Aaron Judge ranks 13th on Keith Law’s midseason top 50 prospects list

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Over at ESPN (subs. req’d), Keith Law posted his midseason list of the top 50 prospects in the minor leagues today. Dodgers SS Corey Seager, the consensus top prospect in baseball following the wave of recent promotions, is predictably ranked first. Phillies SS J.P. Crawford and Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito rank second and third, respectively.

The Yankees have one prospect on Law’s midseason list, and it’s OF Aaron Judge at No. 13. Judge also ranked 13th on both Baseball America’s and Baseball Prospectus’ midseason lists last week. So I guess that makes him the consensus 13th best prospect in baseball. How about that? Here’s a snippet of Law’s blurb on Judge:

(Judge is) all muscle and is shockingly athletic for someone his size, an average or better runner with a 65 or 70 arm. Judge has good feel to hit and enormous raw power, and he commands the strike zone well, with a lower strikeout rate than you’d expect from a guy with arms this long. He covers the inner third so well that he’s more vulnerable to stuff away, but overall has kept his strikeout rate to about 25 percent or better even as he has moved up three times in the past 14 months.

RHP Luis Severino did not make Law’s midseason list but he is one of seven honorable mentions, so I guess that means he would have made his midseason top 57 prospects list. Round numbers are sexier though. Law does say Severino is “more likely” to be a reliever than starter down the road because of his delivery. Judge ranked 23rd on Law’s preseason list while Severino was on the outside looking in.

Also, in this afternoon’s chat (subs. req’d), Law said the Yankees currently have five top 100 caliber prospects in Judge, Severino, 1B Greg Bird, SS Jorge Mateo, and the just signed RHP James Kaprielian. (Not necessarily in that order.) Bird ranked 80th on his preseason list and Law says Kaprielian would be “in the 51-100 range, probably around 75th.” Also, Law said LHP Ian Clarkin “would be a top 100 guy if he were healthy,” which he’s not, obviously. Hopefully he will be one day.

Judge, Severino both make top 20 of Baseball America’s midseason top prospects update

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

One day after Baseball Prospectus published their midseason top 50 prospects list, Baseball America did the same today. Unlike BP, the BA list is free to read. You don’t need a subscription. Dodgers SS Corey Seager is ranked as the best prospect in the minors by Baseball America and is followed in order by Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito and Rangers 3B Joey Gallo.

The Yankees have two players on Baseball America’s midseason update and they both rank pretty high: OF Aaron Judge is 13th and RHP Luis Severino is 17th. Baseball Prospectus also had Judge ranked 13th, though they were a little lower on Severino. He ranked 28th. Severino and Judge ranked 35th and 53rd on Baseball America’s preseason top 100 prospects list, respectively, so both made big jumps.

In a separate piece (subs. req’d), SS Jorge Mateo was listed as one of “five risers who likely will make the next edition of the Top 100 Prospects list” even though they didn’t make today’s updated midseason top 50. Here’s a piece of the blurb on Mateo:

Mateo has the ingredients to be special. He’s got bat-to-ball skills, power enough to project double-digit home runs and blazing speed on the basepaths. He’s refining his technique in the field at low Class A Charleston, particularly as it pertains to ranging to his right for balls in the hole.

According to the top 50, Judge is currently the best outfield prospect in baseball, unless you count Gallo, a third baseman the Rangers have played in the outfield on occasion because of Adrian Beltre. Severino is the fifth best right-handed pitching prospect and sixth best pitching prospect overall. Neat.

The farm system has been hit hard by injuries this year — RHP Domingo German, RHP Austin DeCarr, RHP Ty Hensley, and C Luis Torrens are all out for the season; both LHP Jacob Lindgren and 3B Eric Jagielo got hurt in June; LHP Ian Clarkin is still MIA — but Judge and Severino have excelled, and 1B Greg Bird was just bumped up to Triple-A as well. It’s nice not having to say “they have talent, but it’s all in Single-A” for once.

Aaron Judge and Luis Severino make BP’s midseason top 50 prospects list

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today, the crew at Baseball Prospectus published their updated list of the top 50 prospects in baseball (subs. req’d). Dodgers SS Corey Seager has taken over as the top prospect in baseball following all the recent promotions, and he is followed by Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito and Dodgers LHP Julio Urias in the top three.

The Yankees have two players in the top 50. Two in the top 30, really. OF Aaron Judge ranks 13th while RHP Luis Severino ranks 28th. The write-up notes Judge has “shown an advanced feel for hitting, and despite his long limbs he gets through the zone quickly, spraying line drives all over the field” while adding he’s “also a quality defender.”

As for Severino, the write-up says there is “no denying that Severino has the stuff to pitch in a major-league rotation, so it comes down to whether you believe he has the frame and mechanics to stick long-term … He’s a big-league difference maker even if he’s not a starter, with stuff that will work in the back end of a bullpen.”

In a separate piece (subs. req’d), SS Jorge Mateo was listed among a dozen players who just missed the top 50. “Mateo was mentioned a number of times in our discussions and for good reason given what he’s doing in the South Atlantic League as an 20-year-old this season,” said the write-up. Mateo still leads baseball with 53 steals, nine more than anyone else.

Both Judge and Severino made pretty big jumps up the list — they ranked 49th and 51st in BP’s top 101 list coming into the season, respectively. Mateo was not on any top 100 lists before the season but seemed like a prime candidate to make the jump this year.

Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez selected for 2015 Futures Game

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

Outfielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez have been selected to participate in the 2015 Futures Game, MLB announced earlier today. Judge will suit up for Team USA and Sanchez will play for the World Team, because duh. The full rosters are right here. Baseball America has free mini-scouting reports on all the players as well: Team USA and World Team.

Judge, 23, is New York’s best prospect. He is hitting .277/.345/.500 (139 wRC+) with 16 doubles and 12 home runs in 66 games this season, most with Double-A Trenton and a handful with Triple-A Scranton. Judge stands out for his size (6-foot-7 and 230 lbs.) and his raw power, though he has a line drive approach in games, so he doesn’t always tap into his pop. His athleticism and right field defense are assets as well and often overlooked.

The 22-year-old Sanchez is currently on the Double-A DL with a bruised hand after being hit by a foul tip, though the injury is considered minor and he’s expected back soon. Sanchez is hitting .256/.313/.432 (113 wRC+) with seven doubles and eighth homers in 45 games with the Thunder in 2015. He’s a bat first prospect with big power who is still trying to improve behind the plate so he can catch long-term.

Sanchez. (Star-Ledger)
Sanchez. (Star-Ledger)

Teams do have input for the Futures Game — Bill Shaikin says the Dodgers didn’t approve Corey Seager’s selection even though he’s the best prospect in the minors right now, for example — so it’s possible the Yankees declined to allow right-hander Luis Severino to participate, possibly because they are considering calling him up at some point. Then again, players who are called up are simply replaced on the Futures Game roster. Who knows?

It’s also possible the Yankees pushed for Sanchez to be included so they could showcase him for trades. Crazy? Maybe. But Peter O’Brien was a Futures Gamer last summer and was then traded a few weeks later. If Sanchez goes 0-for-2 in the Futures Game, no one blinks an eye. But if he homers off a top pitching prospect, well hey now, someone will take notice of that. It’s a no-lose situation for the Yankees. Well, unless Sanchez gets hurt, but you know what I mean.

This is the first Futures Game selection for both Judge and Sanchez. Severino and O’Brien represented the Yankees last season and Rafael DePaula the year before that. The Futures Game is Sunday, July 12th in Cincinnati. The final day before the All-Star break. Congrats to Judge and Sanchez. It’s always cool to be recognized as one of the best prospects in the game.

Taking stock of the Yankees’ trade chips leading up to the deadline

Sanchez. (Star-Ledger)
Sanchez. (Star-Ledger)

Over the last few seasons the Yankees have focused on rental players at the trade deadline while doing their long-term shopping in the offseason. That isn’t always the case — Martin Prado had two and a half years left on his contract at the time of the trade last year — but that definitely seems to be their preference. Hal Steinbrenner already confirmed rentals are the plan this summer as well.

Earlier this week we heard the Yankees have “sworn off” trading their top prospects for rentals, and that’s all well and good, but every team says that this time of year. If the Tigers offer David Price for Luis Severino, are the Yankees really going to say no to that? Probably not. Anyway, the Yankees have some needs heading into the trade deadline as always (righty reliever, second base, etc.), so let’s sort through their trade chips to see who may and may not be dealt this summer.

The Untouchables, Sorta

The Yankees rarely trade players off their big league roster at the trade deadline, and, when they do, it’s usually a Vidal Nuno or Yangervis Solarte type. Not someone who was a key part of the roster. I think Dellin Betances is the team’s best trade chip right now — best as in he’d bring the largest return by himself — but they’re not going to trade him for obvious reasons. Same with Michael Pineda and, yes, even Didi Gregorius.

Among prospects, Severino and Aaron Judge are the closest to untouchable, and I don’t think they should be completely off the table. They’re very good prospects, not elite best in baseball prospects, and the Yankees should at least be willing to listen. (I suspect they are.) Does that mean they should give them away? Of course not. The Yankees would need a difference-maker in return, likely a difference-maker they control beyond this season.

The Outfielders

Alright, now let’s get to the prospects who might actually be traded this summer. We have to start with the outfielders. The Yankees have a ton of them. You could argue too many, though I won’t. Just this season the Yankees have had Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, and Ramon Flores make their big league debuts. Judge was just promoted to Triple-A Scranton, where the Yankees also have Ben Gamel and Tyler Austin. Jake Cave is with Double-A Trenton.

Flores. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Flores. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

That’s a lot of outfielders! Obviously some are more valuable than others, especially with Heathcott (quad) and Williams (shoulder) on the DL, but that’s a legitimate surplus the Yankees can use in a trade(s) at the deadline. Judge is the big prize here, though he’s supposedly untouchable. My guess is healthy Williams and Flores have the most trade value out of everyone else because teams could realistically plug them right onto their MLB roster. The Yankees are in position to trade a young outfielder or two while still having enough depth for themselves.

The “Blocked” Prospects

Prospects who don’t necessarily fit into a club’s long-term plans are prime trade bait. Gary Sanchez sure seems likely to be made available this summer assuming he returns from his bruised hand reasonably soon. (He was hit by a foul tip last week.) The Yankees value defense behind the plate very highly. They’ve made that clear. Sanchez, while improving slowly and steadily, isn’t much of a defender at all. The bat is more projection than results — 108 wRC+ in just over 800 Double-A plate appearances from 2013-15 — which isn’t uncommon for a 22-year-old.

Sanchez is still only 22 but he is also in his second minor league option year, meaning he has to stick in MLB or be exposed to waivers come the 2017 season. That’s still a long way away in the grand scheme of things. Long enough for his defense to improve to the Yankees’ high standards? Probably not. It’s not impossible, just unlikely. As with Jesus Montero and Peter O’Brien before him, Sanchez seems very likely to be dealt no matter how promising his bat appears simply because it doesn’t look like he’ll be a good catcher and doesn’t really have another position.

Eric Jagielo is blocked but not really — the Yankees did just sign Chase Headley to a four-year contract, but Jagielo probably won’t stay at third base long-term anyway. He might be headed for left field or, more likely, first base. And, if that is the case, Jagielo’s future impacts Greg Bird, a true first base prospect. Mark Teixeira‘s contract will expire after next season and ideally one of these two will step into to replace him at first. It’s easy to say the Yankees should look into their crystal ball, decide whether Jagielo or Bird will be the first baseman of the future and trade the other, but that’s not realistic. Either way, Jagielo and Bird shouldn’t be off-limits in trade talks.

Stock Down

Coming into the season, I would have said prospects like Ian Clarkin, Domingo German, Ty Hensley, and Luis Torrens fit into the “candidates to be traded” group for different reasons. Maybe even Jacob Lindgren too. They’ve all since suffered significant injuries. German and Hensley both had Tommy John surgery, Torrens had shoulder surgery, and Lindgren had a bone spur taken out of his elbow this week. He might be back in September. German, Hensley, and Torrens are done for the year.

Clarkin has not pitched in an official game this year because of some kind of elbow problem. He was shut down with tendinitis in Spring Training and reportedly pitched in an Extended Spring Training game back in May, but we haven’t heard any updates since, and he hasn’t joined any of the minor league affiliates. (Extended Spring Training ended a few days ago.) It’s hard not to think the worst in a situation like this. Clarkin and these other guys are still eligible to be traded, but injured non-elite prospects usually don’t have much value. The Yankees are better off holding onto them and hoping they rebuild value with a healthy 2016.

Refsnyder. (MiLB.com)
Refsnyder. (MiLB.com)

Not As Valuable As You May Think

Like the fans of the other 29 teams, we overvalue the Yankees’ prospects. We’re not unique. Everyone does it. Rob Refsnyder? He’s slightly more valuable than Tony Renda, who New York just acquired for a reliever who had been designated for assignment. An all-hit/no-glove prospect pushing a .750 OPS at Triple-A isn’t bringing back a whole lot. Think Pete O’Brien without the power.

Jorge Mateo? He’s loaded with ability. He’s also 20 and in Low-A, so three years away from MLB, give or take. The further away a player is from MLB, the less trade value he has. Same deal with Miguel Andujar and Tyler Wade. These guys absolutely have trade value. Just not as a centerpiece in a significant deal. They’re second or third pieces in a big deal, headliners in a smaller deal.

Miscellaneous depth arms fit here as well. Jose Ramirez, Tyler Webb, Branden Pinder, guys like that. They’re all interesting for different reasons and hey, they might have some MLB value for a few years, but they’re basically throw-ins. And no, lumping two or three good prospects together doesn’t equal one great prospect. Most teams already have prospects like the guys in this section in their farm system. They aren’t game-changers in trade negotiations.

Straight Cash, Homey

The Yankees’ single greatest trade chip is their payroll and their ability to absorb salary. That helped them get Prado at the trade deadline last year, for example. Or Bobby Abreu years ago. Whether Hal Steinbrenner is willing to take on substantial money to facilitate a trade is another matter. I mean, I’d hope so, especially for a rental player who won’t tie down future payroll when the team tries to get under the luxury tax threshold again. The team’s ability to take on big dollars separates them from most other clubs in trade talks. Their financial might is absolutely valuable when talking trades.

* * *

Even if the Yankees do make Severino and Judge off-limits — all indications are they will — I think they have enough mid-range prospects to acquire upgrades at the trade deadline. Not huge ones, we can forget all about Cole Hamels and Johnny Cueto is Severino and Judge are off the table, but Sanchez, Jagielo, and the various outfielders will generate some interest. Finding a match will be more difficult than scratching together tradeable prospects, which was an issue for New York for several years in the mid-2000s.

Aaron Judge ranks 16th on Keith Law’s updated top 25 prospects list

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today, Keith Law published his updated list of the 25 best prospects in the minors (subs. req’d). With Cubs 3B Kris Bryant now in MLB, Astros SS Carlos Correa takes over as the number one prospect in baseball. Dodgers SS Corey Seager, Twins OF Byron Buxton, Phillies SS J.P. Crawford, and Indians SS Francisco Lindor round out the top five.

The Yankees have one player in Law’s updated top 25: OF Aaron Judge ranked 16th, up from 23rd in Law’s preseason top 100. Here’s the blurb on Judge:

Judge is prone to strikeouts — he had 11 in a recent four-game stretch — but he also is doing so much damage when he does make contact that he projects as an average regular even if he doesn’t improve his contact rate. He’s also an above-average to plus defender in right. Most scouts I’ve talked to share my belief that he’ll continue to close some of the gaps in his plate coverage, especially if he backs off the plate a little.

The “especially if he backs off the plate a little” comment made me chuckle because here’s where Judge was standing in the batter’s box in Spring Training:

Aaron Judge

If he moves back any further he’ll be in the on-deck circle.

Anyway, Judge, who turned 23 late last month, is hitting .288/.356/.469 (134 wRC+) with nine doubles and six homers in 180 plate appearances for Double-A Trenton this year. He hit .283/.411/.442 (149 wRC+) with nine doubles and eight homers in 285 plate appearances for High-A Tampa in the second half last year, so his raw power is starting to show up in games.

Despite a recent slump — Judge is 2-for-20 (.100) with 14 strikeouts (!) in his last five games — Judge has a 26.1% strikeout rate this year, which isn’t too far off from the 23.3% strikeout rate he had with Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa last year. (He had a 21.4 K% before this recent five-game slide.) Given his size and his long arms, Judge is always going to be prone to strikeouts, but when he makes contact, he does major damage.

The Yankees don’t have any other top 25 caliber prospects in the system right now. I’m not even sure they have another top 50 caliber prospect either. RHP Luis Severino didn’t make Law’s preseason top 100 but that was an outlier — Severino was on every other top 100 list out there. 1B Greg Bird was 86th on Law’s preseason list but he’s been just okay (122 wRC+) and hurt (shoulder) with Double-A Trenton this year. No surprise he didn’t shoot up the list.

Poll: The 2015 Prospect Watch

"I will be the Prospect Watch." "Okay Aaron."
“I will be the Prospect Watch.” “Okay Aaron.” (Presswire)

One of our long-running features here at RAB is the annual Prospect Watch, where we pick a prospect, then keep track of his progress throughout the season in the sidebar. Some say the Prospect Watch is a curse, I say the Yankees aren’t particularly good at player development. RAB’s pixels don’t influence career paths.

We’ve been running the Prospect Watch so long now that I’m starting to forget who has been featured. I know it all started with Phil Hughes, and last year we had Eric Jagielo, but I can’t remember all the names between those two. Jesus Montero and Mason Williams for sure, and I think Manny Banuelos as well. The Andrew Brackman Watch sounds like it was once a thing too.

Anyway, with the minor league season set to start on Thursday, it’s time to vote on this year’s Prospect Watch prospect. In the past I made an executive decision and picked my favorite prospect, but the last few years I’ve opened it up to a reader poll, and that seems better. It’s worked well so why stop? I do still get to pick the candidates, however. Here are the six players up for this summer’s Prospect Watch, listed alphabetically.

1B Greg Bird (No. 5 on my Top 30 Prospects)
Brian Cashman called Bird “by far the hitter” in the farm system a few weeks ago and the numbers back it up. The 22-year-old Bird followed up his dominant 2013 season (170 wRC+ in Low-A) by hitting .271/.376/.472 (139 wRC+) with 30 doubles, 14 homers, 14.3 BB%, and 22.2 K% in 102 games split between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton in 2014. Then he hit .313/.381/.556 (156 wRC+) with six homers in the Arizona Fall League and was named MVP. Then he hit .353/.421/.706 with three doubles and a homer during Grapefruit League play. All Bird does is hit. He’ll start the season back with Double-A Trenton.

OF Aaron Judge (No. 1)
Judge, 22, was the second of the team’s three first round picks in 2013, but he couldn’t make his pro debut until 2014 due to a quad injury. Judge proceeded to hit .308/.419/.486 (158 wRC+) with 24 homers, 17 doubles, 15.8 BB%, and 23.3 K% in 131 games across two Single-A levels last season. He showed a more advanced hit tool and approach than even the Yankees expected when they drafted him. Like Bird, Judge is ticketed for Double-A Trenton this month.

SS Jorge Mateo (No. 8)
Mateo is the new hotness. The 19-year-old is the fast riser everyone is touting as the next great Yankees prospect. A wrist injury limited him to only 15 rookie ball games last year (119 wRC+) but that isn’t enough to stop the team from sending him to Low-A Charleston this year. Mateo has elite speed, solid contact skills and patience, and surprising pop. He’s not going to hit a ton of homers, but he will steal a boatload of bases and could hit for a sky high average.

C Gary Sanchez (No. 3)
It seems like Sanchez is the black sheep of top Yankees prospects. He’s been around for a while and people are bored of him. And yet, Sanchez is a month younger than Bird, seven months younger than Judge, and he put up a .270/.338/.406 (108 wRC+) batting line with 19 doubles, 13 homers, 9.0 BB%, and 19.1 K% as a full-time catcher in a full season at Double-A last year. The Yankees are sending Sanchez back to Trenton this summer, where he will still be two years young for the level.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

RHP Luis Severino (No. 2)
The Yankees have a very position player farm system, so the 21-year-old Severino is only pitcher in this post. He had an absurd 2014 season, pitching to a 2.46 ERA (2.40 FIP) with 27.8 K% and 5.9 BB% in 113.1 innings while jumping from Low-A Charleston to High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton. Severino had the lowest FIP among the 551 minor league pitchers to throw at least 100 innings last summer. He was that good. The Yankees will have Severino start this season back in Trenton, but don’t expect him to be there long.

2B Rob Refsnyder (No. 13)
Since being the team’s fifth round pick in 2012, Refsnyder’s done nothing but hit. The 24-year-old has put up a .307/.400/.457 (145 wRC+) line with 70 doubles, 20 homers, 12.1 BB%, and 16.1 K% in 267 games at four minor league levels since the start of 2013. His worst performance at an individual level is the .300/.389/.456 (137 wRC+) batting line he put up in 77 games with the RailRiders last year. Refsnyder will go back to Triple-A to start the season but will surely make his MLB debut at some point this year, likely once he learns to play passable defense.

* * *

If you were hoping to vote for someone like LHP Ian Clarkin or 3B Miguel Andujar, sorry. Their time will come. I focused on players capable of putting up big numbers this year because hey, everyone wants to follow a prospect who’s dominating, right? The guys just holding their own are boring. To the poll.

Who should be the 2015 Prospect Watch?