Now that I have selected my six “breakout candidates” for 2015, it’s time to delve into a new group of players. These are the “deep REM sleepers” if you will. These are the guys who are not just under the radar, they are currently off the grid.
Be that as it may, the Yankees farm system has become so deep (just ask Kiley McDaniel) that there are several such players who have enough talent and potential that they could someday soon put themselves on the map.
The wildcards as I like to call them. The guys who could emerge to take the system to the next level. The guys who have some talent hiding beneath the surface of either poor stats or inexperience. The guys who could be this year or next year’s breakout candidates if things go well. These are the guys no one can predict, not even the best prospect gurus.
Introducing my new series; Wildcard Prospects. The first prospect we will highlight is Chris Gittens, a 2014 draftee.
Position: First Base
He was taken in the 12th round out of Grayson County College. There he hit .404/.463/.532/.995 with nine doubles and three homeruns in 41 games. After being drafted, Gittens was a late signee, and played in just 11 games with the GCL Yankees. In those 11 games he played well, batting .286/.400/.400/.800 with four doubles.
Gittens did not get an invitation to instructs, and didn’t play any winter league baseball. My guess is that the Yankees have told Gittens that his main priority is to lose weight, work out, and gain strength while making sure to keep hitting. Apparently Gittens has had conditioning issues in the past.
Based on his twitter feed he has been doing just that (@gittensome). At least 1/3 of his tweets are about working out or hitting this offseason. If that’s the case he should come to Spring Training ready to roll, and perhaps stronger than ever with that being his one and only job this offseason. Only time will tell if these tweets are just blowing smoke or if he comes to Spring Training in great shape.
Given Chris Gittens’ massive size, it is not surprising that his best tool is his power. The power has yet to show up in games, but rest assured it is there. Gittens just has to learn to tap into it. One of his other tools that has been a major plus for Gittens is his hit tool, as he is known to use all fields and hit for good average. His other useful tool is patience, which he has shown to be plus in his brief stint with the GCL Yankees.
Defensively, it is tough to imagine Gittens being a plus first baseman at his size. I would guess that this is one of the main reasons the Yankees have him at home working out, hopefully like a fiend, this offseason. If he has combined that with eating right, perhaps he can get down to a more athletic size and become more mobile.
As a first base prospect, Gittens will have to hit all the way up the ladder. Given that this was the reason the Yankees drafted him, I don’t see this as a problem. He was drafted in the 12th round, so his position really doesn’t matter. If he can hit, he was a steal at that draft position.
Gittens does have major potential sitting below the surface. At his size and with a solid hit tool, he has the ability to go far if he is willing to put the work in.
His ceiling is tough to project without ever having seen him play, but as is the case with most GCL prospects it is still vast. He has his whole career ahead of him, and it is not out of the question that he could become a serviceable defensive first baseman with 30+ homerun power while hitting for good average. That would be a reach at this point, and the more likely scenario is that he reaches his floor, which is to flop as soon as next season.
He’ll likely start in either the Appalachian league or Staten Island next season. He will go as far as his bat takes him. For now he remains under the radar, but if he has success next season he could quickly go from wildcard to emerging prospect.