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.

Judge, Mateo, Kaprielian headline 2016 Spring Training invitees

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today the Yankees announced their list of non-roster Spring Training invitees for the 2016 season. A total of 25 non-roster players were invited, so add in the guys on the 40-man roster, and the Yankees will have a total of 65 players in Spring Training this year. Last season they had 68.

Here are the 25 non-roster players who will be in Tampa this spring. As always, everyone on the 40-man roster will be there as well.

CATCHERS (6)
Carlos Corporan
Francisco Diaz
Kyle Higashioka
Eddy Rodriguez
Sebastian Valle
Santiago Nessy

INFIELDERS (6)
Jonathan Diaz
Pete Kozma
Jorge Mateo
Deibinson Romero (recently signed as a minor league free agent)
Donovan Solano
Tyler Wade

OUTFIELDERS (3)
Dustin Fowler
Aaron Judge
Cesar Puello

PITCHERS (10)
LHP Richard Bleier
RHP Tyler Cloyd (recently signed as a minor league free agent)
RHP Domingo German (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery)
RHP Chad Green
RHP James Kaprielian
RHP Brady Lail
RHP Diego Moreno
RHP Vinnie Pestano
RHP Anthony Swarzak
LHP Tyler Webb

Obviously some players have a much better chance of making the Yankees than others. Mateo, for example, has close to zero chance of making the Opening Day roster. He’ll be in camp so the big league coaching staff can get a firsthand look at arguably the top prospect in the organization. The same applies to Kaprielian, last summer’s first round pick, and Judge.

Right now the Yankees have five open big league roster spots: three in the bullpen, the backup catcher, and the final bench spot. Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine are the main candidates for the backup backstop job along with Corporan. It seems like the Yankees want Sanchez to be the guy, but there are service time reasons to send him to Triple-A for a few weeks (35 days in Triple-A equals an extra year of team control). All those extra catchers will be in camp to help catch bullpens and stuff.

Brian Cashman has confirmed the Yankees intendt the use their final bench spot as something of revolving door. They want to rotate players in and out based on their needs at the time, and that includes adding an eighth reliever on occasion. Remember, position battles do not end when Spring Training is over. Whoever gets those three bullpen spots and the two bench spots will have to produce during the regular season to keep the job.

Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Tampa on Thursday, February 18th. That’s two weeks from yesterday. Position players will report on Wednesday, February 24th, and the first full squad workout will follow on February 25th.

Mateo, Judge, Sanchez all rank among MLB.com’s top 100 prospects

Mateo. (Post and Courier)
Mateo. (Post and Courier)

Last night, MLB.com wrapped up their preseason prospect ranking series with their annual top 100 list. Dodgers SS Corey Seager grabbed the top spot and was followed by Twins OF Byron Buxton and Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito in the top three. As always, MLB.com’s scouting reports are free. They’re a great resource.

The Yankees landed three players on the top 100 list: SS Jorge Mateo (No. 30), OF Aaron Judge (No. 31), and C Gary Sanchez (No. 59). Mateo was the 11th shortstop on the list, Judge was the eighth outfielder, and Sanchez was the second catcher. Three top 60 prospects is pretty darn good considering RHP Luis Severino and 1B Greg Bird graduated to MLB last year.

Mateo led professional baseball with 82 steals last year, so it’s no surprise the scouting report calls him a “true top-of-the-scale runner.” He’s also lauded for his “wiry strength,” though the power he shows in batting practice has yet to translate in games. That’s not unusual for kids that young. “With his actions, range, hands and arm, he’ll stay at shortstop for the long term,” said the write-up.

“Depending on how much Judge balances power versus discipline, he could be a higher-average hitter with 20 or so homers per season or more of a masher who delivers 30-plus long balls,” said MLB.com. Judge will work on tightening up his strike zone in Triple-A next season before getting an opportunity to assume the big league right field job long-term.

As for Sanchez, the scouting report says if he “stays behind the plate and realizes his power potential, he can be an All-Star.” That’s not surprising. Sanchez has always had the raw tools. He just had to work on turning those tools into baseball skills, and he’s done that in recent years, especially behind the plate. Sanchez still has work to do defensively, of course.

There’s a good chance Sanchez will graduate to the big leagues this summer, and Judge may do the same depending on his strike zone coverage progress in Triple-A. Interestingly, Jim Callis says Mateo has the potential to jump into the top five prospects next year. The global top five. All prospects, regardless of position. The Yankees haven’t had a top five prospect since Jesus Montero.

Aaron Judge ranks eighth on MLB.com’s list of the top ten outfield prospects

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

MLB.com’s look at the top ten prospects at each position wrapped up yesterday with the outfield. Twins OF Byron Buxton claimed the top spot — doesn’t it feel like he’s been around forever? hard to believe 2016 will only be his fourth full year of pro ball — and is followed by two Rangers prospects, OF Lewis Brinson and OF Nomar Mazara. OF Aaron Judge ranks eighth.

“He scuffled (in Triple-A), but even though he profiles as a potential slugging run producer, he’s also shown an ability in the past to make adjustments. Once Judge does that, he should be ready for his New York debut,” said the write-up. MLB.com’s scouting reports are free, as always. Here’s a snippet of their latest report on Judge:

Built along the lines of Giancarlo Stanton, Judge has similar strength, leverage and huge raw power. He focused on working counts and the middle of the field during his 2014 pro debut, but he started to turn his right-handed swing loose more often last season … An excellent athlete for his size, Judge has average speed and a strong arm. He has spent the bulk of his pro career in right field, but he could play left and fill in in center if needed.

Judge, 23, did hit .224/.308/.373 (98 wRC+) in 61 Triple-A games last year, but he still finished the season with a .258/.332/.446 (124 wRC+) line and 20 homers in 127 total games. He’ll return to the RailRiders this year and work specifically on controlling the outer half of the plate. Experienced Triple-A pitchers chewed him up with soft stuff away last summer.

I still consider Judge the Yankees’ top prospect but that is not the consensus. He struggled in Triple-A and Jorge Mateo is the new hotness. (And Gary Sanchez raked in the Arizona Fall League.) This is a what have you done for me lately world. Anyway, the long-term right field job is wide open. After some more tune-up time in Triple-A, I’m sure Judge will get an opportunity in the Bronx. The Yankees seem dedicated to their youth movement.

Sanchez ranked second on the catcher list and Rob Refsnyder ranked ninth on the second base list. Mateo was an honorable mention for the shortstop list. The Yankees did not have any players among the top ten righty pitcher, lefty pitcher, first base, or third base prospects.

Sorting out the projected 2016 Triple-A Scranton roster

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

Over the last few seasons Triple-A rosters have become extensions of the 25-man big league roster. There is no better example of this than last year’s bullpen shuttle. Teams use their Triple-A rosters not only to develop prospects, but also to stash depth players at each position should they be needed due to injury or poor performance. And they will be needed. Baseball always makes sure of it.

Brian Cashman has already said the Yankees hope to use their 25th roster spot as a revolving door based on their needs at the time. If they need an extra bullpen arm, they’ll call up a pitcher. If they need an extra outfielder because someone is banged up, then they’ll call up an extra outfielder. It sounds like a great plan. Will it work as well in reality as it does on paper? We’ll see.

So, with that in mind, let’s sort out the projected Triple-A Scranton roster as it sits right now. After all, these guys are the backup plans for the big league team. I have zero doubt we’ll see several of these players in the Bronx this coming summer, including guys none of us would ever expect. Remember Kyle Davies? Matt Tracy? Yeah. Let’s start with the position players. Asterisks (*) denotes players on the 40-man roster.

Catchers Infielders Outfielders Utility
Gary Sanchez* Greg Bird* Slade Heathcott* Tyler Austin
Carlos Corporan Rob Refsnyder* Mason Williams*
Eddy Rodriguez Pete Kozma Ben Gamel*
Sebastian Valle Donovan Solano Lane Adams*
Jonathan Diaz Aaron Judge
Cesar Puello

There are 25 roster spots in Triple-A and, believe it or not, that is relatively new. Triple-A and Double-A teams had 24-man rosters as recently as 2011. It’s pretty common for Triple-A teams to carry three-man benches and eight-man bullpens because of workload limits and whatnot, especially early in the season before guys are fully stretched out. I’ve got 16 position players in the table there, so three or four won’t make the cut one way or another.

Catchers: All signs point to Sanchez being the big league backup catcher, though that’s not set in stone just yet. The Yankees could send him to Triple-A for regular playing time and to work on his defense. As an added bonus, sending Sanchez down for 35 days or so will delay his free agency another year. Assuming Sanchez makes the MLB team, Triple-A catching duties will belong to Corporan and either Rodriguez and Valle. They’re all defense-first guys who can’t hit.

Austin Romine, Sanchez’s primary competition for the backup job, is out of minor league options and has been outrighted before, meaning if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he has to go through waivers and can elect free agency if he clears, which I imagine he would do in an effort to find a better opportunity. There appear to be only two ways for Romine to remain in the organization beyond Spring Training: he gets the backup catcher’s job, or he gets hurt in camp and is placed on the MLB DL.

If Sanchez doesn’t make the big league roster, he’ll be the starting catcher in Triple-A with either Romine or Corporan backing up Brian McCann. If Romine backs up McCann, Corporan will be in Triple-A. If Corporan backs up McCann, Romine will be gone and either Valle or Rodriguez will be with Sanchez in Triple-A. For now, I’ll say Sanchez makes the big league roster. The Yankees leaned on their prospects a lot in 2015 and I think that’ll continue in 2016.

Bird. (Presswire)
Bird. (Presswire)

Infielders: Barring injury, Bird and Refsnyder will start the season with the RailRiders. “That’s the optimal” according to Cashman, at least when it comes to Bird. The Yankees lost Ronald Torreyes on waivers earlier this week but still have Kozma, Solano, and Diaz on minor league contracts. I expect them to compete for a big league bench job in camp, and hey, one of them might win a spot.

In that case, Bird and Refsnyder will hold down the right side of the infield while the other two guys handle the left side. That means the RailRiders still need a utility infielder. There are going to be five infielders on the roster no matter what. Cito Culver and Dan Fiorito are the best candidates for that job right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees brought in one more minor league infielder these next few weeks. A minor league contract or waiver claim, something like that. One pulled hamstring in camp and the Yankees could be real short on upper level infield depth.

Outfield: The Triple-A outfield picture is crowded and yet crystal clear. Judge, Slade, Williams, and Gamel will be the four regular outfielders. They’ll rotate around the outfield and at DH. Simple, right? Puello, who played exactly one game in 2015 due to a back injury, is an obvious candidate for Double-A. Between the two catchers, the five infielders, and the four outfielders, we’re already at eleven position player spots.

So right now there is room for only one more position player since an eight-man bullpen is rather common in April. That last spot comes down to Adams and Austin. Both stunk in Triple-A last season and had to be demoted to Double-A in the second half. Adams is two years older and a better defender, but Austin has the advantage of being able to play a little first base as well. Plus he has seniority in the organization. That can’t hurt.

My guess — and this is nothing more than a guess — is Adams will get the Triple-A spot over Austin. Adams is older and on the 40-man roster, so the Yankees probably want to figure out what they have in him as soon as possible. If he can’t hack in Triple-A, they’ll cut him and move on. In that case Austin would anchor a Double-A Trenton lineup that is a little light on prospect power. He, Puello, Taylor Dugas, and Mark Payton would be the Thunder outfield.

After all of that, the Triple-A roster looks like this on the position player side:

Catchers (2): Two of Sanchez, Corporan, Rodriguez, and Valle.
Infielders (5): Bird and Refsnyder, Kozma, Diaz, and Solano. If one of them lands a big league job, Culver or Fiorito are candidates to fill the spot in Triple-A.
Outfielders (5): Judge, Heathcott, Gamel, Williams, Adams.

Position battles in Spring Training will determine the exact roster, as will injuries and things like that. The last big league bench spot is wide open, and the backup catcher’s job is not Sanchez’s just yet. Now let’s move on to the pitchers.

Starters Righty Relievers Lefty Relievers
Bryan Mitchell* Nick Rumbelow* Chasen Shreve*
Luis Cessa* Branden Pinder* Jacob Lindgren*
Anthony Swarzak Nick Goody* James Pazos*
Brady Lail Kirby Yates* Tyler Olson*
Chad Green Johnny Barbato* Tyler Webb
Jaron Long Vinnie Pestano
Eric Ruth Tyler Jones
Ronald Herrera Mark Montgomery
Caleb Smith

Lots and lots of pitchers. I have 22 names in the table for 12-13 Triple-A spots and three big league bullpen spots, so 6-7 of those guys are going to get stuck in Double-A. Of course, not everyone will get through Spring Training healthy. A handful of pitchers always get hurt in March. (There always seems to be a rash of Tommy John surgeries in Spring Training as pitchers ramp up their throwing.) It’s a vicious part of the baseball calendar.

I honestly think the Yankees will use those final three MLB bullpen spots to take the players they believe give them the best chance to win, regardless of previous role or handedness. If it’s three lefties, so be it. If it’s three guys who are starters by trade, fine. Remember, the Yankees took David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Vidal Nuno north as relievers back in 2013 because they were the best options. The team didn’t worry about leaving one or two stretched out in Triple-A.

Mitchell. (Presswire)
Mitchell. (Presswire)

Trying to predict who will make the bullpen right now is impossible and a waste of time. No one expected Preston Claiborne to come to camp throwing fire three years ago, putting him in position for a big league call-up. Shreve might have a leg up on everyone else because he was so good for the first four and a half months last season. Aside from that, good luck figuring out who starts in MLB and Triple-A. And besides, the shuttle ensures these guys will be rotating in and out all year anyway.

I will say that of those 22 pitchers listed, I believe Ruth, Herrera, Smith, Jones, and Montgomery are mostly likely to be squeezed down to Double-A due to a roster crunch. (Herrera’s the guy who came over in the Jose Pirela trade.) I wouldn’t necessarily call them non-prospects. They’re just low priority prospects in the grand scheme of things. They lack the upside of the other pitchers in the table, relatively speaking.

Among the deep depth arms are lefty Chaz Hebert and righty Kyle Haynes. They’re among the starters who will open the season in Double-A and jump to Triple-A whenever a spot start is needed because of call-ups and whatnot. Ruth, Herrera, and Smith are in that group. There’s no doubt the Yankees have a ton of upper level pitchers, particularly in the bullpen. Now they just have to figure out which of these guys can stick in the big leagues.

Judge, Mateo, Sanchez all make Baseball Prospectus’ top 101 prospects list

Judge ... and Sanchez! (Rob Carr/Getty)
Judge and Sanchez at the Futures Game. (Rob Carr/Getty)

We are now firmly in preseason prospect ranking season, and earlier this week Baseball Prospectus teased their annual by posting their top 101 prospects list. You can see the PDF right here. The whole thing is free. No subscription required. Dodgers SS Corey Seager claims the top spot and is followed by Twins OF Byron Buxton and Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito in the top three.

The Yankees have three players on the top 101: OF Aaron Judge (No. 18), SS Jorge Mateo (No. 65) and C Gary Sanchez (No. 92). Judge is the fifth outfielder on the list, behind Buxton, Rangers OF Nomar Mazara, Padres OF Manuel Margot, and Rangers OF Lewis Brinson. Sanchez is the fifth catcher behind Cubs C Willson Contreras, Athletics C Jacob Nottingham, Phillies C Jorge Alfaro, and Pirates C Reese McGuire.

“Judge should make his debut in the Bronx sometime in 2016, but it feels like a man of his proportions and potential needs a nickname. For opposing pitchers he might very well be ‘Judge Dredd,’ or when he fires one back up the box, ‘Judge Holden,'” said the write-up. I agree, Judge needs a good nickname. Judge Dredd is a little too obvious though. Nicknames have to come organically. You can’t force ’em. We’ll come up with a good one in due time.

As for Mateo, the write-up says he is “an 80 runner fully capable of stolen-base titles” while adding he “offers a potentially solid glove at shortstop as well.” As with any 20-year-old speedster in Single-A, the question is whether his bat will play and allow him to reach base often enough to raise hell. “The bat is still quite raw,” said the report. “But he can challenge the old adage that ‘you can’t steal first.’ Every ball in play is a potential single, and every ball up the alleys a potential triple.”

Sanchez “took steps forward on both sides of the ball in 2015, and the plus power and plus-plus arm that have kept him on every new iteration of this list are still very much present,” according to the BP crew, who noted this was Sanchez’s sixth year on the BP 101. Geez. It figures to be his last, however. Sanchez has the inside track on the backup catcher’s job, and even if he doesn’t find himself on the Opening Day roster, a midseason call-up feels inevitable.

Judge, Mateo, and Sanchez represent the crown jewels of the Yankees’ farm system along with RHP James Kaprielian. Those four are clearly the top prospects in the system. There’s a pretty significant gap between them and everyone else. Judge, Mateo, and Sanchez should appear on all top 100 lists this spring and Kaprielian might sneak one on or two as well.

Aaron Judge claims top spot on Baseball Prospectus’ top ten Yankees prospects list

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

Prospect season is in full swing now. One day after Baseball America published their top ten Yankees prospects list, the crew at Baseball Prospectus did the same. For BP, the top ten list plus the write-up for the top prospect are free. Everything else is behind the paywall. Here’s the top ten:

  1. OF Aaron Judge
  2. SS Jorge Mateo
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. RHP James Kaprielian
  5. OF Dustin Fowler
  6. 2B Rob Refsnyder
  7. RHP Drew Finley
  8. 3B Eric Jagielo
  9. RHP Brady Lail
  10. LHP Ian Clarkin

Again, as a reminder, both RHP Luis Severino and 1B Greg Bird are no longer prospect eligible, which is why they’re not on the list. They both exceeded the rookie playing time limits this past season.

Judge, Mateo, Sanchez, and Kaprielian are very clearly the top four prospects in the organization right now, as I said yesterday. We could argue the precise order until we’re blue in the face, but those are the four guys. It’s them, then everyone else right now.

The BP gang appears to be quite high on Fowler — “If he isn’t an everyday center fielder at the highest level, he could be a very good fourth outfielder,” said the write-up — and I’m glad to see someone shares my Finley affection. I’m not sure Finley’s a top ten guy, but he’s close.

Both Jagielo and Clarkin were understandably dinged in the rankings after losing so much time to injury in 2015, but the BP crew opted not to ignore their ceilings. I don’t know where Jagielo will play long-term, but he can mash. Clarkin didn’t have surgery and showed his pre-injury stuff in the Arizona Fall League.

“Recent success with early-round draft picks and aggressive tactics in the July 2nd market have given the Yankees a deep system with a healthy mix of almost-ready major-league regulars and teenagers with loud tools,” said the write-up, which also listed SS Wilkerman Garcia, OF Leonardo Molina, C Luis Torrens, 3B Dermis Garcia, and LHP Jacob Lindgren as other interesting prospects to watch. One of those things is not like the others.

The Baseball Prospectus feature also includes a ranking of the top ten players in the organization age 25 or younger. Severino sits in the top spot, followed by Judge, Mateo, Sanchez, Bird, Kaprielian, Fowler, Refsnyder, RHP Bryan Mitchell, and LHP Chasen Shreve. SS Didi Gregorius, 2B Starlin Castro, and RHP Nathan Eovaldi all missed the age cutoff by a few weeks and weren’t eligible for the 25 and under list.

Of nothing else, the 25 and under list shows how much better shape the Yankees are in right now than a year ago. Last year Molina was in the top ten under 25 list and, uh, no. This year eight of the ten are either in MLB or will be very soon. “The Yankees of the future likely won’t take shape for a year or two at least,” said the write-up, “but if the end of 2015 was any indication, we’ll get an increased glimpse into its promise in 2016.”