Melky Mesa had always been a toolsy, athletic center fielder who wasn’t regarded as much of a prospect. He changed that in a big way in 2010, and is now at least in the discussion as a future MLB outfielder. He wasn’t really a sleeper – primed for a breakout – but rather he was a player with latent potential who showed no signs of realizing it. Every farm system has players like Mesa, and every year one or two turn in a good performance and make a name for themselves. I’d like to suggest three names who could be potential salvage prospects in 2011. These guys won’t appear on most top-30 prospect lists, but may have appeared on them in past years. I’ve also included my prospect ratings for the players. The list:
Kelvin De Leon:
The Yankees signed De Leon to a seven-figure bonus at the tender age of 16. At the time, he was the exciting follow-up a year after Jesus Montero was signed for big dollars. However, the Yankees quickly figured out that they overpaid for De Leon. He attracted attention and competitive signing bonus offers because he showcased big-time power. De Leon is one of those guys who can hit the 500 foot home run. However, signing 16 year-olds out of Latin America carries a big risk: you don’t get to see them play against solid competition. They quickly discovered that while he had the ability to hit for power, he had terrible strike zone judgment, plate discipline, and general baseball sense. His physical ability couldn’t carry him.
However, De Leon does still have some latent potential lying around. He is still very young, and he still has tremendous physical gifts with the bat. All of his shortcomings are theoretically fixable with coaching, although it is rare that coaches can salvage so much out of a player.
Jeremy Bleich went down with a pretty nasty shoulder injury in May of 2010. He started that season at Double-A, but has overall showed very little success at the level (106 innings, 5.92 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 5.2 BB/9) , mostly due to poor control. He should return at some point in mid-2010, and will try to rehabilitate his career.
Bleich is a lefty with solid, if unspectacular, stuff. That’s why he’s on this list. There is a pretty low bar set in the majors for lefties who manage to build themselves pretty long careers. Bleich throws (at least he did before his shoulder surgery) in 88-91 mph range, although he threw in the 92-93 mph range in college. His injury history also goes back to college, where he had elbow problems. If he can come back and prove he is healthy, Bleich’s stuff should carry him in the direction of the major leagues. That’s a big if though, since he can’t afford much further loss in velocity due to his shoulder issues. Unlike elbow surgery, shoulder surgery is a tricky one. At the very least, Bleich’s stuff could play better in short stints in the bullpen against left-handed batters. Lefties get a thousand chances in baseball, and Bleich will continue to get his.
Now here’s a real deep one. Justin Snyder destroyed his prospect status in 2009, when he hit .195/.279/.263 in Trenton, while bouncing around the infield. He had been productive both in Staten Island (.335/.459/.477) and Charleston (.288/.371/.407), so the Yankees allowed him to skip a level and go directly to Trenton. That wasn’t so successful.
Snyder rebounded to .247/.364/.345 in Trenton in 2010, posting a very strong 15.4% walk rate. He even walked more than he struck out (49 vs. 44 in 92 games), proving that he’s not just letting the bat sit on his shoulder. He’s a small guy, but remarkably muscular (5’9″, 190 pounds, but he doesn’t look stocky at all), and played everywhere but catcher in 2010. He’ll head to Triple-A in 2011, and a strong performance can definitely put him on the map as a super-utility guy. Guys who can both put the ball in play and take walks while playing the middle infield tend to make the majors. He’ll need to prove himself at Triple-A, including staying healthy for a full season, to restore his prospect status, but Snyder is one guy who could come out of no where to make the major leagues in 2011.
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