Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Yankees Super Sleeper Prospect

Super Sleeper of 2012. Image thanks to BeGreen90 on flickr

This time of year it seems as though the en vogue thing to do is to pick a prospect that few expect to have a good season and predict that they will do just that, placing themselves right on the prospect radar. Yes, it is time to pick a sleeper pick. Admittedly I am a bit late on this one, as everyone and their mother has already chosen Matt Tracy as their this year top 20 next year top 10 prospect. Ten days ago, before all of the ruckus about him, he probably would have been my choice as well. At this point, however, I would not label him a sleeper because so many people know about him, and most are expecting a big season from him. His sleeper status has taken a hit by what he has gained in notoriety. Others, such as Ben Gamel, Nik Turley, Tim Norton, Ramon Flores and Slade Heathcott have also gotten a lot of press.

For my pick, I am going to try to think even further outside the box for what I call my yankees super sleeper prospect. This kid wasn't even on my radar by the end of the season, as is evidenced by his absence on my Top 50 Prospects, but the more I read about him this offseason, the more I regretted that choice. He's already moved up to my top 30-35 (a rough estimate). Another season with improvement like last year and this guy will be on everyone's map, likely a top 20 selection. This pick will surprise even the most knowledgeable of prospect gurus, but then again that is what makes this guy a sleeper. My super sleeper of 2012 is...

Drum roll....  Daniel Lopez!

Now here's what you need to know about Daniel Lopez. Daniel just turned 20 this January, and he'll likely be starting off next season in Staten Island, unless something goes horribly wrong with one of the golden boy prospects that will start the season at Charleston. Then again he played 3 games at the end of 2011 in Charleston, and performed well, so it will be interesting to see what management decides to do with him. He's 6'2, weighing in at 175 lbs according to milb.com. He's from Santiago, Dominican Republic, and he throws and hits right handed.

The main tool that Lopez carries with him is his speed. This is why the Yankees signed him back in 2009. He sported a 60 yard dash of 6.2, and his game will continue to be built around that lightning speed. Since being drafted, Lopez has worked tirelessly to increase his strength and has seen his power numbers increase each season as a result. Thus far, the increase in strength and power has not effected his speed, if anything the opposite if you go by stolen bases. Let's make one thing clear though, Lopez will never be accused of being a power hitter.

His stats won't necessarily jump out at you, but the trends are important to consider. As a 17 year old in the Dominican Summer League, he hit .259/.394/.370 in 18 games. He had 2 triples, no homeruns, and 2 stolen bases in 54 at bats. Limited sample size, but the patience is what jumps out at me in his first professional season. In 2010, he improved upon his average and slugging with a .293/.382/.385 triple slash in 70 games. This time he hit 10 doubles, 6 triples, and 1 homerun, stealing 17 bases and being caught stealing 10 times. Not the best rate, but at least he was more aggressive, and his power numbers were better, even if slightly. Lopez's true breakout season, at least thus far in his career, was in 2011 at the age of 19. He started again in the DSL, but only lasted 11 games as he tore through the pitching to the tune of a .424 average. At this point he was promoted to the GCL Yankees, where he continued his torrid play. At the end of the season he got to play 3 games in Charleston. He played extremely well in those 3 games, but alas small sample sizes prevent me from drawing any conclusions from that data. All in all, 2011 saw him hit for a triple slash of .327/.413/.490 over 61 games across three levels. He increased his power numbers with 11 doubles, 7 triples, and 3 homeruns. He stole 27 bases and was caught just 3 times. His OPS was .904.

Reports would indicate he is a strong defender with an average arm and excellent speed and route taking.

Better yet, as gaudy as these numbers may seem, he flew almost completely under the radar in 2011 because of a star studded class of players in the GCL. Reports indicate that Lopez is an extremely hard worker, and spends countless hours lifting and in the cages. So far, this hard work has payed real dividends, and given his athleticism I will not be among those in the blogosphere who ignore this kid.

As far as his projection goes, his speed, patience, and still young age will allow him to have a high floor. I believe he will be on a 25 man roster at some point in his career, and barring injury I am relatively confident about that. His ceiling is that of a 15 HR, 50 SB center fielder, although the 15 homeruns seems pretty generous at this point. Remember though, he has a projectable frame at 6'2 and still has lots of room to fill out at just 175 lbs. We are talking about ceiling here, which means that maximum potential he could ever reach, so I'm allowed to be lofty. He's gotten progressively better every season in every way, getting more powerful, hitting for a higher average, becoming more patient, and reading pitchers better. I see no reason why this trend will not continue as long as he continues to put the work in during the offseason. I understand that getting excited over GCL numbers presents a ton of problems, however this is why he is a sleeper.

 Thus, Daniel Lopez is my super sleeper pick for 2012.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Morning Prospect Links

Fangraphs did a scouting report on Ramon Flores. Nothing too new here, but still an interesting take on the guy

Yankees Fans Unite did an interview with Matt Tracy that was really good. He is everyone's sleeper candidate for this year.

Fangraphs did a quirky  Top 15 Prospects. It's interesting, they have a few big surprises there. There are some guys in the top 15 that might not even be in my top 30.

River Ave. Blues has the  Tim Norton update. He's throwing again and feels great. Never thought I'd hear that less than a year after that horrific injury.

Minor League Ball did a Top 120 Prospects. 4 Yankees were on it, and 2 just missed the cut.

That's all for the Saturday prospect links. Enjoy.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Last Man in the Bullpen

Cesar Cabral is the consensus top choice to be the last guy out of the Yankees bullpen this year. Image thanks to blog.prorumors.com.

I usually get really into the rule 5 draft. Last year I actually wasted time looking at guys I thought would be good candidates for the Yankees to draft, only to find out that the guys I found intriguing were not only passed up by the Yankees but also by everyone else in major league baseball. As it turns out, I am not a very good rule 5 scout. Life goes on.

Anyway, this year I completely glazed over it assuming we would get some crappy players and not end up keeping them. I think Meyers, who we picked up from the Nationals, is definitely a player in the same mold as the guys we got last year. Then I took a look at Cesar Cabral, read a little scouting report on him, and looked at his numbers in high A and AA last year. Needless to say I am now on the Cesar Cabral bandwagon. I think he could be a great candidate to not only get lefties out as a left handed bullpen arm, but possibly have success against righties as well. Here's why I like him.

1. He's only 23 years old, with a ton of team control left.
2. Fastball in the mid 90's from a LHP.
3. Above average change up (this is why I think he can get righties out)
4. Two breaking balls (not sure if they're good but he has them)
5. He's a former Red Sox prospect, and any time we can stick it to them like that, it feels good.
6. There's a good chance that we can retain some of our other relief options in the minor leagues for depth, at least until Joba/Aardsma return, whereas Cabral is back to the Sox if he doesn't break camp with the team.
7. Pitched really well in the Dominican Winter League this year.

Now, here's why I like him stat-wise

1. 2.95 ERA last season
2. 70 K in 55 IP. (44 in 38 AA innings)
3. 3.33 K/BB

Can't find any lefty splits on him, but scouting reports say he's better against LHB than RHB for what it's worth.

Now, for what I don't like. 1.4 WHIP. 9 h/9 IP. Inexperienced. Tampa Bay took him in the rule 5 draft last year and he didn't stick, so that makes it less likely he'll stick with us this year.

All in all a lot of sources think he's the frontrunner for that last spot in the bullpen. He'll really have to perform well in ST to get there though. I hope he does because he could be a staple on our team for years to come, and we can avoid the Feliciano and Marte disasters in future seasons, and put that money towards other needs.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Some good prospect links

The Yankee Analysts synthesized Keith Law (ESPN), John Sickels (Minor League Ball), Jonathon Mayo (MLB.com), John Manuel (Baseball America), Mike Axisa (River Ave Blues), EJ Fegan (TYA), and Brad Vietrogoski's (An A-Blog for A-Rod) lists to come up with one master top 10 prospects. Hint: Manny Banuelos was #1 by a long shot. http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/2012/02/standardizing-the-top-yankee-prospects-38735

River Ave Blues talks about Burt Reynolds, but not that Burt Reynolds. He's Robinson Cano's cousin and the Yanks just signed him to a minor league deal. http://riveraveblues.com/2012/02/yankees-sign-robinson-canos-cousin-burt-reynolds-64431/

Manny Banuelos, D.J. Mitchell, and Cesar Cabral threw live batting practice yesterday. They faced Ray Kruml, Kyle Roller, Ronnie Mustelier, and Shane Brown, also Yankees farmhands.  Reported by LoHud here... http://yankees.lhblogs.com/2012/02/22/wednesday-morning-notes-live-batting-practice-comes-early/

Andrew Marchand talked with Manny Banuelos over at the ESPN New York Blog http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/yankees/post/_/id/27460/banuelos-i-need-to-improve-fastball

Chad Jennings at LoHud Yankees Blog talked about the one remaining spot in the bullpen, and who will occupy it here... http://yankees.lhblogs.com/2012/02/22/the-one-spot-thats-left/ , a couple of our minor leaguers are mentioned in the article as possible candidates.

George Kontos has an oblique strain, but it looks like he'll start throwing again soon.
David Phelps, Adam Warren, Brett Marshall, Dan Burawa, and Chase Whitley all faced live hitters today. LoHud's Chad Jennings was on the case... http://yankees.lhblogs.com/2012/02/23/thursday-morning-notes-officially-im-nothing/

Greedy Pinstripes did a piece on Zoilo Almonte here...  http://www.thegreedypinstripes.blogspot.com/2012/02/meet-prospect-zoilo-almonte.html.

A while back, they also did one on Tyler Austin. http://www.thegreedypinstripes.blogspot.com/2012/02/meet-prospect-tyler-austin.html

Friday, February 17, 2012

Two Prospects in Burnett Deal

Diego Moreno, 25 year old pitcher acquired from the Pirates in the AJ Burnett deal. Image thanks to players.piratesprospects.com

River Ave. Blues is reporting that Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones.

Exicardo Cayones is a 20 year old OF who had to repeat the GCL after struggling in short season A ball at State College. He apparently has some speed, but it hasn't shown up in the stolen bases. He plays CF and LF, and has shown no power since being signed. He has decent numbers in the GCL, but we have similar aged prospects in our system at his position who are much more impressive. Unless the Yankees scouts know something I don't, getting this prospect is more just some face saving to say we got something in return for AJ. It should be mentioned however that he was a $400,000 signing out of Venezuela. Someone had to think highly of him at some point. As recently as 2010, Cayones was considered a top 20 prospect in the Pirates organization by many. Now he's not even top 30. Repeating the GCL will do that to you. This winter, Cayones hit .370 in 92 at-bats and led the circuit with a .504 on-base percentage in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Diego Moreno, the more interesting of the two, is 25 years old. He is a right handed relief pitcher who throws 95-98 mph with a slider and throws an occasional change up. He has had a good amount of success (~13 k/9 over two levels in 2010 before his suspension, ~9 k/9 last year), up until the AA level, where he has struggled mightily to get batters out. In 2010 he was suspended for kissing a fan in the dugout, and he also suffered a right shoulder strain. Since then, his control has waivered. He was Rule 5 draft eligible this year, and went undrafted.

All in all I would say that we didn't get much in return for AJ. Neither of these guys were in the Pirates top 30 according to baseball america, and neither of them would be in my top 30 for the Yankees quite frankly. Personally, I would still consider getting 1/2 of AJ's contract paid for a success. We replace his production with whoever wins out between Freddy and Phil, and the Yankees get better production while saving $5 million this year, and $8 million next year. The $5 million this year can go towards signing a DH and possibly Chavez. The $8 million next year? Towards resigning Swisher or going after Cole Hamels/Matt Cain etc. Regardless, having 8 million extra dollars lying around never hurt anyone, especially when you already have $52.75 million coming off the books next year.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Scouting Rafael DePaula

Couldn't find a pick of Rafael DePaula, so I will represent him with his native Republica Dominicana flag.
Evil Empire Prospects nickname: DePaully D.

Many people have been wondering about Rafael DePaula lately. There are a ton of questions about him since he represents an intriguing option who, given his age and stuff, could be a very quick mover through the Yankees system and could bolster our minor league system and help to fill the void that Jesus Montero left. Since signing with the Yankees November 19, 2010, DePaula has not thrown a single pitch for any of the affiliated minor league teams. This is because the contract he signed is dependent on a resolution to his visa issues, which have been ongoing since he gave a fraudulent birth certificate to the United States government on his arrival here. He was signed for $700,000, and has been waiting on his visa since signing, probably before that. It seems that the US government is intent on making an example out of him, although recent reports have been saying that his lawyer believes the situation will be resolved before this season starts. If that is the case, DePaula could take the organization by storm, as no one seems to know much about him. He has spent the last year or so working out of the Yankees baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. I have not confirmed this but according to a friend of mine, he may or may not already have his visa. The major thing he is waiting on now is the MLB investigation. I would have to imagine that getting his visa from the US government would expedite the process of the investigation, so maybe we will see him this year.

Rafael DePaula is 6'3, 212 lbs, 20 years old, and he has a fastball that sits from 92-94, while scouts say he has been known to dial it up to 97. The fastball has good life on it. His three secondary pitches are a curveball, slider, and change up. The curveball has good spin on it. I'm sure that when he comes stateside his arsenal will be tinkered with by Yankees coaching, but scouts believe that these three pitches are actually very polished based on his level of experience. His mechanics are consistent, smooth, and fluid. According to scouts, his control is also impressive.

Here is a video showcasing his stuff. He does seem to be a bit wild though. http://vimeo.com/10406016. Here's another video as well, which to me shows how fluid his delivery is. http://vimeo.com/5265661

Based on his repertoire, he profiles as a 2-3 starter with a ceiling of a number one starter. This projection, however, hinges on the scouting reports being accurate. Accuracy is no guarantee when so few scouts have really had the opportunity to look at him. A 20 year old kid with polished secondary offerings to go along wiht a fastball that reaches 97 is destined for the starting rotation. The question remains whether all of this is true or just legend.

His estimated time of arrival would depend on a lot of things. He might skip short season ball altogether at this point given his advancing age, so Charleston is certainly not out of the question. If he were to start 2012 there, we would be looking at one of the most exciting groups of players ever to come through the Yankees farm system all on one team. Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, Ben Gamel, Dante Bichette Jr., Jose Campos, and Rafael DePaula might trump the 2007 Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, and Jose Tabata et. al. Anyway, I digress. He is a prospect that could move very quickly if he is as polished as scouts say. It's not out of the question that he could move up to High A Tampa before the end of the season and then up to AA to start next year. That would put him on target for a possible 2014-2015 major league debut.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Four in Keith Law's top 100

Mason Williams ranked #34 on Law's list. Image thanks to bronxbaseballdaily.com

23. Banuelos
34. Mason Williams
55. Gary Sanchez
83. Dellin Betances

Notably, Jesus Montero was #9 and Gerrit Cole was #10.

As far as the Yankees organizational top 10, Keith Law had the Yankees ranked as follows.

1. Banuelos
2. Mason Williams
3. Gary Sanchez
4. Dellin Betances
5. Tyler Austin
6. Jose Campos
7.  Dante Bichette Jr.
8. Austin Romine
9. JR Murphy
10. Slade Heathcott

There are a couple of surprises with his rankings. First of all, Mason Williams ahead of both Gary Sanchez and Dellin Betances. He believes the only component of Mason Williams' game that is missing is strength, and that this will come with time. I can understand that view, but I think throwing him right to #34 was excessive. If he slumps this year he'll be out of the top 100, and then his ranking this year looks pretty bad. I'll say this, I think it is a bold move and I give him credit for that. This is easily the highest Mason Williams will be ranked by anyone.

The next surprise was Dellin Betances all the way down at #83. Law basically makes the argument that Betances is a reliever long term. Seems to be the consensus amongst a lot of scouts, and at 23 you have to start asking the question of whether or not he'll ever get the control he needs to be a starter. This year, however, he won't be restricted to 5 innings per start, so hopefully he'll be able to get in more of a groove. I do think that scouts underestimate his ability to find his delivery in the middle of a game after he's lost it. In fact, I've read several accounts that have had him finding his delivery mid-inning, or even mid at bat. I still have faith that Betances could find himself in the rotation, but Law is right about one thing. He needs to find his control and he needs to do it soon, or he'll be sent to the bullpen.

The third surprise was that Tyler Austin came in at #5. There hasn't been anyone who has ranked him that high yet. He's a solid hitter but he has more question marks than some of the people deeper on this list. For example, even Bichette Jr. is closer to having a position. JR Murphy has the hit tool to go along with the ability to play many positions, not to mention the fact that he has already developed some power. Another bold ranking, which I again don't necessarily agree with but give him a lot of credit for sticking his neck out on this one. That is more than most scouts are willing to do.

Finally, it was surprising not to see Ravel Santana in the top 10. I will assume that this is because of the gruesome ankle injury he suffered last year. If Law had done his homework, however, he'd have realized that by all accounts Santana's ankle is almost fully healed, and he's already running around on it with the same cannon that was strapped to his arm last season.

Anyway, kudos to Keith Law for keeping it real and going with his own gut on these rankings instead of the general perception of the scouting community. To quote Daniel Tosh, "for that, we thank you."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

15 Prospects Invited to Big League Camp

Gary Sanchez and JR Murphy: Image thanks to milb.com
In no particular order...

1. Manny Banuelos LHP
2. Austin Romine C
3. Gary Sanchez C
4. Doug Bernier INF
5. Dan Burawa RH RP
6. Colin Curtis OF
7. Jose Gil C
8. Kyle Higashioka C
9. Brett Marshall RHP
10. Ryan Pope RH RP
11. Graham Stoneburner RHP
12. Jorge Vazquez 1B
13. Adam Warren RHP
14. Kevin Whelan RH RP
15. Chase Whitley RH RP

Others will be invited as well, but won't be in the official press release. For example, I think it is safe to say that Dellin Betances, David Phelps, DJ Mitchell, Brandon Laird, George Kontos, and some other solid specs will be in attendance. Nothing exciting here, but I'm sure it's very exciting for some of the prospects. JR Murphy and Gary Sanchez will be excited for their first trip, although they were both probably more invited for their ability to hold a catcher's mitt and catch 95 mph heat while in the crouched position.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Jose Campos Scouting Report

Jose Campos: Image thanks to snyguys.com
Evil Empire Prospects nick name: Killa Cam

The recent trade, like it or not, of Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi netted the Yankees two pitchers, one extremely promising young major leaguer, and one extremely promising young minor leaguer. Michael Pineda is the major league pitcher they received. Although there is a great deal of excitement surrounding his arrival, he is not a prospect, he's a major league arm. Jose Campos, on the other hand, is fair game for this blog.

Jose Campos is 19 years old from Venezuela and measures 6'4, while weighing in at 195 lbs according to milb.com. Kelvim and Alcides Escobar are his cousins. His statistics have been quite impressive thus far. His first year he pitched in rookie ball, but only threw 33 innings at the age of 17. He posted a 5.73 ERA along with 23 strikeouts. The next year in the same league (VSL Mariners) he threw 57 innings and had a 3.16 ERA with 59 strikeouts and just 19 walks. Needless to say this earned him a promotion to Short Season ball in 2011, where he was nothing short of dominant. He pitched 81.1 innings of 2.32 ERA ball and struck out 85 batters while walking just 13 (1.44 BB/9). That was good for number one in the Northwest League in both ERA and strikeouts. Baseball America ranked him the 3rd best prospect in the league. Did I mention he was dominant?

His fastball ranges from 92-95 and has reached 98 mph on occasion. He locates the fastball very well, as is indicated by his miniscule walk numbers. Scouts say he has a lot of movement with late life on the fastball, as well as some good deception in his delivery. It has also been described as a heavy fastball. He also throws a slider, and curveball which have flashed plus potential. The slider sits at 83-84 MPH with late breaking action, although it isn't a huge break. The curveball is 12-6 but it doesn't have great breaking action. It sits at 73-74, and right now serves more as a changeup since there isn't much break. He also throws a changeup which is in the early stages of development. Here is a great scouting video on him from baseball instinct.


 Scouts praise his makeup, and say he has a ton of poise on the mound. His ceiling is anywhere from a #1-2 starter to a late inning reliever. That will always be the case with a guy this young who is able to get that kind of velocity, movement, and deception on his fastball. The jury is out on his other pitches, but he's got a projectable frame and a great mindset on the mound. He will either start at High A Tampa or Low A Charleston this year for the Yankees. Many are speculating that he will be in high A, but with the depth of our pitching right now I wouldn't rule out Charleston.

Baseball America slots him in as our #5 prospect, as does mlb.com. They put him ahead of Romine. Personally, I want to see him develop some secondary offerings before he is thrown ahead of Romine, so he is currently my #7 prospect, behind Ravel Santana, who I have moved up to #6 since he is making a full recovery from his gruesome injury.

Coming Soon: Rafael DePaula Scouting report.