Yankees Latin American Field Coordinator Victor Mata sat down with PinstripesPlus.com in a two-part…
Dominican Instructs - Top 20 Prospects
Players rehabbing - like Kelvin Perez [Tommy John surgery], Francisco Castillo [arm surgery], and Andres Santos [shoulder surgery] - were not eligible for the rankings.
1. OF, Kelvin De Leon - De Leon is a big, strong 16-year old kid with 'now' power to all fields. He has some work to do improving his opposite field hitting and it appears the plus fastballs can get by him a little too frequently right now, but that should improve as he gains more experience. He has a very strong arm in the outfield and he's actually pretty quick for a guy his size. He has masher written all over him and seems to be a better prospect than even Carlos Urena.
2. SS, Jose Mojica - Internally many Yankees officials believe Mojica is the better long-term prospect, and for good reason. He is very polished defensively, showing plus range, soft hands, and a very strong arm. Offensively he shows a good short stroke with very good power considering his smaller stature. He does sting the ball well but he'll need to improve his rather slender frame if he's to tap his true potential. It's the only thing lacking in his game right now and the reason we can't rank him number one at the current time.
3. RHP, Arodys Vizcaino - Sitting 88-92 MPH with his fastball already, he can top out around 93-94 MPH at times. He has a very smooth delivery and hides the ball well, giving opposing batters the appearance the ball is bearing down on them quicker than it is. He also has a very good curveball and showcased a pretty good changeup in his first couple of outings during Instructs. As high as the Yankees are on Jairo Heredia, some insiders are even higher on Vizcaino.
4. 3B, Jimmy Paredes - Signed last year as part of the 'July 2nd' signing class, Paredes has made tremendous progress adding muscle mass to his then tall-but-slender frame. Signed as a shortstop, he made the move to third base during the Dominican Summer League and he boasts an absolute hose at the hot corner. He has very good power potential from both sides of the plate and has shown an ability to make good contact. Better strike zone judgment is the primary thing lacking from his game. If he can improve that aspect of his game his ceiling is quite limitless.
5. OF, Jahdiel Santamaria - There are players with higher ceilings at Dominican Instructs but few offer better chances of reaching their potential than Santamaria. He has impeccable strike zone judgment, hitting .347 in the Dominican Summer League this past season and walking a bit more than striking out. He's already very solid defensively in the outfield and, already having decent power, has the type of frame that could add on more muscle mass.
6. 3B, Elio De La Rosa - Like Santamaria, De La Rosa might not have the ceiling of others but his polish at such a young age makes him one of the safer bets to reach his potential. His hitting mechanics are uncanny for a kid his age and he has shown decent power potential. He proved he's willing to take pitches to the opposite field and he's equally as smooth defensively. Like Mojica however, gaining more strength appears to be his top priority as he gets set to begin his professional career in 2008.
7. C, Jorge Liccien - Liccien was signed as a bit of a project this past year and has already made huge strides in a short amount of time. He's a tall but thin catcher but has shown an extremely strong and accurate arm, quick feet behind the plate, and intangibles characteristic of being a leader on the field. He seems a bit polished offensively as well but, as most young Latin players, will also need to get stronger to handle the rigors of a long season.
8. OF, Eduardo Sosa - Sosa has the look of an outfield version of Mojica - a good defensive player, a solid approach at the plate, and lacking physical strength at the current time. Unlike Mojica however, Sosa has some wheels. He covers a lot of ground in the outfield and it appears he could be a force on the base paths once he learns the nuances of stealing bases.
9. C, Francisco Arcia - Arcia continues to impress everybody with his overall game. While he has the necessary ingredients to be a plus defensive catcher - a strong arm, a confident attitude, and agility behind the plate - it's his patient approach at the plate and calmness in all facets of the game that has some believing he could be a Francisco Cervelli type in due time. Working against him however is the presence of other top catching prospects that he needs to compete against for playing time.
10. OF, Henry Pena - Pena is the outfield version of De La Rosa in that he has very sound hitting mechanics and all-around polish to his game. He appears to have a good outfield arm and decent speed. He too will need to hit the weight room hard to improve his power potential but his solid bat should afford him plenty of playing time to work on that aspect of his game.
11. RHP, Noel Castillo - His critics will point to his advanced age and quickly dismiss him as a legit pitching prospect - that would be a mistake. Signed later than most, he has a plus fastball and has made marked improvements to his curveball and changeup. He might not be a great starting pitching prospect but the fact his fastball has such great life to it makes him an intriguing relief pitching prospect and some insiders believe he could move quickly.
12. RHP, Jose Ramirez - One of the skinniest kids around, the 6-foot-2 right-hander is already hitting 89-91 MPH with his fastball with solid secondary pitches. The prevailing thought is he'll throw harder once he adds some weight to his thin frame but the Yankees love the command he has shown in the early going. There's a lot to like with his ceiling but it'll depend solely on his ability to get stronger.
13. LHP, Francisco Rondon - Rondon's fastball has some Yankees officials believing he's ready to break into the United States next season. Sitting 88-91 MPH as lefty, his curveball and changeup are a shade below average right now but his delivery is solid and so is his command.
14. LHP, Wilkins De La Rosa - Based on arm strength alone De La Rosa would rank higher on this list. Able to hit the mid-90's consistently with his fastball, he gives the Yankees a very intriguing left-handed relief pitching prospect. His slider and changeup are both still in the development stage at this point and he'll need to improve either one to an average pitch to start tapping his potential.
15. OF, Alvaro Ramirez - If there's one certain from this year's Dominican Summer League clubs - Ramirez is ready for the States. After hitting .282 with DSL Yankees2 in 2006, the diminutive left-handed hitter hit .316 with eight triples and 26 stolen bases for DSL Yankees1 this past season. He has excellent discipline at the plate, Tim Battle-like speed, and is very good defensively in the outfield. His smaller size might limit his chances of being a big league starting outfielder but he has the tools to possibly develop into a reserve outfielder in due time.
16. LHP, Juan Marcano - Yankees officials seem split down the middle on Marcano's potential, mostly because he doesn't throw particularly hard at the current time [84-86 MPH]. But what he lacks in velocity he more than makes up with excellent command and he's shown a very good curveball thus far. We can't rank him higher right now because of the lack of zip with his fastball but some insiders strongly believe he'll be quite good.
17. RHP, Charlyn Garcia - Sleeper alert! Signed back in May as a bypass signee, the 21-year old didn't put up good numbers at all [1-1, 5.73 ERA, 16 walks in 11 innings] in limited action before getting hurt, but his stuff has been very impressive. Armed with a now fastball that sits 92-93 MPH, he throws a wicked changeup and an equally impressive curveball. Stuff-wise, he could rank much higher on this list but his advanced age brings him down a few notches until he can prove himself further, especially in the command department.
18. OF, Melky Mesa - Like Garcia, tools-wise Mesa could rank near the top of the list. He can hit for power, has great speed, and has one of the best outfield arms around. His problem has been his inability to lay off good breaking pitches. He did improve in that area a bit this past season but he'll need to improve his contact hitting to start tapping his limitless potential. He's running out of chances though and that hurts his ranking.
19. RHP, Jacinto Gonell - Like Noel Castillo, Gonell is a forgotten man of sorts because of his advanced age. He pitched the 2007 season as a 23-year old but has true swing-and-miss stuff. He hits 94 MPH with his fastball routinely and has shown a pretty good slurvy breaking ball and changeup. He could stand to improve the command of his secondary pitches and if he can do that, he could move somewhat quickly after pitching in three different minor league levels this past season.
20. RHP, Richard Martinez - Some Yankee officials view Martinez as having the chance to become a Latin poor-man's version of Chien-Ming Wang. While he's not quite as tall as Wang, Martinez does throwing a heavy sinking fastball in the 90-92 MPH range. However there's not much with his secondary pitches right now and that is the emphasis of his development.
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