2014 Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects

Nuno no longer qualifies as a prospect. (Getty)

Nuno no longer qualifies as a prospect. (Getty)

With the amateur draft less than one week away — international free agency is a month away and the Yankees will reportedly spend some serious money — it’s time to check in on the current state of the farm system. The top 30 prospects, specifically. The system overall has bounced back well from that nightmare last year, when almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong. All three 2013 first round picks hit the disabled list before playing their first pro games, for example.

Anyway, because the minor league season is only two months old, there isn’t a ton of difference between this list and my Preseason Top 30 Prospects List. Players may move a spot or two, but that’s nothing really. There aren’t many big climbers or fallers, though I will say there is more movement in this year’s pre-draft list than there has been other years for a few reasons, including injuries. As always, this list is my personal preference and you are very welcome to disagree. The cool thing about prospects is that there is no right way to rank them, so no one’s wrong. It’s a balance between potential and probability, and people value those things differently.

The only player to graduate to the big leagues from the preseason list is LHP Vidal Nuno. The rookie limits are 50 innings or 130 at-bats, so if you’re above that, I don’t consider you a prospect. That’s a convenient enough cutoff point. Several other players dropped off the preseason list for different reasons, including OF Zoilo Almonte (numbers crunch), RHP Jose Campos (another elbow injury), and LHP Nik Turley (arm problems). The ages listed are as of today, and the levels listed are the player’s current level. Away we go:

  1. C Gary Sanchez, AA, 21: Sanchez is not tearing it up in Trenton right now, but he is still the team’s top prospect because of his big time offensive potential and improving defense. I think the chances of Sanchez being traded are higher right now than ever before.
  2. C John Ryan Murphy, MLB, 23: With an assist to Frankie Cervelli’s latest injury, Murphy has taken over as the team’s backup catcher and it doesn’t look like he is giving the job back anytime soon. He’ll be a solid catcher for a long time, the only question is whether it’s for the Yankees or someone else.
  3. OF Aaron Judge, Lo-A, 22: Judge climbs into the top three because reports indicate he is a way better contact hitter with a better approach than expected. He was believed to be a future .250 hitter with 30+ homers and 150+ strikeouts, and while that still may be true, he is consistently getting the barrel on the ball as a pro.
  4. LHP Manny Banuelos, AA, 23: Aside from a recent bout with arm fatigue, the return from Tommy John surgery has gone well. Banuelos is being brought along slowly, but his stuff has returned all the way. It’s about shaking off the rust and gaining experience now.
  5. RHP Dellin Betances, MLB, 26: Yes, Betances still qualifies for the list (38.1 innings). He has emerged as a bullpen force for the Yankees, pitching in high-leverage innings and piling up strikeouts. I’ve never done a prospect list at RAB without Betances. This will be his last. /tear
  6. 3B Eric Jagielo, Hi-A, 22: The first of the team’s three first rounders has not torn the cover off the ball as expected, but he’s been solid and the hitting tools are still there. His defense is reportedly a bigger concern than initially anticipated, however.
  7. LHP Ian Clarkin, Lo-A, 19: The Yankees haven’t had much luck with their first round pitchers since 2006 and it looks like Clarkin will break the trend. He has been missing bats and showing impressive command since joining the River Dogs a few weeks ago.
  8. OF Slade Heathcott, AA, 23: Heathcott has barely played this season due to a slow recovery from offseason knee surgery. He has the best package of raw tools in the organization and he simply can’t stay on the field to develop them.
  9. RHP Luis Severino, Lo-A, 20: Severino has taken over as the hardest thrower in the system after touching 99 in recent weeks. He’s been a little more hittable than expected with Charleston, but that’s not a huge concern at this point. The stuff is excellent.
  10. 1B Greg Bird, Hi-A, 21: After being slowed by a back injury during Spring Training, Bird joined High-A Tampa a few weeks ago and has picked up right where he left off last season. Great approach, good power, and contact skills. Dude can rake.
  11. C Peter O’Brien, AA, 23: O’Brien’s a one-tool guy but man is his power impressive — he has a legitimate chance to hit 40 homers in the minors this year. Will his aggressive approach allow him to tap into that power at the next level? Who knows. We’ll find out soon enough.
  12. OF Tyler Austin, AA, 22: Last season’s wrist injury has carried over into this year. Austin has been okay when on the field though we’ve yet to see his power return, and, given the history of wrist injuries, it might not return for another few months.
  13. SS Abi Avelino, Lo-A, 19: Avelino’s tools are not the sexiest in the system, not even close really, but everything plays up because he’s a very intelligent and instinctual player. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  14. RHP Jose Ramirez, AAA, 24: Another oblique injury kept Ramirez on the shelf early this season, and the Yankees moved him into the bullpen full-time due to continued injury problems. He’s a hard-thrower with a nasty changeup and slider, and could help very soon.
  15. OF Mason Williams, AA, 22: The tools and athleticism are there! But at some point they have to turn into baseball skills and he has to produce. Williams was excellent in 2012 but has been overmatched since.
  16. RHP Bryan Mitchell, AA, 23: Could Mitchell be the next Betances? He’s got a nasty fastball/curveball combination but has battled command his entire career. A move into the bullpen is not imminent though. No reason to make the change just yet.
  17. OF Ramon Flores, AAA, 22: Flores has bounced back from a disappointing 2013 season and is even flashing some power to go along with his typically strong approach. The big league right field job figures to be open next year and he’s putting himself in position for consideration.
  18. RHP Shane Greene, AAA, 25: His MLB debut was awful and his first few weeks in Triple-A haven’t gone well, but Greene’s a power three-pitch guy who appeared to figure out to how to command everything last year.
  19. OF Jake Cave, Hi-A, 21: Cave has done nothing but hit as a pro and he projects to stay in center field long-term, so I might be underrating him here. Very nice get for the Yankees in the sixth round of the 2011 draft.
  20. RHP Rafael DePaula, Hi-A, 22: The second go round with Tampa has gone much better, though throwing strikes is still a challenge. That’s the downside of his long identity falsification suspension/visa issues, lots of lost development time.
  21. 2B Gosuke Katoh, Lo-A, 19: Katoh pulled a Dante Bichette Jr., dominating the Rookie Gulf Coast League before getting overmatched in Low-A. So maybe he isn’t as advanced as we thought. These last few weeks are just a speed bump at this point of his career.
  22. RHP Ty Hensley, N/A, 20: It sounds like Hensley might actually pitch in a game soon. He missed all of last year with hip surgery and the start of this season with a hernia, but he recently pitched in an Extended Spring Training. Hensley has thrown 12 innings since being the team’s first rounder in 2012.
  23. C Luis Torrens, Lo-A, 18: The Yankees aggressively pushed Torrens to Low-A Charleston and he’s shown a strong approach despite being somewhat overmatched. He’s currently out with a shoulder injury and is expected to return in the coming weeks.
  24. 2B Rob Refsnyder, AA, 23: Refsnyder rebounded very well from a brutal start with Double-A Trenton. The second base position is wide open and he figures to get the first opportunity to keep it long-term with his solid all-around game.
  25. RHP Mark Montgomery, AAA, 23: Montgomery still has that nasty slider and he misses bats with ease, but his control has gone missing this year (16 BB in 23 IP ). He has to iron that out to earn a call up in the second half.
  26. 3B Miguel Andujar, Lo-A, 19: This is a pure tools ranking because the performance has not been there yet. Andujar has everything except a sound approach at the plate, which limits how much he gets out of his ability. Plenty of time to work on that.
  27. RHP Brady Lail, Lo-A, 20: Lail, the team’s 18th rounder in 2012, has made the jump from sleeper to legit prospect this year. He gained a few ticks on his fastball after signing and commands the zone like a veteran with his heater, changeup, and curveball.
  28. RHP Nick Goody, Hi-A, 22: Goody has returned well following Tommy John surgery and should shoot up the ladder once the team gives him the green light. His fastball/slider combination is allergic to bats.
  29. RHP Danny Burawa, AAA, 25: Burawa might have the nastiest pure stuff among the team’s bullpen prospects (high-90s fastball with a vicious slider), but his control still comes and goes. He could be a big league factor in the second half.
  30. RHP Chase Whitley, MLB, 24: After spending most of his career as a reliever, Whitley is having success in the big league rotation right now because baseball is weird like that. Is he a long-term starter? Maybe not. But he can clearly help the MLB club in some capacity.
Categories : Minors


  1. Nick J says:

    Exciting! First time in a while of thought that when looking at a Yankees prospect list. Thought DBJ might have scraped in.

    • lightSABR says:

      I probably would have found room for him myself.

      Sure, it’s only 200-ish PA, and he turns 22 in September, so he’s not young for the level. But his strikeout and walk rates are almost back to what they were in rookie ball (12.1 vs. 12.5% BB rate and 17.3% vs 17.1% K rate), and he’s hit .286/.379/.456 (136 wRC+) on an almost sustainable .324 BABIP. Plus you had that scouting report at the beginning of the year saying he’s finally fixed things.

      Everything about his performance right now suggests that he’ll keep it up and earn his AA promotion no later than the offseason. But remembering the last two years, I guess I can understand why Mike is still skeptical.

      • ALZ says:

        He is still younger than Bird/Jagielo/Judge. I would still put him in the 20′s. He was doing bad, but this year he is really turning it around, and it looks like what he is doing should be sustainable.

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

        DBJ is 2.2 years younger than the average FSL player

        • lightSABR says:

          Given the number of non-prospects in any league, that stat is misleading. I’m guessing he’s right about average for players with a chance of making the majors someday.

      • Looser trader droids FotD™ says:

        Actually I thought the “fix” was simply a reversion to his original swing, the one he used successfully in rookie ball but which the Yanks tried to mess with to address holes in the swing, the kinds of holes that get exploited in the bigs.

        If so, we’ll have to see more success, and at higher levels, to know whether the fix was indeed a fix.

        • Preston says:

          That’s not how I understood it. Initially when he was drafted the Yankees simplified his swing, as he had previously had a lot of movement. When he struggled in Charleston he reverted back to his old swing and was resistant to change. This off-season he has again simplified his swing. We will see if it leads to sustained success.

  2. Dan 2 says:

    where do you have Almonte?

  3. DERP says:

    Solarte just missed the cutoff. Any idea where you would have put him?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      BEFORE the season? I can’t imagine he would have made the list. Perhaps low 20′s?

      • ALZ says:

        Even that I don’t see. He was a 8 year minor league player that got passed on rule 5 draft several times. Is like putting Cojo/Wheeler/Anna on your top 30.

        • lightSABR says:

          And let’s not forget how depressingly mediocre he was in AAA.

          At least, not until he makes us. 3B of the future, here we come! #Cap’nSolarte

          (It’s Friday. Let me enjoy my optimism.)

        • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

          Yeah, I was being generous there.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      Low-20s, if anything. He is going to turn 27 in a month and I’m still not sold on him being anything more than a good utility man.

  4. DERP says:

    Also, great job as usual.

  5. The Great Gonzo says:

    “The big league right field job figures to be open next year and he’s putting himself in position for consideration.”


  6. The Great Gonzo says:

    Who does Avelino comp as? Feels like, from lack of anything other than RAB snippits, a SS version of Altuve. Thoughts?

  7. infernoscurse says:

    since the draft is close at work i get to interact with some scout sheets and to my surprise they have katoh as the 10th best and jagielo as the number 1 prospect. They doint have Banuelos on their top 10 list also, i forgot the rest but severino is 9th

  8. Travis Lincoln says:

    Thought Caleb Smith would have snuck in toward the end.

    • ALZ says:

      I think he is interesting to watch, but they need more time. He isn’t particularly young for his level, was a 14th rounder last year, and was a college arm.

  9. rich says:

    Where’s Campos?

  10. Tags says:

    So no Caleb Smith! Thought you were very high on him Mike. And I’d have Refsynder much higher, that kid can hit, after a slow start he’s been killing it in Trenton. Just got to work on the fielding side some more.

  11. Scout says:

    Interesting list, with LOTS of movement since the winter and spring. I don’t share the Banuelos love. Even before the TJ surgery, he struggled at Trenton. His reputation rests entirely on what he did in the low minors, and I don’t put much stock in that once a guy has reached AA. By this point, the shine has worn off for me, and I would put him somewhere in the teens. I’d love to be proven wrong in my skepticism, but he looks more and more like a back-of-rotation arm.

    • lightSABR says:

      It’s very possible that he struggled because he was developing elbow damage. People often have control problems in the lead-up to Tommy John.

      The other thing to take into account is that prospects’ reputation isn’t just based on statistical performance. It’s also based on scouting reports. And if he still has a speedy fastball and advanced changeup, then there’s still reason to hope that he can put it all together as he figures out how to pitch again.

      • Scout says:

        As I said, I hope I’m wrong in my evaluation, and he certainly deserves at least a season to show us.

  12. Wayne says:

    Ian Clarkin has had yankees have his delivery and i hear that is the difference now Has anyone seen him pitch on milb tv? Would it be characterized as fairly repeatable?

  13. hornblower says:

    Thanks for the list. It really doesn’t matter where the players are ranked. The only thing that means anything is if they reach the bigs and contribute. I hate the comment that the good ones are trade bait. Until they raise a new core let’s keep them all.

  14. ALZ says:

    I’d bump Bird up several spots. Dude has done everything with the bat, and even has great approach. IMO flores should be in the top 10. His season last year wasn’t bad, he was just not showing enough power. I think him and Refsnyder should be moved up, while Slade and Mason should be bumped down.

    • Preston says:

      The back injuries are worrisome and being a 1b makes him unsexy as a prospect, the bat is the best in the system though.

  15. Vern Sneaker says:

    We need to be very patient with our prospects because we are truly in a major rebuilding process to get back to championship level. One or two trade/free agent fixes aren’t going to get it given what’s out there and/or available. Honestly, there isn’t one guy on Mike’s list I would get rid of in the next year. Let them develop — the big club isn’t going anywhere soon in any event — even tho we know most will wash out it’s too soon to pull the plug. Some of these will become good major leaguers, perhaps even a star or two. Build the core from within!

    • Scout says:

      “Honestly, there isn’t one guy on Mike’s list I would get rid of in the next year.” I have exactly the opposite reaction. I see nothing close to a sure-fire major league star in the group. So there isn’t one guy on the list I would hesitate to deal IF the move had a reasonable probability of helping the Yankees beyond just this year. To trade good (top 10) prospects for a rent-a-player would be a waste.

  16. Dick M says:

    Great list, Mike. We are actually showing some depth here. If Caleb Smith and DBJ (I’m buying into his turn-around) can’t crack the top 30 that’s a good sign.

    Personally, I like Flores much more than Mason and Slade. And Refsnyder seems too low.

  17. CashmanNinja says:

    I completely agree with this. I still think DBJ and Smith should have made it, but I also understand why they didn’t. I’m buying them right now because…well…just look at how Bichette is now compared to last year. He’s a completely different player. He may not have the ceiling we once hoped, but I’ll take this version over the bust version ANY FREAKING DAY. And Caleb Smith is extremely intriguing.

    I also like Flores more than those 2 other OFers. I love Slade’s tools, but the dude cannot stay healthy. What good is he if he doesn’t play? And Mason…pft. The guy can take a walk and play good defense/throw guys out, but there comes a point where he’ll actually have to start HITTING. First we worried about his power coming around; now we’re worrying about his…contact…coming around? He’s regressing in that department. He’s nothing but a 4th outfielder at this point — or one of those guys who has talent, but never seems to tap into it until later in his career (i.e. a poor man’s Angel Pagan).

  18. PunkPitch says:

    It’s a good list, but one can always quibble over placement, and omissions. For example, why is Ben Gamel not in there somewhere? More importantly, I have to agree that the best prospects are the ones furthest away in the low minors. Heck, they might be an IL kid plucked from the July signings. BTW what the jayo heppened to Yeicok?

    • Scout says:

      Have you noticed that the Yankees’ top prospects are always “the ones furthest away in the low minors”? That speaks volumes about the failures of the organization.

      • Preston says:

        If you looked at any teams top 30 it would be that way. Prospects always start off with promise. At each level they get weened away. Thus there will always be fewer “top” prospects at the upper levels. The Charleston team should be able to field an entire roster of “prospects”, guys who look like they have a big league future. But not all of those guys will progress to Tampa, and fewer will go to Trenton and Scranton. That’s just the nature of the beast. It’s not particular to the Yankees, and it’s not a failing.

        • Scout says:

          Really? Then how is it that other contenders manage to have near-ready talent in the high minors to make deals at the trade deadline? We read every year that when the deadline approaches the Yankees lack such players. Organizations in the top 10 have a mix of prospects in the high minors and the low minors. The Yankees don’t, and under Cashman’s regime haven’t in recent years.

          • Preston says:

            Look at the top ten here again. Two of them are in the majors, three in AA, two are in High A, and three are in Charleston. That’s a pretty good mix. Yes, AAA is pretty bare right now. But Banuelos has experience at AAA, Murphy would be at AAA if not for injury, and three of the next ten are at AAA. So I don’t really understand your point. My point was that Every guy at low A pretty much has a major league starter ceiling. As they progress through the system we stop seeing their production rather than potential and the ceiling on most guys tends to lower at that point. So looking at AAA you’ll see a team with a couple of guys who may compete to be starters, a couple of guys who might be bench players, a lot of bullpen options and and some org filler, while at Low A everybody looks like a legitimate prospect. So the perpetual perception will be that the low minors are stacked while the higher levels aren’t.

      • viridiana says:

        “Failures of the organization?”

        I guess if you repeat this enough, people start accepting it as writ. But D-Rob, Gardner, Nova, Betances, Warren, Murphy, Phelps etc. suggest the organization has done very well, given the redistributive draft. Most of these are mid-round picks. I would agree, though, that organization has failed with first round picks. But lots of late-round winners — and plenty more on way. Yankee system is in major rebound thus far this year and it’s time to drop the hand-wringing. When Baseball America puts DBJ on its Prospect Hot Sheet things must be looking up.

  19. Slu says:

    Good list – interesting read overall.

    I personally would not put Heathcott on any prospect list, let alone at 8. Tools only go so far and this kid is getting older (only slightly young for the level) and cannot stay on the field at all. At this point, I’d be shocked if it made the majors. This is probably mainly prospect fatiigue though. Frankly I am sick of hearing about him since he has never done much to live up to the hype.

    • CashmanNinja says:

      Eh, I wouldn’t drop Heathcott off altogether because the talent really is that good. But top 10 and even top 15 is too high. I’d take a handful of other guys he ranked ahead of before I took him. Not everyone values prospects the same. I think he’s a top 25 guy, maybe top 20, but 10 is a bit high for a guy who simply doesn’t play. Give me the guys who are actually performing. And is anyone else as excited about Judge as I am? I’m thinking that maybe he won’t have the insane power numbers we hoped — but he’ll have better contact than expected. I think I may actually be happier with a version that hit .275/20/90 than .250/30/100. I like power (O’Brien), but I’d rather have a more complete player. Too each his/her own.

  20. ghost of R-Tils says:

    How is Refsnyder not in the top 15? We only hope that Katoh one day reaches AA and hits anything like Refsnyder is already doing! Refsnyder is the best bat we have at AA this year and plays an up-the-middle position. He’s a guy that clearly has the potential to hit .280-.310 with doubles power, 10-15 HR, and 20+ steals as a 2B. And could be doing that as early as next year. Extremely underrated.

  21. Cool Lester Smooth says:

    Gotta say, if Jagielo’s 143 wRC+ isn’t him “tearing the cover off the ball,” I’d be interested to find out what is.

  22. PunkPitch says:

    If not for the pilfering of Free Agents like Ellsbury, from orgs who really know how to draft and craft, the Yankees would be holding down the basement with room to spare. Thank god for the Steinbrenner wallets.

    • YankeeGrunt says:

      You know how to draft well? Lose, at least intermittently, and don’t resign your own guys. The Sox and the Cardinals had almost twice as many picks under the last seven or eight years of the old CBA and the comp picks system.

  23. Wayne says:

    Ian Clarkin had his delivery altered. I hear that made a difference in his improvement.
    Has anyone seen his delivery on milbtv . Is it repeatable?
    That is for you Bo knows!

  24. YankeeGrunt says:

    A couple other relief prospects who haven’t been mentioned are Pinder, Webb and Rumbelow, all of whom are pitching very well on the young season and all of whom have late-inning upside.

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