In this post, I wanted to take a look at some of the guys who might be able to move up quickly from their current assignments. These are not necessarily my picks for the top prospects in the organization, but rather, the ones whose assignment and situation could allow them to see promotions to higher levels of the minors if they perform well.
Gary Sanchez is the first person that comes to mind, which makes sense given his assignment to Charleston, where he played in 2011. In some ways this seems like a bit of a punishment for Sanchez, who did enough in 2011 offensively to show that he can handle Sally League pitching. However, between the maturity issues and defensive struggles that Sanchez had last season and the presence of JR Murphy in Tampa, the Yankees may want to start Sanchez in Charleston to d work on his defense full-time and perhaps deflate his ego somewhat. Despite his early struggles, Sanchez went on a tear at the end of the season prior to his injury, and looked like he was beginning to put his earlier problems behind him.
For these reason, Sanchez is in good shape to get off to a strong start to 2012, and will likely try to push his way to Tampa as quickly as possible. Murphy could cause a bit of a logjam, but between the DH slot and Murphy’s ability to play 3rd base, the Yankees will likely be able to find enough AB’s for both of them. Reports on Sanchez, both performance and attitude, have been very positive this spring, and I am predicting he will have a huge season. If all goes according to plan Sanchez will be in Tampa by June or July, and could even be knocking at the door to Trenton. A lot of this depends not only on his offensive production, but also, his improvements behind the dish.
Sanchez’s Charleston teammate Mason Williams could be another candidate to move quickly. While he is not repeating a level like Sanchez, he dominated a similar level of competition in Staten Island, and has gotten rave reports on his athleticism and polish during Spring Training. Williams, already 20, is on the older side for players who came out of his draft class (about a year older than Gumbs and Culver), so the Yankees could be a little more aggressive with promoting him.
There is also no serious competitor for playing time in centerfield on Tampa’s roster, sinceEduardo Sosa hasn’t done much to show that he is a top prospect in a while. Williams may have a longer adjustment period than Sanchez, but if he continues to live up to the hype, it may be hard to keep him down. Part of the decision-making process could be influenced by Slade Heathcott‘s health, as Tampa could be his eventual destination when he returns from his shoulder surgery.
Relievers are often a good bet to move quickly, since there are fewer concerns about adversely affecting their development. Mark Montgomery, currently in Tampa, seems to be the best bet to make a David Robertson-esque ascent through the minors this year. He struck out nearly two batters per inning during his time in Staten Island and Charleston last year, while pitching to a 1.91 ERA. Montgomery’s control needs a little work (walked about 4 batters per 9), but his combination of a low-mid 90′s fastball and a plus (at least) slider will likely be more than most Florida State League hitters can handle. He could see promotions to Trenton and even Scranton if he continues to dominate like he did in 2011.
The Yankees tend to be pretty conservative with their promotions, so it is very possible we won’t see anybody move that quickly this year. The players mentioned are my top candidates, but some other names that spring to mind include Dante Bichette (Charleston) due to his polish,Tyler Austin (Charleston) because he is a little older, Phil Wetherell (Charleston) because he is a reliever who was dominant in Staten Island last year, and Branden Pinder (Tampa) for similar reasons. There will certainly be plenty of exciting prospects to watch this year (especially in Charleston), and it will be fun to follow their progress.
With Austin Romine suffering yet another setback in his recovery from an undisclosed back injury, the Yankees major league ready catching depth has not been this thin since Francisco Cervelli received his first call-up. Romine’s injury exposed just how quickly catching depth can disappear into thin air. The Yankees could find themselves regretting the Montero for Pineda deal in the not so distant future. If Martin or Cervelli should get injured, the Yankees will be faced with Gus Molina or newly acquired Craig Tatum serving as the backup catcher.
The next closest legitimate catching prospect besides Romine is J.R. Murphy, but the most exciting is Gary Sanchez. In July of 2009, the Yankees signed Sanchez for $3 million as a 16 year old out of the Dominican Republic. The scouting report at the time was of a young player with phenomenal power to all fields, the potential to hit for average, and good enough athleticism to stick behind the plate.
In his age 17 season, Sanchez showed everyone in the Yankees organization what he is capable of. In the GCL and Short Season-A he hit a combined .329/.393/.543/.936 with 13 doubles, 8 HR, and 2 SB. He earned praise from scouts everywhere, and was ranked the No. 2 prospect in the organization and the No. 30 prospect in the minors by Baseball America before the 2011 season.
Last year, at age 18, Sanchez hit a minor bump in the road. He struggled big time out of the gait, lost some time to JR Murphy at catcher, and suffered from what many called “maturity issues” when he was sent to Florida for disciplinary reasons. It was truly a tale of two seasons for Sanchez last season. He batted just .236/.318 with 9 HR up until July 24th.
Then something clicked and he went on an absolute tear. He batted .346/.413 with 8 of his 17 HR in his last 14 games. This brought him to his season total, a respectable .256/.335/.485/.820 line. The average would be more of a concern if he wasn’t an 18 year old in full season baseball. He did also struggle defensively all season with 13 passed balls. He took a step back with his footwork, although his caught stealing percentage was still 31 percent.
While this season was disappointing because of what we’ve come to expect from Sanchez, it was a success by many standards. Just to give you an idea, Jesus Montero also hit 17 HR at the age of 18 in Charleston. Of course the Sanchize’s average wasn’t nearly as impressive as Montero, but towards the end of the season he showed what he’s capable of. His season also did end a little bit early with a broken finger, so the power numbers would have likely been even better if he had finished out the year. After the season, he was demoted to the No. 3 prospect in the Yankees organization by Baseball America (excluding Jesus Montero), and the No. 81 prospect in the minors.
Moving on to the 2012 preseason, Sanchez has come to camp with a new attitude and greatly improved defense behind the dish. His bat is as good as ever, and he appears poised to put his skills on display this season as a 19 year old starting in Low-A Charleston. It’s hard to believe he’ll stay in this league much longer, as High-A Tampa will be beckoning as soon as JR Murphy is ready for Double-A, if not sooner.
By all accounts Sanchez has amazing natural power to all fields, close to the level of Montero’s. To go along with this, many scouts feel he is capable of hitting for average. He’s already shown that he has great patience. While the bat was never in question, his fielding has been a major concern in the past. Given his athleticism and the fact that he showed up to camp much improved, I am predicting he will have a good season behind the dish in 2012.
His estimated time of arrival with the major league club is 2015-2016, which would put him at 22. He will likely spend this year in Low-A and High-A. If things progress well, then he’ll start 2013 in Double-A, and move up one level each year. Hopefully his “maturity issues” are in the past, and he will continue to take a good attitude with him in the future. That and his defense are the only two things that could hold him back. He’s already a top 100 prospect, and he should only continue to ascend in the rankings as he gets closer to the major leagues.
Trentonian Photo/JOSH NORRIS Yankees prospect Rafael DePaula throws a simulated game at minor-league camp in Tampa on Thursday.
TAMPA, Fla. — About a dozen scouts were in attendance on Thursday at the Yankees’ minor league complex. A gaggle of media joined them, too. They were there to see Ivan Nova, Russell Martin and Rafael Soriano, the latest in the parade of major leaguers joining in the fun with the farmhands.
The real attraction, however, was directly behind them, pitching the fourth inning of simulated game in front of a crowd of a few of his teammates and one reporter.
It was Rafael DePaula, a tall, thick, dark-skinned right-hander from the Dominican whom the Yankees had signed in November of 2010. Because an investigation proved he had falsified his identity, DePaula wasn’t allowed to come stateside until earlier this week. He took his physical on Tuesday, and on Thursday threw to his first hitters.
Yankees pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras watched the sim game in its entirety, and afterward said he was impressed with the first offering from his newest charge.
“Very nice arm,” Contreras said. “He spun the ball really well, he showed a nice change-up. He was excited out there, you could tell. I was just talking to Carlos (Chantres), the (Staten Island) pitching coach, and he said when he was doing his warm-ups he was very good, throwing strikes. When the hitter came up he just tried to do too much.”
In all, DePaula threw 24 pitches — 14 fastballs, seven curveballs and three change-ups. The fastball sat between 91 and 93 miles per hour and topped at 94. The hook, which showed late, hard bite down and away from a right-handed hitter, clocked in at between 74 and 76 miles per hour.
Still, the jitters to which Contreras referred were evident in the command of his fastball, which was all over the zone. He came close to hitting two batters, and made those standing behind the screen flinch at least once when a pitch slipped and came too close for comfort.
At one point, Tejeda, just a 20-year-old himself, came out from behind the plate and spoke to his pitcher.
“I told him to slow down,” he explained afterward. “He looked nervous.”
The pep talk seemed to work. The next pitch DePaula threw was his first and only 94 of the afternoon, and it was a beauty over the inside corner.
Ray Kruml and Austin Krum may have been pleasantly surprised by making the Triple-A team as outfielders. There were really no surprises in Double-A Trenton or High-A Tampa. Will Oliver and Wilton Rodriguez were probably excited to be on Charleston’s roster, as starters no less. Gary Sanchez was not surprised to find out he was starting off in Charleston again this year, while Kelvin De Leon may have been a bit disappointed with his assignment there.
There are few players who can justifiably feel snubbed, however several players were sent to extended Spring Training who could have started in Charleston. The following discussion examines whether or not the Yankees should have moved these players into full season ball.
Evan DeLuca is the most surprising omission from the Charleston River Dogs roster. He pitched reasonably well in Staten Island last year, with a 4.27 ERA and 43 K in 46 IP. His major issue was that he walked 32 batters in that span. He’ll be 21 years old this season though, which means this is a significant setback in his career. He’s 6-foot-1, 195-pounds and he’s a lefty. He gets the fastball up to 94 mph, and he also throws a curve ball and a changeup. DeLuca may yet end up in Charleston before season’s end, but missing the cut this season was definitely a disappointment.
Another player who some expected to be in Low-A this year is Daniel Lopez. You can read about him here. He’ll be 20 years old this season with exceptional speed and base stealing ability and developing power. Signed for his speed and athleticism, he has always been seen as a long term project for the Yankees, but he seems to be catching on fast. The outfield is pretty stacked in Charleston, so there’s not a ton of space for him there. He spent most of last season in the GCL, with a few at bats in the DSL and a few at bats in Charleston at the very end of the season.
His quadruple slash was .347/.413/.490/.904, and he had 3 HR and a whopping 27 SB in 61 games. If I had it my way, Daniel Lopez would be in Charleston. He has a low strikeout rate and a mature plate approach. The one justification for keeping him in Short Season-A is that he is raw, but his offseason workout regiment and the improving strength and power are reason enough to start him in Charleston in my opinion. There is a good chance he will be there by season’s end.
The Yankees are being cautious with another young, immensely talented outfielder named Ravel Santana. Ravel had a quadruple slash of .297/.361/.568/.929 in the GCL last season, hitting 9 HR and stealing 10 bases in just 41 games. He is the best combination of speed and power in the entire system, and he’s a superb defender. His most impressive skill is his arm. Many scouts have noted that the ball comes out of his hand like it’s being shot out of a cannon. He’s a prime candidate to become a 5-tool player.
The main question with Ravel Santana now is the “gruesome” lower leg injury he suffered last season. It was speculated that he wouldn’t return until midway through the 2012 season. They were correct, but only because he is going to extended Spring Training. He is not currently on the rehab list, and word out of camp is that he is running very well. He has already participated in a few games. The Yankees are probably right to be careful, as it would be a shame to see him re-injure the leg or suffer another injury because he’s overcompensating. He’ll be 20 to start the season, so he’s still on track. He’s 6-foot-2 with room to fill out, and will develop even more power as he bulks up.
There were a few other players competing for a starting job in Charleston, including Taylor Morton, Daniel Camarena, and Rafael DePaula. Brett Gerritse also had a case for a relief slot in Low-A. For various reasons, they all ended up in extended Spring Training. All could see time in Charleston by the end of the season depending on their performance. One of the names I was surprised to see on the rehab list was Matt Tracy. Apparently he pulled a muscle in his leg. He’ll be in Charleston for sure when he’s ready.
There are 12 starting pitchers in extended Spring Training. There are 10 rotation spots between the GCL and Short Season-A. Obviously that math doesn’t add up, so some of these starters are going to have to be in Charleston by the time the short season leagues begin. This is unlikely to be a problem, since any number of scenarios could lead to a vacancy in that starting rotation rather quickly. There could be call-ups, injuries, ineffectiveness, moves to the bullpen, etc. Being sent to extended Spring Training is not the worse thing in the world for most of these players. It will give them time to work on things before starting the season, and most of them are young enough where full season ball is not a huge priority yet.
CHARLESTON, SC-- With Opening Day less than a week away, the New York Yankees have revealed the men who will be in Charleston RiverDogs uniforms at Joseph P. Riley Jr., Park on April 5 when Charleston takes on the Rome Braves to open their season.
The team, which contains nine of the Yankees' top 20 prospects according to MLB.com, is headlined by the organization's last two top draft picks, Cito Culver and Dante Bichette Jr., as well as Mason Williams, the top player in the New York-Penn League last season. Opening Day will also see the return of seven former RiverDogs, including highly-touted catcher Gary Sanchez, as first year manager Carlos Mendoza looks to guide his young squad to the club's first postseason appearance since 2005.
Sanchez (the Yankees No. 3 prospect, MLB.com) will look to continue the success that he had in 2011 when he led the RiverDogs with 17 home runs and drove in 52 runs. His powerful stroke will once again make the Dominican native a force in the Charleston lineup and will certainly be bolstered by newcomers like Williams.
Last season, Williams (Yankees No. 4 prospect, MLB.com) took the NY-Penn League by storm, as he hit .349, led the team with 42 runs scored, stole 28 bases and garnered nearly every honor that the league had to offer, including being named the Topps NY-Penn League player of the year. America also named Williams the "Fastest Baserunner," "Best Athlete" and the "Best Defensive Outfielder" in the organization.
Culver (Yankees No. 9 prospect, MLB.com) was the Yankees' first round draft pick in 2010 and spent last season with the Staten Island Yankees. A switch-hitter, Culver hit .250 over the course of the season, scored 40 runs, stole 10 bases without being caught and continued to show off the defensive ability at shortstop that has wowed observers. So impressive is Culver on defense that Baseball America named him as having the best infield arm and as being the organization's best defensive infielder. Joining Culver on the left side of the infield is the Yankees first draft selection in 2011 is Bichette Jr, a third baseman. After less than one full season in the organization, Bichette is ranked as the Yankees' No. 8 prospect (MLB.com). he hit .342 with 23 extra base hits in 52 games in rookie ball. The son of former big leaguer Dante Bichette Sr., Junior will combine with Culver to give Charleston a left side that will be impressive.
Playing opposite Culver and Bichette on the infield will be two other solid prospects. At second base will be Angelo Gumbs, ranked as the Yankees No. 17 prospect (MLB.com). Gumbs was the Yankees No. 2 draft pick in 2010 and the Torrance, Calif. native comes to Charleston with the reputation of being a very confident, talented and hard-working player. Gumbs batted .264 last season with Staten Island and showed a solid glove at second base while displaying excellent bat speed.
At first base, the RiverDogs appear set to platoon as they have two talented players, including Tyler Austin( Yankees No. 15 prospect, MLB.com), a 13th round draft pick in 2010 and a Georgia native who could be one of the South Atlantic League's top sluggers in 2012. Between the Gulf Coast League and SI last season, Austin batted .354 with a .579 slugging percentage, 18 doubles, six home runs, 36 RBIs and 18 thefts without being caught. The most impressive game of his season was a 6-for-6 performance against Lowell where he hit a homer, three doubles and two singles. Austin, who can also play third base and the outfield, will most likely be sharing first base duties with Reymond Nunez, who hit .272 last season with 32 RBIs for SI and will make the daily first base decision difficult for Carlos Mendoza this season.
Also sharing time at the infield spots will be returning player Anderson Feliz, a switch-hitter who led the team with 27 doubles and stole 16 bases. Utility man and 25th round pick Casey Stevenson joins the squad after putting up a .272 batting average and a .374 OBP last season in SI.
Flanking Williams in the outfield will be lefty Ben Gamel and righty Kelvin de Leon. Gamel's stock in the organization rose after a stellar 2011 that saw him hit .289 with a .373 OBP. Gamel also finished second on the team in doubles with 19 and his seven steals showed him to be an all-around player. De Leon returns to Charleston after spending all of 2011 with the RiverDogs when he led the team in RBIs with 60 and his 14 homers were good for second on the squad.
Sharing catching duties with Sanchez will be returning RiverDog Francisco Arcia and Nick McCoy, who spent the last two seasons with SI. Arcia brings a reputation as a stellar backstop and a clubhouse leader. He also has a solid bat, which he showcased in 2010 and 2011, when he hit a combined .328 over stints in Charleston the last two seasons. McCoy is a native of San Diego who is a solid receiver behind the plate and has a good arm.
The pitching staff will include a mixture of former RiverDogs and newcomers including 19-year old Jose Campos, who was acquired in an off-season trade with the Seattle Mariners. Campos (Yankees No. 5 prospect, MLB.com) struck out 85 in 81.1 innings while walking just 13 last year and posted a 2.32 ERA. Joining him in the rotation is Reidsville, North Carolina product Bryan Mitchell. Mitchell (Yankees No. 20 prospect, MLB.com) spent 2011 baffling hitters, striking out 59 in 61.2 innings in SI.
Also in the rotation will be Will Oliver, who led all starters in Staten Island with 5 wins last season and former RiverDog Wilton Rodriguez. Pitchers Scottie Allen and Pedro Guerra will also be available to either start or come out of the bullpen.
The RiverDogs' 'pen will be crowded with perspective arms, led by Caleb Cotham, Ben Paullus and Philip Wetherell, all three of whom finished last season in Staten Island. Cotham pitched to a 1.71 ERA and struck out 29 in 21 innings, Wetherell went 4-2 with a 2.40 ERA and 41 Ks in 30 IP, and Paullus struck out 41 in 30.1 innings of work.
Also providing support out of the bullpen will be Mariel Checo, who posted a 2.00 ERA in the Gulf Coast League last season, Fred Lewis, who tied for team lead in SI last season, former Marlins prospect Dan Mahoney, and another veteran of Staten Island, Zachary Varce.
The RiverDogs begin the 2012 season on Thursday, April 5-a Budweiser Thirsty Thursday- with a seven-game homestand that features the Rome Braves and the Augusta GreenJackets. Tickets for may be purchased at the Riley Park Box Office, (843) 577-DOGS (3647) or on-line at www.riverdogs.com.
The official 2012 Trenton Thunder Opening Day roster has finally been released…to view the official document, click here.
But to save yourself some time…
Cory Arbiso, Preston Claiborne, Ryan Flannery, Shaeffer Hall, Craig Heyer, Lee Hyde, Brett Marshall, Kelvin Perez, Ryan Pope, Josh Romanski, Graham Stoneburner, Chase Whitley
THUNDER THOUGHTS: The rotation will be Hall, Stoneburner, Marshall, Romanski and most likely Heyer. A far cry from having studs like Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos in there, but a solid group none the less. For me, the name to watch in this group is Marshall, who is coming off a very solid season in High-A Tampa and is the biggest prospect the Thunder will have on their roster, at least to start the year.
Lee Hyde was the name that stood out immediately in the bullpen, mainly because his name wasn’t familiar to me at all. Turns out he was in the Nationals system last year and was in Triple-A all season. The only lefty in the bullpen, he’ll be a little more important than you may think. The closer candidates, in my mind, are Flannery, Pope and Whitley. Flannery, who struggled in a brief call-up to Trenton last season, had 19 saves last season with Tampa. Pope is back for a fourth season in Trenton, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him in a role that would get him back to Triple-A the quickest. And Whitley closed in Staten Island two years ago and probably has the stuff best suited for that role.
Mitch Abeita, Jeff Farnham, Jose Gil
THUNDER THOUGHTS: Yikes. For all the catching depth the Yankees organization truly has, you sure aren’t seeing it here. But you know what, it wouldn’t shock me if Gil put together a really nice year. He had stretches last season where he was truly impressive, but he was never really the guy. It’s hard to get in a rhythm like that, and with some more regular playing time, I’d be curious to see what he can do. Abeita will likely be the backup, while Farnham plays the Ryan Baker/Eladio Rodriguez/Kevin Nelson/J.T. LaFountain role. In reality, everyone here is a stopgap until the bigger prospects are deemed ready.
David Adams, Walter Ibarra, Rob Lyerly, Addison Maruszak, Yadil Mujica, Ronnier Mustelier, Jose Pirela
THUNDER THOUGHTS: Mustelier has me interested. He’s the only one of these guys I haven’t seen before (bet you forgot Ibarra was with the Thunder way back in 2008) and he must have the eye of someone in the organization to have been assigned to the Arizona Fall League this off-season. Most of the attention amongst this group, however, will likely be focused on Adams. The obvious storyline is if he can stay healthy, because that’s pretty obviously been a big problem for the past season and a half.
Abe Almonte, Zoilo Almonte, Dan Brewer, Cody Johnson, Melky Mesa
THUNDER THOUGHTS: To me, if you’re buying a ticket to see this club, the guy you’d want to see the most is Zoilo Almonte. Almonte had a strong spring after a breakout season in 2011 — I still wasn’t as impressed as most, mind you — but he’s a guy the organization is truly high on and may very well truly be the best prospect on this roster. Mesa has the tools, but only time will tell if he can rebound from a rough year, and you have to wonder how patient the Yankees will be with Johnson, who obviously can hit the ball a country mile but strikes out way, way too much.
When the minor league season starts this year our article every night, “Minor Night Cap” will of course show the wins and loses of each level of the Yankee system. We will also show you stats of the games as usual but this year we are going to do something new where we will also highlight a pitcher and a hitter from each level. Below are the ones we have selected. In doing this we hope it helps you follow some players you might have not followed during the season. The blurbs about each player came from our Top 40 Prospects which our writer Fishjam put together earlier this year.
And away we go….
AAA – Empire State Yankees
(They are only using this name for this season while they are on the road all year due to ballpark renovations)
Hitter – Austin Romine (most likely will start off the season on the DL) His defense behind the plate is MLB-ready now. His bat isn’t special but will be good enough for him to have a long career as a starting catcher in the bigs.
Pitcher – Dellin Betances – This is a big year for Betances. At 24, he needs to have a good year in AAA to prove he can pitch in a MLB rotation. Has plus, swing-and-miss stuff but most improve his control to cut down his pitch counts.
AA – Trenton Thunder
Hitter – Zolio Almonte – Solid all-around skills. Good defense, speed and power that has improved the last 2 years. Yanks added the switch-hitter to their 40-man to protect him from Rule 5 draft and he could be a candidate to make the team in 2013.
Pitcher – Brett Marshall - Now fully recovered from his 2009 Tommy John Surgery, he threw career high 140 IP with 3.24 FIP. Has good low 90s sinker and makings of a plus slider. Has flashed mid 90s velocity at times and will be interesting how he does in AA this year.
High A – Tampa Yankees
Hitter – J.R. Murphy - Improved his game offensively & defensively before ending season early with leg injury. Rips line drives to all fields and scouts now believe he has the ability to remain as a catcher while also showing the athleticism to play 3B and OF. Could become a very versatile asset in the Majors.
Pitcher -Nik Turley - 6’7″ lefty reminds me a litle of Andy Pettitte. Took a step forward with 2.51 ERA and 8.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 82 IP in Charleston til a broken hand ended his season after being promoted to Tampa.
Low A – Charleston River Dogs
Hitter – Dante Bichette, Jr. – Drafted for his plus power, he’s shown better defense than was thought. He’s really impressed the organization with his intangibles & makeup – namely his work ethic, advanced approach, knowledge of the game & leadership. Baseball America named him top prospect in Gulf Coast League and VP of baseball operations Mark Newman calls him “a special player and person.”
Pitcher – Bryan Mitchell – Plus stuff but still very raw. Put things together by end of year and shows strikeout (8.6 K/9) and ground-ball stuff (2.19 GO/AO rate)
Via Chad Jennings, the Yankees have released Triple-A masher Jorge Vazquez. They prefer the recently signed Steve Pearce at first base for their top minor league affiliate. Of course, JoVa’s days in the organization were numbered after word got out that he was fed up with being stuck in Triple-A and wanted to play in the big leagues. That just wasn’t going to happen with the Yankees.
His talent is legitimate. The fastball really is touching the high 90s, power curve, good body, good mechanics, he's just had an extremely atypical developmental path because of the suspension and visa issue. I don't stick my neck out much on the international amateur guys, but we did with Carlos Martinez at No. 3 for the Cardinals and Miguel Sano at No. 3 for the Twins in the 2011 Prospect Handbook, and I think DePaula is that type of player. I don't like running up the 16-year-old signings much because there's still so much projection involved, but DePaula is 21 and has now stuff.
WWJD broke the initial news of Rafael DePaula joining the Yankees a few weeks back, and I stumbled across this tidbit on him while mining my usual favorite spots on the web. This comes from today's Baseball America 'Ask BA' chat featuring Jim Callis, with the credit on the DePaula report going to fellow Callis' fellow BA writer Ben Badler:
In June 2010, BA assistant editor Ben Badler reported that DePaula had presented a new name (Jose Rafael DePaula) and birthdate (March 24, 1991, making him a year older than he originally stated). That November, he agreed to a $500,000 bonus from the Yankees, contingent upon him receiving a visa to enter the United States. That process took 16 months, during which he worked out at the Yankees' academy in the Dominican Republic.
More after the jump (including video!!!)...
Ben is our go-to guy on international affairs, and he says he'd grade DePaula as a 60/Extreme. On our Yankees Top 10 Prospects list, that would place DePaula in the midst of catcher Austin Romine (50/Low at No. 8), catcher/third baseman J.R. Murphy (55/High at No. 9) and outfielder Slade Heathcott (60/Extreme at No. 10). I'd err on the side of upside and put DePaula ahead of all of them.
Here are some more thoughts from Ben on DePaula:
His talent is legitimate. The fastball really is touching the high 90s, power curve, good body, good mechanics, he's just had an extremely atypical developmental path because of the suspension and visa issue. I don't stick my neck out much on the international amateur guys, but we did with Carlos Martinez at No. 3 for the Cardinals in 2011 and Miguel Sano at No. 4 for the Twins in 2010, and I think DePaula is that type of player. I don't like running up the 16-year-old signings much because there's still so much projection involved, but DePaula is 21 and has now stuff.
The thing that gets me most excited about DePaula is the talent comparison to Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez, who flew way under the radar leading up to the 2011 season before bursting on to the scene. Martinez has a similarly electric arsenal, and also got a late start in the professional ranks due to name and visa issues. He now ranks within the Top 50 of most industry top prospect lists, and currently sits as the #27 ranked prospect in baseball according to Baseball America.
Some recent video has surfaced of DePaula's first simulated appearance in the United States, and gives you a glimpse of the kind of stuff he possesses on the mound.
You can find additional footage of hitters he faced from the same simulated session at the links provided below:
I understand all international signings are lottery tickets that carry significant risk, and that DePaula is very raw and will need a ton of refinement before he ever reaches the majors. He'll need to prove his stuff can get professional hitters out, and that he has the body to withstand a starter's workload every fifth day. Despite it all though, I can't help but be extremely excited about what the future holds for this young righty.
He has the build and raw stuff to be an ace caliber pitching prospect, and those guys don't grow on trees. 2012 will be an important year for him, but if all goes well, he could find himself on the fast track to the majors with the hope of arriving in the next two to three years. It isn't crazy to think DePaula will be battling it out with Jose Campos to be the Yankees top pitching prospect heading into the 2013 season (assuming Banuelos and Betances graduate in 2012- which we certainly can't predict at this point).