Yanks Go Yard is combing through the New York Yankees minor league system in search of hidden gems in this ongoing series. Today, we look at catcher Miguel Flames.
One of the big names from the New York Yankees 2014-2015 international spending spree, catcher Miguel Flames, made his U.S. debut this season as an 18-year-old in the Gulf Coast League. Flames received a $1.1 million signing bonus on July 2nd, 2014 and saw his first professional action in the Dominican Summer League during the 2015 season, hitting .317/.398/.454 with three homers and nine doubles in 238 plate appearances.
Flames’s numbers took a hit this year in the GCL, although that shouldn’t be too worrying since he was a year and a half younger than his average competition. He put up a .263/.310/.338 slash line in 172 plate appearances.
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Baseball America had Flames ranked 16th among international free agents in 2014 (subscription required). They noted that while the move to catcher helped his value as a prospect, it was still an open question whether he can stick behind the plate long-term. Still, it’s primarily Flames’s bat that makes him so exciting, and here’s what BA had to say about his offensive game at the time:
Scouts who like Flames say he hits in games and takes quality at-bats thanks to his pitch recognition and ability to stay within the strike zone. At times he pulls off the ball, which leads to some swing and miss, as he’s learning to keep his hands through the baseball, but for some scouts he’s one of the best hitters in Venezuela. He makes hard contact, with average to a tick better raw power that ranks among the best in the class.
In their 2014 Prospect Watch, MLB.com was not quite as high on Flames, ranking him 25th in the international class. In their writeup, the evaluators at MLB.com praise his plate discipline and raw power, but note that he may be a first baseman long-term if his defense doesn’t progress.
The early opinions of scouts look prescient thus far, as Flames has received the lion’s share of his playing time at first base during his two seasons as a professional. This year, he received just 10 starts as a catcher (62 innings) while making 36 appearances at first (284.1 innings). This is nothing new, as Flames received an even smaller percentage of his playing time behind the plate in 2015.
After turning 19 in September, Flames could be ready to suit up for the Pulaski Yankees in the Appalachian League to begin 2017, although more time in the GCL wouldn’t be shocking either given his struggles.