Scouting Report: Ericson Leonora

Leonora still has a significant ceiling

The New York Yankees signed outfielder Ericson Leonora in August of 2008 out of Venezuela. Once considered one of the top young Yankee International signings, a series of injuries sandwiched in between a failed position change experiment at second base delayed his progress. However, he is starting to play himself back on to the prospect radar lately and still offers a significant ceiling.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Ericson Leonora
Position: Outfield
DOB: August 25, 1992
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 200
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

He spent his first three professional seasons in the Dominican Summer League with varying degrees of success but had a mini-breakout season with the Gulf Coast League Yankees in 2012 when he wound up finishing second in the league in home runs [7] and RBIs [30].

"I feel very good about the year I had," Leonora said at the time through the help of a translator. "Obviously it's good when you [are among the league leaders] in home runs and RBIs, but not just that but overall it was a very good year for me."

His rather low .227 average, however, was a little concerning but he had to get used to the different style of pitching in the United States, one that saw a lot more offspeed stuff. He picked up his game the following Instructional League but was still initially kept out of the long-season leagues again last year.

"I was upset at first," Leonora admitted. "But I put my head down and tried to get to work to make it better. Ultimately it has paid off because I [made the long-season leagues].

"I had a small injury during that time, but it didn't sideline me for too long and I was fortunately able to get back out there.

"I felt good down in Extended Spring Training. I felt like when I got [to Charleston] I kept learning, kept getting better and I am better than when I got here. I have been fortunate to play well."

Play well he did. It might have taken him until six weeks shy of his 21st birthday but when he did finally make the long-season leagues he did quite well, hitting .302 with 18 extra-base hits in just 38 games for the Charleston RiverDogs late last season.

"That is what the first four years were for," Leonora said, "so to get to this point and [have] that hard work paid off, and hopefully I keep moving up in the right direction. Overall I think I have done excellent. I really just need to keep working."

Working hard has never been his problem though, it's been staying healthy enough to stay out of the training room and on the field. When he's been able to be on the field he has turned heads with his abilities.

"He has done a great job for us," Charleston hitting coach P.J. Pilittere said late last season. "I mean, I coached him a little bit last year with GCL so I had an idea of what kind of player he is. He is quiet by nature but he goes about his business in a good way.

"He has got a good chance to become a really good hitter. He impacts the ball and has got some surprising power. He has done a good job so far."

He has still yet to amass more than 200 at-bats in a season in the United States and that lost development time still has him looking to tweak some things in his game, most notably improving his walks and situational defense in the outfield, but there is still some natural talent yet to be tapped.

"For a young guy, he definitely has some tools," Charleston manager Al Pedrique said. "I am impressed with his composure, he is very calm. Whether he comes up to the plate when guys are on base or not he is always the same.

"Defensively he is the same way, he doesn't ever panic, especially when the game is on the line or when he is playing under the pressure.

"He has a lot of areas he needs to improve. But again for a young guy I am impressed with how mature he acts on the field and off the field. He is very quiet, sometimes you don't know if he is even in the dugout. But he works hard and does things the right way."

Getting ready to enter his sixth professional season, Leonora is hoping that he has shaken off the injury bug and can become a late bloomer, and finally start tapping some of that immense potential the Yankees saw in him when he was 16 years old.

"I really hope so. I wanted to come up here and play here [to Charleston] and do that. I hope that if I keep playing well eventually people are going to take notice," Leonora concluded.

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2013 Charleston .302 139 13 4 16 15 2 7 35 .340 .496
2013 GCL Yankees .235 17 1 0 3 2 1 2 8 .316 .294
2012 GCL Yankees .227 198 10 7 30 24 5 19 41 .306 .384
2011 DSL Yankees1 .252 218 15 8 42 32 5 17 56 .321 .440
2010 DSL Yankees1 .272 246 8 2 27 37 14 31 46 .359 .346
2009 DSL Yankees1 .286 259 12 4 39 40 15 18 66 .330font> .448


Batting and Power. Leonora has two things that work extremely well for him at the plate -- plus bat speed and a very calm demeanor in the batter's box. He doesn't press too much and rarely over-swings, and he shows a real willingness to use the whole field. Despite good natural patience and solid pitch recognition, he is a very aggressive hitter who looks to drive his pitches earlier in counts and therefore doesn't walk very much. He has average power potential right now with the opportunity for more as he gains more in-game experience.

Base Running and Speed. He was a lot quicker in his younger days, showing above average speed at one time, but now he has slid down to a tick below average runner overall. He is a good station to station runner because of his natural instincts but he doesn't pose much of an actual base stealing threat anymore.

Defense. The one-time centerfielder has outgrown the position, putting on nearly 25 pounds since he first signed with the Yankees. However, he shows very good range in both corner outfield spots and he has above average arm strength, enough to play an admirable right field in an everyday capacity. He projects to be a solid to borderline above average defensive corner outfielder.

Projection. Leonora's projection has changed over the years. Once having the ceiling of a speedy centerfielder type with some pop, he now has the ceiling of a slugging corner outfielder who can run a little bit and be solid enough in either left or right field. Because of his longer development time, however, and the fact he has lost a step or two over the years, he has become a sink or swim prospect who will either fulfill his ceiling or cap out in the minor leagues. Leonora [still just 21 years old, who compares somewhat to a young Nelson Cruz type] and the Yankees are hoping for the former rather than the latter.

ETA. 2015. Leonora should be ticketed for high-A Tampa. Short on chances now with very little margin for error, he'll either move up quickly if he does well or shortly become an organizational afterthought.

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