Yankees sent him to short-season Staten Island to learn to play left field. Now the question is whether he projects to hit for enough power to man a corner outfield spot.
The Future: Quiet by nature, Sardinha is a baseball rat who showed tremendous progress in a short period of time. The Yankees are contemplating moving him to center field at high Class A Tampa in 2003.
3. Brandon Claussen, lhp
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175. Drafted: Howard (Texas) JC, 1998 D/F (34th round). Signed by: Mark Batchko.
Background: Signed as a draft-and-follow before the 1999 draft, Claussen emerged as one of the games top lefthanded pitching prospects by leading the minors with 220 strikeouts in 2001. He also topped the organization with 187 innings, and the workload took a toll on his arm in 2002, as he had Tommy John surgery in June.
Strengths: The Yankees say Claussens bulldog mentality and work ethic will help him return on schedule and to his previous form. Hes expected to regain his plus velocity and sharp breaking ball. His fastball was in the 88-94 mph range, and his slider, the best breaking pitch in the system, was effective against lefties and righties. He had made significant progress with his changeup.
Weaknesses: After breaking down, Claussen obviously needs to build his stamina and avoid further injury. His pitch counts will be monitored closely when he returns. He throws four pitches, but his curveball is no more than a show-me pitch.
The Future: The normal recovery time for Tommy John surgery is 12 to 18 months, which would bring Claussen back sometime in the second half of 2003.
4. Drew Henson, 3b
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 222. Drafted: HSBrighton, Mich., 1998 (3rd round). Signed by: Dick Groch.
Background: As a quarterback at Michigan, Henson projected as a potential first-round pick in the NFL draft. The Yankees traded him to the Reds in July 2001 and reacquired him the following spring, giving him a six-year, $17 million contract to give up the gridiron.
Strengths: Few prospects can match Hensons size, strength and athleticism. He can mash fastballs down in the zone and hit mistakes a long way. He also has an above-average arm and good lateral agility. His take-charge mentality makes him a favorite of Yankees brass.
Weaknesses: Hensons bat speed is only fair, and he tends to muscle the bat through the zone. His swing is long and can be exploited by good fastballs, and he struggles to recognize offspeed pitches. His September callup ended early when he was sent to Tampa to work on defense.
The Future: Henson has been rushed to the majors since he was drafted, yet he didnt get 400 at-bats in a season until 2002 because of football and injuries. His struggles in the Arizona Fall League underscored that hes not ready for New York. Hes headed back to Triple-A Columbus.
5. Chien-Ming Wang, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Signed: Taiwan, 2000. Signed by: John Cox/Gordon Blakeley.
Background: Signed to a $1.9 million bonus, Wang came to the United States with high expectations. His 2000 pro debut was solid, but a shoulder injury knocked him out for all of the following year. He returned in 2002, tossing eight shutout innings to clinch the New York-Penn championship for Staten Island, then earned the MVP award for Taiwan at the Asian Games.
Strengths: Wang is polished in spite of his relative inexperience. He maintains 90-95 mph velocity on his fastball with a clean delivery and free arm action. His splitter and hard, late slider give him two more knockout pitches, and his changeup is also a reliable option. He can command all four pitches in the strike zone.
Weaknesses: While Wang looked to be back to 100 percent, he hasnt pitched a full season yet. There hasnt been a Taiwanese pitcher who has come to the States and avoided major injury, so his durability remains a question.
The Future: If Wang stays healthy, the Yankees are prepared to put him on the fast track. He could start 2003 in high Class A and reach Double-A Trenton before the end of 2003.
6. Robinson Cano, 2b/ss
Age: 19. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 172. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001. Signed by: Carlos Rios.
Background: Canos father Jose signed with the Yankees in 1980 and reached the big leagues with the Astros in 1989. Robinson played baseball and basketball at his Dominican high school, and from the first time he worked out for the Yankees has shown an advanced approach. Like Sardinha, he went to Staten Island after opening the season at Class A Greensboro.
Strengths: Canos bat is his greatest strength. He generates plus bat speed and has a knack for making adjustments with his hands to put the barrel of the bat on balls in different zones. He covers the plate well with a good idea of the strike zone, makes consistent hard contact and projects to hit for power.
Weaknesses: Defensively, Cano offers versatility, though hell likely end up at second or third base or even right field in the future with Ferdin Tejada and Joaquin Arias in the system. Cano has the actions, above-average arm and quick hands to play shortstop, and most of his errors were due to inexperience. Hes a below-average runner.
The Future: Though he took a step back, Cano finished third in the system in RBIs and should make the jump to high Class A in 2003.
7. Danny Borrell, lhp
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Wake Forest, 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Steve Swail.
Background: When they drafted Borrell out of Wake Forest, the Yankees envisioned another physical lefty in the mold of their 1996 first-rounder, Eric Milton. Unlike the polished Milton, who needed just one season in the minors, Borrell was raw after splitting his college career between pitcher, first base and the outfield.
Strengths: Borrell mixes speeds and throws strikes. Hes athletic, which allows him to repeat his delivery. He has an average fastball that sits at 87-91 mph but tops out at 94, so he can reach back when he needs a little extra. His changeup is among the best in the system and he shows good rotation on his curveball.
Weaknesses: Borrell can locate his stuff to either sides of the plate, but without a plus pitch to put hitters away with, he must be perfect. His curveball still lags behind his other two pitches.
The Future: His arm has relatively low mileage, and Borrell could throw harder with more innings. After leading the Double-A Eastern League in ERA, Borrell should begin 2003 in Triple-A. The age and expense of New Yorks rotation will make him an attractive option soon.
8. Julio DePaula, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1997. Signed by: Jorge de Posada (Rockies).
Background: It wasnt that the Rockies didnt think highly of DePaula when they traded him to the Yankees for minor league reliever Craig Dingman in April 2001. They just expected more of Dingman, who pitched just seven games in Colorado before leaving as a free agent. Meanwhile, DePaula has gone 29-12 and averaged nearly a strikeout per inning since the deal.
Strengths: The slight DePaula fools hitters with lightning-quick arm speed that generates 91-95 mph fastballs. He made strides last year in conserving pitches, which allowed him to work deeper into his starts. Never short on confidence, DePaula began throwing his low-80s slider and plus changeup when behind in the count.
Weaknesses: DePaula was able to channel his intensity to become more efficient on the mound. He must continue to keep his emotions in check to avoid losing control of the game.
The Future: Though DePaula has been a durable strikeout artist, he might fit better as a dynamic short reliever in the majors. Expected to be placed on the 40-man roster for the first time, hell attend his first big league camp and should open 2003 in Triple-A.
9. Rudy Guillen, of
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 186. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2000. Signed by: Victor Mata.
Background: When baseball people talk about a Rookie-level prospect, they typically are reserved. While the Yankees try to temper their enthusiasm, Guillens raw ability is too much to ignore. Signed for just over $100,000, Guillen led the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League with 11 home runs in 2001, and was the No. 2 prospect in the GCL in 2002.
Strengths: Guillen might have the highest ceiling in the organization. With a strong family background and education, he should continue to pick things up quickly. He projects as a power-hitting right fielder, though he plays center field now. Once timed as a 7.6-second runner in the 60-yard dash, he soon improved to 6.8reminiscent of Cristian Guzman at the same age.
Weaknesses: While Guillen has five-tool potential, his ability to hit for average will be tested against more advanced competition. He doesnt show the patience that Yankees hitters are known for at the big league level.
The Future: Already blessed with a strong frame, Guillen is expected to fill out and develop into a prototype corner outfielder. Hes at least four years away, but by that time he could be atop this list.
10. Sean Henn, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 205. Drafted: McLennan (Texas) CC, 2000 D/F (26th round). Signed by: Mark Batchko.
Background: The Yankees drafted Henn twice, but it wasnt until his velocity jumped two grades that they signed him to a $1.701 million bonus, a record for a draft-and-follow. Henn went down with a sore elbow nine games into his pro debut and needed Tommy John surgery that wiped out his entire 2002 season.
Strengths: Henn threw 86-89 mph as a junior-college freshman, and didnt show the breaking ball or maturity to handle the daily grind of pro ball. He blossomed into a first-round talent by his sophomore season and was touching 99 mph in the months leading up to the draft. His arm action is clean, and his changeup is an effective secondary pitch.
Weaknesses: Rehab allowed Henn to focus on refining his delivery. He worked out in Tampa all year with pitching coordinators Billy Connors and Steve Webber, focusing on his stride and his release point. His breaking ball was a work in progress before the injury.
The Future: The Yankees dont have an instructional league program, so Henn threw simulated batting-practice sessions in Tampa during the fall. His rehab has been encouraging and the Yankees expect him to be ready by spring training, 18 months after his surgery.
Best of the Rest
While injuries (Brandon Claussen, Sean Henn, Jon Skaggs) and trades (Jason Arnold, John-Ford Griffin) ravaged the systems depth at the higher levels, the Yankees Latin American program is helping to restock the organization, with scouting coordinator Carlos Rios at the helm.
Robinson Cano and Rudy Guillen lead the wave of teenage prospects and already have cracked the top 10 list; middle infielders Ferdin Tejada and Joaquin Arias arent far behind. In addition to being the speediest prospect in the system, Tejada has outstanding tools at shortstop, including soft hands and plus arm strength. The Yankees were so impressed with the 18-year-old Arias in extended spring training that they skipped him past the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League.
Live-armed righthanders Jose Valdez, Anderson Garcia and Christian Mendoza also made their first splash in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Valdez and Garcia regularly pumped 95 mph heat, both touching 97 at times.
The Yankees have altered their philosophy, no longer risking big dollars on unproven Latin American talent after investments in Adrian Hernandez, Jackson Melian, Wily Mo Pena and Edison Reynosa didnt pay off. They now target a larger quantity of prospects at a lower cost.
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The Top 10 Prospects lists are based on players' projected long-term worth and on 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 Opening Day 2003.
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