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.

Poll: Luis Severino and the rest of 2015

Changeup! (Luis Severino)
Changeup! (Luis Severino)

Earlier this week, both Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America ranked right-hander Luis Severino as one of the 50 best prospects in baseball. Higher than that, actually. BP had him 28th and BA had him 17th. That’s really good! Lots of people like Severino and what’s not to like? He’s still only 21 and he has a 2.59 ERA (2.62 FIP) in 83.1 innings split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this year.

The Yankees have moved Severino through the system very aggressively — he hasn’t thrown more than 85.1 innings at any level ever — and he’s answered the bell at every stop. No hiccups whatsoever. Severino threw 113 innings last season and is probably scheduled for 150-ish this year, so he’s only got 66.2 innings or so left to throw this summer. Given his success at Triple-A, the Yankees have plenty of options when deciding how best to use Severino’s remaining innings in the second half. Let’s run ’em down.

Option No. 1: Let Him Finish In Triple-A

This is the conservative approach. The Yankees have moved Severino up the ladder very aggressive and could opt to let him catch his breath at Triple-A, which would hardly stunt his development. Severino is six (six!) years younger than the average International League player, after all. He’s already thrown 45.1 innings for the RailRiders, so he’d finish the season with 100 or so innings at the level and get a chance to see other teams multiple times. That gives him a chance to see how hitters adjust to him, and learn how to adjust back.

Option No. 2: Call Him Up As A Starter

This is the aggressive approach. There might not be an obvious opening in the rotation now, but you know as well I that the Yankees are going to need another starter at some point this year. Someone’s going to get hurt, someone will pitch their way out of the rotation, something will happen and they’ll need another starter. It’s inevitable. Severino has succeeded at every level and the Yankees could continue to be aggressive by calling him up and giving him a rotation spot right smack in the middle of a postseason race. Throw him to the wolves, basically.

Option No. 3: Call Him Up As A Reliever

This is neither conservative nor aggressive. It just … is. Even if the Yankees are comfortable letting Severino throw 170 innings this year — unlikely, but let’s roll with it — that’s still probably not enough innings to get through the second half as a starter. At least not without some 2009 Joba Chamberlain-esque workload manipulation. Remember that, when they’d limit Joba to 35-50 pitches per start? What a mess. The Yankees could instead let Severino spend another few weeks in Triple-A, then, as he approaches his innings limit (whatever that number is), call him up and let him throw his last 20-30 innings of the season out the bullpen. Then Severino can go right back to starting next year.

Option No. 4: Trade Him!

Prospects aren’t just for filling out your own roster. They’re there to be traded as well. It only makes sense given the attrition rates, even with high-end prospects like Severino. Jon Shepherd’s research a few years ago showed that even top 20 pitching prospects like Severino bust 60% of the time, so of course there’s an argument to be made that the best way to get value from the young righty is by trading him for a proven big leaguer. And remember, Severino’s biggest drawback right now is his delivery, specifically how little he uses his lower half, something that will ostensibly lead to future arm injuries. Unless you do something stupid like trade them for a utility infielder or Victor Zambrano, I don’t think it’s ever indefensible to trade a top pitching prospect for big league help, especially in a playoff race. The bust rates are so high because pitchers break.

* * *

That about covers the team’s options with Severino. The Yankees could keep him right where he is the rest of the season, call him up to start or relieve, or trade him away. All four options are justifiable and I honestly don’t think there’s a right answer. So let’s break out the poll. This is asking what you think the Yankees should do with Severino the rest of the season, not what you expect them to do. Bit of a difference there.

What should the Yankees do with Severino this year?

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.

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.

Yankees should follow the Adam Warren blueprint with other pitching prospects this season

Severino. (MiLB.com)
Severino. (MiLB.com)

It’s easy to forget now, but Adam Warren only made the Opening Day roster in 2013 because Phil Hughes suffered a minor back injury late in Spring Training. Hughes went down, long man David Phelps had to step into the rotation, and Warren got the long relief job almost by default. Warren pitched well and stayed on the roster even after Hughes returned. (Cody Eppley went down instead.)

Since then, Warren has developed into a pretty important piece of the pitching staff. He was the long man back in 2013, a setup man in 2014, and now a starter early in 2015. Chances are Warren will lose his rotation spot when Ivan Nova returns in a week or so, though not because he’s pitched poorly. He’s just the low man on the rotation totem pole, and hey, the Yankees need another quality reliever with Andrew Miller hurt. Warren showed he can be that guy last season.

Warren’s path to the big leagues and into the team’s rotation is not uncommon — lots of pitchers have started their careers in the bullpen before graduating to the starting staff. Adam Wainwright and Chris Sale are probably the two most notable recent examples but it is a very long list. Warren did something many other pitchers have done and it’s something the Yankees should consider doing again with other pitching prospects, especially since the middle relief situation is … unsettled. Let’s put it that way.

The most obvious candidate for the Warren blueprint is Luis Severino, New York’s top pitching prospect and one of the best in minor league baseball. The Yankees have moved Severino through the system very aggressively — he threw 85.1 innings in Low-A, 20.1 in High-A, 63 in Double-A, and is at 21.2 in Triple-A and counting — and a second half call-up would hardly be surprising. Everything the Yankees have done with Severino the last two years suggests his MLB debut will come sooner rather than later.

“Can that happen? I wouldn’t rule it out,” Brian Cashman recently said to David Lennon when asked about using Severino in the bullpen later this year. “But it’s not something we’re talking about right now. I’m not opposed to it. It’s just right now, I think we have some other people legitimately before him for the bullpen category … If they’re the best option to help us, whether they’re a starter, and the best option for the pen, then I’m open to any of that stuff.”

Severino threw a career high 113 innings last season and he is still only 21, so he’s not going to throw 180+ innings this year or something like that. (He’s at 59.2 innings right now.) His innings limit might be in the 140-150 innings range this summer, 160 tops. Severino only has another month or so before workload limits starting taking over — capped at five innings per start, something along those lines — and if he’s dominating, why not let him throw his last 20 or so innings of the year out of the big league bullpen? I don’t see much downside.

Mitchell. (Scranton Times Tribune)
Mitchell. (Scranton Times Tribune)

The other bullpen candidate in the Triple-A Scranton rotation is Bryan Mitchell, who has a 2.79 ERA (3.11 FIP) in 67.2 innings despite mediocre strikeout (19.1%) and walk (12.0%) rates. Mitchell has a strong ground ball rate (53.5%) and has yet to allow a homer, but that doesn’t mean much. Any pitching prospect worth a damn should have a very good ground ball rate in the minors. There are a lot of bad hitters who are overwhelmed at the plate down there. A lot. Mitchell got his first taste of the show last year, for what it’s worth.

The Yankees initially worked Warren into the big leagues as a relief pitcher before reintroducing him to the rotation, which by and large has been a success. He helped the bullpen and is now helping the rotation. They could follow a similar path with Severino and Mitchell, getting them acclimated to MLB life as relievers this year — and potentially solidifying the middle innings later in the process — before moving them back into the rotation next year. Again, teams have been doing this with young pitchers for decades.

That last part is important though. The going back to the rotation part. Especially for Severino. It’s too early to shoehorn either guy into permanent relief roles, though that does happen often these days. The Yankees tried and mostly failed to put Joba Chamberlain back into the rotation years ago, and while that may make you skeptical about their ability to pull it off with Mitchell or Severino, I’d like to think it was a learning experience. They seem to have gotten it right with Warren, mostly because the bullpen-to-rotation transition didn’t happen at midseason.

Anyway, the imminent return of Ivan Nova gives the Yankees some more rotation depth, as does Esmil Rogers‘ decision to remain in the organization after being outrighted. (Don’t laugh, Rogers could stretch back out as a starter in Triple-A and be an emergency option if necessary.) Mitchell had been sitting around as the sixth starter by default the last few weeks but keeping him in that sixth starter role is no longer imperative. Moving him to the bullpen would be a relatively easy move. Same with Severino.

The Yankees do have some more bullpen options in Triple-A — Nick Rumbelow, Danny Burawa, Branden Pinder, etc. — they could try out before turning to a starter-to-bullpen candidate like Mitchell or Severino. Those two guys should not be off the table as bullpen options though, especially in the second half. The Warren blueprint — bullpen now, rotation later — is one that could really benefit the Yankees this season without sabotaging the future of their young hurlers.

DotF: Andujar goes deep again in Tampa’s win

Double-A Trenton manager Al Pedrique told Nick Peruffo there is no real concern for RHP Luis Severino, who was placed on the 7-day DL yesterday with a blister. He’s expected to miss one start, that’s it. 1B Greg Bird, on the other hand, will miss “a few weeks” with a shoulder strain. Bird is not with the team, he’s in Tampa rehabbing.

Triple-A Scranton (10-2 win over Durham)

  • CF Slade Heathcott: 2-6, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 CS — had been in a little 5-for-24 (.208) slump
  • LF Ramon Flores: 0-3, 1 R, 3 BB, 1 K
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-5, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 E (throwing) — first error in several weeks after a rough defensive start to the year
  • C Austin Romine: 0-2, 1 RBI, 3 BB
  • RHP Jaron Long: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 7/6 GB/FB — 58 of 86 pitches were strikes (67%)
  • RHP Danny Burawa: 1 IP, zeroes, 3/0 GB/FB — nine of 14 pitches were strikes (64%)

[Read more…]