Austin, Sanchez highlight Baseball America’s Best Minor League Tools

Yesterday it was the big leaguers, today it’s the minor leaguers. Baseball America published their best tools survey today (subs. req’d), polling managers and other personnel about the game’s best aspiring Major Leaguers. OF Tyler Austin and C Gary Sanchez headline the crop of Yankees farmhands by being named the Best Hitting Prospect and Best Power Prospect in the Low-A South Atlantic League, respectively. The survey was conducted prior to their promotions to High-A Tampa.

Other Yankees prospects getting love include the Double-A Eastern League trio of OF/DH Cody Johnson (Best Power Prospect), OF Abe Almonte (Fastest Baserunner), and RHP Brett Marshall (Best Changeup). OF Mason Williams was dubbed the Best Defensive Outfielder in the Sally League as well. RHP Mark Montgomery got beat out for the High-A Florida State League Best Reliever crown by Futures Gamer RHP Bruce Rondon. For shame.

Kevin Goldstein’s Top 50 Midseason Prospects

Kevin Goldstein posted his midseason list of the top 50 prospects in baseball over at Baseball Prospectus today (subs. req’d), and Rangers SS Jurickson Profar predictably claimed the top spot. Royals OF Wil Myers and Orioles RHP Dylan Bundy round out the top three.

Two Yankees farmhands made the list, C Gary Sanchez at #23 and OF Mason Williams at #36. They ranked #40 and #99 on his preseason list, respectively. LHP Manny Banuelos was #29 on KG’s preseason list but predictably dropped out due to the elbow injury. OF Tyler Austin cracked the midseason top 50 lists of Baseball America and Keith Law, but Goldstein wasn’t having any of it.

Kiley McDaniel scouts High-A Tampa

Over at ESPN in an Insider-only blog post, former Yankees intern Kiley McDaniel penned a piece with scouting notes on several players with High-A Tampa. He wrote at length about OF Mason Williams — who he compared to Jacoby Ellsbury — and C Gary Sanchez, but also chimed in on OF Tyler Austin, RHP Jose Ramirez, RHP Mark Montgomery, and some other power arms on the staff. Pretty much the only negative thing he had to say was that Sanchez tends to struggle with fastballs in on his hands.

McDaniel praised scouting director Damon Oppenheimer for landing such quality prospects (Austin and the pitchers, specifically) with low-round draft picks, which is pretty neat. “Opposing clubs’ scouts covering this Tampa squad were simultaneously commending the Yankees for their deep staff and wondering why their teams didn’t draft these talents,” he wrote. Anyway, like I said go check it out. It gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation.

Sanchez, Williams among prospects with most trade value

In an Insider-only blog post, Keith Law ranked baseball’s best prospects on contending teams in terms of their trade value. SS Jurickson Profar of the Rangers tops the list, followed by RHP Gerrit Cole of the Pirates and OF Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals. The Yankees didn’t place anyone in the top ten, but C Gary Sanchez and OF Mason Williams rank 13th and 15th, respectively. They would have ranked higher had it not been for the whole Single-A thing — kids at the upper levels have more trade value because they’re closer to contributing.

On the other side of the coin, Kevin Goldstein posted an article (Insider req’d) looking at prospects who have lost trade value this season. Both LHP Manny Banuelos and RHP Dellin Betances made the list thanks to their disappointing seasons, the former due to an elbow injury and the latter due to control problems. The Yankees are kinda stuck in trade bait limbo right now, with their top chips in the lower minors and their upper level chips struggling.

Williams, Sanchez, and Austin crack Keith Law’s midseason top 50 prospects list

From left to right: Williams, Austin, Sanchez. (MiLB.com)

In an Insider-only piece, Keith Law published his midseason top 50 prospects list today. SS Jurickson Profar of the Rangers, who put on a show in the Futures Game by homering from the left side of the plate and singling from the right side, claimed the top spot to what should be no one’s surprise. RHP Dylan Bundy and SS Manny Machado, both of the Orioles, round out the top three. Some big things are happening in Baltimore.

The Yankees placed three players on the list, led by OF Mason Williams at #21. “He was recently promoted to High Class A after posting an .848 OPS in a half-season at Charleston,” wrote KLaw. “Williams earns a lot of raves from scouts between the tools and his general feel for the game, especially on defense.” Mason ranked 34th on Law’s preseason list, so he made a modest jump into the top 25. I’m not sure how much higher he can rank unless he taps into some hidden power at some point.

C Gary Sanchez wasn’t too far behind Williams at #28, and Law says he’s “improved markedly on defense to the point where you can picture him remaining behind the plate long term, and the bat should make him an MVP candidate if he does stay there.” Now that sure is good to hear, the defense has always been the long-term question with Sanchez. He doesn’t need to be a Gold Glover, just adequate. Law notes that Sanchez is primed for yet another jump up the rankings after making the leap from #55 in his preseason list.

The third Yankees farmhand to crack the top 50 is OF Tyler Austin at #45. “[He can] really hit, with a balanced swing and some pull power already, although when I caught him early this season, he was struggling a little to make adjustments to changing speeds, something that has improved in the last two-plus months,” said Law in his write-up. Austin was unranked in the preseason list and obviously made a huge jump thanks to his big full season league debut.

For comparison’s sake, Baseball America ranked Williams, Sanchez, and Austin as the 28th, 30th, and 39th best prospects in baseball in their recent midseason top 50 list, respectively. Good to see we have a bit of a consensus on where these three rank in terms of the bigger picture. LHP Manny Banuelos and several other injured pitchers were ineligible for Law’s list, but I confirmed with him that Manny would have cracked the top 50 if healthy. RHP Dellin Betances is healthy but obviously wasn’t close to the top 50, especially after ranking just 83rd before the season. Either way, three and potentially four top 50 guys is pretty darn good.

Williams, Sanchez, Austin among BA’s Midseason Top 50 Prospects

Baseball America published their midseason Top 50 Prospects list today, led by RHP Dylan Bundy of the Orioles. The best pitching prospect in the game owns a 1.74 ERA with 74 strikeouts and 13 walks in 62.2 innings down in Single-A this year. SS Jurickson Profar (Rangers) and OF Wil Myers (Royals) round out the top three. The list is free for all but the write-ups are subscriber-only.

The Yankees placed three prospects in the top 50: OF Mason Williams (#28), C Gary Sanchez (#30), and OF Tyler Austin (#39). LHP Manny Banuelos ranked 29th on the preseason Top 100 but fell out of the midseason list due to his elbow injury, though he was one of three players in the “Also Receiving Votes” section. Both Banuelos and RHP Jose Campos made the All Disabled List Team, unfortunately (subs. req’d). Williams (#85) and Sanchez (#81) made significant jumps from the preseason list, as did Austin, who was unranked this spring. The Yankees don’t have that surefire top-five prospect like Jesus Montero anymore, but three top-40 guys makes for a really strong top of the system.

Thinking about minor league promotions

(Matt Burton/MiLB.com)

The minor league season is a little more than halfway complete, with the four full-season affiliates having already played at least 74 games out of their 144-game schedules. That means promotions should be upon us, and in fact this week’s Dellin Betances demotion might represent the start of a wave of player moves. Josh Norris recently spoke to someone who said to expect some movement in about a week, and last night the Yankees bumped righty reliever Nick Goody up from Short Season Staten Island to Low-A Charleston. He’ll be the first 2012 draftee to appear in a full-season league.

The Yankees have already made some very minor promotions, like Mikey O’Brien to Double-A Trenton and Chase Whitley to Triple-A Empire State, but the most notable moves should come very soon. Here’s a preview of what could be in store in the next week or two…

C Gary Sanchez to High-A Tampa
This one seems like a total no-brainer. Sanchez is repeating Low-A Charleston and doing so in a big way — .304/.357/.534 with 13 homers and 11 steals (!) in 277 plate appearances. He’s also played ten fewer games behind the plate than last year and has 16 fewer passed balls. A move up to Tampa would force Sanchez to split catcher and DH duties with J.R. Murphy, which they did for the first few weeks of last season. Murphy is having a great June — .316/.354/.494 with three homers — but his overall performance (.260/.324/.374) has been underwhelming. Splitting catching duties is not ideal, but Sanchez needs the promotion and it will help keep both guys from wearing down in August and September. As an added bonus, Francisco Arcia and his .305/.393/.495 batting line would get a chance as the full-time catcher for the River Dogs once Sanchez is promoted.

OF Tyler Austin to High-A Tampa, OF Rob Segedin to Double-A Trenton
Moving Austin up is another no-brainer. He’s been the best hitter in the farm system this year, with a .328/.408/.621 batting line to go with 14 homers and 17 steals in 292 plate appearances for Low-A Charleston. It’s pretty clear that he isn’t being challenged enough at the level, so move him on up. In a corresponding move to clear an outfield spot, Segedin can move up to Trenton. He’s hitting .291/.359/.446 in 312 plate appearances this year after finishing last season in Tampa. The Thunder outfield is pretty packed with the Almontes (Abe and Zoilo) and Melky Mesa, but Cody Johnson’s injury and Neil Medchill’s general non-prospectness free up the DH spot. Segedin can also play third on occasion.

RHRP Phil Wetherell to High-A Tampa, RHRP Mark Montgomery to Double-A Trenton
Wetherell’s numbers are not eye-popping — 5.05 ERA with 38 hits allowed in 35.2 innings — but he’s missing bats (9.3 K/9 and 23.3 K%), limiting walks (3.3 BB/9 and 8.2 BB%), and keeping the ball in the park (just one homer allowed). As a 22-year-old college reliever, there’s only so much to be gained from facing Low-A hitters. Montgomery, on the other hand, has the huge numbers — 1.54 ERA with 53 strikeouts (13.6 K/9 and 38.1 K%) and 12 walks (3.1 BB/9 and 8.6 BB%) in 35 innings — and the wipeout slider to back them up. A short reliever with a breaking ball that good should overwhelm Single-A competition like Montgomery has, and now it’s time to get him up to the next level.

(Beverly Schaefer/The Times of Trenton)

LHSP Vidal Nuno to Triple-A Empire State
The Betances demotion as well as the Adam Warren recall thinned out the Triple-A rotation in a hurry. They still have D.J. Mitchell, Ramon Ortiz, and John Maine in their regular spots and could pull Nelson Figueroa and Mike O’Connor out of the bullpen, but moving Nuno up should also be a serious consideration. He’s an older guy (25 next month) the Yankees plucked out of an independent league last season and he’s done nothing but dominate since joining the organization: 154 strikeouts (8.1 K/9 and 22.8 K%) and just 32 walks (1.7 BB/9 and 4.7 BB%) in 171 innings. Nuno has been stellar since moving into the Double-A rotation last month, allowing just four earned runs in 40.1 innings across seven starts. The Yankees lack left-handers in the system and moving Nuno up gives them a chance to evaluate him at the highest possible level.

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Last month I wrote about the idea of promoting Mason Williams based mostly on his insane contact rates, though I could see it going either way. I would understand if they bumped him up to Tampa or kept him in Charleston, there are viable reasons to do both. Sanchez and Austin are the definite promotions though, ditto Montgomery. The four (really six) moves listed above seem like the most logical ones to make this July.