• Yankees Among Baseball America’s Top 20 Prospects In International League

    Posted by on October 12th, 2010 · Comments (8)

    Finally, Baseball America has released their final group of top-20 prospects for the affiliated minor leagues.  In this edition, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees placed three members of their club on the exclusive list.

    4. Jesus Montero, C, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees
    Bats/Throws: R/R
    Height/Weight: 6’4″/225
    Age: 20
    Signed: Venezuela ’06
    2010 Stats: 453 AB, 131 H, 58 XBH, 46 BB, 91 SO, .289/.353/.517

    In a league full of catching prospects, Montero was the IL’s postseason all-star at the position. After an uncharacteristically slow start, he batted .351 with 14 homers in 44 games in the second half. He was the youngest regular in the league.

    In terms of hitting for average and power, Montero may have the highest ceiling in the minor leagues. He has tremendous strength and a knack for barreling balls when he gets in rhythm, as he did in the second half. He showed more patience at the plate in 2010 than he had in the past.

    Scouts and managers still aren’t sold that Montero can be a regular catcher, however. He allowed a league high 15 passed balls and 99 steals while throwing out 23 percent of basestealers. He has maintained his athleticism and agility as he has gotten older, but he’s still below-average in both departments.

    9. Ivan Nova, RHP, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees
    Bats/Throws: R/R
    Height/Weight: 6’4″/210
    Age: 23
    Signed: Dominican Republic ’05
    2010 Stats: 145 IP, 2.86 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 115 SO, .250 BAA

    Two years ago, New York left Nova off its 40-man roster and temporarily lost him to San Diego in the Rule 5 draft. But he didn’t stick with the Padres, and their loss is the Yankees’ gain. He went 10-1, 2.19 after May, prompting an August promotion to the Bronx.

    “He throws nice and easy, (topping out at) 95-96,” Toledo manager Larry Parrish said, “with a power curveball and a nice little slider and even a decent changeup.”

    Even with Nova’s fastball velocity increasing to a steady 92-94 mph, his fastball command and secondary pitches aren’t consistent enough for him to be a true frontline starter. He can rush his delivery and lose his feel for the strike zone, but he’s more hittable when he falls behind in the count.

    13. Eduardo Nunez, 3B/SS, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees
    Bats/Throws: R/R
    Height/Weight: 6’0″/155
    Age: 23
    Signed: Dominican Republic ’04
    2010 Stats: 464 AB, 134 H, 32 XBH, 32 BB, 60 SO, .289/.340/.381

    After an erratic track record in the lower minors, Nunez put together his second fine season in a row at higher levels. Managers rated him the best defensive shortstop and infield arm in the IL, and he made just 10 errors in 101 games at short. He makes difficult plays in the hole and on the run look easy.

    “He’s a very athletic shortstop,” Sarbaugh said. “I saw him last year too and really liked the way he played the game.”

    Derek Jeter becomes a free agent at season’s end, but Nunez is more likely to fill a utility role for the Yankees. He’s a bottom-of-the-order who makes contact but doesn’t draw many walks or hit for much power. He’s an above-average runner and stole 23 bases in 28 attempts.

    Montero’s presence on this list is a no-brainer.  As for Nova and Nunez, there’s definitely some value there — specifically for Nunez in a utility role as Ramiro Pena’s replacement — but the upside is clearly more limited.

    Comments on Yankees Among Baseball America’s Top 20 Prospects In International League

    1. Scout
      October 12th, 2010 | 12:53 pm

      I haven’t seen Montero, but the reports on Nova and Nunez seem spot on.

      Nova will go as far as his command takes him. He has quality stuff, but the ability to master secondary pitches will determine his long-term ceiling. I suspect the Yankees will end up dealing him for something of value because he looks like a viable major league starter.

      Nunez also has promise as a starting major league shortstop, but not for a contending team unless he improves his pitch selection and walk rate. Next year the Yankees will probably have an enlarged role for a utility player. Assuming Jeter re-signs, he’ll need more days off going forward; A-Rod already shows signs of age/injury with the hip problem and will require both rest and days as the DH. Nunez is the best candidate for the utility role in the Bronx, but it would not surprise me to see him traded, too — especially if the Yankees don’t sign Cliff Lee and need another proven starter.

    2. MJ Recanati
      October 12th, 2010 | 1:01 pm

      @ Scout:
      I actually don’t think very highly of Nova. In an extremely small sample size, I saw a guy that couldn’t sustain his stuff a second time through the order and absolutely couldn’t pitch with men on base. There’s room for improvement but Nova doesn’t fit in with the Yankees as a starter or a reliever. He’s trade bait, in my opinion.

    3. Corey Italiano
      October 12th, 2010 | 5:23 pm

      I think that once Nova learns how to throw from the stretch, then he will be a pretty good pitcher. His stuff can be quite filthy.

    4. MJ Recanati
      October 12th, 2010 | 8:48 pm

      Corey Italiano wrote:

      I think that once Nova learns how to throw from the stretch, then he will be a pretty good pitcher. His stuff can be quite filthy.

      Perhaps. But it’s not the Yankees M.O. to wait around for back-end type guys. And Nova isn’t a true #1/#2 so I presume he’ll be traded soon enough.

    5. Evan3457
      October 12th, 2010 | 9:42 pm

      MJ Recanati wrote:
      Perhaps. But it’s not the Yankees M.O. to wait around for back-end type guys. And Nova isn’t a true #1/#2 so I presume he’ll be traded soon enough.

      I would not give up on Nova so fast.

      He throws 95-6, and might get it up higher in a short relief role. If he can gain command of an offspeed pitch, he can be, at the least, an effective setup man.

      And as Corey says, if he can command a 3rd pitch, and learn to locate from the stretch a little better, he can be a good 3rd-4th starter just as he is. And that’s worth $5-10 million a year on the free agent market.

    6. MJ Recanati
      October 13th, 2010 | 7:01 am

      Evan3457 wrote:

      He throws 95-6, and might get it up higher in a short relief role. If he can gain command of an offspeed pitch, he can be, at the least, an effective setup man.

      And as Corey says, if he can command a 3rd pitch, and learn to locate from the stretch a little better, he can be a good 3rd-4th starter just as he is. And that’s worth $5-10 million a year on the free agent market.

      I’m not disputing that, I’m merely saying that I don’t predict he’ll be on the Yankees 12 months from now.

    7. Scout
      October 13th, 2010 | 10:34 am

      Every positive statement on Nova begins with “if”…if he can command his secondary pitches, if he can throw from the stretch. MJ is right about the Yankees M.O.: they won’t invest a lot of time in a guy who seems unlikely to be at least a solid #3 starter for a contending team. And if they see Nova as bullpen material for them, he’s going to return higher value in a deal with a team willing to give him more time to develop. It isn’t as though the Yankees are without other promising pitching prospects.

    8. MJ Recanati
      October 13th, 2010 | 11:33 am

      Scout wrote:

      Every positive statement on Nova begins with “if”…if he can command his secondary pitches, if he can throw from the stretch. MJ is right about the Yankees M.O.: they won’t invest a lot of time in a guy who seems unlikely to be at least a solid #3 starter for a contending team. And if they see Nova as bullpen material for them, he’s going to return higher value in a deal with a team willing to give him more time to develop. It isn’t as though the Yankees are without other promising pitching prospects.

      Agree completely.

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