Low-A Notes: Bichette, Williams, Sanchez, Austin

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The Low-A Charleston River Dogs are one of the most prospect-laden teams in the minors, with four of the Yankees’ top seven prospects calling South Carolina a home this season. Keith Law was in attendance for Friday night’s game against West Virginia and shared his observations in a blog post yesterday. Here are a few highlights…

  • Dante Bichette Jr. did not play in the game but he did take batting practice. Law said he “has cleaned [his swing] up significantly since signing” and is better equipped to use the entire field. “He’s much more balanced and upright through contact without costing himself any of the hip rotation that helps him generate power,” he wrote.
  • Mason Williams appears to be selling out for power and didn’t show the same disciplined approach as he has in the past. He remains a top-flight defensive center fielder and Law believes there “will be plenty of power there when his body matures.”
  • Gary Sanchez‘s bat remains ridiculous, with power to all fields despite an exaggerated leg kick. His defense was a “pleasant surprise, as he’s substantially improved over where he was last year in both receiving and throwing.”
  • Mike Newman of FanGraphs got a look at Sanchez earlier this week and did not agree with Law’s assessment of his defense, for what it’s worth. The video above comes from Newman’s article, which you should read.
  • Tyler Austin has a swing that is “effortless [and] balanced throughout with a strong finish for line-drive power.” Law said he was unable to make adjustments to a series of changeups in the dirt and fastballs inside, however.
  • Kelvin DeLeon is the same guy he’s always been. He hits the ball a mile when he connects but can also swing and miss with the best of ’em. I saw DeLeon a few times back in his Staten Island Yankees days, the kid hadn’t met a pitch he didn’t think he could hit.

Charleston is the Yankees’ most interesting minor league affiliate this season and it’s not particularly close. The Triple-A pitchers are closer to helping the big league team, but most of the prospect star power — especially position players — is down in Low-A. They won’t all work out, that’s why it’s important to have so many of ’em.

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  • crawdaddie

    I talked to a couple of people that have seen Sanchez this season and they agree with Law’s evaluation of Sanchez and that Newman’s is offbase.

    • Countryclub

      I’m not saying you or Law are wrong. But he looked very uncomfortable in that video. A lot of those pitches seemed to eat him up. he could of just been having a bad night.

      • RetroRob

        I think the difference from the video and Law’s comments sum up Sanchez. The video is from Goldstein’s visit in the past week, while Klaw saw Sanchez on Friday when he nailed four base runners and didn’t have a passed ball. The kid is not consistent from game to game behind the plate, which shows in the two reviews, but it sounds like he’s made strong progress from last season.

        • RetroRob

          …meant Newman’s visit, not Goldstein.

    • Larch

      I’m always surprised at how much can be gleaned from only one game. Young players often have higher variances because they are still growing. Good reports are better than bad reports, but I wouldn’t pay too much attention until AA.

      • Samuel

        Although I am not a big Keith Law fan, it is apparent form his various comments that he hears quite a bit of comments from scouts before he even sees a guy.

        So if he sees what the various scouts he talks with have said, it affirms what they said. So Law likely heard from a few guys that Sanchez had improved and when he saw that the other night, he said it too.

        He will also follow up with those same scouts late in the season.

        Law is not a guy who will say anything but what he sees with his own eyes or will let you know what other scouts WHO HE TRUSTS have said.

        Law really doesn’t work on how many passed balls a catcher has but rather how the kid receives the ball. You can have no passed balls and still receive the ball poorly.

    • http://scoutingthesally.com Mike Newman

      Axisa, thanks for sharing this with your audience. It’s much appreciated.

      As for Newman vs. Law on Sanchez, I wanted to point out Law is generally more bullish on catcher defense when we have scouted the same guys previously. Giants Tommy Joseph is an example of that.

      I find the “number of looks” comments are made when a guy disagrees, rather than agrees with the masses. Law and I both had only one look (I cannot help that I traveled to Rome 3x and Sanchez was only in the lineup once).

  • jjyank

    Sure is an exciting team. I know we’re not supposed to hug our prospects too much, especially when they’re so far away, but that Low A team has mouthwatering potential.

    Great to hear about Sanchez’s defense improving. It doesn’t seem like his bat is a question mark, so if he can stick at C, he’s going to be a fun guy to follow.

  • Paul VuvuZuvella

    Baseball America also has an article on Charleston team in latest issue and DB Jr. is on the cover.

  • Typical MIT Nerd

    Are the Yanks making a mistake by moving Austin to the OF so young? Given the age in their infield, and with nothing above Low-A, it seems they need as much flexibility as possible.

    • Paul VuvuZuvella

      What I’ve read is he just wasn’t a very good third baseman. They believe his above average speed and arm will play very well as a RF.

    • RetroRob

      Not sure they had much choice with both Bichette and Austin on the same team. Seems like they believe Bichette has a better chance to stick there longer term.

    • Samuel

      Austin is a good enough athlete to play first base, third base and outfield, (he was also drafted as a catcher) but with Swisher and Granderson possibly leaving after this year and next, the Yankees need more top hitting OF prospects.

      Right now they have zero a the two highest levels, as I dont consider Zoilo Almonte all that good.

      Moving Austin to OF allow him to learn as he moves up. He can always move back to third base if needed.

  • Jamey

    I’ve read a lot of reviews on Sanchez this year & the consensus seems to be his defense has improved. Also, it just seems like in the face of that Newman is like “Well I watched him catch this one game so here’s THE opinion on his catching.” You can see the framing issue he mentioned though, it would be a good idea to have Tony Pena spend some time working with the kid while The Yankees still have his services. I’ve been saying this since he joined The Yankees & he’s still around but despite that Pena is still a guy who could be managing another MLB team every offseason. He’s very respected & did actually do well in Kansas City. When The Yankees added him I thought it was one of the luckiest gets ever in regards to coaches.

  • Countryclub

    Law’s comments on Williams patience is what I’ve been afraid of. When a hitter isn’t walking or striking out, it usually means he’s not allowing himself to get into deep counts. He’s shown patience in the past, so hopefully it’s just a blip on the radar.

    • DM

      I don’t mind successful aggression in the lower minors. His game will be contact hitting and speed. His line screams confidence in hitting the ball to me. I don’t think that’s bad thing at that level. Being hard to strike out is a good thing.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Agreed, though it’s way too early to worry all that much. If he was striking out a ton and not making any contact, it would be a bigger concern. He’s getting the bat on the ball and making pretty good contact just based on his ISO.

    • Samuel

      Swing the freakin bat. Get hits, get on base and drive in runs.

      If Williams is swinging at good hittable pitches, why the hell is it a problem? Why take a fastball down the middle just for the sake of “working the count?”

      That is just plain stupid.

      • Countryclub

        I have no problem with guys swinging early in the count as long as they’re swinging at a good pitch. Jeter is a perfect example. But we have no idea if Williams is swinging at good pitches or if he’s swinging at anything that’s near the plate.

        It appears that Williams has regressed a bit in the patience department. All that means is that it’s worth monitoring.

  • Dan

    The way Sanchez leaves his throwing hand so exposed while catching seem fairly dangerous

    • http://riveraveblues.com Rich

      Good observation–I was just going to say the same thing!! Get that hand out of the way of foul tips.

    • bpdelia

      This is something you ser more and more nowadaus. With the constant timing of release times I think kids are risking their health for an extra half second of stop watch time

    • G

      Was thinking the exact same thing.

  • JobaWockeeZ

    If Sanchez could keep up defense then he’s Montero with a glove. I don’t know how Law doesn’t think that makes him the best prospect in the system.

    I mean I really like Mason but he’s got quite a few things to work on evidently.

    • Rod

      Most scouts don’t think Sanchez has Montero’s hit tool so it’s not an ideal comparison. Sanchez is generally acknowledged to have equal or better power than Montero but less contact ability.

      • boogie down

        If Montero is said to have the ability to hit .300 every year, do scouts feel Sanchez can hit .275 every year?

        • YankeeGrunt

          Sanchez’s K rate was sky-high, 93/301 ABs. It was 1/4 in 2010 and it’s about 1/4 now (SSS this year). Montero’s worst was 98/420 (in his “bored” AAA year) so somewhat better than 1/4. If Sanchez can limit the K’s his bat can be special, but if not he’s going to be a guy with power and a ton of strikeouts. BA may be similar or somewhat lower but Montero just seems to be a better contact hitter.

  • Steve (different one)

    Was taking a historic tour of Charleston a while back and the guide mentioned that a “river dog” is a rat…so there’s that.

  • RetroRob

    Klaw pretty much gave solid reviews to all the Yankees top prospects, with the exception of DeLeon. I think copyright laws restrict how much can be reproduced. I did find it interesting that Culver wasn’t even mentioned in an article reviewing the Yankees top Charleston prospects.

    Two prospects not mentioned that received high praise: The RiverDogs duck and alligator sausages.

    • Plank

      Is DeLeon considered a prospect? I thought he was just an org guy.

      • http://none Bernard

        If I remember correctly, the Yankees signed him for just over a $1 million as a free agent out of the D. R. – They said he had power and that his tools were very raw. So far he has not progressed as expected. And there’s a big hole in his bat.

        • Plank

          A 21 year old COF with underwhelming numbers in his second go around in low A ball doesn’t scream prospect to me, regardless of what the Yankees thought 4 years ago.