Luis Severino tops Baseball America’s top ten Yankees prospects list

Severino at the 2014 Futures Game. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Severino at the 2014 Futures Game. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Earlier this week, Baseball America started their annual look at each team’s top ten prospects. The series continued today with the Yankees, and, as always, the list is free but the scouting reports are not. The link also includes free video for six of the ten prospects, so make sure you check that out. Here is Baseball America’s entire top ten index and here is New York’s top ten:

  1. RHP Luis Severino
  2. OF Aaron Judge
  3. SS Jorge Mateo
  4. 1B Greg Bird
  5. C Gary Sanchez
  6. LHP Ian Clarkin
  7. 2B Rob Refsnyder
  8. LHP Jacob Lindgren
  9. C Luis Torrens
  10. 3B Miguel Andujar

Severino and Judge are 1A and 1B in my opinion. I consider Judge the team’s top prospect because of the general attrition rate of 20-year-old pitchers plus the fact that offense is the scarce commodity these days, not pitching. That’s just my opinion. They’re both excellent and both are Yankees though, so the order doesn’t really matter.

The Mateo ranking might be a bit aggressive but people have been raving about him all summer. He’s clearly one of the team’s top prospects even though a hand injury limited him to only a handful of games in 2014. Bird over Sanchez seems to be based on performance as much as anything. The scouting report calls Bird an average defensive first baseman who “projects to hit 18-20 homers in the big leagues,” then says Sanchez can be a “frontline catcher with the potential for a .280 average and 20-25 home runs annually.” Plus Sanchez has at least a grade 60 bat flip tool:

Gary Sanchez

Anyway, Refsnyder and Lindgren are basically MLB-ready pieces while Clarkin, Torrens, and Andujar are lower level guys who are still years away. The scouting report notes that, with the help of pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, Clarkin added a cutter to his fastball-curveball-changeup mix this summer. Torrens is going to be the next great Yankees catching prospect very soon — the write-up says his defense draws raves even though he didn’t move behind the plate full-time until the team signed him in July 2012 — and the scouting report says Andujar has a “future of an everyday third baseman whose bat profiles for the position.”

Compared to last year’s top ten, I think this year’s has much more upside and depth. 3B Eric Jagielo didn’t make the cut — I assume he’s prospect No. 11 — despite having a pretty damn good year with High-A Tampa (132 wRC+ with 16 homers in 85 games) around an oblique injury. Last year he would have been in the top five no questions asked following a season like that. The farm system still isn’t in a great shape but it is definitely on the way up, especially after the club’s international spending spree this summer. There’s a ton of upside in the lower levels right now, way more than usual. I think the Yankees have been very good at acquiring talent in recent years. Developing it has been the problem.

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Mailbag: Refsnyder, Aviles, LaRoche, Schedule

Got six questions in this week’s mailbag. The best way to send us mailbag questions or comments or links or anything else is through the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

Refsnyder. (Scranton Times-Tribune)
Refsnyder. (Scranton Times-Tribune)

Greg asks: What kind of stats can we expected from Rob Refsnyder at the major league level in 2015?

I’m not really sure how to answer this so I’ll start by saying Steamer projects a .262/.328/.390 (102 wRC+) line from Refsnyder next season, which seems reasonable enough to me. (Reminder: Projections are not predictions, they’re an attempt to estimate current talent level.) The jump from Triple-A to MLB is always the toughest, though to his credit Refsnyder never really had any kind of extended adjustment period whenever he was promoted in the minors.

Chad Jennings recently spoke to a scout who compared Refsnyder to Giants second baseman Joe Panik, saying it was a “very good comparison” of “two guys making the most of their ability, and both have the knack of putting the barrel to the ball.” The scout also said Panik was smoother at second base. Panik hit .305/.343/.368 (107 wRC+) with an 11.5% strikeout rate after a midseason callup this summer, and I’m pretty sure we’d all be thrilled if Refsnyder did that next year. It’s worth noting Refsnyder’s minor league track record is way better than Panik’s as well.

I think Refsnyder’s gaudy minor league numbers may have set expectations unreasonably high. If he comes up and hits like, .270/.330/.400 while playing a bit below average defensively, people are going to call him just another over-hyped Yankees prospect or whatever. It’s inevitable. In reality, .270/.330/.400 would be pretty damn awesome and huge upgrade for the Yankees at second base. I think his introduction to MLB might be similar to Brett Gardner‘s — up and down a few times the first year before settling in the second year.

T.J. asks: I know it is unlikely that the Cleveland Indians decline Mike Aviles’ option, or trade him, but wouldn’t he be one of the best options out there for the Yankees, at shortstop? He also offers more infield versatility.

I would prefer Aviles more as a bench player than a starting shortstop, though he does meet the relatively low standard of “better than Brendan Ryan” though. The 33-year-old Aviles hit .247/.273/.343 (74 wRC+) for the Indians this year and he’s been at that level for three full seasons now (75 wRC+ in 2012 and 79 wRC+ in 2013). He’s a righty but his numbers against lefties aren’t all that good (82 wRC+ since 2012), and, depending on the stat, he’s somewhere between below-average and average at short. Aviles can play second, third, and left field in a pinch as well.

Aviles. (Presswire)
Aviles. (Presswire)

The Indians have a $3.5M club option for Aviles and that’s kinda pricey for a player who has been just above replacement level the last two years, but then again guys capable of playing shortstop are hard to find. I’d be happy if the Yankees replaced Ryan with Aviles as their backup infielder, though that’s a relatively small upgrade. Not something that will make a huge difference. I would much prefer bringing Stephen Drew back on a one-year “prove yourself” contract than settle for starting someone like Aviles at short. He’s a pure bench player for me and has been for Cleveland the last two years.

Daniel asks: Maybe this is a stupid question since it’s so unlikely. But, to me signing Adam LaRoche would be a good move for this roster. Not saying it’s top priority or anything, but doesn’t a modest two-year deal for LaRoche to split time with Mark Teixeira at 1B and take a few DH at-bats seem like a good idea? He is a lock to play more games than Tex, and he still is good for 25 HR and probably more in Yankee Stadium.

I don’t see LaRoche as a fit at all. He’d help the offense and I’m sure he’d mash a bunch of homers in Yankee Stadium, but the Yankees don’t need another full-time first baseman who soaks up DH at-bats. He doesn’t fit the roster. Square peg, round hole, etc.

The Yankees need someone who can play another position — third base or right field are obvious spots — and back up first base easily. Someone who was able to do what Nick Swisher did from 2009-12, play another position full-time and sub in at first in a pinch. Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and Alex Rodriguez are enough first base/DH types for one roster. LaRoche doesn’t make any sense for this team as is.

Nik asks: Reading your Chase Headley review got me to thinking: Has there ever been a player who played for two teams on the same day? Gotten hits for two teams on the same day?

Yes! It’s happened once in baseball history. On August 4th, 1982, Joel Youngblood played for the Mets against the Cubs in the afternoon and then for the Expos against the Phillies at night. He even traveled from Chicago to Philadelphia between games. Here is the box score for the first game, the box score for the second game, and the Wikipedia blurb:

On August 4, 1982, Youngblood became the only player in history to get hits for two different teams in two different cities on the same day. After Youngblood had driven in two runs with a single in the third inning for the Mets in an afternoon game at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs, he was replaced in center field by Mookie Wilson, and traded to the Montreal Expos for a player to be named later (On August 16, the Expos sent Tom Gorman to the Mets to complete the deal). Youngblood rushed to Philadelphia in order to be with his new team, and hit a seventh-inning single. Interestingly, the two pitchers he hit safely against, Ferguson Jenkins of the Cubs and Steve Carlton of the Philadelphia Phillies, are both in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Isn’t that neat? Maybe it’ll happen again someday.

Brian asks: Not sure if you know or can answer this one, but do you have any idea on the process for doing an MLB schedule? Just seems like a massive undertaking.

ESPN put together a 30-for-30 Short on the making of the schedule a year ago. Here’s the 12-minute video (it autoplays), and here’s the short version: MLB executive Harry Simmons drew up the schedule each year until the husband and wife team of Henry and Holly Stephenson were hired in 1982. They created the schedule every season until 2005, when MLB started using a computer system that randomly generates the schedule each year.

The Stephensons, who did much of the work by hand, had to deal with several division realignments and the introduction of interleague play over the years. MLB and MLBPA have a bunch of collectively bargained rules about travel and off-days and all that, plus each team had special requests each year (home for this holiday, away for that week, etc.), so yeah, it was a massive undertaking. I can’t really explain how they did it, it’s incredibly complex. Check out the video when you get a chance. Nowadays it seems like they just input a bunch of criteria and the computer spits out a schedule, which is how you end up with Derek Jeter playing his final game in Fenway Park rather than Yankee Stadium.

Mark Appel and the new pitch count in the AzFL. (Presswire)
Mark Appel and the new pitch clock in the AzFL. (Presswire)

George asks: Any update on the “make the game go faster” changes from the Arizona Fall League?

Unsurprisingly, many players aren’t a fan of the rule changes at this point. Players are routine-oriented and this breaks the routine they’ve been developing their entire life. Not being able to step out of the batter’s box between pitches, being forced to make the next pitch within 20 seconds … yeah I’m sure it’s an adjustment. Alexis Brudnicki recently spoke to some players about the rule changes, so check that out. Here’s one quote:

“It’s tough,” (Dodgers prospect Corey) Seager said. “You almost feel rushed. It’s not your normal (routine) where you can take your time, get your rhythm. It’s kind of on somebody else’s rhythm. It was a little rushed … getting on and off the field, getting your stuff done in the dugout and in the box mainly because you only have 20 seconds between pitches. You swing and then get right back in—it’s a little weird.”

Salt River Field is the only park with the 20-second pitch clock installed and there have only been a handful of games played their so far. Earlier this week MLB Pipeline reported games with the pitch clock (and some other rule changes) are averaging only two hours and 20 minutes, down from two hours and 51 minutes last year. Knocking a half-hour off the average game time is a pretty big deal, though we are talking about a small sample thus far.

I’m sure some of these rules will be changed and others will be eliminated before they are implemented at the MLB level. I’m sure there will be more complaints from the players, but there’s almost no way to shorten games without forcing them to make some kind of adjustment to their routine. Even shortening up commercial breaks between innings will be a big change for them. Hopefully MLB keeps at it and they come up with some solutions. Games are just too long nowadays.

Refsnyder among Baseball America’s top International League prospects

Baseball America’s look at the top prospects in each minor league continued on Wednesday with the Triple-A Intentional League, the last list relevant to the Yankees. The list is free, the scouting reports are not. Pirates OF Gregory Polanco, Red Sox IF/OF Mookie Betts, and Indians SS Francisco Lindor fill the top three spots. Triple-A Scranton didn’t have a ton of top prospects this year, though 2B Rob Refsnyder did made the list at No. 13.

“Refsnyder’s short, powerful stroke from the right side is polished, and when combined with a keen batting eye, he projects to hit for average and get on base at a high rate,” said the write-up while noting Refsnyder “lacks fluidity and must improve his double-play pivot skills.” One scout said he is “a work in progress, but the bottom line is he can hit.” The 23-year-old Refsnyder hit .300/.389/.456 (137 wRC+) with 19 doubles and eight homers in 77 games for the RailRiders after a midseason promotion from Double-A Trenton. I’m pretty confident we’ll see him at second base sometime next year.

Other League Top 20s: Double-A Eastern League, High-A Florida State League, Low-A South Atlantic League, Short Season NY-Penn League, Rookie Gulf Coast League.

Sanchez, Refsnyder among Baseball America’s top Eastern League prospects

Refsnyder. (MiLB.com)
Refsnyder. (MiLB.com)

Baseball America continued their breakdown of the top 20 prospects in each minor league with the Double-A Eastern League today. As usual, the list is free but the scouting reports are subscriber only. Nationals OF Michael Taylor, Red Sox IF/OF Mookie Betts, and Indians SS Francisco Lindor claim the top three spots. C Gary Sanchez (No. 11) and 2B Rob Refsnyder (No. 13) represent the Yankees. RHP Luis Severino didn’t throw enough innings with Double-A Trenton to qualify for the list.

“On the field, Sanchez still draws raves for his bat, which shows the potential for both a high average and lots of power. He can get his hands in and turn on the inside pitch with power, but evaluators did note that he struggled with both breaking pitches and changeups this season,” said the scouting report, which also noted Sanchez has a top notch arm but still has a lot of work to do defensively. They also say his maturity continues to be an issue. Sanchez, 21, hit .270/.338/.406 (108 wRC+) with 13 homers in 110 games for Double-A Trenton this summer.

The 23-year-old Refsnyder hit .342/.385/.548 (159 wRC+) with 19 doubles and six homers in 60 games with the Thunder this year before being promoted to Triple-A Scranton. “Refsnyder drew raves from evaluators for his ability to hit line drives to all sectors and also for possessing premium bat speed. He’s got pop, but it’s more of the gap-to-gap, doubles variety than true home run power,” said the scouting report. It also says Refsnyder is “still crude technically” in the field but he has improved at second base.

The Eastern League list is probably the most impressive list I’ve seen so far. There was a ton of top talent in the league this summer. Severino didn’t qualify for the list and others like OF Tyler Austin, RHP Bryan Mitchell, and LHP Manny Banuelos simply didn’t make the cut. The last list relevant to the Yankees is the Triple-A International League, which is due out tomorrow or the next day. The RailRiders were devoid of prospects for most of the summer. Refsnyder should make the list but others like RHP Shane Greene and C John Ryan Murphy will probably fall short.

Other League Top 20s: High-A Florida State League, Low-A South Atlantic League, Short Season NY-Penn League, Rookie Gulf Coast League.

The incremental upgrade that isn’t a trade

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

The non-waiver trade deadline is roughly 48 hours away, and based on the way he’s been talking the last few days, it seems likely Brian Cashman will swing another trade or two in an attempt to improve the team. Another starting pitcher feels inevitable, and they’ve been connected to a bunch of right-handed hitting outfielders as well. Those two upgrades are the bare minimum to make a run in the second half, in my opinion.

The Chase Headley trade solidified the infield, at least in the sense that they replaced a collection of bad players at the hot corner with one potentially good one. Headley’s first week in pinstripes has gone very well — 9-for-27 (.333) with two doubles, a homer, and a walk-off single — and hopefully that continues through the end of the season now that he’s out of Petco Park and doesn’t have to be The Man in the lineup. The upgrade on defense has already been noticeable as well.

The Yankees are locked into Derek Jeter at shortstop and Mark Teixeira at first base for a few reasons, and so far they’ve lived with Brian Roberts at second. In fact, I wouldn’t even say they’ve “lived” with him, they seem legitimately happy to have him out there. Roberts has somehow managed to stay healthy and he always puts together a long and quality at-bat, which is not nothing. Given how hacktastic this lineup has become, seeing someone who doesn’t go down on two or three pitches each time out is refreshing.

The problem is that Roberts’ long at-bats have not led to enough production. He is hitting a weak .237/.300/.360 (81 wRC+) in 348 plate appearances this year, including an even weaker .226/.281/.352 (72 wRC+) in 171 plate appearances since June 1st. Roberts was steady in the field earlier this season but has been much worse defensively of late, making three errors in ten games since the All-Star break and bobbling just about everything that isn’t hit right at him. He’s a liability both at the plate and in the field right now.

Remarkably, Roberts have remained pretty healthy this season. He missed a few games with a minor back issue in April but that’s it. His 91 games played are his most since 2009, his last full, healthy season. Given his age and his lengthy injury history, it could be that he is simply wearing down in the second half of the season. That would explain the lack of hitting and reliable fielding. It’s tough to expect a 36-year-old who has averaged 48 games and 202 plate appearances per year over the last four years to be an everyday player across a full season.

Soon after the Headley trade, Brian Cashman told reporters that while he is looking to make big upgrades to the roster at the trade deadline, he is making smaller, incremental upgrades whenever possible. “We have to try to improve, reinforce and upgrade, certainly,” said the GM to Andrew Marchand last week. “We certainly we would love to have some significant upgrades but when you lose four out of five starters, it is hard to re-materialize the same type of abilities with the guys you lost. It is whether you incrementally upgrade.”

(Scranton Times-Tribune)
(Scranton Times-Tribune)

Unlike the rotation and right field, the Yankees may be able to make an incremental upgrade at second base without having to make a trade. Second base prospect Rob Refsnyder — who you have all heard about by now — is stashed in Triple-A, hitting .296/.400/.500 (151 wRC+) with seven homers in 44 games and 190 plate appearances with the RailRiders after dominating with Double-A Trenton early in the season. He has cooled down of late but still has a solid .250/.327/.427 (108 wRC+) batting line this month. When a young player hits like that, you have to take notice, especially when he plays a position of need, both short and long-term.

Despite his Triple-A success, Cashman made it clear he doesn’t believe Refsnyder would be enough of an upgrade to justify calling him up and dropping Roberts. “I don’t think he would be significantly upgrading at second base right now … If you did see [Refsnyder], he would be probably more likely an outfielder for us. It’s a super big jump to the big league level,” said Cashman during a radio interview last week. He also pointed out the 40-man roster issue — Refsnyder won’t be Rule 5 Draft eligible for another year and they don’t want to clog up the 40-man roster, though that seems like a lame excuse more than anything. I don’t think a 40-man spot would stand in the way of helping the MLB club.

Now, here’s the thing: I’m not completely sold on the idea of Refsnyder being an upgrade over Roberts either. The defensive question marks at second are real, and Refsnyder struggled immediately after being promoted to both Double-A and Triple-A this year. That’s not unusual, Brett Gardner had the same problem while he was climbing up the minor league leader, but it is something to consider. The whole “how could he be any worse/what’s the harm?” argument is totally silly because Refsnyder could absolutely be worse than Roberts, just like David Adams was worse than Kevin Youkilis and Austin Romine was worse than Chris Stewart. It could always be worse.

At this point though, I think Roberts has forced the team’s hand and given them every reason to try someone new at second base. He isn’t hitting and he hasn’t been reliable in the field. When a player’s only redeeming quality is the ability to foul off pitches and have long at-bats, it’s time to try someone new. Roberts is about to start making some decent bucks through bonuses — he has already banked $350,000 in incentives and is two plate appearances away from another $250,0000 — so there is a financial incentive to make a change as well. The Yankees would pay Refsnyder through the end of the season less than the bonus they’d owe Roberts if he gets those next two plate appearances.

I would like to think being pulled for a pinch-hitter last night was the team’s way of preventing Roberts from triggering that next bonus under the guise of improving their chances to win, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t the case. The Yankees love their veterans and seem to think Roberts has some very real value to the team, but I don’t see it. Not at this point. He isn’t hitting and he isn’t fielding. When all the GM talks about are incremental upgrades and you’ve got a this sort of second base situation at the MLB and Triple-A levels, I don’t know how they don’t make a move. Refsnyder might not produce when he gets called up. It’s a very real possibility. But we know Roberts isn’t producing. That part isn’t up for debate. If they’re not going to make a change now, when will they?