NEW YORK—Loud tools often will grant a player a longer rope in the developmental stage of his career. But eventually those tools must turn into results—otherwise he goes in the failed prospect bin.
The Yankees still aren't sure exactly what they have in 23-year-old outfielder Melky Mesa, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2003 and has spent seven years in the system, the first five in short-season ball. "Great tools, but . . .," became the refrain.
Mesa showed both power and speed for low Class A Charleston in 2009, belting 20 homers in 497 at-bats and stealing 18 bases in 24 tries. His production was muted, though, by a .225 average and 168 strikeouts.
Taking a longer view, the 6-foot-1, 165-pound Mesa entered this season with a career .215/.293/.393 batting line and with strikeouts in 35 percent of his at-bats. The righthanded-hitting center fielder boasts above-average range and arm strength, which he showed off this season in winning the high Class A Florida State League's MVP award.
"This year he changed some things in the middle of the season," farm director Mark Newman said. "All of his offensive indicators got better."
Newman credited second-year Tampa hitting coach Julius Matos with helping Mesa improve from the first half to second.
"He got (Mesa) looking more like (Alfonso) Soriano. He moved his eyes closer to the strike zone and had him set up lower," Newman said. "It made a big difference and was a nice job by Julius."
Mesa batted .260/.338/.475 with 19 homers and 74 RBIs in 446 at-bats for Tampa, showcasing his speed with 31 steals (in 40 attempts) and nine triples. His OPS shot from .716 in the first half to .896 in the second, when he smashed 14 of his homers.
Perhaps most encouragingly, Mesa struck out less frequently overall—in about 29 percent of at-bats—and kept the whiffs in check even during his second-half power surge.
"He is on our radar now," Newman said. "He always had the type of tools that made you say, 'Wow.' This is a nice step forward."
• Rookie Eduardo Nunez impressed big league manager Joe Girardi during a September callup, but he just missed making the postseason roster. Nunez hit .280 in part-time play at shortstop, while showing that he also can handle third base.
• The Yankees signed 25-year-old outfielder Breland Brown, a Northeast Mississippi CC product who attended spring training with the Giants before drawing his release.