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January 24, 2007

by Fabian

Jose Tabata, 18, RF
Previously Ranked: 4th prior to 2006
What Others Say: Pinstripes Plus 2nd, Baseball America 2nd, John Sickels 2nd(B+)

Physical Ability: Jose Tabata is an extremely young, extremely gifted teenager in the Yankee farm system. He possesses solid or better tools across the board and it is this broad base of tools that make him an exciting prospect. While his American debut gave the impression that he was/is a speedster, Tabata has lost some of that ability due to weight gain. How well he is able to keep his weight under control may be the determining factor in how far he goes as a big leaguer. At present, Tabata still possesses solid speed and is surprisingly adept at picking his spots on the bases. Unlike many young hitters, Tabata does not struggle to get on base as he both hits for average and controls the strike zone. Tabata is a good hitter for average due to level stroke and consistently getting good wood on the ball. While he projects to hit for power in the 30+ home run range, Tabata has only tapped into a bit of that raw ability. Defensively, Tabata has played all three OF positions to this point of his career. He projects as a solid or better defender in either OF corner.

What Happened in ’06: Tabata began the year playing for the Charleston Riverdogs of the South Atlantic League. Through the July 4th weekend his performance was excellent as he had posted an OPS of .824 while making consistent adjustments and improvements at the plate. It was around this time where he began to suffer through a series of hand injuries that would derail his season. The Yankees tried a DL stay as well as some good old fashioned time off, but neither was effective in curing what ailed their top offensive prospect. Tabata would cap his year by playing in the Venezuelan Winter League. While he was initially a bench player, Tabata’s offensive performance forced his coaching staff’s hand and he took hold of a starting spot. Unfortunately, it was then that his was derailed by a wrist injury.

What Lies Ahead: Normally, I’m afraid of what going to the Florida State League will do to an offensive prospect’s numbers, but in the case of Tabata, I’m fairly confident he will have a representative season. He does not put the ball in the air that much and did a good job dealing with an adverse offensive environment in Charleston, so that bodes well.

Grade: At the moment, there are two flaws in Tabata’s prospect profile. The first is his weight, the second is injury history. In regards to the former, Tabata came into the year overweight and while he worked his way into shape as the season progressed he was still wider than you’d like a top hitting prospect to be at his age. So, that’s going to be a concern until it can be established that last offseason’s weight gain was a fluke. His build is also going to be a contributor to this problem as well as inflating the issue. The second concern is injuries. Over the past few months, Tabata has battled some hand and wrist issues, which are particularly troublesome. They have a tendency to sap power and it appears that that may have occurred in Tabata’s case. The Yankees are once again claiming Tabata is fully recovered, so hopefully that is a thing of the past. If you’re looking for or find any other legitimate flaws, you’re probably looking too hard. If things work out, Jose has a chance to be a Kevin Mitchell/Bobby Abreu type and if everything goes right, he may just be Manny Ramirez. A-

Humberto Sanchez #3