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)

(Presswire)
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.

2015 Preseason Top 30 Prospects

For the first time in RAB history, Dellin isn't prospect-eligible. Bittersweet. (Presswire)
For the first time in RAB history, Dellin isn’t prospect-eligible. Bittersweet. (Presswire)

One year after implementing some procedural changes to their player development system, the Yankees took the next step and made some personnel changes last fall. Long-time VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman retired — his contract was up and I get the sense he wasn’t going to be brought back anyway — and was replaced by Gary Denbo, who’s worn many organizational hats over the years. Pat Roessler, the team’s director of player development for more than a decade, was also let go, as where several other staff members.

The changes were made following a season in which the Yankees actually got some help from within. The kind of help that didn’t come at all in 2013. Shane Greene and especially Dellin Betances had an impact on the mound, and others like Chase Whitley, Jose Ramirez, and Bryan Mitchell got a chance to make their MLB debuts. It still wasn’t enough though. The Yankees didn’t have anyone to step in when Mark Teixeira or Carlos Beltran got hurt, and beyond Greene there was no real rotation help to be had.

Overall, the farm system did improve last year. Several prospects hit on something close to their realistic best case scenario and zoomed towards the top of the organizational prospect list. The Yankees also spent more than $30M in international free agency between bonuses and penalties last summer, essentially making a mockery of a broken system while hoarding most of the top available talent. Those prospects are all teenagers though. It’ll be a while before they have any sort of big league impact for New York.

This is, unbelievably, my ninth Top 30 Prospects List at RAB. The other eight can be found right here. This next part is very important: I am not a scout nor am I an expert. I’m a guy with opinions. And they’re wrong. Like, all the time. I read a lot — an embarrassing amount, really — and I have my own preferences for what makes a good prospect. I read everything. Baseball America, Keith Law, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, MiLB.com, random interviews with local papers, you name it. There’s plenty of information out there and I try to soak it all in. What qualifies me to put together a list like this? Nothing, I’m just a guy with a blog. Start one of your own and you can put together a top 30. Or a top 100, if that’s your thing. This is meant to be for fun, not any sort of definitive ranking.

I use the rookie limits (50 innings or 130 at-bats) to determine prospect eligibility because that’s what everyone else uses. I don’t pay attention to service time because that stuff is too complicated. Also, I don’t rank any recent international signings because those guys haven’t even played a professional game yet. Just a personal, long-standing policy. I’d rather be a year late than a year early on players like that. Rest assured, next year’s Top 30 will inevitably feature a bunch of guys from last summer’s international spending spree. Four players from last year’s list graduated to MLB and eight are no longer in the organization. That seems like a lot.

Alright, so let’s cut the small talk and get to the rankings. I changed the format slightly this year just to shake things up a bit. Hopefully you like it. All the relevant stats and bio information is listed before the write-up. All headshots from MLB.com or MiLB.com, unless noted otherwise. This year’s Top 30 list starts after the jump. Enjoy.
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2014 Post-Draft Top 30 Prospects

"What do you mean I'm not a prospect anymore?" "You're a big leaguer now." (Elsa/Getty)
“What do you mean I’m not a prospect anymore?” “You’re a big leaguer now.” (Elsa/Getty)

The draft signing deadline was last Friday, and the Yankees were able to sign everyone they were expected to sign. There were no surprises, good or bad. Because they didn’t have a first round pick (or a supplemental round pick), this wasn’t the most exciting draft for the Yankees, who went heavy on college pitching and took a reliever with their top selection.

The Yankees did, however, add an amazing amount of talent to the farm system through international free agency earlier this month. My unofficial tally puts the spending spree at approximately $28.5M total between bonuses and penalties, though I’m sure there have been several deals that were not reported. Most of those players signed 2015 contracts and are not technically Yankees yet, so they are not included in this snapshot of the farm system. I usually wait until international signees show up in the U.S. to rank them anyway.

Two players — righties Dellin Betances and Chase Whitley — have graduated to the big leagues since the pre-draft list was posted late-May. I’ve been doing these for eight years and this is the very first RAB prospect list without Betances. I’m kinda sad. Another prospect, righty Rafael DePaula, was traded away just this week. Those three departures plus the draft and some stateside debuts have led to a healthy amount of turnover since the last list in May.

I feel like it’s clear who the top two prospects are (in whatever order), clear who the next seven prospects are (again, whatever order), and then a total mess after that with no obvious order. As always, this list is my personal opinion and based on how I value things like tools and probability and performance and all that. You’re welcome to disagree with the rankings. I’m sure you will. Rankings don’t mean anything anyway. They’re just fun to look at it. Anyway, the ages listed are as of today, and the levels listed are the player’s current level. The fun starts after the jump.
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2014 Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects

Nuno no longer qualifies as a prospect. (Getty)
Nuno no longer qualifies as a prospect. (Getty)

With the amateur draft less than one week away — international free agency is a month away and the Yankees will reportedly spend some serious money — it’s time to check in on the current state of the farm system. The top 30 prospects, specifically. The system overall has bounced back well from that nightmare last year, when almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong. All three 2013 first round picks hit the disabled list before playing their first pro games, for example.

Anyway, because the minor league season is only two months old, there isn’t a ton of difference between this list and my Preseason Top 30 Prospects List. Players may move a spot or two, but that’s nothing really. There aren’t many big climbers or fallers, though I will say there is more movement in this year’s pre-draft list than there has been other years for a few reasons, including injuries. As always, this list is my personal preference and you are very welcome to disagree. The cool thing about prospects is that there is no right way to rank them, so no one’s wrong. It’s a balance between potential and probability, and people value those things differently.

The only player to graduate to the big leagues from the preseason list is LHP Vidal Nuno. The rookie limits are 50 innings or 130 at-bats, so if you’re above that, I don’t consider you a prospect. That’s a convenient enough cutoff point. Several other players dropped off the preseason list for different reasons, including OF Zoilo Almonte (numbers crunch), RHP Jose Campos (another elbow injury), and LHP Nik Turley (arm problems). The ages listed are as of today, and the levels listed are the player’s current level. Away we go:
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