Questions for the Yankees’ top prospects: Part 2

Dante Bichette: Defense

Around the time of the draft, Bichette was considered a bat-only prospect with plus raw power but a funky swing.  Bichette largely silenced the doubters about his swing by raking in the Gulf Coast League to the tune of a .438 wOBA, but also got better reports on his defense than he did previously.  Around the time of the draft most prognosticators thought he was a future corner outfielder or 1st baseman, but the consensus has shifted to thinking that he has a chance to stick at 3rd base.  2012 will be an opportunity for Bichette to prove that he can continue to make strides with his fielding, which will lessen the pressure on his bat to be elite in order for him to be a legitimate prospect.

Austin Romine: Power

Romine has steadily progressed through the Yankee system, though his ascension has been held back somewhat by the presence of Jesus Montero.  With Montero gone, Romine will get the first crack at being the homegrown catcher of the future.  Romine’s minor league performances have been solid but not outstanding.  He has maintained a decent batting average and improved his walk and strikeout rates, but his power has dropped steadily as he moved through the system.  Eventually, one starts to worry about the dreaded “young catcher stagnation syndrome.”  Romine will never be a big power hitter, but you would like to see him have enough pop to be more than just an empty batting average at the plate (since he does not draw a ton of walks).  His defense should be solid but not elite, which would require his bat to be more of an asset if he is going to be a future starter in pinstripes behind the dish.

David Phelps:  Secondary offerings

Phelps’ ceiling and floor are not especially far apart at this stage in his career, as he projects at best as a back-end starter, and at worst as a reliever.  His fastball is a reliable offering, sitting in the low-90’s with decent location, and he has leaned heavily on the pitch as he has moved up the ladder.  Phelps features both a 2-seam and 4-seam fastball, which can keep hitters off balance somewhat.  However, Phelps lacks a knockout secondary offering.  He has used a curve, slider, and changeup, but none so far have been more than an average pitch.  If he can develop one of those pitches into an above-average strikeout pitch, he could have a good career as an inning-eating #4 starter.  Failing that however, Phelps may end up more as a #5/swingman type.

Adam Warren: secondary offerings

Warren is a similar story to Phelps: an advanced pitcher with a good fastball, but no plus secondary pitches.  He’s getting old enough where I would begin to doubt that major improvements would happen, and he will likely settle in to the swingman/trade bait role in New York.

Brett Marshall: Upper level experience

Marshall’s progress through the minors was set back by Tommy John Surgery, and as a result, he has only reached high A by age 21.  Next season will be his age 22 season, and he will begin in AA, getting the opportunity to work his craft against upper level hitters and demonstrate that he has more than just a back-end starter ceiling.  Marshall has had a lot of success in the minors forcing grounders with his 2-seamer, and also working in a cutter, 4-seamer, and slider on occasion.  If he is able to keep up this type of performance against AA hitters, and begin to use his slider more as a strikeout pitch, he could see his prospect status soar.