We sat down with Staten Island Manager Gaylen Pitts for a Q&A session to get his read on players. …
Top Tools - Staten Island
Best Hitter For Average: Colin Curtis - You could make a strong argument for Hilligoss and not be wrong, but with the way he uses the entire field, we're giving a slight edge to Curtis. Sure Pino hit for a much higher average for Staten Island in 2006, but we're talking about future projection with the Yankees.
Best Hitter For Power: Kyle Larsen - Without a doubt, Poterson has the most power potential on the 2006 Staten Island squad. But riding the pine in his second tour of duty with Staten Island is a major strike against him fulfilling that potential so we have to go to the next name on the list. Next in line in the power department is Larsen, who clubbed a team-high eight home runs this year.
Best Fastball Hitter: Wilkins De La Rosa - Both Pino and Poterson are good fastball hitters in their own right, but the majority of De La Rosa's hits came off of fastballs. He can turn on the heaters with the best of them.
Best Breaking Ball Hitter: Mitch Hilligoss - Staten Island wasn't blessed with many great breaking ball hitters in their lineup this past year. But Hilligoss is very adept at fouling off breaking balls and keeping himself alive in the count until he gets a fastball. He was the best of the bunch in 2006.
Best Plate Discipline: Mitch Hilligoss - De La Rosa actually led the team in walks but often times found himself swinging at bad pitches. Hilligoss on the other hand is a patient hitter with a great idea of the strike zone.
Best Bad Ball Hitter: Wilmer Pino - Pino had a knack of swinging at bad pitches and not only hitting them, but knocking them pretty hard. In fact, with the amount of bad balls he swings at is a major reason why many scouts were surprised with his team-leading .326 average this season.
Best Left-Handed Swing: Colin Curtis - With the likes of Fortenberry and Hilligoss in the lineup, it wasn't as cut and dry as it would seem. But with Curtis' short stroke and ability to sit back and take pitches the other way, Curtis gets the nod.
Best Right-Handed Swing: Francisco Cervelli - Most people would expect to see Wilmer Pino's name inked in this spot, but Cervelli has a much better approach at the plate and he has the ability to hit the ball to all fields. Throw in the fact that Cervelli projects to hit for more power, his swing was the best from the right side in Staten Island this year.
Best Base Runner: Mitch Hilligoss - Pino, an impressive base runner as well, actually led the team in stolen bases. But as far as overall base running ability, Hilligoss brings a combination of aggressiveness and intelligence on the base paths that encompasses the entire package.
Best Raw Speed: Wilkins De La Rosa - De La Rosa and Pino are both blessed with tremendous speed, but De La Rosa is a step quicker. Pino is a better base runner than De La Rosa but as far as raw speed, De La Rosa edges him out. His speed and range in the outfield are plus tools.
Best Athlete: Wilkins De La Rosa - Fortenberry is a tremendous athlete, but De La Rosa's combination of speed, agility, and arm strength are second to none on the Staten Island roster. Don't let De La Rosa's low batting average disguise the fact he is a truly gifted athlete.
Best Untapped Talent: Francisco Cervelli - The fact that Poterson hasn't done much in the production department despite his immense talent screams he should be listed in this category. And even though Poterson has a higher ceiling, Wilkins De La Rosa could also be put in this category. But we're going with Cervelli here because he is a much better prospect than people realize. His nimble feet and strong arm behind the plate, combined with his overall hitting ability, are all underrated.
Deepest Repertoire: George Kontos - The fact that we decided to leave Ian Kennedy off of these rankings due to limited playing time leaves Kontos as the hurler with the deepest repertoire on the Staten Island staff. Kontos sports a two-seam fastball, a four-seam fastball, a plus slider, and a developing curveball and changeup.
Best Fastball For Starting Pitcher: Tim Norton - Castillo actually throws as hard, if not a tick harder than Norton, but Norton spots his fastball a lot better. He sits 92-94 MPH with his fastball and brings it as much as 96 MPH at times.
Best Fastball For Relief Pitcher: Mark Melancon - He only made seven regular appearances with Staten Island after signing late but his blazing fastball was a welcomed addition to the bullpen. His fastball ranges anywhere from 90-96 MPH, although he had a tough time reaching the higher radar readings so soon after being injured.
Best Curveball: Mark Melancon - Rolando Japa had the best curveball on the starting staff, a staff which showcased very few curveballs. But once Melancon joined Staten Island he immediately had the best curveball on the staff. His power curve has drawn comparisons to some of the best in the big leagues.
Best Slider: George Kontos - Castillo has a plus slider as well, but Kontos dominated the NY-Penn League on the strength of a very good fastball and a devastating slider. He registered 82 strikeouts this past season and his slider was a big reason why. He can spot it with relative ease
Best Changeup: Jim Conroy - Sent down from Charleston, Conroy immediately had the best changeup on the Staten Island staff. It is a big league changeup already, and as good as it was in comparison to the other hurlers in 2005, it was even more evidently better than anybody's on the 2006 staff.
Best Control: Tim Norton - Conroy is a very good control pitcher as well, but Norton's control is almost off the charts. He nearly posted a six to one strikeout-to-walk ratio this past season and the command of his plus fastball is a huge reason why.
Best Mechanics: George Kontos - Mechanics aren't always the greatest for pitchers in the short-season leagues as the majority of them have had very limited exposure to professional coaching. That said, Kontos straightened out his mechanics very early in the season and it paid huge dividends, giving him the best mechanics by season's end.
Best Raw Arm: Francisco Castillo - At just 19 years old, Castillo is oozing with talent. He's got a great frame and his athleticism is top notch. He is already armed with a plus fastball and a plus slider. Throw in the fact that he's extremely coachable, the sky is the limit for Castillo.
Best Overall Potential: George Kontos - It is essentially a coin-flip between he and Castillo. Neither has the extensive repertoire of quality pitches needed to be a big league starting pitcher, but both pitchers project to develop into very good Major League relievers someday if their secondary pitches don't come around. Kontos' work ethic is second to none so he gets a slight edge here.
Most Polished Pitcher: Tim Norton - Once again, you're not going to find too many polished professional pitchers in the short-season leagues, but Norton is as close they come. He's very astute at keeping runners close and his impeccable control gives him an edge over everybody else.
Best Defensive Pitcher: Francisco Castillo - Whichever team Castillo pitches for in any given year, he'll stand above everybody else in this category. His cat-like relexes, along with amazing agility, makes him an elite defensive catcher. Oh, and he has soft hands too.
Best Defensive Outfielder: Wilkins De La Rosa - De La Rosa is the complete package in the outfield. He has the speed and range to shag down any ball hit even remotely in his direction. His natural baseball instincts allows him to get a leg up and he's got the cannon for an arm to throw out any runner at any base.
Best Defensive Infielder: Kevin Smith - Smith played 36 of his 43 games at first base, which is actually surprising. Forget the fact that he didn't commit an error in 2006, his overall defensive ability at first base is already big league caliber.
Best Defensive Catcher: Francisco Cervelli - Cervelli caught the collective eyes of a ton of scouts this past season and his complete package behind the dish is the biggest reason why. He is very light on his feet, has a strong arm and a quick release on throws to second base, and perhaps most importantly, pitchers love throwing to him.
Best Outfield Instincts: Wilkins De La Rosa - De La Rosa has the innate baseball instincts to play centerfield. He gets good reads on balls as soon as they come off the bat and with his head always in the game, he knows where to throw the ball when he catches it.
Best Outfield Range: Wilkins De La Rosa - With his speed and instincts, nobody on the Staten Island roster can cover more outfield ground than De La Rosa.
Best Outfield Arm: Wilkins De La Rosa - We weren't joking when we said De La Rosa was the complete defensive package in the outfield. De La Rosa's arm wasn't just the best among the Staten Island outfielders, but it is arguably the best in the organization.
Best Infield Arm: Tim O'Brien - O'Brien, like Kevin Smith, is a plus defensive player who saw his playing time limited in favor of better offensive players. O'Brien has the strongest infield arm on the Staten Island roster, even prompting the Yankees to allow him to pitch one inning on the mound, which was scoreless by the way.
Best Infield Range: Chris Kunda - A natural second baseman, Kunda displayed very solid range at shortstop in Staten Island this season. He doesn't have the range of a big league shortstop, but then again, neither did anybody else on the team. Pino's range is also solid but Kunda gets a slight edge for playing shortstop.
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