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.

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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Yankees place four on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

Yesterday Keith Law posted his annual farm system rankings, and earlier today he followed up with his top 100 prospects for the 2016 season (subs. req’d). Dodgers SS Corey Seager predictably claims the top spot. He is the consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball this spring. Twins OF Byron Buxton and Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito round out the top three.

The Yankees landed four players on Law’s 2016 top 100 list: OF Aaron Judge (No. 36), SS Jorge Mateo (No. 55), C Gary Sanchez (No. 57), and RHP James Kaprielian (No. 87). Law seems to be the high man on Kaprielian. He hasn’t shown up on any other top 100 lists this spring. The other three guys are pretty clearly top 100 caliber. Reminder: RHP Luis Severino and 1B Greg Bird are no longer prospect eligible. Too much big league playing time in 2015.

“(Judge) has 70 raw power that hasn’t shown up in games because his swing is relatively short and he hits more line drives than big flies … Learning to cover the outside corner — or lay off pitches just off of it — while maintaining (his) plate coverage inside is the main challenge for Judge if he wants to become an impact bat in the majors,” said the write-up. Law adds Judge has “30-homer power and should make enough hard contact to keep his average up even if he still punches out 150 times a year.”

As for Mateo, Law writes “shortstop prospects with his skill set — glove, speed, contact — tend to fare pretty well even if they never learn to hit with any authority, giving Mateo a high floor as long as he makes some small adjustments to help him on routine plays.” I’m not a fan of the term high floor but I get what Law is saying. Mateo, even though he’s a 20-year-old in Single-A, is a good bet to contribute at the MLB level in some capacity because he can impact the game in so many different ways.

The scouting report on Sanchez is as exciting as any you’ll see in the top 100. “(He) could easily get to .290/.330/.500 with his power and contact,” wrote Law. “That hitter, as a mediocre catcher who can still nail one out of three runners, is a borderline MVP candidate, and if Sanchez wants to get there, he can.” Sanchez has that kind of ability, but up until last year with work ethic and approach to the game were questionable. He matured big time in 2015. Hopefully that continues going forward.

“Kaprielian will sit 93-95 mph as a starter with a wipeout slider, showing above-average control but still-developing (that is, it’s not yet average) fastball command. He gets on top of the ball well to get good downhill plane on the fastball and to keep his changeup low in the zone. He’s very aggressive, attacking hitters with strikes, and working to both sides of the plate,” wrote Law on Kaprielian. Grandmaster Kap has been invited to Spring Training, which indicates the Yankees want to move him up the ladder fast.

Seeing the Yankees with four top 100 prospects is pretty cool, especially since two of them (Judge and Sanchez) are at Triple-A and knocking on the door of the big leagues. Sanchez could be on the Opening Day roster, in fact. Kaprielian may move quickly too. Heck, even Mateo could see MLB time this coming season. He’s Rule 5 Draft eligible next offseason and the Yankees could bring him up early to serve as their September pinch-runner. That’d be neat.

2016 Preseason Not Top 30 Prospects

Jackson. (Staten Island Advance)
Jackson. (Staten Island Advance)

Although the Yankees have not signed any Major League free agents this offseason, they have been active on the trade market, and they graduated several high-profile prospects to the big leagues last year, so the farm system has undergone a significant facelift these last 12 months. Expect to see many new faces in my 2016 Preseason Top 30 Prospects List, which will be posted at 12pm ET tomorrow.

But first, we have to cover five Not Top 30 Prospects. These are not prospects 31-35. These are five players who I believe have a chance to jump into next year’s Top 30 with a strong statistical season in 2016, and, more importantly, good progress in their development. It was tough to settle on five names this year because a bunch of those 2014-15 international signings figure to be top 30 material next year. I could have easily picked five guys from the spending spree and almost did.

Two of last year’s Not Top 30 Prospects jumped into this year’s Top 30, and over the years I’ve learned two out of five is pretty good. A few of the players in this year’s Not Top 30 — the July 2014 international signees, specifically — are too well-known to be considered sleepers. That’s not necessarily the case for the others. Here are my five 2016 Not Top 30 Prospects.

OF Trey Amburgey
No Yankees draftee had a better pro debut than Amburgey last season. The 21-year-old hit .335/.388/.502 (161 wRC+) with five homers and 21 steals in 62 games split between the Rookie Gulf Coast League and Short Season Staten Island affiliates after being selected in the 13th round of the 2015 draft. I wouldn’t expect those numbers to be the norm, but Amburgey has bat speed and an impressive approach at the plate. His power potential is limited because he’s a line drive hitter who doesn’t generate a ton of loft. Amburgey has above-average speed and a strong arm, which serve him well in the outfield, where’s an asset defensively. He also plays with a ton of energy. Amburgey’s a classic grinder. I’m not quite sure where he will begin the 2016 season, but it could very well be with Low-A Charleston.

OF Juan DeLeon
DeLeon, 18, signed for $2M back in July 2014, when the Yankees made a mockery of baseball’s international talent acquisition system. He spent his first summer in pro ball in the Dominican Summer League, where he hit .226/.344/.366 (108 wRC+) with three homers and a 29.7% strikeout rate in 53 games, but drew raves for his tools. He has elite bat speed and very good power potential, and despite that strikeout rate, he makes consistent hard contact. DeLeon is also a very good center field defender with an above-average arm, so even if he fills out his 6-foot-2, 185 lb. frame at some point and slows down, he’s more than equipped to play right field. DeLeon will make the jump stateside this year, splitting the season between Extended Spring Training and one of the organization’s three rookie ball affiliates.

3B Dermis Garcia
Signed for $3M as part of the 2014-15 international spending spree, Garcia, 18, has already moved off shortstop to third base because he filled out considerably over the last 18 months or so. He’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 lbs., though that might be 10-20 lbs. light. Garcia has huge power and the bat makes a special sound when he connects. He can drive the ball out of any part of any park. His offensive approach is rudimentary, however, so he needs to sharpen his knowledge of the strike zone before he can begin to approach his offensive ceiling. Garcia is not a great athlete and there’s a chance he may end up in left field or even first base down the line. He’s a bat first prospect, no doubt. After hitting .159/.256/.188 (46 wRC+) with a 32.1% strikeout rate in 23 Rookie Gulf Coast League games in 2015, Garcia will return to that level this year following a stint in Extended Spring Training.

OF Jhalan Jackson
The Yankees grabbed the 22-year-old Jackson in the seventh round last year and he has some of the most raw power in the system. He put up a .266/.338/.452 (133 wRC+) batting line with five homers in 49 games with Short Season Staten Island after signing, though his 29.8% strikeout rate shows his approach is not where it needs to be. Jackson can handle breaking balls, but the power he shows in batting practice isn’t going to translate over to games if he doesn’t lay off more pitches out of the zone. He’s a freakish athlete and a gym rat with a body that looks like it was chiseled out of marble, so it’s no surprise he has good range in the outfield and a very strong arm. Jackson has an awful lot of upside. Controlling the strike zone will be his biggest challenge going forward. He figures to head to Low-A Charleston this coming season.

OF Carlos Vidal
Vidal, 20, was one of the top statistical performers in the farm system last year, putting up a .303/.389/.492 (145 wRC+) line with nine homers, 16 steals, a 15.7% strikeout rate, and a 10.3% walk rate in 60 games for the new Rookie Pulaski affiliate. He was a relatively unheralded international signing out of Colombia in 2014, and he’s one of those guys who lacks a standout tool but can do a little of everything. Vidal has a contact-oriented left-handed swing but not a ton of power, which limits his offensive ceiling. He’s a solid defender with a strong arm who is at his best in a corner. The Yankees love Vidal’s makeup and coachability. He’s likely headed to Low-A Charleston in 2016.

Yankees rank 13th in Keith Law’s farm system rankings

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

Earlier today at ESPN (subs. req’d), Keith Law published his annual farm system rankings. The rebuilding Braves take the top spot with the Dodgers and Twins rounding out the top thee. The Angels rank 30th, and Law says they have “by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Poor Billy Eppler.

The Yankees rank 13th, which is pretty good considering they graduated Greg Bird and Luis Severino to the big leagues last season. Here is Law’s blurb on the Yankees:

The Aroldis Chapman deal didn’t make much of a dent in the system; the Yankees bought the troubled reliever with quantity rather than quality, and a strong draft in 2015 helped make up for some recent promotions.

Based on his chats in recent weeks and months, Law is pretty high on James Kaprielian, last year’s first round pick. Kaprielian plus Jorge Mateo and Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez is a really strong top prospect core. The Yankees also have a nice group of MLB ready talent in Rob Refsnyder, Bryan Mitchell, and all the relievers and outfielders.

Last year Law ranked the Yankees’ system 20th, so jumping up to 13th while graduating Severino and Bird (and trading Eric Jagielo) is pretty good. I’m pleasantly surprised. I figured the Yankees would find themselves in the 18-22 range somewhere this spring. That could still happen with the other rankings, of course, but Law likes the system.

Prospect Profile: Chance Adams

(Dallas Baptist)
(Dallas Baptist)

Chance Adams | RHP

Background
Adams grew up in Scottsdale and attended Chaparral High School, where he both pitched and played third base. He helped the Firebirds to back-to-back state championships in 2011 and 2012, his junior and senior years. Adams was not much of a pro prospect at the time — Baseball America did not rank him among the top 500 prospects for the 2012 draft — so he went undrafted out of high school.

As a freshman at Yavapai College, Adams focused on pitching full-time and had a 5.40 ERA in 16 2/3 relief innings. He struck out 18 and walked eleven. He was draft-eligible again in 2013 since Yavapai is a two-year school, but he was still not much of a pro prospect, so he went undrafted. Baseball America (subs. req’d) did not rank Adams among the top 500 draft prospects overall or the top 45 prospects in Arizona.

The second year at Yavapai went much better. Adams moved into the rotation and had a 2.88 ERA in 56 1/3 innings with 62 strikeouts and 19 walks. He also managed four complete games. Baseball America (subs. req’d) again did not rank Adams among the top 500 prospects for the 2014 draft and again he went undrafted.

Adams transferred to Dallas Baptist for his junior season and moved into a full-time bullpen role. He had a 1.98 ERA with 83 strikeouts and 13 walks in 59 innings for the Patriots. Baseball America ranked Adams as the 245th best prospect in the 2015 draft class, and the Yankees selected him with their fifth round pick, No. 153 overall. He signed for a $330,000 bonus, just below the $342,000 slot value.

Pro Debut
The Yankees did not screw around with Adams. He signed quickly and they sent him to Short Season Staten Island. After four appearances with the Baby Bombers, the Yankees moved him up to Low-A Charleston. After five appearances with the RiverDogs, Adams was bumped up to High-A Tampa. All told, Adams threw 35.1 relief innings at three levels after signing last year. He had a 1.78 ERA (1.75 FIP) with 45 strikeouts (31.7%) and nine walks (6.3%).

Scouting Report
Last spring at Dallas Baptist, the 21-year-old Adams was a low-90s fastball guy with an inconsistent cutter as his primary secondary pitch. His velocity jumped into the 93-96 mph range in pro ball — he reportedly ran his fastball up to 99 mph with Staten Island — and the Yankees helped him turn the cutter into a true slider. Here’s some video:

Adams made some progress with his changeup after signing, so much so the Yankees will apparently give him a chance to start next season. He’s not particularly tall — listed at 6-foot-0 and 215 lbs. — and getting downward plane on his fastball has been challenge. There’s a decent chance he’ll be fly ball prone going forward, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Adams, who as best I can tell has never had any injury issues, uses a full windup in relief and his control is fine. After spending the spring as a low-90s fastball/cutter pitcher at Dallas Baptist, Adams finished the 2015 pro season as a mid-90s fastball/slider guy with an okay changeup.

2016 Outlook
The Yankees do have a recent history of moving college relievers into the rotation — they did it last year with 2014 sixth rounder Jonathan Holder, for example — so I don’t doubt they’re planning to try Adams as a starter in 2016. Either way, starter or bullpen, he seems likely to begin the 2016 season back with High-A Tampa. Adams might stay there all season if he remains in the rotation. If he works as a reliever, he could zoom up the ladder and possibly even make his MLB debut late in the season. That’s the very best case scenario though.

My Take
I like Adams as a prospect and kinda wish the Yankees would just leave him in the bullpen, but I suppose they do have a ton of upper level relievers, so they have the depth to try him as a starter. Now’s the time to do it, early in his career. I’m interested to see if the mid-90s velocity sticks going forward — probably not as a starter, but who knows — because if it does, it changes his outlook considerably. At 91-93 mph he was interesting. At 94-96 mph he was dominant. The Yankees know how to get power arms to MLB quickly and Adams could be next in line.

Sanchez: Yulieski and Lourdes Gurriel defect from Cuba

Lourdes Jr. (Getty)
Lourdes Jr. (Getty)

Brothers Yulieski Gurriel and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. have defected from Cuba and are looking to sign with MLB teams, reports Jesse Sanchez. They’ve gone by Gourriel in the past but dropped the “o” a few years back. Along with Japanese right-hander Shohei Otani, the Gurriel brothers are arguably two of the three best players in the world not under contract with an MLB team.

The Gurriels defected Sunday while in the Dominican Republic for the Caribbean Series. Both have expressed interest in coming to MLB over the years but did not want to betray the Cuban government. So either the Gurriels changed their minds and left, or the government let them leave a la Yoan Moncada. Either way, both have to go through the process of establishing residency in another country, being cleared by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and then being declared a free agent by MLB before they can sign. The whole process could take months.

Lourdes, 22, is the more significant player of the two because of his age, and the timing of the unblocking process and declaration of free agency could be crucial for him. He is subject to MLB’s spending restrictions, so if he is cleared soon, he can be signed as part of the 2015-16 international period. That means big spenders like the Dodgers, Giants, Blue Jays, and Cubs can still bid since they are already over their bonus pools for the current signing period.

But, if Gurriel is not cleared until after July 1st, those clubs as well as the Yankees, Angels, and Red Sox would be out on him because they’re limited to bonuses of no more than $300,000 as a result of the penalties for exceeding their signing pools in recent years. Lourdes could wait until his birthday in October to sign and probably will, now that I think about it. Once he turns 23 he will no longer be subject to the spending pools. Any team could pay him whatever they want at that point.

Lourdes is considered capable of playing shortstop, though he has played mostly first and second base in Cuba in deference to veteran players. He was hitting .321/.387/.537 with eight homers in 43 games during the Cuban season prior to defecting. Here are his career stats via Baseball Reference:

Year Age AgeDif Tm G PA H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2010 16 -9.8 Sancti Spiritus 16 16 3 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 4 .200 .250 .400 .650
2011 17 -9.2 Sancti Spiritus 55 151 30 6 0 3 16 2 2 13 23 .227 .304 .341 .645
2012 18 -8.4 Sancti Spiritus 67 244 55 12 3 4 32 1 0 18 35 .253 .318 .392 .710
2013 19 -8.5 Industriales 45 184 31 6 1 1 17 5 5 36 23 .218 .379 .296 .675
2014 20 -6.9 Industriales 63 258 68 11 0 8 42 7 4 28 28 .308 .388 .466 .854
2015 21 Industriales 43 183 52 11 0 8 32 5 1 16 21 .321 .387 .537 .924
All Levels (6 Seasons) 289 1036 239 46 4 25 140 20 13 112 134 .269 .355 .414 .769

Back in April, Ben Badler (subs. req’d) ranked Lourdes as the fourth best player in Cuba, saying his “game is comparable to a young Ryan Zimmerman.” Here’s a snippet of Badler’s scouting report:

Gourriel has plenty of bat speed to catch up to good fastballs and the plate coverage to make frequent contact. He can have trouble at times against slow breaking balls, but he has good strike-zone discipline and a patient approach, giving him a chance to be a plus hitter with a high OBP. Gourriel flashes above-average raw power with the swing path to generate backspin and leverage the ball for loft in games, making him a 20-homer threat.

Yulieski, 31, is a second and third baseman and has been the best player in Cuba for several years now. He was hitting .535/.604/1.012 with ten homers, 15 walks, and one strikeout in 23 games for Industriales before defecting. He spent the 2014 season with the Yokohama Bay Stars in Japan — the Cuban government allows players to play overseas in Asia — and hit .305/.349/.536 with eleven homers in 63 games. Here’s some video:

You can see Yulieski’s career stats at Baseball Reference. Badler ranked him as the top player in Cuba last April, saying he “would have similar value to Hanley Ramirez and David Wright in terms of age and offensive performance if he were to leave Cuba to pursue a major league contract.” Being comped to Hanley and Wright sounded better last April than it does right now. Here’s a little more from Badler:

He has plus bat speed and squares up all types of pitches with good hand-eye coordination and barrel control. He wraps his barrel behind his head, angling the bat toward the pitcher, but he gets the barrel into the hitting zone quickly and has good plate coverage. He stays within the strike zone and uses the whole field, and with plus raw power on the 20-80 scale, he offers a balance of being able to hit for average, get on base and hit for power.

Last year Yulieski said he wants to play for the Yankees because his favorite player is Alex Rodriguez, which is neat. The elder Gurriel will be a true free agent free to sign with any team for any amount once he’s given the thumbs up. Hector Olivera, who signed with the Dodgers at age 30 last year, received a six-year contract worth $62.5M. Yulieski figures to receive more because he’s a better player and doesn’t have Olivera’s injury history.

Yulieski. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)
Yulieski. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)

Lourdes is the big one though. If he decides to sign before his 23rd birthday, he’s looking at Moncada’s bonus ($31.5M) plus more due to inflation and the fact he’s closer to MLB ready. If he waits until his 23rd birthday, Lourdes could receive a contract in line with the six-year, $68.5M deal Yasmany Tomas took with the D’Backs. Tomas signed that deal at 24 but was also an inferior player, so adjust up some amount. He’s going to wait until his birthday in October so he’s not subject to the spending pools, right? Makes too much sense.

The Yankees would have use for both Gurriel brothers, especially Lourdes because he’s so young. They’d have to hope he waits until October to sign, in which case he’d get a big league contract that would screw up their luxury tax plan, but that should be a minor consideration. If you can get a potential star caliber up-the-middle player in his early-20s for nothing but money, you do it. Surely they have some level of Moncada regret, which could be a factor in their pursuit of the younger Gurriel brother.

Yulieski would be interesting too. He could potentially fill a Ben Zobrist-esque supersub role — he has experience in the outfield as well as second and third bases — or even take over as a starter at second or third. Who knows what the roster will look like in a few months? The Yankees are not going to want to pay huge money for a player who will be 32 in June, especially since he’s unproven at the MLB level. Does he want to play with A-Rod bad enough to take a discount? Developing!