Know who played the most games at shortstop for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year?
It was Carmen Angelini, the mostly forgotten prospect who, for at least a little while, was one of the Yankees top young players at the position. He was a 10th-round pick out of high school, and he would have gone sooner if not for a commitment to play college ball at Rice. He was a smart kid, by all accounts a good kid, and he was awfully gifted for such a young player. There was a sense that if everything worked out, he just might play his way into the conversation as an everyday player in the big leagues.
But he never reached that point. Angelini was hurt for a while, he’s 26 years old now, and a .607 OPS in Triple-A actually made this one of his better professional seasons.
Point is, it’s easy to dream on the potential of young talent. It’s harder to actually clear all the hurdles and turn that young talent into a big league regular. The Yankees have gotten some shortstops to the majors, but guys like Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez never proved themselves as anything more than part-timers.
What the Yankees have done lately to shift the odds is to add a bunch of options. Right now, the lower levels of the minor league system are loaded with young shortstops who give the Yankees several opportunities to actually find a player who reaches his best-case scenario.
“They can all play shortstop, and they can play well,” outgoing vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said.
International prospect Abiatal Avelino and fourth-round pick Tyler Wade were in Charleston this year. Young Venezuelan Thairo Estrada spent some time with Staten Island. Two guys from the 2012 international class, Angel Aguilar and Jorge Mateo, made this U.S. debuts and each landed on Baseball America’s Top 20 prospects list for the Gulf Coast League.
“So that’s five guys there,” Newman said. “And then we’ve signed three shortstops (off the international market this year): a guy named Wilkerman Garcia, Diego Castillo — two Venezuelan shortstops — and then a South Korean guy named Hyo Park. We’ve got shortstop depth. A few years ago it was catching. Now we’ve got shortstop depth.”
It’s depth in every sense of the word, including the fact that it’s extremely deep in the system with a long way to go. But there’s talent and potential.
“Jorge Mateo has as many tools (as anyone),” Newman said. “What (Luis) Severino is from a pitching perspective, this guy is from a position-player perspective. Now, they can’t move as fast because hitting’s different than pitching, but he can fly. He’s an 80 runner. Wow. Wow tools. I mean, holy (cow) tools.”
The Yankees have a bunch of lottery tickets. The trick is getting one to actually pay off down the road.
Associated Press photo