De Leon Shaping Up For U.S. Debut

Kelvin De Leon is hoping to bypass the Dominican

TAMPA, FL - Improvement and consistency are the names of the game when it comes to Extended Spring Training and the Yankees' EST roster is littered with high ceiling prospects that need to shore up their games. Kelvin De Leon is no different; already possessing a ton of tools, with some improvement he has the potential to be a major player in the Yankees organization.

Kelvin De Leon is an exciting young player that possesses tremendous physical maturity for a player his age. He is a high-ceiling player that displays a great deal of potential; however like all players in Extended Spring Training he has various aspects of his game that need to be refined. After signing with the Yankees in 2007, through a translator De Leon reflected on his first Spring Training with the team.

"I came in with the mindset of giving it 100 percent because this was my first Spring Training; I just wanted to give it my all. I felt good, I had a little more left in the tank after sitting out with an injury but I felt like I could have done a little bit better. Watch out for next year because I will be ready and I will have a better Spring Training next year."

After going through his first Spring Training and suffering an injury, instead of rushing him into South Atlantic League, the organization felt it was wiser to take it slow and placed him in Extended Spring Training in order to fine tune various aspects of his game.

"I expect to be playing everyday. I'm giving it my all right now and that's all I can do."

Like all players in EST, there are going to be ups and downs and right now there are many things going well with Kelvin De Leon's game, some of which that can not be measured statistically.

"I'm more into the game now; concentration-wise I'm 100 percent there. I don't feel like I'm actually playing. I feel like I'm ‘living' the game now. I'm playing as intense as I need to be," De Leon reflected.

Of course with the upsides there are going to be some downsides. Like many young hitters, pitch recognition at the plate is one of the main problems he is facing right now.

"I'm not hitting the breaking ball as well I'd like to," he admitted. "That's something that I have been working on. I've been getting a little better but I hope to progress [more]."

Not surprisingly, his main vice is the biggest thing that he needs to work on in order to break into the short-season leagues in June, along with polishing his defensive game.

If he is able to gain consistent progress with his plate approach, everything should fall into place and it will allow him to break in with the Gulf Coast League Yankees.

An underrated portion of a player's development is the ability to adjust to the added pressure to succeed, along with refining their own physical deficiencies in the process. This counts doubly for Kelvin De Leon because he was considered one of the top international signees during 2007 at the age of 16.

Along with that, being a Latin player coming into a new country while adjusting to a different culture and language could prove very nerve-racking for a player his age. Surprisingly, De Leon has found the adjustment to be quite simple.

"Actually, everything has been great. I haven't really had to change anything," De Leon admitted.

With the amount of poise and professionalism that De Leon has shown while approaching the game, he has certainly caught the eyes of several teammates as well as coaches. Both his offensive game and his defensive game have stood out, and although he has several things to work on, there is no shortage of praise for his progress.

"Offensively he has progressed a lot since coming over here," pitcher Manny Barreda concurred. "When you saw him in the Instructional [Leagues] he used to swing and miss a lot and now he is making more contact with the ball.

"Defensively he's got a couple things he's got to work on but he's gotten a lot better [such as] hitting [the infielders] with his cuts. He's been doing a better job with that now than when he came in here. I think defensively he's improved a lot more than he has offensively."

With enough improvement in EST, Kelvin De Leon will most likely break in 2008 with the GCL Yankees. GCL manager Jody Reed had many positive things to say about De Leon.

"From what we've seen so far, he's a kid with a ton of tools," said Reed. "He has a great body and great athleticism. He just needs to be polished up; he's a diamond in the rough.

"He displays a lot of power, he runs above average for a big man and he has a pretty strong arm in the outfield. If you got those raw abilities, it's our job to shape them and turn you into a ball player."

Despite missing some time with an injury, the Yankees are happy where De Leon is with his progress. He is a tremendous talent with five-tool potential and with a little patience, the consensus is that De Leon with develop into an excellent player down the road."

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