2016 Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects

Mateo. (Main St. Rock)
Mateo. (Main St. Rock)

Tomorrow night the 2016 amateur draft gets underway and the Yankees will begin the process of adding a bunch of talent to the farm system. That means new prospects to follow as they begin their path to becoming future Yankees. Or future trade chips. Can’t forget about that.

So, with the draft one day away, let’s step back for a second and take stock of the farm system right now. I put together three prospect lists each year and this pre-draft list is by far my least favorite, mostly because it’s prone to small sample size noise and there usually aren’t any new names. The pre-draft top 30 list is basically the preseason top 30 list with a few modifications.

In fact, there are only two new players on this pre-draft top 30 list. One replaces Slade Heathcott, who was released a few weeks ago. The other replaces Nick Rumbelow, who barely made the preseason list and had Tommy John surgery in April. Anyway, let’s cut to the chase. Here is my updated list of the top 30 prospects in the Yankees’ system. Be sure to bookmark this post for mocking purposes.

The Top Four

1. SS Jorge Mateo, High-A (No. 3 preseason)
2. C Gary Sanchez, Triple-A (No. 2 preseason)
3. OF Aaron Judge, Triple-A (No. 1 preseason)
4. RHP James Kaprielian, High-A (No. 4 preseason)

There’s a change at the top for two reasons. One, Mateo continues to be awesome and he’s now starting to hit for a little more power. Will it last? We’ll find out. Secondly, Judge is still having trouble adjusting to Triple-A pitching. I have him below Sanchez now because they have similar offensive profiles, but Sanchez is putting up way better numbers at the same level, is eight months younger, and plays the more premium position (passably).

Kaprielian is an easy call for the fourth spot even though elbow inflammation has limited him to three starts and 18 innings this season. He was predictably dominating High-A hitters. Kaprielian is supposedly on a throwing program now and is due to return to game action towards the end of the month. Hopefully he picks up right where he left off.

The Next Five

5. OF Dustin Fowler, Double-A (No. 9 preseason)
6. SS Tyler Wade, Double-A (No. 13 preseason)
7. LHP Ian Clarkin, High-A (No. 5 preseason)
8. SS Wilkerman Garcia, Extended Spring (No. 8 preseason)
9. 3B Miguel Andujar, High-A (No. 15 preseason)

Gosh, it is really tough to order these guys. You could stick any one of them in the fifth spot or ninth spot and it would be totally justifiable. Fowler has the best combination of tools and performance (and MLB readiness), which is why I have him fifth. Andujar is having a very good season, but he is repeating the level, so I want to see him at Double-A before bumping him up any further.

Wade is the most underrated prospect in the system in my opinion even though he’s in the Yankees’ top ten on just about every list you’ll find. He has very good defensive tools and is a no-doubt shortstop, and he’s a left-handed hitter with barrel control and a strong knowledge of the strike zone. Is Wade going to be a star? No. But I felt pretty confident he’ll play in the big leagues and start for someone.

I should note Garcia is injured, but I don’t know if he’s actually injured. He came down a shoulder ailment in Spring Training and hasn’t played in any games this season, though he wasn’t going to play in any games anyway. Wilkerman was always going to start in Extended Spring Training and report to one of the short season leagues in late-June. For all we know he could be perfectly healthy right now.

A future Hall of Famer. And A-Rod. (Greg Fiume/Getty)
A future Hall of Famer. And A-Rod. (Greg Fiume/Getty)

The Big League Two

10. UTIL Rob Refsnyder, MLB (No. 6 preseason)
11. RHP Bryan Mitchell, MLB (No. 7 preseason)

At long last, Refsnyder is finally getting an extended opportunity at the big league level, as a first baseman of all things. Wouldn’t have guessed that before the season, but here we are. Mitchell is still eligible for this list only because he suffered a freak injury at the end of Spring Training. He somehow broke his toe covering first base. Mitchell was expected to be a key middle innings reliever this season. Instead, he’s not expected to return in August.

Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind

12. C Luis Torrens, Low-A (No. 10 preseason)
13. RHP Drew Finley, Extended Spring (No. 12 preseason)
14. OF Mason Williams, MLB (No. 14 preseason)
15. LHP Jacob Lindgren, High-A (No. 11 preseason)

These four guys have combined for 30 plate appearances/batters faced this season, all by Lindgren, who had some rather extreme control problems before hitting the DL with an elbow injury. He managed to walk nine and uncork six wild pitches in only seven innings with High-A Tampa. Egads.

Torrens and Williams are still working their way back from last year’s shoulder surgeries. Torrens was supposed to be ready to go start the season, but the Yankees decided to shut him down when he complained of discomfort in the spring. Finley? He’s healthy, as far as we know. He’s just a teenager who is still in Extended Spring. Finley will be pitching in a short season league quite soon.

Lower Level Studs

16. RHP Domingo Acevedo, Low-A (No. 19 preseason)
17. SS Hoy Jun Park, Low-A (No. 16 preseason)
18. SS Kyle Holder, Low-A (No. 18 preseason)
19. LHP Jeff Degano, Extended Spring (No. 17 preseason)

I’m still not fully buying into Acevedo despite his strong season — he has a 2.19 ERA (2.02 FIP) with a 30.1% strikeout rate and a 3.5% walk rate in 37 innings around a mysterious lower leg injury — because I haven’t heard or read anything indicating his slider has improved. That’s the big knock on him. Acevedo lacks the breaking ball to project as a starter long-term in my not so expert opinion.

Degano has spent the season in Extended Spring, which is a little surprising to me. He wasn’t an advanced college arm like Kaprielian when drafted last season — he missed nearly two full college seasons due to Tommy John surgery — but he still seemed like someone who was ready for Low-A. Degano’s 2016 debut will come later this month. Park and Holder have had good but not great seasons while sharing short with the River Dogs. I wish there was a way to play them both at short full-time.

Almost Ready

20. OF Ben Gamel, Triple-A (No. 20 preseason)
21. RHP Luis Cessa, MLB (No. 26 preseason)
22. LHP Jordan Montgomery, Double-A (No. 21 preseason)
23. RHP Chad Green, Triple-A (NR preseason)
24. OF Jake Cave, Triple-A (NR preseason)
25. RHP Brady Lail, Triple-A (No. 22 preseason)

All six of these players have either made their MLB debut this season or are close to doing so. Montgomery is the furthest away in Double-A, but I expect him to finish the season in Triple-A, putting him a phone call away. There is some redundancy here — Gamel and Cave are pretty similar, ditto Cessa and Green — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially since they play positions where depth is always necessary. I am curious to see what the Yankees do with all these outfielders. There are five outfielders on this list at Double-A and Triple-A, and four are left-handed hitters. Gotta think one or two will be used in a trade, right?

Gamel. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Gamel. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Final Five

26. IF Thairo Estrada, High-A (No. 23 preseason)
27. RHP Chance Adams, High-A (No. 24 preseason)
28. IF Abi Avelino, High-A (No. 25 preseason)
29. OF Leonardo Molina, Low-A (No. 29 preseason)
30. RHP Austin DeCarr, Extended Spring (No. 30 preseason)

Lower level players round out the bottom of list, though I suppose Adams could get the call to Double-A at some point this season. His conversion from reliever to starter has gone pretty well so far. Then again, Jonathan Holder’s seem to go well last year, and he was moved back to the bullpen this season. We’ll see what happens with Adams going forward.

Estrada is a personal favorite because he does a little of everything and seems more mature as a player than his age (20) would indicate. It’s going to take a lot to stand out in a system this deep with shortstops — the Yankees have more on the way from their 2014-15 international spending spree — so Thairo has to keep hitting and playing well regardless where the team sticks him on a given day.

DeCarr is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and should return with one of the short season affiliates this summer. We haven’t heard any updates on his status so far this year but that’s not uncommon. A healthy summer from DeCarr would move him up the rankings, no doubt.

Carlos Beltran’s power surge comes at a great time for the Yankees

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Two nights ago the Yankees beat the Angels thanks to an eighth inning three-run home run by Carlos Beltran. It was an opposite field job into the short porch against lefty Jose Alvarez. Believe it or not, that was the team’s first three-run homer since April 7th, the third game of the season. Yeah, it had been a while. Beltran again gave the Yankees the lead lastnight, this time with a first inning two-run homer off David Huff.

Last night’s home run was the 15th of the season for Beltran, and that’s notable because he hit only 19 homers last season and 15 the year before. Even in 2013, his final year with the Cardinals, Beltran swatted 24 homers. He’s on pace to hit 42 dingers (!) this season. His .277 ISO and .549 SLG rank 11th and 13th among the 175 qualified hitters in baseball, respectively. The guy is 39, remember.

As you know, Beltran started last season horribly. He looked done. Like done done. He turned things around in May and raked the rest of the season, but he didn’t hit for power like this. Beltran hit his first homer last year on May 10th, in the team’s 32nd game. From that game through the end of the season, Carlos ran a pace of 26.6 homers per 150 games. That’s really good! It’s still far below this year’s pace of 38.8 homers per 150 games.

Check out Beltran’s rolling 20-game ISO since 2010, via FanGraphs. Aside from a spike early in 2012, Beltran hasn’t matched his current power rate at any point in the last six seasons:

Carlos Beltran ISOAs you can see in the graph, Beltran’s ISO gradually faded from early-2012 though the end of the 2014 season, and that is totally normal for a player on the wrong side of 35. Players lose bat speed as they age and their power suffers. That’s the way it goes. Beltran was no exception during that three-year period.

Since the last May though, Beltran has been hitting for power at a tremendous pace, and he’s kicked it up a notch through two months and change this season. He’s done it without a substantial change in his fly ball rate or hard hit ball rate too. Beltran’s not even pulling the ball more often to take advantage of the short porch. In fact, his pull rate is down, though as a switch-hitter, that helps him take aim at the short porch against lefties.

“That’s not the plan,” said Beltran when Chad Jennings earlier this week when asked if he’s trying to hit more home runs. “The plan is to just to try to put together good at-bats. Hopefully everyone in the lineup is capable of putting together good at-bats. The plan is not to go up there and try to hit homers. That’s a terrible plan, but (Monday) it worked out for us.”

There is one really obvious possible explanation for Beltran’s recent power surge: he’s healthy. Beltran spent most of 2014 playing through a bone spur in his elbow. He wasn’t all that good that season, especially in the second half. Beltran then had the bone spur removed in the offseason. It seems like it took him a few weeks early last year to get right physically, then once he started to feel really good in May, he took off and it carried into this season.

I also think there might be something tying Beltran’s performance to his contract status. This is going to sound cynical as hell, but money is a great motivator. We’ve all noticed Carlos running better in the outfield and on the bases this season, right? Is it unreasonable to think he’s in better shape than he has been the last few years because his deal is up? I don’t think so. This happens all the time in all sports.

The combination of good health and that extra contract year motivation could help explain Beltran’s recent power surge. Could is the key word there. We don’t know this for sure. The only thing we know for sure is that since May of last season, Beltran has really awesome at the plate, and he’s upped his power output considerably this season. He hasn’t hit for power like this since he was in his prime with the Mets years and years ago.

For the Yankees to have any chance to climb back into the postseason race, they’ll need Beltran to keep up this pace. He’s been their best hitter this season by no small margin and is their biggest power threat. And you know what? If the Yankees don’t get back into the race, this power surge will make Beltran that much more attractive to other teams at the deadline should the Yankees decide to sell. For now, Carlos’ power definitely qualifies as a good surprise this season.

Pineda, Angels mistakes help Yankees to 6-3 win

Alright alright alright. Two straight wins! Feels good. The Yankees could have been on a four-game winning streak right now if not for that rain delayed blown lead Sunday. Whatever. Tuesday’s final score was 6-3. The Yankees took advantage of some silly mistakes by the Angels, which is the kind of thing good teams do. What is going on here?

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Putting The Fun In Fundamentals
Mike Scioscia’s teams are known for being fundamentally sound and that is generally true. It definitely was not the case Tuesday night though. The bottom of the first inning started with a Brett Gardner infield single that deflected off David Huff‘s glove. It was a chopper just to the right of the mound, and it looked as though Huff had it squared up, but he didn’t make the catch and Gardner reached. Two batters later, Carlos Beltran gave the Yankees a quick 2-0 lead with a two-run homer to left.

Singles by Alex Rodriguez and Starlin Castro followed, then the Angels made their second mistake of the inning. This one was a huge mental mistake. Chase Headley hit a hard ground ball right to Yunel Escobar at third, who stepped on the bag for the force out. And that was it. He thought there were two outs and never threw over to first to complete what should have been an inning ending double play. Austin Romine made Escobar and the Angels pay with a single to drive in A-Rod as the next batter. That made it 3-0 good guys.

The mistakes continued in the second. Aaron Hicks started the inning with a double into the left corner, and he moved to third when Duff made a throwing error on another Gardner chopper. Hicks scored on Rob Refsnyder‘s sac fly and, to be fair, he would have moved to third on the play even if Huff made an accurate throw on Gardner’s chopper. The error still gave the Yankees an extra baserunner. Four runs by the Yankees, three mistakes by the Angels.

A New Pineda?
The first inning was Michael Pineda‘s best inning of the season. He needed eight pitches — four of which generated swings and misses — to get two strikeouts and a pop-up. That was domination. Then, of course, Pineda came out and fell behind every single hitter in the second inning. The first three batters saw 3-1 counts. Argh. Pineda allowed just a walk that inning, but still, he was annoyingly behind everyone after his offense staked him to a 3-0 lead.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

The Angels were able to do some damage with a three-run fifth inning that included a Kole Calhoun two-run homer into the short porch. The Yankees stretched their lead to 5-0 on a Starlin Castro solo homer in the third inning, so that three-run fifth cut the lead to 5-3. Things got interesting quick. To Pineda’s credit, he settled down and retired seven straight following the Calhoun homer to end his night. The final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.

PitchFX says the Angels swung at 18 of Pineda’s 34 sliders, and missed ten times (55.6%). That is absurd. After the game Pineda told Bryan Hoch pitching coach Larry Rothschild tweaked his arm angle two starts ago, giving him more action on his slider, and it showed in this game. It had vicious break down in the zone. It was the best the pitch has looked since his 16-strikeout game last year. Hopefully it continues.

Another Run, Another Win
The Yankees tacked on an insurance run in the seventh thanks to yet another Angels misplay. Gardner was on first and he took off on the 3-2 count to Beltran. Beltran struck out, and the throw to second beat Gardner by a mile, but Gregorio Petit didn’t make the catch and Brett was safe. He came around to score on Alex Rodriguez’s single to right to stretch the lead to 6-3.

With Aroldis Chapman unavailable due to his recent workload, Joe Girardi went to the old formula of Dellin Betances in the eighth and Andrew Miller in the ninth. Betances struck out two in a perfect inning and Miller pitched around a one-out double for his seventh save. Nice and easy. It was sort of weird to see the back-end relievers blow to some games to the Orioles over the weekend. Things went back to normal Tuesday.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Leftovers
The Yankees had ten hits as a team, including two each by A-Rod, Castro, and Hicks. Gardner had a single and a walk. Refsnyder drew a walk and a had a sacrifice fly. Headley went 0-for-4 and was the only starter who failed to reach base. The Yankees have now scored at least five runs in five of their last six games. How about that?

Beltran’s first inning homer was the 1,000th extra-base hit of his career. He joins Pete Rose, Eddie Murray, and Chipper Jones as the only switch-hitters to do that. (Mickey Mantle had 952.) Carlos is the 38th hitter overall with 1,000 extra-base hits. Also, A-Rod is only five hits away from 3,100 for his career.

And finally, Tuesday’s HOPE Week event involved Cleaning for a Reason, a group that provides free house cleaning for women battling cancer. Several players went to the Bronx to help clean homes, and that’s pretty cool. Good work, Yankees.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has both the box score and updated standings while MLB.com has the video highlights. Make sure you don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings page either. Here is the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Angels continue this four-game series Wednesday night. Nathan Eovaldi and Jered Weaver, who are polar opposites in terms of pitching style, will start that game. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch that game or any of the other four games on the homestand live at the ballpark.

DotF: Judge, Austin, Higashioka have big games in AAA win

Some notes:

  • LHP Phil Coke has been placed on the Triple-A Scranton DL, according to Shane Hennigan. He hurt his ankle during Sunday’s start. RHP Mark Montgomery has been moved up from Double-A Trenton to fill the roster spot.
  • C Gary Sanchez, who is still out with a fractured thumb, took ground balls at first base today, according to Hennigan. There’s no reason not to have him work out there since Mark Teixeira will be out a while. Sanchez has some first base experience in winter ball.
  • Brendan Kuty recently spoke to minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson about SS Kyle Holder. “He’s learned to be approach-oriented, so he doesn’t live and die with every at-bat. He understands that it’s a process,” said Rowson.
  • RHP Cody Carroll, RHP Andrew Schwaab, and RHP Daris Vargas have been named to the Low-A South Atlanta League All-Star Game, so congrats to them. Here are the North and South rosters. The game will be played on Tuesday, June 21st. That’s two weeks from today.
  • And finally, OF Jeff Hendrix has been named the Low-A South Atlantic League Offensive Player of the Week. Congrats to him.

Triple-A Scranton (11-10 win over Charlotte, walk-off style)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-4, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K — that’s four multi-hit games in his last six games overall
  • RF Aaron Judge: 3-5, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 9-for-19 (.474) since the ugly 0-for-24 slump
  • LF Jake Cave: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB — drew the walk-off walk
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 3-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — 6-for-14 (.429) with two doubles and a homer in four games since the promotion
  • DH Nick Swisher: 2-3, 2 RBI, 2 BB
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 4-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — 12-for-31 (.387) with two doubles and three homers in eight games since the promotion … Sanchez is going to come back and their offense is going to get worse!
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 4 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 5/2 GB/FB — 53 of 85 pitches were strikes (62%) … third straight outing of four innings or more … he’d never done it before this little streak
  • RHP Conor Mullee: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 13 of 21 pitches were strikes (62%)
  • RHP Mark Montgomery:

[Read more…]

2016 Draft: Matt Thaiss

Matt Thaiss | C

Background
Thaiss, 21, is a somewhat local kid from Jackson, New Jersey. He’s been one of the best hitters in college baseball the last two years, and this spring he put up a .375/.473/.578 batting line with ten homers, 39 walks, and 16 strikeouts in 60 games for Virginia. Thaiss was a 32nd round draft pick out of high school in 2013 (Red Sox).

Scouting Report
Thaiss is a bat first prospect with very good bat speed who projects to hit for both average and power from the left side. He has excellent strike zone knowledge and knows how to work the count and when to be aggressive early in an at-bat. The question with Thaiss is his defense. He’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 197 lbs. and he’s not a bad athlete, but his receiving is rough and his arm is below-average for the position. There’s better than a 50/50 chance he’ll wind up at another position down the road, either left field or first base. Whichever team drafts Thaiss is buying the bat and hoping he can catch.

Miscellany
Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Thaiss as the 21st best prospect in the draft class in his most recent rankings. Baseball America and MLB.com have him outside the first round at 28th and 35th, respectively. The Yankees pick 18th, and for what it’s worth, they’ve been connected to college bats in several mock drafts in recent weeks. Thaiss is arguably the best college hitter expected to actually be available when the Yankees pick.

Game 58: Beat the Halos

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

You know, the Yankees are one bullpen meltdown away from having won three straight games and four of their last five. They’ve also scored at least five runs in four of those last five games too. I’m not sure that will make anyone feel much better about the current state of affairs, but it’s true. Could the Yankees be turning things around?!? Eh, probably not, but what else are we supposed to root for? Here is the Angels’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 1B Rob Refsnyder
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. CF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Michael Pineda

It has been a very pleasant day in New York. A little cloudy but it’s on the cool side. Pretty sweet weather. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on WPIX. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: The Yankees have called up Anthony Swarzak and sent down Luis Cessa, the team announced. Cessa hasn’t pitched much at all these last three weeks and that can’t continue. He needs innings. That’s all that move is about. Tyler Olson was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man spot for Swarzak.

Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (knee) will attempt to rehab his injury. He’s going to need surgery eventually, but he wants to try to put it off. The hope is Teixeira will be able to return to game action in three weeks … Chasen Shreve (shoulder) threw 20 fastballs off a mound today and felt fine. He’ll throw again in two days, and if that goes well, Shreve could begin a rehab assignment shortly thereafter.

All-Star Voting Update: The second update of the fan voting for the All-Star Game starters was released today. Brian McCann is third among catchers behind Sal Perez and Matt Wieters — he was second last week, but dropped behind Wieters — and Beltran 11th among outfielders. Here’s the full update and here’s the ballot if you wish to vote.

2016 Draft: Baseball America’s Mock Draft v5.0

The draft is only two days away now, so the crew at Baseball America published their fifth mock draft of the season earlier today. They have the Phillies taking California HS OF Mickey Moniak with the first pick at the moment. Seems like no one will really know who Philadelphia picks until they actually call the kid’s name Thursday night.

As for the Yankees, Baseball America has them selecting Vanderbilt OF Bryan Reynolds with their first round pick, the 18th overall selection. We haven’t heard him connected to New York at all this draft season. Here’s a piece of his free MLB.com scouting report:

Reynolds doesn’t have a standout tool, but his offensive potential and his solid speed and defensive skills make him one of the more well-rounded college position players in the 2016 Draft class. A switch-hitter, he has a smooth swing and feel for the barrel from both sides, though scouts do have some concerns about swing-and-miss issues. He has driven the ball much more consistently this spring while continuing his penchant for drawing walks.

While Reynolds isn’t a burner, he shows aptitude for stealing bases, and he uses good jumps and routes to cover plenty of ground in center field. If he has to move to an outfield corner, his below-average arm likely will relegate him to left field.

Reynolds is a switch-hitter and he’s one of those classic “does a little of everything but nothing exceptionally well” players who has performed everywhere he’s played, including in the Cape Cod League last summer. The Yankees value success on the Cape because it’s a wood bat league featuring the best college players in the country.

The Baseball America write-up says the Yankees continue “to be tied to college bats.” Along with Reynolds, Virginia C Matt Thaiss and Wake Forest 3B Will Craig are mentioned as possibilities. Here’s my write-up on Craig. We’ll see. Over the last few years we’ve had a pretty good idea which way the Yankees were leaning. Not this year. Seems like they’ve cast a very wide net.