|The Charleston River Dogs are poised for a great season thanks to a solid pitching staff and an excellent hitting lineup.|
The coaching staff of the Charleston River Dogs, the Yankees' Single A affiliate, has been taking questions all offseason about their team for the upcoming season.
"Is this the best team you have ever coached at this level?"
"Are these the best outfielders you've ever coached in single A?"
"Is this the most talented class of players that has come through Charleston since the Joba, Hughes, and Montero class?"
You get the idea. The answer has been unequivocally "yes." Given the fact that the Yankees have all of this talent coming into Charleston and moving up through the ranks, I thought it would be fun to look at the who's who of 2012 Charleston prospects before the season gets underway.
I'll start off by saying I'm not going to get much into the organizational guys since there is very little chance they'll ever reach the majors. Suffice it to say that guys like Kyle Higashioka, Andersen Feliz, Garrison Lassiter, Kelvin Perez etc. will be back for another season to fill out the innings and back up the real prospects.
1. Headlining the starting rotation will be newly acquired 20 year old Jose Campos from the Jesus Montero trade. You can check out his scouting report in the link, but he's a big 6'4 pitcher with all the talent in the world. If he refines his secondary offerings he has future ace potential in the major leagues. His fastball gets as high as 98 mph, that's enough to excite me. There's an outside chance he starts in High A, but that rotation is already a bit crowded.
2. Bryan Mitchell (no not the Redskins 3rd down halfback/special teams extraordinaire) will also start the season in Charleston. Mitchell is 6'2, will be 21 at the start of the season, and he has one of the best curveballs in the entire system. His fastball can also touch 96 with good movement. He also has a change up. The key for him is learning to harness and control his stuff. His 4.09 ERA is not going to take him very far in the minors, but he's got some of the best stuff in the whole farm system and towards the end of last season in Staten Island he started to put it all together and dominate.
3. Here's the guy I talked about in my last article who is rolling off everyone's tongue as this year's sleeper. Matt Tracy is a big, 6'3, 212 lb lefty drafted out of college. He is much older than the other two at 23 years old, but he also has something #1 and #2 do not, a powerful left handed arm that can throw the ball up to 94 mph, rare amongst lefties. As if this wasn't enough, he also throws a dominant change up and a developing curveball, which the Yankees farm system is notorious for being able to develop very well. Given his age, he could move very quickly to High A Tampa this year, and if there is space I could even see him in AA Trenton by the end of the season. In prospect circles, I have heard the name Andy Pettitte thrown around a lot when this guy's name comes up.
4. Another lefty, probably more highly touted than Tracy to start the 2011 season, will likely stand in his shadow to start the 2012 season. Evan DeLuca will be 21 to start the season, so he still has some projection left in him, although at 6'1 his size may be called into question. He started off hot in Staten Island last year then teetered off towards the end. His fastball is similar to Matt Tracy at 94 mph, but he struggles much more to control it. Much like Tracy, he also throws a change up and a curveball. In a lot of ways, he is a younger, smaller version of Matt Tracy, which gives him more time to develop but also has him at somewhat of a physical disadvantage. As of right now I would say the greatest likelihood is that DeLuca ends up in the bullpen long term. Given his tool set, however, he could be a late inning type reliever. He's got a long way to go though and control may be a major issue with him unless he has a breakthrough season somewhere along the line.
5. The 5th slot is more difficult to predict than the other four. If Rafael DePaula ever gets his visa, this is his slot to lose. If not, which is currently looking like the case, then the spot is a crapshoot. That's what happens when you lie to the US government in the post 9/11 era. To tell you the truth he probably deserves it to a certain extent, but that's neither here nor there. William Oliver, Wilton Rodriguez, Kelvin Perez, and Vidal Nuno are all candidates, although I suspect Nuno will be doing something in Tampa next season. Most of the above players are organizational fodder. Nuno, who has probably the most talent, is another guy like Jose Quintana who we will probably lose at the end of the season if he does anything good. The only one on the list who could morph into a prospect is Wilton Rodriguez, but I'd say that's doubtful.
That does it for the starting rotation, next up will either be the relievers or the hitters, not sure which.