Angelo Gumbs has always been one of a favorite Yankee prospect among the TYA staff, and not only because of his dynamic athletic ability and raw tools. Gumbs has often been overshadowed by other members of his draft class, including million dollar bonus baby Mason Williams and 1st-round selection Cito Culver. Gumbs’ pedestrian performance for Staten Island last year (.738 OPS), albeit at the tender age of 18, did not do much to impress the statistically-oriented analysts.
Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus was the first person in the scouting community to really take a shine to Gumbs (prospect-crush, if you will). Parks declared Gumbs to be a superior prospect to Culver while scouting the Staten Island team back in July 2011, and ranked him #5 in the Yankee system prior to the 2012 season. For reference, the highest anyone on the TYA staff had him was at #8 (that was Dominic, I had Gumbs at #11), and we both considered those ratings to be very aggressive. Parks had Gumbs ahead of more proven guys like Jose Campos and Dante Bichette who have fairly substantial ceilings themselves.
While Parks and others have seen plenty of room for improvement in Gumbs’ current skill set, his athletic ability and bat speed, combined with his young age, make him the type of player that scouts can dream on and project to make massive improvements. They look at his bat speed and see the potential for 20+ home runs from a middle infield position. They look at his speed and see the possibility of a major basestealer. Some see his defensive skill set as fitting best in centerfield long term, but they seem ok with Gumbs’ present ability to handle 2nd base (since Mason Williams has the Charleston centerfield job on lockdown).
Since 2012 is Gumbs’ first taste of full season ball, it was not surprising to see him struggle somewhat out of the gate. Unlike other more heralded teammates who came surging out of the gate (Tyler Austin, Gary Sanchez, and Williams), Gumbs has always been considered a raw player who still has work to do to convert his prodigious tools into usable baseball skills. Gumbs looked the part in April, putting up a meager .206/.295/.309 line (in 19 games), with 1 homer, 21 strikeouts, 9 walks, and 5 stolen bases.
May has been an entirely different story for Gumbs. In 12 games this month, he is hitting .353/.393/.471 with a homer, 11 strikeouts, 4 walks, and a ridiculous 14 stolen bases. Gumbs recently earned the South Atlantic League player of the week award for his strong performance. Gumbs is now just 1 home run short of his career high (3, compiled in Staten Island last season) and has already eclipsed his career high stolen base total (11 last year, compared to 19 total in 2012).
While his k:bb rate appear to have held constant (possibly indicative that there has not been a major change in approach), Gumbs has likely been hitting the ball with more authority this month, and being more aggressive on the bases. This is of course a small sample size, and Sally League pitchers will likely make adjustments to slow Gumbs down, both at the plate and on the bases. However, his peformance this May gives us an idea of the type of prospect (and player) Gumbs can eventually become if all goes well.
Whether he can put in the effort to make the adjustments necessary to get there is another matter, and one that will likely have a major impact on Angelo’s future. There will certainly be plenty of successes and struggles along the way for Gumbs as he moves up the ladder, but he has done a good job rebounding from a slow start this year. While there is still a long way to go, the tantalizing promise of Gumbs’ potential is somewhat closer to becoming a reality.
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