Four Yankees make Keith Law’s updated top 50 prospects list

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

Earlier today, Keith Law posted his midseason list of the top 50 prospects in baseball (subs. req’d). Astros IF Alex Bregman, the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, now sits in the top spot. Several of the top prospects coming into the season have graduated to MLB, including Dodgers SS Corey Seager and Twins OF Byron Buxton. Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito and Red Sox OF Andrew Benintendi fill out the top three behind Bregman.

The Yankees landed four players on Law’s list: OF Aaron Judge (No. 23), C Gary Sanchez (No. 36), OF Blake Rutherford (No. 43), and SS Jorge Mateo (No. 50). Welcome to the top prospect lists, Blake. Law says Judge has “made some progress in his plate coverage this year” and Sanchez has “become sort of adequate behind the plate and hit for increasing power the last two years.” Adequate defense and power definitely makes for a starting catcher.

As for Rutherford, the write-up says he is an “advanced enough hitter with above-average present power and should be able to (start 2017 in full season ball) given how well he performed against good competition last summer.” Law is probably the high man on Rutherford. You might see him on various top 100 lists in the coming weeks and months, though I don’t think anyone else will rank him as high as No. 43. Not yet, anyway.

The Mateo write-up is rather scathing. Law says it is “time for him to start performing up to the level of his tools,” specifically by cutting down on his strikeouts (21.5% in High-A this year) and making hard contact more consistently. “If the rumor that Mateo wanted a promotion to Double-A is true, that’s great, but he needs to understand that hitting .266/.323/.396 won’t get him there. Harder contact and all-the-time effort will,” wrote Law.

Even with the last two months being the worst of Mateo’s career, the Yankees still landed four prospects in Law’s top 50, and that’s really awesome. Remember, RHP James Kaprielian made Law’s preseason top 100 list as well, so there’s some high-end talent in the system. Rutherford and Mateo are years away, but Judge and Sanchez are knocking on the door of MLB, and that’s pretty darn exciting.

Saturday Links: Midseason Prospect Lists, Miller, Gurriel

The Judge and the GM. (Presswire)
The Judge and the GM. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Indians continue their four-game series with the third game later this afternoon. Here are some links to help you pass the time until first pitch.

Four Yankees make BA’s midseason top 100

The Baseball America crew released their midseason top 100 prospects list yesterday. The entire piece is free. You don’t need a subscription to see the list or the write-ups. Red Sox 2B Yoan Moncada sits in the top spot (groan) and is followed by Cardinals RHP Alex Reyes and Phillies SS J.P. Crawford in the top three. The Yankees have four players on the list: SS Jorge Mateo (No. 19), C Gary Sanchez (No. 36), OF Aaron Judge (No. 42), and RHP James Kaprielian (No. 99).

Both Mateo and Judge have climbed the rankings since BA’s preseason top 100 — Mateo was No. 26 and Judge was No. 76 coming into the season — though at least part of that is due to the graduation of prospects ahead of them. Still nice to see such a big jump for Judge. Sanchez stayed in the same spot (No. 36) and Kaprielian makes the midseason top 100 after not making the preseason top 100. He did that despite his elbow injury. It should be noted 2016 draftees were not eligible for the midseason top 100. OF Blake Rutherford will definitely be in the top 100 mix next spring.

Two Yankees make BP’s midseason top 50

Baseball Prospectus released their midseason top 50 prospects list earlier this week as well, and again, it’s free. It’s not behind the paywall. That’s always cool. Crawford, Moncada, and Dodgers LHP Julio Urias sit in the top three spots in that order. Players selected in the 2016 draft are not eligible for this list either.

The Yankees landed only two players on BP’s midseason top 50: Judge (No. 25) and Mateo (No. 29). Judge dropped a few spots while Mateo climbed many spots from the preseason top 101. Judge was No. 18 before the season and Mateo was No. 65. Sanchez was No. 92 before the season, so the BP crew is lower on him than BA. Jumping from No. 92 before the season into the top 50 at midseason is tough to do.

Miller atop Cubs’ wish list

According to Jon Heyman, Andrew Miller is believed to be atop the Cubs’ wish list as they look for bullpen help. That’s no surprise. Miller is awesome and signed to a favorable contract, plus Theo Epstein had him with the Red Sox too, so I assume there’s still some affinity there. The Cubs also would like Dellin Betances but “wouldn’t even ask,” says Heyman. Why not ask? You’re not doing your job if you don’t ask.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

In a separate piece, Heyman says someone with the Yankees put the chances of a Miller trade at “less than one percent.” That could just be posturing though. Also, apparently the Nationals made an offer for Miller over the winter. That makes sense, though we didn’t hear about it in the offseason. The Dodgers and especially the Astros were the two clubs most connected to Miller over the winter. The Yankees wanted Lance McCullers Jr. from Houston, but no dice.

Gurriel done with private workouts

Free agent Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel finished his private workouts with teams this week, reports Jesse Sanchez. Gurriel did indeed work out with the Yankees at some point. I know this because he posted it on Instagram. (Journalism!) Sanchez says Gurriel worked out with the Astros, Dodgers, Giants, Mets, and Padres in addition to the Yankees. I’m surprised it wasn’t more teams.

With the workouts over, I assume Gurriel and his agents will shift into contract negotiation mode. I really have no idea what to expect. I could see him getting big money (five or six years at $12M+ annually) or just a moderate short-term deal (three years at $10M per year). His age (32) and the usual concerns associated with the transition to MLB complicate things even though Gurriel has mashed everywhere he’s played.

Red Sox get Ziegler

Late last night the Red Sox picked up reliever Brad Ziegler from the Diamondbacks for two low level prospects, both teams announced. This is good for the Yankees if you’re on #TeamSell. It’s simple supply and demand. The supply of available relievers has now shrunk by one while the demand, as far as the Yankees are concerned, is unchanged. They weren’t going to trade with Boston anyway. The Red Sox took an available late-inning reliever away from the Cubs, Nationals, Rangers, Dodgers, Giants, and whoever else. Now the Yankees just have to, you know, sell.

Yankees place 16th in Baseball Prospectus’ farm system rankings

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

I think prospect season is officially over now. Earlier this week, Baseball Prospectus released their annual farm system rankings, and I’m pretty sure this is the final rankings post of the spring. All the other publications have released their lists. This should be the last of it.

Anyway, the BP crew ranked the farm systems in tiers. The Dodgers, Braves, and Rockies occupy the top tier. The Yankees are in the fifth tier (out of eleven) alongside the Reds, Indians, and Athletics. New York ranks 16th overall. The entire article is free. You don’t need a subscription. Here is the Yankees’ blurb:

The Yankees’ forays into international waters have already improved their standing from a pure volume-of-potential standpoint, and significant steps forward by even a couple of their swollen teenaged ranks could have this system looking much more dangerous a year from now.

We’ve already started to see the impact of the 2014-15 international spending spree on the system. I had two prospects from the spree in my Preseason Top 30 Prospects List (Wilkerman Garcia, Hoy Jun Park) and next year others like Estevan Florial, Diego Castillo, Juan DeLeon, Nelson Gomez, Brayan Emery, and Miguel Flames figure to come stateside. They’re the future of the system.

Keep in mind both Greg Bird and Luis Severino lost their prospect status last season, so while they don’t count towards the team’s farm system ranking, they could towards the “they’re young players and really good and very important to the future of the franchise” ranking. That list doesn’t exist as far as I know, but it should.

Keith Law, Baseball America, and MiLB.com ranked the Yankees’ farm system 13th, 17th, and 17th, respectively, so Baseball Prospectus’ ranking slots right in perfectly. The consensus is the Yankees have a middle of the pack farm system that skews slightly below average. Sounds about right to me.

Yankees rank 17th in MiLB.com’s farm system rankings

(Presswire)
Mateo. (Presswire)

Over at MiLB.com, the esteemed Sam Dykstra posted his farm system rankings earlier this week, and he has the Dodgers sitting in the top spot. Easy to understand why when they have the best position player prospect (SS Corey Seager) and arguably the best pitching prospect (LHP Julio Urias) in the game. The Braves and Twins round out the top three and the Angels predictably rank 30th.

The Yankees rank 17th in the MiLB.com rankings after Baseball America and Keith Law ranked them 17th and 13th, respectively. That is as middle of the pack as it gets. Here is Dykstra’s blurb:

Jorge Mateo, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez make up a core of promising position player prospects that any of the organizations above would love. All three have the potential to be regular Major League contributors and possess the individual tools (Mateo with speed, Judge with power, Sanchez with his arm) to become stars. What the Yankees lack is pitching. New York believes it took a potential leader in James Kaprielian out of UCLA with their pick at 16th overall last season, but there isn’t much more pitching in the system beyond Domingo Acevedo, who could rocket up the rankings if he can expand his repertoire beyond a 100-mph heater.

In recent weeks Dykstra also ranked each farm system in terms of position player talent and pitching talent. The Yankees were 12th in the position player rankings and only 25th in the pitching rankings. They definitely have a position player heavy system. Have for about two years now. They might rank 29th in arms if not for RHP James Kaprielian. Dykstra also gave the Yanks a B- for their under-21 talent.

Both 1B Greg Bird and RHP Luis Severino lost their prospect eligibility last season due to the time they spent in the big leagues, so while they are not technically prospects, they are obviously very important young players. The farm system takes a big hit because Severino threw 12.1 innings over the rookie limit, so don’t get too caught up in the rankings. Overall farm system rankings are much more hit or miss than individual player rankings.

This season the Yankees figure to graduate C Gary Sanchez, 2B Rob Refsnyder, and RHP Bryan Mitchell to the big leagues. Those are their No. 2, 6, and 7 prospects according to my rankings. One or two of the shuttle relievers might graduate too. Both Kaprielian and OF Aaron Judge could definitely make their MLB debuts this season, but I would be surprised if either racked up substantial big league time.

Saturday Links: Stottlemyre, Prospects, Teixeira, KBO

The Yankees continue their Grapefruit League schedule against the Braves this afternoon, and YES has picked the game up, so hooray for that. It wasn’t on the original broadcast schedule. Here are some links to help you pass the time until first pitch.

Stottlemyre’s health improving

Let’s start with some good news. According to John Harper, former Yankees pitcher and coach Mel Stottlemyre is improving as he fights blood cancer. “This is the best I’ve been in some time. I’m doing a lot better than when people saw me in New York,” he said. “I’m doing so well that the doctor told me I can pretty much live normally again. I’m going to get out and do more fishing again. I might even try to play golf again too.”

Stottlemyre, now 74, was able to travel to New York for Old Timers’ Day last summer. There had been some concern he wouldn’t be healthy enough to do so. The Yankees surprised Stottlemyre with a plaque in Monument Park and he gave a very touching speech. It was one of the best moments of the season, hands down. Glad to hear Mel is doing better. He’s had a lot of impact on the Yankees in his life, both as a player and as a coach.

FanGraphs evaluates Yankees prospects

Dan Farnsworth at FanGraphs recently posted his massive look at the Yankees’ farm system. It’s different, I’ll say that much, but different doesn’t automatically mean bad. Most of Farnsworth’s team lists have been off the beaten path. He has SS Jorge Mateo as the No. 1 prospect, which makes sense, but then has RHP Domingo Acevedo as No. 2. Give the post a look over if you’re a fan of divergent opinions. Here is my Preseason Top 30 Prospects List for comparison.

Teixeira wants to get to 500 homers

By almost any objective measure, Mark Teixeira is one of the best switch-hitting power hitters in baseball history. He ranks fourth all-time among switch-hitters with 394 homers, behind only Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504), and Chipper Jones (468). (Carlos Beltran is fifth with 392 dingers.) Teixeira ranks seventh in OPS+ (129) and fourth in SLG (.518) among switch-hitters with 3,000 career plate appearances.

A few weeks ago Teixeira said he wants to play five more seasons, and more recently he told Ryan Hatch he would like to reach 500 home runs. “I think if I play long enough I’ll get there. God willing I’ll play four, five more years and that’d be a nice number,” he said. Teixeira is 106 homers shy and about to enter his age 36 season. Only 27 players in history have hit 106 homers after turning 36, though most have done it within the last 30 years so. The big thing is health. Teixeira hit 31 homers in only 111 games last year. As long as he stays on the field, he could get to 500 within three or four years. Doable? Yes. Likely? Probably not.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

MLB, KBO working on new posting agreement

According to Jee-Ho Yoo, Major League Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization are currently in the process of negotiating a new posting agreement. The current posting agreement between MLB and KBO is the same as the old posting process for Japanese players, so teams submit a blind bid, then the high bidder wins a 30-day negotiating window with the player.

Under the current MLB-NPB agreement, Japanese players are free to negotiate with any team during a 30-day window, and the team that signs the player pays his former team a release fee. The release fee is set by the NPB team and capped at $20M. Yoo indicated MLB and KBO are talking about a similar system, except MLB wants to limit the max posting fee to only $8M.

Three notable Korean players have come to MLB through the posting process in recent years: Hyun-Jin Ryu ($25.7M bid), Byung-Ho Park ($12.85M), and Jung-Ho Kang ($5M). The bids are only going to increase though, especially if Park has success right away with the Twins the same way Kang did with the Pirates. It’s no surprise MLB is trying to keep costs down. That’s what they do.

Yankees encouraging players to quit chewing tobacco

At the behest on MLB, the Yankees are encouraging their players to quit chewing tobacco. The team is offering “Nicotine Replacement Therapy Supplies” such as gum and patches, according to sign posted in the clubhouse in Tampa. Of course, chewing tobacco may soon be illegal at Yankee Stadium. The New York City Council is expected to approve a ban on smokeless tobacco at all sporting venues in the city, according to Adam Rubin. The vote is Tuesday.

Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Los Angeles have already passed similar bans on chewing tobacco, and it’s only a matter of time until other cities follow suit. Tony Gwynn passed away following a battle with salivary gland cancer, which may have been the result of his smokeless tobacco use as a player. Curt Schilling has mouth cancer and has said many times he blames it on his use of chewing tobacco. I am generally pro “do whatever you want with your body,” but I can understand why the city wants to ban chewing tobacco at sporting events. They don’t want kids to watch and pick it up.

Minor League Notes: Workout Groups, Judge, Sanchez

Sanchez. (Presswire)
Sanchez. (Presswire)

The Yankees have an off-day today, so here are a bunch of minor league links and notes to help you pass the time this afternoon.

Minor league workout groups

Chad Jennings posted the Spring Training workout groups over in minor league camp, if you’re interested. Keep in mind these are not season assignments. LHP Ian Clarkin will not open 2016 with Triple-A Scranton even though that’s his workout group, for example. Farm system head Gary Denbo told Jennings both RHP Ty Hensley and RHP Austin DeCarr are doing well in their rehab from Tommy John surgery. The team also intends to start C Luis Torrens with Low-A Charleston, which I figured after catching guru Michel Hernandez was moved to that level. Torrens is supposedly all the way back from labrum surgery.

Judge, Rowson discuss mechanical changes

Earlier this month, OF Aaron Judge and minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson confirmed to Brendan Kuty Judge did indeed make some mechanical changes to his swing over the winter. We noticed the changes in the very first Grapefruit League game. Here’s the GIF (2015 on the left, 2016 on the right):

Aaron Judge 2015 vs 2016

The bigger leg kick is most noticeable, but Judge also moved his hands away from his body a bit and raised the bat so it’s no longer parallel to the ground. Rowson told Kuty the changes were Judge’s idea, though the team’s coaches and instructors helped along the way over the winter. “We just talked about what we thought was good and what wasn’t. Once we got to talking about that, we said, ‘Let’s go out and put it together,'” said Rowson.

Judge was reassigned to minor league camp over the weekend, which was not surprising at all. He had close to zero chance to make the Opening Day roster and it’s time for everyone to start getting more at-bats to prepare for the season, minor leaguers included. The Yankees have enough upper level outfield depth that Judge could end up getting 500 plate appearances in Triple-A, so he’ll have time to work on his new mechanics and adjust to those outside pitches that gave him so much trouble a year ago.

Sanchez among Baseball America’s top 2016 rookies

Baseball America’s John Manuel (no subs. req’d) put together a list of the top 20 rookies for the 2016 season. This is different than a top prospects list because not every top prospect is big league ready. These are the guys who will play in MLB this year. Dodgers SS Corey Seager sits in the top spot with Twins OF Byron Buxton and Dodgers RHP Kenta Maeda rounding out the top three.

C Gary Sanchez ranks 18th, with playing time the obvious question. How much will he play behind Brian McCann? “Sanchez has the plus arm and plus power teams look for in backup catchers, and his righthanded bat complements lefthanded-hitting veteran starter Brian McCann well,” said the write-up. I’m not sure Sanchez will even make the Opening Day roster at this point, but I’m sure we’ll see him at some point this summer anyway.

Vidal, Valle among those on WBC qualifying rosters

The 2017 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers No. 2 and 3 will take place this weekend in Mexico and Panama, respectively. The winner of each four-team, six-game tournament gets a spot in the 2017 WBC. Germany, Mexico, Nicaragua, and the Czech Republic are playing in Mexico while Colombia, France, Panama, and Spain are playing in Panama. Australia won Qualifier No. 1 a few weeks ago and Qualifier No. 4 (Brazil, Great Britain, Israel, Pakistan) will take place in September in Brooklyn.

The Yankees have four players on rosters for the two qualifiers this weekend, according to Baseball America: C Sebastian Valle (Mexico), RHP Gio Gallegos (Mexico), OF Carlos Vidal (Colombia), and RHP Jonathan Loaisiga (Nicaragua). Vidal is the best prospect of the bunch and he has a good chance to start for Nicaragua. Valle was reassigned to minor league camp over the weekend. Loaisiga is a 21-year-old righty the Yankees scooped up as a minor league free agent this winter. Those four guys will be spending a few days away from camp next week.

Yankees release Arias, sign Jamison

The Yankees have released 3B Gian Arias and signed RHP Preston Jamison to a minor league deal, reports Matt Eddy. Arias, 24, has not actually played since 2011 for whatever reason. He hit .242/.377/.322 with six homers in 178 Dominican Summer League games from 2009-11. The Yankees gave Arias a $950,000 bonus back in the day, so he was a pretty significant prospect at one point. Alas.

Jamison, 23, was a 30th round pick by the Tigers in 2012. He had a 5.73 ERA (4.97 FIP) with a 16.0% strikeout rate and a 13.0 % walk rate in 66 mostly rookie ball innings from 2012-13 before being released. Jamison hasn’t pitched since, but he’s a 6-foot-6 lefty, so he’s right up the Yankees’ alley. I’m guessing he must have shown some nice velocity during a recent workout or something.

Mateo tops MLB.com’s top 30 Yankees prospects list

(Main St. Rock)
Mateo. (Main St. Rock)

Yesterday afternoon the crew at MLB.com published their list of the top 30 Yankees prospects, which is topped by SS Jorge Mateo. That’s not surprising based on their annual top 100 list. OF Aaron Judge, C Gary Sanchez, and RHP James Kaprielian round out the top four, because duh. Who else would it be?

Jim Callis wrote a real quick system overview that’s worth checking out. As always, MLB.com’s prospect information is completely free. You can see the list, read the scouting reports, and watch all the videos for zero American dollars. It’s pretty awesome. Click the link for the complete top 30. Here’s the top ten real quick:

  1. Mateo
  2. Judge
  3. Sanchez
  4. Kaprielian
  5. SS Wilkerman Garcia
  6. OF Dustin Fowler
  7. RHP Domingo Acevedo
  8. SS Tyler Wade
  9. 2B Rob Refsnyder
  10. LHP Ian Clarkin

Looks good to me. I’m not the biggest Acevedo fan in the world — I ranked him 19th in my top 30 list — but I am in the minority. Sticking him in the top ten is not unreasonable. A few things stuck out to me while reading through the list and scouting reports, so here are my thoughts.

1. There are seven 2015 draftees in the top 30: Kaprielian, RHP Drew Finely (No. 16), RHP Chance Adams (No. 21), SS Kyle Holder (No. 23), LHP Jeff Degano (No. 24), 3B Donny Sands (No. 29), and OF Trey Amburgey (No. 30). Seven! That’s an awful lot for a team that had a pretty good farm system to begin with. Usually when so many recent draftees populate your top 30 it’s because your system stunk and you had few prospects to being with. Either that or you had a killer draft. I’m always wary of small sample performances when ranking recent draftees — Sands and Amburgey in particularly were great after signing — but the reports indicate the rankings are more scouting based than performance based, which is the way it should be. The Yankees tend to do a very good job in the middle rounds of the draft and MLB.com’s top 30 indicates they found some nice talent last year.

2. Speaking of Amburgey, the scouting report notes he “generates some of the best exit velocities among New York farmhands,” which is fun to read. I remember reading something similar about Judge a year or two ago. Following last year’s draft we heard Finley ranked among the best in the draft class in fastball spin rate, fastball extension, and curveball spin rate as measured by Trackman (i.e. PitchFX) at the 2014 Area Code Games. As fans and analysts we’re just now starting to use information like this and we don’t even fully understand it yet. Teams are already tracking this stuff for their minor leaguers and potential draft targets. You’ll never be able to scout prospects with just numbers, but all of this information can help you confirm reports, raise some questions, identify a sleeper, stuff like that. The more information the better, and that definitely extends into the minors too.

3. OF Leonardo Molina fascinates me more than maybe any other prospect in the system. He hasn’t hit much in his two years in pro ball (75 wRC+ in 410 plate appearances) but MLB.com’s scouting report says “scouts remain dazzled by his potential.” Here’s a little more of the scouting report:

Molina’s quick right-handed bat and his projectable strength give him the potential for plus power. While he has yet to enjoy much success at the plate, he shows signs of pitch recognition and doesn’t swing and miss excessively. Add in his plus speed, and he could be a 20-20 player once he matures physically and as a hitter … Molina’s speed and well-above-average arm allow him to play any of the outfield positions. He’s still learning how to make proper reads and routes but should be able to stay in center field.

That’s the scouting report of a future star, but because he hasn’t hit yet and is still so far from MLB — Molina is still only 18 and he’s yet to play outside rookie ball — he’s not a top prospect. A year or two ago I read something that described Molina as the kind of prospect who could take small steps forward each year and develop incrementally, though in my non-expert opinion I feel the opposite may be true. He strikes me as the kind of prospect where it might just click all of a sudden and bam, he’s a top 100 caliber guy overnight. Either way, folks who glance at stat lines are missing what Molina (and 3B Miguel Andujar, for that matter) has the potential to be.

If you’re interested, Callis held a Twitter chat yesterday and took a bunch of Yankees prospects questions, so scroll through his feed for some more info. He mentioned OF Jhalan Jackson and 1B Chris Gittens as sleepers. Jackson seems a little too well known to be considered a sleeper at this point.