Mateo, Sanchez, Judge rank among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects

Mateo. (Presswire)
Mateo. (Presswire)

Prospect season continued last night as Baseball America announced their annual top 100 prospects list. Dodgers SS Corey Seager sat in the top spot — he was the No. 1 prospect on every top 100 list this year — with Twins OF Byron Buxton and Red Sox 2B Yoan Moncada behind him in the top three.

The Yankees landed three players on Baseball America’s list: SS Jorge Mateo (No. 26), C Gary Sanchez (No. 36), and OF Aaron Judge (No. 76). Mateo is the highest ranked Yankees prospect* since Jesus Montero ranked third behind Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in 2011. Yes, that was a thing that happened.

* I’m not counting Masahiro Tanaka, who ranked fourth on the 2014 list. Tanaka was no prospect. C’mon.

Anyway, here is some really hardcore analysis of this year’s various top 100 prospect lists. You’re not going to find in-depth analysis like this anywhere else. Prepare to have your mind blown.

Baseball America Baseball Prospectus MLB.com Keith Law Average
Judge 76 18 31 36 40
Mateo 26 65 30 55 44
Sanchez 36 92 59 57 61

The Yankees have three top 60-ish prospects according to the consensus rankings and that’s pretty cool, especially since Judge and Sanchez are in Triple-A and knocking on the door of the big leagues. Give me upper level prospects over kids in the low minors eight days a week and twice on Sundays.

In addition to the top 100, Baseball America also posted their farm system rankings a few days ago. The Yankees ranked 17th overall, up from 18th last year. They were 18th the year before that too. Considering Luis Severino and Greg Bird graduated to MLB in 2015, I’d say 17th is a nice step up.

Weekend Open Thread

This is the final weekend open thread of the offseason (!) and I feel kinda bad I don’t have any links to pass along, but I was out of town these last few days and didn’t have much time to read. Instead I’ll pass along this Dave Cameron post explaining why the Yankees are the most underrated team in baseball heading into the 2016 season. Health is a significant question. No doubt about it. But the Yankees have a chance to be very good this year, even if some fans don’t seem to want to admit it.

Friday: Here is tonight’s open thread. The NBA is in their All-Star break and tonight is the Rising Stars Challenge (9pm ET on TNT), if you’re interested. The Rangers are playing and there’s some college hoops on the schedule as well, so talk about whatever you like right here.

Rosenthal: Yankees, Aroldis Chapman avoid arbitration with $11.325M deal

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
(Joe Robbins/Getty)

6:43pm ET: The Yankees have announced the one-year deal with Chapman, so it’s official.

6:39pm ET: The Yankees and Aroldis Chapman have avoided arbitration with a one-year contract worth $11.325M, reports Ken Rosenthal. The two sides were scheduled to go to a hearing next Friday. Chapman filed for $13.1M while the team countered with $9M, so they settled a bit above the midpoint.

I have to say, I’m pretty surprised Chapman’s camp settled. It appeared he had a very good chance to win an arbitration hearing since the Yankees were offering less than a $1M raise. (He made $8.05M in 2015.) Other closers with similar service time like Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon received raises north of $2.5M earlier this winter.

Chapman, 28 later this month, had a 1.63 ERA (1.94 FIP) and 116 strikeouts in 66.1 innings last season. He will become a free agent next offseason and this feels like it will be a one-year marriage. It seems likely the Yankees will make Chapman the qualifying offer and walk away after the season rather than sign another huge reliever deal.

With Chapman signed, the Yankees have now resolved all of their arbitration cases. They previously settled with Nathan Eovaldi ($5.6M), Michael Pineda ($4.3M), Ivan Nova ($4.1M), Dustin Ackley ($3.2M), and Didi Gregorius ($2.425M).

Heyman: Chapman’s arbitration hearing set for Feb. 19th

(Andy Lyons/Getty)
(Andy Lyons/Getty)

According to Jon Heyman, Aroldis Chapman‘s arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 19th, one week from today. He filed for a $13.1M salary last month while the Yankees countered with $9M. “If you can’t make a deal, someone else makes it for you,” said Brian Cashman to Brendan Kuty.

The Yankees have not been to an arbitration hearing since beating Chien-Ming Wang back during the 2007-08 offseason. At the hearing, the three-person panel hears arguments from the two sides explaining why the player deserves the salary they filed, then the panel picks one of the two salaries. Nothing in between.

It seems to me Chapman has a pretty good chance of winning the arbitration hearing. He made $8.05M last season, so the Yankees are offering less than a $1M raise following a season in which Chapman had 33 saves with a 1.63 ERA (1.94 FIP) and 116 strikeouts in 66.1 innings. Aroldis was also an All-Star for the fourth straight year.

Chapman is in his third year of arbitration eligibility and other third year eligible closers like Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen, and Drew Storen all received raises of at least $2.5M this winter. The Yankees seem to have based their $9M filing salary on Andrew Miller’s contract. Miller’s an elite reliever, but he lacks Chapman’s track record.

The Yankees and Chapman can still negotiate a contract of any size between now — and even after, for that matter — and the arbitration hearing. I can’t imagine Chapman’s camp is willing to settle for anything less than their $13.1M filing figure though. It seems like he has a very good chance to win a hearing. We’ll see.

In most cases the arbitration hearing is one day and the panel’s ruling is announced the following day, so we probably won’t hear anything on Chapman until Saturday. Maybe Monday since that’s the next business day.

Spring Notes: Tanaka, Sabathia, A-Rod, Castro, Nova, Davis

Those shirts! (The Asahi Shimbun/Getty)
Those shirts! (The Asahi Shimbun/Getty)

Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Spring Training in just six days. Many — or most, it seems — are already in Tampa though, so some early camp notes are starting to trickle in. This is good. I am ready for baseball. Here’s a roundup of recent news and notes from Tampa.

Tanaka begins throwing, may be behind other starters in camp

Masahiro Tanaka has gotten back on a mound after having surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow in October. According to Ronald Blum, Tanaka threw a bullpen session at Yankee Stadium last week in front of pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Bryan Hoch says Tanaka played catch in Tampa today. Afterwards he said he needs to “get innings in (to) see how I feel” before knowing whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild told Dan Martin Tanaka’s “throwing program was right on target,” though Brian Cashman was a bit more conservative. “He will enter Spring Training maybe a little behind for precautionary reasons. He may be behind going off the bullpen from the beginning, but he is healthy. There are no issues, there are no hiccups,” said the GM to George King.

CC Sabathia was behind the other starters in Spring Training 2013 after having surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow early during the 2012 offseason. He was ready to start the season on time; the club limited his bullpen work early in camp, and had him make his first few spring starts in controlled minor league games rather than regular Grapefruit League games. Tanaka could do the same this spring. We’ll see.

“When you pitch a good game, you’re the hero,” said Tanaka, who worked out with his former Rakuten Golden Eagles teammates in Japan this offseason, to Brad Lefton. “When you have a bad game, everyone says, ‘Something’s wrong with the elbow.’ There’s no way to handle it other than to just accept that’s the way it’s going to be. If you want to stop such talk, then you just have to go out and keep winning ballgames.”

Sabathia and his knee are feeling great

You can file this in the classic early Spring Training everything is awesome category: CC Sabathia’s knee feels great and he’s doing very well following his stint in an alcohol treatment center, he told Laura Albanese and Mark Feinsand. “I feel great and I’ve been working hard for the last three months and I’m ready to go,” said Sabathia. “I’m excited … This is the best I’ve felt in three years.”

Sabathia, now 35, usually throws year round, but he took a month off from throwing a baseball while in rehab. He’s been throwing off a mound for three weeks now. “I’m definitely in a good place. You’ve never got this thing beat; it’s always there and I’m always going to be a recovering alcoholic, but I’m in a good place,” he said. “This is my 16th year in the big leagues and you can take it for granted. This whole experience has put a new lease on my career and the way I’m viewing it.”

I’d be lying if I said I have even medium high hopes for Sabathia this coming season — I’ve done the “overly optimistic about CC” thing a few times these last three years — but I’m glad he feels great and his alcoholism recovery is going well. That goes beyond baseball and he’ll be fighting it the rest of his life. On the field, if the new knee brace allows Sabathia to give the Yankees, say, 180 league average innings in 2016, that would be an enormous upgrade over what he gave them from 2013-15.

Cashman reiterates A-Rod will be a DH only

As if it was not already clear, Cashman reiterated the Yankees see Alex Rodriguez as a DH and a DH only going forward. “You’ve got to stop asking Alex questions,” said Cashman to Billy Witz. “He’s not playing any position anymore. He’s a DH. He’s a very productive DH. For us to get maximum value out of Alex Rodriguez, he’s going to only DH. If we have to put him in the field somewhere, we’re in trouble.”

I wish the Yankees would at least entertain the idea of giving Alex some time at first base in Spring Training, but obviously that’s not going to happen. Greg Bird is done for the season, leaving Dustin Ackley as the backup first baseman. It would be nice if A-Rod were at least capable of being an emergency fill-in at first base for a few innings. Alas. The DH spot is his and his alone.

Castro will play some third base in Spring Training

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

As expected, the Yankees will have Starlin Castro play some third base in Spring Training this year, Cashman told Ryan Hatch. Castro has not played third since rookie ball years and years ago, and that was only a handful of games. He’s played shortstop most of his career, so he is familiar with being on the left side of the infield. Castro moved to second base last August, and I’m not sure giving him another new position to learn right now is the best idea, but we’ll see.

“It’s too early to tell (if he can handle third), so we’ll take the time in Spring Training,” said Cashman. “If (he) can swing over and play some third for us and spell Chase (Headley), that’s a huge benefit for roster flexibility, but if he can’t, we’re not going to force it … If it’s something he’s not comfortable with we’re certainly not going to force that either. But we’ll certainly find out when we get to know him a little better and see how he looks.”

Nova wants to start, because duh

Ivan Nova, who is currently sixth on the rotation depth chart, told Martin he wants to start this year but will pitch out of the bullpen if necessary. “I’m a starting pitcher. I’m not a reliever, but if that’s what they tell me to do, that’s what I’ve got to do,” he said. “If I feel bad going to the bullpen, what’s that going to change?”

The Yankees sent Nova to the bullpen briefly last September, but he never did make a relief appearance and instead moved back into the rotation when Tanaka pulled his hamstring. I firmly believe Nova is going to end up making something like 20-25 starts this year. One or three of the other starters will get hurt and he’ll be the guy to step in. The sixth starter always works more than expected, it seems.

Nova, now 29, had a 5.07 ERA (4.87 FIP) in 94 innings after coming back from Tommy John surgery last year. He didn’t blame his struggles on the elbow — “Whatever happened last year wasn’t because of the Tommy John. I just didn’t pitch good. If I didn’t feel good, I would have said it,” he said — but I do think it’s fair to expect him to improve as he gets further away from the procedure. That’s common. This is also Ivan’s contract year too. I’m sure he’s extra motivated to pitch well, and the Yankees will happily take it if he does.

Beltran, McCann do not want to play first base

Although both Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann have briefly played first base for the Yankees, neither wants to do it going forward, they told Anthony McCarron and Brendan Kuty. “No, no, no. I would do anything. Except (play first). It’s a different animal,” said Beltran. McCann added “I don’t think they want me over there. I don’t move too good. I don’t think they want that.”

Both Beltran and McCann have played some first base in pinstripes, so they’re clearly not opposed to the idea, but they don’t want to do it regularly. I understand that. The Yankees shouldn’t want Beltran or McCann to do it at all. Ideally Mark Teixeira stays healthy at first base and mashes taters all season with Ackley backing him up. If it gets to the point where Beltran has to play first, something very bad has happened. By the way, Beltran told Hatch he dropped ten pounds this offseason and joked he “might try and steal some bases this year.”

Cashman confirms Yankees have spoken to Davis

In the wake of Bird’s injury, the Yankees have indeed spoken to free agent Ike Davis, Cashman confirmed to Anthony Rieber. “We’ve talked to Ike Davis. That’s all I can tell you, really. We’ve talked to a lot of people,” said the GM. “Again, in terms of the Greg Bird scenario, we clearly have a need for an everyday first baseman at Scranton. So anybody that we feel is of quality and can fit that bill and is interested and willing to play in Scranton, then we’re going to have those conversations with a number of different people. But we have talked to Ike as well.”

Ken Davidoff says Davis is expected to sign a minor league contract — not necessarily with the Yankees — at some point soon. Davis, 28, hit .229/.301/.350 (83 wRC+) with three homers in 74 games for the A’s last season. He is a year removed from a 109 wRC+ season, however. Davis is a dead pull lefty hitter with power, making him a very good third string first base candidate for the Yankees. At this point of the offseason, he’s the best option to replace Bird in Scranton. Steve Simineri explained why the Yankees should side Davis in a guest post recently.

2016 Preseason Top 30 Prospects

The SI Yanks won their division in 2015. (Robert Pimpsner)
The Staten Island Yankees won their division in 2015. (Robert Pimpsner)

For the first time in a very long time, the Yankees relied heavily on their farm system last season. Every time a need arose, the team opted for an internal solution and rarely went outside the organization. Eighteen different players made their big league debut with the Yankees last summer. Eighteen! Some were top prospects and some were organizational fodder. All came from within.

Thanks to all those debuts and the emphasis on the farm system, four of last year’s Top 30 Prospects graduated to the big leagues in 2015: Luis Severino (No. 2), Greg Bird (No. 5), John Ryan Murphy (No. 9), and Chasen Shreve (No. 26). Six other players on last year’s list are no longer in the organization due to trades (Eric Jagielo, Rookie Davis, Jose Ramirez, Ramon Flores), waivers (Danny Burawa), and the Rule 5 Draft (Jake Cave). Lots and lots of turnover.

I find this very hard to believe, but this is my tenth Preseason Top 30 Prospects List here are RAB. Time flies, man. We’ve come a long way since the days of Humberto Sanchez and Marcos Vechionacci, haven’t we? All of my previous Top 30 Lists are right here. As a reminder: I am no expert. I’m a guy who reads a lot (Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law, MiLB.com, etc.) and has opinions. That’s all. Disagree and mock me as you please.

As for prospect eligibility, I stick with the MLB rookie limits (50 innings or 130 at-bats) with no attention paid to service time. That stuff is too difficult to track. Ranking prospects is all about balancing upside with probability, stats with scouting reports. There is no perfect mix. Everyone weighs things differently, often from player to player. This is baseball. If you’re batting 1.000 when evaluating players, you aren’t taking enough swings.

I changed the format of this year’s Top 30 Prospects List just a bit to liven things up. Hopefully it works out well. All head shots come from MLB.com or MiLB.com, unless noted otherwise. This year’s Preseason Top 30 Prospects List begins after the jump. Enjoy.
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