2011 Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects

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(Photo Credit: Flickr user paul hadsall via Creative Commons license)

With the draft scheduled to begin on Monday, it’s time to quickly take stock of the Yankees’ farm system and rank their prospects midway through the 2011 season. Of the three top 30 lists I do each year, this one is easily my least favorite, just because the minor league season is only 50 games old and that’s really not enough to change my opinion one way or the other.

Ivan Nova is the only player from my preseason list to have since graduated to the majors, however I’m also considering Eduardo Nunez graduated for practical reasons. He’s 31 at-bats shy of the rookie cutoff, so he’ll certainly get there this summer, barring injury. The ages listed are as of today, and the fun starts after the jump …

  1. Jesus Montero, C, 21: Must be nice when a .343 wOBA in Triple-A qualifies as a slow start. Remember, if Montero had been born in the U.S., he’d be a junior in college and getting ready for the draft right now. He’s way ahead of the typical development curve and is the Yankees’ unquestioned top prospect.
  2. Manny Banuelos, LHP, 20: A blister slowed him down in April, and so far he’s been good if not a touch underwhelming. The walk issues (4.97 BB/9) are a bothersome since his Banuelos’ calling card was command, but it’s still too early to worry about it.
  3. Dellin Betances, RHP, 23: Another guy that had a blister problem, Betances continues to fight the free pass (3.86 BB/9) while missing bats at an absurd rate (10.21 K/9).
  4. Gary Sanchez, C, 18: The hype got a little out of control this spring, but you have to remember that he should be a senior in high school right now. A .323 wOBA in Low-A is disappointing as are the nagging injuries, but the upside is still somewhere in orbit.
  5. J.R. Murphy, C/3B/OF, 20: We all knew he could hit and he’s done exactly that (.390 wOBA), but reports of greatly improved defense behind the plate are why he made the biggest jump in the rankings. Hopefully those reports are true.
  6. Slade Heathcott, CF, 20: It’s been an eventful season for Heathcott, who tore the cover off the ball before getting suspended for starting a brawl and then slumped upon his return. That said, his strikeout rate has come down and a .359 wOBA is damn fine work.
  7. Austin Romine, C, 22: Send to Trenton for the second straight year, Romine has been fantastic early on. He owns a .361 wOBA and cut his strikeout rate to three-fourths of last year’s rate while boosting his walk rate by a few percent. He’s ready for Triple-A.
  8. Andrew Brackman, RHP, 25: More peaks and valleys (mostly valleys) for the 2007 first rounder, who is again fighting basic control and the ability to throw strikes. The upside is still there, but the probability continues to fall.
  9. Hector Noesi, RHP, 24: We got our first look at Noesi last month, who’s been impressive in sporadic long relief work. Only 30 total innings so far this year though.
  10. David Phelps, RHP, 24: Probably the only member of the Triple-A staff pitching to expectations, Phelps has been solid and is just moseying along, doing his thing and waiting for the call.
  11. Adam Warren, RHP, 23: Another guy struggling with his control, Warren has nearly doubled his walk rate from last year and isn’t missing as many bats in Triple-A either.
  12. Brett Marshall, RHP, 21: My breakout pick isn’t exactly breaking out, but he hasn’t been disappointing either. Would be nice to see Marshall beef up the strikeout rate (6.83 K/9) while keeping the walks (3.49 BB/9) the rest of the way.
  13. Bryan Mitchell, RHP, 20: A 2009 draftee, Mitchell’s coming out part is scheduled for Short Season Staten Island a little later this month. Reports from Extended Spring Training have been very good, but you have to be careful with those.
  14. Graham Stoneburner, RHP, 23: Made just three starts before a stiff neck shelved him. Doesn’t sound like he’s close to coming back either, so that neck must be really stiff.
  15. Ramon Flores, 1B/OF, 19: Showing off that great plate discipline (16.7% walks), but still has a way to go in the field and with his power. No rush though.
  16. Brandon Laird, 1B/3B/LF, 23: The follow up to last year’s breakout has been decidedly unspectacular (.284 wOBA), with a walk rate (4.3%) and power numbers (.102 ISO) that leave a lot to be desired.
  17. Corban Joseph, 2B, 22: Holding his own at Double-A (.334 wOBA), but CoJo is in danger of falling into the ‘tweener category of not enough defense for the middle infield and not enough bat for a corner.
  18. Mason Williams, OF, 19: Last year’s big money draft pick, Williams has been hanging around in Extended Spring Training before the Staten Island season begins.
  19. Cito Culver, SS, 18: Same deal as Williams, but replace “big money” with “first round.”
  20. Rob Segedin, 3B/OF, 22: Sporting a .368 wOBA with strong strikeout (17.9%) and walk (10.2%) rates, which is exactly what he should be doing in Low-A. Time to move this man up a level.
  21. George Kontos, RHP, 25: Came back well from Tommy John surgery and is missing bats (8.88 K/9) out of the bullpen with his fastball-slider combination.
  22. Ryan Pope, RHP, 25: The start of his season was slowed down by some kind of minor injury, but he’s just a phone call away in the Triple-A bullpen with gaudy peripherals (13 K, 2 BB in 13 IP).
  23. Chase Whitley, RHP, 21: Running right through High-A hitters with his fastball-changeup combination (2.56 FIP) and putting himself very much on the relief pitcher prospect map.
  24. Jose Ramirez, RHP, 21: He lasted all of six starts in High-A before having to be demoted for his own good, but he’s still missing bats (9.2 K/9) and the fastball-changeup combo is hard to beat.
  25. D.J. Mitchell, RHP, 24: Few strikeouts (5.06 K/9), some walks (3.38 BB/9), and a mediocre ground ball rate (49%) in Triple-A all add up to a forgettable performance so far. Mitchell is better than this, but how much?
  26. Tim Norton, RHP, 28: This year was pretty much his last chance to prove himself, and he’s done that and then some so far (13.50 K/9, 2.08 BB/9).
  27. Melky Mesa, OF, 24: He’s back to striking out in a third of his at-bats, though at least he’s still showing power (.170 ISO) and discipline (9.1% walks). Still, those breaking balls can be a real bitch.
  28. Eduardo Sosa, OF, 20: His stupid good ball-hawking skills will always be his calling card, but Sosa’s managed a .365 wOBA despite being jerked around all season, from position to position, bench to the lineup.
  29. Zach Nuding, RHP, 21: Hard-throwing righty is still learning to harness it, but the early returns (8.21 K/9) have been encouraging.
  30. David Adams, 2B, 24: He’s played in all of one game over the last calendar year because of the broken ankle from hell, so he’s hanging onto a spot on this list by the skin of his teeth.

Three players fell off the list: Dan Brewer, Craig Heyer, and Tommy Kahnle. Brewer was relegated to bench duty with Triple-A Scranton early this season and simply hasn’t played much this year, telling you all you need to know about what the Yankees think of him. I think I might have fallen in love with Heyer’s ridiculous walk rates a little too much when I did the preseason list, but the ceiling just isn’t there. Kahnle has that ceiling, but he also has big time control issues (6.6 BB/9). He was one of the last two cuts though, along with Mikey O’Brien. Otherwise there wasn’t a ton of movement, just some slight reshuffling.

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  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    Guys who just missed the list?

    Burawa, Heredia, maybe?

    • mbonzo

      Robert Lyerly?

    • GG2011

      Schaeffer Hall?

    • david bleeker

      Apparently not that important

  • JobaWockeeZ

    When are they goign to start promoting people? It looks like several guys are ready to take their talents to the next level.

    • Levi

      /Lebron’d?

    • Rick in Boston

      We’ll see it in the next couple of weeks as short-season league rosters get finalized and drafted players start signing.

    • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      This isn’t so much a direct response as a general comment, but I think it’s appropriate in this convo… I think a lot of people need to keep in mind the point in these two quotes:

      “Remember, if Montero had been born in the U.S., he’d be a junior in college and getting ready for the draft right now.”

      “The hype got a little out of control this spring, but you have to remember that he should be a senior in high school right now.”

      I’ll pipe down about this at some point, but I still think people get too aggressive with the constant calls for promotions for players who are playing well. Take a kid like Heathcott… His production has dropped off a bunch lately so there aren’t as many calls to promote him, but before his recent slump there were a ton of comments calling for the Yanks to promote him. I not only think it’s overly aggressive (and short-sighted) to promote a kid just because he’s having a good month or two (promote him if the level of play isn’t challenging, not just because he’s succeeding), but the kid would also be, what, a sophomore in college right now?

      Sometimes these kids get drafted/signed when they’re really young and we see them in the system for a while, but we have to keep in mind that development for, basically, all but the very elite prospects, takes years. There’s no need to rush any of these kids, let them play at their level until they’re just too good for the level of competition.

      • V

        And for someone who absolutely not being challenged, look at Bryce Harper. d00d should be in high-A already.

  • Reggie C.

    No doubt Jr Murphy is the farm’s break out player at this point. He’s accumulated over a full season worth of plate appearances at Charleston. The bat is more than ready for Tampa.

  • AnthonyD

    Can we say there is a fairly precipitous drop-off after #7?

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      I’d put the drop-off after #9, but I see what you’re saying.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Yeah the drop-offs are noticeable after number seven and number 15.

  • Naved

    I say Betances is over ManBan at this point of the season. He has fixed his walking problem in his last two starts and just toying batters in AA. I say if gets another couple of starts where he doesn’t walk anyone I think it is time to get him to AAA. ManBan is in the same boat if he stop the walks.

    • S

      Even with the Walks I think Manny would deserve a promotion. Betances his walking issue seems limited to three starts where he walked 15 in 15 innings; outside of those starts he’s really kept himself under control, he still walked people but one or two bb’s a start is a whole lot better than 5.

    • Sleepykarl

      That’s a little short sighted as you poin to only two starts. Don’t forget manny is a lefty and 3 years younger with a sub 3 FIP in AA.

  • Yankee Bigot

    I wonder who will still be on this list after July?

  • David, Jr.

    Any team except Kansas City would love the top seven. The closest to the majors could be Romine, who might be better than Cervelli right now both hitting and catching. If the Yankees think that way I could see Cervelli going to maybe Minnesota, which after trading Ramos last year has a huge hole behind Mauer, whose health is always questionable.

    • Monteroisdinero

      Who do the Giants have behind Posey in their pipeline? Can we get a decent arm from them for Cervelli/Romine etc?

      • David, Jr.

        Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside = just about nothing.

    • cgreen

      I think Romine is better now both defensively and offensively then Cervelli. Cervelli has looked very shaky both at the plate and behind the plate this year..and he has never been known as a “defensive specialist” either.

  • Sam

    Gumbs is going to be on the top half of that list next year. Book it.

  • Sam

    I also like Morton and Encinas a lot.

  • Tripp

    No love for Turley? Seems to be pitching pretty well for his first time in full season ball.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    I need help with the math:

    How awesome is it to have a frickin stud catcher at every level of the farm system? Shockingly awesome or just unfrickinbelievable?

    • David, Jr.

      It is awesome if they have in fact pulled it off, meaning if other teams are drooling over these players. A great strategy because it is one of the most difficult positions to fill, and therefore should have major value.

  • RichYF

    Mike, I don’t know if you’ll update this post or not, but it would be really nice to see the preseason list ranking in parentheses next to “today’s ranking.” Not a big deal, but it makes it easier to go down and see who’s moving up or down and how much.

  • http://www.secdigitalnetwork.com Eric SanInocencio

    Just wanted your opinion, where would Anthony Ranaudo stack up in this system had the Yankees drafted him instead of Cito Culver? Top 7?

  • Rex James

    when do u think david phelps gets called up? with nova struggling, who would b the yankees first pitching option to call up?