Poll: The Yankees’ Top Prospect

Mason Williams close to 100% following shoulder surgery
Report: Felix Hernandez close to extension with Mariners
The team's last no-doubt number one prospect. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
The team’s last no-doubt number one prospect. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

For the first time in several years, the Yankees do not have an obvious top prospect. Manny Banuelos was the easy (but not necessarily slam dunk) choice last season and Jesus Montero indisputably sat atop the team’s prospect list for years, but right now there is no real consensus. They do have four legitimate top prospect candidates though, so it’s not like they’re hurting for talent.

By now you know those four players: catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielders Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott. Baseball America ranked Williams number one earlier this winter while Keith Law and John Sickels each had Sanchez in the top spot. If you spend some time scouring the interwebs, you’ll sure find other lists with Heathcott and Austin sitting at number one. I think we can all agree there wouldn’t be much argument with any of this guys being called New York’s best minor leaguer.

My personal top 30 prospects list comes out tomorrow, but you’ll have to wait until then to see I have at number one. For now I just want to poll the audience to see who you folks think is the team’s top prospect. Here’s a quick review of each guys credential’s (listed alphabetically)…

OF Tyler Austin
Austin, 21, was the best player in the farm system last season, hitting .322/.400/.559 with 17 homers and 23 stolen bases while playing at four different levels. The Yankees have moved him around the field a bit, but last year he settled into right field. Regardless, he’s a bat-first prospect.

OF Slade Heathcott
The 22-year-old Heathcott missed the first half with his second shoulder surgery in as many offseasons, but he returned to hit .302/.380/.461 with five homers and 19 steals in 65 total games. He tore the cover off the ball — .388/.494/.612 in 18 games — in the Arizona Fall League after the season. If that’s not good enough, his defense\ive skills in center and damn near elite.

C Gary Sanchez
No minor league catcher hit more homers than the 20-year-old Sanchez in 2012, who went deep 18 times while hitting .290/.344/.485 across two levels. Thanks to his greatly improved defense, he’s likely to remain behind the plate long-term. Sanchez might be the most gifted hitter in the system, and he does it at the most premium position.

OF Mason Williams
Williams, 21, hit .298/.346/.474 with 11 homers and 20 steals in 91 games between two levels last season, though a shoulder injury — suffered while diving for a ball in the outfield — ended his season in late-August. Williams offers high-end center field defense like Heathcott, but he doesn’t have the same ugly injury history.

* * *

With all due respect to the other players in the system, these four clearly stand out from the pack. They’re all not only extremely talented, but they all produced in a big way this past season. Which one is the best? I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Who is the Yankees' top prospect?
Total Votes: 2665 Started: February 7, 2013 Back to Vote Screen
Mason Williams close to 100% following shoulder surgery
Report: Felix Hernandez close to extension with Mariners
  • Blake

    Sanchez may not have the highest floor but because of his ceiling and the position he plays he’s #1 and the most important for me as well

    • LightSABR

      Yeah, I wonder how much this vote is being influenced by our collective horror of starting Cervelli/Stewart.

  • Mike HC

    Like most people in this runaway vote, Gary Sanchez for me.

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    Williams and Heathcott’s injuries have slowed the hype train down on them a little bit. Austin seems to have the upside of an above average player, but not the star upside Heathcott and Williams have.
    So I voted for Gary Sanchez. He’s got elite upside and the latest scouting reports are favorable in regards to his ability to stick at catcher.
    I’m a lot more excited about this batch than when our best 4 prospects were pitching prospects.

  • Ted Nelson

    I’d probably put Manny right there with or above Slade given the nature of their injury histories.

    • Ted Nelson

      By that I mean for # 4, at best maybe #3. I like Sanchez #1 because of position, and Austin #2 because I find him most technically sound and highest producing.

      • Steve

        Is it fair to say that Slade has the highest ceiling of the 3 outfielders were they all to reach it?

        • Ted Nelson

          I don’t really know. Certainly has a great ceiling as a CF with power, but same goes for Williams. Scouts aren’t as high on Austin and the offensive bar is much higher in RF, but I think he has a chance to be a really great hitter personally.

      • Jim Is Bored

        This is a serious question, not snark.

        How do you know Austin is technically sound? Simply scouting reports? Or have you watched him? How is he more technically sound than Mason or Slade?

        • Cool Lester Smooth (formerly YanksFanInBeantown)

          The scouting reports are pretty universal that Austin is much more polished than either Slade or Mason.

        • RetroRob

          I would gather he’s going off scouting reports since what he wrote fits the general consensus on Austin. I’d also put more faith in the talent evaluators than anyone posting on a blog, myself included!

        • Ted Nelson

          His swing, from watching him. Beautiful swing. Great balance, quick to the ball, not a lot of wasted motion. It’s a textbook swing.

          Williams has an awkward swing that seems a little inconsistent. Sanchez has a lot of wasted motion. Slade lunges a little and seems to hit off his front foot, but pretty nice swing.

  • CountryClub

    I think Austin is the most likely to become a good MLB player.

    But I voted on total upside/ceiling and went with Sanchez.

  • LK

    Wow, I can’t believe Sanchez is winning in such a landslide.

    • pabla de humungus

      Doesnt surprise me one bit.

    • Mike HC

      I’m most surprised that Williams is pulling up the rear. After winning the RAB “prospect watch” last year, I guess he has lost some favor with RAB readers.

      • LitFig

        I think the injury has put a dent in Mason’s prospect hype machine

      • Laz

        Injury, and the fact that he is still going to open the year in Tampa, while the rest should be in Trenton.

    • Chip Off the Ol’Knoblauch

      I briefly thought about Slade for the top spot, but decided against it because of the injuries. If Slade had been healthy these past 2 seasons, I think it’d be much closer than it is now.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Agree. If the injuries had been less frequent (and given the potential he has shown), I would have voted Heathcott

  • vin

    I voted for Sanchez largely because of his increase liklihood of sticking at catcher. If he doesn’t work out there, I’m not sure if he has the athleticism to move to 3B, but 1B is of course a possibility.

    I love Slade, Mason, Austin, and even Manny & Campos. But for years, we all took for granted the value of a good hitting catcher (Jorge). Consider this an homage to Posada.

  • Steve (different one)

    Voted for Gary “unlike Montero, not Dirty” Sanchez

    I am joking. About the nickname, not about my vote…

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Gary “Sucio” Sanchez

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero


    /just kidding folks

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Campos! (I voted Sanchez.)

      • Pat D

        I voted for Kodos.

    • Henry Krinkle

      I wonder how much more complaining you would be doing if Montero had a good year. At some point it may help to let this one go.
      I went with Sanchez.

      • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

        Aw come on Krinkle. Montero did pretty well for a 22 year old, making minimum, who can’t catch, batting cleanup on a crappy offensive team in a terrible ballpark. But you’re right-I was disappointed.

        • Laz

          Ibanez was a better hitter than Montero last year. So as far as I’m concerned it was a wash so far. Pineda lost year, but Montero wouldn’t have been better than what they had.

        • Henry Krinkle

          True. I still have hope for Pineda even though it’s less warranted than with Montero, but who knows how either will end up? I root for laundry in part because I’ll be a Yankee fan well after either player is still playing.

  • Chris

    Gary Sanchez, because of his ceiling and the crazy idea that he might take a little of the sting out of the Montero trade at some point in the future.

    • Cool Lester Smooth (formerly YanksFanInBeantown)

      Yeah. Nothin like replacing a great hitting DH/1B with a very good hitting catcher.

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

    For me it’s Sanchez. Nothing against the others, but Austin is a RF’er and while one at his level isn’t “easy” to replace, it is the easiest position to get production from, same can be said of Heathcott and on top of that health is a factor with him…the dude can’t seem to stay on the field. Second place is Williams, the only reason is because Sanchez is a Catcher as opposed to an outfielder and unlike Montero has a legit chance to stick at the position. As we’ve seen good offensive catchers are a rare find in baseball these days, I mean off the top of my head I can think of Miguel Montero, Buster Posey, Yadi Molina, and to a lesser extent Matt Weiters. I would include Mauer but he’s seeing more games at first and DH last year and in the future.

    • Ted Nelson

      I agree with Sanchez, but would just point out that Slade is a legit CF. Your wording seems to suggest that he’s a RF.

  • LitFig

    I voted Austin due to his hitting skills and the fact that as a corner OF, his defense isn’t as important to his progression as the CFers or Sanchez.

  • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formally Drew)

    God I miss Montero. Did anyone else see BA fantasy book rank him as the #7 catcher in the AL and #15 overall? They are really predicting a bounce back year.

    But yeah, I voted Sanchez. Premium position, Premium Bat. Solid Defense. Gotta be #1 and be the Prospect Watch this year on RAB.

    This isn’t what this vote is for right?

    • Laz

      Not that good. FB completely ignores the defensive side, and he would be right in the middle of the pack offensively.

    • Manny’s BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte’s Fibula)

      Montero is worth far more as a fantasy catcher as compared to the real world obviously because of defense.

      From everything I’ve read, he’s not gonna last long behind the plate before Seattle is gonna have to make him predominantly a DH or 1st baseman

      • Laz

        They need him to at least make it through this year as the catcher. They took on too many 1B/DH players.

  • Tyrone Sharpton

    there should be no doubt about your list, mike. you will definitely go sanchez #1, williams #2, heathcott #3 and austin #4. call me a prophet. imo, i hope heathcott and austin get dangled around…heathcott always gets hurt and austin’s power numbers really weren’t there in tampa for that 36-game stint

    • Laz

      Lets hope not. If slade can stay healthy he could be someone special. Austin to me is not someone who is going to hit 40 hr, but more someone that can get on base a lot, and hit quite a few doubles.

      • Robinson Tilapia


        I hope all four stick around, at this point. Hugging too much? Maybe, but who doesn’t love a good hug?

        • Laz

          To me it just makes sense. Trading is good when you need that last piece, Yankees aren’t in that position. All of their current outfielders have 2 or fewer years of control left, and who knows what Ichiro brings in that 2nd year. They also have no long term catcher yet, and payroll space is tight because of teix, cc, arod, etc. Thinking long term with a payroll cap, they are going to need some players that are being productive and making the league minimum.

  • Manny’s BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte’s Fibula)

    I’d vote Slade, Sanchez, Manny, Williams, Austin

  • trr

    Sanchez, all the way…

  • CashmanNinja

    I actually voted for Slade, but that’s based on hope that he can actually stay healthy. As of right now I agree it’s Sanchez, but I’m banking this on who will be the top prospect in the near future. I just feel that Slade is the most complete player of the bunch. He should fill out and hit for power, he offers great speed, he offers terrific defense, and he also has that “all out” mentality. I just feel that he is the kind of guy who can really have an impact if he stays healthy. He kind of reminds me of Grady Sizemore in terms of skill and the inability to stay healthy. Those kind of players are such teases, though.

    Sanchez has the most chance of making it because of the position he plays. Even if he’s slightly more than average defensively he will still be able to have his bat carry him. As of now he’s the top because of the position, but if we’re going for the safest bet then it is none other than…

    …Tyler Austin.

    This guy is all about the fundamentals. I love that because I think it’s a disappearing trend in baseball. You see these guys throwing the head of the bat at the ball and having huge holes in their swings. Austin just looks old school and I think he’ll fill out into a very solid hitter. He reminds me of a combination of Billy Butler and David Freese.

  • Improbable Island’s Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR)

    A young catcher with power and high upside expected to stick at his position?

    How do you NOT vote Sanchez?

    • Manny’s BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte’s Fibula)

      A young CF with plus speed, defense and power isn’t far behind.

      • Cool Lester Smooth (formerly YanksFanInBeantown)

        Slade? Because Mason shouldn’t have much more than solid-average power if everything breaks right.

  • Gonzo

    Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.

  • Jim Is Bored


    Since all of the old Sanchezes flamed out, I hope this one makes it.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Picked Sanchez due to stuff already explained above. I’d follow with Slade, Austin, then Mason. I’m willing to be very bullish on Slade, despite the injury history.

  • ADG

    I voted for Austin because in my eyes he’s the closest to a sure thing out of the group. Heathcott to this point has shown zero ability to stay healthy, Williams didn’t have nearly as good a year as Austin offensively before getting hurt, and while Sanchez’s bat may be the truth all reports say that he still has a good amount of work to do if he’s going to stay behind the dish. Austin showed a great ability to hit for average, hit for power, get on base, steal bases and is by all accounts an average defender in RF. He’s also probably beginning the season in AA so he’s relatively close to the Majors. Sorry for the rant everybody but I’m just tryin to make the case for Austin being on the Prospect Watch this season even though it most certainly will be Gary Sanchez.

  • Barry

    Have to go with Sanchez. The possibility of that bat at that premium position just outshines the 3 OF’ers to me.

  • Manny’s BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte’s Fibula)

    Felix Hernandez has agreed to a new seven-year, $175 million contract with the Seattle Mariners, USA Today Sports reported Thursday.

    Another reason the Yankees need to hit it big on some of these prospects. Just the latest example of a great young player never reaching free agency while in their prime.

    • Laz

      Yep. Is no longer going to work, because so many teams are spending money.

  • Kentucky Grilled Chicken

    this is a kinda odd post…

    • Kentucky Grilled Chicken

      reply fail

  • Pat D

    Not surprised Sanchez is winning, but a little surprised that he’s winning so easily. I’m more surprised that as of right now Williams is running 4th. I’d probably pick him ahead of Austin and Slade.

    • Laz

      The other 3 should be in Trenton to start, while Williams is still going to need several months more at Tampa, unfortunately. Think it is a lot easier to get excited when player is going to be in AA rather than A+

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I just read Chad Jennings’s response to a “pinch hitters” column on LoHud today. Just an excellent retort to every bullshit point we hear every day, especially as to the farm system. Required reading, I think.

    I really had forgotten how great that site is if you just ignore the comment section.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Read that earlier today too. Excellent points made. BTW, I’ve never once read the comments on that site to know how bad they are.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        They’re pretty much the same as the comments on here.

    • Pat D

      Yea, I didn’t even bother to read the original article. The rebuttal made it quite clear that it would be like reading a lot of the comments here.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I couldn’t get through the original. Amateur hour.

  • CS Yankee

    I voted Tyler Austin as that is who I would like to see tracked on the sidebar this season, however I think its a slamdunk that Sanchez is their best prospect due to his position, level & age.

    They all have their merits from what has been said;
    Sanchez: Opp field power, elite and dire need position for NYY.
    Mason: Best contact rate, best path to the ball of the 3
    Slade: Best arm & most complete OF in system
    Austin: Best rake in the OF

    Thinking that if Ichiro is so-so (or worse) that it could be Austin or Slade getting the call come late-July.

    • RetroRob

      Not this year.

      • RetroRob

        …I clickedd reply before finished.

        So as I was saying, not this year for Heathcott or Austin. Are we even sure Austin will start in AA? I fully expect Heathcott to be there, and if he has a very strong first half, there is the potential he’s bumped to AAA in July or August. If he continues to look good, I can see him getting a shot in 2014, but there’s a lot that has to go right, from health to production, for Heathcott to make it to the Yankees at the start of 2014.

        • Cool Lester Smooth (Formerly YanksFanInBeantown)

          Austin went up to AA at the end of last season. I don’t think it’s a stretch for him to start there this season.

  • Wayne

    Sanchez has way more potential than the other guys. How’s it a surprise?

    • Laz

      Results vs Potential.

  • Bronx Bomber23

    Love all 4 of them, but to me it’s clearly Sanchez. We could plug him in behind the plate for the next decade.

  • ClusterDuck

    They’re all top prospects. However, I believe Slade will be the first one to get a shot with the Yanks, so I will vote for him.

  • dalelama

    Let’s be honest—they are all pretty mediocre.

    • Cool Lester Smooth (Formerly YanksFanInBeantown)

      True, D’Arnaud is better than anyone in the Yankees system.

      Why don’t you go over to Amazin’ Avenue and talk about it.

      • Laz

        Sad thing is…. He comes here often.

  • dalelama

    It is what it is.