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Timmer
07-09-01, 11:57 PM
TopProspectAlert Weekly - 78th Edition

NewYork Yankees Top 10 - 2001
by: Schuyler Dombroske - sdomb@aol.com

#1 - Nick Johnson - DOB: 9/19/78, Age: 22, Bats/Throws: L/L, Height: 6'3'', Weight: 224, Acquired: Yankees - Drafted 3rd Round of 1996 Draft (McClatchy HS, Sacramento). 2000 Stats: DNP-Injured

Many franchises have a player that is currently the most polished, and a different player that has the highest ceiling. For the Yankees, it looks like they are one and the same. Nick Johnson is an on-base machine with developing power, a good glove, and reasonable speed. Just like Lenny
Dykstra, (Johnson's favorite player from his youth) health has been his biggest problem so far, and might be the only thing that stopped him from earning some big-league time right out of spring training. With the entire year 2000 lost to injury (and no at-bats above AA before that), the Yankees shipped Johnson off to Columbus at the end of spring
training to get his rhythm back. He has responded with numbers that you might expect from a talented player after a year off: batting 256/398/472 with 12 doubles, 10 homers, and 3 steals in 195 AB. (The .398 OBP, incidentally, ties the lowest of his professional career) The only thing that will be left standing between Johnson and 1B in the
Bronx after this season is Tino Martinez, and I have a feeling that that obstacle will be removed one way or another during the off-season.

Likely Level: All-Star
Peak Level: Franchise Player
Comparable Player: John Olerud, but in Yankee Stadium with the short porch

#2 - Drew Henson - DOB: 2/13/80, Age: 21, Bats/Throws: R/R, Height: 6'5'', Weight: 222, Acquired: Yankees - Drafted 3rd Round of 1998 Draft (Brighton HS, Michigan). 2000 Stats: (High A - Tampa) .333 AVG, 21 AB, 2 2B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 7 K, .364 OBP, .571 SLG. (AA - Norwich) .287 AVG, 223 AB, 9 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 20 BB, 75 K, .347 OBP, .439 SLG. (AA - Chattanooga) .172 AVG, 64 AB, 8 2B, 1 HR, 4 BB, 25 K, .221 OBP, .344 SLG.

Many roadblocks have appeared in Drew Henson's path to Graig Nettles' old stomping grounds: playing in front of 100,000+ screaming fans on Saturday's in Ann Arbor (but wearing a helmet with a facemask), becoming the major piece in the Denny Neagle deal with the Reds, and an injury-marred first half of 2000 after his reacquisition. Throughout Henson's soap-opera minor-league career, his ascension to the Yankee hot corner has remained inevitable. It was widely assumed that Henson would never actually play for the Reds (or any team but the Yanks, for that matter), so it was a foregone conclusion that the Yankees would pick him up on the cheap as soon as the Reds came to grips with this fact. Now
that Drew is back, he can focus on the most glaring weakness in his game: plate discipline. Henson is still a very raw baseball player, relying mostly on his natural ability to survive. He has tremendous power, decent speed, and very good reflexes at third combined with a strong throwing arm. Unfortunately, his development has been stalled again this year by his constant traveling (4 different teams already)
and injuries. This may delay Henson's arrival in New York until 2003 or even 2004, but it shouldn't halt the inevitable.
Likely Level: Solid Major Leaguer
Peak Level: All-Star
Comparable Player: Matt Williams

#3 - Ricardo Aramboles - DOB: 12-4-81, Age: 19 (still in question), Bats/Throws: R/R, Height: 6'2'', Weight: 170, Acquired: Marlins - Signed out of Dominican Republic, 1996; Contract voided by MLB 12/3/97; Signed by Yankees 2/26/98. 2000 Stats: (Low A - Greensboro) 5-13, 4.31 ERA, 138
IP, 150 H, 47 BB, 150 K.

Aramboles is another of the "no, I said sixteen, not eighteen" crowd, and cost the Marlins his valuable young arm with his shenanigans. The Yankees outbid many other teams for his services, and threw him into the fray. He was absolutely fantastic in '98, sporting a sub-3.00 ERA in 46
IP while allowing 37 H and 14 BB with 52 SO. Then came the dreaded elbow ligament explosion, the Tommy John surgery, and the subpar 2000 while regaining his arm strength. More indicative of his level of play, I believe, are his 2000 numbers (keep in mind this is now almost 18 months
after TJ surgery): (A/AAA) 8-4, 3.65 ERA, 86 1/3 IP, 92 H, 20 BB, 71 SO. This is a 19? year-old that has stepped up his play while moving from low-A to AAA, a mere 18 months after ligament replacement. "And," as the infomercial goes, "that's not all!" Aramboles has one plus pitch and two
plus-plus pitches in his arsenal. His fastball runs at 92-95, his curveball is above-average, and his changeup is fantastic. In fact, his changeup is almost too good, because Aramboles relies on it much more than he should, helping him toward the 1+ hit per IP statistics that he now owns. With time and proper coaching, he will lean more on his fastball, less on the changeup, tighten up the curveball a touch more,
and become an excellent young pitcher. For now, he is still more style than substance, but his improvement this year is very impressive indeed.

Likely Level: #2 Starter
Peak Level: Franchise Player
Comparable Player: There is no better comparison for his style (and
potential) than Pedro. The Yanks would take half of that, obviously.

#4 - Brandon Claussen - DOB: 5-1-79, Age: 22, Bats/Throws: L/L, Height: 6'2'', Weight: 175, Acquired: Yankees - Draft-and-follow from the 34th Round of the 1998 Draft (Howard JC, Texas), signed 5/20/99. 2000 Stats:
(Low A - Greensboro) 8-5, 4.05 ERA, 98 IP, 91 H, 44 BB, 98 SO. (High A - Tampa) 2-5, 3.10 ERA, 52 IP, 49 H, 17 BB, 44 SO.

Claussen is yet another draft-and-follow that the Yankees have procured from the Lone Star State. One of the most important things in judging a prospect, in my mind, is their level of play when promoted. The same things that make me wary of Alex Graman excite me about Brandon Claussen. His ERA's from the past season and a half progress as follows:
'00 - Low-A 4.05, High-A 3.10, '01 - High-A 2.73, AA 2.29. In 107 IP this season, Claussen has allowed only 87 hits and 37 walks while striking out 116. Currently, Claussen works with a low-90's fastball with above-average movement, a slightly above-average curve, and a "changeup-in-progress." His command is greatly improved this season, allowing for his rapid progression to Norwich. He may very well finish
out the year there, setting the stage for a late-2002/early-2003 appearance in the Bronx.

Likely Level: #4 Starter
Peak Level: #2 Starter
Comparable Player: Andy Pettitte

#5 - Juan Rivera - DOB: 7-3-78, Age: 23 next week, Bats/Throws: R/R, Height: 6'2'', Weight: 170. Acquired: Yankees - Signed from Venezuela on 4-12-96. 2000 Stats: (High-A Tampa) .276 AVG, 409 AB, 26 2B, 1 3B, 14
HR, 11 SB, 33 BB, 56 K, .336 OBP, .447 SLG. (AA Norwich) .226 AVG, 62 AB, 5 2B, 2 HR, 6 BB, 15 K, .294 OBP, .403 SLG.

The Yankees system has been severely depleted through trades and promotions over the last few years. This has left them with one top-10 prospect, 3 high-ceiling prospects with some degree of success, and a number of question marks. This is certainly not the #1 farm system in baseball anymore. Rivera is the highest-rated of the last group. He has shown slow, steady improvement the past three seasons, but is a bit
behind for his age. Thus far, Juan's plate discipline (or lack thereof) is holding him back. In 5 years, Rivera drew 5 fewer walks than Nick Johnson did in 1999. His speed is only average, but he is quite good defensively, mostly due to a cannon-like arm. He seems to have high power potential, but doesn't get into nearly enough hitters' counts to utilize it. This year, Rivera is hitting 316/351/531 with 18 2B, 3 3B, and 14 HR. If he can bat above .300, he can help a team, but I wouldn't count on this level of performance being sustained. More walks are what would equal a greater likelihood of replacing Paul O'Neill in a year or two.

Likely Level: 4th OF or Starting RF on a lesser team
Peak Level: Starting RF for 5-10 seasons
Comparable Player: Jermaine Dye pre-2000

#6 - Adrian Hernandez - DOB: 8-30-74, Age: 26, Bats/Throws: R/R, Height: 6'2'', Weight: 185. Acquired: Yankees - Signed from Cuba on 6/2/00. 2000 Stats: (High-A Tampa) 1-0, 1.13 ERA, 7 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 13 K. (AA Norwich) 5-1, 4.04 ERA, 36 IP, 34 H, 18 BB, 44 K. (AAA Columbus) 2-1, 4.40 ERA,
31 IP, 24 H, 18 BB, 29 K.

"El Duquecito" has descended upon the Bronx, bringing with him the unfortunate expectations attached to his nickname. In just a few months more time than "El Duque", Hernandez traveled from Cuba to Tampa, Norwich, Columbus, and finally New York. Like his fellow Cuban, Adrian throws about 15 different pitches if you include the various arm slots
that he uses. A straight fastball (89-93), sinker, cutter, curve, slider, and changeup could all approach the plate if you're facing him, making him relatively difficult to hit. Perhaps not coincidentally, he has the same weaknesses as "El Duque": walks, homers, and lefties. His effectiveness against lefties is tied directly to the quality of his
change, which is currently his weakest pitch. Consequently, he walks them 3.5 times more than he walks righties. In fact, "El Duquecito" could be the perfect RH setup man, making one question the trade of the Yankees 3rd-best prospect (D'Angelo Jimenez) for a failed starter turned
reliever - Jay Witasick. I believe that Adrian will settle in the pen anyway, but he could certainly surprise us as much as Orlando did.

Likely Level: RH Setup
Peak Level: #4 Starter
Comparable Player: Please.

#7 - Alex Graman - DOB: 11-17-77, Age: 23, Bats/Throws: L/L, Height: 6-4, Weight: 200. Acquired: Yankees - 3rd round draft pick from the 1999 Draft (Indiana State). 2000 Stats: (High-A Tampa) 8-9, 3.65 ERA, 143 IP, 120 H, 58 BB, 111 K.

As I mentioned earlier, Graman's decline at each level is of concern. After a 2.99 ERA at short-season Staten Island in '99, he jumped 0.66 at Tampa in '00 and another 1.03 so far this season at AA Norwich. The Yanks obviously see enough in him to keep him moving up the ladder, but one has to wonder if they shouldn't have dealt him when they had the requests coming in. He's a big lefty, with four legitimate pitches: a
90-94 mph fastball and above-average curve, splitter, and change. He will throw all four at any point in the count, and keeps the ball down fairly well. (24 HRs in 314.1 pro IP) For whatever reason, Graman has been prone to "the big inning" the last few seasons. This is something you might expect from a high-schooler, but is much more unusual in a
relatively mature pitcher. New York seems intent on keeping him on the same timetable, so look for Graman to move to AAA in 2002. It will be a pivotal season for him, as his future with the Yankees will likely be decided then.

Likely Level: Swing Man
Peak Level: #2 Starter
Comparable Player: Al Leiter

#8 - Randy Keisler - DOB: 2-24-76, Age: 25, Bats/Throws: L/L, Height: 6'3'', Weight: 190. Acquired: Yankees - 2nd Round of the 1998 Draft (LSU). 2000 Stats: (AA Norwich) 6-2, 2.60 ERA, 73 IP, 63 H, 34 BB, 70 K. (AAA Columbus) 8-3, 3.02 ERA, 113 IP, 104 H, 42 BB, 86 K. (ML NYY) 1-0, 11.81 ERA, 11 IP, 16 H, 8 BB, 6 K.

Last year's Kevin Lawn Award winner (organization's Pitcher of the Year) appeared to have the fifth starter's job nailed down in early March, but quickly gave it back with poor command of his fastball and has only recently made it back to New York. Keisler has three average to above-average pitches: a fastball running at 88-92 mph, a decent curve,
and a changeup that has developed into his best pitch. He needs to become more aggressive, especially with his fastball. With the injuries to Pettitte and Hernandez, Keisler will get some time to show that he belongs this season. With the lefty backlog behind him, however, his
window of opportunity might not last very long.

Likely Level: Swing Man
Peak Level: #4 Starter
Comparable Player: Denny Neagle

#9 - Brett Jodie - 3-25-77, Age: 24, Bats/Throws: R/R, Height: 6'4'', Weight: 208. Acquired: Yankees - 6th Round Pick in 1998 Draft (South Car.). 2000 Stats: (High-A Tampa) 11-4, 2.57 ERA, 144 IP, 134 H, 29 BB, 122 K. (AA Norwich) 2-1, 3.15 ERA, 20 IP, 16 H, 5 BB, 9 K.

Jodie took a big step forward in 2000, and he's thus far been able to continue that trend in 2001. His fastball finally took that last step that you expect from a man his size, adding 3-4 mph into the 93-94 range. His curve and change are adequate given his impeccable control.
His style of pitching can take quite a while to become successful at the big-league level, but with the assistance of the added velocity, he has been able to handle AAA batters this season with relative ease. So far this season at Columbus, Jodie sports a 7-4 record with a 2.70 ERA,
allowing 91 hits and 20 walks in 93.1 innings. His strikeout rate has dropped considerably, with only 50 punch-outs thus far. This would be the one point of concern this year for Jodie, who still might be the next man called aboard the "Columbus Shuttle."

Likely Level: #5 Starter
Peak Level: #3 Starter
Comparable Player: Rick Reed

#10 - Mitch Jones - 10-15-77, Age: 23, Bats/Throws: R/R, Height: 6'2'', Weight: 215. Acquired: Yankees - 7th Round of 2000 Draft (Arizona St.). 2000 Stats: (Short A Staten Island) .268 AVG, 284 AB, 28 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 8 SB, 35 BB, 66 K, .352 OBP, .504 SLG.

After breaking the single-season HR record at ASU (previously held by longtime Brave 3B Bob Horner), and leading the NYP League in multiple categories, the Yankees put Jones on an "accelerated development" program this season, jumping him straight to High-A Tampa. He has
responded quite well, and has jumped onto the prospect "radar screens" by clubbing 37 extra-base hits through 70 games. He is batting 271/359/500 thus far, and could be looking at a trip to Norwich fairly soon. Jones obviously has power: through 572 pro ABs, he now has 52 2B, 6 3B, and 23 HR. Unfortunately; those numbers also include 142 strikeouts. The 71 walks he has tallied aren't horrible, but the Yanks would like to see him make more consistent contact before sending him northward. He has reasonable speed, with 13 steals over the same time frame, and is an average to above defender with a strong arm. He's capable of playing left or right field, so if he continues to progress his ultimate position will probably depend on the current roster. Because of his advanced age, he will need to continue to progress quickly to remain a bonafide prospect.

Likely Level: 4th OF
Peak Level: Starting OF
Comparable Player: Derek Bell

Others to Watch:

Chien-Ming Wang - "Tiger" Wang had an excellent debut at Short-Season Staten Island last season, but is out for this year after shoulder surgery. If he recovers, he has 4 excellent pitches and is only 21. He could move quickly.

Sean Henn - After inking the largest "draft-and-follow" bonus ever, Henn has taken his left-handed 99 mph fastball to Staten Island. He could be very special (read: Randy Johnson), but is extremely raw.

Marcus Thames - Great tools with an .882 OPS this year, but in his 3rd season at AA at age 24. Maybe he's putting it together. Maybe not.

David Parrish - Closer to John Parrish as a hitter than his dad, Lance, so far, but he shouldn't be written off completely..if only because he was a first-round pick.

Elfdood
07-10-01, 12:37 AM
It appears that the Yankees have traded their highest-ceiling pitching prospect for a relief pitcher with a 3.94 NL ERA. But this is the first time I've heard such lofty praise of Aramboles, so who knows? Just going to have to wait and see.

Sean Henn certainly made my eyebrows rise with reports of a 99 mph fastball.

Living in the Norwich area, Marcus Thames (pronounced like the river in England, not the one in Norwich :) ) seems like an old buddy with all the time he's spent in AA. But I was starting to feel the same way about Donzell McDonald at one point, and he actually managed to get a cup of coffee in the majors this season. I thought that Thames should've gotten the promotion over Rivera, given his infinitely better plate discipline. Plus, he's a couple of years older, so his window is closing much more rapidly than Rivera's.

Drew Henson, since commiting to baseball, is striking out less and walking more. He's caught fire in AAA after struggling for a couple of weeks, and things are starting to look pretty good.

Nick Johnson just plain gets on base. People might give reasons for his walk rate - no protection the Columbus lineup? Whatever - the guy walks. He walked in Greensboro, he walked in Norwich, he's walking in Columbus, he'll walk in New York. Olerud is a good comparison, but I hope he'll eventually have more power than Olerud (with or without park factors). I mean, the guy is pretty big, and he's only 22 years old.

David Parrish has improved offensively this season, but he's got a long way to go. And considering that the Yankees have a catcher who should give them at least three more good years in Posada, and that they just acquired a 27 year old with a career .770 OPS and a rocket arm in Bobby Estalella, I don't know how much of a future he has with the team.

Gator
07-10-01, 04:00 AM
I think John Olerud might be a little off...I've heard him compared to a lefthanded Jeff Bagwell, and even if he doesn't develop Bags' power, remember Bagwell only hit 6 homers in his 1990 minor league season (his last year in the minors). That's why the Red Sox traded him - they never thought he'd develop into a righty power-hitter.

Power's usually the last thing to come for young players, but I wouldn't be surprised if Johnson ended up a continual 30 Homer guy.

CaptainCargo
07-10-01, 09:42 AM
Henn's the one I'm watching with the most interest right now. He threw six innings of no-hit ball in his second outing with the Staten Island team and I think he's the real deal.

Casey :NY:

jpao89
07-10-01, 09:58 AM
The farm system may be depleted, but it is a good thing when the system is depleted due to promotions, i.e. Keisler, Choate, Soriano, and Lilly. If it were depleted purely due to trades, then I would be worried.

I also wonder why Almonte was not mentioned in this scouting report.