Sunday, January 13, 2008

SWB Blog Revisits Top Prospects List

Chad Jennings revisited Deric McKamey's prospect list with an interview contending Humberto Sanchez is obviously best suited as a reliever, Jose Tabata is currently the superior prospect to Austin Jackson and George Kontos is underrated.

During the first piece, Jennings posted McKamey's top 15 prospects in the Yankees organization. Rankings of note included Dellin Betances at #7, Sanchez at #9, Kevin Whelan at #11 and Kontos at #12.

The rankings of these four prospects - which I agree with - have dropped on the lists of several other prospect outlets like Baseball America and John Sickels.

I chose a few highlights from the lengthy interview:
Is Humberto Sanchez's rating as a starting pitcher? Would it be any different assuming he was going to the bullpen?

Even though the Yankees haven’t made a definitive decision on Sanchez’ role, his rating is based on him becoming a reliever. The TJS not-withstanding, I feel he doesn’t change speeds well and his arm action has some recoil at the finish, which may always present stamina problems.

A move to the bullpen should preserve his arm and since he can focus on his fastball and two solid breaking pitches, he should do very well in that role.

What should we make of the long list of prospect relievers (Melancon, Cox, Whelan, Robertson, and Sanchez)? What role do you see those guys filling in the big leagues?

Sanchez, Whelan, and Melancon are the better arms of this group and all three have the goods to close in the right situation. Sanchez was discussed earlier. Whelan, despite being used as a starter in 2007, projects as a reliever for me. He has a very nasty splitter and exceptional movement to his 88-94 MPH fastball. His command can be erratic at times, but he misses bats easily.

Melancon missed the 2007 season with TJS, but his recovery has gone well and is expected to be ready for spring training. He throws hard (90-95 MPH) and can notch strikeouts too, but relies more on groundball outs than Sanchez and Whelan. He utilizes a curveball as his secondary pitch. He didn’t possess much of a change-up prior to his surgery and being that pitch is a “feel” pitch, I wonder how long it will take for him to get it to the average level, especially if the Yankees alter his mechanics, which was reported.

Cox is coming off of TJS and because he doesn’t have anything to offer LH batters, his upside is that of a setup reliever. Robertson is a short (height-wise) reliever with a deceptively quick fastball and two solid comps (curveball and change-up). Despite his ability to miss bats and command the plate at both Class-A levels, he projects as a setup reliever as well.

Which Yankees prospect do you like more than most analysts and which do you like less?

I like George Kontos better than most, ranking him #12 on my top 15 list. Kontos has shown excellent command, along with the ability to notch strikeouts and keep the ball low at every level he has pitched at. He throws hard (89-94 MPH) with two and four-seam fastballs, has a solid slider, and changes speeds well. He does have a tendency to overthrow which flattens his pitches and can make him hittable at times.

Finally, two pitchers I've been hesitant to get too high on: Jeff Marquez and George Kontos. You obviously like them. Why?

Kontos, I talked about earlier, but what I like about Marquez is his smooth/quick arm action, which gives him excellent pitch movement. He can touch 95 MPH, but hasn’t been able to hold it deep into games. He did pitch 155.1 innings, which alleviated any stamina concerns, but I feel he could add some strength to help him maintain his velocity. Both of his secondary offerings (curveball and change-up) are at least Major League average and he knows how to pitch.

Good stuff on Kontos, but I would have liked to have seen more thoughts on Melancon and Horne. I support the contention that Gardner is a good potential fourth outfielder, but not much more.

And, after seeing Juan Miranda several times last year at Trenton, McKamey is accurate in marginalizing the Cuban defector as a hitter without a glove. He looked more like Pele than Mattingly booting balls around the infield last season.

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