Scouting Yankees Prospect #2: Jose Tabata

Tabata is looking for a healthy 2007 season

The Yankees signed outfielder Jose Tabata out of Venezuela for $500,000 as a 16-year old in 2004. After making his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2005, he quickly turned some heads in the South Atlantic League last season before a nagging thumb injury ended his year prematurely. Here's a scouting report on Jose Tabata.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Jose Tabata
Position: Outfield
DOB: August 12, 1988
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 205
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"I started playing well," Tabata said of his 2006 performance through the help of Carlos Rios translating. "I had a good beginning and really put up some good numbers early, but then halfway through, a little bit over halfway through, I got hurt and lost some time."

Leading the South Atlantic League in batting through the first month and a half of the season, Tabata was cruising with the Riverdogs, hitting as high as .367 through May 11th before a seemingly innocent thumb injury forced him out of the lineup for a week in late-May.

Playing through the injury, he remained in the lineup through mid-July before being placed on the disabled list for two weeks. He appeared in just two more games the rest of the season before the Yankees decided to take a cautious approach and shut him down for the remainder of the season.

Even interim Riverdogs manager Pat Roessler, who took over for Bill Mosiello midway through the season, didn't have an opportunity to see too much of Tabata in Charleston.

"I didn't see a lot of him once I got up there because he wasn't playing," said Roessler.

When he was healthy however, Tabata believes he made marked improvements in refining his overall game from his debut season in 2005.

"In the outfield, my defensive play, and my swing," Tabata listed as the two areas he improved the most last season. "I got a lot more consistency in my swing."

Outside of the first week of the 2006 campaign, his average never dipped below .296 and he still managed to collect 26 multi-hit games last year, accounting for over 30 percent of his games played.

Possessing an advanced offensive approach, especially for a player his age, Tabata's plan at the plate is quite simple.

"My focus is stay up the middle, good location of pitches, and if I can do those things, my ability takes over," said Tabata.

After being named to the Future's All-Star Game last season and now nationally recognized as one of the game's elite prospects even though he has just 470 career at-bats, Tabata says all the attention not only doesn't bother him, but he likes it.

"I enjoy it," he said of receiving all the attention as one of the game's elite prospects, "but I'm taking it easy and in stride. The most important thing of all is I want to stay humble."

Whether or not a player who has yet to step on the field in high-A ball or beyond can remain humble remains to be seen. A good sign however is, despite having success and garnering so much attention, he realizes there is still plenty of work to be done.

"I'm going to work on my running, continue working on my defense, and obviously I have to keep my body in shape," said the 18-year old. "I don't want to take anything for granted because I know I have a bigger challenge next year."

After hitting .288 with Caribes de Oriente in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason and now preparing for the Florida State League in 2007, the Yankees are looking forward to a healthy season for their young prodigy to get a better idea of what he can truly do.

"He can really hit," said Yankees Farm Director Pat Roessler. "He uses the whole field for a player at such a young age. Eventually the power is going to come and he's going to be something to watch."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2006 Charleston .298 319 22 5 51 50 15 30 66 .377 .420
2005 Gulf Coast .314 156 5 3 25 30 22 15 14 .382 .417


Batting and Power. Tabata's signature calling card is his approach at the plate. An outstanding gap hitter who focuses on spraying line drives from center to right field, he is an ideal contact hitter and most scouts believe he will develop home run power as he matures. Normally a patient hitter, he became a bit more of a free-swinger in 2006, probably due to a combination of frustration from his thumb injury and lack of home run production. When he's healthy, he is very adept at working the count and sitting on his pitches and it's that reason why he projects to be a high-average hitter.

Base Running and Speed. Tabata has 37 stolen bases in his career thus far in what equates to a full minor league season. Such a high number would normally indicate he has great speed. The fact is he is more of a slightly above average runner who uses his natural base running instincts and aggressiveness to swipe bags. Also considering he projects to hit in the middle of the batting order down the road, as well as combining potential issues with his weight, Tabata doesn't project to be a great base stealer as he gets closer to the big leagues.

Defense. Tabata is a very good defensive outfielder, good enough to play all three outfield positions if called upon. He has a strong arm in the outfield, but like his speed, it has been slightly overrated by some. He has decent range to play a serviceable centerfield and a decent enough arm to man right field, but like Melky Cabrera, Tabata projects as a big league left fielder where he profiles better as a plus defensive player.

Projection. Tabata is one of the safest bets to reach his potential in the entire farm system. He projects to be a high-average hitter with average to above average power who could fit quite nicely hitting third in a big league lineup with his ability to make contact and get on base. The only concern with Tabata is his nagging thumb injury which did flare up once again in the Venezuelan Winter League. Reported to have seen many doctors about the injury, nobody can find anything wrong with his thumb and that's good news for the foreseeable future. If he can remain healthy and keep his weight in check, with his ability to hit in the clutch, Tabata projects to be a big run producer for the Yankees some day.

ETA. 2009. Tabata will open up the 2007 season as one of the youngest players in the Florida State League, a distinction he should have at every minor league level. His bat is potent enough, as well as his solid all-around game, that he should jump a level at some point in his career. That could come after Double-A when he could be in prime position to make the leap from the Eastern League right to the big leagues in 2009.

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