Yanks Snare Amateur Taiwanese Third Baseman Kuo





TAMPA—The Yankees signed 18-year-old Taiwanese third baseman Fu-Lin Kuo in January for $150,000. At least, that's what initial reports indicated. The actual sum was $300,000.

Kuo has impressed the Yankees' evaluators so much that they believe it will be money well spent.

"There is a lot to like," international scouting director Donny Rowland said. "The last time I saw him was in high school last year. We like his stroke, his plate action and his plate personality. He squares up balls and has plenty of arm."

Before you think the Yankees believe they signed the next Alex Rodriguez, Rowland puts the acquisition in perspective.

"Don't get me wrong. He isn't a superstar, but we like the entire package."

In the wake of Kei Igawa turning into a $20 million bust, the Yankees haven't signed a marquee free agent from Japan. They were heavily involved in the Dominican Republic and followed Cuban shortstop Adeinis Hechavarria from Cuba to Mexico and had worked him out quite a few times before Hechavarria signed with the Blue Jays.

Does the signing signal a new direction for the Yankees in Taiwan, where they signed Chien-Ming Wang a decade ago?

"We will be active in it if the talent of the player matches what is a good market," Rowland said.

Rowland, who is in his second stint with the Yankees, credits scout Ken Su with the signing of Kuo, a righthanded batter.

"(Su) knows what is going on in Taiwan," Rowland said. "We will be as active as we should be in lining up our international talent."

According to farm director Mark Newman, Kuo looks advanced for a youngster.

"His actions are good and he has good plate discipline," Newman said. "The ball gets off his bat well. He has a chance to be a good hitter, and defensively he is really solid."

In the early days of minor league camp, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Kuo hit balls to all fields and had shown some power.

YANKEE DOODLES

• Top catching prospect Jesus Montero dropped nearly 15 pounds in the first three weeks of camp due to a new workout program.

• The Yankees signed first baseman Myron Leslie, who batted .272/.410/.494 with 18 homers in 92 games last season with New Jersey of the independent Can-Am League. He made it to Double-A as a member of the Athletics organization in 2008.