Kevin Goldstein’s Top 20 Yankees Prospects

That doesn't look like a four-seamer, changeup, or curveball grip to me. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein published his list of the Yankees’ top 20 prospects today, the final mainstream list of the spring. You do need a subscription to read the entire piece, but non-subscribers can see the list as well as the first write-up. Here are Baseball America’s and Keith Law’s top ten lists for comparison, as well as my top 30. Steal of Home compiled a consensus top 33 list that’s worth a click.

The Yankees have two five-star prospects according to KG: Manny Banuelos and Gary Sanchez. Dellin Betances and Mason Williams check in at four starts, and everyone else is three starts or fewer. “Banuelos should become at least a number three starter, but there is upside beyond that,” wrote Goldstein, who also noted that Manny’s command problems come from overthrowing and not some kind of mechanical flaw. The Sanchez write-up is drool-worthy — “special power … works the count well and looks for pitches to drive, and knows how to crush mistakes” — but at the same time he cautions that the kid sells out for power instead of just focusing on hard contact. Plus his defense is terrible.

I thought the most interesting nugget had to do with Jose Campos, who the Yankees acquired from the Mariners along with Michael Pineda. “[His fastball is] plus and more in terms of velocity, sitting in the low 90s with plenty of 95-96 readings every time out,” said KG. “Campos also throws the pitch with the kind of command usually found only in big leaguers; he works both sides of the plate with it, paints the corners and comes at hitters with a strong downward angle.” Campos still has a lot of work to do with his breaking ball and changeup, but 19-year-old kids with command of a huge fastball are just so rare.

Goldstein also listed the top ten talents in the organization under the age of 25, which was unsurprisingly topped by Pineda. Ivan Nova (#3) and Phil Hughes (#6) were the only other big leaguers to make the cut. “Pineda is a potential front line starter who is still three or four years away from his prime,” he wrote. “He needs to improve his command and his changeup, and the American League East isn’t like pitching in Seattle; expect some bumps in the road early, although nobody should be worked up about his early March lack of prime velocity … Hughes remains young and talented, but nobody is quite sure how to harness it.”

The Yankees did lose a serious chunk of prospect star power by trading Montero, but the general consensus seems to be that they still have enough to qualify as a top ten system. Banuelos and Betances are the only real high-upside guys at the upper levels of the minors, so most of their most interesting and super-talented players are way down in Single-A or even lower. Bichette and Campos are two major breakout candidates;, strong years in a full season league would shoot both up the prospect rankings. Ravel Santana could join them if the ankle is healthy and allows him to put all his tools on display.

Yanks place four on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects List

Changeup! (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The third of the big three top 100(-ish) prospects lists was published today, with Baseball America revealing their rankings of the game’s very best future big leaguers. The list is free for all, you don’t need a subscription. Bryce Harper claims the top spot, followed by Matt Moore and Mike Trout. Those three have consistently been ranked as baseball’s three best prospects this offseason, just not always in the same order. Number four is Yu Darvish, who I don’t consider a prospect given those 1,200+ innings he threw overseas.

Anyway, Manny Banuelos leads all Yankees’ farmhands at #29, which is right where Keith Law (#23) and Kevin Goldstein (#29) had him. Hooray for consensus. Dellin Betances is ranked #63, Gary Sanchez #81, and Mason Williams #85. Opinions on the club’s second, third, and fourth best prospects are pretty split, both in their rankings within the system and through the game. All four are considered legitimate top 100 guys though, and that’s better than most.

The Yankees were one of 13 teams with at least four players to make the top 100, but they were one of only three teams to originally sign six players on the list. Jesus Montero ranks #6 behind Harper, Moore, Trout, Darvish, and Julio Teheran while Arodys Vizcaino is a little further down at #40. The Cardinals and Rangers are the only other clubs to originally sign six top 100 prospects, but again they’re counting Darvish as a prospect. Former Yankees’ first round pick Gerrit Cole is #12.

Since we’re in prospect mode, I’m going to point you towards Jason Parks’ article about what could go wrong for each of the Yankees’ top five prospects. It’s part of his series taking a pessimistic look at each club’s best farmhands, a little dose of reality to temper expectations in prospect fantasyland. You do need a subscription to read the entire thing, but non-subscribers will still be able to read the Sanchez and Banuelos write-ups. Much to my surprise, he considers Angelo Gumbs the team’s fifth best prospect. “My eyes told me Gumbs had star potential, a future you don’t often envision when watching short-season baseball,” he wrote. “I’m probably a few years too early with this ranking, and I understand if people wish to question my sanity.”

While I don’t bother with a top 100 list, I did rank the Yankees’ top 30 prospects last Friday. So check that out, in case you missed it. Even if you didn’t, go read it again. If you’re yearning for more prospect knowledge, you can participate in BA’s free top 100 chat later this afternoon (2pm ET).

Four Yanks on Kevin Goldstein’s top 101 prospects list

Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein published his list of the top 101 prospects in baseball today, with Matt Moore beating out Bryce Harper and Mike Trout for the top spot. You don’t need a subscription to read the piece, it’s free for everyone. Four Yankees made the list, and I’m willing to bet you can guess who they are. Manny Banuelos came it at #29, Gary Sanchez at #40, Dellin Betances at #63, and Mason Williams at #99. Our former lord and savior Jesus Montero is number seven. Keith Law posted his top 100 list last week, if you want to compare the two.

Yanks place four on KLaw’s top 100 prospects list

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Spring prospect season is in full swing, starting yesterday with Keith Law’s organizational rankings. It continued today with his list of the game’s top 100 prospects (1-25, 26-50, 51-75, 76-100) and top ten prospects by team (all Insider req’d). The Yankees placed four in the top 100, which was unsurprisingly topped by Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Matt Moore. Manny Banuelos checks in at #23 (down from #12 last year), Mason Williams at #34, Gary Sanchez at #55, and Dellin Betances at #83. Jesus Montero is ranked ninth, one spot ahead of another old pal, Gerrit Cole.

“When he’s right, he’ll show an above-average fastball at 90-94 mph (but was a tick below that in 2011), an above-average to plus changeup and a solid-average curveball with good two-plane break,” said KLaw about Banuelos, while noting that his trademark command was off last season. “Everything still points to Banuelos commanding the ball in the long term as he did before 2011, and much of the disappointment in his season is a function of our high expectations for him. He still projects as a solid No. 2, assuming his previous level of command returns.”

Williams’ ranking was a bit surprising, but in a good way. I’m pretty sure you won’t see him that high anywhere else this year. “[The] most impressive part of [Williams’] game in 2011 was the quality of his at bats, which improved over the course of the summer,” said Law. “[He’s] barely begun to scratch the surface of his ability.” The biggest thing for Williams going forward is his size, not necessarily his tools. He just needs to bulk up and add some muscle to avoid having the bat knocked out of his hands by high-end fastballs at the upper levels.

The preseason hype machine was out of control with Sanchez last year, which is why it’s easy to think he had a disappointing season with Low-A Charleston. The attitude problems were disappointing, but the power and production certainly weren’t. “Sanchez’s first full year in pro ball had major positives and negatives — the bat is more advanced than anyone thought, and the glove is less so,” Law said. “He can really hit with present above-average power and projects to hit 30 to 35 homers a year down the road, having demonstrated a solid approach for an 18-year-old in full-season ball … He could be a star.”

Last but not least is Betances, who continues to look more and more like a reliever because he hasn’t improved his command at all in five years as a pro. “He’ll pitch in the low 90s but runs it up to 97 mph and would likely sit 94-97, if not better, in relief,” said KLaw, adding that his curveball and delivery are inconsistent. The latter contributes to his strike-throwing problem. “He’s 23 now, still not very experienced, but he has size and velocity you can’t teach. The lack of progress and athleticism make a bullpen role more likely than a spot in the top half of a rotation.”

Those four top Law’s list of the top ten Yankees prospects, followed by a surprising name at number five: Tyler Austin. There’s no write-up, but I have to think he believes in the bat and thinks Austin can stay at third base long-term to warrant a ranking that high. Jose Campos, Dante Bichette Jr., Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy, and Slade Heathcott round out the top ten. Ravel Santana is a top ten guy based on talent, but I have no problem with leaving him out given that devastating ankle injury. Law also published a list of ten prospects who just missed the Top 100 (Insider req’d), but no Yankees farmhands made the list. Just as a heads up, my Top 30 Prospects List is coming out next Friday, so hooray for that.

Update: ESPN NY has the full player comments for Banuelos, Williams, Sanchez, and Betances for free, so head over there to check them out.

MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects List

Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com published his list of baseball’s top 100 prospects yesterday, with Matt Moore, Bryce Harper, and Mike Trout unsurprisingly occupying the top three spots. Manny Banuelos ranks 13th, one spot behind Jesus Montero. I coulda sworn those positions were reversed last night and Banuelos was in front of Montero, but I guess I’m just going crazy. Dellin Betances is #41, Gary Sanchez is #53, and Mason Williams is #73. Mayo’s rankings always seem to buck the consensus a bit, which I like. Prospect ranking isn’t a perfect science.

The Importance of Gary Sanchez

(Matt Burton/MiLB.com)

The Yankees traded away more than just everyone’s favorite prospect when they agreed to send Jesus Montero to the Mariners for Michael Pineda last week, they also traded away their only impact bat at the upper levels of the minors. Jorge Vazquez has the gaudy stats, but he isn’t exactly young and there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about his ability to contribute in the bigs. Austin Romine is a quality prospect, but more for his well-rounded game than pure offense. Brandon Laird can hit, but not like Montero.

With no impact bat on the horizon and a lineup that isn’t getting any younger, Gary Sanchez has suddenly became a very important cog in the Yankees’ machine. Despite being just 19 years old and with fewer than 600 pro plate appearances to his credit, he’s the best offensive prospect in the system with Montero on the way out, a right-handed bat offering power and patience worthy of the $3M signing bonus the team gave him in 2009. He’s not as polished as Montero was at that age, but their offensive upside is comparable.

“Sanchez has a purer swing and more patience at the plate than Jesus Montero, to whom he’s often compared,” said Baseball America in the subscriber-only write-up of their top ten Yankees prospects list. “Sanchez has similar raw power, too, and scouts project him as a plus hitter in terms of both average and pop.”

That raw power was on full display in 2011, as Sanchez clubbed 17 homers in 343 plate appearances for Low-A Charleston. That matched Montero’s homer output at the same age and level in 2008, just in 226 fewer plate appearances. Sanchez also produced a .229 ISO in 2011, which is better than Montero’s best single-season power showing (.228 ISO in 2010). That said, it’s important to keep in mind that the reason Sanchez had such a relatively low number of plate appearances is because he was sent to Extended Spring Training for two weeks for disciplinary reasons before missing the final three weeks of the season with a sprained thumb.

As brilliant as his hitting tools are, Montero has never been one to draw many walks or post gaudy OBPs. Both he and Sanchez drew 36 walks in the minors this season, but the latter came to the plate 120 fewer times. Sanchez’s 10.4% walk rate this year was better than Montero’s best single-season walk rate (9.1% in 2010) by a not small margin. At the same time, Sanchez also struck out in 27.1% of his plate appearances this year, which is Chato territory. Montero’s worst strikeout rate came this year and was just 21.1%. Like I said, the hitting tools are similar, but Jesus was much more polished at the same age.

Sanchez’s defense lags behind his offense, but the general consensus is that he has a better chance to remain behind the plate long-term than Montero because he isn’t as big (listed at 6-foot-2, 220 lbs.). Reports on his defense this year weren’t great, but at this point the glovework is secondary. As impressive as Dante Bichette Jr. and Ravel Santana were in their pro debuts this year, Sanchez is the team’s best hope of replacing the offense they’re trading away in Montero. He’s got the kind of power and patience needed to be a star hitter, but he also has more to work on than his prospect predecessor. Sanchez isn’t just a fun lottery ticket to follow anymore, he’s an important piece of the team’s future.

Gary Sanchez ranked among top 20 Sally League prospects

Baseball America’s looked at the top 20 prospects in each minor league continued today with the Low-A South Atlantic League. Gary Sanchez ranked  14th, the only Yankees farmhand to crack a rather stacked list. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, arguably the two best prospects in baseball, topped the list.

In the subscriber-only scouting report, Bill Ballew says “Sanchez’s bat speed and strength ranked among the best in the league, though his swing gets too long at times.” The biggest problem is his defense, “because he stabs at pitches instead of shifting his body.” Sanchez led the league with 26 passed balls in just 60 games behind the plate. “He’s had to adjust to a lot of things both on and off the field,”  said Charleston manager Aaron Ledesma, a gentle little reminder that Sanchez was demoted to Extended Spring Training for a few weeks in the middle of the season because of attitude problems.

The next top 20 list of interest to the Yankees is the High-A Florida State League, which will be posted on Monday. The Tampa Yankees were a pretty weak squad in terms of prospects this year, but it’s a solid bet that Brett Marshall will make an appearance. Jose Quintana and the Almontes (Zoilo and Abe) might sneak on, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.