Sizing Up The Second Base Prospects

PinstripesPlus.com analyzes the Yankees' second base prospects. Which second base prospect has the highest upside? Which are the ones ready to make a Major League impact soon? Who needs to make their mark quickly?

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Highest Ceiling

Mario Holmann: The Nicaraguan native immediately opened some eyes in the organization with his plus defensive ability, tremendous eye at the plate, and plus speed in 2003 with the Dominican Summer League Yankees. He drew 34 walks and stole 16 bases in just 39 games that season while displaying advanced defensive ability in the field. Since that time, Holmann has amazed scouts, coaches, and teammates alike with his highlight-reel defensive play.

Possessing Gold Glove caliber glove work right now, some believe Holmann could play in the Majors right now and be better defensively than half of the current Major League second baseman. In the equivalency of a full minor league season, Holmann has stolen 66 bases, drawn 85 walks, hit .279, and sports an even .400 on-base percentage - and he's ony getting better! Once he learns to hit for a little more power to the alleys, Holmann has All-Star potential and compares very favorably to former Marlins' second baseman Luis Castillo.

Closest to the Majors

Justin Christian: Offensively, you could also put "JC" in the 'Highest Ceiling' category. There are few offensive players like him at the minor league level. He has plus speed and a polished running game to go along with it. His 87% stolen base success rate at the professional level is incredible, barely edging his superior contact hitting ability. He has struck out just 24 more times than he has stolen bases in his career and his .317 average as a professional, including his time in the Independent League, is among the system leaders.

Christian also has decent power for a middle infielder and is one of the rare offensive catalysts. While his offense is already advanced enough to make a splash at the Major League level, his defense isn't nearly as advanced, which is why he'll be playing some outfield in 2006. The Yankees are trying to create a path for him to the Major Leagues because his offensive ability is that special.

The "Sleepers"

Reegie Corona: The Venezuelan native played the entire 2005 season as an 18-year old and with his good speed, solid defensive ability, and patience at the plate, he's a poor man's version of Mario Holmann. He doesn't have the contact hitting ability of Holmann just yet, nor does he have the one plus offensive tool, but he is still very young and some scouts believe he could develop into a solid second base prospect. Like Holmann, the fact that Corona is a switch-hitter only adds to his value as a prospect.

VERY GOOD SPEED: Wilmer Pino has 51 stolen bases in the equivalency of a full minor league season. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
Wilmer Pino: Pino, a right-handed hitter, is a speedy middle infielder who can also play solid defense in the field. In a lot of ways, he's exactly like Reegie Corona. He has shown an advanced eye at the plate but hasn't been able to consistently hit for a high average just yet. Pino has stolen 51 bases in the equivalency of a full minor league season in his career and he'll only go as far as his bat will take him. At 20-years old, he still has time to develop his contact hitting.

Need to Make Their Move

Gabe Lopez: Outside of Mario Holmann, Lopez has the best defensive ability among the Yankees' second base prospects, and there are some that believe he's just as good as Holmann or possibly even better with the glove. Drawing seven more walks than he has struck out in his career, there aren't many hitters with better selectivity at the plate. The 26-year old Lopez has improved his power hitting but doesn't have the speed normally associated with middle infielders. He projects to be a solid role player at the Major League level.

The Jury is Still Out

Kevin Howard: Obtained from the Reds in the Tony Womack trade this past winter, Howard's bat and his versatility in the field will get him to the big leagues. He has played all but one of his professional games in the field at second base, but his defensive work there has been a work in progress, to put it mildly. A .289 hitter with good power in his career, Howard has committed 49 errors at second base in his last two seasons and his sub-par defensive ability will most likely relegate him to a utility role with the Yankees.

J.T. Stotts: A shortstop in the A's organization who came over to the Yankees in the Chris Hammond deal, Stotts has proven to be a much better defensive second baseman than a shortstop. He has a very good idea of the strike zone but he lacks the power and speed to project as a starting player at the Major League level. His versatility in the field - he played 3B, SS, 2B, and even some outfield in 2005 - will keep him in the utility spot mix.

Christopher Malec: Drafted out of UC-Santa Barbara in the 16th round of the 2005 MLB Draft, Malec opened some eyes in the organization with his .384 batting average in limited action with the Gulf Coast League Yankees last summer. A four-year player in college, and quite old for the rookie level, Malec will be out to prove his performance in his professional debut wasn't a fluke. He didn't hit higher than .323 in any one year in college and that came in his freshman year of school so the jury is still out on his ability to become a legitimate second base prospect with the Yankees.

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