Mailbag: Second tier prospects exceeding expectations

Mike Newman on Angelo Gumbs
Aardsma throws two scoreless innings in second rehab game
(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Will asks: Isn’t it amazing how non-prospects like Robinson Cano and Ivan Nova have turned into an all-star and an above average starting pitcher? Does this happen often? Who in the Yankees farm do you think can perform better than their minor league stats if they reach the big leagues?

Well, calling Cano and Nova non-prospects is harsh. Baseball America ranked Cano as the team’s second best prospect prior to the 2005 season and I actually thought he was their top prospect at the time, but either way he was clearly one of the club’s best potential big leaguers. He never did crack one of BA’s top 100 lists though. Nova never ranked among New York’s top ten prospects according to Baseball America — he topped out at #13 prior to 2010 — but he was in their top 30 in the Prospect Handbook every year from 2007-2010.

Anyway, the larger point here is that non-top prospects often do turn into above average big leaguers and even stars on occasion. At the same time, if you look at the list of the best starting pitchers over the last three years, the only one of those guys who didn’t project to become an ace was Cliff Lee. Non-top prospects can develop into strong starting pitchers but you very rarely see one develop into a truly elite hurler. Nova’s no ace, but he’s a rock solid starting pitcher with a chance to improve further and become a bit more at age 25.

Dave Cameron wrote a post about hitting being more difficult to scout than pitching a few weeks ago and I recommend giving it a read. Looking at the list of the best hitters over the last three years, not many of those guys were projected to be stars. Joey Votto wasn’t supposed to be the best hitter in baseball, Jose Bautista certainly wasn’t expected to be the game’s premier power hitter, Albert Pujols wasn’t supposed to be one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball history, so on and so forth.

As a layman, pitching appears to be more straight forward. You can see the pitches and their movement as well as the guy’s command, it’s right in front of you. Hitting, on the other hand, has so many intricacies and moving parts that work together that it’s very difficult to predict. I also think that because pitching dictates the game — the hitter reacts to the pitcher, not vice verse — it makes it tougher to properly evaluate hitters. Sometimes it’s quite obvious that a guy will be an excellent hitter, think Alex Rodriguez or Miggy Cabrera, but many times it’s not.

As for the Yankees, I think that OF Ramon Flores could develop into a really strong hitter down the road because he controls the strike zone well and is at the platoon advantage most of the time as a left-hander. I had him just outside the top ten in my preseason top 30, so he’s not a total sleeper. IF Corban Joseph is another one because he makes lots of contact. LHP Nik Turley seems like the obvious “exceed expectations” guy on the mound as a three-pitch lefty without a huge fastball, and RHP Shane Greene probably fits here as well. His stuff is consistently better than the results.

Mike Newman on Angelo Gumbs
Aardsma throws two scoreless innings in second rehab game
  • yooboo

    Ah…. Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Chien Ming Wang, where were they when they were with Yanks?

    • NIck

      Bernie Williams was a top prospect for a number of years- he does not belong in this conversation.

      • yooboo

        Since you are not helping, I think I found a better information.

        Wang was number 5 in two years prior to his MLB debut. It had something to do with his bum shoulder. Thus, he was non top 20.

        Posada was number 7 when he joined with Yankees for first time.

        Williams was number 1 when he had first taste in MLB. I had to assume that he was number one because he was first Yankee in BA as number 11 (out of 26 teams).

  • Smart Guy

    my pick is JR Murphy!

  • El Maestro

    Nova’s no ace, but he can be a solid #2

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Totally agree. 3 solid pitches (FB,CB and slider) and working on a change up. Bu for some reason he seems like a guy Yankee fans (and blogs) will always clamour to trade.

    • Monterowasnotdinero

      No ace but the most consecutive road victories by a Yankee pitcher (12) in 63 years! It is great to have non-aces with his record over the last 2-3 years (including AAA). If he improves any…..

      he could become an ace!


    Ya, but the person who asked the question is still right about Nova not really being a top prospect.. I mean the yanks gave him away to Sandiego and returned em fo godsake… I think he meant guys that have some promise but not guys guranteed to even be solid pros, let alone above averege and sometimes as u said, a star… I mean, the yanks top 30prospects change yearly, when u get to the number say 18-30.. Its still a surpries to me when a guy that is prospect 25 makes it to be solid, because it happens so rarley it seems..

    I love ur pick of of Ramon Flores, and i have talked him up sinc i noticed him in the GCL when he first started rakinng for baby yanks..

    Also, Corban Joseph is another guy i really liked even when people(some) said hes probably just a good minor leaguer and didn’t really see him ever makig it.. I think he could be solid line drive, gap power, Adam Kennedy(in his prime of course) type hitter…

    But i will say that corban joseph has been underated by most yank fans more then anything.. I mean he was a 4th rder and has hit since day 1 basically and went through the ranks in reasonable amount of time.. And is obviously sill very young , which makes u believe room to get a bit beter hopefully..Another words, i think hes a better prospect then people gave him credit for and hes kinda flown under the radar more then anything else..

    I’m super intrigued by Ronnier Mustellier even though hes been getting love more and more.. Hes kinda turned into that from nowhere.. I’ll ad Reymond Nunez to my list.. If he can develop a bit more power over the next few yrs like his body type would suggest and he continues to hit like he has, hes goona have enough to get a shot and possibly be a solid pro…
    Ramon Flores
    Ronnier Mustellier
    Reymond Nunez

    Those are 3 guys who came from nowhere to a degree that i think can continue and possibly be solid pros…

    • Bo Knows

      Yankees didn’t give Nova away, he was drafted in the Rule 5. Also, the fact that he was a barely 21 yr old who up until that point had only pitched at the High A level, there was little chance he would have been able to stick on a big league roster then, he simply wasn’t ready.


        ya, he wasen’t proteceted… Thats essntially giving a guy away, in my book…

  • Brian S.

    Don’t forget ‘fourth outfielder at best’ Brett Gardner!

  • Rivera Venue Blues

    “Jose Bautista certainly wasn’t expected to be the game’s premier power hitter”

    You misspelled Curtis Granderson. ;)

    • radnom

      Not really. Granderson was the Tiger’s top prospect and as high as #54 on Baseball America’s list. Thats star potential.

    • Brian S.

      Granderson is the games premier watching strike 3 down the middle hitter.