Sunday, October 28, 2012

Kiley McDaniel's Yankee Prospect Scouting Reports

Kiley McDaniel has taken his prospect scouting gig from ESPN to FanGraphs, and he's come out firing with a boatload of scouting reports from the instructional leagues on many a Yankee farmhand.  He's been releasing the reports in parts for a little over a week now, and he finally concluded them with Part IV earlier this week.  In case you haven't already, you can check out all four parts of McDaniel's report right here and I strongly suggest that you do.  If you aren't familiar with McDaniel's work, get familiar.  His reports are very detailed and insightful, but presented in a straightforward, easy-to-understand way that leaves you with a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses that McDaniel saw in a player.  Highlights of McDaniel's reports and my personal takes after the jump.

Tyler Austin- McDaniel praised Austin for his ability and willingness to hit the ball the other way, and hit it the other way for power, and also ranked Austin as above-average in all 3 of the categories he uses to rate hitters- tools, bat control, and plate discipline.  McDaniel projected Austin as a .275, 20-25 HR hitter in the Majors, something that would be right up the Yankees' alley.

I was criminally low in my assessment of Austin last year, and have soaked up every bit of information I could find on him this year to be more informed.  Reports on Austin's defense have varied from scout to scout, and McDaniel thinks he could end up at first base, but defense is really a secondary concern when looking at Austin.  He's always been a bat-first prospect, and he proved this year that he's not just a flash in the pan.  He can hit for average, power, hit to all fields, and run the bases a little bit.  A .275 hitter with 25-HR power is a valuable commodity in the Majors, and would be a welcome addition to the Yankee outfield in 2014.

Angelo Gumbs- The 2 things that stood out most to me in McDaniel's report on Gumbs were Gumbs' raw defensive skills at second base and his raw, seemingly unchanging approach at the plate.  Gumbs' greatest strength as a prospect are his tools, and McDaniel took time to point those out.  But if Gumbs isn't able to put some polish on those tools and his hitting approach, McDaniel doesn't see much in his future.

This is more in line with my take on Gumbs, a player who I left completely off The AB4AR Top 30 last year while almost every other Yankee blog had him on their list, some in the top 15.  Tools are all well and good, and you're certainly not advancing very far without them, but it's the ability to improve and adjust mentally that separates the real prospects from the phonies and so far I haven't seen much of that from Gumbs.  He'll be in this year's Top 30, but not anywhere near the top 10.  I also have concerns about his ability to stay healthy.

Dante Bichette, Jr.- Bichette had a really tough year in Low-A, his first experience in a full-season league, after being named the best player in the GCL in 2011.  McDaniel gave props to Bichette's overall hitting ability, but called out a lot of early hand movement in his swing and holes in his approach as problem areas.  McDaniel also isn't as high on Bichette's defensive skills as others, projecting him as a below-average third baseman and suggesting he might end up moving to right field.

Bichette was another player I wasn't as eager to jump on the bandwagon for as others were after his dynamite start in the GCL.  I always like to see how a player holds up to the transition to a full-season league before making a real commitment to him, and I'm glad I did that with Bichette.  2012 was obviously a learning experience for him, and he still showed enough patience and plate discipline to be optimistic about his offensive future.  I would start him back in Charleston in 2013, see if the average and power comes back, and then move him to Tampa if those things improve.

Gary Sanchez- This report was an interesting one, as McDaniel has a lot of firsthand experience watching Sanchez play.  He told us what we already know about Sanchez's plus-plus hitting tools and power, and touched on the work Sanchez is doing with coaches to improve his swing mechanics.  Ultimately, McDaniel believes it will be those mechanical improvements that will determine how high Sanchez's ceiling is as a hitter.

For me, Sanchez is a better prospect right now than Jesus Montero was at the same age.  Sanchez has shown the ability to adjust to better pitching, and while he still has a lot to learn the power and ability to hit the other way has stayed constant right through High-A this past season.  McDaniel's assessment of Sanchez as a defensive catcher was disconcerting, but getting better reviews than Montero already for his skill set makes me optimistic that Sanchez can stick behind the plate long term if he keeps working.

Nick Goody- McDaniel liked his fastball-spike curve combo, and thought that Goody could reach a successful middle reliever status if his newly-added changeup improved.

Goody was the 2012 draft version of Mark Montgomery, a guy who hit the ground running and impressed with his ability to strike guys out in the lower levels.  His numbers weren't as eye-popping as Montgomery's or D-Rob's back in his day, but Goody is, in my eyes, the leader in the clubhouse for player who will make the quickest transition to the Majors from this year's draft.

Jordan Cote- Didn't get a rave review for any of his pitches, but McDaniel did acknowledge that there's a lot to like about Cote, and with him being a young pitcher with a big frame it's easy to see why.

I like Cote a lot, and he'll definitely show up in this year's Top 30.  He didn't get to pitch a lot this past season before a small elbow injury, nothing to really worry about, ended his year, but I was impressed by his  ability to limit walks, something you don't typically see with HS pitchers coming into the pros.

There's a lot more in each of McDaniel's 4 reports on more players than just the ones mentioned here, but these were the guys that I wanted to touch on.  As bad a season as it was for the Yankee farm system, particularly the upper levels, there is a ton of upside in the lower levels of the system and that's cause for optimism and excitement moving forward.

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