Via Dan Barbarisi: Top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos has started playing catch as part of his rehab from Tommy John surgery. He had the procedure in early-October, so he’s roughly four months out and right on schedule according to Mike Dodd’s classic article. As I said in my Top 30 Prospects post yesterday, I don’t expect the Yankees to have Banuelos throw in winter ball after the season. They’ll probably bring him to camp next year fresh and ready to go. · (14) ·
Via Wally Matthews: Hal Steinbrenner confirmed the team has had some discussions with Scott Boras about a contract extension for Robinson Cano. “There’s been a conversation or two,” said the team’s principal owner yesterday. “We’ll get into that and we’ll talk about that at a later date. But he’s been a great Yankee and [we] hope he’s here his entire career.”
Cano, 30, will become a free agent for the first time next winter. Team policy has been to wait until a contract expires before negotiating a new one — Hal recently said he is not a fan of extensions — but the Yankees broke their own rule once to sign Cano and could easily do so again. Either way, he’s in line for a massive nine-figure contract. If they intend to keep him long-term, the Yankees would be wise to hammer out a new deal now rather than wait until next winter, when the Dodgers could get involved. · (66) ·
I went with the 2011 highlights last night, so let’s go back another year to 2010 tonight. It’s always fun to see great plays you either forgot about or just flat out missed during the season.
Anyway, here is your thread for this very snowy evening. Hopefully everyone got home safe and none of you are stuck driving anywhere. Both the Knicks and Nets are playing, but talk about anything you want here. Enjoy.
The 2012 minor league season was pretty close to a nightmare for the Yankees. It didn’t get all the way there, but it was close. Their top pitching prospects either suffered series elbow injuries or just stopped throwing strikes, and a few of their top hitting prospects dealt with injuries or played so poorly we have to go back and question how good they were in the first place.
That said, the Yankees still have a pretty strong farm system with four no-doubt top 100 prospects in my opinion. The drop-off after those four is drastic, but there’s a solid group of upside guys coming off injury and probability guys knocking on the door. The Yankees have more high-end position player prospects right now than at any point since the law firm of Johnson, Soriano & Henson were calling the farm system shots in the early-2000s.
As I say every year, ranking prospects is all about your personal balance between potential and probability. Some prefer upside over probability while others tends to value the safer guys a little more. Talent always reigns supreme to me, but I’ve definitely come to value closeness to the big leagues as well in recent years. For the most part, there won’t be much difference between two prospects ranked consecutively. There usually is a difference between guys who are five or six or ten spots apart, however.
I use the standard rookie eligibility rules — 130 at-bats or 50 innings at the MLB level — to determine who is and who isn’t a prospect without regards to service time limit. That stuff is a pain. We need a cut-off point and rookie eligibility seems like a convenient enough place to draw the line. The only prospect to graduate from last year’s preseason list was RHSP David Phelps. That’s a function of the distribution of talent in the farm system at the moment — most of the best prospects are in the lower minors and still a good year or two away from seeing the show.
All of my previous top 30 lists — including the pre-draft and post-draft lists — dating back to the start of RAB in 2007 can be found right here. All of the ages listed below are as of April 1st, or approximately Opening Day. Enjoy.
That video is from the 2011 season, but I’ll allow it because I’m itching for baseball. The Yankees appear only five times, four because they were getting robbed by a great defensive play. Frankie Cervelli took a foul ball to the cup the other time. I’m going to have to GIF that at some point.
Anyway, here if your open thread for the night. All three hockey locals are in action, but talk about whatever you want. Enjoy.
Via Erik Boland: Pitching coach Larry Rothschild confirmed Michael Pineda is progressing well during his rehab from shoulder surgery. There’s a chance he will be able to throw off a full mound as soon as next week.
Pineda, 24, has been throwing off a half-mound for a little more than a week now after spending several months on flat ground. Getting back up on a full mound is a big milestone in his rehab, but don’t confuse it for a sign that he is close to returning. Pineda is still weeks away from facing hitters behind an L-screen in batting practice, nevermind pitching in any kind of game situation. Still, I’m sure he and the team will take all the good news they can. · (25) ·
Felix Hernandez is close to signing a mammoth seven-year, $175M contract with the Mariners according to Bob Nightengale. The deal rips up the final two years of his previous contract and takes effect immediately, so it’s basically a five-year extension that will keep him in Seattle through 2019. The Yankees and pretty much every other team have tried to trade for Felix at some point recently, but GM Jack Zduriencik steadfastly refused to discuss him. Don’t worry, I’m sure the Yankees will pay through the nose for whatever is left of his career in seven years. · (44) ·
For the first time in several years, the Yankees do not have an obvious top prospect. Manny Banuelos was the easy (but not necessarily slam dunk) choice last season and Jesus Montero indisputably sat atop the team’s prospect list for years, but right now there is no real consensus. They do have four legitimate top prospect candidates though, so it’s not like they’re hurting for talent.
By now you know those four players: catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielders Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott. Baseball America ranked Williams number one earlier this winter while Keith Law and John Sickels each had Sanchez in the top spot. If you spend some time scouring the interwebs, you’ll sure find other lists with Heathcott and Austin sitting at number one. I think we can all agree there wouldn’t be much argument with any of this guys being called New York’s best minor leaguer.
My personal top 30 prospects list comes out tomorrow, but you’ll have to wait until then to see I have at number one. For now I just want to poll the audience to see who you folks think is the team’s top prospect. Here’s a quick review of each guys credential’s (listed alphabetically)…
OF Tyler Austin
Austin, 21, was the best player in the farm system last season, hitting .322/.400/.559 with 17 homers and 23 stolen bases while playing at four different levels. The Yankees have moved him around the field a bit, but last year he settled into right field. Regardless, he’s a bat-first prospect.
OF Slade Heathcott
The 22-year-old Heathcott missed the first half with his second shoulder surgery in as many offseasons, but he returned to hit .302/.380/.461 with five homers and 19 steals in 65 total games. He tore the cover off the ball — .388/.494/.612 in 18 games — in the Arizona Fall League after the season. If that’s not good enough, his defense\ive skills in center and damn near elite.
C Gary Sanchez
No minor league catcher hit more homers than the 20-year-old Sanchez in 2012, who went deep 18 times while hitting .290/.344/.485 across two levels. Thanks to his greatly improved defense, he’s likely to remain behind the plate long-term. Sanchez might be the most gifted hitter in the system, and he does it at the most premium position.
OF Mason Williams
Williams, 21, hit .298/.346/.474 with 11 homers and 20 steals in 91 games between two levels last season, though a shoulder injury — suffered while diving for a ball in the outfield — ended his season in late-August. Williams offers high-end center field defense like Heathcott, but he doesn’t have the same ugly injury history.
* * *
With all due respect to the other players in the system, these four clearly stand out from the pack. They’re all not only extremely talented, but they all produced in a big way this past season. Which one is the best? I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
Via Anthony McCarron & Erik Boland: Top prospect Mason Williams is close to 100% following shoulder surgery in August. He should back to “full practice” mode in two weeks and is expected to begin the season with High-A Tampa.
Williams, 21, injured his left (non-throwing) shoulder diving for a ball in the outfield last season. He was cleared to resume working out in October and started swinging a bat in December. Williams hit .298/.346/.474 with 11 homers, 20 steals, and only 47 strikeouts in 397 plate appearances between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa before the injury. · (20) ·