On a Charleston team featuring what may be the deepest roster in minor league baseball, New York Yankees Angelo Gumbs stood out as having the best bat speed of the bunch. Now 19, the former second round pick originally signed for $750,000 as a centerfielder considered to be strong on tools, but short on actual baseball skills. Two years later, Gumbs is more than holding his own in full season baseball offensively and has made a move on defense to the keystone position. And while a .274/.322/.444 line including 22/25 in stolen base attempts doesn’t jump off the stat page, age-versus-level considerations make it all the more impressive – especially considering his lack of polish.
Video after the jump
In seeing Gumbs play twice against the Rome Braves including a batting practice session earlier in the season, it quickly became obvious the right-handed hitter would become a polarizing prospect in scouting circles. To his credit, the bat speed is elite and amongst the best I’ve seen at the minor league level. Having seen both Bryce Harper and Mike Stanton as minor leaguers, Gumbs holds his own with either of them in terms of his sheer ability to get his bat head through the strike zone. However, a swing is much more than bat speed alone which is where Gumbs will lose believers.
Prior to his swing, Gumbs’ load and timing mechanism features excess waggle and a moderately high leg kick which makes pitches awfully difficult to time correctly. Over the course of ten plate appearances, he barreled only a single baseball (line drive double to right-centerfield) and had a tendency to flail wildly at breaking pitches low-and-away. This, combined with a general lack of plate discipline led to a number of swings which were truly cringe worthy. The combination of elite bat speed, lack of polish and impressive stat line forces one to really consider whether the dots between the Single-A version of Gumbs and future major leaguer connect. Due to having to rely on so much projection with Gumbs, the possible outcomes include everything from Double-A wash out to above average major league hitter from an offensive standpoint.
On defense, Gumbs is even more of a work in progress. In game action, he made the routine plays, but Gumbs’ actions were stiff and slightly delayed. Additionally, his hands were hard and fielding ground balls appeared unnatural. However, Gumbs is a converted outfielder still learning second base. Plus, his athleticism fits the perceived requirements of the position so he’ll be given a long leash. The Yankees are smart for challenging Gumbs defensively and it has the potential to really pay off for the organization. But once again, quite a bit of projection is needed to envision Gumbs as a middle infielder at the major league level.
As an athlete, Gumbs is more above average than plus with an excellent frame to add additional size and strength at full physical maturity. However, his present size and development through the lower half and shoulders does leave him with the appearance of being a bit stiff in his baseball movements. For me, the sign of truly plus athleticism is the ability to combine agility and explosion, so Gumbs falls a little short. Still, every organization would love to have an Angelo Gumbs in its system to develop and take a chance on the end result.
In terms of speed, the only home-to-first time pulled from video was a 4.35 which is a 45 on the 20/80 scouting scale. In fairness to Gumbs, he had a bit of a slow start out of the batter’s box as he watched to see if the ball had eyes instead of simply putting his head down and running through the bag. On a routine 6-3, I’d expect Gumbs’ speed to grade out a touch higher.
On the baseball diamond, it’s hard to not think Rickie Weeks when watching Angelo Gumbs play. People may want to call it a lazy comp for their height, position and ethnicity, but some statistical similarities exist. Even though Weeks was a college draft pick and made his professional full season debut in Double-A at 21, his .773 OPS is a mark Gumbs could match in two years if he continues to develop at his present pace and advances a level per season. With a .766 OPS in the South Atlantic League, one can definitely envision a scenario where the tools and elite bat speed turn into skills and Gumbs is able to maintain, if not increase his production at higher levels. However, the faith needed to trust the pieces come together for Gumbs makes it difficult for me buy in without hesitation.