2017 Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects

Gleyber and Clint. (New York Daily News)
Gleyber and Clint. (New York Daily News)

Baseball’s annual amateur draft will begin Monday, which means all 30 teams are about to add many new players to their farm systems. The draft is an exciting time. Thousands of young players will take a step toward achieving their dream of being a big league ballplayer. Only a handful will make it, of course. Even fewer will stick in MLB long-term.

The Yankees currently boast one of the best farm systems in baseball, and that’s even after graduating several high-end young players to show the last two years. Already this year three players from my preseason top 30 prospects list have exhausted their MLB rookie eligibility: Aaron Judge (No. 3), Jordan Montgomery (No. 13), and Chad Green (No. 20). Jonathan Holder wasn’t on my top 30, but he’ll graduate to MLB soon too.

With the 2017 draft only a few days away, it’s time for something of a check-up on the farm system. My annual pre-draft top 30 prospects list is, by far, my least favorite list because it’s prone to small sample size noise and knee-jerk reactions. And there are rarely new players. The Yankees haven’t made any trades yet this year, so there have been no new names added to the system.

So, with all that in mind, here is my updated list of the top 30 prospects in the farm system. Feel free to bookmark this post and mock me in the future.

The Tippy Top Prospects

1. SS Gleyber Torres, Triple-A (Preseason: No. 1)
2. OF Clint Frazier, Triple-A (Preseason: No. 2)
3. OF Blake Rutherford, Low-A (Preseason: No. 4)
4. LHP Justus Sheffield, Double-A (Preseason: No. 6)

These four are clearly the top four prospects in the system, in my opinion, and yet there’s enough separation between them that figuring out the exact order is easy. Gleyber is one of the five best prospects in baseball and is knocking on the door at Triple-A. Both Frazier and Rutherford have a chance to be impact bats, and with Frazier in Triple-A and Rutherford in Low-A, Frazier gets the nod at No. 2. Sheffield is the top pitching prospect in the farm system and I don’t think it’s all that close either. We should really talk about him more. A 21-year-old three-pitch southpaw having success at Double-A is a hell of a prospect.

The Other Top Prospects

5. SS/CF Jorge Mateo, High-A (Preseason: No. 7)
6. 3B Miguel Andujar, Double-A (Preseason: No. 8)
7. RHP Albert Abreu, Low-A (Preseason: No. 9)
8. UTIL Tyler Wade, Triple-A (Preseason: No. 10)
9. OF Dustin Fowler, Triple-A (Preseason: No. 12)
10. RHP Chance Adams, Triple-A (Preseason: No. 11)

The six players in his tier are almost interchangeable. They really are. If you believe that, say, Fowler should rank fifth and Mateo should be tenth, it would in no way be unreasonable. These six players are all borderline top 100 prospects — Mateo has been on more than a few top 100 lists over the years, and so far this year we’ve seen Abreu (Baseball Prospectus), Wade (Baseball Prospectus), Adams (MLB.com), and Fowler (MLB.com and FanGraphs) make some top 100 lists — who would make every top 150 list.

I’m sticking with my preseason guns with Mateo even though he’s given folks every reason to drop him in their prospect rankings. He’s hitting .249/.292/.409 (99 wRC+) while repeating High-A this year after hitting .254/.306/.379 (99 wRC+) at the level last year. Dude. I’m inclined to cut him some slack because he’s learning center field, but still. Mateo needs to start hitting and soon. I’ve long been an Andujar believer, which is why I still have him over the Triple-A guys despite their success.

The Damaged Prospects

11. RHP James Kaprielian, High-A (Preseason: No. 5)
12. RHP Dillon Tate, Extended Spring Training (Preseason: No. 14)

Sigh. Things never go according to plan. Kaprielian looked good in the Arizona Fall League last year and he nearly made it through Spring Training in one piece this year. Then his elbow started barking again, and soon thereafter he underwent Tommy John surgery. He’ll be out until midseason 2018, most likely. The persistent elbow trouble is too much to ignore. Kaprielian is going to miss close to two full seasons with elbow woes, which is why he dropped in the rankings.

I know it seems Tate has moved up two spots since the preseason top 30, but he really hasn’t. He’s in the same spot. Two players ahead of him on the preseason list (Judge and Montgomery) graduated, which is why he went from No. 14 to No. 12. Anyway, Tate has yet to pitch in an official game this season due to a shoulder issue. Last we heard, farm system head Gary Denbo said Tate was getting “close,” whatever that means. That was 18 days ago.

The International Players

13. RHP Domingo Acevedo, Double-A (Preseason: No. 15)
14. OF Estevan Florial, High-A (Preseason: No. 16)
15. RHP Domingo German, Triple-A (Preseason: No. 24)
16. SS Hoy Jun Park, Low-A (Preseason: No. 17)
17. SS Wilkerman Garcia, Extended Spring Training (Preseason: No. 18)
18. SS Thairo Estrada, Double-A (Preseason: No. 27)

German is the biggest riser from the preseason list. He’s further away from Tommy John surgery and reports indicate he’s throwing fire, regularly sitting 94-96 mph and touching 99 mph. German has also reached Triple-A after a quick stop at Double-A and has acquitted himself well. He’s going to pitch in the big leagues this year. It wouldn’t completely shock me if he were to get the call to make a spot start soon, even over Adams, especially since German is on the 40-man roster.

Acevedo and Florial have two of the highest ceilings in the farm system and they’ve done nothing but impress so far this season, which is nice to see. Estrada is the other big mover on the pre-draft list. I’ve been an unabashed Thairo fan for a few years now, and he’s making me look smart by hitting .326/.402/.442 (140 wRC+) with the same number of walks as strikeouts (21 each) as a 21-year-old in Double-A. Contact skills and defensive versatility on the infield will serve him well long-term. I get the sense he’s a trade chip for the Yankees more than anything.

The Former Top Prospects

19. LHP Ian Clarkin, High-A (Preseason: No. 19)
20. 1B/OF Tyler Austin, Triple-A (Preseason: No 21)

Once upon a time, Clarkin and Austin could be found near the top of a top 30 Yankees prospects list. Clarkin as a former first round pick and Austin as a late-round pick who annihilated minor league pitching. Both have seen their stock drop in recent years due to injury. Clarkin missed the 2015 season with an elbow issue, missed the second half of 2016 with knee surgery, and missed a few weeks this year with a sore shoulder. He’s healthy now though.

Austin reached the big leagues last season after years of wrist problems and poor performance. A fluke ankle injury suffered in Spring Training delayed the start of his season, and it wasn’t until the middle of last month that he started a minor league rehab assignment. The Yankees activated and optioned Austin to Triple-A earlier this week. We’ll see him again at some point soon. I don’t think he’ll be prospect eligible much longer.

The Bottom Ten

21. 3B Dermis Garcia, Extended Spring Training (Preseason: No. 23)
22. LHP Josh Rogers, Double-A (Preseason: No. 25)
23. SS Kyle Holder, High-A (Preseason: No. 26)
24. C Donny Sands, Low-A (Preseason: Not Ranked)
25. RHP Drew Finley, Extended Spring Training (Preseason: No. 28)
26. RHP Nolan Martinez, Extended Spring Training (Preseason: Not Ranked)
27. OF Billy McKinney, Double-A (Preseason: No. 22)
28. OF Leonardo Molina, Low-A (Preseason: No. 30)
29. RHP Zack Littell, High-A (Preseason: Not Ranked)
30. RHP Yefry Ramirez, Double-A (Preseason: Not Ranked)

Three players graduated to MLB (Judge, Montgomery, Green) and four players were added to the list (Sands, Martinez, Littell, Ramirez). The other player who dropped off: OF Mason Williams. He was No. 29 on my preseason list. He’s going to be 26 in August and he’s hitting .236/.281/.251 (48 wRC+) in Triple-A, so it’s time to cut bait. There are too many other quality prospects in the farm system to keep Williams in the top 30.

Anyway, McKinney’s drop is second largest only to Kaprielian, and at least Kaprielian has the injury excuse. McKinney is healthy and still hitting .206/.306/.350 (82 wRC+) in his third try at Double-A. Remember how great he looked in Spring Training? Spring Training lies, man. McKinney’s a bat only prospect. He has to hit to have any value whatsoever, and he’s not hitting. At least Kyle Holder can fall back on his glove, you know?

The new additions are all players who were seriously considered for the preseason list, so it’s not like they’re jumping into the top 30 after toiling in obscurity. Sands is progressing well behind the plate as a converted third baseman, and over the last few weeks his bat has really come alive too. Martinez, last year’s third rounder, is very similar to Finley in that he’s an advanced high school starter with a deep repertoire. I’m looking forward to following him once the short season leagues start later this month.

Littell is having an excellent statistical season (1.94 ERA and 3.46 FIP) and it’s probably only a matter of time until he gets bumped up to Double-A. He has a starter’s repertoire and a ton of pitching know-how. I’m a fan. Yefry has three sneaky good pitches and is having success at Double-A (2.52 ERA and 3.55 FIP). Guys like that normally rank in the top 15 somewhere. In this farm system, he’s No. 30. Pretty sweet minor league Rule 5 Draft pick, I’d say. Odds are both of these guys will get pushed out by 2017 draftees when I put together the post-draft list.

Among the other players considered for the back-end of this updated top 30 prospects list were, in alphabetical order, IF Abi Avelino, IF Oswaldo Cabrera, LHP Daniel Camarena, SS Diego Castillo, RHP Jorge Guzman, RHP Ben Heller, RHP Ronald Herrera, RHP Jonathan Holder, RHP Freicer Perez, and 2B Nick Solak. Not being able to squeeze some of those guys into the list, particularly Castillo and Guzman, surprised me. The Yankees are still loaded in the minors.

2017 Preseason Top 30 Prospects

The RailRiders won the 2017 Triple-A championship. (MLB.com)
The RailRiders won the 2017 Triple-A championship. (MLB.com)

Over the last 14 months or so, the Yankees went from having a promising middle of the pack farm system to arguably the best system in all of baseball. They sold at the trade deadline for the first time in nearly three decades, and the trading of veterans for prospects continued this offseason. The Yankees have acquired six of my top 30 prospects (and five of my top 15) since last July, plus two others who were among the final cuts.

The trades are not the only reason New York’s farm system has morphed into one of baseball’s best, however. A strong 2016 draft as well as several breakout (and bounce back) seasons from prospects already in the system helped as well. It would be wrong to say everything went right in the farm system last year. Only most things went right. It’s hard to think of a better possible season on the minor league side.

Amazingly, the Yankees have arguably the game’s top system despite graduating four of last year’s top 30 prospects to MLB, most notably No. 2 prospect Gary Sanchez. Fellow 2016 top ten prospects Rob Refsnyder (No. 6) and Bryan Mitchell (No. 7) also graduated to the big leagues last year, as did Luis Cessa (No. 26). Four others from last year’s top 30 are no longer in the organization due to trades (Ben Gamel), releases (Slade Heathcott, Jacob Lindgren), and the Rule 5 Draft (Luis Torrens). Thirteen of last year’s top 30 prospects are not on this year’s list for whatever reason.

This is, ridiculously, my 11th top 30 prospects list here at RAB. It still feels like just yesterday we were dreaming on guys like Jose Tabata and Christian Garcia. Good times. Good times. You can see all my previous top 30 lists right here. Obligatory reminder: I do not claim to be an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to read about prospects and rank them on my free of charge weblog. Disagree with the rankings? That’s cool. Mock me as you see fit.

For prospect eligibility, I stick with the MLB rookie limits of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched. Why at-bats and not plate appearances? Who knows. Also, I don’t pay attention to service time — players lose rookie eligibility once they accrue 45 days of service time outside September — because it’s not worth the effort to track. As always, prospect ranking is about balancing upside with probability, present skills with projection, and performance with tools. Everyone balances those things differently. It would be boring if we all did it all the same.

I liked the way the format worked out last year, so I stuck with it again this time around. All head shot photos come from MLB.com and MiLB.com. This year’s top 30 is after the jump. Enjoy.

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2016 Post-Draft Top 30 Prospects

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Last Friday was the deadline for clubs to sign their 2016 draft picks, and for the first time in a long time, every single first round pick signed. There’s usually one or two who don’t sign for whatever reason. Not this year. The Yankees signed 28 of their 40 picks (here’s the list, PDF link) and pretty much maxed out their bonus pool. They had only $177 in pool space left over.

The signing deadline means a new wave of talent has been added to the farm system, and that’s always exciting. The Yankees have also had many of their prized 2014-15 international signees make their U.S. debut this summer as well, so that’s even more talent. The raw talent is there. Now it’s just a matter of developing it into productive big league players.

The 2014-15 international class made this an extremely tough top 30 list for me. It’s always difficult to determine where those players fit in the system because they’re so talented but also so far away from MLB. I did my best to get them in here. Something tells me I’m going to end up hating this list and completely revising it when it comes time to do the annual preseason list next February.

Anyway, one player from my pre-draft top 30 list has since graduated to the big leagues: Rob Refsnyder. He’s exceeded the rookie limit of 130 big league at-bats. (He’s at 136.) As always, this list is my opinion and my opinion only. This is nothing more than a snapshot in time. You’re welcome to disagree and bookmark this post for future mocking purposes. Time for the top 30.

The Top Four Five

1. OF Aaron Judge
2. C Gary Sanchez
3. SS Jorge Mateo
4. OF Blake Rutherford
5. RHP James Kaprielian

I put Mateo at No. 1 and Judge at No. 3 in my pre-draft list and I almost immediately regretted it. I overreacted to some small samples and didn’t keep the big picture in mind. Judge was showing power and is knocking on the door. Mateo was having a great season at the time but is still years away from MLB. Judge went on an insane hot streak after the pre-draft list and Mateo wound up getting himself suspended for violating team policy. Oops.

Rutherford turns the top four into a top five. He was a consensus top ten talent in the draft who fell to the Yankees with the 18th pick because of signability concerns, then agreed to an above-slot $3.282M bonus. That’s pretty much the max they could give him without forfeiting next year’s first rounder. Kaprielian is out with a flexor tendon strain and he was supposed to go for a second opinion at some point, but we haven’t heard anything since. I wouldn’t blame you for assuming the worst.

The Next Six

6. SS Tyler Wade
7. 3B Miguel Andujar
8. OF Dustin Fowler
9. LHP Ian Clarkin
10. C Luis Torrens
11. SS Wilkerman Garcia

Andujar’s in the middle of a big time breakout season and Wade is more than holding his own as a contact oriented middle infielder. I’m the high man on him. I can’t imagine you’ll see him sixth in the system in many other lists. Clarkin and Torrens have bounced back well from lost 2015 seasons, though it should be noted Clarkin left last night’s start with an apparent injury. Sucks. Torrens is really good. Really, really good. He’d be in the top five if not for the shoulder surgery last year.

The Far Away Six

12. RHP Domingo Acevedo
13. 2B Nick Solak
14. RHP Drew Finley
15. RHP Nolan Martinez
16. SS Hoy Jun Park
17. 3B Dermis Garcia

Solak and Martinez were the team’s second and third round picks this year, respectively, and I seem to like them more than most, especially Solak. He can really hit, and I think his glove will be good enough for second long-term. Acevedo has had a very good statistical season, but he still needs to make some strides with his secondary pitches before I buy into him as a starter long-term. If the rotation doesn’t work, Acevedo has the stuff to be an impact bullpen arm.

Garcia, who signed for $3.2M back in 2014, is a new name to the list. His huge raw power is already showing up in games — he leads the Appalachian League with nine homers in 21 games — but so are his swing-and-miss tendencies. Dermis has struck out in 37.4% of his plate appearances this year. Yikes. Still, he has an elite unteachable skill (power), and that’ll get just about anyone on a top 30 list.

The (Almost) MLB Ready Six

18. OF Ben Gamel
19. RHP Chance Adams
20. RHP Luis Cessa
21. RHP Chad Green
22. LHP Jordan Montgomery
23. OF Jake Cave

All six of these guys are very close to MLB ready. Adams is this year’s breakout pitcher after making the transition from reliever to starter. He still needs to make some strides with his changeup before I’ll feel good about him sticking in the rotation long-term, but his fastball/slider combo stays firm deep into games. Adams has thrown 34 Double-A innings and is furthest away from MLB among these six players. Gamel, Cessa, and Green have all appeared in games for the Yankees this season.

The Injured Three

24. RHP Bryan Mitchell
25. OF Mason Williams
26. LHP Jacob Lindgren

Well, technically Williams is no longer injured. He was activated off the 60-day DL and optioned to Triple-A just yesterday. Missing close to a full year is a pretty huge deal, especially for a guy like Williams, who was in the process of rebuilding value before getting hurt. The tools are still outstanding. We saw them last year. Now Mason needs to stay healthy and show the improved maturity we saw a year ago is here to stay. Mitchell is currently rehabbing from his toe injury and Lindgren … well he’s pretty much disappeared. He’s out with an elbow injury and no one’s heard from him since April.

The Last Four

27. RHP Vicente Campos
28. SS Kyle Holder
29. OF Leonardo Molina
30. OF Estevan Florial

Welcome (back) to the top 30, Vicente Campos. Last time he was here he was still Jose Campos. He’s healthy, he’s having success as a starter, and he’s reached Double-A. Very promising year for Campos, who looked like a lost cause a year or two ago because he couldn’t stay on the field. I’m not sure if he can start long-term given his injury history, but at least now the chances are “slim” and not “none.”

Florial is another new addition to the list and he was a late signing during that 2014-15 signing period. He hasn’t been great statistically in rookie ball this year but a) it’s barely 100 plate appearances, and b) the reports are off the charts. Florial has power and speed, a good approach, and the defensive chops for center field. I’m always conservative with international guys in their first year stateside because there’s no much misinformation out there, so it’s possible I am hilariously low on Florial right now.

2016 Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects

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

Tomorrow night the 2016 amateur draft gets underway and the Yankees will begin the process of adding a bunch of talent to the farm system. That means new prospects to follow as they begin their path to becoming future Yankees. Or future trade chips. Can’t forget about that.

So, with the draft one day away, let’s step back for a second and take stock of the farm system right now. I put together three prospect lists each year and this pre-draft list is by far my least favorite, mostly because it’s prone to small sample size noise and there usually aren’t any new names. The pre-draft top 30 list is basically the preseason top 30 list with a few modifications.

In fact, there are only two new players on this pre-draft top 30 list. One replaces Slade Heathcott, who was released a few weeks ago. The other replaces Nick Rumbelow, who barely made the preseason list and had Tommy John surgery in April. Anyway, let’s cut to the chase. Here is my updated list of the top 30 prospects in the Yankees’ system. Be sure to bookmark this post for mocking purposes.

The Top Four

1. SS Jorge Mateo, High-A (No. 3 preseason)
2. C Gary Sanchez, Triple-A (No. 2 preseason)
3. OF Aaron Judge, Triple-A (No. 1 preseason)
4. RHP James Kaprielian, High-A (No. 4 preseason)

There’s a change at the top for two reasons. One, Mateo continues to be awesome and he’s now starting to hit for a little more power. Will it last? We’ll find out. Secondly, Judge is still having trouble adjusting to Triple-A pitching. I have him below Sanchez now because they have similar offensive profiles, but Sanchez is putting up way better numbers at the same level, is eight months younger, and plays the more premium position (passably).

Kaprielian is an easy call for the fourth spot even though elbow inflammation has limited him to three starts and 18 innings this season. He was predictably dominating High-A hitters. Kaprielian is supposedly on a throwing program now and is due to return to game action towards the end of the month. Hopefully he picks up right where he left off.

The Next Five

5. OF Dustin Fowler, Double-A (No. 9 preseason)
6. SS Tyler Wade, Double-A (No. 13 preseason)
7. LHP Ian Clarkin, High-A (No. 5 preseason)
8. SS Wilkerman Garcia, Extended Spring (No. 8 preseason)
9. 3B Miguel Andujar, High-A (No. 15 preseason)

Gosh, it is really tough to order these guys. You could stick any one of them in the fifth spot or ninth spot and it would be totally justifiable. Fowler has the best combination of tools and performance (and MLB readiness), which is why I have him fifth. Andujar is having a very good season, but he is repeating the level, so I want to see him at Double-A before bumping him up any further.

Wade is the most underrated prospect in the system in my opinion even though he’s in the Yankees’ top ten on just about every list you’ll find. He has very good defensive tools and is a no-doubt shortstop, and he’s a left-handed hitter with barrel control and a strong knowledge of the strike zone. Is Wade going to be a star? No. But I felt pretty confident he’ll play in the big leagues and start for someone.

I should note Garcia is injured, but I don’t know if he’s actually injured. He came down a shoulder ailment in Spring Training and hasn’t played in any games this season, though he wasn’t going to play in any games anyway. Wilkerman was always going to start in Extended Spring Training and report to one of the short season leagues in late-June. For all we know he could be perfectly healthy right now.

A future Hall of Famer. And A-Rod. (Greg Fiume/Getty)
A future Hall of Famer. And A-Rod. (Greg Fiume/Getty)

The Big League Two

10. UTIL Rob Refsnyder, MLB (No. 6 preseason)
11. RHP Bryan Mitchell, MLB (No. 7 preseason)

At long last, Refsnyder is finally getting an extended opportunity at the big league level, as a first baseman of all things. Wouldn’t have guessed that before the season, but here we are. Mitchell is still eligible for this list only because he suffered a freak injury at the end of Spring Training. He somehow broke his toe covering first base. Mitchell was expected to be a key middle innings reliever this season. Instead, he’s not expected to return in August.

Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind

12. C Luis Torrens, Low-A (No. 10 preseason)
13. RHP Drew Finley, Extended Spring (No. 12 preseason)
14. OF Mason Williams, MLB (No. 14 preseason)
15. LHP Jacob Lindgren, High-A (No. 11 preseason)

These four guys have combined for 30 plate appearances/batters faced this season, all by Lindgren, who had some rather extreme control problems before hitting the DL with an elbow injury. He managed to walk nine and uncork six wild pitches in only seven innings with High-A Tampa. Egads.

Torrens and Williams are still working their way back from last year’s shoulder surgeries. Torrens was supposed to be ready to go start the season, but the Yankees decided to shut him down when he complained of discomfort in the spring. Finley? He’s healthy, as far as we know. He’s just a teenager who is still in Extended Spring. Finley will be pitching in a short season league quite soon.

Lower Level Studs

16. RHP Domingo Acevedo, Low-A (No. 19 preseason)
17. SS Hoy Jun Park, Low-A (No. 16 preseason)
18. SS Kyle Holder, Low-A (No. 18 preseason)
19. LHP Jeff Degano, Extended Spring (No. 17 preseason)

I’m still not fully buying into Acevedo despite his strong season — he has a 2.19 ERA (2.02 FIP) with a 30.1% strikeout rate and a 3.5% walk rate in 37 innings around a mysterious lower leg injury — because I haven’t heard or read anything indicating his slider has improved. That’s the big knock on him. Acevedo lacks the breaking ball to project as a starter long-term in my not so expert opinion.

Degano has spent the season in Extended Spring, which is a little surprising to me. He wasn’t an advanced college arm like Kaprielian when drafted last season — he missed nearly two full college seasons due to Tommy John surgery — but he still seemed like someone who was ready for Low-A. Degano’s 2016 debut will come later this month. Park and Holder have had good but not great seasons while sharing short with the River Dogs. I wish there was a way to play them both at short full-time.

Almost Ready

20. OF Ben Gamel, Triple-A (No. 20 preseason)
21. RHP Luis Cessa, MLB (No. 26 preseason)
22. LHP Jordan Montgomery, Double-A (No. 21 preseason)
23. RHP Chad Green, Triple-A (NR preseason)
24. OF Jake Cave, Triple-A (NR preseason)
25. RHP Brady Lail, Triple-A (No. 22 preseason)

All six of these players have either made their MLB debut this season or are close to doing so. Montgomery is the furthest away in Double-A, but I expect him to finish the season in Triple-A, putting him a phone call away. There is some redundancy here — Gamel and Cave are pretty similar, ditto Cessa and Green — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially since they play positions where depth is always necessary. I am curious to see what the Yankees do with all these outfielders. There are five outfielders on this list at Double-A and Triple-A, and four are left-handed hitters. Gotta think one or two will be used in a trade, right?

Gamel. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Gamel. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Final Five

26. IF Thairo Estrada, High-A (No. 23 preseason)
27. RHP Chance Adams, High-A (No. 24 preseason)
28. IF Abi Avelino, High-A (No. 25 preseason)
29. OF Leonardo Molina, Low-A (No. 29 preseason)
30. RHP Austin DeCarr, Extended Spring (No. 30 preseason)

Lower level players round out the bottom of list, though I suppose Adams could get the call to Double-A at some point this season. His conversion from reliever to starter has gone pretty well so far. Then again, Jonathan Holder‘s seem to go well last year, and he was moved back to the bullpen this season. We’ll see what happens with Adams going forward.

Estrada is a personal favorite because he does a little of everything and seems more mature as a player than his age (20) would indicate. It’s going to take a lot to stand out in a system this deep with shortstops — the Yankees have more on the way from their 2014-15 international spending spree — so Thairo has to keep hitting and playing well regardless where the team sticks him on a given day.

DeCarr is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and should return with one of the short season affiliates this summer. We haven’t heard any updates on his status so far this year but that’s not uncommon. A healthy summer from DeCarr would move him up the rankings, no doubt.

2016 Preseason Top 30 Prospects

The SI Yanks won their division in 2015. (Robert Pimpsner)
The Staten Island Yankees won their division in 2015. (Robert Pimpsner)

For the first time in a very long time, the Yankees relied heavily on their farm system last season. Every time a need arose, the team opted for an internal solution and rarely went outside the organization. Eighteen different players made their big league debut with the Yankees last summer. Eighteen! Some were top prospects and some were organizational fodder. All came from within.

Thanks to all those debuts and the emphasis on the farm system, four of last year’s Top 30 Prospects graduated to the big leagues in 2015: Luis Severino (No. 2), Greg Bird (No. 5), John Ryan Murphy (No. 9), and Chasen Shreve (No. 26). Six other players on last year’s list are no longer in the organization due to trades (Eric Jagielo, Rookie Davis, Jose Ramirez, Ramon Flores), waivers (Danny Burawa), and the Rule 5 Draft (Jake Cave). Lots and lots of turnover.

I find this very hard to believe, but this is my tenth Preseason Top 30 Prospects List here are RAB. Time flies, man. We’ve come a long way since the days of Humberto Sanchez and Marcos Vechionacci, haven’t we? All of my previous Top 30 Lists are right here. As a reminder: I am no expert. I’m a guy who reads a lot (Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law, MiLB.com, etc.) and has opinions. That’s all. Disagree and mock me as you please.

As for prospect eligibility, I stick with the MLB rookie limits (50 innings or 130 at-bats) with no attention paid to service time. That stuff is too difficult to track. Ranking prospects is all about balancing upside with probability, stats with scouting reports. There is no perfect mix. Everyone weighs things differently, often from player to player. This is baseball. If you’re batting 1.000 when evaluating players, you aren’t taking enough swings.

I changed the format of this year’s Top 30 Prospects List just a bit to liven things up. Hopefully it works out well. All head shots come from MLB.com or MiLB.com, unless noted otherwise. This year’s Preseason Top 30 Prospects List begins after the jump. Enjoy.
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2015 Post-Draft Top 30 Prospects

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

Thanks to the 2015 amateur draft and one minor trade, the Yankees added a swarm of new prospects to the farm system over the last several weeks, since I posted my Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects List. Now that the draft signing deadline has come and gone, it’s time for a system update, because who doesn’t love prospect lists?

I considered waiting another week or so before posting this because of the upcoming trade deadline, but I figured it was worth posting now, as a snapshot in time before prospects are potentially traded away. I do expect the Yankees to make a deal or three at the deadline. They’re too good and too flawed not to, right? Chances are someone on this list won’t be in the organization this time next week.

Anyway, the only player to graduate to the big leagues since I posted by Pre-Draft Top 30 is Chasen Shreve. He’s two outs over the 50-inning rookie limit. As I did with the Pre-Draft Top 30, rather than post a simple 1-30 list, I’m going to break the prospects into groups because that’s more interesting. And remember, this is my personal list. You’re welcome to disagree. The cool thing is we can all be right — there’s no correct way to rank prospects. We all have opinions and they all stink. Away we go.

The Top Two

1. OF Aaron Judge (Pre-Draft Rank: 1)
2. RHP Luis Severino (Pre-Draft Rank: 2)

Same top two as before the draft and before the season. No reason to change things up. Judge hasn’t played in a week due to a supposedly minor day-to-day injury — he’s not on the DL and no, I don’t think he’s not playing because of some of kind of trade, that makes absolutely zero sense and the Yankees have never done anything like that before — but that’s not going to change my rankings. Both Judge and Severino are among the 50 best prospects in baseball, arguably among the top 30, and clearly the two best in New York’s system.

The Next Four

3. C Gary Sanchez (Pre-Draft Rank: 3)
4. RHP James Kaprielian (Pre-Draft Rank: N/A)
5. SS Jorge Mateo (Pre-Draft Rank: 7)
6. 1B Greg Bird (Pre-Draft Rank: 5)

Yeah, so things aren’t too clear after the top two. Slotting Kaprielian in was more difficult than I thought it would be — I think there are valid reasons to rank him as high as third and as low as sixth in the system. Can’t see him any lower than that. I think the perception he is low-upside is very unfair — I’m not saying he’s an ace, but he’s not exactly David Phelps either — in fact I think he’s the kind of pitching prospect who could exceed expectations as a four-pitch guy with command, especially if his late-spring velocity spike was legit. I like Kaprielian’s combination of medium-ish upside and high probability more than Mateo (high upside, low probability) and Bird (medium upside, medium probability).

The Injured Four

7. LHP Ian Clarkin (Pre-Draft Rank: 4)
8. 3B Eric Jagielo (Pre-Draft Rank: 6)
9. C Luis Torrens (Pre-Draft Rank: 8)
10. LHP Jacob Lindgren (Pre-Draft Rank: 12)

Gosh I wish I knew what was up with Clarkin. The latest reports say he hasn’t had elbow surgery but that isn’t exactly encouraging when he’s still yet to begin pitching in games. I can’t help but think back to Manny Banuelos in 2012, when he missed the season with a bone bruise in his elbow, then blew out his elbow during his rehab and needed Tommy John surgery in October. Yuck. Jagielo (knee), Torrens (shoulder), and Lindgren (elbow) are all out long-term with injuries too. Jagielo and Lindgren might come back late in the season but Torrens is done for the year. I love Torrens as a prospect and think the other three guys are safe bets to big leaguers of various calibers, assuming they get healthy.

Around The Horn, Sorta

11. SS Tyler Wade (Pre-Draft Rank: 10)
12. 2B Rob Refsnyder (Pre-Draft Rank: 11)
13. 3B Miguel Andujar (Pre-Draft Rank: 9)

Three very different infield prospects. Wade’s a no-doubt shortstop with zero power but good bat-to-ball skills and speed. Refsnyder is a bat first guy with questionable defense who is as big league ready as he’s going to get. Andujar is the most well-rounded player and has the highest upside of the three, but his overall performance hasn’t been great in the minors, and at some point it would be cool if the numbers start to come consistently.

The Four Righties of the Prospectocalypse

14. RHP Bryan Mitchell (Pre-Draft Rank: 13)
15. RHP Rookie Davis (Pre-Draft Rank: N/A because I’m an idiot)
16. RHP Drew Finley (Pre-Draft Rank: N/A)
17. RHP Brady Lail (Pre-Draft Rank: 20)

Kinda cool (and convenient) the four right-handers landed back-to-back-to-back-to-back like this. Mitchell spit hot fire out of the big league bullpen for a few weeks and is ready to help in that role, though the Yankees want him stretched out, which is understandable. Davis has made tremendous strides since being the team’s 14th round pick back in 2011, especially with his command. He’s a classic bulldog pitcher. Finley is sort of like the 2011 version of Davis but more projectable and with better draft day command. Lail is a high probability starter with four pitches and know-how. The Yankees did a tremendous job turning him into a legitimate prospect after taking him in the 18th round of the 2012 draft out of a high school in friggin’ Utah.

Low Ceiling, High Ceiling, And Everything Between

18. OF Ramon Flores (Pre-Draft Rank: 14)
19. OF Jake Cave (Pre-Draft Rank: 16)
20. SS Abi Avelino (Pre-Draft Rank: 21)
21. SS Thairo Estrada (Pre-Draft Rank: 29)
22. OF Leonardo Molina (Pre-Draft Rank: 26)
23. SS Kyle Holder (Pre-Draft Rank: N/A)

A collection of position players with different skill sets. Flores is an MLB ready lefty swinging outfielder who could end up carving out a ten-year career as a platoon bat. Cave is basically that as well, but a little further away and center field capable. Avelino, Estrada, and Holder are all lower level shortstops. Avelino (speed guy) and Estrada (contact guy) are both better hitters than Holder, who’s a better defender than those two as well as every other shortstop in the system. None of the three are gonna hit for power. Or at least aren’t expected to long-term. Molina is the most long-term project in the system — he has incredible natural tools and instincts, but is (still!) only 17 and not yet close to fully mature physically. The ultimate boom or bust prospect.

Reclamation Prospects

24. OF Tyler Austin (Pre-Draft Rank: 18)
25. RHP Domingo German (Pre-Draft Rank: 17)
26. RHP Austin DeCarr (Pre-Draft Rank: 19)
27. OF Mason Williams (Pre-Draft Rank: 22)
28. OF Slade Heathcott (Pre-Draft Rank: 23)
29. RHP Ty Hensley (Pre-Draft Rank: 28)
30. RHP Jose Ramirez (Pre-Draft Rank: 24)

All seven of these guys are trying to come back from something and rebuild their prospect stock. Austin has been hurt both this year and the last several years, and he’s not hitting in Triple-A at the moment. German, DeCarr, and Hensley are all working their way back from Tommy John surgery. Williams (shoulder) and Heathcott (quad) are currently on the MLB DL — they’ve both exhausted their rookie eligibility due to service time, but I don’t worry about that, it’s too much of a hassle — after, uh, turbulent careers to date. Turbulent’s a good word. Ramirez’s stuff is electric but the results don’t match, and his injury history is scary.

The Next Five

RHP Domingo Acevedo (Pre-Draft Rank: N/A)
SS Angel Aguilar (Pre-Draft Rank: 25)
LHP Jordan Montgomery (Pre-Draft Rank: 27)
RHP Branden Pinder (Pre-Draft Rank: N/A)
2B Tony Renda (Pre-Draft Rank: N/A)

No specific order here, the players are listed alphabetically. Acevedo has touched triple digits with his fastball and his frame is ridiculous (listed at 6-foot-7 and 190 lbs!), but his command is spotty and his breaking ball isn’t defined. The upside is incredible. The chances of him reaching his ceiling are also microscopic. Montgomery, Pinder, and Renda are all boring-ish lower upside guys who are safe bets to contribute at the MLB level in some capacity, even if they’re only extra players. Pinder’s done that already. Aguilar has as much offensive upside as any of the team’s shortstop prospects aside from Mateo, but, you know, they can’t all be in the top 30.

2015 Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects

Judge. (Times of Trenton)
Judge. (Times of Trenton)

The 2015 amateur draft begins Monday night, which means it’s time for my annual pre-draft update of the top 30 prospects in the Yankees’ system. Of the three top 30 lists I do each year, the pre-draft list by far my least favorite because it’s prone to small sample size overreactions and usually no new interesting prospects have joined the organization. So it’s the same players in a slightly different order, basically.

The only player to graduate from my Preseason Top 30 Prospects list to the big leagues so far this year is current backup catcher John Ryan Murphy. He crossed the 130 at-bat rookie eligibility threshold a few weeks ago. The Yankees haven’t made any trades yets this season, so no prospects were added or subtracted from the farm system since the preseason list.

Rather than simply present the pre-draft top 30 like I usually do, I’m going to try something a little different this time, and break the list up into groups. The players are still ranked 1-30, but are now grouped together based on common traits. Make sense? You’ll see what I mean. Each player is listed with his position, his age, and his rank on my preseason list. Let’s get to it.

The Top Two

1. OF Aaron Judge, 23 (Preseason Rank: 1)
2. RHP Luis Severino, 21 (Preseason Rank: 2)

At this point these two are clearly the two best prospects in the system. The order is debatable but not really — Judge has done nothing but mash as a pro and also will provide defensive value in right field. There are basically two flaws in his game. One, he is prone to striking out, partly because he’s so damn big and has such long arms. Two, he doesn’t hit for as much power as you’d expect because he has such a contact-focused approach. That’s the “my biggest weakness is I work too hard” of the prospect world.

Severino, on the other hand, is still working to refine his breaking ball and changeup — both of which are very promising yet far from consistent from start-to-start — as well as improve his delivery. The Yankees have moved Severino very aggressively through the system and I have little doubt he will reach MLB before Judge. I like Judge’s potential to be a long-term impact player more, however. Again, these two are the two best prospects in the system and the Yankees are lucky to have both. At this point Judge is the better bet though.

The Questionable Next Four

3. C Gary Sanchez, 22 (Preseason Rank: 3)
4. LHP Ian Clarkin, 20 (Preseason Rank: 4)
5. 1B Greg Bird, 22 (Preseason Rank: 5)
6. 3B Eric Jagielo, 23 (Preseason Rank: 12)

Bird. (Presswire)

All four of these guys have a lot of upside and at least one significant flaw that holds them back from top prospect status. Sanchez’s defense continues to be a work in progress — the Yankees had him repeat Double-A this year so he could specifically work with ex-catchers/coaches P.J.Pilittere and Michel Hernandez — and while it is improving, it is improving very slowly. The Yankees are being patient. Jagielo’s issue is also his defense. He’s statuesque at the hot corner.

Clarkin and Bird have been hurt this year. In fact, Clarkin hasn’t pitched in an official game at all this season. He went down with elbow tendinitis in Spring Training and was reportedly pitching in Extended Spring Training games last month, but there have been no updates since. Hard not to think the worst at this point. Bird returned to the Double-A Trenton lineup last night after missing a month with a shoulder strain. Sanchez, Clarkin, Bird, and Jagielo all have a chance to be impact big league players, but none are a safe bets due to their noted flaws.

Young & Far Away

7. SS Jorge Mateo, 19 (Preseason Rank: 8)
8. C Luis Torrens, 19 (Preseason Rank: 6)
9. 3B Miguel Andujar, 20 (Preseason Rank: 7)
10. SS Tyler Wade, 20 (Preseason Rank: 20)

This is the “ultra-talented but many levels away from MLB” group. Wade is the big climber here because the kid does nothing but hit. He went into last night’s game with a .305/.348/.385 (124 wRC+) batting line in High Class-A, where he is two and a half years younger than the average Florida State League player. Wade doesn’t have any power, but as a left-handed hitting shortstop with good defensive chops and bat-to-ball ability, his stock continues to rise.

Mateo leads all of professional baseball in stolen bases this season and is as tooled up as any player in the system. He might be a little in over his head with Low-A Charleston at the moment, but he hasn’t been atrocious. Andujar is once again doing his “slow start at a new level” thing, which he’s done his entire career. He has the skills to be a two-way asset though. Torrens is out for the season, unfortunately. He tore his labrum and had surgery in Spring Training. That’s a pretty significant injury, but I love him as a player, so I have him in a holding pattern for the time being.

Lindgren. (Presswire)
Lindgren. (Presswire)

Ready To Help

11. 2B Rob Refsnyder, 24 (Preseason Rank: 13)
12. LHP Jacob Lindgren, 22 (Preseason Rank: 14)
13. RHP Bryan Mitchell, 23 (Preseason Rank: 15)
14. OF Ramon Flores, 23 (Preseason Rank: 22)
15. LHP Chasen Shreve, 24 (Preseason Rank: 26)

We’ve reached the MLB ready portion of the list, and in fact three of these guys (Lindgren, Ramon, Shreve) are in the big leagues at this very moment. Mitchell was up earlier this year and last year as well. Refsnyder could be called up pretty much any day now, though his defense at second is still questionable and he hasn’t wowed at the plate this season — he was hitting .277/.357/.375 (116 wRC+) prior to last night’s game. These guys don’t have the highest ceilings in the organization, but their MLB readiness and probability makes them all top 15 prospects in the system.

The Mixed Bag

16. OF Jake Cave, 22 (Preseason Rank: 19)
17. RHP Domingo German, 22 (Preseason Rank: 11)
18. OF Tyler Austin, 23 (Preseason Rank: 10)
19. RHP Austin DeCarr, 20 (Preseason Rank: 16)
20. RHP Brady Lail, 21 (Preseason Rank: 25)
21. SS Abi Avelino, 20 (Preseason Rank: 20)

The only thing this group has is common is … well nothing. They’re all Yankees, that’s it. Cave, Lail, and Avelino are all having good to great seasons — Lail and Avelino received early season promotions to Double-A Trenton and High-A Tampa, respectively — while Austin has really struggled with Triple-A Scranton. He battled injuries the last few seasons, but, as far as I know, he’s healthy now. Healthy and not hitting, which is a problem for a bat first prospect.

German and DeCarr have not pitched in an official game yet this season for different reasons. German, who came over from the Marlins in the Nathan Eovaldi/Martin Prado trade, blew out his elbow in Spring Training and needed Tommy John surgery. He’s out for the season, obviously. DeCarr, meanwhile, is hanging out in Extended Spring Training and will join one of the team’s four (!) short season affiliates when the various seasons start later this month. My guess is Short Season Staten Island. We’ll see.

Reclamation Prospects

22. OF Mason Williams, 23 (Preseason Rank: 29)
23. OF Slade Heathcott, 24 (Preseason Rank: 30)
24. RHP Jose Ramirez, 25 (Preseason Rank: 23)

Heathcott. (Presswire)
Heathcott. (Presswire)

We could also call this the Cautious Optimism group. All three are trying to rebuild their prospect stock. Williams was flat out terrible the last two seasons while Heathcott and Ramirez have battled injuries for years now. Williams got off to an excellent start in Double-A Trenton this year and was quickly promoted to Triple-A Scranton thanks in part to Heathcott. Heathcott had a great Grapefruit League showing, a great few weeks in Triple-A, and was called up to MLB last month. Ramirez has been Triple-A almost all year and is doing fine. Not great, not awful.

If prospect rankings were based on pure talent and upside, these three would be near the top of the list. But there’s also a probability component that has to be considered, and these guys are sorely lacking in that area. Williams is atop this group because his problems are makeup and work ethic related, and theoretically those issues are correctable. Injuries are much more difficult to overcome, especially the kind Heathcott and Ramirez have been through. Their natural talent keeps them in the top 30, but it’s hard to go any higher given their track records.

The Best of the Rest

25. SS Angel Aguilar, 19 (Preseason Rank: 21)
26. OF Leonardo Molina, 17 (Preseason Rank: 24)
27. LHP Jordan Montgomery, 22 (Preseason Rank: N/A)
28. RHP Ty Hensley, 21 (Preseason Rank: 18)
29. SS Thairo Estrada, 19 (Preseason Rank: 27)
30. RHP Danny Burawa, 26 (Preseason Rank: 28)

The last few spots are always the toughest because there isn’t a whole lot of separation between prospects at this level. It comes down to preference, not any sort of significant difference in talent level or anything like that. Aguilar, Molina, and Estrada are all still very young and talented, though they have combined to play a total of 33 games this season, all by Aguilar at Low-A Charleston. Molina and Estrada are still in Extended Spring Training.

Hensley takes a big fall because he’s hurt again. He had Tommy John surgery in March and is going to miss another full season. Due to hip, hernia, and elbow woes, the team’s first round pick in the 2012 draft will have thrown a total of 42.1 innings from 2012-15. Brutal. There’s just no way to get that development time back. I’m not saying it can’t be done, just that it’ll be very difficult for Hensley. Hopefully the elbow surgery is his last injury and he can finally start to accumulate some innings next year.

The only new name added to the list is Montgomery, who has predictably torn up the low minors after spending three years in the SEC as part of South Carolina’s rotation. He’s the kind of guy who won’t be tested until he gets to Double-A. Montgomery is cut from the David Phelps/Adam Warren cloth as a college starter with enough stuff and enough command to move quickly and stick around in MLB for a few years. The upside isn’t sky high, but back-end starters have to come from somewhere.