- RHP Jose Campos showed “reduced stuff and an arm action that seems destined for further injuries or a role in the bullpen.” He settled at 89-92 with below-average command, pretty much the opposite of what made his such an exciting prospect a year ago. His breaking ball and changeup are still works in progress. “This was far from an ideal look,” said Law, acknowledging Campos missed basically all of last year due to injury, “but what I saw didn’t give me a ton of hope.”
- 3B Dante Bichette Jr. is “a mess on both sides of the ball,” and Law said SS Cito Culver was “running worse than I’ve ever seen from him.” 1B Greg Bird “didn’t seem to be able to pick up anything” at the plate.
- OF Yeicok Calderon has “bat speed and a strong arm, but his hands are all over the place at the plate and the Augusta pitchers blew him up with velocity.”
- LHP Evan Rutckyj sat in the 89-91 range with a “fringy changeup and a slider at 80-82 that might give him a chance in middle relief.”
The great Josh Norris posted a collection of quotes from a scout on various members of this year’s Low-A Charleston roster this afternoon. The scout sung the praises of C Gary Sanchez and OF Mason Williams, but wasn’t a fan of either OF Tyler Austin or SS Cito Culver. It a short but fun read, so make sure you give it a click.
The Yankees made Cito Culver a surprise first round pick in 2010, and the 19-year-old shortstop hasn’t exactly justified their faith in him yet. He does lead the farm system in walks (60), but otherwise he’s hit just .222/.330/.297 (80 wRC+) in 444 plate appearances for Low-A Charleston this season. Over at FanGraphs, Mike Newman provided a scouting report after seeing Cito recently and as you probably suspect, it’s not all that positive. He notes that Culver is solid on defense but can’t really hit, particularly from the left side of the plate.
Newman does make a case for converting the Rochester native into a pitcher — he was 92-93 off the mound in high school — but I’m not sure I’m on board with that. Culver can still play shortstop and there’s value in that, plus he shows plate discipline and a solid approach at the plate. Perhaps some more physical development leads to more production at the plate. Hitter-to-pitcher conversions aren’t the most uncommon thing in the world, even after long layoffs. Another year like this and I’ll probably be singing a different tune. Here are Newman’s scouting reports on Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez, and Angelo Gumbs.
You may have missed them over the holiday weekend, but Josh Norris published a series of short posts with quotes from scouts about various Yankees’ prospects. Among the players covered are system headliners Jesus Montero (“He might be Miguel Cabrera”), Manny Banuelos (“I think he’s the real deal”), Mason Williams (“an above-average major league center field profile”), and Dellin Betances (“he’s going to be a bullpen guy”). Corban Joseph, Angelo Gumbs, Cito Culver, Branden Pinder, and personal fave Bryan Mitchell were covered as well, and Norris also posted an interview with Adam Warren. They’re all quick reads and get RAB’s highest level of recommendation, so check ’em out.
Baseball America’s look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league continued with the Short Season NY-Penn League today, and the Yankees are very well represented. Mason Williams unsurprisingly topped the list, and in the subsciber-only scouting report, they say he “stays through the ball well with a simple lefthanded swing.” His “quick hands generate surprising bat speed,” which should allow for average power down the road. “Williams has plus to plus-plus speed that plays on the bases and in center field, though he’s still refining his basestealing ability and his outfield routes,” they added. “He has a solid-average arm and projects as a plus defender in center fielder.”
Cito Culver, the team’s first round pick last year, placed sixth. “He stood out most with his defense, showing smooth actions, average range and a well above-average arm at shortstop,” said the write-up, which also backed up previous reports that he’s a switch-hitter but better from the right side. Tyler Austin was two spots behind Culver at number eight, and is lauded for his plate discipline and ability to handle offspeed stuff. “He has above-average raw power and is capable of hitting balls out of the park to all fields,” said BA. The move to third base (from behind the plate) has been successful so far, but they note that Austin has to improve his footwork and become more aggressive.
Ranking 14th is Angelo Gumbs, last year’s second rounder. “[An] athletic, high-energy player with electric bat speed and a quality all-around toolset,” Gumbs has the bat speed and strength to hit for good power. A former shortstop and centerfielder, he’s working on learning second base, though some think he’d be better off in the outfield because his strong arm is a waste on the right side of the infield. The fifth and final Yankee farmhand on the list is Branden Pinder, a 16th rounder this year that ranked 19th on the list. “He streamlined his repertoire in a relief role, attacking hitters with a lively 93-94 mph fastball that topped out at 96.” Pinder is also said to have a sharp slider and a long delivery with good deception.
Very nice showing for the Baby Bombers, who won their league title this year. The next top 20 list of interest to the Yankees is the Low-A South Atlantic League, which will be revealed on Wednesday. I’m not sure if Slade Heathcott, Rob Segedin, and J.R. Murphy spend enough time with Charleston to qualify for the list, but Gary Sanchez, Ramon Flores, Nik Turley, and Tommy Kahnle all have a chance to make an appearance.
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo ran around to each camp in Spring Training to speak to all of last year’s first round picks, and today he published his interview with the Yankees’ Cito Culver. The video is a touch over six minutes long but it’s certainly worth watching; the two talk about some changes the Yankees have made to Culver’s stance, his typical day, how he worked out during the bitter Rochester winter, the expectations of being a first rounder, all sorts of stuff. There’s a lot of yes sir’s involved, Cito’s certainly a polite kid. The video is on YouTube but it won’t let you embed it, so you’ll have to click through the link to watch.
I’ve got four questions this week, three of which deal with a current or former Yankees prospect. The other has to do with a guy taking up space in the minors. Remember to send in your questions via the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.
Joe asks: Do you think there is any chance the Yanks keep and develop all of the Killer B’s? I know the odds of all three reaching their ceiling and staying healthy are long, and as you or Joe or Ben said last week don’t fall in love with your prospects, but it be nice to see them all on the big club. What % do you think it will occur?
If you’ve got three pitching prospects of that caliber, my general (and completely amateur) rule of thumb is that one will reach (or at least approach) his ceiling, one will fall short of his ceiling but still be a productive big leaguer, and the third will be a complete bust. The Yankees exceeded that with Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy, turning them into two viable big league starters and a reliever. Look back at the Red Sox five years ago; they got an ace, a reliever, and a bust out of Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, and Craig Hansen.
I’d expect Manny Banuelos to approach his ceiling, Andrew Brackman to fall short of his ceiling but be a useful player, and Dellin Betances to be the complete bust out of the Killer B’s. Nothing personal, it’s just that Dellin’s health record scares me. That said, I fully expect them to trade one of those guys, probably sometime this year. The big league team needs pitching right now, and the Yankees have some high end pitching depth and can afford to move one of those guys.
Of course I’d love to see all three of them stay with the team and flourish in the big leagues, but the odds are so stacked against it. I’d give it less than a 50-50 chance that all three will stay with the Yankees for the next few years, and less than a 5% chance that all three turn into productive players. Prospects will break your heart, the Killer B’s are no different than the hundreds that came before them.
Nicolai asks: If Kei Igawa was blocking somebody from being promoted to Scranton, could the Yankees just send him down to Trenton, Tampa or Charleston?
Yep, absolutely. The Yankees actually sent him all the way down to High-A Tampa for two starts in 2007. Igawa’s not blocking anyone from anything.
A different Joe asks: I was listening to the Yankees game and it was the Tigers radio crew. They claimed A-Jax would be a 15 homer and 40 SB guy this season. I personally don’t see this happening at all. Any thoughts on it?
This year? No way, not in Comerica. Austin Jackson has 17 homers total in his last 1,816 plate appearances dating back to 2007, so I don’t see a sudden spike happening. I could definitely see 15 homers at his peak, maybe even 20, but 2011 is too soon for that. If Jackson did pop double-digit homers this year, that would mean everything went right for him and he even squeezed in an inside-the-parker or three. Of all the projection systems out there, only CAIRO and ZiPS have him hitting more than six homers, and both forecast seven.
I like Jackson and there’s no doubt that he’s an above-average player, but expecting 15 homers out of him this year is a bit much. Even the 40 steals is a bit of a question mark (27 last year), but it’s not as unbelievable as the power numbers. Just for some perspective, only three different players have had a 15-40 season in the last three years, and Carl Crawford was the only one to do it twice.
Anthony asks: What’s the projection for 2010 first rounder Cito Culver as a major leaguer? Does he have the potential to be a solid starter on a high caliber team?
Culver’s long-term value is going to lie mostly in his glovework, which, luckily, is really really good. Is he going to be Derek Jeter? Absolutely not. Is he going to be Cesar Izturis? Eh, maybe. It’s always possible. I think the best case scenario for the Yankees’ 2010 first round pick is an above-average defensive shortstop (probably not Gold Glove caliber though) that hits for average, draws some walks, and steals some bases. Culver doesn’t have much power and doesn’t project to down the road, but he’s switch-hitter with some contact skills, and he did manage to a walk in nearly ten percent of his plate appearances in his pro debut last summer.
If I had to put numbers on it, which I hate doing, I think his offensive ceiling is something like .300/.360/.400, right around a .350 wOBA. Culver also has the speed and skills to steal a healthy amount of bags, maybe even 40+ in his basestealing prime. Stick that at shortstop over 600 plate appearances with say, +4 or +5 run defense, and you’ve got a four win player. Again, that’s not Derek Jeter, but that’s a player good enough to start on a championship team. Of course, Culver has a long, looong way to go to live up to that potential.