Feb
13

2014 Preseason Top 30 Prospects

By
Romine is no longer prospect eligible. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Romine is no longer prospect eligible. (AP)

By the Yankees’ own admission, last season was a terrible year for the farm system. Many top prospects either got hurt or underperformed (some did both), so much so that the Yankees’ drafting and development strategy and personnel were re-evaluated. No one was fired, but several new instructors were added to the staff, including former big league managers Trey Hillman and Mike Quade. Procedural changes were made as well.

As a result of that down year, the Yankees have a lean system with almost no immediate help on the way. No impact players, anyway. Having three first round picks in last summer’s draft helped keep them from the bottom of the various organizational rankings, plus the team is said to be planning a huge international spending spree this summer, so there figures to be a lot of talent added to the system during this 12-13 month span. They need it, that’s for sure.

This is my eighth Preseason Top 30 Prospects List and the other seven can be found right here. As a reminder, this is my personal list and I am not an expert. I’m just a dude with a blog and some opinions. I have my own preferences and therefore I’m high on some players and low on others, compared to consensus. You’re welcome to disagree with my rankings. We all value certain things (upside, performance, probability, etc.) differently and that’s why there is no right way to rank prospects.

I use the rookie limits (50 innings or 130 at-bats) to determine prospect eligibility without any regard for service time because that’s easiest. Service time is too much of a hassle to track. Preston Claiborne threw 50.1 innings last season, so he wasn’t eligible. There has been a ton of turnover from last year’s list, with seven players either graduating to the big leagues (Austin Romine, Adam Warren), leaving the organization (Brett Marshall, Corey Black, Melky Mesa, Ravel Santana), or both (David Adams). Another nine players dropped off the list due to injury, poor performance, or the numbers crunch as well. That means 16 players (!) on this year’s Top 30 were not on last year’s. Ridiculous.

As for sources, it’s pretty much everything. Baseball America, Keith Law, and Baseball Prospectus, of course, plus smaller profiles from hometown newspapers and stuff like that. You can learn quite a bit about a pitcher from a random interview since they tend to talk about their repertoires and all that. There’s also video as well. I’m no scout, but it doesn’t take a genius to see if a guy has a long swing or a nasty slider. The list starts after the jump. Enjoy.

#30

CESAR CABRAL, lhrp

Born: February 11th, 1989 (Age 25)
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005 by Red Sox
2013 Level: High-A, Double-A, Triple-A, MLB
2013 Line: 40.1 IP, 5.13 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 26.3 K% 12.4 BB%

The Yankees selected Cabral in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft (technically the Royals drafted him and traded him to the Yankees in a pre-arranged deal) and he nearly made the team out of Spring Training two years ago, but he suffered an elbow fracture at the end of camp and didn’t return to game action until the middle of last season. Because he cleared waivers last summer, he is officially New York’s property and the Rule 5 Draft rules no longer apply. The Yankees re-added Cabral to the 40-man roster last September to protect him from the 2013 Rule 5 Draft and he impressed in his short MLB cameo, striking out six of nine left-handed batters faced. He’s a true lefty specialist with a low-90s fastball and a sweeping low-80s slider, though he will throw the occasional mid-80s changeup. Cabral, who is sneaky big at a listed 6-foot-3 and 250 lbs., will again compete for a bullpen job in camp. He could spend the year as an up-and-down arm.

#29

VIDAL NUNO, lhsp

Born: July 26th, 1987 (Age 26)
Signed: Independent Frontier League, 2011
2013 Level: Triple-A, MLB
2013 Line: 45 IP, 1.80 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 22.5 K%, 4.6 BB%

Nuno’s journey from independent ball to the big leagues was completed last summer, when he made five appearances (three starts) for the Yankees before suffering a season-ending groin injury. He healed up in time to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. Nuno, who looks a bit bigger than his listed 5-foot-11 and 195 lbs., is a classic finesse southpaw with a kitchen sink arsenal. He throws three fastballs (four-seamer, sinker, cutter) in the 87-91 mph range and backs them up with changeups and curveballs. Nuno keeps the ball down and can pitch to both sides of the plate, which he needs to do because he lacks a true big league out pitch and isn’t overpowering. After pitching well in his limited MLB time last year, Nuno will come to camp with a chance to win a big league job, either as the fifth starter or in the bullpen. A return to Triple-A Scranton is always possible as well.

#28

PETER O’BRIEN, c/3b

Born: July 15th, 1990 (Age 23)
Drafted: 2012 2nd round, Miami ($460k bonus)
2013 Level: Low-A, High-A
2013 Line: .291/.350/.544 (148 wRC+), 22 HR, 506 PA

No player in the organization hit for more power last year than O’Brien, who led the system in homers, doubles (39), and extra-base hits (65). That right-handed pop is his only above-average tool but it’s a good one to have. O’Brien can hit absolute moonshots, especially to his pull side, though he does have power to all fields. His swing is rather long and his overall approach needs work, hence the 26.5% strikeout rate and 8.1% walk rate at Single-A despite being drafted as a college senior. O’Brien doesn’t really have a home on defense but the Yankees will keep him at catcher full-time after a brief experiment at the hot corner last year. His arm is strong but at 6-foot-3 and 215 lbs., his release is slow and he can be clumsy behind the plate. The power is very real though, and as long as he keeps racking up doubles and homers, O’Brien will continue to get opportunities and have a chance to help at the big league level. He is likely to move up to Double-A to start 2014.

#27

ROB REFSNYDER, 2b

Born: March 26th, 1991 (Age 22)
Drafted: 2012 5th round, Arizona ($206k bonus)
2013 Level: Low-A, High-A
13 Line: .293/.413/.413 (143 wRC+), 32 2B, 23 SB, 573 PA

Refsnyder has hit everywhere he’s played and that was certainly true last summer, when he walked (84) more than he struck out (82) and added six homers to all those doubles and steals. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 205 lbs., the righty-swinging Refsnyder recognizes pitches well and has a knack for barreling up the ball, allowing him to hit line drives to all fields. He doesn’t lift the ball all that much though, so nearly all of his power will be into the gaps for doubles than over the fence for homeruns. Refsnyder is a good runner but not a burner, but his speed plays up because he’s a heady base-runner. The Yankees moved him back to second base (his high school position) after he played the outfield in college, and while he’s athletic with a chance to be a solid gloveman, he lacks experience on the infield and needs work defensively. Even though he lacks power, Refnysder projects to hit enough to be an everyday player who could provide some versatility. A trip to Double-A Trenton is in the cards this year.

#26

SHANE GREENE, rhsp

Born: November 17th, 1988 (Age 25)
Drafted: 2009 15th round, Daytona Beach CC ($100k bonus)
2013 Level: High-A, Double-A
2013 Line: 154.1 IP, 3.38 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 20.7 K%, 4.5 BB%

No pitching prospect in the organization may have improved his stock in 2013 as much as Greene, who did a much better job of staying in line with the plate and subsequently solved (or appeared to solve) his career-long control problems. His walk rate dropped to 1.7 BB/9 (4.5 BB%) last summer after sitting at 4.37 BB/9 (10.8 BB%) from 2009-12. Greene, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 lbs., sits in the 92-94 mph range with his fastball. A low-to-mid-80s slider is his top secondary pitch, and he also throws a curveball and changeup. After having Tommy John surgery back in 2008, he has stayed healthy and gradually increased his workloads to last year’s career-high 154.1 innings. The Yankees added Greene to the 40-man roster after the season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft and he is headed back to Double-A Trenton to start 2014. If he shows that the improved control is the real deal and not a fluke, he could make his big league debut as soon as the second half.

#25

RAMON FLORES, of

Born: March 26th, 1992 (Age 21)
Signed: Venezuela, 2008 ($775k bonus)
2013 Level: Double-A
2013 Line: .260/.353/.363 (104 wRC+), 6 HR, 620 PA

I was rather high on Flores last year, ranking him the fifth best prospect in the organization before the season, and he responded with the worst statistical season of his career and continued questions about his long-term power potential. Flores continues to show a very advanced approach and a line drive swing from the left side of the plate, but he doesn’t generate much loft and he only shows power when he pulls the ball to right field. It’s worth noting that while Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton is death on lefties, he hit better at home (.270/.366/.367) than on the road (.251/.341/.360) last summer. Flores is an adequate outfield defender who can fake center but fits best in left because he doesn’t have a strong arm. He is still officially listed at 5-foot-11 and 150 lbs., but that hasn’t been right in years. He’s closer to 6-foot-0 and 180 lbs. these days. It’s easy to forget that Flores is still so very young because it feels like he’s been in the organization forever, but he will have to start hitting for some more power soon if he wants to be considered more than a potential platoon/extra outfielder. The Yankees may return him to Double-A this summer because the Triple-A outfield is rather full.

#24

MIGUEL ANDUJAR, 3b

Born: March 2nd, 1995 (Age 18)
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2011 ($750k bonus)
2013 Level: Rookie
2013 Line: .323/.368/.496, 4 HR, 4 SB, 144 PA

A return trip to the Gulf Coast League did wonders for Andujar, who struggled during his pro debut in 2012 but mashed last season. The 6-foot-0, 175 lb. right-handed hitter has premium bat speed and a smooth swing, so he projects to hit for both average and power down the road. He can be a bit of a hacker and will have to improve his plate discipline to reach his offensive ceiling. In the field, Andujar has the quick reactions required for the hot corner, plus his arm is plenty strong for the position. He is still very rough around the edges in pretty much all facets of the game, which is to be expected from a player his age. Andujar is a classic high-risk, high-reward prospect with loud tools in need of refinement. The Yankees figure to hold him back in Extended Spring Training this year before sending him to Short Season Staten Island when the season starts in June.

#23

NIK TURLEY, lhsp

Born: September 11th, 1989 (Age 24)
Drafted: 2008 50th round, CA HS ($125k bonus)
2013 Level: Double-A, Triple-A
2013 Line: 145 IP, 3.79 ERA, 4.15 FIP, 23.3 K%, 12.0 BB%

It has been a slow and steady climb up the minor league ladder for Turley, who fell in the draft because teams expected him to follow through on his commitment to BYU and eventually go on a two-year Mormon mission. The Yankees rolled the dice and landed a solid southpaw who has gone from throwing in the mid-80s in high school to sitting 88-92 now. Turley’s top secondary pitch is a big breaking overhand curveball, which he can throw for strikes or bury in the dirt for swing-throughs. An inconsistent changeup is his third offering, but on its best days it is a put away pitch. Turley has size (listed at 6-foot-4 and 195 lbs.) and good stuff, plus he has been durable throughout his career and gradually increased his workload each season. The Yankees added him to the 40-man roster last winter but Turley will need more time in Triple-A — he only made one spot start there in 2013 — before becoming a viable big league option.

#22

MARK MONTGOMERY, rhrp

Born: August 30th, 1990 (Age 23)
Drafted: 2011 11th round, Longwood Univ. ($65k bonus)
2013 Level: Rookie, Triple-A
2013 Line: 45.1 IP, 3.38 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 29.9 K%, 12.7 BB%

Had he not dealt with shoulder problems last year, there’s a good chance Montgomery would have made his big league debut. Instead, the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder missed time and performed poorly, seeing his season end in August. When right, Montgomery offers a low-90s fastball and the best slider in the organization, a wipeout pitch in the low-to-mid-80s that breaks hard and late down and away to righties. His changeup is a very distant third pitch and won’t be needed long-term since he’s a one-inning reliever. Montgomery has not been mentioned as part of the Spring Training bullpen competition but I suppose he could win a spot. More likely, he’ll return to Triple-A Scranton and have to prove he’s healthy and back to his 2012 form before getting the call.

#21

ZOILO ALMONTE, of

Born: June 10th, 1989 (Age 24)
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005 (unknown bonus)
2013 Level: Triple-A, MLB
2013 Line: .279/.342/.386 (105 wRC+), 7 HR, 7 SB, 406 PA

Almonte made his Major League debut last June and got off to a hot start before suffering what amounted to a season-ending ankle sprain in mid-July. He has made a slow yet steady climb up the organizational ladder, not getting out of Single-A until his sixth pro season. Almonte, who is listed at 6-foot-0 and 205 lbs., doesn’t have one standout tool but he does a little bit of everything. He is a switch-hitter with decent power and a sound approach who has been better against right-handed pitchers historically. His speed has allowed him to steal double-digit bases just about every year of his career, and his defense in the outfield corners is above-average. Nothing fancy, just a solid all-around player who can help a team on both sides of the ball. Almonte is ready to be an extra outfielder right now but he could wind up back in Triple-A Scranton thanks to the big league logjam. The Yankees added him to their 40-man roster two years ago, so Zoilo is entering his final minor league option year and will have to stick in the show for good in 2014.

#20

DELLIN BETANCES, rhrp

Born: March 23rd, 1988 (Age 25)
Drafted: 2006 8th round, NY HS ($1M bonus)
2013 Level: Triple-A, MLB
2013 Line: 84 IP, 2.68 ERA, 2.69 FIP, 31.3 K%, 12.2 BB%

This is Preseason Top 30 List number eight (!!!) for Betances, who has ranked pretty much everywhere from third to 30th over the years. The Yankees finally stuck him in the bullpen full-time last May and the improvement was immediate, so much so that the move may have saved his career. The 6-foot-8, 260 lb. right-hander is still the same guy he’s always been stuff-wise — fastball anywhere from 91-99 mph, hammer curveball, occasional changeup — but he was better able to throw strikes and keep his delivery in check in short relief outings. Betances will head to Spring Training with a legitimate chance to win a big league roster spot for the first time in his career, but he also qualified for a fourth minor league option somehow, so a return to Triple-A Scranton is always possible if things don’t work out.

#19

LUIS TORRENS, c

Born: May 2nd, 1996 (Age 17)
Signed: Venezula, 2012 ($1.3M bonus)
2013 Level: Rookie
2013 Line: .241/.348/.299, 1 HR, 204 PA

Torrens spent the majority his amateur career playing third base, but the Yankees stuck him behind the plate full-time after giving him $1.3M and he took to the position exceptionally well. He’s a solid receiver and his arm is very strong (threw out 45% of attempted base-stealers last year), plus he moves well and has good footwork. Torrens is still pretty raw behind the plate, don’t get me wrong, but he is well ahead of where you’d expect most recent converts to be. Offensively, his right-handed swing is geared for line drives and despite his poor power numbers last summer, he gets some backspin on the ball and projects to hit double-digit homers down the line. Torrens is only 6-foot-0 and 171 lbs., so hopefully he fills out and gets stronger as he gets older so he can handle the rigors of being a starting catcher. The early returns on defense were very promising and his bat is more potential than production at this point. The Yankees will hold Torrens back in Extended Spring Training this year before assigning him to Short Season Staten Island when the season starts in June.

#18

TY HENSLEY, rhsp

Born: July 30th, 1993 (Age 20)
Drafted: 2012 1st round, OK HS ($1.2M bonus)
2013 Level: N/A
2013 Line: N/A

The Yankees had a terrible run of top draft picks from 2007-12, with poor performance and injury wreaking havoc on their should-be top prospects. Hensley, who had his signing bonus reduced by $400k after a pre-signing physical revealed an “abnormality” in his shoulder, missed all of last season following surgery on both hips. He is fully rehabbed and was on a normal offseason throwing program. When healthy, Hensley offers top notch power stuff, sitting 92-94 with his fastball and holding that velocity deep into games. He has run it up as high as 98 in the past. His hard upper-70s/low-80s curveball is a true out pitch and, before the injury, his low-80s changeup was making nice progress. Command is an issue and needs improvement. Oklahoma has a history of producing physically huge workhorse pitchers and Hensley fits the bill at 6-foot-5 and 220 lbs., though it remains to be seen how the hip surgeries impact his delivery. For what it’s worth, Hensley has drawn rave reviews for his work ethic and coachability. He attacked his rehab and even learned to speak Spanish in high school to better communicate with teammates. The Yankees are likely to hold Hensley back in Extended Spring Training at the outset of the season and could assign him to either Short Season Staten Island or Low-A Charleston at midseason.

#17

RAFAEL DEPAULA, rhsp

Born: March 24th, 1991 (Age 22)
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2010 ($500k bonus)
2013 Level: Low-A, High-A
2013 Line: 113.1 IP, 4.29 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 29.9 K%, 10.9 BB%

Visa problems cost DePaula, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 212 lbs., nearly a year and half before he could officially sign his contract and begin his pro career. He had previously been suspended for falsifying age and identity information. DePaula is a fastball-heavy pitcher and he’s got a good one, maybe the best in the system. It sits in the 93-95 mph range with sink and he can reach back for more, which he tends to do whenever he gets into trouble. His slider, changeup, and overall command lag behind his heater and prevent him being an upper-echelon pitching prospect. DePaula lost a lot of crucial development time during his suspension and visa-related hiatus, so his level of pitching experience is not commensurate with his age. The Yankees figure to send him back to Tampa to start 2014 after he got roughed up there following a midseason promotion.

#16

BRYAN MITCHELL, rhsp

Born: April 19th, 1991 (Age 22)
Drafted: 2009 16th round, NC HS ($800k bonus)
2013 Level: High-A, Double-A
2013 Line: 145.1 IP, 4.71 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 18.6 K%, 9.0 BB%

The more things change, the most they stay the same for Mitchell. The 6-foot-3, 205 lb. righty continued to put up mediocre results in his fourth full season despite explosive stuff, including arguably the best two-pitch combination in the system. His lively fastball sits 93-95 mph and will touch 97, and he has a tendency to fall in love with the radar gun. Mitchell’s power curveball sits in the low-80s and is the best breaking ball in the system. It’s unhittable when he can command it, which isn’t often enough. His changeup is still a work in progress after all these years. The Yankees added Mitchell to the 40-man roster after the season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, but he is not particularly close to the big leagues. A return trip to Trenton to start the year is in the cards.

#15

JOSE CAMPOS, rhsp

Born: July 27th, 1992 (Age 21)
Signed: Venezuela, 2009 by Mariners ($115k bonus)
2013 Level: Low-A
2013 Line: 87 IP, 3.41 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 21.6 K%, 4.5 BB%

Depending on who you ask, Campos either did or did not suffer a small fracture in his pitching elbow in 2012. Either way, he was limited to only 24.2 innings that year and the Yankees brought him back very carefully last summer, allowing him to complete four full innings of work only a dozen times in 26 appearances. Campos is a pretty big guy (listed at 6-foot-4 and 195 lbs.) and his best pitch is his sinking fastball, which usually sits in the low-90s and will occasionally touch 95-96. His fastball command separates him from most pitching prospects, as he can locate the pitch well to both sides of the plate. An upper-70s/low-80s breaking ball and low-80s changeup are his two offspeed pitches, though neither is all that advanced, especially compared to his fastball. The Yankees put Campos on the 40-man roster after the season because he was Rule 5 Draft eligible — a questionable move in my opinion because he clearly isn’t big league ready — so his minor league options clock is ticking. He’ll move up to High-A Tampa to start 2014 and the team figures to take the reins off a little bit.

#14

ABI AVELINO, ss

Born: February 14th, 1995 (Age 18)
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2011 ($300k bonus)
2013 Level: Rookie, Short Season
2013 Line: .303/.381/.399 (118 wRC+), 28 SB, 224 PA

Believe it or not, Avelino led the U.S. based part of the farm system with 28 steals (caught only four times) last summer despite not appearing in his first game until June. He also had more walks (20) than strikeouts (17). Despite the stolen base total, the 5-foot-11 and 185 lb. Avelino is not a big-time speedster, instead coupling solid speed with excellent base-running instincts. He is a classic contact hitter who slashes the ball to all fields, with power being his only well-below-average tool right now. Avelino is a standout defender who gobbles up everything at shortstop and has an above-average throwing arm, plus there are no concerns he might outgrow the position. His baseball acumen and overall approach is outstanding for a teenager and why the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Because he is so refined and baseball smart, the Yankees may be aggressive and push Avelino to Low-A Charleston in 2014, where he would be one of the youngest regulars in the South Atlantic League.

#13

GOSUKE KATOH, 2b

Born: October 8th, 1994 (Age 19)
Drafted: 2013 2nd round, CA HS ($846k bonus)
2013 Level: Rookie
2013 Line: .310/.402/.522 (171 wRC+), 6 HR, 4 SB, 215 PA

Katoh had, by far, the best statistical debut of the Yankees’ draft class last summer. He was also the rare high school second baseman who was a legitimate prospect — the best high school athletes tend to play short and most big league second baseman are failed shortstops. Katoh, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 180 lbs., has almost all the tools defensively, including a quick first step and soft hands, but he lacks the arm strength to play on the left side of the infield. At the plate, the self-taught left-handed hitter (he is a natural righty but learned to hit lefty at a young age because he idolizes Ichiro Suzuki) has a line drive swing geared for the opposite field. He doesn’t pull the ball all that much and his power is limited even though he’s stronger than his wiry frame suggests. Katoh knows the strike zone and he’s quick on the bases but not a burner. The Yankees are expected to hold him back at Extended Spring Training before sending him to Short Season Staten Island when the season opens in June, and they may give him some time at shortstop just to see what happens. Katoh is a good prospect, probably better than he got credit for before the draft, but the huge pro debut may have raised expectations unreasonably high.

#12

JOSE RAMIREZ, rhsp

Born: January 21st, 1990 (Age 24)
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007 (unknown bonus)
2013 Level: Double-A, Triple-A
2013 Line: 73.2 IP, 3.67 ERA, 4.62 FIP, 25.8 K%, 11.9 BB%

With each passing season, it looks more and more likely Ramirez will wind up in the bullpen long-term. He has not been able to hold up under a starter’s workload throughout his career, with shoulder fatigue and an oblique problem sending him to the DL in 2013. Elbow and lat problems are in his past as well. When healthy though, Ramirez brings the pain from his slender 6-foot-3, 190 lb. frame. He is the hardest thrower in the system in terms of consistently showing the same velocity each time out, sitting 92-94 with a fastball that touches 97-98 and bores in on right-handed batters. A low-80s slider was his second best pitch when he signed but it has since been surpassed by a power upper-80s changeup that dives down and away from lefties. Ramirez has improved his mechanics over the years but there is still some herky jerky-ness in his delivery. His command won’t ever be much of an asset. If the Yankees decide to pull the plug on starting and stick Ramirez in the bullpen, he could make the team out of Spring Training. If not, he’ll return to Triple-A Scranton and likely have to settle for making his big league debut later in the season.

#11

GREG BIRD, 1b

Born: November 9th, 1992 (Age 21)
Drafted: 2011 5th round, CO HS ($1.1M bonus)
2013 Level: Low-A
2013 Line: .288/.428/.511 (170 wRC+), 20 HR, 573 PA

No player in the organization had a better statistical season than Bird in 2013, his first as a full-time first baseman after a back issue ended his days behind the plate. Freed from the rigors of catcher development, Bird’s left-handed bat blossomed last year as he showed power to all fields and an ultra-patient approach — his 107 walks last season were the most by a Yankees’ prospect since Nick Johnson way back in the day — that allows him to let the ball travel deep in the zone before attacking. His swing doesn’t qualify as short or particularly pretty, but it is effective. Bird, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 lbs., is close to a bat only prospect. He’s still learning the ropes around the first base bag and he isn’t expected to ever be a standout defender. He will have to hit his way to the show and continue to hit to stay here. The Yankees will bump Bird up to High-A Tampa and may keep him there all year.

#10

MANNY BANUELOS, lhsp

Born: March 13th, 1991 (Age 22)
Signed: Mexico, 2008 (~$450k bonus)
2013 Level: N/A
2013 Line: N/A

Banuelos made only six starts in early-2012 before suffering a bone bruise in his elbow that wiped out the rest of his season. He tore his UCL during rehab and needed Tommy John surgery in October 2012, which kept him on the sidelines for all of last year as well. Prior to the injury, Banuelos showed a lively low-90s fastball that occasionally touched 96, and he backed it up with a knockout low-80s changeup. His inconsistent upper-70s curveball can be devastating when it’s on, giving the southpaw two put away offspeed pitches on his best days. Although he showed above-average command earlier in his career, Banuelos’ ability to locate took a step back in 2011 and 2012, before the elbow problems. He was not a finished product before his elbow gave out two years ago and there figures to be quite a bit of rust to shake off early in 2014. Banuelos, who is listed at only 5-foot-10 and 180 lbs., is fully rehabbed from elbow reconstruction and is likely to open the season with Triple-A Scranton, where he spent the 2011-12 campaigns.

#9

AARON JUDGE, of

Born: April 26th, 1992 (Age 21)
Drafted: 2013 1st round, Fresno State ($1.8M bonus)
2013 Level: N/A
2013 Line: N/A

The second of the last year’s three first round picks was the only one not to play after turning pro. Judge held out for an above-slot bonus until the signing deadline, then suffered a quad injury during a workout and was shut down for the season. The guy is a behemoth, standing 6-foot-7 and 255 lbs., which makes him larger than every non-Frank Howard outfielder in baseball history. That size comes with enormous power potential, the most in the system and legitimate 40+ homer stuff if he can iron out his swing and learn to put some more loft on the baseball. Judge has a surprisingly short and compact swing, but because he’s so tall and sets his hands up high, he’s prone to swings and misses and will always strike out a bunch. He won’t be some kind of complete all-around hitter, he’ll hit for a .250-ish average with 150+ strikeouts and a bunch of dingers if everything works out. Judge is a very good athlete and a swift runner who played center at Fresno State, but he’ll likely move to right field as a pro, where his arm will be more than enough. Simply put: he’s a freak. Guys this size usually aren’t this athletic or quick. Judge is a classic high-risk, high-reward prospect. It’s unclear if he will open the season with Low-A Charleston or High-A Tampa.

#8

IAN CLARKIN, lhsp

Born: February 14th, 1995 (Age 18)
Drafted: 2013 1st round, CA HS ($1.65M bonus)
2013 Level: Rookie
2013 Line: 5 IP, 10.80 ERA, 9.80 FIP, 16.0 K%, 16.0 BB%

Considering their history is littered with high-end left-handers, the Yankees have had an alarmingly small number of quality left-handed pitching prospects in recent years. Clarkin is only the third lefty the team has selected in the first or supplemental round since taking Brien Taylor first overall in 1991, joining Eric Milton (1996) and Jeremy Bleich (2007). His pro debut was delayed after he rolled an ankle during a workout, but he got healthy in time to throw a total of five innings across three short appearances late in the season. Clarkin is listed at 6-foot-2 and 186 lbs., and he is the rare high school prospect who already throws three pitches. His power mid-70s curveball breaks more 11-to-5 than traditional 12-to-6, and when he has command of it he can throw it for called strikes or bury it in the dirt for swings and misses. He sets the yakker up with a low-90s fastball and will also throw fading changeup. Clarkin has a very high leg kick and a long stride, which not only makes it hard for hitters to pick up the ball, it also makes consistently throwing strikes a challenge. The Yankees will have to work with him to iron out his mechanics and location. He’s likely to be held back in Extended Spring Training before being assigned to Short Season Staten Island when the season begins in June.

#7

LUIS SEVERINO, rhsp

Born: February 20th, 1994 (Age 19)
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2011 ($225k bonus)
2013 Level: Rookie, Low-A
2013 Line: 44 IP, 2.45 ERA, 1.92 FIP, 29.6 K%, 5.6 BB%

The Yankees had several international signees come over to the U.S. last summer, and none were as impressive as Severino. The 6-foot-0, 195-pounder brings huge stuff to the table, including 92-94 mph fastballs that will run as high as 98 on his best days. The ball jumps out of his hand, though he will get radar gun happy at times and overthrow. Severino’s top secondary pitch is a fading low-to-mid-80s changeup that he developed after turning pro. A hard mid-80s slider is his third best pitch (formerly second best) and rather inconsistent. All of his pitches play up because he throws strikes and keeps the ball out of the middle of the plate. Severino is a little on the small side but he already has two above-average pitches with a chance for a third. He’s slated to return to Charleston to start the season and there is some serious breakout potential here. Like top 50 prospect in baseball potential.

#6

MASON WILLIAMS, cf

Born: August 21st, 1991 (Age 22)
Drafted: 2010 4th round, FL HS ($1.45M bonus)
2013 Level: High-A, Double-A
2013 Line: .245/.304/.337 (83 wRC+), 4 HR, 15 HR, 537 PA

A year ago Williams was in contention for the top spot. Then he showed up to camp in something less than peak physical condition and reportedly looked disinterested on the field for most of the season, which was pretty terrible statistically. Williams has loads of athleticism in his 6-foot-1, 180 lb. frame and he continues to be ranked highly because of his impressive tools, the best of which is his defense. He runs down everything in center thanks to his speed and strong reads off the bat, and his arm is above-average. His offensive style is more slash-and-dash from the left side than anything, which works well because he makes easy contact and doesn’t have much power. Williams can be prone to bouts of extreme plate indiscipline because he gets the bat on the ball so often. The potential to be a All-Star leadoff man is there, but Williams needs to mature a bit and work on his approach at the plate. I wouldn’t necessarily call 2014 a make-or-break year for him, but he will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next winter and needs to improve this season to earn a 40-man roster spot. Tools only go so far.

#5

ERIC JAGIELO, 3b

Born: May 17th, 1992 (Age 21)
Drafted: 2013 1st round, Notre Dame ($1.84M bonus)
2013 Level: Rookie, Short Season
2013 Line: .264/.376/.451 (152 wRC+), 6 HR, 229 PA

The Yankees used their first pick in last summer’s draft to select Jagielo, making it the first time they took a college position player with their top pick since taking John-Ford Griffin way back in 2001. Jagielo signed quickly and impressed with Staten Island in his relatively brief pro debut after missing some time with a minor hamstring problem. He’s a left-handed hitter who fits the Yankees’ mold of power and patience, with a swing geared for hard contact to all fields. Jagielo is a big guy (listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 lbs.) and he isn’t quick, but he has worked hard on his defense. Most believe he will be able to remain at the hot corner long-term, though he’s never going to be a Gold Glove caliber defender or anything like that. Left field could be an alternative down the road but a move isn’t imminent. Jagielo owns one of the most advanced bats in the organization and he’ll hop on the fast track this summer, likely opening the year with High-A Tampa.

#4

TYLER AUSTIN, rf

Born: September 6th, 1991 (Age 22)
Drafted: 2010 13th round, GA HS ($130k bonus)
2013 Level: Rookie, Double-A
2013 Line: .265/.351/.378 (103 wRC+), 6 HR, 373 PA

A wrist injury sabotaged Austin’s follow-up to his dominant 2012 season. He suffered a bone bruise in April and tried to play through it before eventually landing on the DL for more than a month at midseason. The Yankees sent him to the Arizona Fall League for extra at-bats but the wrist flared up after only four games, so the team sent him home to prepare for 2014. When he’s healthy, Austin makes loud and hard contact with his easy right-handed swing, though he doesn’t generate a ton of backspin and he might be more of a doubles guy than a homerun hitter. He’s a big guy at 6-foot-2 and 220 lbs. and he’s not especially quick (despite impressive stolen base totals and rates), so his right field defense isn’t expected to be anything special. The Yankees have said they intend to work him out at first and third bases this year, where he spent some time earlier in his career. We never did see the real Austin last summer because of the wrist and he will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next winter, so this upcoming season will be a pretty important one for him. He’ll likely return to Double-A Trenton to at least start the year, but a promotion could come quickly if he rakes.

#3

SLADE HEATHCOTT, cf

Born: September 28th, 1990 (Age 23)
Drafted: 2009 1st round, TX HS ($2.2M bonus)
2013 Level: Double-A
2013 Line: .261/.327/.411 (104 wRC+), 8 HR, 15 SB, 444 PA

For the first time in five professional seasons, Heathcott managed to play in more than 80 games in 2013. His 444 plate appearances easily surpassed his previous career-high (351 plate appearances in 2010), though his season ended in mid-August due to a minor knee injury that required a clean-up surgery in the offseason. Heathcott, who stands 6-foot-0 and 195 lbs., has the best set of tools in the organization, with high-end athleticism and a chaotic all-out style of play. His left-handed swing has some holes and is best suited for slashing line drives, but his raw strength suggests there is some power coming. Because he doesn’t recognize offspeed pitches well, Slade is prone to striking out and extended slumps. Heathcott is a ballhawk in center field who runs down everything from gap-to-gap and his arm remains strong even after a pair of shoulder surgeries. That aggressive playing style has led to several injuries and hindered his development. He needs to learn to turn it down a notch for his own safety. The Yankees added Heathcott to a 40-man roster after the season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft and it’s unclear if he will open next year back with Trenton or with Triple-A Scranton. The knee procedure might leave him a bit behind other position players in Spring Training.

#2

J.R. MURPHY, c

Born: May 13th, 1991 (Age 22)
Drafted: 2009 2nd round, FL HS ($1.25M bonus)
2013 Level: Double-A, Triple-A, MLB
2013 Line: .269/.347/.426 (117 wRC+), 12 HR, 484

Murphy started last season in Trenton and ended it in the Bronx. The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder set several career-highs in the minors — plate appearances (484), hits (111), doubles (29), homers (12), walks (47), total bases (176), OBP, SLG, and wRC+ — before making a brief (and unproductive) big league cameo in September. Murphy doesn’t have the raw athleticism or sexy tools of other guys on this list, but he stands out because he does almost everything well. His right-handed swing is gearing for line drives to all fields and he has enough power and a sound enough approach to produce upwards of 15 homers annually down the road. Murphy has made huge strides defensively these last two years and is now a no doubt long-term catcher. He threw out a career-high 37% of attempted base-stealers in the minors last summer, and his overall receiving and ability to manage a game are big league ready. I’m high on Murphy because there are very few holes in his game and catchers who can hit while being solid or better defenders are exceedingly rare. I wouldn’t necessarily say there is star potential here, but the tools to be an everyday catcher within a year or two are. Murphy is slated to open the year back with Triple-A Scranton and should be the first called up if there’s an injury.

#1

GARY SANCHEZ, c

Born: December 2nd, 1992 (Age 21)
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009 ($3M bonus)
2013 Level: High-A, Double-A
2013 Line: .253/.324/.412 (109 wRC+), 15 HR, 509 PA

No change at the top of list, unsurprisingly. Sanchez was promoted to High-A Tampa at midseason in 2012 and he returned there to start 2013, hitting .254/.313/.420 (108 wRC+) with 13 homers in 399 plate appearances before another midseason promotion, this time to Double-A Trenton. He hit .250/.364/.380 (113 wRC+) with two homers in 110 plate appearances for the Thunder and set career highs in games (117), plate appearances (509), and walks (41).

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 lbs., Sanchez is very clearly a bat first prospect. His right-handed swing is smooth and he has easy power to all fields, though he does the most damage when pulling the ball. He continued to improve his plate discipline and overall approach last summer, which is evidenced in his strikeout numbers: 27.1% in 2011, 22.4% in 2012, and 17.1% in 2013. Defensively, Sanchez has a rocket arm (threw out a career-high 44% of attempted base-stealers last year) but is still working on his overall receiving and getting in front of balls in the dirt. Part of the reason the Yankees held him back in Tampa for most of the summer was so he could learn to catch premium velocity since guys like Mitchell and the since-traded Black were on the staff.

Sanchez took a more mature approach to the game last season — there were no reports of immaturity or insubordination in 2013, unlike previous years — and improved on both sides of the ball. The Yankees added him to the 40-man roster after the season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, but he still has quite a bit of work to do before being a legitimate big league option, especially on defense. Sanchez is easily the team’s best prospect and their best hope for a homegrown impact position player within the next few years. He’ll return to Trenton to start the season.

* * *

Just to be clear, I do not consider Masahiro Tanaka a prospect and ruled him ineligible for the list. Yes, he is technically rookie-eligible this year, but I’m not going to rank him on any kind of prospect list after throwing over 1,300 innings with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. That’s kinda silly.

Among players who left the organization over the last year, neither Santana nor Mesa would have made this year’s Top 30. I don’t think Claiborne would have either had he not recorded that one extra out. Marshall likely would have fit in the 26-30 range somewhere — he had a brutal 2013 season and a lot of his flaws were exposed in Triple-A — but Black would have ranked rather high, likely 12th behind Bird and ahead of Ramirez. He’s got a huge arm and he made some big strides last year, enough that he now looks like a starter long-term.

I do think there is a lot of untapped potential in the farm system right now, so the Yankees could shoot up the various rankings if some things come together in 2014. If they don’t, I would expect some personnel changes to be made after the season. The plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold by this year failed primarily because the system did not produce enough help in recent years. That can only go on so long.

Categories : Minors
  • Nick

    There is simply no way that Greg Bird is 21 if that picture is anything to go by. He looks 40 at least!

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      It’s the shadows on the pic. He also looks like he has deep-set eyes. Otherwise, looks like any other prospect to me.

  • Chip Rodriguez

    Fantastic reading for a day when I’m stuck at home. Thanks Mike.

    Meanwhile, I hear Brett Marshall’s been grabbed by the Reds. Good luck to him.

  • Alkaline

    The farm got knocked quite a bit last year with everything that went on. I’m really hoping for a bounceback year. A few of these guys stay healthy, produce, and move up a bit, the farm looks like it could move up 10-12 in rankings (essentially higher middle tier). On the other hand, we could get hit with a few injuries or Flore type productions and we’re back at square 1. I think that goes for most middle tier minor league systems, though. If replicating the Cards was as easy as most people say here, then the quality of baseball would increase tremendously.

    For me, I really hope to see Slade at AAA this year. I have a soft spot for the chaotic all out players.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    A bit more bullish than I expected on some (Katoh, Bird, Abelino, Clarkin, even Severino, who I got a nice prospect-woody from after this). A bit more bearish on some (DePaula and Campos certainly took more of a hit than I expected.)

    Overall, though, the list feels MUCH deeper in the 11-30 range than past lists, and a bit depressingly thin in the 10-3 range. I’d say that’s a pretty fair assessment of where we are, with the hopes that some of those younger 11-30 guys become legit top prospects.

    Where’s your boy, Danny Camarena, Mike? Honestly curious. Didn’t make either list you’ve put out. Don’t see how he’d make it to the 30 (hence the deeper list), but wondering if he’s lost a bit of luster with you.

    Overall, though, I’d say this is your best-written list yet. Really read professionally and thought-out, and this comes from a guy WITHOUT a blog OR an opinion usually.

    • Alkaline

      After taking another look at past lists, Mike definitely deserves prop. This year is really professional and it’s nice putting a face to a name on some of them.

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

      Camarena was 30 last year and I had him either 33 or 34 this year, I forgot. Didn’t have as good of a year as I hoped but the difference between 30 and 33-34 is nothing.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Thanks. You’ve been consistently bullish on him since he was drafted, so I was surprised.

    • The Great Gonzo

      Calling bullshit. You are quite opinionated. And that stuff you wrote on the bathroom stall at The Sizzler a few weeks ago was absolutely blog-worthy (read: better than NoMaas).

      (Authors’ note: I’m being a dick to my friend and fellow Latino Jorge, but it is weather related. That, and because fuck NoMaas.)

      • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

        Indeed. On all counts. We all know what a douchenozzle Jorge is and obviously fuck NoMaas.

        • The Great Gonzo

          I feel completely vindicated, thanks for this Macho Man

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Ponderosa Steakhouse. Get it right.

        • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

          Those still exist?

  • Gin and Juiced

    Why not simply call this a “30 Prospects to Watch” list? Losing 16 prospects last years suggests this isn’t your forte so why pretend?

    You’re falling victim to fundamental attribution bias when you show that 16 prospects are simply gone. The other way of looking at this is the faulty method.

    Let others worry about ranks. Your observations are what’s worth reading. The number placed besides them is where you run the risk of looking silly every year.

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

      I write about baseball. Looking silly is inevitable.

      • Gin and Juiced

        But here you are choosing to look silly every year, while admitting you aren’t an expert.

        Prospects to Watch in 2014 is so much more in line with what you are doing really well here and it is a joy to read. The Rank is already irrelevant.

        Take someone like Peter O’Brien. You rank him really low. If he comes out and absolutely destroys AA pitching, isn’t he in line for top prospect status next year? Old for the league but a premium bat? It doesn’t matter you ranked him low.

        /two cents

        • Gin and Juiced

          Conversely, someone like Jagielo puts up a turd in Low-A, he’s going to fall like a rock.

          That to me is the silliness of ranking prospects. When Posada and Rivera don’t make top lists, the results are suspect. When Pujols is barely scouted, same deal.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            Who claimed this was an exact science? It’s prediction and projection. Guys rise. Guys fall. You’re saying we shouldn’t bother because of the volatility involved with prospects? Nonsense. Volatility is assumed. It’s only since every team’s top 50 became easily available on the internet that fans started confusing projection with certainty.

            There was a one-off comment the other day in which a very confused individual thought that “giving up a second-rounder” meant somehow shipping Gosuke Katoh into the ether somewhere if the team signed Stephen Drew…..and then said “no way.” Think about that. I don’t share the Drew-crush this winter but, in this hypothetical, I’d ship anyone in the GCL for him without even blinking.

            • Gin and Juiced

              The number makes the claim on the exactness. And that’s what is pointless. There’s no reason for a rank. The write ups stand on their own.

              Heck, someone could simply order them by any metric they desire (ceiling, age, closeness to the majors, level, etc, etc).

              My criticism is perhaps too meta for you. Learn to read.

              • Jorge Steinbrenner

                Honey, I fully realize this is probably your 18th screen name in which you try to get everyone’s attention on here. Let’s not flatter ourselves too much here. Pat yourself on the back that you’re getting this much attention from us on this unproductive snow day in which I was the only administrative staff member NOT to call out.

                So much for the NBA Power Rankings, Maxim’s 100 Hottest Women, and Casey Kasem in general.

              • Havok9120

                Yes, because if everyone who has spoken disagrees with what you’re saying, it’s obviously because you’re the only one smart enough to comprehend your genius.

                People like rankings. Rankings can be useful in distinguishing between have-a-shots and those closer to sure things. Some (myself included) like to see where Mike ranks certain prospects in comparison to others because Mike’s opinions are something I enjoy reading and knowing about.

                • Jorge Steinbrenner

                  Rankings are also fun and launching pads for discussion…..as this should have been.

              • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

                Too meta?

                Holy shit, have some fucking humility.

              • The Great Gonzo

                The first three sentences of the third paragraph:

                “This is my eighth Preseason Top 30 Prospects List and the other seven can be found right here. As a reminder, this is my personal list and I am not an expert. I’m just a dude with a blog and some opinions.”

                Having read THAT before I read this means that you are doing little more than being a complete dick for no other reason than boredom on a snow day.

                Mike, from what I remember, does not make a living doing this (unlike Keith Law, et al.), and whether or not you like the rankings or what they stand for, you HAVE TO give him credit for doing it year in and year out. Not to mention putting up with guys like you being an ass, for no legitimate reason.

                Good on you, buddy. Hope all this attention makes your day. Jagoff.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          I scrolled over your screen name to see where the URL for your site was. It doesn’t seem to be working. Can you provide it below?

  • Gin and Juiced

    “I’m high on Murphy because there are very few holes in his game and catchers who can hit while being solid or better defenders are exceedingly rare. I wouldn’t necessarily say there is star potential here, but the tools to be an everyday catcher within a year or two are. ”

    This nicely sums up my problem the entire approach to prospects. If JR Murphy turns into an above average everyday catcher, that is a star for a farm system. They certainly wouldn’t have needed to spend big on McCann and for his decline years.

    • Darren

      Huh? Getting a bona fide Major League star like McCann has a TON of value, and is a good move, even if Murphy develops into a serviceable player. There is a major difference between McCann and Murphy, even assuming Murphy reaches his potential. When you add in the uncertainty, it made perfect sense.

      • Gin and Juiced

        Except McCann is is already in decline.

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

          wRC+ over the last five years: 119, 123, 122, 87, 122

          He was hurt in 2012.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            His wRC+ declined by one, Mike.

            This whole thing is pointless. You should be out shoveling.

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

              Mother Nature put the snow there, she can move it.

              • Jorge Steinbrenner

                Damn renters.

          • Gin and Juiced

            And his platoon splits? He could be cheating against righties and getting more exposed by lefties as a result. wRC wouldn’t pick that up.

            We could also look to WAR:

            5.5, 3.2. 3.6, 2.7, 0.8. 2.2

            We’re not talking about a top 3 catcher any longer.

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

              Why would you use WAR for a catcher when it doesn’t come close to capturing everything they do?

              He could be cheating against righties and getting more exposed by lefties as a result. wRC wouldn’t pick that up.

              Uh, yes it would. If his overall offensive performance is unchanged and he’s declining against LHP, that means he’s doing even more damage against RHP. You’re just guessing that he “could” be cheating. He also could have legitimately improved.

              And what does this have to do with prospects anyway?

              • Havok9120

                For fairness, I will say that comparing his WAR last year to his WAR a few years prior can be useful even if it doesn’t tell you everything the player is worth in any of those years.

                His argument still comes down to “he’s not as good as he was! Play the kids, there’s no way he could improve.”

    • Alkaline

      So what do you suggest then about ranking prospects? Mike does a great job collating information on these guys and I think his opinion is pretty informed. The whole thing is an inexact science anyways. Even pro scouts miss on guys. So why rip Mike for it?

      And I think that argument against signing McCann is silly. It’s not like he’s a 35 year old catcher. Plus, there’s that if statement about Murph. What are the chances you think he turns into an above average catcher this year? While I liked what I saw last year from him, there was nothing to say he’s ready to be a starter this year…or perhaps even next year. He’s only 22.

      It’s a 5 year dear with McCann. Plenty of time to break either Murph or Sanchez in with McCann in years 2-4 of his deal.

      • Alkaline

        *on the last statement..IF they deserve it.

      • Gin and Juiced

        Reading is fundamental. I didn’t rip anyone. I made a suggestion.

        Ranks are pointless, especially if you aren’t an expert and you’re right, even the pros got alot wrong. They can barely name the top prospects in an org.

        As for McCann, he’s a platoon bat already and soon won’t be long for the position. They had no choice but to sign him. But if they trade Murphy, it would be idiotic.

        • Havok9120

          The second part? About him not being long for the position? That’s just you speculating. No one has had anything bad to say about his defensive performance beyond his throwing ability. I assume you think his body is breaking down, but there’s not a lot of reason to think that.

          • Havok9120

            For the record, I also think it’s a bit early to hang “platoon bat” on the guy.

            Luckily, if it turns out to be true, we have a platoon partner for him.

        • Dalek Jeter

          “and soon won’t be long for the position”

          My definition of “not long for the position” is that within the next 2 to 3 seasons he won’t be able to play the position any more…and I’m taking a leap of logic here, but lets call the definition of “soon” one season. So what you’re saying is “and after the 2014 season McCann will be within 2 to 3 seasons of not being able to catch anymore.” which means 2017-2018.

        • Alkaline

          I’ll attribute the rip/suggestion confusion due to the internet. When I say rip, I wasn’t referring to attacking Mike persay like others have done. I meant the saying he’s making himself look silly every year, etc.

          But, do you care to address my questions about Murph and if he’s ready to take over now? Who’s your catcher if you don’t sign McCann this year? A mix of Cervelli, Romine, and Murph?

    • Havok9120

      Mike said quite clearly that the potential for an everyday catcher was there, implying that he isn’t there yet. A major upgrade, especially on the offensive side, was needed behind the plate. And it isn’t like McCann is in his mid thirties and projects to fall off the cliff. Not to mention that the contract is reasonable and, after seeing what guys were signing for later in the offseason, borders on team-friendly. That vesting option is especially pretty.

      So where’s the beef?

    • Bryan

      Right but McCann can also be DH and I think has played 1b over the years. And Murphy’s offense is nowhere near as good as McCann’s. Even if Murphy pans out, the difference between the two is massive. The signing of McCann was great.

    • Litfig

      Yeah, I see where you are coming from.

      I don’t know if it’s a Yankee thing or just a sports-wise issue, but it seems like prospects who aren’t projected to be All-Stars are lumped into this “meh” category. What some fail to realize is that producing starting players or above average players is an achievement and shouldn’t be diminished.

      On this site, some people dimish Brett Gardner as a 4th outfielder, when his numbers and play blow that idiotic theory out of the water. But since he’s not an all-star, he’s not worth a plug nickel to some. Meanwhile, if the same skill-set were available in another team’s player, and he was listed as available, we would get comment after comment as to why the Yanks aren’t looking to acquire him.

  • Jim

    1 thing stood out as wrong for me in this list… Greg bird… You said his swing isn’t very pretty, yet it has been compared to john olerud, and if you look at it, it is very smooth and “pretty”

  • Gin and Juiced

    Having read the whole list my biggest problem is with how guys like O’Brien and Refsynder are treated – college bats who did well for their levels even if they were a bit older. Besides the bonus money, I certainly don’t see where the older pitchers ahead of them get the helium.

    Or even for Heathcott and Williams, for that matter. I could certainly see O’Brien and Refsynder being ready for the Show first. If they both start the year at AA, and the infield turds at the ML level leave something to be desired, there are no other infield prospects even close.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      If the current MLB options (or, as you like to call them, “turds,”) aren’t working out, that doesn’t mean that a Refsnyder or O’Brien will get the call if they are not ready. That’s when the journeymen start creeping in, where the trade market gets explored, etc.

      If Refsnyder and O’Brien aren’t deemed MLB-ready yet, there’s no MLB hole that would make them appear more ready. They’re staying where they are at.

      Disagreeing with rankings is fine, and why there’s a comment section attached to this. Mike’s a dude with a blog. You’re a dude without a blog. You are more than welcome to disagree with him. It doesn’t make the exercise pointless that you do, though.

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

      This isn’t a who will get to MLB first list.

      • Gin and Juiced

        Completely agree. That’s the really sad part of the system and approach. Two college bats drafted two years ago and they won’t be close this year. Maybe next year. They clearly have the need. Instead, they sign Brian Roberts.

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

          So what would have been your solution? David Adams?

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            That great MLB-ready college second baseman, Collegio McCollegey.

        • Havok9120

          What, you want to put Eric J. in at third on the MLB club? There’s no team trying to compete in the country that makes that decision.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            Duh Winnings totally would have.

            Wait a second….

            /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

            • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

              NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

              • Jorge Steinbrenner

                The more he types, the more I see similarities.

                I think it’s more likely this is just Big John Stud/etc., though.

                • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

                  DI would have gotten much more offended that we disagree with him by now.

                  • Jorge Steinbrenner

                    For sure. I go with the Big John Stud trajectory here.

                    • Cool Lester Smooth

                      I missed a jackass named “Big John Stud”?

                      Aww, man! That’s what I get for switching to football blogs during the winter!

                    • Havok9120

                      He was quite something.

                      I’m sure you’ll get your fill once the season starts.

        • Havok9120

          Even assuming you were talking about this year’s holes as being where you would have wanted Rob and O’Brien used, you’re talking about plucking guys out of single A and putting them in the MLB.

          Why is it you’ve decided you know better than every baseball organization in the country how to use and develop talent?

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            Because Internet.

        • The Great Gonzo

          I actually think you are having problems with the concept of PROSPECTS. Are you suggesting that the top spots should be the guys closest to the show? In which case you’d rank guys in AAA (regardless of value and potential) ahead of Sanchez?

          Because that’s called a ‘depth chart’, and those are on mlb.com.

          Enjoy the goddam post for what it is. Stop being so negative.

      • Gin and Juiced

        As it your choice. But the upside difference between a Refsynder and a Heathcott is what? They are both getting old to be prospects. Sure Heathcott has the position advantage. But he’s also got more questions.

        That’s the problem with rank. The differences here are so small and variable the rank is pointless, IMHO.

        The write ups are stand on their own.

        • Havok9120

          22 and 23 year olds are getting too old to be prospects? What? Because their talents must be fully developed by the time they’d have graduated college, right? That’s why no college prospect evr improves.

          Heck, plenty of guys, especially bigger guys, don’t hit physical maturity until their mid-twenties.

    • pinch hitter

      Wait, are you ranking them?

  • Bo Knows

    If a bunch of these guys bounceback and/or breakout I hope the Yankees keep the best ones (Not including last years 1st and 2nd rounders; I want Hensley, Severino, Austin, Avelino and Bird safe) I hope the Yankees can swing a trade or two for a young (emphasis on young) and talented player

  • Havok9120

    So now you’re coming up with reasons his offensive numbers are not accurately reflecting his production.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Scarlet Johansson was once ranked #1 on Maxim’s 100 Hottest Women list, but what’s the point? She’s just going to get old, and her breasts will lose the battle to Mother Gravity.

    The list should be changed to “100 Women, in No Particular Order with Strategically-placed Clothing You May Want to Masturbate To and/or The Internet is for Porn.”

    • Farewell Mo

      You just made an argument in favor of gin and juice.
      Scarlett Johansson is gorgeous but #1 hottest woman? I think not as long as Sofia Vergarra still draws breath.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Maybe 20 years ago on Sofia and, even then, there are usually about 20 women walking around Dadeland Mall in Miami that look exactly like her. I was never a fan.

        By all means, though, I get why guys are a fan, so it’s not a diss.

        I must have had my mind on my money and my money on my mind there.

        • The Great Gonzo

          On a semi related note, I will be moving to Miami and getting a job at the Auntie Anne’s Pretzels at the Dadeland Mall.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            My shortest-lived job was at the Structure (now Express Men, or whatever) clothing store in Dadeland Mall. I quit after two days while in college.

        • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

          On a scale of 1-10, how sad is it that I’m looking forward to the ScarJo nudity?

          • The Great Gonzo

            On a scale of 1 to 10?

            About… infinity.

  • Havok9120

    Meanwhile, Mike, I got sidetracked up above on my way to making this comment.

    Thanks a lot for putting these together. This post is always one of the big things that gets me pumped for the baseball season, and it’s always a good read. I also agree with the others above that this is one of the best-presented Top 30s you’ve done. Thanks for all the work you put in.

    • The Great Gonzo

      +1. As a guy who doesn’t spend much time on the DoTF threads or following them day over day (Aviwho?), this is a great summation of who’s down in the minors. I’m a fan.

  • The Great Gonzo

    I have not read anything beyond #29 yet, so I will say this and get back to you…

    Petey O Brien EVEN LOOKS like Shelly Duncan. If that isn’t a goddam omen, I don’t know what is.

    Be back after the jump.

  • Wayne

    Hensley is another Michael Pineda instead its his hip not his arm they operated on. Either trade him or release him if he is still hurt at the end of this year. That is a spot you can protect another 40-man roster guy for in 2015 rule 5 draft in december. Same for Banuelos And probably the same for betances after this season is over. I would love to see nik turley get a spot in the rotation by second week in August of this season. Nuno And Turley are two lefthanded starters in the fourth And fifth spot in rotation for next four years would be an advantage no other rotation has especially this year if cc comes back strong and next year too.

    • Havok9120

      It’s too sincere to be satire.

      Which is a shame, really.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Wayne’s domain is usually the DOTF threads. Glad to see he’s branching out and, by “glad,” I mean “oh, shit.”

        • Cool Lester Smooth

          Ruh-Roh

    • Dalek Jeter
    • Dalek Jeter

      Few Things:

      -Cabral being in the top 30 says a lot about the depth of the Farm for me.

      -New prospect crushes: Greene, Turly, Avelino, and Katoh

      -Greg Bird is at least 35 in that picture

      -How in THE WORLD is Banuelos only 22 and Betances only 25?? I feel like they’ve been in the organization forever.

      Also Mike…why do you even bother with this list if you don’t have a PhD in Professional Baeball Prospect Ranking and if the list changes every year. You just look silly.

      • Dalek Jeter

        …Reply fail. This was supposed to be a comment to itself.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Party on, Garth.

  • Dalek Jeter

    Lets try this again…

    Few Things:
    -Cabral being in the top 30 says a lot about the depth of the Farm for me.
    -New prospect crushes: Greene, Turly, Avelino, and Katoh
    -Greg Bird is at least 35 in that picture
    -How in THE WORLD is Banuelos only 22 and Betances only 25?? I feel like they’ve been in the organization forever.
    Also Mike…why do you even bother with this list if you don’t have a PhD in Professional Baeball Prospect Ranking and if the list changes every year. You just look silly.

    • YankeeGrunt

      Cabral is probably a LOOGY, upside of a one-inning reliever, and really shouldn’t be on the list. It’s a deep farm and there are another ten guys with legit MLB upside who could be on the list, guys like Cave, Lail and Camarena.

  • http://riveravenueblues Blubber123

    Great stuff. Especially excited about Severino.

    Interesting read on Mitchell. Looking at his rather ordinary stats, I had no idea he had that kind of stuff.

    If not a starter, sounds like he could really dominate in short relief.

  • Tony

    I know that there is some chatter about the Yankees interest in A. Diaz, but is there any interest in signing Rusney Castillo? If the Yanks sign these two players they could conceivably bet set at 2nd and ss for the foreseeable future.

  • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

    Thanks a ton for this Mike, great work.

    Also, I like having the photos too, putting faces to names in advance of DotF this season.

  • Hawkeye

    Evidently “Gin and Juiced” had nothing to do today. If you don’t like top prospect lists, why read it, then spend hours criticizing? In the first place, yes any top 10, 20, etc list is entirely subjective. If that is something you feel is not accurate or useful, that is OK, just find something else to read. I’ve read many ranked lists on a great many subjects from sports to places to live, places to vacation, best at this or that, most beautiful that, etc. Many I would not agree with at all. Does that mean we need to rip on the author- which despite your protestations- I felt you were doing. Personally, I found this list interesting and informative. Do I agree with all the rankings? It really does not matter- these are Mike’s thoughts and he is entitled to express them. I am just happy to have a forum for Yankee fans to discuss their varied opinions in a classy and civil manner (with a few exceptions).

  • Bavarian Yankee

    awesome job again, Mike!

  • E-ROC

    Pretty good list. Lots of breakout/bounce back potential with Austin, Williams, Banuelos, DePaula, Clarkin, and Campos. I’m excited to Clarkin and Hensley this year. Good stuff, Mike.

  • leftylarry

    Clarkin is barely 6′ tall.

  • emac2

    Nice list!

    The system is coming off a tough year but this is a deep list of quality players top to bottom. I agree the top 10 isn’t especially impressive but the depth of players with an actual prayer of reaching the majors is impressive.

    I don’t think we would be embarrassed by 5-6 of these guys if they were needed at some point this year.

  • Troy

    Hi, nice read, nice list, good work.
    One question to you Mike.

    How would you group the prospects in the list, i.e. 2-8 are very close to eachother, as is for example 9-14, 15-21, 21-30?

    (I just chose the above as a random example)

  • Scout

    “Mitchell’s power curveball sits in the low-80s and is the best breaking ball in the system. It’s unhittable when he can command it, which isn’t often enough.” What does best-breaking ball mean? Largest break? If he can’t command it, in what meaningful sense can it be described as the best in the system?

  • Ian

    I read this while I drank beer and my four kids ate fish sticks. It was awesome. Thanks, Mike! You are the man and never believe otherwise.

  • C. Roy

    How far past the top 30 was Jordan Cote?

  • Cool Lester Smooth

    Nice list, Mike. I like how high you still are on our “big three” OF prospects from last offseason, even if I think Austin’s a little high.

  • Bono

    Is Betances seriously 260 lbs.? That’s huge.

  • Wayne

    There are not many left handers in the league! So that and two righthanders in between would give the hitters a different look from the typical rotation. Turley looks like a decent starter and do does Nuno. It’s not outrageous! It’s not oh shit he’s serious it should be this guy knows there are not many left handers in the league who can help a team in the rotation. Oh shit why am I so full of myself when I talk about Wayne. Maybe I talk about Wayne cause I am stuck on weed and Oh shit Wayne is not a drug abuser it is I who have imagined Wayne on drugs because the one critiquing wayne as a drug abuser is actually one himself which Oh shit means my reaction to Wayne is the actual satire. Oh shit who knew!