Prospect season is in full swing now that pitchers and catchers are due to report next week, so it’s time for my annual look at the Yankees’ top 30 prospects. Before we do that though, we have to look at some players who are on the outside looking in. New York has a fairly deep system, especially when it comes to power arms, so there are always a few players I want to highlight even though I don’t consider them one of the organization’s 30 best prospective big leaguers.
Just one of last year’s Not Top 30 Prospects jumped into the Top 30 this year, but three others were among the very last cuts and could have easily snuck in. The fifth player missed the entire season due to injury and wasn’t a serious consideration for the list. As a reminder, these are not prospects 31-35. They’re five prospects who I believe have a chance to jump into next year’s Top 30 with a healthy and strong season in 2013. That’s all. The players are listed alphabetically — ages are as of April 1st — so don’t bother to read anything into the order.
RHSP Gabe Encinas, 21
Given a $300k signing bonus as the team’s sixth round pick in 2010, Encinas put together a generally underwhelming campaign — 4.97 ERA (5.31 FIP) with 14.8 K% and 12.0 BB% in 70.2 innings — with Short Season Staten Island last year. Despite that, he’s a guy worth following because his raw stuff has improved considerably since his days of hugging 90 mph with his fastball back in high schooler. Encinas, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 195 lbs., now lives in the 93-95 mph range with that fastball, which bores in on righties. He even hit 98 a few times last summer. His curveball and changeup lag though, as does his overall command. Encinas is still learning to harness is newfound power stuff and will need quite some time to climb the ladder, likely spending a year at each level. He is ticketed for the Low-A Charleston starting rotation when the season begins.
RHSP Gio Gallegos, 21
Depending on who you ask, Gallegos was coming off either Tommy John surgery or knee surgery when the Yankees signed him for $100k in 2011. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 175 lbs., the Mexican-born Gallegos was healthy enough to post a 1.67 ERA (2.50 FIP) with 22 strikeouts and just two walks in 27 innings for the club’s Rookie Level Gulf Coast League affiliate last year. He’s primarily a two-pitch pitcher who throws easy low-90s gas with a hard, low-80s curveball that can be a true put-away pitch at times. A nascent changeup rounds out his repertoire. Gallegos has good command and excellent control, though he might be the type of guy who throws too many strikes and gets hit more than his stuff says he should. There’s a good chance the Yankees will have him join Encinas in the Low-A Charleston rotation this year.
RHSP Brady Lail, 19
The Yankees only signed three players to above-slot bonuses last season, and one of those three was Lail. New York paid him $225k as their 18th round pick, then watched him allow two runs with ten strikeouts and two walks in 12.2 innings for the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League team after signing. Lail is big and projectable at a listed 6-foot-2 and 175 lbs., and the Yankees are hopeful he will add some velocity to his mid-to-high-80s fastball as he fills out. His big-breaking curveball is already an above-average swing-and-miss pitch, and his changeup is advanced for a high schooler. All of his pitches play up because of a deceptive delivery. If Lail adds a few ticks to his fastball, he could rocket up prospect lists as a kid with three average or better pitches. The Yankees figure to hold him back in Extended Spring Training before sending him to Short Season Staten Island in 2013.
RHSP Zach Nuding, 23
Nuding signed for $265k as the team’s 30th round pick in 2010. He missed time with a sore shoulder in 2012, but otherwise pitched to a 3.89 ERA (3.20 FIP) with 18.0 K% and 7.1 BB% in 85.2 innings for High-A Tampa last year before a stint in the Arizona Fall League. Nuding is an intimidating presence on the mound at a listed 6-foot-4 and 250 lbs., and his fastball cashes the check his frame writes by sitting in the 93-96 range with a few 98s. He throws downhill well and hitters have a hard time hitting the pitch in the air. A low-80s slider and low-80s changeup are his two secondary offerings, and both lag behind his fastball. His delivery is a little violent but he’s not wild. The Yankees have had Nuding start throughout his career just to accumulate innings, but it’ll soon be time to take off the reigns and let him cut it loose in the bullpen. A ticket to Double-A Trenton is in the cards for this season. Don’t be surprised if he’s in the big league bullpen mix at this time next year if they shift him to relief at some point this summer.
2B/OF Rob Refnsyder, 22
Refsnyder was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player after leading Arizona to the national championship last summer, then he signed for a little more than $205k as the Yankees fifth round pick. He hit just .247/.324/.370 (95 RC+) with four homers and eleven steals in his 182-plate appearances cameo with Low-A Charleston at the end of the season. Refsnyder, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 205 lbs., has a level right-handed swing that is gearing for contact and capable of slashing line drives all over the field. He isn’t expected to hit for much power and has just decent speed, but his instincts and aggressiveness make him a stolen base threat. There was talk of the Yankees shifting Refsnyder back to second base — he played the position in high school but moved to the outfield in college — but he played right field exclusively for the River Dogs late in the season even though Angelo Gumbs had been on the DL at that point. To get into my Top 30, Refsnyder will have to shift to the infield because he just doesn’t hit enough or defend well enough to hold down an outfield corner. He’s expected to join High-A Tampa along with Gumbs this summer, so a move back to second seems unlikely at the moment.
…as a guest instructor according to Dan Barbarisi. Matsui, who retired in December, declined the invitation because Mrs. Godzilla is due to give birth to Baby Godzilla in the not too distant future. I’m guessing we won’t have to wait very long to see Hideki back with the team though, there’s Spring Training and an Old Timers’ Day every year. · (29) ·
This week has felt exceedingly long for some reason. I don’t think it’s because pitchers and catchers are due to report next week or anything like that, the clock just seems to be moving extra slow these last few days. I’m pretty much ready for the weekend right now.
Anyway, here is your open thread for the evening. Both the Knicks and Nets are playing tonight, but feel free to talk about whatever you want. You know how these things work. Enjoy.
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Earlier this offseason we heard that new third baseman Kevin Youkilis was hard at work with hitting coach Kevin Long in an effort to improve his declining offensive production. His overall output dropped down to a 102 wRC+ last season, basically league average, after sitting at 126 wRC+ in 2011 and 159 wRC+ in 2010. Considering he’s going to turn 34 next month, Youkilis was wise to get together with Long and make some adjustments before the season.
Youkilis met up with Jack Curry recently and discussed the changes he’s been working on, specifically setting up with a wider base and lowering his hands. Both are pretty common “old player” adjustments that try to eliminate wasted movement and get the hitter into a hitting position sooner. Youkilis is a dead-pull hitter and as he gets older and his bat slows down, he’ll need to shorten his swing up somewhere to avoid popping up the other way or getting jammed inside. I’m not terribly optimistic, but I’m glad they’re making an effort to improve now rather than midseason.
Via Jorge Castillo: CC Sabathia doesn’t expect to be far behind his usual schedule in Spring Training following October surgery to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow. “I don’t think I’ll be that far behind … Maybe just a bullpen session behind or a batting practice session that I might skip so we’ll see what happens when I get down there,” said the left-hander. Sabathia, 32, also said that he recently stretched out his long-toss program to 110-feet and doesn’t have any discomfort. Hooray for that. · (14) ·
Every year around this time I try to figure out who will be playing where for Triple-A Scranton during the upcoming season. Most years it’s pretty straight forward with the caveat that minor league rosters can change in a hurry, but this season is a little different. The Yankees still have a number of spots open on the big league bench, and the way the team fills those spots will impact the Triple-A roster. Here’s a look at how things are lining up for the club’s top minor league affiliate two months from Opening Day…
Catchers: Austin Romine, Bobby Wilson
This is probably the most straight forward position. Romine will have a chance to make the big league team in Spring Training, but the smart money is on him going back to Triple-A for some much needed playing time. He’s missed an awful lot of development time these last two years due to the persistent back problems. Wilson, who signed a minor league contract earlier this winter, has an even smaller chance of making the big league team and is the obvious choice to backup Romine with Scranton.
Depending on what the Yankees do with their utility infield position at the big league level, Jayson Nix and/or Eduardo Nunez could factor in here as well. I would expect either of those guys to play everyday in Triple-A if they don’t make the team, presumably relegating Maruszak to the bench.
Adams will inevitably get some time at second base just to remain familiar with the position, but he’ll be the club’s everyday third baseman and likely three-hole hitter. Johnson, who does have a small chance of making the Yankees as a lefty bat off the bench, is a former International League MVP. He’ll probably mix in a handful of games at third base just to stay sharp there as well. Maruszak had a nice year in Double-A last summer and will probably play shortstop everyday, but he’s rough at the position and fits best in a utility role. It’s Triple-A though and he’s more of a prospect than Velazquez.
As I wrote over the weekend, the outfield picture at the Double-A and Triple-A levels is very crowded and someone is going to lose out on playing time. The DH spot means four of these guys can play everyday — I’m sure they would rotate rather than have a set DH — and I’m guessing Neal is the on the short-end of the playing time stick.
Two catchers, five infielders, and five outfielders gives us a dozen position players total,
but remember, they only have 24-man rosters in Triple-A and apparently they carry 25-man rosters these days. Luke Murton, who hit 24 homers for Trenton last season, will likely get squeezed out in the numbers game and have to suit up for the Thunder again could make the team as well. If Nunez or Nix has to spend time in Triple-A, I’m guessing Neal would either get bumped down to Double-A (he played there all of last season) or flat-out released to make room there would be room for just one of Murton and Neal..
This will be Warren’s third year at the Triple-A level while the other three will be getting bumped up from Double-A for the first time. The open spot figures to go to a veteran on a minor league contract, and I listed a handful of potential targets yesterday. Only one of those guys seems like a realistic option though.
That’s six relievers for what was a nine-man bullpen at times last year. I’m assuming they’ll start the year with the usual seven. RHP Matt Daley did not pitch last year after having shoulder surgery in August 2011, but I don’t know where he is in his rehab. He’s been invited to Spring Training and if he’s healthy, he’ll definitely join these guys in the Triple-A bullpen. RHP David Herndon had Tommy John surgery last June and figures to join the Scranton bullpen at midseason.
There are plenty of other candidates for the Triple-A bullpen, including righties Preston Claiborne, Craig Heyer, Kelvin Perez, Ryan Pope, and Graham Stoneburner. RHP Mark Montgomery made just 15 appearances with the Thunder last summer, so expect him to open the year back in Trenton. He’ll be with Scranton before long, however. If the Yankees don’t sign a scrap heap veteran to fill out the rotation, I suppose Betances could try starting again. That would leave two unoccupied bullpen spots and plenty of spare relievers to choose from.
Keith Law published his list of baseball’s top 110 prospects yesterday, and he followed up today by releasing individual top ten prospects lists for each American League club (subs. req’d). The top five prospects are the same guys from the top 110 yesterday (in the same order), and numbers six through ten are RHP Ty Hensley, LHP Manny Banuelos, RHP Jose Campos, RHP Mark Montgomery, and 2B Angelo Gumbs.
Within the write-up, Law notes the system is top-heavy with high-end guys, and their only real impact prospects for 2013 are Montgomery and RHP Dellin Betances if he takes to the bullpen. He lists Hensley as the organization’s sleeper, saying the shoulder abnormality hasn’t stopped him from running his fastball up to 98, and “if he can just show that kind of stuff and last for a 120-140 inning season in 2013, he’s a likely top-100 guy.” Interestingly enough, he notes the Yankees love OF Ben Gamel, and they expect him to show more power this summer after bulking up thanks to his offseason conditioning program. · (37) ·
We’re now only six days away from pitchers and catchers reporting, the most exciting non-news day of the year. Almost nothing happens that day, all the guys have to do is inform the team they are physically in Florida. Everyone shows up for the first workout the next day. That’s all, it’s symbolic more than anything. But still, hooray baseball.
1. I think that this season, moreso than any other season over the last few years, it will be extremely important for the Yankees to have a strong bench. They’ll need a) a right-handed hitting outfielder, b) a competent pinch-hitter (preferably a lefty), and c) a speedy pinch-runner. They need (a) because everyone in the starting outfield is a lefty, that’s easy enough. They need (b) because the catching tandem is terrible and those guys shouldn’t be allowed to bat in the late innings of close games. Finally, they need (c) because Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, and Travis Hafner are crazy slow and will need to be replaced if they reach base late in close games. The Yankees lost a lot of offense this winter and figure to play many more close games in 2013, so Joe Girardi is going to need weapons on the bench. Not just warm bodies to fill-in during emergency situations, weapons he can deploy strategically.
2. I have this strange feeling Chase Utley will be a Yankee within the next 12 months. There’s a few different ways this could happen too. The Phillies showed last year that if they’re out of it at the trade deadline, they’re willing to move established players for prospects. Utley, 34, will be a free agent next winter as well. Given Travis Hafner’s affinity for the disabled list, I suppose the Yankees could look to acquire the second baseman from Philadelphia to serve as their left-handed DH. If he’s healthy enough at the end of the season — a big if given the last few years — he could be a second base candidate for 2014 should Robinson Cano sign some mammoth contract with the Dodgers next winter. He could also be a DH candidate as well. I dunno, just feels inevitable to me for some reason.
3. Obviously a ton is going to change between now and then, but one players scheduled to hit free agency next winter who really catches my eye is outfielder Carlos Gomez. He just turned 27 in December and hit .260/.305/.463 (105 wRC+) with 19 homers and 37 steals last season. The strikeouts (career 22.3%) and walks (career 5.0%) are a concern, though his defense grades out as well-above-average in center. A player that young with that kind of power-speed combination is very attractive even if his on-base skills stink. I could see him getting B.J. Upton money with another strong year, which probably makes him too pricey for the Yankees. But man, I would love to have him for ages 28-32.
4. All of the prospect rankings come out this time of year and it’s a nice reminder that the Yankees need to knock it out of the park in the draft this summer. They own three of the top 35 picks — all three carry seven-figure slot recommendations as well — and really need to add some quality, high-ceiling players to the system. Grabbing more Cito Culvers and Dante Bichette Juniors ain’t gonna cut it if they truly plan to remain under the luxury tax. They’ve got to max out on those three picks and take the best players possible, forget about trying to save a little draft pool room to use for overslot bonuses later in the draft. The new spending restrictions suck, but the Yankees have what amounts to three first round picks this year and need to capitalize.
10:19pm: Cervelli released a statement because he’s a real live baseball player: “Following my foot injury in March 2011, I consulted with a number of experts, including the Biogenesis clinic, for legal ways to aid my rehab and recovery. I purchased supplements I am certain were not prohibited by Major League Baseball.”
8:00pm: Via Jeff Passan: Frankie Cervelli is among the new batch of players connected to the Anthony Bosch-run South Florida clinic that allegedly distributed performance-enhancing drugs. You know what I’m talking about, the same mess Alex Rodriguez is currently dealing with. If Cervelli did take a banned substance, I hope he did it recently. The Yankees need all the offense they can get out of their catchers this year. · (199) ·
Via George King (subs. req’d): VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed that right-hander Jose Campos has completed his rehab program and will be ready to go when Spring Training begins. “He has finished his rehab program and will be ready for the start of Spring Training,” said Newman, in case you didn’t believe me.
Campos, 20, made just five starts for Low-A Charleston last year before being shut down with either inflammation or a bone bruise in his throwing elbow. The diagnosis depends on who you ask. After Manny Banuelos missed most of the season with a similar injury only to have Tommy John surgery in October, it’s good to hear Campos is healthy and will begin the season on time. After last season, I’m ready for some top pitching prospects to stay healthy and tear up the low levels. · (34) ·