Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The vast majority of prospects fail. Even if a prospect is a top draft pick or a big international free agent, they are more than likely to fail. Even top 100 prospects fall on their faces, and never live up to their lofty projections.This is why some people often give up on prospects after a bad season.

The purpose of this article is to look at five prospects that performed poorly in 2013, but have enough talent to bounce-back. If these five players don't rebound next year chances are they will join the long list of failed prospects. These 5 players will be ranked by their need to rebound.

1. Austin Aune:

Aune was drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft. He was was a solid two sport athlete in high school, as he also played football. Before the draft, Aune was planning on playing shortstop and quarterback at Texas Christian University.

As a baseball player, Aune was considered to be very toolsy. He had raw power and great arm. As a football player he was a star quarterback who threw for 42 touch downs in his final season. Thus playing both sports at TCU was very appealing to him, and his commitment was thought to be tough to break. The Yankees were able to break his commitment to TCU by giving him one million dollars, which was way over-slot.

The fact that the Yankees went over-slot in a system that really punishes a team for doing so, shows that they had a lot of faith in Aune. So far Aune has not rewarded them for their risk. Aune wasn't even able to achieve an OPS of .500 last season, and struck-out 72 times. His play was surprisingly bad considering he had an OPS of .768 at same level in 2012.

To be fair when he was drafted, Baseball America did say he talented but raw and to be patient with him. But I feel that if he doesn't show progress soon he will be tempted to quit baseball and try football.  Perhaps his struggles were due to learning a new position, or an undisclosed reason. Either way it was alarmingly bad and he needs to rebound soon. 

2. Dante Bichette:

The inclusion of Bichette on this list may surprise people, as a lot of people think he has already failed as a prospect, or was a bad pick in the first place. Bichette is often cited as an example of the Yankees taking the wrong player and reaching for talent.

I feel the negativity surrounding the 21 one year old to be a bit overblown. For one thing he was the 51st selection in 2011. That might technically be in the first round, but it's not like he was high draft choice. Furthermore he is still a young player and he has time to turn his career around. With that said Bichette has a lot of work to do.

Bichette struggled in every aspect of his game in 2013, and earned this comment from Keith Law, Bischette is “a mess on both sides of the ball,”. In many ways Bichette was actually worse in his second year in the South Atlantic League. He put up a line of .210/.291/.322 (80 wRC+), with ten homeruns. While the homeruns are nice, it seemed to lead to a lot more strikeouts than he had in 2012.

Bichette really has to improve quickly as Miguel Andujar, and Eric Jagielo are both ready to take his spot on the team's organizational depth chart. At the moment it isn't even clear where Bichette will start the 2014 season, or how he will get the playing time he needs to show he is an improved player. If I had to guess, I would say he would repeat A-Ball for the third year, and move up whenever Jagielo does. This may mean splitting time with Andujar, but it would allow Anderson Feliz and Matt Snyder to play DH in Tampa.

3. Cito Culver:

Like Bichette, Culver was a first round pick. However, Culver was a much riskier pick and the Yankees reached for him. They did this because they felt he wouldn't fall to their second round pick. Most pundits hated the selection at the time, and so far Culver really hasn't proven them wrong.

Culver may have turned around his career last year, by deciding he was no longer a switch-hitter. It took some time, but the move appeared to pay off by the end of the year. While it is a tiny sample size Culver ended his season in High-A with a WRC+ of 153. But even more importantly than his hot streak in Tampa, is the fact that the Yankees chose to promote him despite his numbers not looking great.

If his offensive turnaround at the end of last season was real, he could quickly become a very good prospect. That's because he already is known as a good defensive shortstop, who can steal a decent amount of bases. If Culver even develops into a borderline top prospect the Yankees system would look much better, as they don't really have a high level shortstop prospect in the system.

4. Mark Montgomery:

Montgomery who was drafted in the 11th round in 2011 quickly rose to AAA by 2013. At this time last season Montgomery looked like he could make the majors very soon. However a season long shoulder injury hindered Montgomery's development. For the first time in his Yankee career Montgomery really struggled to put up good numbers.

Montgomery put a decent ERA last year (3.38) but his FIP was 4.00 and he walked 5.63 batters per nine innings. His walk rate in AA, a year earlier was 2.25. So his numbers were really bad for him, and hopefully were flukish.

Montgomery's  struggles were the result of reduced fastball velocity, and an increase in walks. Montgomery is really a two pitch pitcher. He has an elite slider, but his changeup isn't really a pitch he throws. That is why he needs his fastball to be good.

Hopefully, he regains that velocity now that he is healthy. Either way Montgomery is slated to begin the season in AAA, assuming he doesn't win a job during training. The Yankees have a lot of major league relief options so another poor year from Montgomery would really bury him in the depth chart.

5. Omar Luis:

Omar Luis, was one of the Yankees last big international signings before the new spending restrictions were implemented. Omar Luis initially signed for 4 million dollars, but an issue with his physical forced Luis to renegotiate his contract. Because this is his second contract with his original team Luis is officially eligible to be taken in the rule 5 draft until he is added to the 40 man roster.

This news drastically affects his stock as a prospect, as it may mean the Yankees have to push him through the system, after all he has only played in rookie ball.  The fact that he will have to move quickly, is why he is on this list. He has little room for error at this point, which is a shame because he is so inexperianced.

Fortunately, Luis seems to be moderately talented, and was ranked as one of Ben Badler's ten GCL sleepers. If Luis tones down on his walks, he might actually have a shot at developing as a Yankee, despite the aggressive approach they will have to take with him.

Honorable Mentions: Angel Rincon, Giovanny Gallegos, Chaz Hebert, Jeremy Bleich.


Josh Sabo is a Minor League writer for Yanks Beat Blog.


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