Of all the prospects in the minors, Baez’s status might have the most volatility, with the skill set to blossom into a superstar and the deficiencies that could terminate the dream before it begins. With elite bat speed and the type of raw power that can find a home in the middle of any major-league lineup, Baez could end up as the top prospect in the game. But his one-speed-fits-all approach on both sides of the ball can be limiting: His aggressive, see-ball-hit-ball mentality at the plate often puts him behind in counts and vulnerable to offerings out of the zone, and his tendency to rush the actions and the throws makes him error prone despite his exquisite hands at shortstop. Baez is warming up and is a good candidate to explode this summer, with a chance to sneak into the top 10 prospects in the game. But the Double-A test is looming on the horizon, and without more nuance to his game and a more refined approach, Baez could take a big step back against better competition. The talent is extreme. The risk is just as extreme. —Jason Parks
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
It was an interesting night in the Dominican Winter League. This kid named Miguel Sano went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. He must be terrible, right? Wait a minute. I'll search the internet and find some info on him. Oh, never mind. He hit 28 homers in Lo-A ball as a 19 year-old and those prospect geeks here at Baseball Prospectus are supposedly ranking him in the Top 25 of their upcoming Top 101 Prospects List. Must’ve been an off night. I also noticed that this guy named Manny had four hits in his game. Figured he must be in this top 101, too. He wasn’t. It turns out he's an older guy that debuted in the majors way before the invention of prospect ranking.
This past weekend saw some improved control, some extended hitting streaks, and a few prospects who might be worth watching after all.
Manny Banuelos, LHP, Yankees (Triple-A Empire State)
On April 12, in his second start of the year, Banuelos walked six over two innings and then hit the disabled list with a minor back injury. The back was clearly affecting his delivery, but control was an issue in 2011 as well, and whether it's getting healthy or just a good run, he's suddenly turned into a strike-throwing machine. Since his return to the rotation—and including six outstanding innings on Sunday—Banuelos has reeled off 14 2/3 innings without issuing a walk, and he's done it without ratcheting down his stuff in terms of velocity or break. It's too early to get excited here, but with both Banuelos and Betances pitching well of late, maybe the Yankees will trust their own this year when a need arrives.
Parks dishes pessimism on Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, and more.
Prospect #1: C Gary Sanchez Background with Player: My eyes; industry sources. Who: Sanchez, who was signed out of the Dominican Republic for a cool $3 million, is one of the most promising offensive prospects in the minors. He has precocious in-game power, a projectable and playable hit tool, and a game plan at the plate that goes beyond “grip the bat and swing as hard as possible.” Sanchez was only 18 years old when he made his full-season debut in 2011, but he managed to slug .485 against much older competition in the prospect-heavy Sally League. His work behind the plate wasn’t as attractive, and there are already whispers of a future position switch. The arm is plenty strong and the necessary athleticism is present to handle the physical demands of the position, but his receiving ability is immature and will require years of additional development. The catch here is that Sanchez’s bat is setting an accelerated timetable that his glove development won’t be able to match strides with.
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: Sanchez is a hitter who seems to see the ball very well; he tracks and diagnoses pitches like a much more experienced player. In High-A, the young right-hander will no doubt face a more advanced secondary sequence, and despite the good pitch-recognition skills, the characteristics of his swing could limit his ability to make contact against such offerings. Like most power hitters, Sanchez has a leveraged swing with length and loft, making him susceptible to inner-half velocity and off-speed stuff that will require barrel manipulation to stay on. Sanchez has a good feel for hitting, but I don’t think the hit tool can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the power, which should end up as an easy 70 on the 20/80 scale, and possibly a legit 80 at the top of his developmental arc. The explosion that occurs on contact is loud and violent and sexy and people will pay money to see it and the skies will turn red with the blood of his enemies, but the hitchy trigger and the lengthy path to the ball make exploitation possible. However, it should be noted that Sanchez’s offensive game doesn’t have the glaring weaknesses that scar the faces of most prospects his age. This is a minor nitpick. Sanchez could be very special at the plate. I want to have a son and name him Gary.
Projecting prospects is a tricky business, so will our prospect guru backtrack on what he has said about players in the past?
Who: Cheslor Cuthbert (Royals) Background with Player: My own eyes Documented Observations and Prognostications: I remember the first time I saw Cuthbert: He was standing at the hot corner on a hot afternoon in March 2010, his long, flowing hair intertwined with the shadows on the field, smiling as he used the leather attached to his left hand to fan his greatness toward all eyes cast upon him. Okay, I just made that up. But I did enjoy Cuthbert when I first saw him take grounders, even though his hair wasn’t long and flowing, and I didn’t see any shadows on the field, and I’m not sure Cuthbert was smiling.
Heading into the 2011 season, Cuthbert so impressed me that I took to Baseball Prospectus and professed my love for his present and future.
A trip to see the Staten Island Yankees turns into an odyssey of self-discovery... with a scouting report thrown in for good measure.
I have already convinced myself that Angelo Gumbs is a better prospect than Cito Culver, and it’s only the third inning. Neither player has produced a remarkable result thus far, but the overwhelming feeling brewing in my gut tells me that Gumbs is the player to watch on the field. I shouldn’t listen to my gut; I should focus on the shortstop. Shortstops with true defensive skills are valuable commodities. But Gumbs could be a very good center fielder. He’s currently playing second base, but he could be playing center field. At present, the position is occupied by Mason Williams, who is equally promising (if not more so), but Gumbs could handle the defensive assignment, given his plus-plus athleticism, a strong arm, and instincts. My gut seems more loquacious than normal. My journey to the park might also be playing a role in the stomach discussion. A German tourist might have poisoned me.
I’m in the “scout section” of the park, which is really just another social clique that some happen upon based on their seating assignment, while others only recognize the section from afar. I don’t always want to be in a specific section; I like to bounce around the park, frequently looking for different angles and perspectives. But sitting with the players tasked with charting the game and with your contemporaries in the industry can have its advantages, especially when your gut is chatty and perhaps poisoned.