Mateo tops MLB.com’s top 30 Yankees prospects list

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

Yesterday afternoon the crew at MLB.com published their list of the top 30 Yankees prospects, which is topped by SS Jorge Mateo. That’s not surprising based on their annual top 100 list. OF Aaron Judge, C Gary Sanchez, and RHP James Kaprielian round out the top four, because duh. Who else would it be?

Jim Callis wrote a real quick system overview that’s worth checking out. As always, MLB.com’s prospect information is completely free. You can see the list, read the scouting reports, and watch all the videos for zero American dollars. It’s pretty awesome. Click the link for the complete top 30. Here’s the top ten real quick:

  1. Mateo
  2. Judge
  3. Sanchez
  4. Kaprielian
  5. SS Wilkerman Garcia
  6. OF Dustin Fowler
  7. RHP Domingo Acevedo
  8. SS Tyler Wade
  9. 2B Rob Refsnyder
  10. LHP Ian Clarkin

Looks good to me. I’m not the biggest Acevedo fan in the world — I ranked him 19th in my top 30 list — but I am in the minority. Sticking him in the top ten is not unreasonable. A few things stuck out to me while reading through the list and scouting reports, so here are my thoughts.

1. There are seven 2015 draftees in the top 30: Kaprielian, RHP Drew Finely (No. 16), RHP Chance Adams (No. 21), SS Kyle Holder (No. 23), LHP Jeff Degano (No. 24), 3B Donny Sands (No. 29), and OF Trey Amburgey (No. 30). Seven! That’s an awful lot for a team that had a pretty good farm system to begin with. Usually when so many recent draftees populate your top 30 it’s because your system stunk and you had few prospects to being with. Either that or you had a killer draft. I’m always wary of small sample performances when ranking recent draftees — Sands and Amburgey in particularly were great after signing — but the reports indicate the rankings are more scouting based than performance based, which is the way it should be. The Yankees tend to do a very good job in the middle rounds of the draft and MLB.com’s top 30 indicates they found some nice talent last year.

2. Speaking of Amburgey, the scouting report notes he “generates some of the best exit velocities among New York farmhands,” which is fun to read. I remember reading something similar about Judge a year or two ago. Following last year’s draft we heard Finley ranked among the best in the draft class in fastball spin rate, fastball extension, and curveball spin rate as measured by Trackman (i.e. PitchFX) at the 2014 Area Code Games. As fans and analysts we’re just now starting to use information like this and we don’t even fully understand it yet. Teams are already tracking this stuff for their minor leaguers and potential draft targets. You’ll never be able to scout prospects with just numbers, but all of this information can help you confirm reports, raise some questions, identify a sleeper, stuff like that. The more information the better, and that definitely extends into the minors too.

3. OF Leonardo Molina fascinates me more than maybe any other prospect in the system. He hasn’t hit much in his two years in pro ball (75 wRC+ in 410 plate appearances) but MLB.com’s scouting report says “scouts remain dazzled by his potential.” Here’s a little more of the scouting report:

Molina’s quick right-handed bat and his projectable strength give him the potential for plus power. While he has yet to enjoy much success at the plate, he shows signs of pitch recognition and doesn’t swing and miss excessively. Add in his plus speed, and he could be a 20-20 player once he matures physically and as a hitter … Molina’s speed and well-above-average arm allow him to play any of the outfield positions. He’s still learning how to make proper reads and routes but should be able to stay in center field.

That’s the scouting report of a future star, but because he hasn’t hit yet and is still so far from MLB — Molina is still only 18 and he’s yet to play outside rookie ball — he’s not a top prospect. A year or two ago I read something that described Molina as the kind of prospect who could take small steps forward each year and develop incrementally, though in my non-expert opinion I feel the opposite may be true. He strikes me as the kind of prospect where it might just click all of a sudden and bam, he’s a top 100 caliber guy overnight. Either way, folks who glance at stat lines are missing what Molina (and 3B Miguel Andujar, for that matter) has the potential to be.

If you’re interested, Callis held a Twitter chat yesterday and took a bunch of Yankees prospects questions, so scroll through his feed for some more info. He mentioned OF Jhalan Jackson and 1B Chris Gittens as sleepers. Jackson seems a little too well known to be considered a sleeper at this point.

Minor League Notes: Kaprielian, Acevedo, Sanchez, Mateo, Refsnyder, Florial

Spring Training has begun and we are only eleven days away from the first Grapefruit League game. The Yankees tend to start someone other than one of their five projected starters in the first spring game, so I’m curious to see who gets the ball this year. Watch it be a journeyman like Anthony Swarzak or Tyler Cloyd, not an interesting prospect. Anyway, I have some minor league links and notes to pass along.

Kaprielian already turning heads in Spring Training

I guess this is more of a Spring Training update than a minor league update, but whatever. RHP James Kaprielian is already getting some very high praise in camp even though pitchers and catchers officially reported only a few days ago. He’s been in Tampa for several weeks now and recently took part in Captain’s Camp.

“He’s shown some leadership ability among the players. He’s been a big part of things (in Captain’s Camp) and he’s another guy we think that, over the long term, has an excellent chance to be part of our Major League rotation,” said farm system head Gary Denbo to Brendan Kuty. “He’s shown the ability to locate his fastball. His breaking ball has the chance to be a plus pitch for him. The changeup also has improved the more he’s pitched and will as he develops. He’s shown improvement in velocity in the course of last season.”

Kaprielian, 21, threw his first official bullpen session of the spring yesterday and Joe Girardi came away impressed. “Thought he had good command today,” said the skipper to Chad Jennings. “You know, the focus early on in Spring Training is the command of that fastball, and I thought he had good command. I thought he was not overwhelmed by his surroundings. He was comfortable. That’s always a concern of mine for kids their first year in camp. He was talkative, and it was good to see.”

Kaprielian among Baseball America’s top 100 just misses

A week ago Baseball America published their annual top 100 prospects list, which included three Yankees. Kaprielian was not one of them, but he was one of six players who just missed the top 100, says Josh Norris. Here’s the blurb:

Kaprielian, the Yankees’ 2015 first-rounder from UCLA, was one of the last few players in consideration for the final spot on the list. His fastball bumped 96-97 mph in pro ball with short-season Staten Island and in fall instructional league. Each of his other three pitches—curveball, slider and changeup—grades as at least average. He should start this year at high Class A Tampa and could zoom through the minor leagues.

J.J. Cooper says RHP Domingo Acevedo, 2B Rob Refsnyder, and SS Wilkerman Garcia all received top 100 votes in addition to Kaprielian when the Baseball America team was compiling their top 100 list. A total of 208 players received at least one top 100 vote, so that’s not that exclusive of a club, but I’d be pretty happy to get a vote. Being a top 208 prospect would be pretty cool.

Grandmaster Kap. (Presswire)
Grandmaster Kap. (Presswire)

Prospect position rankings

Last week both Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Baseball America released their prospect position rankings. Well, Baseball America is in the process of releasing their rankings. They’ve only published a few so far. MLB.com published their prospect position rankings a few weeks ago (catcher, second base, shortstop, outfield).

Law ranked C Gary Sanchez second among catchers, SS Jorge Mateo 15th among shortstops, OF Aaron Judge ninth among outfielders, and LHP Jacob Lindgren seventh among relievers. Kaprielian did make Law’s annual top 100 list but he was not among the top 20 starting pitching prospects only because so many pitchers were ahead of him on the top 100. Refsnyder did not rank among his top 10 second base prospects.

As for Baseball America, they ranked Sanchez as the best catching prospect in the game, Kaprielian and Acevedo as the 35th and 55th best right-handed pitching prospects, respectively, and Lindgren as the 22nd best left-handed pitching prospect. None of the other positions have been released yet. Those are coming next week. Good to see Sanchez so high among catchers.

Florial a deep sleeper

I don’t pay much attention to the Dominican Summer League because there is so much misinformation about those kids out there, and also because they’re just so very far away from MLB. Most don’t even make it stateside. Ben Badler is one of the best international baseball reporters in the game though, and he says OF Estevan Florial is a deep sleeper to keep an eye on.

Florial, 17, was part of the Yankees’ big 2014-15 international spending spree, but I can’t find any bonus information, which usually indicates he didn’t get a ton of money. Florial hit .313/.394/.527 (154 wRC+) with seven homers, 15 steals, an 11.3% walk rate, and a 22.9% strikeout rate in 57 DSL games last year. I can’t find anything else on him and I don’t trust DSL stats at all, but if Badler says he’s a sleeper, then he’s a sleeper. File his name under players to remember.

Misc. Links & Notes

Here are some links and notes not worth a full write-up but are worth checking out:

  • Jeff Zimmerman used WAR-to-scouting grade equivalencies and Baseball America’s 2016 Prospect Handbook to calculate farm system surplus values. The Yankees rank 18th at +23.5 WAR after ranking 17th in Baseball America’s farm system rankings.
  • As part of their top 100 list, Baseball America is running a series called “Split Decisions” where they compare two prospects at the same position who ranked close together. Mateo was paired up with Royals SS Raul Mondesi Jr. Seems like the consensus is Mondesi has more ceiling but Mateo is a safer bet.
  • Baseball America posted updated team top ten prospect lists a few days ago to reflect all the offseason activity. RHP Rookie Davis went from No. 6 in New York’s system to No. 9 in the Reds system, and that’s pretty much it. 3B Eric Jagielo did not make Cincinnati’s top ten. RHP Bryan Mitchell jumped into the top ten with Davis gone.
  • Longtime Florida area scout Jeff Deardorff has been promoted and will now focus on analyzing amateur hitters for the draft, reports George King (subs. req’d). I could have sworn Deardorff played with the Yankees at some point, but no. He appeared in 122 games with Triple-A Columbus in 2004. That’s all.

Just a heads up, the four full season minor league affiliates begin their regular season on Thursday, April 7th this year. That’s three days after the big league Yankees behind their season.

Aaron Judge and the Outer Half of the Plate

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two and a half years ago the Yankees had three first round draft picks thanks in part to the free agent defections of Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano, and already the usual rules of prospect attrition apply to those three picks: one got hurt (Ian Clarkin), one has been traded (Eric Jagielo), and one is a promising top prospect (Aaron Judge). That, as they say, is baseball.

Judge remains New York’s top prospect and last season he reached Triple-A, so he’s ostensibly close to making his MLB debut. He hit .258/.332/.446 (124 wRC+) with 20 home runs in 124 total games last year, though that can be broken down into a .284/.350/.516 (147 wRC+) line with 12 homers and a 25.0% strikeout rate in 63 Double-A games and .224/.308/.373 (98 wRC+) with eight homers and a 28.5% strikeout rate in 61 Triple-A games. Clearly Triple-A pitching gave him a hard time.

“They started pitching me a little differently and I just wasn’t able to make the adjustments as quick as I wanted to. You’ve just got to learn. Live and learn and get better,” said Judge to Bryan Hoch earlier this week when asked about his Triple-A struggles. Judge is enormous, he’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 275 lbs., and experienced Triple-A pitchers took advantage of his size by attacking him with soft stuff down and away. That’s the next adjustment he has to make.

The Yankees shuttled Judge in and out of Tampa this offseason for what were essentially hitting mini-camps designed to help him work on handling those down and away pitches. (That’s actually not uncommon. Prospects of every caliber attend these mini-camps throughout the winter.) The issue is not so much Judge’s approach, but his size and freakishly compact swing. He does a good job hitting the ball to the opposite field, which is the usual approach against pitches away, so that’s not an issue. Here are Judge’s batted ball heat maps for the 2015 season, via MLB Farm:

Aaron Judge 2015 Spray Charts

As you can see from the heat maps, the right-handed hitting Judge does a pretty good job of taking the ball the other way in general, so he’s not some sort of brute masher looking to yank everything to the pull side. Judge does tend to hit a lot of ground balls to the left field of the infield, however, and Keith Law actually mentioned this in his recent top 100 prospects write-up:

He’s excellent at covering the inner third despite his long arms, which is a positive skill overall but causes two issues: He hits too many grounders to the left side, and he’s very vulnerable to soft stuff away, which led to the excessive strikeout rates in 2015. Learning to cover the outside corner — or lay off pitches just off of it — while maintaining that plate coverage inside is the main challenge for Judge if he wants to become an impact bat in the majors.

The Baseball Prospectus crew had a pretty interesting line in their Yankees top ten prospects write-up: “It’s almost as if Judge’s body prevents him from being the kind of pure hitter he could be.” Every scouting report since the 2013 draft has indicated Judge is an excellent pure hitter more apt to rip line drives from pole to pole than sell out for power, which is uncommon for dudes his size. He has big power — Law’s says it’s 70 raw power on the 20-80 scouting scale, which is well-above-average — but that isn’t his strength as a hitter. It’s his pure hitting ability.

“A lot of times, you see power arms from starters at Double-A and then you see them again in the big leagues,” said minor league hitting instructor James Rowson to Dan Martin when asked about Judge’s Triple-A issues. “Sometimes in Triple-A, you don’t have as many starters with those power arms. I thought he picked it up as he went along. One thing that stands out as a young player that size is he has great plate discipline and body control. He’s as wide as he is tall, so he has a good foundation.”

A year ago at this time we were all talking about Judge as a potential second half call-up should the Yankees need outfield help. He absolutely mashed at Low-A and High-A in 2014 and the scouting reports were glowing. The issues with outer half pitches in Triple-A were more of a surprise than expected, I’d say. That’s okay though. Judge is a very unique prospect — he’s a really good athlete and runner for his size, this isn’t a dude who lumbers on the field — and he’ll have a unique development path.

The Yankees are pretty well set in the outfield heading into the 2016 season. They have their three big league starters (Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran), an up-and-comer as their fourth outfielder (Aaron Hicks), a solid fifth outfield option (Dustin Ackley), and a wealth of Triple-A options (Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Ben Gamel) already on the 40-man roster and ahead of Judge on the call-up depth chart. Judge isn’t in a Greg Bird situation; the Yankees needed Bird this year. They don’t need Judge.

As far as Judge is concerned, the goal this season is improving against those pitches away and putting himself in the best possible position to replace Beltran as the everyday right fielder in 2017. Does he want to reach the show this summer? Of course. He’s human. “I’m excited that maybe I’ll get a chance to do (what Bird did last year) this year,” he said to Martin. But as far as the Yankees are concerned, they want Judge to work on his main weakness, and if it takes the entire season with the RailRiders, so be it.

Spring Notes: Captain’s Camp, Tanaka, Pineda, Pettitte

Soon. (Presswire)
Soon. (Presswire)

We are now a day and a half away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Tampa for the start of Spring Training. Of course, a bunch of players are already working out at the minor league complex, so a bunch of spring notes have been trickling in the last few days. Here’s a quick roundup, via Bryan Hoch, Anthony McCarron, and Erik Boland.

2016 Captain’s Camp underway

The second annual Captain’s Camp is underway and the Yankees have been shuttling in former players, executives, and media folks to talk to their top young prospects. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Alfonso Soriano, and Darryl Strawberry have all stopped by the Tampa complex to spend time with the kids. Derek Jeter took them all out to dinner last night.

“What’s encouraging to me is that we don’t pay anybody to come. We have a lot of really good people that are coming in to talk to our guys, just to voluntarily share what they’ve learned over the years,” said farm system head Gary Denbo, who came up with the idea for Captain’s Camp last year. Denbo confirmed more prospects were invited this year as the Yankees look to groom their next young core.

Interestingly, the Yankees selected two Captain’s Camp “leaders” this year: outfielder Aaron Judge and right-hander Brady Lail. “We picked a pitcher and we picked a position player that we thought could lead by example and through their actions. They’ve done a tremendous job,” said Denbo. I think the whole Captain’s Camp idea is pretty cool. Being a big leaguer is hard and it’s great the Yankees are doing whatever they can to help their prospects get to the next level.

All goes well as Tanaka throws off a mound

Over the weekend Masahiro Tanaka threw off a mound for the first time in Tampa — he threw off a mound at Yankee Stadium last week — and everything is going well with his surgically repaired elbow so far. “(Tanaka) didn’t try to push it too much, but it was good. He wasn’t midseason form, but he was where he should be,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild of the 20-pitch throwing session. Tanaka played long toss yesterday as well.

Tanaka had surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow in October and depending who you ask, he is either right on schedule or the Yankees are handling him carefully. I suppose both can be true. Tanaka says he’s unsure if he’ll ready for Opening Day, Rothschild says he’s right on schedule, and Brian Cashman says they’ll take it easy with him in camp. Either way, so far, so good. “We’ll keep throwing. We’ll probably do a mound (session) within the next couple days, and then just keep progressing from there,” said Rothschild.

Pineda wants to throw 200 innings in 2016

Standard Spring Training story alert: [Pitcher] who has never thrown 200 innings in a season wants to throw 200 innings this year. In this case [Pitcher] is Michael Pineda. “I want to throw 200 innings this year. That’s my goal,” he said. “You always want to do better. Sometimes we have good games, sometimes we have bad games … Now it’s a new year and a new season is coming and I want to be ready and prepared to have a great year.”

Pineda built a gym in his home this offseason and he is “looking slimmed down,” according to Boland. Of course, the biggest issue with Big Mike is health. He was on track to throw roughly 200 innings last season before missing most of August with a forearm issue. Pineda seems like the biggest wildcard on the staff. His upside is so obvious and yet, as we saw last year, the results don’t always match the stuff. He’s frustrating and also way too talented to give up on.

Pettitte throws batting practice, may be back later in spring

While in town for Captain’s Camp, Pettitte threw batting practice to several of the team’s top prospects for about 30 minutes yesterday. “If I’m going to be here, y’all ought to use me. The wind was blowing out. Judge, I think, hit a couple on Dale Mabry (Boulevard),” he joked.

Pettitte may return to Spring Training in a few weeks — he was asked about coming back as a player and answered with a straight “No,” in case you’re wondering — depending on his schedule. “I’m going to try to, but I have to see the kids’ games, the way it works out” he said. “I love being down here, love being around these young guys. It’s extremely important to me, also, because of what the Yankees have been to me.”

Sanchez, Lindgren, Rumbelow among prospects who could most help the Yankees in 2016

Sanchez. (Presswire)
Sanchez. (Presswire)

The days of the Yankees signing free agents to plug their roster holes are over, at least temporarily. The team is focused on getting younger at the moment, and it’s not just talk. Last season they dipped into their farm system whenever a need arose, either short or long-term. It was pretty exciting. It’s been a while since the Yankees have been run this way.

The focus on youth will continue this season. The Yankees did not sign a single Major League free agent this offseason, which is weird as hell, and they have several prospects on the cusp of helping at the big league level. Prospects are suspects until proven otherwise, but the Yankees seem committed to giving these guys a chance. Using my Preseason Top 30 Prospects List as a guide, here’s a look at the prospects who could help at some point in 2016.

OF Aaron Judge (RAB Top 30 Rank: 1)
2016 ZiPS Projection: .226/.287/.464 (105 OPS+), 30 HR, +1.5 WAR
How Does He Fit? Developmentally, the Yankees are in a pretty good place with Judge. He is their top prospect, but he could use some more Triple-A time to adjust to advanced pitching, and the team has the outfield depth to give him that Triple-A time. Judge will be Rule 5 Draft eligible next offseason, so the Yankees could add him to the 40-man roster a few weeks early and give him a September call-up. Otherwise I get the sense the only way he helps the 2016 Yankees involves mashing in Triple-A for a few weeks and injuries to a few guys ahead of him on the outfield depth chart. The primary goal this summer is getting Judge ready to replace Carlos Beltran in 2017.

C Gary Sanchez (2)
2016 ZiPS Projection: .240/.291/.434 (99 OPS+), 20 HR, +1.9 WAR
How Does He Fit? Sanchez has a clear path to big league playing time as Brian McCann‘s backup. The Yankees could — and absolutely should, in my opinion — send him to Triple-A for the requisite five weeks to delay his free agency another year, and once that happens, the MLB backup job is all his. Sanchez took some pretty big steps forward last season. He’s not a finished product — no 23-year-old catcher is — but he is ready to help right now with his bat while continuing to work on his defense.

SS Jorge Mateo (3)
2016 ZiPS Projection: none
How Does He Fit? Realistically, there are only two ways Mateo helps the 2016 Yankees: 1) as trade bait, 2) as the designated pinch-runner in September. Mateo has only played 21 games above Low-A ball, so he is at least one and more likely two years away from an MLB job. He will be Rule 5 Draft eligible next winter though, meaning the Yankees could add him to the 40-man roster early and bring him up to run in September. They’ll have a hard time finding a better option given his speed and base-running aggressiveness. Aside from coming up to run once rosters expand, I would be stunned if Mateo saw big league time in 2016.

RHP James Kaprielian (4)
2016 ZiPS Projection: none
How Does He Fit? The Yankees invited last year’s first round pick to big league Spring Training this year and that’s pretty significant. It’s been a long time since they’ve invited a first rounder to camp the year after he was drafted. Not even Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain were invited to camp in 2007. Kaprielian comes billed as a quick moving college starter and he’s capable of following the 2007 Kennedy path this season, meaning some time in High-A, some time in Double-A, some time in Triple-A, then MLB debut. I doubt the Yankees would call Kaprielian up and rely on him a la Luis Severino last year, but he could come up to make some spot starts in September, for sure.

Refsnyder. (Presswire)
Refsnyder. (Presswire)

2B Rob Refsnyder (6)
2016 ZiPS Projection: .248/.318/.395 (98 OPS+), 13 HR, +1.9 WAR
How Does He Fit? At one point this offseason it looked like the Yankees were ready to hand the second base job over to Refsnyder, or at least have him platoon with Dustin Ackley, but now he’s stuck behind Starlin Castro on the depth chart. For now Refsnyder is infield depth the Yankees are going to stash in Triple-A. If Castro gets hurt, Refsnyder will come up to play second base. If Didi Gregorius or Chase Headley get hurt, Castro will slide over to the left side of the infield and Refsnyder will come up to play second. I know it seems like he is buried right now, but my guess is we’ll see more of Refsnyder in 2016 than you may expect. Something like 200-300 plate appearances wouldn’t surprise me. That’s just the way this stuff goes. It looks like a player is buried and before you know it he’s taking regular at-bats and the team is scrambling for help.

RHP Bryan Mitchell (7)
2016 ZiPS Projection: 5.48 ERA (5.15 FIP), -0.6 WAR
How Does He Fit? Mitchell is a starter by trade and the case can be made he is as high as seventh on the rotation depth chart. The Yankees do have three open bullpen spots — it’s more than likely four since Aroldis Chapman‘s suspension is looming — and they’ve shown they will take whoever they think is the best man for the job. I can’t help but think back to 2014, when they took Vidal Nuno north rather than leave him in Triple-A as rotation depth despite already having two long men in David Phelps and Adam Warren. Mitchell did look pretty darn good in short relief last summer before taking that line drive to the face. Either way, starter or reliever, we figure to see plenty of Mitchell this year. The Warren void is waiting to be filled.

LHP Jacob Lindgren (11)
2016 ZiPS Projection: 3.76 ERA (3.73 FIP), +0.3 WAR
How Does He Fit? Again, the Yankees have three if not four open bullpen spots, and Lindgren will get a chance to win a job in Spring Training. And even if he doesn’t land a spot on the Opening Day roster, he’ll be up at some point this season as part of the bullpen shuttle. Lindgren’s season ended in June last year due to surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, but he’s reportedly 100% now, and is already in Tampa preparing for the season. I think Lindgren has by far the highest upside of the team’s bullpen prospects and can envision a scenario in which he establishes himself as Joe Girardi‘s No. 4 reliever by the end of the season.

OF Mason Williams (14), OF Ben Gamel (20) & OF Slade Heathcott (28)
2016 ZiPS Projection, Williams: .230/.283/.320 (68 OPS+), 4 HR, +0.1 WAR
2016 ZiPS Projection, Gamel: .243/.292/.377 (85 OPS+), 10 HR, +0.9 WAR
2016 ZiPS Projection, Heathcott: .231/.274/.350 (73 OPS+), 5 HR, +0.4 WAR
How Do They Fit? It make sense to lump these three together since they’re all Triple-A bound left-handed hitters who can play all three outfield spots. Williams is the best defender of the three, Gamel is the best hitter of the three, and Heathcott is probably the best two-way player of the three. His injury history though … yeesh. The Yankees have three starting outfielders at the MLB level plus a quality fourth outfielder in Aaron Hicks plus a fifth outfield option in Ackley. It’ll probably take two injuries for one these youngsters to see meaningful MLB playing time this year. They’re available as depth though, and if they aren’t traded themselves, they make it easier for the Yankees to part with Brett Gardner at some point.

RHP Brady Lail (22)
2016 ZiPS Projection: 5.52 ERA (5.12 FIP), -0.7 WAR
How Does He Fit? Like Mitchell, the case can be made Lail is as high as seventh on the rotation depth chart. Unlike Mitchell, Lail hasn’t had a whole lot of Triple-A experience or success to this point. He got hammered in his seven starts with the RailRiders last year — 4.62 ERA (5.32 FIP) with more walks (17) than strikeouts (13) in 37 Triple-A innings — and the Yankees probably want to see Lail have some success at that level before calling him up. Add in the fact he is not yet on the 40-man roster and we might not see Lail until late in the season. The fact he is in Triple-A makes him a bullpen shuttle candidate though. That much is clear.

RHP Chance Adams (24)
2016 ZiPS Projection: none
How Does He Fit? This is probably a stretch because the Yankees are going to give Adams a chance to start this year, which makes sense. He has two quality pitches (fastball, slider) and an improving third pitch (changeup), plus the team has all that upper level bullpen depth, so now’s the time to let Adams try to hack it in the rotation. Should the Yankees abandon the starter plan at some point, Adams could shoot up the ladder in short order and become part of the bullpen shuttle. I will admit that is unlikely, however. Out of everyone in this post, I’d say Adams has the lowest odds of seeing MLB time in 2016. Even lower than Mateo.

Cessa. (Toledo Blade)
Cessa. (Toledo Blade)

RHP Luis Cessa (26)
2016 ZiPS Projection: 5.41 ERA (4.80 FIP), -0.4 WAR
How Does He Fit? Once again, we have a guy who could be as high as seventh on the rotation depth chart. Cessa came over in the Justin Wilson trade — the Mets traded him to the Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes last year — and like Lail, he got knocked around a bit in Triple-A (6.97 ERA and 3.57 FIP in 62 innings), but the underlying performance was pretty good (20.1 K%, 6.6 BB%, 52.1 GB%), and that’s what matters. Cessa is yet another bullpen shuttle candidate, but I think he has the best chance of making multiple starts for the Yankees in 2016 of anyone in this post, including Mitchell. Not sure why. Call it a hunch.

RHP Nick Rumbelow (27)
2016 ZiPS Projection: 4.39 ERA (3.99 FIP), -0.1 WAR
How Does He Fit? We saw Rumbelow on the shuttle last season and I’m sure we’ll see him on the shuttle again this season, even if he makes the Opening Day roster. He does have quality stuff and a history of missing bats, so I think Rumbelow has a good chance to carve out a full-time role for himself this summer. The Yankees just need to give him an opportunity. There were too many times last season where a young pitcher was sent down simply because he had just worked and wouldn’t be available for a day or two. The team has to give a few of these guys an extended audition in 2016, starting with Lindgren and Rumbelow.

* * *

Among those who did not make my Preseason Top 30 Prospects List, we could see RHP Nick Goody (ZiPS: +0.4 WAR), LHP James Pazos (+0.0 WAR), RHP Johnny Barbato (-0.2 WAR), RHP Branden Pinder (-0.4 WAR), RHP Vicente Campos (-1.1 WAR), RHP Chad Green (none), and LHP Tyler Webb (none) at the MLB level this summer. All seven of those guys are in the same position: they’re relievers who figure to ride the bullpen shuttle. Well, Green is a starter, so I suppose he could make a spot start at some point. Either way, expect to see many more young players come up to help the Yankees this season, even if their big league stint is only temporary.

Aaron Judge tops Keith Law’s top ten Yankees prospects list

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last week Keith Law published his annual top 100 prospects list, which included four Yankees: OF Aaron Judge (No. 36), SS Jorge Mateo (No. 55), C Gary Sanchez (No. 57), and RHP James Kaprielian (No. 87). Earlier today Law took an in-depth look at New York’s farm system (subs. req’d), examining their top ten prospects and beyond.

“The Yankees’ system is trending back upward, despite some trades and disappointing performances from upper-level prospects, thanks to a couple productive drafts that have helped restock the lower levels,” wrote Law. Here is his top ten:

  1. Judge
  2. Mateo
  3. Sanchez
  4. Kaprielian
  5. LHP Ian Clarkin
  6. OF Dustin Fowler
  7. SS Wilkerman Garcia
  8. RHP Drew Finley
  9. SS Kyle Holder
  10. SS Tyler Wade

Law has long been a Clarkin fan and he’s higher on both Finley and Holder than most. Finley is a “super-polished high-school arm with a plus curveball and outstanding command and feel for pitching” while the divisive Holder is “a plus-plus defender at short with mixed reviews on the bat, though he doesn’t have to hit that much to be a big leaguer, thanks to his defense.” Law also notes there “could be more growth here than with a normal college product,” referring to Holder, who split time between baseball and basketball for most of his life.

Within the write-up, Law dives deeper into the system and looks beyond the top ten. He ranks RHP Brady Lail as the 11th best prospect in the system, and Lail is followed by OF Ben Gamel (12th), LHP Jacob Lindgren (13th), RHP Luis Cessa (14th), C Luis Torrens (15th), OF Mason Williams (16th), RHP Trey Amburgey (17th), 2B Rob Refsnyder (18th), 3B Miguel Andujar (19th), and RHP Chance Adams (20th). 3B Dermis Garcia, RHP Domingo Acevedo, IF Abi Avelino, RHP Ty Hensley, RHP Austin DeCarr, OF Bryan Emery, SS Diego Castillo, C Miguel Flames, 3B Nelson Gomez, C Jason Lopez, and RHP Johnny Barbato all get mentions as well, though they’re unranked.

Law listed Lindgren and Barbato as the prospects most likely to have an impact in 2016, which is sorta cheating because they’re both bat-missing upper level relievers, but I’ll allow it. Fowler and Torrens are his sleepers. “Fowler has top-100-prospect tools and has performed rather well to date, despite aggressive promotions. He and Torrens are the best bets to make the leap in 2016,” he wrote. Torrens is coming off major shoulder surgery, so his road to top 100 prospectdom is a bit rockier than Fowler’s.

Based on the write-up, it’s pretty clear Law is high on the Yankees’ farm system, particularly their lower level guys like Wilkerman, Amburgey, and all the 2014-15 international signees. He ranked the Yankees as having the 13th best farm system in the game and that’s with Luis Severino and Greg Bird having graduated to MLB. That’s is pretty darn cool.

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.