2012 Preseason Not Top 30 Prospects

The best pitches in the Yankee bullpen
Burnett and the Mystery Team
Had I been blogging back then, I'm sure Graman would have been a Not Top 30 Prospect. (Photo via Baseball-Almanac.com)

Prospect lists are all over the interweb this time of year, and tomorrow my annual Top 30 Prospects List will go live. The Yankees have a solid and particularly deep farm system, so naturally a few players didn’t make the cut even though they’re each worth knowing about. Rather than leave them on the cutting room floor for next year (or never), we’ll look at them here in what has become my annual Not Top 30 Prospects List.

These aren’t prospects 31 through 35. They’re five guys on the outside of this year’s Top 30 who I think have a chance to climb into next year’s Top 30 with strong seasons, both developmentally and performance-wise. Two of last year’s Not Top 30 Prospects jumped into the Top 30 this year — Angelo Gumbs and Chase Whitley — and I think a 40% success rate is pretty good for this kind of stuff. Scottie Allen had a disaster season — an 82 runs and 179 baserunners in 93.1 IP kind of disaster season — while Dan Burawa was merely okay, so they’re still on the outside of the Top 30 looking in. The other guy, Rafael DePaula, technically isn’t even in the organization yet because he still hasn’t secured a visa. Maybe I should just put him in the Not Top 30 every year until he makes it stateside.

The five players are listed alphabetically by last name, so don’t bother reading anything into the order. The ages listed are as of April 1st, approximately Opening Day.

(Photo via Jake Cave on Twitter)

Jake Cave, OF, 19
A legitimate prospect on the mound, the Yankees drafted Cave as an outfielder last year and that’s where he has the greatest long-term potential. His $800k signing bonus as the team’s sixth round pick was the second largest bonus the Yankees gave to a drafted player in 2011, and he went on to be named the top prospect in Coastal Plains League last summer despite playing with a bunch of college kids. Cave is an excellent athlete that runs well, enough that he could stick in center field for the time being. His arm is obviously above average, so he’d fit perfectly in right field down the line. The Virginia kid has quick hands but a long left-handed swing that produces better than average power. He needs to improve his pitch recognition and overall discipline to carry that power over from batting practice into games. There’s a lot of potential here, but also a lot of progress that needs to be made. Cave will start next year in Extended Spring Training and find himself in one of the short season leagues come June.

(Joe Souza/The Citizen of Laconia)

Jordan Cote, RHSP, 19
The Yankees’ third round pick in 2011 and the recipient of a $725k bonus, Cote signed too late to get into any games last summer. The New Hampshire native is the classic “close your eyes and dream” type of pitching prospect. He checks in at 6-foot-5 and 205 lbs., and can already hit 92 with his fastball. Neither his curveball or slider have really distinguished themselves yet, but he’s shown the ability to make the ball spin. His changeup is in the very early stages of its development. The Yankees have Cote on a strict throwing and conditioning program, and he spent the winter working out at Cressey Performance in Massachusetts. His arm speed is top notch but his delivery is very inconsistent, so he’ll have to put in a lot of work to iron out his mechanics. If he adds some muscle and streamlines his delivery, there’s scary upside here. Cote will start the season in Extended Spring Training before joining the rookie level Gulf Coast League Yankees.

(Mike Ashmore)

Ben Gamel, OF, 19
The younger brother of long-time Brewers farmhand Mat Gamel, Ben broke a strong commitment to Florida State to sign with the Yankees for $500k as their tenth rounder in 2010. He hit in the middle of the lineup for Short Season Staten Island’s league championship team last season, producing a .380 wOBA with a 10.9% walk rate and seven steals. Like his brother, Gamel’s bat is going to have to carry him because none of his other tools stand out. He has a smooth left-handed swing with present pull power and the potential for a lot more, plus he has a solid understanding of the strike zone. Chances are he’ll be relegated to left field long-term because he doesn’t run or throw well, so like I said, the bat’s going to have to carry him. Gamel will be part of the prospect-laden Low-A Charleston club this summer.

(Robert Pimpsner)

Tommy Kahnle, RHRP, 22
I might be cheating here, because Kahnle was in the back end of last year’s top 30. I guess I just wanted to let everyone know that he’s still a prospect, just that some others moved ahead of him. Anyway, Kahnle finished last season with the fifth most strikeouts in the organization (112) despite being a reliever and throwing the 27th most innings (81). Unfortunately, he also finished seventh in walks (49). The Yankees’ fifth round pick in 2010 is a pure power reliever, living at 92-94 with a few 96s. His changeup is his second best offering, and he also throws a slider. Kahnle’s biggest problem has been his ongoing struggle with control, though he only walked six batters in his final ten appearances and 21 IP last year. He’ll move up to High-A Tampa after spending all of last season with Low-A Charleston, and if he shows that his improved control down the stretch wasn’t a fluke, he could move up to Double-A Trenton very quickly.

(Mike Ashmore)

Matt Tracy, LHSP, 23
Primarily an outfielder at Ole Miss, the Yankees selected Tracy in the 24th round last year and stuck him on the mound full-time. He spent the summer pitching for Short Season Staten Island — first out of the bullpen and later as a starter — throwing six shutout innings in Game One of their first round playoff series and then again in the league championship clincher. All told, he struck out 48 (9.13 K/9 and 24.5 K%) and walked 16 (3.14 BB/9 and 8.2 BB%) in his 47.1 IP pro debut, allowing just one homer thanks to a 62% ground ball rate. The 6-foot-3, 212 lb. Tracy sits at 94-95 with his two-seamer in relief and 90-92 as a starter, backing up the heater with a downer curveball and solid changeup. His arm is fresh after throwing just 118.1 IP during his four years in school. Tracy has the repertoire to start but not the pitching experience to rocket up the ladder despite being a senior sign. He could start 2012 at Low-A Charleston and move up to High-A Tampa at midseason. There is no better sleeper in the system.

The best pitches in the Yankee bullpen
Burnett and the Mystery Team
  • Plank

    I thought I read DePaula is going to Japan since he won’t be able to get a visa.

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

      That’s Paniagua.

      • Plank

        Ah, my bad.

        What’s going to happen when it’s revealed that ‘Brett Gardner’ is actually a 43 year old Romanian named Constantine Iorga?

        • http://twitter.com/nebkreb Nebkreb

          Tough home run call for Sterling on that one…

          • MannyGeee

            eh, Sterling will only have to use it twice a year, so i woulnd’t sweat it

        • Paul VuvuZuvella

          Taci din gura. That’s Romanian for shut up.
          Don’t be blowing Brett’s cover.

          • Plank

            Brett Gardner is secretly a gypsy.

            (I’m really hoping this catches on.)

            • GardnerIsaRomanianGypsy

              I’ll take care of that.

              • Plank

                Hahahaha. Perfect.

  • RetroRob

    What’s the problem with DePaula and his visa? Is there any chance this will be resolved, or will he live in limbo forever?

    • pat

      US Gov’t doesn’t like it when you attempt to enter the country using falsified documents.

      • Plank

        Yeah, they’re jerks like that.

        • MannyGeee

          dick move, US Government…… reeeeeal dick move.

          • jimmy

            damn terrorists ruining it for all the guys who come to america, just to make “15 million to feed their families”

      • RetroRob

        I’m guessing this may give the Indians a guideline as to when Fausto Carmona, or whatever his name is, will return to Cleveland.

        • http://musicaldaddy.blogspot.com Chuck M

          Not necessarily. Something tells me that the Artist Formerly Known As Fausto will get there faster. Money speaks.

          • RetroRob

            I had a similar thought, yet if money exchanging hands is what required, I’m surprised the Yankees haven’t helped speed DePaula’s issue along.

      • renzostew

        Depaula must be the only guy who can’t get in the U.S.

  • thurdonpaul

    great article Mike ! thanks

  • Plank

    Wow, Ben Gamel not one of the top 30 prospects. The Yankees have had top end prospects fairly consistently since Nick Johnson, but have they ever been this deep?

  • CJ

    Mike, nice piece. Do you recall how high Gardner and Robertson made it on any of the prominent Top 20 Prospect lists?? Thanks.

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

      Yes, they definitely did. Gardner was in Baseball America’s top ten Yankees prospects a few times.

      • Paul VuvuZuvella

        Robertson also made Yanks top 10 but I don’t think either made Top 100 lists.

  • Reggie C.

    So Matt Tracy is your choice for sleeper to follow this upcoming season? I will make note to follow his starts which shouldn’t be difficult at all considering how many known prospects are going to play in Charleston and Tampa. Alot of the college draftees who end up signing really fall into obscurity when they play in SS ball. I’d never heard of Tracy before today’s post.

    That’s a real frigging sleeper in my book. Nice pick Mike.

    • pat

      Big ups to former Yankee Great** Andy Cannizaro. He was the scout who signed him.

      ** loose definition

  • The Oberamtmann

    Regarding two-way prospects like Cave, a couple of questions:

    1) How do the Yankees decide which way to draft someone? I would have thought that, given the scarcity of pitching in MLB and the easier time teams have of securing decent outfielders, pitching would always be the right way to go, no?

    2) Does being a former pitcher aid pitch-recognition development in any way? I realize that MLB pitchers who have switched (Ankiel) don’t seem to have any extra boost in that department, but doesn’t it seem like they should?

    • Plank

      When Roger Clemens and Doc Gooden were the two starting pitchers for the all star game (1986?), Roger Clemens came up to bat and the pitch blew past him. He said to the ump “Wow, do I throw that fast?” The ump replied “No way. You throw much faster.”

      It’s an interesting thought, but throwing pitches and hitting them seem like fairly disparate skill sets.

      (I was paraphrasing there and I may have some details wrong, I’m pretty sure that’s how it went down though.)

    • Ted Nelson

      I would imagine it’s a case by case basis. Where the individual is projected to be more valuable. Positional scarcity comes into that a little, but I’m not sure SPs are much scarcer than OF over than the 5-to-3 nature of how many starters you need at the positions and the volatility of pitchers.

      I think pitch recognition is sort of a split second thing which develops through repetition on that side of the ball and some guys are just innately better at than others. Not sure that knowing how to throw a certain pitch better than someone else helps you recognize the pitch out of the hand any faster or better. Maybe someone like Wakefield or Mo has a better feeling for the unusual movement of a knuckleball or cutter that allows them to hit it better than another batter of the same ability level… but probably a stretch.
      If anything a C might develop more pitch recognition ability from spending so much time watching pitches from a really similar angle as the batter.

  • MannyGeee

    The thought of Jordan Cote figuring out those mechanics and becoming a monster every 5th day made me pee a little bit.

    • GardnerIsaRomanianGypsy

      Someone get this man a box of Depends.

  • Elmgrovegnome

    Hard to imagine after following the Yankees since 76 that thy have so much depth on the farm that some of these guys don’t make the top 30. Happy Days are here again.

  • Ted Nelson

    Really appreciate the work to put up guys outside the top 30 up, Mike. Thanks.

    Very exciting to have talents like these outside the top 30.

  • Plank

    Jake Cave is an awkward name to say aloud.

    • JohnC

      So easy a Cave man can do it

      • matt s

        true, Jack Cave works so much better.

  • dean

    Nice post

  • VZ

    So what’s the difference between Cote and Brackman? Is/was Brackman’s ceiling way higher? Or was he just that much more imposing? Or is it not even close?

    • JobaWockeeZ

      For starter’s Brackman was an immediate injury risk, throws with his right hand, throws a much faster fastball and is a lot taller.

      • Ted Nelson

        Cote throws with his right hand as well…

  • Mike Myers

    What # prospect is Mattingly JR? 135? 121?

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Great job.

    Funny picture of Alex Graman, but also a reminder of how much more fun it is to follow the Yankees with the wealth of information on prospects available to us now. No more peering at the yearbook for that profile on Danny Pasqua or Bryan Dayett and having that count as knowing about the MiLB system.

  • Plank

    I’d like to throw my hat in the ring for a not top 30 Yankee prospect. I seem to fit most of the criteria, and I’m certainly not in their top 30, at least I highly doubt it. I’m not positive, the list comes out tomorrow after all.

    Anyway, I think I should be included in future lists of people who aren’t top prospects for the Yankees.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Without having seen you play, I’d tend to agree with your assessment. I’m reasonably confident that you would be outside the Yankees Top 30 Prosepects. :-)

  • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com Eric

    Nice work Mike, as always, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing your list. I see Cave as a top 30 guy (though I haven’t made a top 30 list yet) and Cote might very well sneak onto my top 30 as well.

  • mike_h

    good, this means Pat Venditte must be in the top 30, hoping in the Top 10 :)

    • GardnerIsaRomanianGypsy

      I’m a fan of Venditte, but there’s really no way he’s top 10. When there are guys like Manny, Dellin, Sanchez, Mason, Campos, Bichette, Santana, Romine, Tyler Austin, and Heathcott, cracking the top 10 as an interesting oddity is quite difficult.

  • http://twitter.com/tjamato T.J.

    Mike, after your prospects list drops tomorrow are you going to be chatting about it as well?

  • The Oberamtmann

    Where would Mattingly have gone in the draft if he was picked just for his scouted abilities and projection, and his bloodlines weren’t taken into account?

  • Brian in NH

    personally rooting for Cote to do something amazing. always like seeing people from NH do well in pro sports. Last guy was Matt Bonner, who was actually great at Florida, and has been a serviceable pro.