While some people love to imply that the media hypes the Yankees prospects, the fact of the matter is that some of the Yankees most useful homegrown players were never highly thought of as prospects. For example: Melky Cabrera and David Robertson were both ranked as the Yankees 15th best prospect before their eventually Yankees debut, more recent examples include guys like Greg Bird, and Rob Refsndyer.
Bird and Refsnyder dominated every level they’ve been on, but is only now are they getting recognized as true top-prospects. This makes sense as some guys just aren’t as toolsy as others, and really have to put up big numbers on every rung of the minor league ladder.
Looking through the Yankees system for the next Bird or Refsnyder is not an easy task, and takes a bit of guesswork. But looking at some the systems better statistical performers, and looking at their tools can help us forecast the next breakout prospect. Over off-season, I will write a few of these sleeper pick style articles in hopes of finding the next Rob Refsnyder or Greg Bird.
One player seems like a prime breakout candidate is Christopher Breen. Breen was selected by the Yankees in the 12th round of the 2012 draft, as a raw catching prospect, but has since moved to the outfield and first base. His general backstory—as a former catcher—and his strong bat reminds me of Tyler Austin and Greg Bird. Of course this is a superficial comparison, but overall those have the hit tool to be a similar—albeit lower ceiling—prospect.
Breen dominated the New York Penn League this year put up a wOBA of .399 (6th in the league), a wRC+ of 155 (2nd) an OPS of .881 (5th), and an ISO of .223 (4th). Breen stats compared very well to top pick Michael Conforto—though Conforto took a break before signing. I would say that Breen must work on lower his K rate of 27 percent, but overall his season was very encouraging. With the growing amount of shifts in baseball it’s important to hit the ball to all fields, and I feel that Breen does that well enough. According to MLBfarm.com his hits to the outfield are essentially even, and he hits the ball to the right side of the infield about 10 percent of the time which might be enough to avoid a shift.
While it’s certainly possible that Breen is a fluke—his BABIP was high and he under-performed the two previous years— he was easily one of the best players in the league, and has been thought to have hitting and power ability. Furthermore he does seem to have some supporters as Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt had the following to say about Breen: Chris Breen is “an outfielder with some power, arm strength, sneaky athleticism and ability to recognize spin. I am particularly intrigued by him.” Breen is probably going to begin the 2014 season in A-ball, but might be a quick riser, if he can prove his bat is for real.