Poll: The 2014 Prospect Watch

Last year's Prospect Watch. (Presswire)

Last year’s Prospect Watch. (Presswire)

Everyone is focused on Opening Day tomorrow and rightfully so, but let’s not forget the minor league season is right around the corner as well. The four full season affiliates open their seasons this coming Thursday, and obviously this is a huge year for the farm system. The Yankees need some prospects to take steps forward with their development and stay healthy following last summer’s injury and disappointment filled nightmare.

If you’re new to RAB, one of our regular features is the Prospect Watch. Every year we pick a prospect and track his progress throughout the season in the sidebar. Past Prospect Watches include Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Jesus Montero, Andrew Brackman, and Mason Williams, among others. Last season we tracked Tyler Austin, who put up a disappointing .257/.344/.373 (103 wRC+) batting line with six homers in 366 plate appearances for Double-A Trenton while batting a wrist problem. Hopefully 2014 will go better, both for Austin and the Prospect Watch.

As we’ve done the last two years, we’re going to open up the Prospect Watch decision to the readers. I used to just pick a top prospect — it was pretty easy in the cases of Hughes, Joba, and Montero back in the day — but this is better. I don’t think there’s an obvious choice this year. In fact, I think there are too many good candidates. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. Here are my eight hand-picked nominees (listed alphabetically) with their rank in my Preseason Top 30 List in parentheses. Vote at the bottom of the post.

OF Tyler Austin (4)
We’ve had the same player be the Prospect Watch in back-to-back years before (Montero) and I’m certainly not opposed to doing it again. Austin, 22, is only a year removed from his monster .322/.400/.559 (~163 wRC+) campaign, during which he hit 17 homers and stole 23 bases. It’s important to keep in mind that his wrist gave him a problem early in camp, so he will be held back in Extended Spring Training as he prepares for the season. He won’t be ready to go on Thursday.

LHP Manny Banuelos (10)
Banuelos, 23, was our Prospect Watch back in 2011, a year before his elbow starting barking. He eventually had Tommy John surgery and he has not pitched in a regular season game since May 2012. Banuelos is healthy now and will start the season on time. The injury makes it easy to forget how good he was back in the day, like when he had a 2.51 ERA (~2.18 FIP) back in 2010. Banuelos is the only pitcher nominee for the Prospect Watch, not surprising given the state of the system.

1B Greg Bird (11)
No one in the farm system had a better statistical season in 2013. The 21-year-old Bird hit .288/.428/.511 (170 wRC+) with 20 homers and 107 walks for Low-A Charleston last season, a year that bests Austin’s 2012 effort. Bird, however, dealt with a back issue in camp and he will not start the season on time. Like Austin, he will open the year in Extended Spring Training making up for all the time he lost this spring.

OF Slade Heathcott (3)
Armed with a brand new 40-man roster spot, Heathcott is coming off a .261/.327/.411 (104 wRC+) season with Double-A Trenton, hitting 22 doubles, seven triples, and eight homers while stealing 15 bases. The 23-year-old has the loudest tools in the organization and could put it all together at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, like Austin and Bird, Heathcott will start the season in Extended Spring Training. He’s working his way back from offseason knee surgery.

3B Eric Jagielo (5)
Jagielo, 21, was the first of last summer’s three first round picks. His pro debut was a smashing success: .264/.376/.451 (152 wRC+) with six homeruns in 229 plate appearances. Jagielo is slated to open the season with High-A Tampa and as a polished college bat, he should have a field day with Single-A pitching.

OF Aaron Judge (7)
The 21-year-old Judge was the second of the team’s three first rounders last year. He did not play at all after signing due to a minor quad injury, but he is healthy now and will open 2014 with Low-A Charleston. Judge is physically huge (listed at 6-foot-7 and 255 lbs.) and he has huge raw power, enough that he could become the organization’s first true prospect to hit 25+ homers since Brandon Laird in 2010.

C Gary Sanchez (1)
The system’s top prospect for two years running has not yet been featured in our Prospect Watch. Sanchez, 21, hit .253/.324/.412 (~109 wRC+) with 27 doubles and 15 homers split between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton last year, and he will return to the Thunder to start 2014. Sanchez has the best combination of power, hitting skills, and overall approach in the organization, hence his status as the top prospect.

OF Mason Williams (6)
Two years ago we following the 22-year-old Williams and he had a marvelous season, hitting .298/.346/.474 (~125 wRC+) with 11 homers and 20 steals in only 397 plate appearances. His follow-up performance wasn’t nearly as good, just a .245/.304/.337 (83 wRC+) batting line with four homeruns and 15 steals in 537 plate appearances. The raw talent is there though, Williams’ tools are right up there with Heathcott. Remember, he’ll be Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter and a 40-man roster spot is a great motivator.

* * *

I opted not to include C John Ryan Murphy, my number two prospect, because there’s a decent chance he’ll wind up in the big leagues as a backup, sitting around for days on end. Don’t want the Prospect Watch to go unused. I was planning to include RHP Ty Hensley in this post, but his recent hernia injury will keep him out for a few weeks. Others like 2B Gosuke Katoh and RHP Luis Severino fell victim to the numbers crunch. They’ll have more chances in the future.

The poll will remain open until 10am-ish ET on Wednesday, so you have plenty of time to vote if you’re unable to make up your mind right now. I know I can’t, so you’re not alone. Here’s the poll:

Update: Poll’s closed! Thanks for voting!

Categories : Minors, Polls


  1. CountryClub says:

    Jagielo. I have a feeling he’s going to have a big year.

    • nycsportzfan says:

      I actually had to choose Aaron Judge, because a guy that athletic and powerful, is simply to exciting not to I’m so excited for Judges first season with us!

  2. Kevin G. says:

    Write in: Eduardo Nunez

  3. Bryan says:

    I went with Bird although Jagielo was a close second for me. I think both could rise quickly through the system.

  4. Dirk Diggler says:

    It should be Heathcott and it shouldn’t be close.

    The guy is a good season in AAA from starting in RF next season and forming the fastest and greatest defensive outfield of all time.

    The other guys aren’t nearly as close to having a starting position on this ball club.

    • Angelo says:

      Being close to MLB has nothing to do with determining who should be used for the prospect watch. Plus, I love Heathcott, but he’s pretty injury prone. If he stays healthy, great, but I could easily see the Prospect Watch going to waste half the time because of his injury issues.

      • Dirk Diggler says:

        Well, it should have something to do with it. The others are way too far away or are blocked by other players. With Soriano likely gone following the year, Heathcott’s door could be opened if he can produce like he did in the second half last season.

    • IRememberCelerinoSanchez says:

      A Gardner-Ellsbury-Heathcott outfield could finish a season with less than 30 combined homers. Unless the Yanks are somehow adding Longoria, Tulo and Utley to the infield for 2015, a Gardner-Ellsbury-Heathcott would mean a really power-light Yankee lineup.

      • Preston says:

        They could finish the year with fewer than 30 homers and still be a great OF.

      • Dirk Diggler says:

        There’s much more to baseball than home runs. The potential outfield would also have potential to steal 100+ bases and get on base at a collective clip around .340 or so while playing OUTSTANDING defense.

        • whozat says:

          True. But balance is key in all things. A team that’s really light on power can have a really difficult time coming back from deficits, losing a lot of games 3-2, and putting an enormous strain on its pitching staff.

          Those three guys could make for a great component of a team that has pop at the infield corners, DH and one other position. But if you’re going to complement them with 3 15-20 HR players and a couple of 5-10 HR guys…you’ll be in a tough spot.

    • ALZ says:

      Except there is a huge chance he gets injured.

  5. Cool Lester Smooth says:

    Sanchez, just like last year and the one before that.

    • pete (Not the hairy one, but the onoe wth the big nipples.) says:

      same here. This should be easy pick, but everbody looks for the shiny new toy that will disappoint. While Sanchez will be a monster this year. I’ll have a toasted cheese please.

  6. I'm One says:

    You all realize, of course, that this is worse than the SI curse. Whoever is chosen is almost assured of injury or major regression.

    I voted Jagielo. Staying away from Banuelos. He’s had enough problems and I want to see him pitching in the MLB this season or next. :-)

  7. Scott says:

    Is it me or do we never have a prospect just have a monster season like every other team? Cano is the last great player produced in the system and had just above average numbers. When will we have the guy that hits .350 with 20HR at the all star break that makes it impossoble NOT to call up?

    • Andrew says:

      2006 Phil Hughes was pretty close no? He had a monster season and became one of the entire game’s top prospects. Obviously not a great player but he produced the great season in the minors.

    • RetroRob says:

      I’ll take the Cano situation every year. Unfortunately, we haven’t had that since Cano.

    • Bryan says:

      Greg Bird had a 170 wRC+ last year and 429 wOBA. He if I recalled, had something like the 6 highest total OPS in all of Minor league baseball. Not sure how much more “monster” you need than that.

  8. CS Yankee says:

    Although i like my prospect watch a bit closer to the major league level the injuries made that hard to do (ManBan, Austin, Slade, etc)…went with the kid that’ll make DBJ carry his bags to the bus, Jag.

  9. Pinedamaybegreata (formerly Monterowasdinero) says:

    2 years ago in Ft. Myers….Banuelos pitching, Montero catching….strikes out Youkilis with a 3-2 changeup with the bases loaded.

    My how things change.

    • vicki says:

      it blows my mind, but that was THREE years ago.

      • lightSABR says:

        It must have been. Two years ago, Montero was already a Mariner.

      • Aims says:

        If someone had told you at that point that Youkilis would play more games for the Yankees than Montero and Banuelos combined over the next three years, would you believe them?

        • vicki says:

          i feel sick.

          • lightSABR says:

            Wow. Yeah, that’s depressing. All the more so given that Youk played all of 28 crappy, crappy games last year.

            I thought he looked cooked during spring training – totally unable to distinguish balls from strikes – but I let his monster spring slugging average comfort me. I shouldn’t have.

  10. RetroRob says:

    Have an interest in all of them, but would like to see a new name to follow and one that might have a fast track to the Majors.


  11. Mike Myers says:

    Since RAB has a madden curse thing going on, can we pick a red sox player?

  12. Dick M says:

    I went with Sanchez. He’s the best prospect and the one most likely to put up the best numbers.

    Of course he’s totally blocked by McCann which takes some of the fun out of it.

  13. IRememberCelerinoSanchez says:

    I figured I’d want to follow a guy that is:

    1) A prospect with high-end MLB potential;
    2) Someone who is reasonably close to MLB (we’ve seen too many guys put up numbers in A ball only to fizzle after moving up the ladder); and
    3) Not so close to MLB that he will likely get called up this year.

    To me, applying those three things, I came up with Sanchez. Jagielo is a close second (the A ball status was too much for me to overcome, though). I stayed away from Heatchcott, since his injury has left me in “believe it when I see it” mode (I hope I do).

  14. Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

    Also went with Jagielo.

    Was a close 3 man race between him, Sanchez and Judge. Decided Eric had the best combination of novelty, excitement, and ceiling.

  15. CountryClub says:

    I like Heathcott; but aren’t the people voting for him worried about his injury history? I may be wrong, but I don’t think he’s made it through a full season yet. And, it appears he won’t be ready for the this season to start either.

    • vin says:

      He really is the ultimate lottery ticket. I’ve stopped expecting him to ever contribute at the big league level probably 2 years ago. Durability really is a skill.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

        He’s a step away from the majors at this point, provided he starts at Scranton. Seems like exactly the wrong time to be giving up.

        • Preston says:

          Sladerunner will be an All-Star someday. I loved the pick on draft day and I’m not about to take my chips off the table now.

        • vin says:

          Problem is he’ll trip on that step and miss the next 7 months. He may get a call-up, but I think expecting him to contribute at the big league level is very optimistic. He’s stumbled up the minor league ladder. Last year was the only time he surpassed 76 games played… And he only had 103.

  16. Banuelos. Because I would like to be able to keep track of hopeful future mainstay in the Yankees rotation.

  17. Eselquetodolosabe says:

    I’m kind of not enthused by the trio of; Heathcott, Austin and Williams. Everything seems to be trending down-wards with these three, and imo, have lost a lot of their prospect luster. Guys like Judge, Jagielo and Clarkin would be good to follow this year. Hensley’s inability to get healthy has been a bummer. Also the infielders that moved up from rookie ball, to Charleston, will be fun to monitor. Love the kiddies DoTF.

  18. vin says:

    Sanchez. There’s little chance he’ll crack the big league team this year (unless he absolutely mashes and 3 guys get injured).

    Other considerations:

  19. TWTR says:

    Banuelos. A LH power pitching prospect they may need, possibly in the near future, given the vulnerability of their nominal top two starters. Can he make it back all or part of the way, or will he be yet another starter turned reliever, or nothing?

  20. forensic says:

    Can we have an ‘Extended Spring Training Watch’ instead? That seems like it’ll be the busiest place for awhile.

  21. OB/GYN, bushmaster says:


  22. Yanks says:

    I’m going Jagielo, but I wish we could pick Andjuar or Avelino

  23. Johnnycrackerlegs says:

    I would love all 3 top round picks. Good theme

  24. Preston says:

    I guess I have no feel for the pulse on RAB because I king of thought Greg Bird would be the runaway favorite.

  25. RetroRob says:

    Is there room for two, meaning a position player and a pitcher? I’d like to follow Manny again, but he’ll be going every fifth day and probably on a restricted pitch count early on, which may be kind of boring. Having a position player and a pitcher every year makes it a bit more interesting.

  26. Dante Bichette Jr. says:

    What about me?

  27. Darren says:

    I went with Judge. All the scouts say he’s poised to be the best Yankees outfielder named Aaron in many, many years.

    Where have you gone, Aaron Guiel, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

  28. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    Jagielo, just to go with someone we haven’t gone with yet with a chance to jump quickly.

  29. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    Write-in: Abiatal Avelino

  30. Worst Fans In Baseball says:

    Voting Judge, because Godamn would it be fun if he hits like he could. The guy looks like hercules out there, and even if he never reaches the majors he could put up ungodly low minors numbers hitting mistakes into the parking lots.

    • gageagainstthemachine says:

      Aaron “El Chato” Judge?
      Let’s hope he far exceeds that level of minor league mashing…

  31. Chip Rodriguez says:

    I’m good with either Judge, Jagielo, or Sanchez.

    Meanwhile, Cliff Lee just blew a 6 run lead against the Rangers. My heart bleeds for the douche.

    • RetroRob says:

      It’s still taking me a second to grasp the idea that real baseball games are being played. It won’t fully hit me until the Yankees open tomorrow.

    • forensic says:

      With all the day games going on today, it would’ve been nice to have an open thread for all day to be able to talk about all of them while staying on topic with all the other posts (I know the off-topic thread is up there, but most people probably don’t know it even exists and certainly no one really uses it much anymore).

    • lightSABR says:

      I’m watching Sox/Orioles right now, and regretting that they can’t both lose. Cheering for Baltimore sucks.

    • lightSABR says:

      Cliff Lee update: despite his collapse, the Eagles beat the Cowboys 14-10.

  32. forensic says:

    I’m not a big fan of doing the guys in the lower levels. They’ll have plenty of time to have a watch in the future and they’re so far away anyway, so that knocks out a bunch of these guys.

    Given the 3 OFer’s signed for years on the big club, and various other issues that could/will arise, I can’t really get myself excited about watching one of these OFer’s.

    That essentially leaves Banuelos and Sanchez. Though a pitcher watch can get a little slow and boring since it’s only once every 5-6 days, I think I have to lean toward Banuelos. A good comeback season could lead to him in contention for an MLB rotation spot next year and it’ll be nice to see if he can get his control under control and get back towards his prior level of performance. Though Sanchez might be more exciting as a position player watch, he’s still a level lower and has a starter entrenched ahead of him at the MLB level. Hopefully he has a good year at AA and then we can maybe watch him at AAA next year.

    • RetroRob says:

      Regarding the OFers, I hear you, but Soriano’s contract is done after this season, and Beltran should be increasing his DH time, which means a big year from Heathcott and/or Austin could have them contributing as soon as 2015.

      • forensic says:

        I thought about that, but that’s where the other issues for them come in. They’re both starting in extended spring with continued injuries. I certainly don’t want a watch of Heathcott where it’ll just sit dormant for a month or two during his yearly DL trips. Though it may not happen, I could see reasons for both of them to at least start back at AA again after blah years, so that alone makes them a little further away. As for Williams, he’s even further away and I just can’t get too excited about his game quite yet.

  33. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    How about we just let wayne decide?

  34. Deathstroke Heathcott says:

    Just wondering, what would be the protocol if the prospect watch got traded at some point in the season?

  35. Now Batting says:

    Past Prospect Watches include Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Jesus Montero, Andrew Brackman, and Mason Williams, among others.

    Can you say curse? I say we watch Mustellier or some other non-prospect prospect.

  36. The Great Gonzo says:

    My heart said Jagielo, but my head said Banuelos… as if memory serves Mike said it was alot more work to do a position player like the Mason Williams watch a few years back.

  37. Reggie C. says:

    Sanchez is my choice. Not only is Sanchez regarded as the best hitting prospect in our farm but he’s also it’s best trading chip. Starting the season in Trenton will be a good test to see how his offensive skills have developed this offseason. Sanchez didn’t exactly wow at the plate last year in AA, so here’s hoping the man made adjustments. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping to see good , top 25 mlb prospect stats.

  38. ALZ says:

    I had to go Jagielo.
    Judge could have a huge year, but he really could end up like adam dunn disappointing. Heathcott could have huge year, but he will probably get injured, and that sucks seeing that everyday in sidebar. I’m not a huge Sanchez fan, he is a good prospect, but hasn’t excited me yet, never broken out.

    • ALZ says:

      And I’ve never been a mason fan. I hope he works out, but I’ve always had this feeling he won’t.

    • lightSABR says:

      My thoughts were similar. I’ll be cheering hard for the Judge this year, but I wanted to vote for somebody who’s had at least one good season in professional ball.

    • Mr. Roth says:

      I certainly get your point, but if Judge ended up like Adam Dunn I think that it would be a huge win for the Yankees.

  39. vicki says:

    the good news is it was hard to decide. a lot of major crushes on that list.

  40. vicki says:

    free baseball on roosevelt ave. pen woes.

  41. mick taylor says:

    the hell with prospects, grady sizemore hit a home run

  42. Bronx Bombers23 says:

    I went with Jagielo, with Bird being my second choice and Judge taking the bronze.

    I really want Jagielo to mash the ball this year and get to Trenton at least. I think he’s only a couple of years away from manning the hot corner on a regular basis in the Bronx. I love Bird’s potential as well, and Judge’s freakish size almost gives him superhero like status.

  43. Wheels says:

    nice, sox lose.

  44. dkidd says:

    judge judge judge judge judge judge judge judge judge


    how is there any other choice?

  45. Stratocaster says:

    I’m going with Jagielo, since he looks like he could be a guy that might move quickly at a position of need. If the guy gets hurt, arrested or run over by a train though, we must all promise to never, ever do this again.

  46. Chris H says:

    Voted Bird but Judge would be fine too. I was really hoping to see Rafael De Paula be an option, that’s who I’ll be following most closely this season.

  47. LarryM Fl says:

    Jagielo is my choice. 4 years of college ball. If he is the real deal I would suspect AA by years end for an intro to better pitching. Hell they all can hit a fastball.

  48. Frank says:

    I say keep an eye on Refsnyder.

  49. Dmos says:

    That kid Andujar playing 3rd might move quick. I would vote him.

  50. Mickey's Mantle says:

    Jagielo because he’s the new kid on the block and the replacement for A-Rod. I think he’s going to tear up the Sally League.

  51. measha says:

    Where is Phil Wetherell playing this year? Couldn’t find him on any of the rosters

  52. The Other Matt says:

    I would’ve liked to see Rob Refsnyder on the Prospect Watch list. I have clamored about Refsnyder on here throughout the off-season, and I think he would’ve been a perfect prospect to follow this season.

    Refsnyder is slated to start off the year as the 2B at Double-A Trenton. The Yankees drafted him in the 5th round in 2012 out of Arizona, where he was an outfielder. He’s made the transition to 2B and has improved with his glove work there as time has gone on. Last year he batted 283/408/404 (140 wrc+) at High-A Tampa to go along with 16 SB. He’s a guy I think fans should really keep an eye on, because another solid season this year and he could very well put himself into consideration for the 2B job in ST next year. He would’ve been a tremendous guy for the prospect watch in that regard, as he is far enough away from the big leagues, in that he probably won’t be in the Bronx this year. Yet, another good season down in the minors and we may very well see him there next year, especially since there will be an opening at 2B come next year.

    • Coolerking101 says:

      Agree that he’s someone to keep an eye on….but if you can only watch one player in the whole org, I think the choice should be a guy with a higher ceiling. Sanchez, Jagielo, etc.

  53. The Other Matt says:

    And with all that being said:


  54. Porkloin Gravy says:

    Sanchez. C’mon folks, our top dog hasn’t had a year in the spotlight yet. He’s a great year away from being on the cusp of the Bigs next season.

  55. CCsVelo says:

    Come on guys the most interesting prospect of all is “the judge”. Vote for him.

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