PinstripesPlus.com analyzes the top hitters in the Yankees' system, ranking the top ten who project…
Tool Time: Top Ten Defensive Outfielders
Justin Christian: The former middle infielder has made a seamless transition to the outfield, playing more than a serviceable centerfield and showcasing plus range in left field. He has a solid enough arm to play right field in emergency situations and it's his defensive play, and versatility, that keeps him in big league reserve outfield discussions.
Kelvin De Leon: One of the top international signings last summer, the Dominican native is a true five-tool outfield prospect. While his brute strength and great power are usually the first tools noticed, it's his surprising speed and plus arm that makes him a complete player. He has very good range in right field and polished instincts for a player so young. He'll be to watch in the coming years.
Melky Mesa: With great range, good hands, and one of the strongest outfield arms in the entire organization, Mesa is definitely Top Ten material but barely misses the cut with the increasing depth of defensive studs. If there's one knock on his defensive game it's his lack of communication with his other outfielders at times, running down balls that are better served being played by the centerfielder - but that's nit-picking.
Alvaro Ramirez: The soon-to-be 22-year old is getting ready to make his United States debut this coming season and he will quickly open eyes with his amazing defensive abilities in the outfield. He has the plus range to play anywhere in the outfield and he also boasts a surprisingly strong arm for a player who stands just 5-foot-9. Comparing favorably to former Yankee Luis Polonia, Ramirez is also a great defensive player.
Jahdiel Santamaria: Santamaria, in more ways than one, is a Melky Mesa clone and that is certainly true on the defensive side of the ball. He doesn't have quite the same arm strength as Mesa, but he can play all three outfield positions well, has plus range, a plus arm, and will make all the diving plays. He is getting ready to make his United States debut and his polished defensive game should make it an easy transition.
Eduardo Sosa: Like De Leon, Sosa was one of the top international signings for the Yankees last summer and he too has a very, very polished defensive game in the outfield. He profiles better in centerfield but has a strong enough arm to play right field, giving him plus defensive abilities in all three outfield spots. He should be a mainstay in the Top Ten here once he makes his professional debut.
Justin Snyder: The natural second baseman is actually a great defensive player in centerfield as well, showing plus range and a strong arm. Where he winds up playing the majority of the time has yet to be determined but he offers the organization a ton of flexibility with his superb outfield play.
Top Ten Defensive Outfielders
10) Abraham Almonte: Just 22 games into his outfield career after making the move from second base, Almonte has quickly become one of the better defensive players at his new position. His plus speed gives him terrific range in the outfield and he has shown surprising arm strength as well. Where he has quickly impressed everybody, however, is with his consistently accurate throws. He still has to gain more experience and polish his overall defensive game, and once that happens, he could headline these rankings.
9) Seth Fortenberry: The former Baylor product is a plus defensive player in all three outfield positions. He has the great speed to give him terrific range in centerfield, one of the strongest arms to play right field, and he consistently keeps his focus in the outfield overall. He committed just one error in 133 games in the Charleston outfield last season and it's his game-changing defensive abilities that makes him a viable big league outfield prospect.
8) Colin Curtis: Like the majority of the names in these rankings, Curtis has the ability to play all three outfield positions quite well and offers the organization a lot flexibility in that regard. The college centerfielder, one who has also had enough arm strength to play right field, actually profiles best as a plus defensive left fielder at the big league level and he started playing that position more when he got promoted to Double-A. His 'go get-em' attitude and all-out hustle allows him to make the diving play, and rob many would-be base hits.
7) Jose Tabata: The Venezuelan native, in true five-tool fashion, is an above average defensive player. Like Curtis, he too has the ability to play all three outfield positions well but profiles best as a plus defensive left fielder. He does have a bit more arm strength, however, and he has made getting and staying in shape more of a priority as of late, enhancing his potential as a very good big league right fielder someday.
6) Matt Carson: In a lot of ways, Carson is Tabata-like defensively. He can play all three outfield positions well but isn't a great long-term centerfielder. Where he gets an edge on his competition, however, is with his plus-plus arm strength. He has an absolute canon for an arm and, combining with his outfield versatility, keeps him in legitimate big league reserve outfield discussions.
5) Austin Jackson: The former high school basketball star has always had the amazing athletic ability to be one of the elite defensive players. Looking quite raw in years passed, however, he took his defensive game to another level last season when he began to slow the game down and keep his focus throughout the season. He has Gold Glove caliber abilities in centerfield, which could also be a perfect fit for the vast terrain of left field in Yankee Stadium.
4) Brett Gardner: Gardner's plus speed gives him some of the best range in the entire organization and it also allows him to play a very shallow centerfield - giving him a greater chance to rob bloop base hits - so he can then track down line-drives hit over his head. It's his ball-hawking skills and fearlessness making grabs on the outfield fence that are quite priceless to his teams, and basic qualities of his Gold Glove potential.
3) Carlos Urena: The Dominican native doesn't have the same type of speed as Gardner but he does have similar terrific range in centerfield and the same kind of fearless attitude defensively, mostly because of his innate ability to read balls coming off of the bat well. He also boasts one of the strongest outfield arms as well, giving him Gold Glove potential in either centerfield or right field. There isn't much the 18-year old can't do defensively and he'll only get better as he gains more experience.
2) Josue Calzado: While his terrific range should not be overlooked, it is Calzado's freakish arm strength - and perhaps more importantly his equally impressive accuracy with his throws - that makes him the best big league right field candidate in the farm system. He is quite simply a game-changer in the field and easily could be one of the best right fielders in the big leagues should his bat carry him that far.
1) Tim Battle: Battle's inconsistencies at the plate should not detract from his amazing defensive abilities in the field. While his arm isn't exactly on par with that of Calzado, it isn't that far behind, and his plus speed is up to snuff with that of Gardner. That combination makes him quite special and one of the best defensive outfielders in minor league baseball, and that is mainly the reason the Yankees will keep giving him time to improve his bat.
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