Tool Time: Top Ten Hitters For Average

Jesus Montero is more than just a slugger

PinstripesPlus.com analyzes the top hitters in the Yankees' system, ranking the top ten who project to hit for the highest averages at the Major League level with the Yankees.

Honorable Mention

Abraham Almonte: Almonte's incredibly unproductive second-half last season bumps him out of the Top Ten for now - it was that bad. He hit just .191 after the All Star break. However, he drew a lot of walks and he was the victim of some bad luck. He has the special combination of plate discipline, patience, power, and speed to be near the top of the rankings sometime soon. He just needs to prove it more in the box scores.

Carmen Angelini: Angelini hit just .236 in his professional debut season last year and that may leave some scratching their heads on his inclusion here. However, judging a player on his first year is always a recipe for disaster. He has the right approach at the plate and the mental maturity to make adjustments on the fly. His biggest problem to date has been his physical immaturity and that is easily rectified. He still has some .300 seasons in him down the road.

Kyle Anson: Sooner or later the career .255 hitter has to start hitting for higher averages. He has drawn more walks than strikeouts every season, not only at the professional level but during his college career as well. He has plus big league plate discipline, great patience, and good swing mechanics. A combination of nagging injuries and having to learn the catcher's position - which can be mentally draining - has disguised just how good a hitter he can be.

Mitch Hilligoss: There's no sugarcoating just how bad his season was last year, hitting just .241 with one home run for the Tampa Yankees. He did hit .310 the year prior, however, and his hitting foundation is closer to the 2007 version than his 2008 showing. He has good hitting mechanics, a great idea of the strike zone, good pitch recognition, and he can hit to the opposite field with the best of them. His problem has been a lack of patience to date and it's quite possible that message was received last season. He's just too good a hitter to not turn things around.

IT'S COMING: Pirela hasn't proven it with the bat yet, but he should start doing so real soon. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
Addison Maruszak: Maruszak doesn't make this list for hitting .317 with the Staten Island Yankees last season [although it doesn't hurt], but more so because of his big league plate discipline and ability to make adjustments. He played under Tino Martinez in college, and like Martinez, Maruszak has the makings of a professional hitter.

Jose Pirela: Like most of the hitters in the 'Honorable Mention' category, Pirela's batting average hasn't matched his actual hitting abilities so far. The Venezuelan native has a great looking swing, a mature center-to-opposite field approach, above average plate discipline, and he has the speed to beat out more than a few grounders. His .259 career average disguises just how good a hitter he could be...and actually is.

Justin Snyder: Snyder hit 47 points lower last season [.288] than his 2007 season [.335], but a lot of that has to do with the wider strike zones in the South Atlantic League. He has superb plate discipline and pitch recognition, but he gets bumped out of the Top Ten for now after the Yankees have added some impressive bats over the last calendar year. Don't discount him for it.

Damon Sublett: Like Snyder, Sublett's 2008 season [.263] paled in comparison to his debut season in 2007 when he hit .326 for the Staten Island Yankees. However, unlike Snyder, Sublett's sub-par performance was more injury related than anything. He has great plate discipline and even better patience, but his hitting mechanics are a little more raw and so is his approach. He is equipped though for a big-time turnaround.

Top Ten Hitters For Average

10) Colin Curtis: The hitter with one of the sweetest swings in the organization has yet to find his rhythm at Double-A, but with good plate discipline and patience it should just be a matter of time before he starts duplicating the same success he had at the lower minor league levels. He hit just .255 with the Trenton Thunder last season, but he spent most of his time working on pulling the ball more. Mastering the inside part of the plate is the final piece in his development puzzle.

9) Bradley Suttle: It was just one short year ago when some critics were extremely concerned about Suttle coming off of his Hawaiian Winter League season that saw him hit just .100. And while his .271 average with the Charleston Riverdogs last season didn't exactly turn everyone's head, it did just scratch the surface of his hitting ability. His power/discipline combination is among the best in the farm system and 2009 will be just his second year with his completely revamped hitting mechanics.

ROMINE REDUX?: Higashioka could have Romine-like success with the bat this season. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
8) Garrison Lassiter: Lassiter is another sweet-swinging lefty with one of the more advanced approaches at the plate among the younger position prospects. His six-game debut season last year didn't give him enough time to showcase his bat, but he has a knack for putting good wood on the ball and piling up multiple hit games. He could have some special batting seasons in his future.

7) Kyle Higashioka: Higashioka's lack of home run power and plus arm strength helps him fly under the radar prospects-wise. However, it's his patient approach, ability to go to the opposite field, and overall hitting maturity that makes him a lot better than some folks realize. He is completely locked in at the plate and he leaves his emotions on the bench, both plus traits and the basic foundations of a great hitter.

6) Corban Joseph: Joseph's .277 average with the Gulf Coast League Yankees last season doesn't jump off the page. But considering he took a little while to adjust to the professional game, his .354 average in the month of July is a sign of things to come. He uses the entire field when he hits, he has advanced hitting mechanics for such a young player, and his combination of plate discipline and patience has the chance to be special. Some may question his speed or defense, but few question his bat.

THINK 'HIT' FIRST: Laird is at his best when he's focused on just getting a hit, not going deep. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
5) Brandon Laird: In one respect, Laird is a more powerful hitting version of Hilligoss in that he can be so frustrating since he has the natural ability to be a consistent plus hitter but will abandon his approach at times. He's at his absolute best when he's thinking middle to the opposite field and just letting his natural power take over, but sometimes he gets too pull-happy looking for the home run and that gets him into slumps. He has the ability to hit for high averages if he's not seduced by the allure of going deep.

4) Austin Jackson: The once raw athlete who relied heavily on his athleticism to get him by has become the Yankees version of 'Steady Eddy'. He has learned to avoid the prolonged hitting slumps by maintaining his opposite field approach and staying back in his swing. As a result he has started becoming more of a professional hitter who will seldom swing his team out of rallies. The power might not be there yet, but the bat is extremely close.

3) Eduardo Sosa: His .315 average with DSL Yankees2 last season is nice, but it hardly does his raw hitting ability any justice. He still has some work to do in maintaining his patient approach consistently, but his combination of plate discipline, ultra-quick bat speed, and compact stroke are special for such a young player. Throw in his ability to bunt for base hits and hit for power, there's little he can't do. Showing more patience at the plate - something all young players could use - is the only thing he's lacking.

2) Austin Romine: Romine had a phenomenal professional debut season last year, hitting an even .300 with the Charleston Riverdogs as one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League. Forget how young he is - the kid has the approach and presence of a big leaguer. He gets some of the best back-spin on his hits and he goes to the opposite field with the best of them. His pitch recognition is also a plus tool, and while he hasn't drawn a ton of walks, he does have very good patience as well. He also shows an innate ability to make adjustments and his .359 average in the final month of the season last year is proof of that.

1) Jesus Montero: The only thing Montero lacks to be the best hitter he can be is the speed to beat out grounders. He has the long arms to extend out over the plate, the great bat speed to cover the inside part of the plate, the patience to sit on his pitches, and the plate discipline to lay off pitchers' pitches. And like Romine, he certainly knows how to make adjustments and get better as the season wears on [he hit .344 after the All Star break and .373 in the final month of the season]. His bat is simply special.

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