BREAKOUT PROSPECT OF THE YEAR: '04
The qualifications for this award are that the guy needs to be someone who was not hyped much before this year, but had the type of performance that was impossible to ignore, and as a result made himself into a serious prospect. This was probably the most seriously contested award as many players emerged as potential prospects for the Yankees this year.
There was Erold Andrus, who started the year as an all-or-nothing A- slugger, turned into a slap hitting offensive negative, and then concluded the year hitting for average, hitting for power, getting on base, and just being an all around force. There was Hector Made, who also started out the year on that BC team doing absolutely nothing, but concluded the year on fire and beginning to live up to BA's selection of him as the system's sleeper prospect entering this season. There was Melky Cabrera who began to develop the 5th tool as the year went on and has began earning quite a reputation amongst prospect followers on the internet. In the end, none of these players were chosen. Melky was already too much of a known commodity to me, Made already received BA attention, and Andrus just missed making the cut.
Amongst pitchers there was Eric Abreu, who some of the more avid Yankee minor league followers had already heard of, coming stateside and dominating 3 levels of minor league baseball. There was also Jesse Hoover, leaving a lasting impression on the NYPL in his pro debut and Matt DeSalvo, who quickly earned a name as one of the best pitchers in the FSL and the Yankee system. In the end, none of these guys were chosen, Hoover because of his age, though his performance was still outstanding, DeSalvo because his season was derailed by a back injury, and Abreu for the same reason as Hoover (though that was a much harder decision to make).
So, who IS the winner? Well, for some of you who've been following this blog for some time, this is probably the most obvious award I've given out.
Marcos Vechionacci, 3B, 18, R GCL Yankees/SS Staten Island/A+ Tampa
- R: 131/.336/31.8%/.175/10.9/1:1.6/5/63% (AB/BA/XBH%/IsoP/AB:UiBB/UiBB:K/SB/SB%)
- SS: 72/.292/23.8%/.069/6.6/1:1.2/0/0%
- A+: 4/.250/0.0%/.000/-/-/-/-
So what was it that separated Marcos from all the others in my mind? A huge part of it is that though he is now 18, Marcos was 17 for most of the season and this qualified as his age-17 season. It is difficult to put a value on statistical performance in R ball, but I can find no problems with what Marcos did in the GCL. In addition, the lone fault I could possibly find with his NYPL performance is that there was not much, if any, power and then I remember that the league average IsoP was .113 in a league comprised mainly of college draftees age-21 and above. In addition, though he wasn't given much of a chance to participate at Tampa, it is important to remember that was where his whirlwind year started. The Yankee minor league brass was impressed enough by him to choose him as a fill-in on their A+ team when roster-filler was needed. That speaks volumes, and that is what started my obsession with him.
Outside of his near faultless statistical performance, the other thing that must be considered with Marcos is his physical ability. According to BA, Marcos does not have an outstanding tool, but at the same time, he is not below average in any tool. In addition, what appears to be his best aspect thus far, outstanding plate discipline/patience does not count as a tool. Getting excited about what a player does in a small sample in a R or SS league is foolish. That said, I have a hard time conceiving of a measure in which Marcos does not have the look of an offensive stud.
For those concerned about defense, don't be. Marcos played the majority of his games as a 3B this year, which is why I have that as his listed position, but whenever needed, he slid over to 2B and SS for his teams and did the job there as well.
To put what Marcos did in '04 in his main leagues into some perspective, here are some numbers:
Player A: .301/.364/.473/1:2.2 (AVG/OBP/SLG/UiBB:K)
Player B: .320/.392/.458/1:1.4
Both players played in the same leagues, but Player A played in the lower league for 49 more ABs and Player B played in the higher league for 13 more ABs. Player B has the clear advantage in plate discipline and seems to be a more polished hitter while Player A has a clear power advantage. Both players play the same position though Player B does so much better than A. Lastly, Player B put up those numbers in his age-17 season while A did so in his age-18 season so the power advantage becomes smaller and perhaps even negligible. Player A is Eric Duncan in '03 and B is Vech in '04.
That performance by Duncan was good enough for him to become the organization's number 2 prospect entering '04 (as ranked by both BA and myself), and it will be interesting to see where it leaves Vech entering '05.
One last thing to keep an eye on in regards to Vech is where he begins next year. I had assumed that he would begin '05 at Charleston in the SAL, which would put him a year ahead of most prospects, but based on what BA has been saying, it seems the Yankees are seriously considering placing him at Tampa to begin the year. That is how impressed they are by the advancements he has made and is making at the plate. If he does start at Tampa, I might have to rename this the Vech Blog. And if he starts in the SAL, I will have a hard time not keeping track of his numbers and comparing them to what B.J. Upton and Delmon Young, two of the best prospects in recent memory, did on that same team during '03 and '04 respectively.
YANKEE PROSPECT 1st TEAM: '04
C: Dioner Navarro, 20, AA/AAA
1B: Eric Duncan, 19, A-/A+
2B: Robinson Cano, 21, AA/AAA
3B: Marcos Vechionacci, 18, R/SS/A+
SS: Hector Made, 19, A-
0F: Erold Andrus, 20, A-
OF: Melky Cabrera, 20, A-/A+
OF: Bronson Sardinha, 21, A+/AA
LH: Brad Halsey, 23, AAA
RH: Tyler Clippard, 19, A-
This team was based on performance in age context. There was a minimum of 75 IP for the starters and 225 PAs for the hitters. In addition, I tried to place guys in positions that they spent the majority of their minor league season at with some flexibility when it comes multiple top performers at one position. In those cases, I took the liberty to shift guys to less demanding defensive positions, but never more difficult ones. Overall, this gives a good idea of the positions that the system is lacking in (power-hitting COF, I'm looking at, or more appropriately, for you).
The AFL starts on Tuesday so I will most likely begin updating more frequently on the multitude of respectable prospects the Yankees sent there, i.e. Bronson Sardinha. In addition, I will begin doing the research for the updated top prospect list.
Questions, comments, suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org