Before 2009: Fortenberry was picked in the 11th round of the 2006 draft by the Yankees out of Baylor.
He was sent to Short Season-A Staten Island and was one of the club’s everyday outfielders, hitting .268 with four home runs and 25 RBI in 67 games.
Fortenberry really broke out in 2007, when he spent the year with Low-A Charleston. He hit. 255 with a career high 18 home runs and 87 RBI, playing in all 140 games and finishing in the top 5 in the league in walks with 73.
His strong offensive run continued the following season, when he hit .263 with12 home runs and 46 RBI at High-A Tampa in 2008.
2009: At media day, just prior to the start of the season, Fortenberry told me: “Hopefully, (the fans will see in me) a lot of what they saw last year in AJ. That would be nice. I guess I’m the same type of player; speed, run around the outfield, play defense. He has big shoes to fill, but I’m going to do my best.”
That didn’t entirely happen.
Fortenberry lasted about two months with the Thunder, hitting just .160 with no home runs and eight RBI in 38 games. He got sent down to High-A Tampa around the first week of June, and things didn’t get much better.
In 59 games with Tampa, he hit only .175 with six home runs and 27 RBI. Seems he could just never get that bat going.
His arm, rated as the best in the Yankees farm system, never really seemed to make much of an appearance, as Austin Krum actually made a stronger impression with his throwing arm than Fortenberry ever did.
After 2009: Fortenberry’s prospect status took a big hit last season, and it’ll be interesting to see where he starts out in trying to get it back. With Austin Krum likely set to start out the season as Trenton’s starting center fielder, Fortenberry’s unlikely to be able to take that spot back.
At some point, even if he doesn’t start the season there, Fortenberry will likely return to Trenton to try to pick his career back up. If he can get his offensive numbers back on track, especially his power numbers, he’ll have a chance to re-establish himself as one of the outfielders to keep an eye on in the system.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com