Baseball America ranks three Yankees among best short season league prospects for 2016

Rutherford. (@MiLB)
Rutherford. (@MiLB)

A few days ago the crew at Baseball America started their annual look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league for the 2016 season. So far they’ve made their way through the various short season leagues — at least the ones relevant to the Yankees — which include the Gulf Coast League, Appalachian League, and NY-Penn League. The Yankees have two GCL teams plus one each in the Appy League and NYPL.

Starting with the Appy League (subs. req’d), Blue Jays OF Vladimir Guerrero Jr. claimed the top spot and was followed by two Yankees farmhands: OF Blake Rutherford and OF Estevan Florial are Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. In the chat, Hudson Belinsky singled out 3B Dermis Garcia, SS Wilkerman Garcia, SS Oswaldo Cabrera, OF Leonardo Molina, OF Isiah Gilliam, and C Donny Sands as others who received consideration. RHP Rafael Lara was mentioned as a sleeper.

“Rutherford controls at-bats and has a sound understanding of which pitches he can drive. His swing is geared more for line drives than home runs, and he hits lots of hard doubles from gap to gap, projecting for more over-the-fence power as he matures,” said the write-up. They also note Rutherford has very good outfield instincts but may lack the straight line speed needed to remain in center field long-term.

As for Florial, the write-up says he “wowed evaluators with his raw tools this summer,” particularly his “plus bat speed … giving him plus-plus raw power in batting practice.” Florial also has true center field defensive skills. The biggest red flag is a very aggressive swing that led to a 29.1% strikeout rate. “When he does connect, however, the ball explodes off his bat,” added the scouting report.

The GCL prospects list (subs. req’d) was, predictably, lead by Phillies OF Mickey Moniak, the first overall pick in this summer’s draft. Tigers RHP Matt Manning and Nationals OF Juan Soto round out the top three. SS Diego Castillo is the only Yankees prospect on the list and he ranked 19th. Ben Badler said 3B Nelson Gomez has huge raw power in the chat, but also “the approach he showed this year is worrisome,” which is why he didn’t make the top 20.

“(Castillo) has great feel for the barrel with a short, simple stroke with good bat path. He is a high contact hitter with an inside-out approach, wearing out the opposite field,” said the write-up, which also noted Castillo doesn’t have much power. His defense at short is very good as well, enough that he projects to remain at the position long-term. “He’s a smart, instinctive player who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.”

The Yankees did not have a single player on the NYPL prospects list (subs. req’d), which isn’t surprising. The Staten Island Yankees weren’t a particularly deep prospect team this year. 2B Nick Solak was by far the best healthy prospect on the team, and he’s didn’t make the cut in a league loaded with first round picks and high profile international signees. Athletics LHP A.J. Puk, the sixth pick in this year’s draft, was the league’s top prospect.

You can see the complete top 20 lists without a subscription right here. You just can’t read the scouting reports. I’m not sure what the posting schedule is, but the next list relevant to the Yankees is the Low-A South Atlantic League. SS Hoy Jun Park and RHP Dillon Tate are the Yankees prospects most likely to appear on the list. Others like C Luis Torrens and RHP Domingo Acevedo won’t meet the playing time criteria and aren’t eligible.

Yankees rank second in MLB.com’s updated farm system rankings

Frazier. (@Kelsie_Heneghan)
Frazier. (@Kelsie_Heneghan)

In the span of one week, the Yankees transformed their farm system from middle of the pack to arguably the best in baseball. The three recent trades (Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran) brought ten new prospects to the system, plus the Yankees have two players to be named later on the way thanks to the Ivan Nova trade. Let’s not forget about drafting and signing Blake Rutherford too. That’s a pretty big deal.

Yesterday afternoon MLB.com prospect guru Jim Callis posted an updated ranking of the top ten farm systems in baseball. The Yankees are not No. 1. That distinction goes to the Brewers, who are in the middle of a massive rebuild and added a bunch of prospects themselves prior to the deadline with the Will Smith and Jonathan Lucroy/Jeremy Jeffress trades. The Yankees are No. 2 though, and that’s pretty awesome. Here is Callis’ blurb:

If not for the Brewers’ Monday moves, the Yankees’ Trade Deadline activity would have given them the best farm system in baseball. They maximized the value received for Aroldis Chapman (shortstop Gleyber Torres, No. 24 on the Top 100, among four players), Andrew Miller (outfielder Clint Frazier, No. 22, and left-hander Justus Sheffield, No. 93, among four players) and Carlos Beltran (right-hander Dillon Tate, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 Draft, among three players). Even before that, New York had plenty of high-ceiling talent, including speedy shortstop Jorge Mateo (No. 25), a pair of nearly-ready sluggers in outfielder Aaron Judge (No. 30) and catcher Gary Sanchez (No. 37), and toolsy outfielder Blake Rutherford (No. 62).

In a separate piece Callis says the Yankees “were doing a strong job of building up their farm system” even before the trades earlier this week. “They’re one of the most aggressive teams on the international market,” wrote Callis, “… (and) New York has drafted better in recent years as well.” I have some quick things to add.

1. The Yankees really did kill it at the deadline. I can’t stay this enough: the Yankees did far better with their trade deadline deals than I ever possibly imagined. Best case scenario stuff on the three big trades. Part of that is just me not having a firm grasp on the market as an outsider. Another part of it is the Yankees doing a really good job getting teams to chip in those extra third and fourth pieces. Mark Melancon and Will Smith are really great relievers and they combined to fetch four players total. The Yankees managed to get four players each for Chapman and Miller. That’s pretty incredible. MLB.com’s updated farm system rankings reflect just how well the Yankees did at the deadline.

2. Expect some of these prospects to be traded. Prospects serve two purposes. One, they come up and assume roles on your big league roster. Some turn into stars, some turn into regulars, and some turn into role players. That’s the way it goes. And two, they’re trade chips. No one likes to think about their favorite prospects getting traded but it is part of the game. Not all these players are going to work out — the majority are not going to work out, in fact, because baseball is hard — and the key for any organization is figuring out which is these guys are worth keeping and building around, and which should be used as trade chips. That’s much easier said than done, obviously. The more prospects in the system, the more wiggle room you have when making those keep or trade decisions.

3. Farm system rankings are not meaningless. There have been countless studies about prospect rankings over the years, and by and large they’ve shown overall farm system rankings correlate well to future big league team success. (Here’s one, here’s another.) Does a good farm system guarantee future success? Of course not. But the more talent you have in the system, the more likely you are to be successful in the future. Right now the Yankees have more depth and talent in their system than they have at any point in the last 15-20 years, maybe even longer, and that bodes well for a franchise that is in desperate need of a youth infusion.

Yankees land seven players on MLB.com’s midseason top 100 prospects list

Frazier. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
Frazier. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

Last week the crew at MLB.com rolled out their midseason top 100 prospects list as well as their updated individual team top 30 lists. I intentionally waited to post this stuff because I had a feeling the Yankees were going to make some noise at the trade deadline, and sure enough, they did. Five trades total, including four that qualify as “sellers” trades.

Astros IF Alex Bregman sits in the top spot of the midseason top 100 — we saw him make his MLB debut in Houston last week — and is followed by Red Sox 2B Yoan Moncada and Phillies SS J.P. Crawford in the top three. The Yankees have seven players on the top 100. Three the seven were acquired within the last week. Here’s the list:

22. OF Clint Frazier (acquired in Andrew Miller trade)
24. SS Gleyber Torres (acquired in Aroldis Chapman trade)
25. 2B/SS Jorge Mateo
30. OF Aaron Judge
37. C Gary Sanchez
62. OF Blake Rutherford
93. LHP Justus Sheffield (acquired in Andrew Miller trade)

So that’s some list, huh? Three top 25 prospects, four top 30 prospects, and five top 40 prospects. Three of those five are in Triple-A too. That’s is pretty damn awesome. You can see MLB.com’s updated top 30 Yankees prospects right here. The scouting reports and everything are all free. I’m not going to regurgitate everything here. Here are some thoughts instead.

1. Andujar climbed quite a bit. Prior to the season MLB.com ranked 3B Miguel Andujar as the 15th best prospect in the system. Now he ranks eighth. That doesn’t sound like a huge jump, but four of the guys ahead of him in the midseason update weren’t in the organization prior to the season. His jump was really more like 15th to fourth when you ignore the new additions. Andujar’s breakout this season has been really impressive and it feels like a long time coming even though he’s still only 21. He’s six months younger than Frazier. These international signees get old quick, if you know what I mean. Prospect fatigue sets in early.

2. Adams climbed too. RHP Chance Adams has been a both a statistical and scouting marvel this season, as he’s made the transition from reliever to starter rather easily. He was 21st on the preseason list and is 14th now, ninth when you ignore all the recent additions. “While Adams has a deep enough repertoire to start, he’s not a big guy and it remains to be seen how his health and stuff would hold up with a significantly bigger workload,” said the write-up, and I think his size is important. Adams is listed at 6-foot-0 and the concern with short-ish pitchers is always the ability to drive the fastball downhill and avoid fly balls and homers. His 43.8% grounder rate and 10.8 HR/FB% aren’t exactly good signs. That said, Adams looks like a really safe bet to be at least a big league reliever long-term. What a scouting and player development story he is so far.

3. Green makes the leap. RHP Chad Green was not included in MLB.com’s preseason list. He now ranks 22nd, or 16th when you ignore the new guys. That’s a pretty significant jump. “Green’s fastball already was his best pitch when he worked at 90-94 mph with some occasional life. Now he’s sitting at 93-95 mph and touching 97,” says the scouting report. What is it with the Yankees getting their pitching prospects to add velocity? Green and a bunch of others have done it, including Adams and RHP James Kaprielian. There have been others as well. I’ve been impressed with Green’s arm despite his meh big league results to date. He was the second piece in the Justin Wilson trade, and, at least according to MLB.com, he’s jumped over RHP Luis Cessa to become the top piece.

4. Enns makes it. Finally some love for LHP Dietrich Enns, who has had tremendous results since returning from Tommy John surgery last year: 1.37 ERA (2.88 FIP) in 170.1 total innings. The scouting report isn’t as exciting as the numbers — “Enns’ lone plus pitch is his changeup, a low-80s offering that dives at the plate,” said the write-up, which also says he has an 87-92 mph fastball, a low-80s slider, and a slow curve — but he’s making people take notice, and that’s pretty cool. This guy was a 19th round pick and an organizational arm before having his elbow rebuild. Now he’s a prospect, albeit a fringe one who might not be more than a swingman at the MLB level. That’s still a really great outcome given his draft slot.

5. No Solak? I was surprised to see 2B Nick Solak absent from the top 30. I had him 13th on my post-draft top 30 before all the trades, so either I’m really high on him or MLB.com is really low. Probably the former. Solak has bat control and plate discipline, plus he can handle a middle infield position, and that seems really valuable to me. He’s the most notable omission in my book. Even with the new additions, I consider Solak organizational top 30 material rather easily.

6. No Austin either? 1B/OF Tyler Austin didn’t make the top 30 either — he also didn’t make my post-draft list, for what it’s worth — and that surprised me. I guess not everyone is sold on his big bounceback year yet. Brian Cashman did mention Austin by name as a possible call-up candidate yesterday and we’re going to find out pretty soon how the Yankees value him. Austin is going to be a minor league free agent after the season, so either the team will add him to the 40-man roster and keep him, or likely lose him to another club that offers a greater opportunity.

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.