Prospect Report: New York Yankees

As I mentioned yesterday, I had an opportunity to watch a few games of the double-A Eastern League playoff series between the Akron Aeros (Indians) and Trenton Thunder (Yankees). The series featured some interesting Grade B and C prospects who could possibly see time in the major leagues in the not-too-distant future.

The notes below come from a small-sample size observation so they should be taken with a grain of salt but it’s a great starting point to analyze these prospects, and this is part of my regular off-season practice with prospect ranking season just around the corner.

You can read my previous thoughts on the Indians prospects here, and the Yankees players are detailed below. There are a few more interesting prospects on the Trenton squad than there were on the Akron team.

The Hitters
Zoilo Almonte, OF: Almonte, 23, looked a little rough on defense. He overran a ball in right field, although it may have been more over-aggressiveness rather than lack of concentration or ability. I also wasn’t enthralled with his base running and his speed looked averge at best. He’s quite aggressive at the plate and took some huge cuts on balls out of the strike zone, often low. He did not appear to identify breaking balls very effectively. When he does make contact, though, he has pop. Almonte showed opposite-field power with a home run and it was clear that he doesn’t have to pull the ball to hit it out. Even after going deep, the young oufielder had an impressive at-bat with the bases loaded by keeping it simple and not trying to do too much. He took a pitch back up the middle for a two-run single against a left-handed pitcher; if he can take this approach on a more consistent basis he could have a lot more success at the plate and trim his poor walk and K rates. A switch-hitter, he looked much better as a left-handed batter because his swing was not as smooth and natural looking from the right side.

David Adams, 3B/2B: Adams played both second and third base in 2012 but he was at the hot corner in this game. He showed decent range, solid feet and good arm strength – although some of his throws were a little off the mark. Adams, 25, doesn’t have the offensive profile that teams typically look for in a third baseman. He has solid gap power but his home run totals will probably top out in the 10-12 range with full-time at-bats.

Ramon Flores, OF: Just 20 years old, Flores spent the majority of 2012 in high-A ball but moved up to double-A Trenton for one game at the end of the year and also played regularly during the playoffs. During his first at-bat in this game Flores showed impressive opposite-field gap power with a double to left field. In this second at-bat the left-handed hitter had a signle against a left-handed pitcher. His third at-bat, again against a lefty, resulted in a walk. He’s a patient hitter who has a solid idea of what he’s doing at the plate despite his youth. In my limited look, Flores showed the ability to hit both right- and left-handed pitching but showed more power against right-handed pitching. I didn’t get enough of a look at his defense to have a first-hand opinion.

J.R. Murphy, C: Murphy is an offensive-minded catcher who has made strides in his defense game since turning pro back in 2009. The 21-year-old hitter didn’t do a great job of blocking balls and allowed a run to score when the ball got away from him with the bases loaded. He was also slow to react to a bunt out in front of the plate. Murphy did a so-so job of throwing – narrowly nabbing a runner trying to steal third base, thanks to a favorable call by the umpire. At the plate, he showed a solid stance and gets himself in a good position to attack the ball and follows through the ball well. Unfortunately, it’s his approach that does him in; he’s overly aggressive and swung at a lot of poor pitches, including a letter-high fastball that resulted in a weak fly ball. Later in the game he caught up to a fastball (with good velocity) and hit a double off the wall, just missing a home run.

Rob Segedin, IF: Segedin was the designated hitter in this game so I did not get an opportunity to see him in the field. At the plate he showed a high leg kick that, at times, threw off his timing. He also struggled with breaking balls. He didn’t do much to impress at the plate, and I ended up focusing more on the pitcher than Segedin in subsequent at-bats.

The Pitchers
Tom Kahnle, RHP: A hard thrower, Kahnle looked terrible in this game, walking all three batters that he faced. He was dropping his elbow and getting under the ball, which caused a lot of high fastballs. His slider wasn’t overly impressive in this game. A 2010 fifth round draft pick, the right-hander spent almost the entire year in high-A ball before getting promoted for the playoffs so he deserves a mulligan.

Mark Montgomery, RHP: The most higly-ranked prospect in this game for the Yankees squad, Montgomery pitch an inning and was fairly impressive. He showed a low, almost three-quarter, arm slot and had a bit of a short arm action. He repeated his arm slot well with both his fastball and slider and the heater exploded into the catcher’s mitt. He showed a nasty breaking ball with a tight break. I’m not sure if I could 100% guarantee future closer potential for this former 11th round draft pick but he has a shot at being a successful high-leverage reliever – especially if he can command the lower half of the strike zone a bit better.

Mikey O’Brien, RHP: O’Brien, 22, started the game but was not overly impressive. He pitched just two-plus innings before getting yanked from the game. He throws with a bit of a short-arm motion and cuts off his extension/follow through, hampering his command. His delivery is stiff and he’s an under-sized right-handed pitcher. O’Brien lacks an out pitch, which limits his effectiveness as a starter. His curveball was just so-so and hitters didn’t have too much trouble making solid contact. His changeup was OK but far from dominant. He struggled to command the inside half of the plate against right-handed batters. His control is definitely better than his command and he was often around the plate. Batters willing to go the other way could have a lot of success against O’Brien. He was a ninth round draft pick out of a Virginia high school in 2008

Branden Pinder, RHP: Pinder struggled a bit with repeating his arm slot, which was low three-quarters. He pitched with some effort to his delivery so he may always struggle with his control and command but he’s the type of reliever that has ice in his veins. He came into the game with the bases loaded and none out but looked unfazed. He induced a pop up and struck out two batters. No runs scored against Pinder. Like Kahnle, Pinder was promoted from Tampa for the playoffs. He could end up being a steal for the Yankees as a former 16th round draft pick (2011) but his ceiling is probably middle reliever.

Graham Stoneburner, RHP: Stoneburner was the key to this game, for me. The 25-year-old former Clemson hurler has battled injuries throughout his career but is an interesting player because he’ll have to be added to the Yankees 40-man roster this fall if they hope to protect him from the Rule 5 draft… and I would strongly suggest that they do just that. He throws with a low three-quarter arm slot and showed excellent arm side run on his fastball. A starter for most of his career, Stoneburner came into this game in relief and was throwing strikes. He was very aggressive and pitched inside without fear, tying up right-handed hitters. He did a solid job of working down in the zone and throwing strikes at the knees. Along with his solid fastball, Stoneburner showed a tight breaking ball that he also was not afraid to throw inside to right-handed batters. However, the hurler lacked a reliable weapon against left-handed hitters. He showed good athleticism and was quick off the mound. If Stoneburner, who had very modest regular season numbers and the aforementioned chequered medical history, is left unprotected during the Rule 5 draft in December, I would highly recommend that a club take a flyer on him as a reliever capable of providing one or two innings of relief at a time.With some experience, I could see him developing into a reliable eighth-inning guy.

Nik Turley, LHP: I was interested to see Turley pitch because I’ve heard some good things about him, but I came away a little disappointed. He’s a big, strong-bodied pitcher standing 6’5” and weighing about 230 lbs. The southpaw – with a high three-quarter arm slot – had a stiff delivery, though, and wasn’t staying over the rubber long enough. He was falling forward too soon causing his arm to drag a bit and it looked like he was putting significant strain on his shoulder. He could definitely stand to use his lower half more to help generate power and lessen the reliance on his upper body. He displays OK control but his command was off. Turley showed an average (or slightly below) fastball but a solid curveball – some of which were very good. Batters appeared to be getting a late look at his pitches, possibly due to some deception in his delivery. He looks like the kind of pitcher that may baffle hitters the first time through the lineup but will then struggle the second and/or third time through the order. He showed a very good move to first base that bordered on a balk.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Before the season started, I had heard some David Robertson comps for Mark Montgomery from his high round low bonus signing, nasty breaking ball and high K rates. Do you think that is a good comparison?