Keith Law’s top ten Yankees prospects list

Keith Law published his list of baseball’s top 110 prospects yesterday, and he followed up today by releasing individual top ten prospects lists for each American League club (subs. req’d). The top five prospects are the same guys from the top 110 yesterday (in the same order), and numbers six through ten are RHP Ty Hensley, LHP Manny Banuelos, RHP Jose Campos, RHP Mark Montgomery, and 2B Angelo Gumbs.

Within the write-up, Law notes the system is top-heavy with high-end guys, and their only real impact prospects for 2013 are Montgomery and RHP Dellin Betances if he takes to the bullpen. He lists Hensley as the organization’s sleeper, saying the shoulder abnormality hasn’t stopped him from running his fastball up to 98, and “if he can just show that kind of stuff and last for a 120-140 inning season in 2013, he’s a likely top-100 guy.” Interestingly enough, he notes the Yankees love OF Ben Gamel, and they expect him to show more power this summer after bulking up thanks to his offseason conditioning program.

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Roster Moves: Rule 5 Draft, Storey, Herndon

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

In addition to agreeing to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees made a series of roster moves today. Let’s recap…

Six added to 40-man roster

The Yankees added six minor leaguers to the 40-man roster: LHP Manny Banuelos, RHP Brett Marshall, LHP Nik Turley, OF Ramon Flores, RHP Jose Ramirez, and LHP Francisco Rondon. Midnight tonight is the deadline to set the 40-man for next month’s Rule 5 Draft, and all six guys would have been eligible had they not been protected.

Banuelos will miss pretty much all of next season due to Tommy John surgery, so the club is losing a pre-arbitration year of team control. That really bites. The annual lolwut addition is Rondon, a 24-year-old southpaw who had a good but not great year at three levels in 2012 (3.93 ERA and 10.1 K/9 with 5.3 BB/9 in 71 relief innings). The Yankees now have five (!) lefty specialists on the 40-man. Marshall, Turley, and Flores were no-brainer adds and some team could have hid Ramirez’s big arm in long relief next season.

Mickey Storey claimed off waivers from Houston

The Yankees have claimed 26-year-old right-hander Mickey Storey off waivers from the Astros. He had a phenomenal season in Triple-A this year and made his big league debut in the second half: 3.86 ERA (2.80 FIP) with 10.09 K/9 (26.8 K%) and 2.97 BB/9 (7.9 BB%) in 30.1 relief innings. He also missed a few games after taking a line drive off the face.

Despite the gaudy peripherals, Storey isn’t a power pitcher. He’s a four-pitch reliever in the Cory Wade mold, throwing an upper-80s four-seamer, a mid-80s cutter, an upper-70s slider, and a mid-70s curveball. The curve is his bread and butter. I believe he has two minor league options remaining, but don’t hold me to that. That stuff is hard to verify. Here’s some video.

Yankees re-sign David Herndon

According to agent Josh Kusnick, the Yankees have re-signed David Herndon to a split contract. He had elected free agency after the team outrighted him off the 40-man roster and I assume it’s a minor league deal. The 27-year-old reliever will received $750k in the big leagues ($50k in incentives) and $180k while in the minors. Herndon is coming off Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready until June. The Yankees claimed him off waivers from the Blue Jays earlier this month.

* * *

After all of today’s moves, the 40-man roster is at 39. The Yankees will be able to make one selection in the Rule 5 Draft unless they remove more players from the 40-man between now and midnight. Catcher Eli Whiteside is the obvious candidate to be removed, but one empty spot is plenty. If Herndon’s contract is a big league deal, the 40-man will be full and the Yankees won’t be able to make any picks in the Rule 5 Draft.

Baseball America’s Top Ten Yankees Prospects

Heathcott. (Jordan Megenhardt/MLB.com)

Baseball America published their list of the top ten Yankees prospects today, and the list is free for all. The scouting reports, however, are not. You need a subscription for them. The four names atop the list shouldn’t be a surprise (the order might), but things do get a little wacky after that. Let’s break it down…

  1. OF Mason Williams
  2. OF Slade Heathcott
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. OF Tyler Austin
  5. RHP Jose Campos
  6. RHP Brett Marshall
  7. 2B Angelo Gumbs
  8. LHP Manny Banuelos
  9. RHP Ty Hensley
  10. RHP Rafael DePaula

Two things stand out about the list. First, the Yankees are suddenly very top heavy with position player prospects, particularly outfielders. Outside of Jesus Montero, their recent top tens were mostly dominated by upper level arms. The Yankees are going to need that infusion of young bats and relatively soon, but Heathcott is only position player on the list who I think will open next year at Double-A. Austin has a chance, but it would surprise me a bit.

Williams. (NY Daily News)

Secondly, everyone’s hurt. Five of those ten guys missed significant time this season due to injury, and that doesn’t include Hensley’s shoulder “abnormality” or the month Austin missed with a mild concussion. Heathcott (shoulder) obviously came back healthy and Gumbs (elbow) has as well (based on the fact that he’s playing winter ball), plus Williams (shoulder) was just cleared to resume workouts. Banuelos will miss all of next season with Tommy John surgery though, and a club official said Campos (elbow) will “hopefully” be ready for Spring Training in the subscriber-only write-up. That doesn’t sound promising, but what can you do.

The write-ups include scouting grades (on the 20-80 scale) for each team’s top prospect and the grades for Williams are just insane — 60 hit, 60 power, 70 speed, 70 defense, 50 arm. That’s four above-average tools and one average one. Those are future grades and not present — they think he’ll grow into a 60 hitter, not that he is one today — but they still seem a little optimistic, particularly the power. A 60/60 bat is a .290-.300 hitter with 25 or so homers. Add the 70 speed and 70 defense and you’ve got 30+ steals and near Gold Glove defense. That’s a star player, it’s Grady Sizemore in his prime, but again the grades strike me as optimistic based on everything we’ve heard about Williams to this point.

Elsewhere in the write-up they note that Heathcott offers “explosive tools” — yesterday Keith Law said Heathcott has louder tools than Williams, though Mason is more refined — and that while Sanchez doesn’t stack up to Montero offensively, he has a much better chance of sticking behind the plate. Campos was “electric” before getting hurt while Banuelos was still struggling to command his fastball. They call DePaula the biggest x-factor in the system and say his “ceiling is as high as any Yankees minor league pitcher.” He’ll make the big jump to High-A Tampa next year.

With Banuelos essentially out for the season, the only top ten prospect who figures to spend significant time at Triple-A next year will be Marshall. The Yankees will have Adam Warren and maybe a veteran signing or two ahead of him on the call-up depth chart, possibly even Dellin Betances if things break right. The talent gap that has been slowly climbing the ladder in recent years has hit Triple-A, meaning the Bombers will have to make sure they bring in some depth pieces via free agency to shore up potential holes on the big league roster. The team’s top prospects just aren’t in a position to help next year, and maybe not in 2014 as well.

Banuelos to have Tommy John surgery this week

Via Josh Norris, left-hander and top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos will have Tommy John surgery on Thursday. Brian Cashman confirmed the news and said it’s a new injury. “If we knew he’d needed (surgery) a year ago, he’d have had it done a year ago,” said the GM.

Banuelos, 21, missed essentially all of 2012 with what the team called a “bone bruise” in his elbow, so this news is crummy but not completely unexpected. The worst part is that between this year and next, he’ll have lost two consecutive years of development due to injury. It’s probably not a coincidence that long-time pitching coordinator Billy Connors was recently dismissed given this news. He was working with the team’s rehabbing pitchers this year.

Mailbag: Grilli, Ross, Villanueva, Peavy, DH

Got five questions for you this week, including three already looking forward to potential offseason roster moves. Aren’t you people excited about the pennant race and a potential postseason run? We’ll have more than enough time to toss roster moves around in winter, trust me. Anyway, please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Kyle asks: Hi Mike, I’m sure you’re going to get asked this a few times now that MLBTR wrote about him, but any interest in picking up Jason Grilli in the offseason? What potential contract could he get?

Obviously the future of the bullpen is going to depend a lot on what happens with Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera after the season, but I think either way the Yankees should look into bringing in a free agent reliever to shore up the middle innings. That doesn’t mean dumping three years and $30M on someone, but I do think they need someone better than Cody Eppley to hold down the fort until the Chase Whitley and Mark Montgomery types are ready.

As the MLBTR post explains, Grilli is missing a ton of bats (13.58 K/9) and otherwise pitching extremely well (2.91 ERA and 2.95 FIP) after what amounts to a career of mediocrity. His strikeout rate has been trending up for years, so it’s not like this is completely out of the blue. Even though he’s 35 and will be 36 in November, I think Grilli will still be able to find two guaranteed years on the open market at like, $4-5M per year. I’d rather see the Yankees bring someone in on a one-year deal rather than start committing 2014 payroll to middle relievers. Grilli’s a good pitcher worth discussing, but I don’t think is price will matchup well for New York.

Anonymous asks: Do you see the Yankees pursuing Cody Ross this off-season to possibly replace Nick Swisher? He might be able to fill a need against lefties, and is said to be looking to play for a “winning team.” Thoughts?

No, I hope not. He’s a right-handed dead pull hitter, which plays great in Fenway Park (152 wRC+ home) but almost nowhere else (86 wRC+ road). Sure, Ross can definitely hit lefties, but he isn’t much against righties and he’s a poor defensive outfielder. He has decent range and can run some balls down, but he’s also one of the most fundamentally unsound players you’ll ever see. Can’t play the wall properly, misses the cutoff man or just flat out throws to the wrong base, dives when he should be keeping the ball in front of him … it’s brutal.

I’m sure Ross and his agent will be looking to parlay his big career year into a multi-year contract and a full-time job somewhere, which is not something I want the Yankees to get involved in. He’s not a great fit for the ballpark, not a good fit defensively, and likely to sign a contract that is far too lucrative for for the light half of an outfield platoon. One-year and $3M for the Red Sox was a great deal, but someone will get sucked into two or three years at $8M+ this offseason. Just watch.

Travis asks: If Hiroki Kuroda goes back to Japan and Andy Pettitte re-retires, could the Yankees sign guys like Carlos Villanueva or Jake Peavy (with their success in the AL) as two or three-year guys in the rotation?

(J. Meric/Getty)

Yeah, if the Yankees are unable to bring at least one of Kuroda or Pettitte back next year, they’ll definitely need to sign some kind of stopgap starter. I’m a big Villanueva fan but you have to be skeptical about his ability to make 30 starts and throw 200 innings next season just because he’s never done it in his life. I’d love him as an overqualified fifth starter/swingman, but a) some team will give him a full-time rotation slot, and b) the Yankees are going to need more than that.

Peavy is interesting, and yesterday we learned that the White Sox are likely to decline his $22M option. The concern here is health more than anything, but he’s held up well this season and has certainly pitched well in a tough ballpark. In a perfect world the Yankees would find another one-year, $10Mish stopgap starter this winter, but Peavy will end up with more than that, probably fro the White Sox. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t look into signing him, it’s just tough to answer because I have no idea what his market will be. Two years and $30M? Three years and $36M? I don’t have any idea. But yeah, if Kuroda and Pettitte walk this offseason, the Yankees will definitely be in the market for a veteran innings eater.

Anonymous asks: With interleague play becoming an everyday reality next season, how will that affect the DH issue going forward?

It won’t. The number of interleague games did not change, they’re just spread out throughout the season now rather than localized in June. So now instead of playing nine games in interleague parks in the span of two weeks, they’ll be spread out and played at various points of the season. If anything, it will actually helps the Yankees because they can just sit their DH for a few games at a time rather than worry about losing a big bat for a longer stretch of time. I still expect them to have some kind of DH rotation next year, especially with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira getting a year older.

Travis asks: Have you heard any recovery news about Cesar Cabral, Brad Meyers, Jose Campos or Manny Banuelos? I’m just wondering if those guys are going to be ready for Spring Training 2013 and if so, what are the Yankees going to do with Cabral and Meyers?

Joel Sherman confirmed the other day that Banuelos will pitch in winter ball this year and be healthy in time for Spring Training. I believe his former Mexican League team still controls his winter ball rights, so he’ll probably spend the winter pitching there. Don’t quote on my that though. The last we heard about Campos was that he was slated to participate in Instructional League, which will start any day now. If he does that, I assume he’ll be healthy in time for Spring Training.

I haven’t seen a single update on Cabral (elbow) or Meyers (shoulder) since they suffered their injuries in camp. Since neither guy spent 90 days on the active roster this summer, the Rule 5 Draft rules will carry over to next season. I get the sense that the Yankees will just cut Meyers whenever they need a 40-man roster spot this offseason, though the Cabral situation is a little different because he’s a two-time Rule 5er. I explained that whole thing back in March. Maybe the Yankees can leverage his injury into a minor league contract instead of a big league deal, but either way I think he’ll be on the 40-man chopping block this winter if a spot is needed. That’s a shame, he was pretty impressive in March and had a very good chance of winning the final bullpen spot over Clay Rapada.

Sanchez tops MLB.com’s top 20 Yankees prospects lists

MLB.com recently rolled out their team top 20 prospects lists, and they have C Gary Sanchez claiming the top spot for the Yankees. OF Mason Williams and OF Tyler Austin round out the top three. Those are the names you’re going to see at the top of the club’s prospect lists all offseason, just not necessarily in that order. A healthy OF Slade Heathcott and an unhealthy LHP Manny Banuelos occupy the four and five slots, respectively.

The feature includes write-ups on all 20 players and in some cases, video as well. The MLB.com lists are always off the beaten path a bit — both UTIL Jose Pirela (#15) and RHP Zach Nuding (#19) cracked the top 20 over RHP Brett Marshall — which I enjoy just for the change of pace. Only two of the club’s top ten prospects are pitchers compared to three top ten position players from the 2010 draft alone. That’s a major difference compared to the last few seasons, when the top-end of the list was dominated by the guys on the mound.

Injuries’ impact on prospect development

The 2012 season has been an up and down year for the Yankees farm system, fitting given the extreme variability and uncertainty inherent in following the minor leagues.  While a number of prospects have taken big steps forward, injuries to several top prospects have overshadowed the farm’s 2012 successes.  Injuries to Manny Banuelos, Jose Campos, and Mason Williams, likely three of the Yankees top five prospects, will prevent them from playing again this season, and both Campos and Banuelos have already missed substantial time.  Since the news on Banuelos and Williams is fairly recent, I figured it would make sense to take a look at how the injuries will affect their prospect status, and projected ascent through the minors.

(Roger Peterson/MiLB.com)

Mason Williams

Williams was recently sidelined with a tear in the labrum of his left (non-throwing) shoulder after diving to catch a ball in the outfield, and will miss the remainder of the season.  Williams’ aggressive play in the outfield put him at risk of further shoulder dislocations if the tear was not repaired, so he went under the knife.  Mason likely has several months of rehab ahead of him, though since the tear does not appear to be a very serious one, it is believed that he will be back in time for Spring Training in 2013.

The injury likely won’t affect Mason’s prospect status in any substantial way, as he should be fully healed by 2013, and showed his stuff over a strong 2012 season.  He will still be a consensus top 50 prospect, and likely rank no lower than #2 in the Yankee system (depending on how bullish one is on Gary Sanchez).  However, it could slightly slow down his timeline to the Majors.  I think missing the last month or so of 2012 increases the likelihood that Mason begins 2013 in High-A Tampa rather than getting pushed to Double-A Trenton.  My guess is that he spends 2013 between Tampa and Trenton, starts 2014 in Triple-A Scranton (making his Major League debut late in the season), and joins the Yankees outfield full-time in 2015 (barring a trade).  Ultimately, it’s not a big difference unless you were expecting Williams to be in the outfield in 2014 (when the austerity budget kicks in), but it shouldn’t have much of an effect on his long-term value.  The injury likely decreases his trade value in the offseason, so if you were hoping that the Yankees would deal Williams in a package for Justin Upton, you may be out of luck.

Manny Banuelos

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Yesterday, it was announced that Banuelos, who hasn’t pitched in nearly three months because of elbow and back injuries, was going to be shut down for the season.  News like this often would ordinarily lead me to assume the worst, that the Mexican southpaw was facing imminent Tommy John Surgery.  However, Mark Newman downplayed the severity of the injury, comparing it to a “bone bruise,” which leaves open the possibility that Banuelos could pitch in winter ball this year.  He reportedly has been throwing, which likely indicates that he may not need surgery (assuming there aren’t any major setbacks).  Either way, it has basically been a lost season for Banuelos, and he still has a lot of work to do to prove that he can hold up under a full starter’s workload.

The injury likely ensures that Banuelos will spend the vast majority of 2013 in the minor leagues.   He hasn’t accumulated enough nnings for the Yankees to feel comfortable giving him a rotation spot, and he needs to prove that he can get his command back to where it was prior to 2011.  Banuelos hasn’t exceeded 130 innings in any minor league season, so I imagine the Yankees will try to get him up to 150 or so next year, putting him on track to join the 2014 rotation if all goes well.  If Banuelos were healthy in 2012, he could have made a push later this season to join the rotation, or at very least get the opportunity to earn a spot in Spring Training 2013.  Banuelos probably would have been a top 50 prospect this year had he been healthy and effective, but his injury (validating the concerns of skeptics that a pitcher of Manny’s stature may not be durable) likely reduces his prospect status somewhat.  He will still be one of the younger pitchers in the Triple-A International League next year, and has plenty of time to figure things out and become an effective major league pitcher.

There has been virtually no news on Campos and his mysterious elbow inflammation.  The lack of news is always disconcerting, though it goes with the territory in the lower minors.  However, if there isn’t any serious structural damage, Campos could come into 2013 fully healthy and in better shape, which could allow him to have a successful season and re-establish himself on the prospect map.

While these injuries may set back Williams and Banuelos’ timelines somewhat, neither of them are serious enough to merit worrying too much about their long-term future.  While labrum injuries can be death for pitchers, the fact that Williams’ injury was reportedly not very severe, and on his non-throwing shoulder, bodes well for a complete recovery.  As for Banuelos, the lack of structural damage in his elbow is encouraging, and assuming there are no other problems that we haven’t heard about yet, he should enter 2013 fully healed and ready to rock.  The rehab process required to get Williams and Banuelos back to normal will be a test of their dedication and work ethic, but ultimately, they will have to overcome much bigger challenges if they want to become successful big league players.