Feb
08

2013 Preseason Top 30 Prospects

By
Triple-A Scranton will have a renovated new stadium in 2013. (The Scranton Times-Tribune)

Triple-A Scranton will have a renovated new stadium in 2013. (The Scranton Times-Tribune)

The 2012 minor league season was pretty close to a nightmare for the Yankees. It didn’t get all the way there, but it was close. Their top pitching prospects either suffered series elbow injuries or just stopped throwing strikes, and a few of their top hitting prospects dealt with injuries or played so poorly we have to go back and question how good they were in the first place.

That said, the Yankees still have a pretty strong farm system with four no-doubt top 100 prospects in my opinion. The drop-off after those four is drastic, but there’s a solid group of upside guys coming off injury and probability guys knocking on the door. The Yankees have more high-end position player prospects right now than at any point since the law firm of Johnson, Soriano & Henson were calling the farm system shots in the early-2000s.

As I say every year, ranking prospects is all about your personal balance between potential and probability. Some prefer upside over probability while others tends to value the safer guys a little more. Talent always reigns supreme to me, but I’ve definitely come to value closeness to the big leagues as well in recent years. For the most part, there won’t be much difference between two prospects ranked consecutively. There usually is a difference between guys who are five or six or ten spots apart, however.

I use the standard rookie eligibility rules — 130 at-bats or 50 innings at the MLB level — to determine who is and who isn’t a prospect without regards to service time limit. That stuff is a pain. We need a cut-off point and rookie eligibility seems like a convenient enough place to draw the line. The only prospect to graduate from last year’s preseason list was RHSP David Phelps. That’s a function of the distribution of talent in the farm system at the moment — most of the best prospects are in the lower minors and still a good year or two away from seeing the show.

All of my previous top 30 lists — including the pre-draft and post-draft lists — dating back to the start of RAB in 2007 can be found right here. All of the ages listed below are as of April 1st, or approximately Opening Day. Enjoy.

(MaxPreps.com)

(MaxPreps.com)

30. LHSP Daniel Camarena, 20
Camarena was supposed to be a tough sign out of high school, but the Yankees landed him with a $335k bonus as their 20th round pick in 2011. He had a little bit of an arm issue this past summer that limited him to just 17.2 innings with the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League squad, but they were 17.2 great innings — two runs, eight hits, no walks, and 15 strikeouts. Camarena, who is listed at 6-foot-0 and 200 lbs., is a former outfielder and an excellent athlete. He throws strikes with three average pitches — upper-80s/low-90s fastball, curveball, changeup — and repeats his delivery with ease, plus everything plays up because he has a plan on the mound and already knows how to set hitters up. I’m hopeful he’ll add a tick or two to his fastball as he matures. Camarena could make the jump to Low-A Charleston this season, but a repeat of Extended Spring Training before an assignment to Short Season Staten Island seems more likely.

(Mark Gutman/Daily News)

(Mark Gutman/Daily News)

29. SS Cito Culver, 20
New York took a lot of heat when they selected Culver with their first round pick and paid him a $954k bonus in 2010, and so far that heat looks justified. The infielder hit just .215/.321/.283 (75 wRC+) with two homers and 22 steals (in 33 chances) in 550 plate appearances for Low-A Charleston last season, his first crack at full-season ball. On the bright side, his 71 walks led all non-Jack Cust players in the organization. Culver, who stands 6-foot-0 and 185 lbs., is a switch-hitter but probably not for much longer. His left-handed swing is soft and doesn’t result in hard contact, though the stats say that’s his better side. He does a better job of driving the ball right-handed and could drop switch-hitting as soon as this year. Culver does have a good idea of the strike zone and is willing to work the count. Even if the bat doesn’t come around, his above-average defense at shortstop might be enough to carry him up the ladder. His arm is very strong — he pitched in high school and could eventually wind up back on the mound if he doesn’t start to hit some more — and he ranges well to both sides. Culver has a lot to work on offensively and will repeat Low-A Charleston this summer.

(Hilton Flores/SI Advance)

(Hilton Flores/SI Advance)

28. OF Ravel Santana, 20
The Yankees signed Santana for just $145k back in 2009, and at this time last year he was the talk of the farm system following a dominant U.S. debut. Rather than build on that performance this year, he hit just .216/.304/.289 (84 wRC+) with three homers and a 27.5% strikeout rate in 247 plate appearances for Short Season Staten Island. The devastating ankle injury that ended his 2011 season in early-August has sapped his once-promising athleticism and speed. He went from an excellent runner to a below-average one, which in turn took a bite out of his center field prowess. Santana still shows big power in batting practice, but his swing took a step back in part because he doesn’t have the same strong base and balance as he did before the injury. He’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 160 lbs. these days, and his throwing arm remains very strong. That’s the one tool the injury didn’t seem to impact. It has taken other players (Jason Kendall, Stephen Drew) some time to get back to their previous form following similar injuries, so hopefully Santana’s game will improve the further away he gets from the incident. He’s going to jump into the Low-A Charleston outfield this year.

(Orlando Sentinel)

(Orlando Sentinel)

27. 3B Dante Bichette Jr., 20
There wasn’t a more disappointing player in the farm system last year than Bichette, the team’s top selection in the 2011 draft and recipient of a $750k bonus. He hit just .248/.322/.331 (85 wRC+) with three homers in 522 plate appearances with Low-A Charleston, or the same number of homers he hit in 46% of the playing time while winning the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League MVP honors in 2011. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 215 lbs., Bichette reverted to the loopy swing mechanics that had scouts skeptical about his long-term future back in high school. He shows plenty of power during batting practice, but it doesn’t translate into game situations because of the swing. Bichette has improved at third base since signing and is no longer considered a lock to move to first or a corner outfield spot. Last summer was a major step backwards after such an encouraging pro debut, and considering how he looked in high school, those three months with the improved hitting mechanics in 2011 are the outlier right now. Bichette will return to Low-A Charleston this year in hopes of getting back to what made him so successful a year ago.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

26. OF Melky Mesa, 26
It took nine years, but Mesa finally make his big league debut last September and picked up his first career hit and RBI in his first plate appearance. He earned the late-season call-up by hitting .264/.325/.480 (~125 wRC+) with 23 homers and 22 steals in 502 plate appearances split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Empire State. Mesa, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 lbs., is a classic four-tool guy who lacks the most important tool — the ability to hit. He has obvious strength and power, and his defense is outstanding thanks to above-average foot speed and a cannon arm. Making contact has been a career-long issue however, but it’s worth noting his 23.5% strikeout rate in 2012 was a career-best by a not small margin. Melky2.0 has worked hard to improve and has stayed on the field throughout his career. He’ll be part of the right-handed outfield bat competition in Spring Training, but will most likely open the season with Triple-A Scranton and be the first outfielder recalled when injury strikes.

(Scranton Yankees)

(Scranton Yankees)

25. RHRP Chase Whitley, 23
Part of the relief pipeline the Yankees have built with mid-to-late round picks in recent years, Whitely spent almost the entire 2012 season with Triple-A Empire State. He pitched to a 3.25 ERA (3.70 FIP) with solid strikeout (20.8%) and walk (7.9%) rates in 80.1 innings spread across 41 appearances. A three-pitch reliever who isn’t a blow-you-away type, Whitley lives in the low-90s with his fastball and backs it up with both a slider and changeup. His control is fine and his delivery creates some deception. He doesn’t offer the same kind of exciting, shutdown reliever potential as some other players on this list, but Whitley is a big and physical — listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 lbs. — right-hander who throws strikes  and works both sides of the plate. He’ll pitch in the big leagues at some point as long as he stays healthy, possibly before the All-Star break. For now he’s slated to return to Triple-A Scranton and will have to wait for the next opportunity.

(Faulker Eagles)

(Faulker Eagles)

24. RHSP Corey Black, 21
Amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer seems to have a knack for finding power arms at small schools, and Black is his latest discovery. Drafted out of NAIA Faulkner University in Alabama, the Yankees gave the undersized — listed at 5-foot-11 and 175 lbs. — right-hander a $215k bonus as their fourth round pick last summer. He pitched at three levels after signing and posted a 3.08 ERA (~2.70 FIP) with strong strikeout (23.6%) and walk (7.1%) rates in 52.2 innings. Black has electric arm speed and premium fastball velocity, sitting in the mid-90s with the heat and touching triple-digits multiple times last summer. His secondary stuff — changeup, slider, curveball — all need work but are usable pitches. Although he threw a total of 140.2 innings last season, Black is going to have to continue to prove he can handle starting every five days at his size. If he can’t hack it in the rotation, the fastball alone gives him a chance to be a high-end reliever. He’ll remain in the rotation when he joins High-A Tampa this year.

(REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

(REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

23. RHRP Dellin Betances, 25
This is my seventh (!) top 30 prospects list at RAB, and Betances has appeared in all seven of ‘em. I don’t know whether I should shake my head or be impressed. Betances entered pure disaster territory last summer, pitching to a 6.44 ERA (~5.14 FIP) with a career-worst 15.7% walk rate in 131.1 total innings. He was demoted from Triple-A Empire State to Double-A Trenton at midseason. Dellin still brings the pain from his 6-foot-8, 260 lbs. frame, sitting anywhere from 91-95 with his fastball and touching 98. His hard curveball is a swing-and-miss pitch when located well, though his once strong changeup has regressed back into a below-average pitch. Betances struggles mightily with his mechanics and just isn’t athletic enough to repeat a delivery at his size. That hinders his command in a big way, which has shown zero improvement — it’s gotten worse, actually — over the years. The Yankees stuck Betances in the bullpen during the Arizona Fall League and hope that will help crack the code that unleashes his still enormous potential. He’s again ticketed for Triple-A Scranton in what is his final minor league option year. It’s make or break time.

(Mike Ashmore)

(Mike Ashmore)

22. LHSP Matt Tracy, 24
A bargain pick-up who signed for four figures as a 24th round pick in 2011, Tracy just completed his first full season as a pitcher after doing most of his work in the outfield at the University of Mississippi. The big-bodied southpaw — listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 lbs. — missed time with a hamstring problem early last year but otherwise posted a 3.18 ERA (3.63 FIP) with subpar strikeout (15.7%) and walk (9.5%) rates in 99 innings for High-A Tampa. I’m obviously cutting him some performance slack given the lack of pitching experience. Tracy does use his frame well by pitching downhill with a low-90s fastball that sits in the mid-90s when he comes out of the bullpen. His most consistent offspeed pitch is a changeup that fades down and away from righties, but he’s also working to improve a big downer curveball. Tracy obviously lacks polish on the mound but he does have the stuff to start. He’ll continue to work in that role when the Yankees aggressively move him up to Double-A Trenton in 2013.

(LSU Athletics)

(LSU Athletics)

21. RHRP Nick Goody, 21
Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer has created some minor league bullpen depth using mid-to-late draft picks in recent years, and Goody is just the latest example. The club gave him a $140k bonus as their sixth round pick last summer, then watched him pitch to a 1.12 ERA (~0.89 FIP) with 52 strikeouts and just nine walks in 32 innings after turning pro. Goody owns a classic reliever’s profile and is listed at 6-foot-1 and 195 lbs. He touches 95 with a fastball that generally sits in the low-90s, and his hard-breaking slider is a swing-and-miss pitch. His changeup is pretty much unusable, but he won’t need it in the bullpen. A slight back-turn in his delivery creates deception. Goody goes right after hitters and is poised to fly through the farm system after pitching at three levels in 2012. The Yankees will send him back to High-A Tampa to open the season, but I wouldn’t expect him to remain there very long.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)

(Rich Schultz/Getty)

20. 2B Corban Joseph, 24
A shoulder injury delayed the start of his season, but New York’s fourth round pick in the 2008 draft made his 2012 debut in early-May and put together the best season of his career: .276/.375/.465 (~135 wRC+) with 13 homers and nearly as many walks (13.9%) as strikeouts (14.3%) in 488 plate appearances for Double-A Trenton and (mostly) Triple-A Empire State. Joseph, who is listed at 6-foot-0 and 200 lbs., has an unorthodox left-handed stroke with a lot of pre-swing movement, but it works for him. He makes consistent contact and his gap power started to turn into over-the-fence power last summer. Joseph is a below-average defender at second because he lacks first-step quickness, and his arm is short for third base. The lack of a set position is the main drawback here, but CoJo has enough offensive skills to hack it as a reserve player if not a regular in his prime. He was added to the 40-man roster last winter and will return to Triple-A Scranton this year.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

19. C Austin Romine, 24
Back problems have limited Romine to just 129 total games over the last two seasons, including only 31 games in 2012. He hit .243/.333/.408 (~111 wRC+) in just 120 plate appearances in 2012, and his calling card remains solid power potential from the right side of the plate. That and his mature approach give him above-average offensive potential for his position. Defensively, Romine has a strong arm but needs to quicken his release. He’s listed at 6-foot-0 and 220 lbs., and he’s managed to retain enough athleticism through the back injuries to still rate as above-average with his footwork and overall receiving. Romine has lost a lot of development time at a crucial stage of his career over the last two seasons, but he will have a shot to crack the big league roster following a Spring Training competition with Frankie Cervelli and Chris Stewart. More than likely he’ll have to settle for playing everyday with Triple-A Scranton to open the year.

(SI Advance)

18. IF David Adams, 25
The ankle injury suffered in May 2010 still haunts Adams today. The Yankees kept their 2008 third round pick on a strict four days on, one day off regiment in 2012, and one of those four days on was at DH. Adams played just three games in April before suffering a neck injury that kept him on the shelf until mid-May, but he stayed healthy after that and even headed to the Arizona Fall League after the season. Listed a 6-foot-1 and 205 lbs., he put together a .306/.385/.450 (130 wRC+) line with strong walk (9.9%) and strikeout (13.8%) rates in 383 plate appearances for Double-A Trenton in 2012 after playing just 29 games in 2010 and 2011 combined. Adams is quick to the ball from the right side and shows good power, mostly into the gaps. He has a plan at the plate and arguably the best approach in the system. The ankle injury has sapped most of his mobility, rendering him below-average on the bases and at second base. The Yankees shifted him to third base following Alex Rodriguez’s hand fracture in late-July, and it’s likely to be his best position going forward. Adams went from profiling as an above-average second baseman to a below-average third baseman due to the injury. He’ll open the season with Triple-A Scranton and could make his big league debut at some in 2013.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

17. RHSP Adam Warren, 25
Warren’s big league debut could not have gone any worse, as the White Sox pounded him for eight hits, two walks, and six runs in 2.1 innings last June. The team’s fourth round pick in the 2009 draft didn’t get the opportunity to redeem himself despite spending September with the Yankees as a call-up. Warren, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 225 lbs., posted his second straight strong but not overwhelming season with Triple-A Empire State in 2012 (3.71 ERA and 3.72 FIP). He’s a crafty five-pitch right-hander who works in the low-90s with both his two- and four-seamer, and he backs them up with a changeup, a curveball, and a baby slider that borders on being a cutter. Warren is a bit of a bulldog and will pitch aggressively, sometimes to his detriment given his lack of pure swing-and-miss stuff. I like him best as a reliever, but the Yankees will keep him in the rotation for obvious reasons. He’s ticketed for a third straight year with Triple-A Scranton and will among the first recalled when pitching reinforcements are needed.

(Photo Credit: Flick user lakelandlocal)

(Photo Credit: Flick user lakelandlocal)

16. RHSP Bryan Mitchell, 21
The Yankees gave Mitchell an $800k signing bonus as their 16th round pick in 2009 to keep him away from UNC, but he battled homesickness and second-guessed the decision after signing. He’s matured during his three years as a pro and just completed his first attempt at a full season league by pitching to a 4.58 ERA (3.94 FIP) in 120 innings for Low-A Charleston in 2012. Mitchell, who still has projection remaining at 6-foot-2 and 175 lb. frame, owns some of the best pure stuff in the organization. His explosive 93-96 mph fastball and wicked low-80s power curveball are both put-away pitches, though his changeup is still developing. Mitchell has been drawing A.J. Burnett comparisons since signing and not only due to his stuff, but also because his mechanics are unrefined and his control — career-worst 13.6 BB% in 2012 — comes and goes. The Yankees will move him up to High-A Tampa this coming season and hope his mechanics click so his career can take off. If that doesn’t happen within the next few years, a move to the bullpen so he could air it out with two knockout pitches could be in the cards. Mitchell will be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season, so a 40-man roster spot is on the line this summer.

(Mike Ashmore)

(Mike Ashmore)

15. C J.R. Murphy, 21
Murphy signed for $1.25M as New York’s second round pick in 2009, and he’s steadily climbed the minor league ladder over the last few years. He managed a .248/.316/.386 (~97 wRC+) in 464 plate appearances split between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton last year, his first year catching on a full-time, everyday basis. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 195 lbs., Murphy has a smooth right-handed swing that is gearing for contact and gap-to-gap power more than driving the ball over the fence. His approach at the plate is very strong, as he set a new career-high walk rate (9.1%) in 2012. Behind the plate, Murphy has worked hard to improves his overall receiving and footwork, and his strong arm and quick release allowed him to throw out a career-high 31.9% of attempted base-stealers last year. There is still plenty to work on before becoming a legitimate two-way catcher, by Murphy is making progress and will return to Double-A Trenton to open 2013. As is the case with Mitchell, a 40-man roster spot is on the line this year.

(David Minton/Denton Record-Chronicle)

(Denton Record-Chronicle)

14. SS Austin Aune, 19
The Yankees bought Aune, their 2012 second rounder, away from a dual-sport commitment to TCU with a $1M signing bonus last summer. He hit .273/.358/.410 (130 wRC+) with a 11.7% walk rate in 163 plate appearances with the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League squad after signing. Aune is a physical specimen at 6-foot-2 and 190 lbs., offering the kind of athleticism and arm strength you’d expect to see from a big time quarterback recruit. His power potential from the left side of the plate is huge thanks to an easy swing, but his inexperience at the plate was evident in his 27.6% strikeout rate with the GCL team. The Yankees will keep him at shortstop as long as possible, but Aune’s best long-term position might be center field because his hands and footwork on the infield leave a lot to be desired. His speed is solid but he’s not a burner. The club is hopeful that getting away from football and focusing on baseball full-time will improve his game and help him reach what is a very considerable ceiling, thanks mostly to the lefty power. Aune is likely to be held back in Extended Spring Training before being assigned to Short Season Staten Island later this summer.

(Mike Ashmore)

(Mike Ashmore)

13. RHSP Brett Marshall, 22
Outside of the Tommy John surgery that cost him big chunks of the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the 5-foot-11, 200 lb. Marshall has been a workhorse since signing for $850k as the team’s sixth round pick in 2008. His 158.1 innings last year were the third most in the farm system behind big league veteran Ramon Ortiz and non-prospect Shaeffer Hall. Marshall has a true four-pitch mix headlined by a heavy low-90s two-seam fastball and low-80s changeup. His two breaking balls — slider and curveball — are works in progress with the slider showing more out-pitch potential. Marshall has solid command but he scares me because he hasn’t missed many bats in nearly 300 totals innings at the High-A and Double-A levels over the last two seasons (18.7 K%). His ground ball rates have consistently registered over 50%, as they should for any pitching prospect worth his salt. Marshall will anchor the Triple-A Scranton rotation this coming year and could make his big league at some point this summer after being added to the 40-man roster in November.

(Lost Collector)

(Lost Collector)

12. RHSP Jose Ramirez, 23
Ramirez has battled shoulder and elbow trouble in recent years, but it was a lat strain that cost him about six weeks last season. When healthy, he pitched to a 3.19 ERA (3.28 FIP) with a 22.2% strikeout rate and a 7.1% walk rate in 98.2 innings during his second attempt at High-A Tampa. He’s fill out in recent years and is quite a bit larger than his listed size of 6-foot-1 and 155 lbs., and the added bulk has resulted in consistent mid-90s velocity and regular readings of 97 and 98. The pitch stands out for its late life as much as its pure velocity. Ramirez’s best offspeed pitch is a hard low-to-mid-80s changeup that fades away from lefties. His mid-80s slider comes and goes, but it did show out-pitch potential for this first time this past summer. Ramirez suffers from Ivan Nova Disease, meaning his lack of deception and just average command make him more hittable than his stuff says he should be. The Yankees added him to the 40-man roster after the season to prevent him from Rule 5 Draft exposure, and he’ll open 2013 with Double-A Trenton. Ramirez could wind up in the bullpen if he doesn’t figure out a consistent breaking ball.

(Mike Ashmore)

(Mike Ashmore)

11. LHSP Nik Turley, 23
The third-to-last player selected in the 2008 draft — not the first round, the entire draft — Turley took $150k to pass on a commitment to BYU and has slowly climbed the minor league ladder. He’s worked hard to develop himself into a projected mid-rotation workhorse. Turley pitched to a 3.00 ERA and 3.39 FIP in 117 innings last season, almost all with High-A Tampa. He’s a monster on the mound at 6-foot-6 and 230 lbs., though his fastball sits mostly in the upper-80s and low-90s. His big overhand curveball is his best and most consistent offspeed pitch while his changeup shows the potential to be above-average. Despite still having to work to keep his delivery in check, Turley has little trouble throwing strikes and attacks hitters very aggressively. The Yankees added the big southpaw to the 40-man roster after the season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, and he’ll continue his deliberate march to the big leagues with Double-A Trenton when the season begins in a few weeks.

(New York Times)

(New York Times)

10. RHRP Mark Montgomery, 22
The Yankees turn mid-to-late round draft picks into quality prospects as well as any team, and in 2011 they turned their 11th round pick and a $65k signing bonus into an elite relief prospect. Montgomery has struck out 40% of the batters he’s faced since signing, pitching to a 1.65 ERA (~1.43 FIP) across four different levels. A low-90s fastball sets up his wipeout, mid-80s slider that breaks down rather than away from righties. You can see it here. His deceptive delivery allows his fastball to play up despite just okay command. Montgomery draws comparisons to David Robertson because he’s a high-strikeout, undersized (listed at 5-foot-11 and 205 lbs.) right-hander with a knockout breaking ball, but that’s an unfair comparison. Sliders are best used against batters of the same hand while curveballs, like Robertson’s, are a bit more universal. Either way, Montgomery will likely return to Double-A Trenton to open 2013 and could make his big league debut as soon as the second half.

(Mike Ashmore)

(Mike Ashmore)

9. 2B Angelo Gumbs, 20
Gumbs was one of the youngest players in the 2010 draft — he’s more than two months younger than Bubba Starling, the first high school position player drafted in 2011 — so he spent the entire 2012 season at age 19 with Low-A Charleston. He more than held his own, hitting .268/.317/.428 (102 wRC+) with seven homers and 26 steals (in 29 attempts) in 278 plate appearances before a torn elbow ligament ended his season in late-June. Gumbs has some of the most electric bat speed in the minors, which allows him to make consistent hard contact to all fields. His power is more into the gaps than over the fence at the moment, and the Yankees have gotten him to calm down a Gary Sheffield-esque bat waggle. Gumbs is an above-average runner and base-stealer who has improved defensively at second, though I suppose a trial at shortstop could be in order if Culver continues to underwhelm. He definitely has the arm for the left side of the diamond and might fit best defensively in center field. Gumbs, who is listed at 6-foot-0 and 175 lbs., did not have surgery on the elbow and was healthy enough to play a few winter ball games in Puerto Rico. He’s likely to return to Low-A Charleston to open 2013, though a surprise assignment to High-A Tampa could be in the cards.

(BaseballLife365.com)

(BaseballLife365.com)

8. RHSP Ty Hensley, 19
The son of a former minor league pitcher and college pitching coach, Hensley was New York’s first round pick last summer. He signed for a below-slot $1.2M as the 30th overall selection after an “abnormality” in his throwing shoulder was discovered during the pre-signing physical. Whatever the problem is, it does not cause him pain and has not prevented him from a pitching. Hensley, a classic big-bodied — listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 lbs. — Oklahoma right-hander, made five short appearances (3.00 ERA and 4.20 FIP) with the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League affiliate after signing. He pitches up in the zone with a 92-94 mph fastball that has run as high as 98, and his big-breaking upper-70s curveball is a true swing-and-miss offering. Like most high schoolers, his changeup is borderline nonexistent. The Yankees will work to smooth out Hensley’s delivery and get him to pitch more downhill, a process that will likely begin in Extended Spring Training this year. An assignment to Low-A Charleston instead would not be surprising.

(FOX Sports)

(FOX Sports)

7. RHSP Jose Campos, 20
The second piece in last winter’s Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade, Campos was far more than a throw-in. He made just five starts (4.01 ERA and 3.24 FIP) with Low-A Charleston last season before being shut down with a sore elbow in late-April. He dazzled before the injury though, living in the mid-90s with his fastball and showcasing a power curveball in the upper-70s/low-80s. His changeup is in its infancy stages. Campos stands out because of his dynamite fastball command, which allows him to pitch to both sides of the plate against both right-handed and left-handed batters. He can fall in love with the heat and become a one-pitch pitcher at times, which is something he’ll have to work on regardless of the quality of his fastball. Earlier this week we heard that Campos, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 195 lbs., has completed his rehab program and will be ready in time for Spring Training, which is obviously good news following a lost season. He’ll return to Low-A Charleston and could move up to High-A Tampa at midseason.

(Getty Images/Al Bello)

(Getty Images/Al Bello)

6. LHSP Manny Banuelos, 22
The 2012 season was a lost year for last year’s top prospect, who battled back problems for six starts (4.50 ERA and 3.83 FIP) with Triple-A Empire State before what was dubbed a bone bruise in his elbow ended his season in mid-May. That bone bruise resulted in Tommy John surgery in early-October. The scouting report on Banuelos didn’t change much over the last 12 months — he was living in the 90-95 range with his fastball before the injury and backing it up with a knockout changeup and a solid curveball. He was also toying with a cutter. The stellar command he showed from 2008-2010 still was not evident earlier last year, but that could have been attributed to the elbow problem. Banuelos has a slight build (listed at 5-foot-11, 200 lbs.) but didn’t have any arm problems until this year (appendicitis cost him much of 2010). Added to the 40-man roster earlier this offseason to prevent exposure to the Rule 5 Draft, Banuelos will collect a full year’s worth of service time and miss the entire 2013 season due to the elbow reconstruction. I’m guessing the Yankees will bring him to camp fresh for 2014 rather than try to squeeze in some winter ball innings after the season.

(Ramon Flores on Twitter)

(Ramon Flores on Twitter)

5. OF Ramon Flores, 21
It’s not easy for a Yankees prospect to get lost in the shuffle, but Flores has despite arguably being the system’s best all-around hitter. He produced a .303/.370/.425 (126 wRC+) line in 588 plate appearances for High-A Tampa last season, setting new career highs with 29 doubles and 24 steals. Flores, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 190 lbs., has a sound left-handed swing and well-disciplined approach, leading to strong walk (11.0%) and strikeout (16.0 K%) rates throughout his career. He’s a classic foul line-to-foul line hitter who will need to add some strength to turn his gap power into over-the-fence power down the road. Flores has worked hard to improve his defense, and a move to first base is no longer considered inevitable. His fringy arm limits him to left, but he has good range and can fill-in at center in a pinch. He’ll never be confused for a speedster despite last season’s stolen base total. The Yankees added Flores to the 40-man roster after the season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, and he’ll begin 2013 at Double-A Trenton. It’s definitely an aggressive ranking on my part, but I love the approach and polished offensive ability.

(Post and Courier)

(Post and Courier)

4. OF Slade Heathcott, 22
Injuries, specifically a pair of left shoulder surgeries, have limited Heathcott to just 197 pro games after signing for $2.2M as the Yankees first round pick in 2009. He missed the first half of 2012 recovering from the latest surgery, but returned to hit .307/.378/.470 (142 wRC+) in 265 plate appearances with High-A Tampa before tearing up the Arizona Fall League (192 wRC+). Heathcott’s tools and athleticism are obvious. His speed and center field defense are bordering on elite, and the shoulder surgeries haven’t sapped much strength from his above-average arm (he pitched in high school). He hits for good power from the left side and has shown the willingness to walk (career 10.1 BB%), but tends to overswing and can struggle to make contact (career 26.6 K%). Heathcott is his own worst enemy because he plays with all-out, balls to the wall intensity that has led to the continued shoulder problems. He has good size (listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 lbs.) but needs to learn how to chill out a bit and stay on the field. Slade has top prospect ability but I’ll remain skeptical until I see a full, healthy season. He’s likely to begin 2013 with Double-A Trenton.

(Mike Ashmore)

(Mike Ashmore)

3. OF Tyler Austin, 21
A 13th round pick in 2010 who signed for just $130k, Austin has settled into right field and has emerged as a brute masher at the plate. He was the farm system’s most dominant player last season, hitting .322/.400/.559 (~163 wRC+) with 17 homers and 23 steals (in 25 attempts) in 472 plate appearances across four levels. Austin, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 lbs., is mature well beyond his years at the plate, with an excellent approach (career 10.8 BB%) and the willingness to wait for his pitch. His quick wrists allow him to pull inside pitches, though he’ll need to learn how to put more backspin on the ball to improve his long-term power potential. The stolen base total has more to do with instincts than pure speed, which rates as just average. The Yankees have moved Austin from catcher to third base to right field — there’s been some talk of moving him back to the hot corner — since signing, but last year he adapted well to the outfield and projects as a solid defender. After finishing the season with two games at Double-A Trenton, he will return there to open the season and could earn a midseason bump to Triple-A Scranton if he continues to rake.

(Bergen Record)

(Bergen Record)

2. OF Mason Williams, 21
Williams, who signed for $1.45M as the team’s fourth rounder in 2010, hit .298/.346/.474 (~125 wRC+) in 397 plate appearances split between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa last season before a dislocated left shoulder — suffered while diving for a ball in the outfield — ended his season in late-July. The son of a former NFL player, he stands out immediately for his explosive athleticism. Williams has elite speed, which helps make him a standout defender in center field. At the plate, he offers very good bat speed from the left side and has little trouble getting the bat on the ball (career 12.9 K%), so much so that he rarely walks (career 6.3 BB%) or works deep counts. He has surprising pop despite a slight build (listed at 6-foot-0, 150 lbs.). Williams needs to refine his approach at the plate and on the bases (career 49-for-76, or 64.5%), plus he’s reportedly rubbed some people the wrong way with his cockiness. It’s not an attitude problem in that he’s a jerk, he just needs to grow up a little. Williams only played 22 games with High-A Tampa before the shoulder injury last season, so he’ll likely return there to open the season in a few weeks. A full, healthy season could vault him into the pantheon of baseball’s elite prospects.

(Star-Ledger)

(Star-Ledger)

1. C Gary Sanchez, 20
Thanks to the new spending restrictions implemented by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, no internationally signed amateur player will ever top the $3M bonus the Yankees gave Sanchez back in 2009. He hit more homers (18) than any other catcher in minor league baseball last season, posting a .290/.344/.485 (~125 wRC+) batting line in 474 plate appearances split between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa.

Listed a 6-foot-2 and 220 lbs., Sanchez is a bat-first prospect who draws rave reviews for his right-handed power that is most devastating to the pull side but still dangerous when he goes the other way. He has a strong approach at the plate and knows the strike zone well, and he even managed to cut down on his strikeouts last year (22.4%). His best tool defensively is his cannon arm and quick-enough release, which he’s used to throw out 29.7% of attempted base-stealers in his career. His receiving and footwork are improving but still a work in progress.

The comparisons to Jesus Montero are unavoidable, but Sanchez has a less refined bat and a much greater chance of staying behind the plate long-term. He is cut from a similar cloth though, with huge offensive potential from a premium position. A return trip to High-A Tampa to open the season is in the cards, with a midseason promotion to Double-A Trenton a strong possibility for Sanchez.

* * *

There are two obvious omissions and I’ll explain the easy one first: OF Zoilo Almonte was #31 on my list. He just missed the cut and if you want to argue that he belongs in the 21-30 range somewhere, be my guest. There’s not a ton of separation in that group. I’m just not completely sold.

The other omission is RHSP Rafael DePaula, who (still!) falls under my umbrella “no ranking players who have not yet pitched in the United States” rule. I do, however, think he has been getting a little overrated lately. His stuff is very good obviously, but he’s going to turn 22 next month and has missed a ton of development time thanks to his legal and visa issues. The kid should be a college senior and he has 61.2 Dominican Summer League innings under his belt. It’s a concern, but he is definitely Top 30 material once he makes it stateside. I had him penciled into the 13-18 range.

As for some former Yankees — Pirates RHSP Gerrit Cole would have topped my list easily had the Yankees signed him back in 2008 and he developed the exact same way. Cubs RHRP Arodys Vizcaino would be right alongside Banuelos and Campos, all the injured high-end pitchers in one spot. RHSP D.J. Mitchell is a 25-30 range guy at this point, if that. UTIL Brandon Laird would have definitely been on the outside looking in. Other than that, everyone’s accounted for.

Categories : Minors

238 Comments»

  1. DERP says:

    Nice job as usual

    Was Jordan Cote close to making it?

  2. Slugger27 says:

    really thought melky mesa would be higher.

    nice job overall, mike. fun to read.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Seems like a long-shot to be more than a AAAA player to me.

      • Slugger27 says:

        seems like a good bet to be a decent 4th OF. that alone would rank him above dellin betances and chase whitley for me.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          I don’t have the same assessment. He struggles to make contact against AA and AAA Ps. I see his most likely case as a sort of Golsom, Maxwell type AAAA player.

          • Preston says:

            I don’t disagree. But he did cut his K’s down in AA last year, if he could do that at AAA this year, he could start looking like a useful piece. He’s got enough range to play CF, a strong enough arm to be good in RF and great speed on the bases. He’s a RHB and has enough power to punish a mistake. I think the Maxwell comparison is interesting, since he was 2 win player last year. Mesa doesn’t walk as much as Maxwell though, so he’s going to have to strike out much less than Maxwell’s 32% to be similarly productive.

            • Robinson Tilapia says:

              We’re going to figure out what side of that line he’s on soon enough.

            • Ted Nelson says:

              I think he has upside, I just don’t like his probability much. I think that there are probably more Golsons out there than Maxwells. Maxwell might not have been the best example, but until this year he was a journeyman AAAA player and might go right back to being that.

              While a RHB is a nice immediate fit for the Yankees, I would say a LHB is a more valuable trait to have.

          • Slugger27 says:

            I consider Golson and Maxwell fine 4th OFers. and certainly worth more than a guy like dellin betances at this point.

            just my opinion.

  3. Scout says:

    A perfect read for a snowy day. Thank you, Mike!

  4. John says:

    Why are so many of our pitching prospects “high 80s to low 90s”? Every team in MLB is loaded with young mid 90s guys. It makes a difference when your mistakes can still get by hitters on velocity alone.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      Why are so many of our pitching prospects “high 80s to low 90s”?

      There are two such pitchers on this list.

      Every team in MLB is loaded with young mid 90s guys.

      No, they aren’t.

      • John says:

        i respectfully disagree, but awesome article. thanks.

        • All Praise Be To Mo says:

          Wow, ever since tougher steroid testing pitchers velocities have dropped from the mid to high 90′s all the time to high 80′s low 90′s, coincidence?

        • Jim Is Bored says:

          Well if you disagree, who are all of these young mid 90s guys that all teams have?

          • John says:

            I’m not sure how to go about finding those names. I said “seems like”, meaning thats how I felt while watching games. Anyway, this is a link to a filtered list of pitchers 26 and under ranked by average velocity. Im not sure if it supports me or not, but its alot of hard throwing young guys on other teams! :)The top Yankee on the list is Nova at 46. And yeah, of course velocity is not all you need, buts its a great start!

            http://www.fangraphs.com/leade.....;players=0

            • Ed says:

              I counted 9 guys on that list ahead of Nova who threw at least 100 innings last year. You’ve got a list that’s mostly relievers and guys who didn’t pitch much on that list. Most guys gain a few mph when moving to the bullpen.

              Also, you’re going to be far more in touch with your favorite team’s young players and prospects. You’re only going to notice the young guys on other teams if they stand out in some way.

              I think those two factors explain your perception.

              • John says:

                That makes sense, but I never said starters only. I’m including the guys coming in for later innings.

                • Jim Is Bored says:

                  The Yankees have a lot of hard throwing relievers in the minors, though. I agree with everyone else, I don’t know what your real point is.

                • Ted Nelson says:

                  Is there anything to complain about with their pen? They have a strong one and have had a surplus of assets in recent years that has allowed some to be traded (Melancon, Kontos, Coke, Arodys…).

                  • dalelama says:

                    John you made the crucial mistake of pointing out the truth to the RAB Pollyanna dead enders. Don’t let them get you down, most thought Aroid was the Messiah despite tons of evidence to the contrary.

                • Actually the Yankees have several players in the mid 90′s mold under 26 in this farm system. Cory Black, Rafael DePaula, Bryan Mitchell, Gabe Encinas, Tom Kahnle, Dellin Betances, Hayden Sharpe, Jose Ramirez. Maybe not on the major league team, but definitely in the minors.

              • Robinson Tilapia says:

                Well said.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Every team in baseball? Really? And so what if they throw it. Do they throw it well? What else can they throw?

      Especially with the bullpen arms that Oppenheimer’s done a damn fine job with plucking, I’d say the Yanks have a few power arms with a very strong shot at seeing the majors in the next few years.

      • John says:

        Ok, not all. I would say most. It’s just strange to me that 6 guys on this list are high 80s – low 90s. It seems like your top 30 prospects in the organization should have more high impact arms. Believe me, I hope I am wrong and our pitching prospects are as good as anyone else’s.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          I think you’re selling what you see on that list pretty short but, yeah, we’ll both be rooting for them.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          There’s a lot more to pitching than velocity and there aren’t many SPs who *sit* mid-90s anyway.

          • John says:

            No, not starters, I would agree with that. Even Hughes was 95ish when he was a reliever. Not many can transfer that to a full start.

            • Ted Nelson says:

              I’m confused as to what your point with all this is.

              • John says:

                I guess my point was I was hoping for more power arms in the top 30.

                • Ted Nelson says:

                  There are quite a few: Manny, Campos, Hensley, Ramirez, Mitchell, Betances, Black, Nuding, Encinas, Cote…

                  Not every good MLB P has a power arm, though, so it’s probably the case that not every prospect should either.

                  I think your expectations are a little unrealistic.

                  • Ted Nelson says:

                    Also, as I said initially, I think you’re overvaluing velo. There are other equally important factors like command, movement, deception, and release point (DRob, for example, only sits 92, but releases the ball very close to the plate effectively adding several MPH from a hitter’s perspective).

        • emac2 says:

          I agree with your point. The Yankees have always had a puzzling need to try to be tricky when they don’t need to and it’s led to a lot of overdrafts and some puzzling collections of prospects based on someones pet theory.

          • Robinson Tilapia says:

            That’s a pretty big overgeneralization/oversimplification.

            • emac2 says:

              Only if you make it into one.

              It’s possible to make an observation about the farm system without the comment meaning you hate all of the prospects and expect them to fail.

              • Ted Nelson says:

                Your observation seems to be Incorrect, though. They have an above average farm without the benefit of top 20 picks. Not a puzzling collection of prospects.

                • emac2 says:

                  The farm system is pretty big. You can have puzzling collections of prospects that don’t include every prospect.

                  There is a collection of prospects in the system that rank outside the teams top 50 prospects for example.

                  • Ted Nelson says:

                    How about actually letting us know what the hell you’re talking about?

                    • LMAO! How many orgs have guys who are likely to become top prospects outside of the top 50? If that’s where you are looking to criticize the Yankees, that’s a bit of a stretch to me.

                    • Cool Lester Smooth (Formerly YanksFanInBeantown) says:

                      That’s not what emac2 said. What he said was:

                      “There is a collection of prospects in the system that rank outside the teams top 50 prospects.”

                    • I am under the impression that he is referring to the prospects ranking outside the top 50 as “puzzling”

                  • dalelama says:

                    Emac2 I agree. The Yankee farm system is really barren. When was the last time before last year we didn’t even have one position player within a sniff of the bigs? Now we have none. The decaying rot of the organization is at times overpowering.

              • Jim Is Bored says:

                No, you made it in to one. Always is the wrong word to use if you didn’t want to generalize.

        • Preston says:

          I’m sorry I count two and one of them, Camarena, is a converted OF who will probably be able to up his velocity with some work. There are two guys on this list Black and Betances who have hit triple digits and Hensley, Campos, Banuelos, Mitchell, and Ramirez all can work in the high 90′s. And remember these guys are almost all starters, so even for guys who work in the low 90′s, doesn’t mean they couldn’t pump it up if they moved to the pen. I think that you are overestimating what an average big league fastball is when you thumb your nose at a guy working in the low 90′s, Justin Verlander is the hardest throwing starter in the big leagues and he’s averaged 94.9 mph career, so many of his fast balls are sitting 92. I’ll take a low 90′s FB with movement over 97 straight all day.

    • MannyGeee says:

      ERMAGERHD!!!!!! DEH V-LOOOOOO!!!

      I am sad/ecstatic to see its back a week before Pitchers and Catchers report.

  5. JW says:

    My biggest surprise was to see JR Murphy ranked to much higher than Romine. Curious, Mike, how much of that is just based on Romine’s back issues — do you think that Murphy really has a higher ceiling than Romine? To me, they’re both solid backup prospects, with Sanchez obviously the one we’re all hoping will become the (at least) above-average starter.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      It’s all Romine’s back. I think their ceilings are roughly the same, average starter/very good backup.

      • kenthadley says:

        JR Murphy = young Russell Martin? anything to this?

        • adjusts batting gloves says:

          I think Murphy profiles more like Jim Leyritz.

          And Turley reminds me of Dennis Rasmussen!

          • Robinson Tilapia says:

            Now THERE’S a name from my childhood – former 18-game winner Dennis Rasumussen. You knew something was going wrong for the team when he was the blink-and-you’ll-miss-him ace.

            • Pat D says:

              OMG, Dennis Rasmussen. Talk about an interesting career.

              Drafted once, didn’t sign. Drafted again by the Angels in the first round in 1980. Two and half years later the Angels trade him as a PTBNL to the Yankees for acquiring Tommy John. A year later the Yankees trade him as a PTBNL to the Padres for acquiring John Montefusco. Six months later the Yankees get him back in the Graig Nettles trade. He shows some promise, has the 18-win season in 1986, but doesn’t pitch quite as well in 1987 so they trade him to the Reds for Bill Gullickson. He’s terrible for the Reds in 1988 so they trade him to the Padres where he proceeds to go 14-4, 2.55 the rest of that year. But then the next three years aren’t nearly as good and that’s kind of it for him.

              • Robinson Tilapia says:

                I was a fan. Thought they traded him too quickly. This is the type of stuff you wish there would have been RAB comment sections for. It’d be bloodshed.

                • Pat D says:

                  Especially when Rasmussen pitched so well for the Pads in ’88 and Gullickson went to Japan after his 4-2, 4.88, 7 HR allowed in 48 IP stint for the Yankees at the end of ’87.

                  Wow, Bill Gullickson won 162 games in the majors. Had no idea.

                  • Robinson Tilapia says:

                    The leash on the kids, especially pitchers, was maddening back then. I felt like, the moment there was any bit of a bump, they were shipped away for an average vet like Gullickson or Rhoden or whatnot.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            What’s the Leyritz comparison based on?

  6. blake says:

    Nice work

  7. trr says:

    Thanks Mike!
    Gary Sanchez can’t get here fast enough!

  8. Austin Aunelowitzky says:

    Nice to see Aune at 14. My hope is the focus on baseball and repetitions will improve his footwork and hands (think BA said Gumbs experienced that at 2B last year.) You can’t teach athleticism and arm, so glad he has those. On a separate note, I didn’t know he was such a good looking kid. I may have to change my handle so people don’t start thinking I have more than a prospect crush on him (not that there’s anything wrong with that…haha)

  9. Robinson Tilapia says:

    The biggest surprise to me here is realizing how damn young JR Murphy still is. I feel like he’s been in the system forever and, perhaps, judge his development negatively because of it, but it seems like he still has legit potential to develop into a catching option not named Romine or Sanchez.

    Other than that, I love me some Slade, and I’d have gone balls-out myself and ranked him #2 but, like Mike said, what’s really the difference betwen #2 and #4 on a list like this.

    The impact guys are awesome. The surprise guys could easily surpass expectations, and the rear is brought up by guys who disappointed last year, but could regain their luster. Add to that three first rounders this year and I think I love this system.

    • Havok9120 says:

      I do the same with Murphy, especially after last year. I felt like he dropped off the face of the earth and there was no reason for me to.

  10. Who hates bunts more? Axisa or Earl Weaver? (formerly Aunelowitzky) says:

    I got a new name. Great Post Mike. This is always my favorite post of the year.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I’m thinking of a witty way to shorten that.

      • Who hates bunts more? Axisa or Earl Weaver? (formerly Aunelowitzky) says:

        Well, “formerly Aunelowitzky” will drop off before Spring Training…but if you have other suggestions I’m listening (er reading.)

      • Who hates bunts more? Axisa or Earl Weaver? (formerly Aunelowitzky) says:

        Weaver was way ahead of his time on the bunt hating. Axisa started bunt hating when everyone was doing it…Not that I’m saying that this factors into actual degree of hatred.

  11. Manny's BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte's Fibula) says:

    My pet cat is Ravel Santana. Hopefully another year away from that ankle injury and he’ll get back some of that athleticism he’s lost considering he’s only 20 years old.

  12. jesse says:

    Just out of curiosity, who is the better relief prospect, Mark Montgomery or Bruce Rondon of the Tigers?

  13. Mike HC says:

    Great work.

  14. JU says:

    Nice job, Mike. But Adam Warren higher than Adams and Romine?

    • Mike Axisa says:

      Warren stays on the field and I like him quite a bit as a reliever.

      • Gonzo says:

        I like him as a reliever too. I just checked. I mentioned in 2010 and in 2011 that Adam Warren will be our next closer or that he’ll be our heir to Mo. Won’t happen, but I like that arm in a pen role. Pinpoint fastballs.

  15. Coolerking101 says:

    Great post Mike!

  16. John says:

    I hope Bichette has a big year.

    • Pat D says:

      He’d better, for his own sake. If he sucks again this year. he’s probably already cooked.

    • Bichette figured something out at the end of last season and he says he’s sticking with the new stance that saw him bat ~.350 for the last 3 weeks of the season. I give him a good shot to dominate Charleston.

      • Cool Lester Smooth (Formerly YanksFanInBeantown) says:

        Which last 3 weeks? Because his line over his last 20 games was .284/.333/.368, which is far from impressive for a top prospect.

        • I’m sorry, the stat I am referring to is that over the last 10 games he batted .371, and apparently was just as impressive in instructs. I know that’s a small sample size, however it was after a final adjustment he made to his swing, apparently.

          • Cool Lester Smooth (Formerly YanksFanInBeantown) says:

            His ISO was still below .100 over those 10 games.

            • greg says:

              If you’re looking at power numbers to judge a 19 year old kid then you’ve got the wrong idea about prospects.

              • Cool Lester Smooth (Formerly YanksFanInBeantown) says:

                Looking at 10 games doesn’t mean too much either. And power is supposed to be DBJ’s calling card, so the power outage is concerning.

                • Greg says:

                  I agree with you on the small sample size in 10 games. My comment was that he finished strong after someone else stated that he didn’t, not that his prospect status should be judged by those 10 games. My opinion that he is going to dominate Charleston this year is based off of what I’ve read as far as scouting reports from his new stance at the very end of last season and how great he apparently looked at instructs.

  17. Manny's BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte's Fibula) says:

    Hopefully Nik Turley will attach himself at the hip to Andy Pettitte in ST and maybe learn the cutter.

  18. John C says:

    Very good job Mike!. I just hope the Yanks are very agreessive with those 3 early picks in this June’s draft to keep building up the system. Also hoping that Jake Cave can join that list this year after losing a year to injury. Where would Rookie Davis be on yor list?

  19. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    No Daniel Aldrich?

  20. pat says:

    I’m willing to give Ravel a pass for last year. Not only was he rehabbing the bad ankle, he had a lot of vision problems playing night games for the first time in his life. Not only was the physical stuff there, but he had to deal with seeing all his boys from last year playing in the long season leagues, I’m betting he was trying to hit his way out of SI and got away from what made him so dangerous the year before.

  21. Mike, I totally agree with you on de Paula. BA has him top 10 in their rankings, which is possible but hard to substantiate given he’s never pitched in the States. Of all New York’s prospects he has the most to prove this year. I could see him being ranked as one of the Yankees top prospects a year from now and I could see him not even showing up on the list. Anything is possible with this kid.

  22. Sweet Dick Willie says:

    Where in the world is Carmen Angelini?

  23. G_eorge says:

    AWESOME breakdown. I’ve been looking for a dope Yankee blog like this for a while.

  24. Ted Nelson says:

    List looks good.

    I still disagree that it was a nightmare season. A whole lot went right along with all that went wrong. The result is a strong farm.

    I also wouldn’t call the drop off drastic. The talent is there.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Agreed. I see potential helpers, both in the short and long term, all over that list, with even the guys at the bottom of the list underperformers who could raise their stock rather easily.

    • Pat D says:

      I think the nightmare part is that Banuelos and Campos are arguably the best arms and they both had serious injuries, and that two of the recent top picks in Culver and Bichette already look like busts.

      I do agree that just as much went right. I think we all have a tendency to focus on the negative, however, since there’s been this “Yankees can’t develop young players” narrative for a while.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        I think the valid counterpoint would be that guys like me, you and Ted overvalue some of these guys based on overfamiliarity from reading about them every day. Maybe Ted has, but I haven’t seen 90% of these guys play and my opinions are 90% based on what Mike Axisa tells me (strangely, I have less of a problem with bunts.) Ceiling, tools, or not, they’re going to go through the same pratfalls as any other minor leaguers, and many will not make it at all.

        However, based on what we know and what we’ve “seen” thus far, I’m very excited about the number of guys who are on a track where they could be real contributors to this franchise, even pitchers, and that’s acknowledging the injuries to Campos and Banuelos.

        I’m goiong to assume Future HOFer Ronnie Mustelier was # 1/2.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          Probably not true that 90% is what Axisa tells me – more like it’s what Axisa links to.

          • Pat D says:

            I kind of go with Keith Law above all others. That’s probably because I enjoy the way he snarks more than anything else.

            • Manny's BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte's Fibula) says:

              I like Law too. He’s a super bright guy who has worked in the industry and he is the king of snark.

              • Robinson Tilapia says:

                I’ll read anybody and take the composite into account. Law is definitely more fun, but who said what about who bleeds into one another after a while.

        • Pat D says:

          If Mustelier was # 1/2, what was Vidal Nuno? # 1/8?

          • Robinson Tilapia says:

            Good question.

            I honestly am curious where Mike ranked Nuno, Garcia, Mustelier, and even Petey and Mikey, the fighting O’Briens.

        • I would say the season was a nightmare for the top of the system. Manny’s injury, Dellin’s ineffectiveness, Jose Campos’ injury, Ravel not coming back to normal, Bichette regressing, and Romine’s back were all very discouraging. Despite all of that, somehow the system still maintained it’s status and actually may have improved.

          If the system can improve after a season like that, imagine what they can do if there are less injuries and regressions at the top this season.

      • This Guy says:

        Culver can still be a good player. He’s got time and moving exclusively to the right-side should help his approach.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          I agree. Still young enough. Can play D. Even if he becomes the next Mark Belanger (or Ramiro Pena), that’ll still be better than a whole lot of first rounders.

        • There has been a lot of speculation on moving him to exclusively the right side. No one from the Yankees org has admitted to that yet though. I think you’ll have to wait at least another season to see that, if it ever happens.

      • Manny's BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte's Fibula) says:

        While “nightmare” might be a little strong, I think the pitching side of the farm was very disappointing last year with the huge regression from Betances, injuries to Campos and Banuelos and the fact that no one really showed themselves to be a future front of the rotation starter.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          Sure. I’m not saying everything went great. I’m just saying that the focus should be on the overall picture. Focusing on the negative isn’t a full analysis of the situation.

          • Manny's BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte's Fibula) says:

            I agree with that. overall, i think the system is poised for a nice leap forward in the next year or so

      • Ted Nelson says:

        The focus on the negative stuff drives me nuts.

        I think Bichette is still a wait and see guy. They pushed him hard, and he didn’t respond. It happens to young guys getting their first taste of full season ball. Votto, for example, was promoted to A ball mid-season his first full pro year and struggled as badly as Bichette.
        Would have been nice to see a strong finish as he adjusted, but could still come this year.

        • Mike HC says:

          I like that Mike has strong opinions about certain prospects. Everyone in the minors is a “wait and see” guy really, and Mike still gives you a full enough picture to make your own judgments.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            My comment about Bichette was in response to Pat’s point, not Mike.

            I would definitely put Bichette’s season in the nightmare category. My point on Mike is just that as much went right as wrong in the minors this past season.

            • Mike HC says:

              I guess Mike’s point that was that since 4 of our top 7 prospects got hurt last year, it was a poor year. But also said the farm is still in good shape. But you are definitely more than welcome to disagree with his assessment.

              • Ted Nelson says:

                Again, in assessing whether it was a poor year or not I think you have to look at what went right as well as what went wrong. If your P gives up 10 runs but your offense scores 15, you still win the game. Certainly you want to figure out what went wrong with the P, but you don’t say you lost the game.

            • Manny's BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte's Fibula) says:

              I think it’s certain fair to say it’s too early to write off Bichette. It may not look promising but he was still pretty young for his level last year and isn’t that far removed from having a really strong debut

              With that being said, this is a really key year for him and he needs to show a decent improvement to be considered a real prospect

              • Ted Nelson says:

                Agreed. I can find plenty of guys who struggled after a promotion (especially to full season ball), but for the successful ones it’s usually a blip on the screen.

        • Actually he did finish strong, although it wasn’t until the last 3 weeks of the season.

    • Preston says:

      Some young electric arms emerged like Ramirez, Mitchell and Black. They were just overshadowed by bigger names like Banuelos, Betances and Campos dropping off.

  25. Back in the Saddle says:

    Mike—This is fun. However, of everyone on your list Slade Heathcott will be the first one to make it to New York. I realize he is a little short on development time, however, the tools are there. His performance in Arizona this fall is an indication that he will move fast. He hit all types of pitching well and that should continue.

    • Preston says:

      I agree, they often compare AFL to AA. If he can produce anywhere close to that level in AA to start the season he could get a quick promotion to AAA and if he produces there he could step in as an impact piece for the last month or so of the season. Of course this is a rosy super optimistic projection. But February is the time to dream.

  26. This Guy says:

    Played against Slade at the 08 PG National…and it’s the only time I ever remember being afraid of another guy on the field.

    • Cool Lester Smooth (formerly YanksFanInBeantown) says:

      Were you afraid of him as in you were intimidated by how he looked or did you think he was an unfortunate statement away from beating the shit out of everyone in the general vicinity?

  27. Laz says:

    Glad to see Flores finally get some recognition. He puts up solid #’s in Tampa, and was younger than the rest of the group, and that was with 500 at bats there, not just half a season.

    Pirela was close?

  28. D-Lite says:

    No Greg Bird?? Too little experience?

  29. entonces says:

    Very nice list, Mike, but could you tell us something of the nature of your sources. I assume you do not have scouting background. But did you talk to scouts? Minor league coaches, managers? Or is this pretty much compiled from written sources. In any case, it’s a very neat summation but would like a little more info on the inputs.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      I use everything available to me. I talk to a few people I know within baseball who see these guys and look at everything available online — BA, Law, BP, local newspaper interviews (you’d be surprised by how much you can learn about a guy from a Q&A with his hometown newspaper after he signs with the Yankees), you name it.

  30. Pat D says:

    Just curious, Mike but are Rob Segedin and Kyle Roller strictly org. guys at this point? Not that I ever thought Roller was more than that.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Segedin and Gamel are two others I’d love to have seen where on the list they’d rank. This increases my “Mike, spill the beans” list to Mustelier, Nuno, Garcia, Segedin, Gamel, and the fighting O’Brien’s.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Personally, I’d say Segedin still has a chance to contribute. Roller I’d call an org guy.

  31. Bavarian Yankee says:

    great job again, Mike. Your top 30 lists are always fun to read.

    I have one question: do you think that the Yankees should be more aggressive once their prospects are in AA? Seems like a lot of the recent young stars like Harper, Trout, Posey never really played more than a half year in AAA or full year of AA and AAA combined (Posey even skipped AA and went from A+ to AAA in 2009) and I wonder if the Yankees are too conservative sometimes? I thought Montero was ready like a year (or even two years) before they finally called him up to the big leagues.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      With Montero I would say they held him back for defensive, rather than offensive, reasons. Trying to make him a C rather than DH, which is pretty defensible for any team but especially a 95+ win team who didn’t much need the bat in MLB. Posey is a C too, but he’s a strong defender and an NCAA guy who didn’t even get to the Giants org until 21.

      Even Montero only played half a season in high a and AA, but they’ve been very aggressive with others. Melky, Hughes, IPK, and Joba come to mind.

    • Laz says:

      Doesn’t work for a lot of players though. Posey and Harper were both in the top 5 picks, Yankees rarely are able to pick players that are that developed. They head more towards the raw players that need more development.

  32. emac2 says:

    I think “we” really need to make this a top 50 list so everyone can be included.

    Have participants not win a prize went out in the 90′s

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      It’d be interesting, but I think that, if 16-30 or 21-30 could be interchangeable, 31-50 might be just sheer randomness.

      I also think there’s value to a cut-off point.

  33. The Moral Majority is Neither says:

    Yankees need guys like Cave, Duran, Bird and Gamel to at least get on the radar. Hoping for some progress with these players in 2013.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Why does that “need” to happen? Not challenging you. Just curious.

      • The Moral Majority is Neither says:

        I think it needs to happen to get some value out of the 2011 draft. Duran, Bird and Cave were rounds 4-6, got overslot money and haven’t really seemed to register as prospects.

        I am very happy with the system and think 2013 will see a lot of progress, so perhaps ‘need’ seems an odd word choice, but if Bichette, Duran, Byrd and Cave quickly fizzle out it would almost be a lost draft.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          In the grand scheme of things, though, how that individual draft class did would be a moral (no pun intended) victory and not much else. How the system looks as a whole is so much more important.

          It’d be nice. I really don’t think it “needs” to happen.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          I think that Bird is a strong prospect, just hasn’t played a lot yet and somewhat predictably didn’t work st C. Gamel is at least a prospect. Cave was injured. Duran stunk.

          The 2011 draft had no actual first round pick and they passed on signing their second, so it wasn’t likely to be a huge class. (Got the 2nd back in 2012 and will get a comp pick for the 1st in 2013.) Still plenty of potential, though: Montgomery, Bird, Cote, Camarena, Davis, Sharp, Pinder, Cave, and Tracy.

          Gamel was from the 2010 draft.

          • Don’t sleep on Chaz Hebert and Joey Maher. Especially Hebert saw a definite increase in stuff going into 2012. Maher’s stats didn’t look great but that was mostly because of one bad outing.

            Seriously though watch out for Hebert, he’s got breakout written all over him this season.

        • John C says:

          In fairness, none of those guys have played in full season ball and Cave missed last season with a knee injury, so I’d give them time. Scouts seem really high on Bird (no pun intended), even with the move to 1b. I’ve read he has a really good eye at the plate and light tower power.

  34. Dalek Jeter (formerly: Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)) says:

    Mike, I have huge respect for you, and I think this is a bang-up list…but how is Batances still a top 25 prospect? He’s been trending down for 3 years now, and has become progressively more and more wild. If he’s truly our 23rd best prospect, I don’t think much of 24-30…

    • Mike HC says:

      I would say it is kinda accurate to not be so high on prospects out of the top 20. We see how hard it is for guys to break into the Majors, especially on the Yanks.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Last year’s #30 was dalelama.

      In all seriousness, I agreed with the ranking and I’m pretty sure it’s a steep drop from last year. There’s still really strong potential value as a reliever and he’s still in the org.

      • Preston says:

        If a guy with limited success like Culver can stay in the 30 there is no reason for a guy like Betances who has been a top 100 prospect to drop off the board after a disastrous year. Talent usually trumps all and Betances has that. All the same old cliche’s of large guys taking longer to learn how to repeat mechanics and learn control still apply.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Still has a ton of potential.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      Do the two spots really make much of a difference?

      • Dalek Jeter (formerly: Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)) says:

        No, not really, I’m just surprised he’s in the top 30 at all tbh.

    • MannyGeee says:

      I am still hoping against all odds that this kid can put it together out of the ‘pen and compete for closer duties some day down the line…

      Seriously, if dude can put a simpler(?) delivery and figure out how to repeat it? 95-98 with a hammer curve and a show-me change coming out of the pen is the stuff you cream your BVDs over.

    • Havok9120 says:

      That’d be a crap ton of upside (that we’ve seen him put to good use in the recent past) sitting outside the top 30. If he can come close to figuring it out out of the ‘pen? That’d be painful to see hitters play with that.

  35. Preston says:

    Thanks for the list Mike, look forward to it all off-season. I’m surprised that Culver still makes the list. I understand that guys who can play above average D at SS are rare but he’s just done so little with the bat. I also would rank Corey Black a little higher, arms like that are rare finds, he seems like a back end reliever at worst (health permitting) and if some of his secondary pitches evolve he could be an electric starter (I’m not prepared to discount him on size alone). I was a little surprised with how highly you ranked Nik Turley and Ramon Flores, I get that they both have high floors, but both have significantly lower ceilings than others on the list. Other than that love the list and appreciate all the write ups. I’ll be referencing this all year while following the farm.

    • I think you’re wrong about both, but especially Flores. He is still extremely young for his level and has a lot of development left in him. Most feel his power will develop as well. He actually has the same potential as the top 3 OF on the list, he’s just a little behind them development wise.

      • Cool Lester Smooth (Formerly YanksFanInBeantown) says:

        Yeah, no. Flores does not have anything approaching the tools of Williams or Heathcott, and he combines that with a worse performance than either Heathcott or Austin at the same level.

        His ceiling is Martin Prado without the versatility, while Williams could be AJax, Austin could be 2010/2012 Swisher and Slade could be Dexter Fowler with McCutchen to Sizemore speed.

        • you couldn’t be more wrong. Flores is a different type of player than Williams and Heathcott. He does not have the speed but he is still a plus defender at his position. In addition to that he has a sweet swing that many scouts are projecting will develop into real power. While he hasn’t proved it yet, many think he will surpass Williams and Heathcott in the power department, which is why his ceiling is just as high as theirs. He has a better swing.

          • Especially to say his ceiling isn’t as high as Austin’s would be a fallacy. Don’t get me wrong I think Austin is a great prospect, but if anything Flores has better overall tools than Austin.

            • Preston says:

              I think this article sums up Flores pretty well.

              http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs.....ort-video/

              “Ramon Flores is a fine under-the-radar prospect for the New York Yankees and fun guy to scout for people like myself who enjoy pure hitting ability. When so few hitters at the lower levels are able to work counts, fight off tough pitches and earn walks, Flores makes for a refreshing break from the norm. However, the same aspects of his game I truly appreciate are what keeps me from being able to project him as a big league regular in his prime as an overall lack of projection devalues a strong set of present skills.”

              • Cool Lester Smooth (Formerly YanksFanInBeantown) says:

                Yeah, this is what I’ve heard. Martin Prado in LF is a maximum. Good player, but not impact.

                • Ted Nelson says:

                  If you don’t think Martin Prado is an impact player, I would say your expectations are way too high. If Flores is as successful as Prado I will do a backflip. Dude was primarily a LF last season and put up a 6 fWAR season. Career .341 wOBA and 111 wRC+.

                  • Ted Nelson says:

                    Missed the beginning of the conversation there. Would agree his upside is below the other 3 OFs. Still a nice prospect.

                    • Cool Lester Smooth (Formerly YanksFanInBeantown) says:

                      In that case I unloaded a little too harshly. But still, outside of his fluky UZR last season (almost 12 runs higher than his previous career high), Prado is a solid 3-4 WAR a year player. He’s a very, very nice piece to have on your team, but not a cornerstone by any means in the way that Williams, Austin and especially Heathcott could be if they reached their ceilings.

                    • greg says:

                      I think you’re all sleeping on Flores. He is just the type of guy who the Yankees need. A high OBP guy who can also hit for average. He is so young for his level and if the power develops in time he will be an all-star type hitter. That’s the only aspect of his hitting game which needs improvement, and it’s one that comes with age and work in the gym. Look at Cano for example and how long it took his power to truly materialize. The sweet swing was always there, the power came later. The difference? Flores is much more selective than Cano.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          New to the whole prospect thing?

          • Cool Lester Smooth (Formerly YanksFanInBeantown) says:

            Not really, bro. The only tool Flores has over Williams and Sanchez is his hit tool, but he does it as an LF rather than an up the middle position. He’s Tyler Austin with doubles power, and the only reason Austin is a top prospect is because he has over the fence power.

            Corner OFs with solid defense, mediocre speed and below average power are not exactly hot commodities.

            • greg says:

              Power is the last thing to come, it’s been said so many times by so many scouts. Flores is ridiculously young for his level, so naturally his power is going to be a bit behind them. In due time, his power will improve, and let’s not forget he hit 7 homeruns as a 20 year old this year. By comparison, Robinson Cano hit 6 as a 20 year old.

              Again, judging a very young player by power is not a good idea.

              • Preston says:

                The power isn’t there, he doesn’t have the frame to add the necessary bulk and from all accounts by scouts he doesn’t have the bat speed to generate significantly more power. He’s has the ability to develop into a nice player because he has great instincts and a great approach. But he is definitely limited by his (lack of) physical gifts.

              • Cool Lester Smooth (Formerly YanksFanInBeantown) says:

                Sanchez is 9 months younger than Flores, so that’s not it. Mike Newman, who I generally trust, says that he doesn’t have much power projection in his swing. If he doesn’t have BP power, he’s probably not going to get game power all of the sudden.

                And considering how strong his approach already is, there’s not a lot to dream on with Flores. Players can develop a better approach, like Cano did, but they can’t change their basic tools.

                • Greg says:

                  I’m not sure where Mark Newman was quoted saying that, but everything I’ve read in interviews with Yankees officials in addition to scouting reports from Patrick Teale and many others say that he has 20-30 homerun potential. He hit 11 homeruns as an 18 year old. Regardless of your height and weight, you can always get stronger.

                  Two other factors are that he, and all Yankees prospects, play in large ballparks. Yankees stadium is comparatively very small. In addition, it doesn’t matter if his frame can support added bulk. People still get stronger long after they turn 20. There is no reason why those 11 HR from last season as an 18 year old can’t turn into 20-30 later on. He is also a well above average fielder. His speed is the only thing lacking in his game.

  36. Aside from Flores at 6, nice list Mike. Gotta have Sanchez at #1.

    I have a fever and the only prescription is more Gary Sanchez.

    • MannyGeee says:

      I am assuming you’d take the medication…. rectally?

      Sorry, couldn’t resist the opportunity with the man-love and prescription joke. this shit writes itself.

  37. Josh says:

    How close was Gamel? Thought he played very well this year, and still only 20.

  38. nsalem says:

    Hopefully the proliferation of young bullpen prospects will avoid the cost (and usually disappointing) signings such as Karsay, Farnsworth and Feliciano. I think this is a money saving move and also a positive for the future of the organization. Another thought I have deriving from this BP talent pool, is that unless Joba somehow has the kind of year that establishes himself as a closer candidate, he will certainly be gone after this season. I don’t think the Yankees will be looking to sign another middle relief candidate for the millions Joba will be looking for, when they may have several minimum salary options who may be able to perform comparably.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Yeah. BP arms aren’t sexy, but there’s value there.

      • John C says:

        Montgomery, Whitley, Cabral, Kahnle and Burawa would concur

      • nsalem says:

        In this era of pitch count and TSJ the BP maybe more important than people think, especially for the Yankees. If Manny and Pineda come back well they will be projected starters for 14 and 15 and I would imagine they will have restrictions making the 6th and 7th inning all important. Manny in his healthy years before injury rarely saw the 6th and 7th inning and that was something I often wondered about.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          I would say that Manny’s age is the immediate explanation for not going deep into games. A lot of kids the same age are throwing like 3 innings at a time in short season ball.

  39. John C says:

    Couple of other guys who shined in the DSL that are coming over to the states this year to watch are RHPs Eric Canela, and Dallas Martinez. Both should pitch for the GCL this season. Also hope that last year’s big signee, Omar Luis Rodriguez can get his visa soon and get over here.

  40. Gonzo says:

    Here’s the biggest question. Do any of these guys have 80 #want?

  41. Who hates bunts more? Axisa or Earl Weaver? (Formerly Austin Aunelowitzky) says:

    Jose Mesa Jr. For possible sleeper pick this season?

  42. Where’s Melvin Croussett?

  43. Dan R says:

    One of the most exciting things about this years MiLB has to be the Thunder outfield of Austin, Slade and Flores. Sure wish I lived close enough to Trenton to attend some of those games.

  44. yanks or death says:

    nice job Michael. i need sanchez to be on posada’s level.

  45. Robert Messina says:

    Great job with your ranking, however, I DON’T agree that the system had a dreadful year or that they are lack quality or depth. Yes injuries killed them but every team goes through this. You are ignoring some very high quality prospects from the Dominican League(DLS 1 and 2). Also disagree with DePaula comment. Here are a few I think need to be in your top 30: Bird 1B(was a cather), Rutcky LHP, Gallegos RHP. Plus a host of intriguing players from 30-60 ranges. Depth is quite strong. Thats not even counting the above mention Dominican/Latin players who have yet to make it to the states. High ceiling players.

  46. Jack p says:

    Very nice list and thanks for taking the time out Mike to make it very detailed, no qualms with any of the ratings, though I thought Almonte should have made it, oh well.

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