Sanchez and Williams among Baseball America’s top Florida State League prospects

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

Baseball America continued their look at the top 20 prospects in each of the 16 minor leagues with the High-A Florida State League today (no subs. req’d). The list was topped by OF Byron Buxton (Twins), the consensus top prospect in all of baseball. 3B Miguel Sano (Twins) and SS Javier Baez (Cubs) round out the top three and complete the holy trinity of position player prospects. They’re three of the very best in the game.

The Yankees had two players make the list, starting with C Gary Sanchez at #7. He was sandwiched between two brand names: RHP Noah Syndergaard (Mets) and OF Jorge Soler (Cubs). “Sanchez’s best tools are his plus-plus raw power and his throwing arm, which rates at least as a 70 [on the 20-80 scouting scale] … His blocking and receiving remain suspect, however,” said the subscriber-only write-up. “[He] should produce .260 averages and 20-25 homers annually.”

OF Mason Williams, who had a poor year overall, was further down the list at #19. “Scouts report his swing looked good in batting practice but changed in games to a more slashing approach, costing him power … When he played with energy, he turned in plus running times and showed the easy range to be an asset defensively in center field, with a strong throwing arm,” said the write-up. That whole “played with energy” part has reportedly been a bit of an issue for Williams in recent years.

The Yankees landed six players on the Rookie Gulf Coast League list but only one apiece on Short Season NY-Penn League and Low-A South Atlantic League lists. The Double-A Eastern League is scheduled to be posted next Monday and the league champion Trenton Thunder should be represented by a few players, specifically OF Slade Heathcott and OF Tyler Austin. Sanchez definitely wasn’t with the team long enough to qualify for the list. LHP Nik Turley has a (very) outside chance of making it as well.

Minors Notes: Defenders, Zagurski, Free Agents

(Layne Murdoch/Getty)
Lillibridge. (Layne Murdoch/Getty)

The Arizona Fall League season begins on Tuesday — the Yankees are sending seven players (roster), most notably OF Mason Williams, OF Tyler Austin, and LHP Vidal Nuno — while the various Caribbean winter leagues are still about a week away. Those rosters have not yet been released. Here’s a smattering of minor league notes for the time being:

  • In a subscriber-only piece, Matt Eddy looked at the best defensive players in the minors at the four up-the-middle positions. OF Mason Williams ranked 12th (out of 20) among center fielders by Eddy’s method while OF Slade Heathcott was an honorable mention. C Gary Sanchez was eighth among catchers thanks in part to his 45.9% success rate at throwing out attempted base-stealers. He “receives 80 throwing grades [on the 20-80 scale] from some scouts.”
  • LHP Mike Zagurski was removed from the 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A Scranton, reports Andy McCullough. He refused the assignment and elected free agency. The Yankees have one open 40-man spot now. Zagurski, 30, spent most of the year in Triple-A but was actually with the team in September. He appeared in one game and allowed two runs.
  • RHP Jim Miller, IF Alberto Gonzalez, and UTIL Brent Lillibridge all elected free agency, according to Eddy. None of the three were on the 40-man roster but they all played for the big league team at one point or another this summer. Gonzalez appeared in 13 games, the most of the bunch.
  • The Yankees have re-signed C Jose Gil, RHP Diego Moreno, and LHP Francisco Rondon, among others, to minor league contracts, reports Eddy. They became minor league free agents after the season. Moreno came over in the A.J. Burnett trade and Rondon, while still fringy, is the best prospect of the bunch.

Mailbag: Lester, Hudson, Reynolds, 2014 Draft

Got six questions for you this week, so this is one of the longer mailbags we’ve had. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything throughout the week.

(Greg Fiume/Getty)
(Greg Fiume/Getty)

Joe asks: Any chance the Red Sox decline their team option on Jon Lester and if so should the Yankees sign him? Also what are your thoughts on Tim Hudson for them next year?

The Red Sox do have quite a bit of pitching depth going into next year, with Jake Peavy, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, and Ryan Dempster all under contract for 2014 with youngsters like Allen Webster and Brandon Workman waiting in Triple-A. Lester, who is still only 29, had an awesome start to the season but has been terrible for more than two months now. Following last night’s outing, he is sitting on a 4.38 ERA and 3.97 FIP, which isn’t much better than what he did last year (4.82 ERA and 4.11 FIP)

Lester has not been a truly dominant ace since 2010 (3.25 ERA and 3.13 FIP), so I don’t know if he’s a guy who simply peaked early or what. He’s definitely worth examining more in depth, in a non-mailbag setting. The Red Sox hold an affordable $13M option for next year, and when you consider that Ervin Santana was terrible last season (5.16 ERA and 5.63 FIP) yet still found a team willing to pick up his $13M option, I’m guessing Boston will pick up Lester’s and look to trade him rather than cut him loose entirely. If they do cut him loose though, I would definitely want the Yankees to look into him. Reasonably young AL East proven lefties are a rare commodity.

As for Hudson, I’m very wary of a 38-year-old coming off a major ankle injury like that. He was good but not great before getting hurt (3.97 ERA and 3.46 FIP) and it’s fair to wonder how he can rebound. Even though he’s not a pitcher, we needn’t look further than Derek Jeter to see how hard it can be for an older player to come back from a traumatic ankle injury. If Hudson’s willing to take a low-base, incentive-heavy one-year contract with no guarantees, sure, look at him. I just wouldn’t want the Yankees to sign him with the idea that he’ll automatically step into the rotation.

Alex asks: If Alex Rodriguez were to get injured this year, say a pulled hammy, can he decide to start serving his suspension before the appeal is heard to get some games out of the way and miss less time next year if the suspension is reduced?

Sure, A-Rod can drop the appeal at any time and start serving the suspension right away. I don’t think he would in the case of injury because he would still get paid while on the DL. He won’t get paid during the suspension and that’s what this is all about. Alex isn’t stupid, he knows his career is probably over after the suspension. He’ll try to stay around as long as possible to collect as much of his contract as he can, especially since it’s front-loaded and his salary goes down the next few years.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Donny asks: How about Mark Reynolds (DFA’d)? He sure has sucked since May 1st, but so has every other third basemen we have run out there this year.

I can’t imagine many teams have cut their leading homerun hitter, but that’s what the Indians did when they designated Reynolds for assignment yesterday. He is hitting .205/.307/.373 (93 wRC+) with 15 homers on the year, but it has definitely been a tale of two seasons. Reynolds hit .254/.340/.503 with 12 homers in his first 50 games and .173/.272/.235 with three homers in his last 49 games. He’s been awful since the end of May.

That said, Reynolds is useful. Limited, but useful. The just-turned-30-year-old has hit .215/.333/.411 (111 wRC+) against lefties this year, plus he can play the two corner infield spots. “Play” the two corner infield spots, if you catch my drift. He’s a bad defender and he strikes out a ton (32.0 K%), but he hits lefties and works the count very well (11.2 BB%). The Yankees could send David Adams, who is unlikely to play all that much anyway, back to Triple-A Scranton and platoon Reynolds at first with Lyle Overbay. It’s probably too late for a move like this to impact the playoff push, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be an upgrade.

Paul asks: Let’s assume for a moment that the season ended today. Where would the Yankees pick in the draft, and is it a strong draft this year? I’m looking for any kind of silver lining to this season, help me out here.

The Yankees currently have the 14th best (16th worst) record in baseball, so they would have the 17th overall pick in next summer’s draft if the season ended today. The Blue Jays have a compensation pick for failing to sign this year’s tenth overall pick (RHP Phil Bickford), which is why it’s the 17th overall pick and not the 16th. New York had the 17th overall pick in the 2005 draft (SS C.J. Henry), which they got from the Phillies as compensation for losing Tom Gordon. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 1993 for the last time they picked that high (RHP Matt Drews, 13th overall).

As for the quality of next year’s class, here’s what an unnamed scout said to Chris Crawford (subs. req’d) back in June:

“On paper, it’s a much better crop (than 2013),” an NL scout said. “It’s not the strongest group of advanced bats again, but there’s so much more depth than there has been the past two years, particularly with the high school hitters and even more particularly up the middle. This year, other than J.P. Crawford, there isn’t one high school shortstop I would have taken in the first round. Next year, there’s about four or five that I’d consider. It’s all speculation, but I feel much more confident about getting a quality player this year than the last two.”

It’s still way, way too early to get a firm grasp on the quality of next summer’s draft class. NC State LHP Carlos Rodon is the clear favorite to go first overall right now, he’s David Price-esque, but everything else is up in the air. We have to wait for the high school and college seasons to start in January and February before players start falling into place.

Brendan asks: Any chance if Gary Sanchez rakes the rest of the season in AA and then in Spring Training he makes the big league club? Or are we going to have to wait until he is 24 to see him?

He turns 21 in December, so let’s not jump off the ledge worrying he’ll be old when he debuts just yet. The Yankees have been relatively conservative with Sanchez so far, having him repeat Low-A Charleston last year and spending most of this year in High-A Tampa. I like that, I do think they’ve been a little overly aggressive at times with their top guys the last few years. I wouldn’t expect Sanchez to have a realistic chance to make the team out of camp next year, though that could come in 2015. Have patience. They need a catcher in the worst way, but rushing the top prospect to fill that hole isn’t the answer, especially not with J.R. Murphy in Triple-A.

Ori asks: Who is the best Yankee pinch-hitter ever? I remember Ruben Sierra being a particularly good one.

Hooray for the Play Index? Hooray for the Play Index! Here are the team’s top ten pinch-hitters during the DH era (since 1973), minimum 20 pinch-hitting opportunities (34 qualifiers):

Rk Player PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Cliff Johnson 23 15 5 0 0 3 6 8 2 .333 .565 .933 1.499
2 Darryl Strawberry 25 19 7 3 0 2 10 6 7 .368 .520 .842 1.362
3 Ron Hassey 28 27 11 1 0 1 5 1 3 .407 .429 .556 .984
4 Hideki Matsui 31 25 9 1 0 1 5 5 7 .360 .452 .520 .972
5 Jason Giambi 24 22 6 1 0 2 3 2 6 .273 .333 .591 .924
6 Daryl Boston 23 20 5 0 0 2 6 2 4 .250 .348 .550 .898
7 Dan Pasqua 31 27 7 1 0 2 8 4 9 .259 .355 .519 .873
8 Pat Sheridan 25 21 4 1 0 2 2 4 8 .190 .320 .524 .844
9 Oscar Gamble 59 48 11 2 0 3 10 8 6 .229 .356 .458 .814
10 Steve Balboni 33 26 7 0 0 1 3 6 15 .269 .424 .385 .809
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/8/2013.

Bernie Williams is 12th with a .768 OPS and Sierra is 21st with a .646 OPS. Hassey has the highest batting average as a pinch-hitter in team history (Strawberry is second) while Johnson has the highest OBP and SLG (Strawberry is second in both).

Johnson, who played with the Yankees from 1977-79, and Strawberry are clearly a notch above everyone else here. I like that pinch-hitting was part of their role too; they weren’t full-time guys who came off the bench a few times like Matsui or Giambi. They were legit part-time players who were expected to pinch-hit in key spots. Strawberry was awesome, still my all-time favorite player to this day.

Gary Sanchez promoted to Double-A Trenton

Despite indications he would remain with High-A Tampa all season, the Yankees have promoted top prospect C Gary Sanchez to Double-A Trenton. He is expected to be with the Thunder tonight. The 20-year-old hit .251/.311/.417 (105 wRC+) with 13 homers in 399 plate appearances for High-A Tampa before the promotion. The Yankees supposedly wanted Sanchez to work with their harder-throwing pitchers in Tampa for the rest of the season, but I guess plans changed.

Sanchez sneaks onto Keith Law’s midseason top 50 prospects list

Keith Law posted his midseason update of the top 50 prospects in baseball yesterday (subs. req’d), and Twins OF Byron Buxton occupies the top spot. Here’s a clear number one prospect in baseball at the moment. Cardinals OF Oscar Taveras and Red Sox SS Xander Bogaerts are two prospect list mainstays who round out the top three.

The Yankees have just one prospect on the list — C Gary Sanchez snuck on as #49. “His stock has taken a hit as his receiving, much improved last year, has regressed, while his explosive hands and raw power haven’t produced offensive results yet, either,” wrote Law. It’s worth noting Baseball America, who ranked Sanchez 34th on their midseason update, had a more optimistic outlook on his defense. Baseball Prospectus was another detractor, however. Sanchez dropped from 18th on Law’s preseason list while OF Mason Williams (#35) dropped out of the top 50 all together.

Sanchez and DePaula crack Baseball America’s midseason top 50 prospects list

Baseball America published their midseason list of baseball’s top 50 prospects today (no subs. req’d), a list that is topped by Twins OF Byron Buxton. The second overall pick in last year’s draft has taken over as the game’s consensus top prospect with Jurickson Profar now a big leaguer. Cardinals OF Oscar Taveras and Twins 3B Miguel Sano round out the top three. Yeah, Minnesota has two of the three best prospects in the game.

The Yankees placed two players on the top 50: C Gary Sanchez (#34) and RHP Rafael DePaula (#45). “Reports are more optimistic that he could stay behind the plate long-term.,” they said about Sanchez, who climbed from #57 on the preseason list. It’s not surprising that none of the team’s top three outfield prospects made the list, especially since only one (Mason Williams at #32) was in the top 50 of the preseason list. None of the three has done anything to improve their stock this year. Sanchez and DePaula definitely have though.