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.

Poll: The 2012 Prospect Watch

The incumbent. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

If you’ve been reading RAB long enough, you’re well aware of our annual Prospect Watch. The idea is simple. We pick a prospect, and throughout the regular season we track his progress in the sidebar, specifically his most recent (i.e. last game) and overall season performance. Past Prospect Watch subjects include Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Andrew Brackman, Jesus Montero, and last year, Manny Banuelos. Needless to say, some years have been better than others.

Rather than just pick a prospect and run with it this year, we’re going to try to something new. For the first time ever, you folks will be able to pick our 2012 Prospect Watch candidate by voting in the poll at the end of the post. As you can tell from our previous watches, we’re looking for star power here. Solid and consistent is nice and all, but the Prospect Watch is all about holy crap performances. The occasional 4-for-5 with two doubles and a homer out of Montero made all the 0-for-4 with two strikeouts worth it.

I’ve taken the liberty of picking five candidates for this year’s prospect watch, all of whom are among the team’s seven best prospects. They’re all slated to spend the season in a full season league as well, which is key. With all due respect to Ravel Santana, no one feels like waiting until the NY-Penn League season kicks off in late-June for the Prospect Watch to go up. Here are those five candidates, listed alphabetically with a short little blurb…

Manny Banuelos, LHP
We’ve never had a two-time Prospect Watcher, but I’m not opposed to idea at all. That’s just the way things shook out in the past. Armed with a new cutter, Banuelos is scheduled to start the year with Triple-A Scranton and is poised to join Joba as the only player to go from RAB Prospect Watch to the big leagues in the same season.

Dante Bichette Jr., 3B
The Yankees first round pick just last season, Bichette took home Rookie Level Gulf Coast League MVP honors last year and will start his first full pro season with the Low-A Charleston River Dogs. He’s an all-around hitter with patience and power, capable of long hit streaks and long homers.

Jose Campos, RHP
Acquired from the Mariners as part of the Montero-Michael Pineda swap, Campos destroyed the Short Season Northwest League last year and will join Bichette in Charleston. His big fastball and surprisingly excellent command should lead to a ton of performances DIPS disciplines will love. That means lots of strikeouts and few walks.

Gary Sanchez, C
With Montero gone, Sanchez is now the best hitter in the organization. Last year with Charleston he hit the same number of homers (17) as Montero did at the same level in 2007, just in 226 fewer plate appearances. Sanchez could spend the first few weeks of the season back with the River Dogs, but a trip up to High-A Tampa seems inevitable at some point this summer.

Mason Williams, CF
Williams isn’t just another cog in what figures to be a dynamite Low-A lineup in 2012, he’s going to set the table and bat leadoff. His huge showing with Staten Island last season vaulted him up prospect lists, and now he’s the Yankees best all-around position player prospect.

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The minor league seasons begins next Thursday, the day before the Yankees open their 2012 regular season in Tampa. The poll will remain open through the weekend. Thanks in advance.

Who should be featured in the 2012 Prospect Watch?
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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).