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
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
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
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.