The Staten Island Yankees have seen quite a fall from last year's prospect-packed 2011 version. The likes of talents such as Mason Williams, Angelo Gumbs, Tyler Austin and Co. are non-existent for this well-below .500 team. The team is light on actual prospects, raw players or even guys you could see having nice careers in the minors.
Last week, I had the chance to watch Staten Island for three games against the Batavia Muckdogs. Here are some thoughts on the most intriguing players on the Yankees:
Butler is the league's top statistical power hitter, leading the NYPL in home runs with 10 and second in OPS at 1.013. He's a Babe-Ruth-shaped left-handed hitter at 6-foot-2, 240-pounds who has taken advantage of inexperienced pitchers early in his professional career. He was drafted as a senior out of college in the 33rd round from Stamford, and has the more mature approach at the plate than most younger players. Butler looks for pitches up and over the middle that he can pull to the gaps or down the line. He doesn't swing at much else except for waiving at the occasional breaking ball away. So far, the first baseman has been successful in his approach at looking for mistakes, but, as he goes forward, Butler may find the amount of mistakes - and his numbers - will start to shrink.
The biggest criticism of Butler is his athleticism. He seriously lacks flexibility and swings with his arms instead of putting his entire body into his cut. And considering the lack of flexibility, it's highly questionable that he'll be able adjust going forward to hit fastballs traveling in the mid to upper 90s.
It's hard to see Butler having success up the chain, so enjoy him putting on a show while you can
O'Brien is a big, strong catcher who looks like he could have been a linebacker instead of a ballplayer. He has strong, quick hands and a swing with room to grow in terms of power hitting. So far, he's struggled to make the transition, currently hitting in the .160s. It seems that O'Brien has a good approach at times and others does not. In close games, he bared down, took pitches and aimed to hit line drives the other way. In the one blowout of the three game series, he swung at everything. That's not to question his makeup. He was a captain in college and went through a lot heading into his senior season. He looks like a guy who is worn out and could use the off-season to get his energy back. Regardless of his struggles, you hear good things about his work ethic and could see O'Brien growing into a starting catcher type with plus power, a plus arm and solid plate blocking skills and athleticism for a guy of his size.
Dugas is fun to watch. He's 5-foot-8, might weight 175-pounds and is a pain in the neck for pitchers. He works counts - I mean REALLY works them - refusing to swing at anything outside of the zone and persistently fouls away anything close with two strikes. When he does hit the ball in play, it's mostly singles. It would be a surprise if he hit one home run this year. And for his size, he doesn't have the greatest speed or base-stealing ability. Dugas was a decorated college outfielder and it's clear his instincts in the field are above average. His overall range is probably average because of his lack of top-end speed.
Keep an eye on this guy. He'll never be a star, but he's one of those little gritty guys that people always under estimate. There's a chance his awesome plate approach and fielding could make him a fourth outfielder
Snyder is a skilled line-drive hitter with an excellent plate approach. He has a gap-to-gap swing that is built for hitting singles back up the middle and doubles into both left and right-center field. The 6-foot-5 left-handed hitter looks very comfortable in any count, changing his approach with the count. Snyder will aim for power early in the count, but cut down his swing with two strikes. His smarts at the dish and quick hands give you the idea he could continue to hit for average going forward and grow into his frame more, possibily adding some power.
The clear-cut best pitcher on Staten Island has a very strong arm throwing in the mid-90s at times with three different pitches that he can throw for strikes. The 5-foot-11 right-hander lacks size, but is a drop-and-drive pitcher that creates his power from his bottom half. He has solid deception and movement on his fastball and is not afraid to go inside on both righties and lefties. Despite his above average velocity, Black isn't really a strikeout pitcher, focusing more on getting batters to hit ground balls and pop outs. Similarly to many NYPL players, he's pretty close to his ceiling. In other words: what you see is what you get. Could project to a five starter or long reliever.
Others worth noting:
A nice right-handed hitter with solid hand-eye coordinaton. Can hit for average and has decent hands in the field Could turn into a utility player.
Custodio has a terrific arm and outstanding range in the field. He makes too many errors and it's very doubtful he could ever hit for average, much less power, in the big leagues.
A strong right-handed pitcher with a hard fastball and good movement, Encinas currently lacks the command of the fastball and secondary pitches but might be intriguing to watch going forward
Pazos is a nasty left-handed pitcher with "8th inning" written all over him. He's very deceptive to lefties and has a hard fastball and above average breaking ball that has left-handers backing away from the plate. The question is whether he can learn to control his stuff
A very athletic outfielder who could legitimately play in center. He's got a great arm, quick hands at the plate with room to grow his power hitting. The question will be if can he ever hit for enough average to move up levels