Archive for Top 30 Prospects
By the Yankees’ own admission, last season was a terrible year for the farm system. Many top prospects either got hurt or underperformed (some did both), so much so that the Yankees’ drafting and development strategy and personnel were re-evaluated. No one was fired, but several new instructors were added to the staff, including former big league managers Trey Hillman and Mike Quade. Procedural changes were made as well.
As a result of that down year, the Yankees have a lean system with almost no immediate help on the way. No impact players, anyway. Having three first round picks in last summer’s draft helped keep them from the bottom of the various organizational rankings, plus the team is said to be planning a huge international spending spree this summer, so there figures to be a lot of talent added to the system during this 12-13 month span. They need it, that’s for sure.
This is my eighth Preseason Top 30 Prospects List and the other seven can be found right here. As a reminder, this is my personal list and I am not an expert. I’m just a dude with a blog and some opinions. I have my own preferences and therefore I’m high on some players and low on others, compared to consensus. You’re welcome to disagree with my rankings. We all value certain things (upside, performance, probability, etc.) differently and that’s why there is no right way to rank prospects.
I use the rookie limits (50 innings or 130 at-bats) to determine prospect eligibility without any regard for service time because that’s easiest. Service time is too much of a hassle to track. Preston Claiborne threw 50.1 innings last season, so he wasn’t eligible. There has been a ton of turnover from last year’s list, with seven players either graduating to the big leagues (Austin Romine, Adam Warren), leaving the organization (Brett Marshall, Corey Black, Melky Mesa, Ravel Santana), or both (David Adams). Another nine players dropped off the list due to injury, poor performance, or the numbers crunch as well. That means 16 players (!) on this year’s Top 30 were not on last year’s. Ridiculous.
As for sources, it’s pretty much everything. Baseball America, Keith Law, and Baseball Prospectus, of course, plus smaller profiles from hometown newspapers and stuff like that. You can learn quite a bit about a pitcher from a random interview since they tend to talk about their repertoires and all that. There’s also video as well. I’m no scout, but it doesn’t take a genius to see if a guy has a long swing or a nasty slider. The list starts after the jump. Enjoy.
I don’t know how many times I said last month’s draft was extremely important for the Yankees considering the state of the organization, but it was a lot. Like, once a week since January. A lot. The team took advantage of its extra picks and landed three first round-caliber talents in the draft, which added some much-needed impact talent to the system.
Not a whole lot has changed in the six weeks since my last rankings, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Some of the team’s top prospects continue to have disappointing years while there have only been a handful of breakout players. There’s an awful lot of raw talent in the club’s top ten prospects, but not many guys are putting it to good use right now. Hopefully that turns around in the second half.
Here are my pre-draft and preseason lists, for comparison. No one graduated to the big leagues between the pre-draft list and now, but the draft and a healthy crop of players fresh from the Dominican Republic means there’s actually quite a bit of turnover. Fitting those new guys in is always fun. Ages listed are as of today.
- C Gary Sanchez, 20, Hi-A: A promotion may not come this year, but Sanchez stays in the top spot because his defense is improving and he’s hitting a healthy .270/.332/.467 with 13 homers in a pitcher’s league.
- RHSP Rafael DePaula, 22, Hi-A: The team’s lone Futures Game representative was bumped up to High-A Tampa since the pre-draft list. DePaula has a 108/39 K/BB in 79 innings this year.
- OF Slade Heathcott, 22, AA: Heathcott’s power has yet to show up, but he’s stayed healthy this year and has torn the cover off the ball in July. He’s at .256/.322/.370 on the season.
- OF Tyler Austin, 21, AA: Austin’s performance has actually been trending downward in recent weeks and his power has been almost non-existent. This is a benefit of the doubt ranking.
- 3B Eric Jagielo, 21, SS: The team’s first first round pick offers a very polished bat at a hard-to-fill position to the system. Jagielo’s super-early performance has been encouraging (.311/.415/.467 in 13 games).
- LHSP Ian Clarkin, 18, no level: The team’s third first round pick has yet to make his pro debut and is currently sidelined with a minor ankle sprain. Clarkin adds a high-end left-handed pitching prospect to the organization.
- OF Mason Williams, 21, Hi-A: Williams has had a very disappointing year and not only because he isn’t hitting (.266/.341/.369). There have been problems with his … let’s call it … energy level.
- RHSP Jose Ramirez, 23, AAA: The Yankees aggressively pushed Ramirez — whose raw stuff rivals DePaula’s — to Triple-A and he’s held his own. He’s got a 73/33 K/BB in 65.2 innings.
- C J.R. Murphy, 22, AAA: The system’s biggest breakout non-pitcher prospect was promoted since the pre-draft list and continues to hit (.282/.361/.440) while improving behind the plate.
- OF Aaron Judge, 21, no level: The team’s second first round pick is the wildcard. Judge is physically huge and a good athlete with great power, but he’s very risky. He just signed and has yet to make his pro debut.
- OF Ramon Flores, 21, AA: I was high on Flores coming into the year but he hasn’t exactly rewarded my faith by hitting .239/.333/.325. Questions about his long-term power potential persist.
- LHSP Manny Banuelos, 22, no level: Banuelos is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will not pitch this year. Easy to forget he’s still so young because he’s been around forever.
- RHSP Jose Campos, 20, Lo-A: His stuff and command are not back to their pre-elbow injury levels, but he has been improving as the season progress. Campos has a 55/12 K/BB in 60 innings.
- 2B Angelo Gumbs, 20, Lo-A: Gumbs missed a month with a finger injury and was demoted since the pre-draft list. He’s hit just .229/.283/.355 with eleven steals on the season.
- RHSP Ty Hensley, 19, no level: Like Banuelos, Hensley is out for the rest of the season. He had hip surgery in the spring and is due to return in Spring Training.
- LHSP Nik Turley, 23, AA: Double-A Trenton is proving to be a challenge for Turley, who has finessed his way to 94/45 K/BB in 89 innings.
- RHRP Mark Montgomery, 22, AAA: Walks (40/20 K/BB in 33.1 innings) were an issue for Montgomery before had two shoulder-related DL stints.
- RHSP Corey Black, 21, Hi-A: The undersized Black has maintained his big fastball and lively stuff while starting every fifth day. He’s got a 84/39 K/BB in 75.2 innings.
- RHSP Bryan Mitchell, 22, Hi-A: Mitchell’s performance never seems to change (85/42 K/BB in 97 innings) but he’s a prospect list mainstay because of a nasty fastball/curveball combination.
- 1B Greg Bird, 20, Lo-A: Bird almost certainly would have been a top ten prospect in the system had he remained at catcher. At first, he’s just an interesting guy. He’s hitting .277/.400/.477.
- C Austin Romine, 24, MLB: Romine, who has played sparingly, is failing his extended MLB opportunity rather miserably (.158/.179/.211). His defense remains strong.
- RHRP Adam Warren, 25, MLB: Unlike Romine, Warren has made the most of his big league opportunity and carved out a niche as a reliable long reliever (35/12 K/BB in 43.2 innings).
- SS Abi Avelino, 18, Rk: A torn quad delayed the start of his season, but Avelino is here because he’s a very good defender whose hitting ability has developed much better and quicker than expected.
- C Luis Torrens, 17, Rk: A recently converted infielder, Torrens has shown some offensive skills (.271/.358/.407) early in his pro debut while working out the kinks defensively.
- LHSP Vidal Nuno, 25, AAA: Nuno suffered a groin injury two days after the pre-draft list was posted and remains sidelined. He’s shown signs of being able to help at the big league level.
- OF Zoilo Almonte, 24, MLB: He’s cooled off since the hot start to his big league career (.267/.312/.349), but Almonte puts up quality at-bats and contributes on defense as well.
- RHSP Luis Severino, 19, Rk: Thanks to an excellent fastball and improving slider, Severino has become one of the system’s top sleepers. He’s got a 22/5 K/BB in 16.1 innings so far.
- 2B Gosuke Katoh, 18, Rk: This year’s second rounder has hit well in very limited time (.340/.466/.681 in 14 games), but he’s here because of his all-around skills.
- RHSP Brett Marshall, 23, AAA: It was been close to a nightmare year for Marshall, though he has settled down of late after getting clobbered earlier this year. He’s got a mediocre 77/54 K/BB in 88.2 innings.
- IF David Adams, 26, AAA: Adams won’t be the last guy to struggle in his first shot at the show (.190/.260/.276). He’s since been sent back to Triple-A so he could play everyday.
I say this every year, but the Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects List is (by far) my least favorite of the three prospect lists I put out every year. There are no new faces in the organization and the minor league season is only two months old. The only reasons to change the rankings are injury, trade/release, and extreme performance (good or bad). That’s it.
Now, that said, it’s pretty obvious this has been a poor year for the farm system so far. Most of the Yankees’ top prospects are either hurt or underperforming, and there haven’t been enough breakouts to compensate. There’s still plenty of talent, but not many guys are putting it to good use right now. Most of the lower level pitchers are being held to strict pitch counts as well, which I suspect comes from new pitching coordinator Gil Patterson. A lot of guys don’t have many innings under their belt yet.
Five players dropped off my Preseason Top 30 List, which is actually a lot more than I expected. They’re all self-explanatory as well: RHRP Dellin Betances (#23), OF Melky Mesa (#26), OF Ravel Santana (#28), SS Cito Culver (#29), and LHSP Daniel Camarena (#30). All five were borderline top 30 guys who barely made the preseason list, and they’ve either gotten/stayed hurt or performed miserably.
The ages and levels listed below are as of today, but the stats do not include last night’s games. On to the latest top 30…
- C Gary Sanchez, 20, Hi-A: Sanchez is pretty much the only one of the team’s top position player prospects performing up to snuff this year. He’s hit .272/.338/.476 (130 wRC+) with nine homers in 213 PA, and reports about his work behind the plate continue to be positive.
- RHSP Rafael DePaula, 22, Lo-A: At long last, DePaula has reached the United States. His debut has been marvelous (2.48 ERA, 2.00 FIP, 38.8 K% in 54.1 IP) and the stuff has proven to be dynamite.
- OF Slade Heathcott, 22, AA: Heathcott has stayed healthy so far — only 30 games away from tying his career-high — and after a rough start, he has picked it up of late even though his season batting line (.246/.300/.377, 83 wRC+ in 201 PA) still stinks.
- OF Tyler Austin, 21, AA: After being the best statistical performer in the system last year, Austin got off to a dreadful start before hitting his stride last month. He’s hitting .258/.359/.399 (111 wRC+) in 234 PA.
- OF Mason Williams, 21, A+: Has there been a more disappointing prospect this year? Not only is he hitting .231/.326/.317 (88 wRC+) while repeating a level, but reports suggest he’s dogged it and played with little energy. The tools are great and that saves him for now.
- RHSP Jose Ramirez, 23, AA: Ramirez started the year on the DL due to fatigue, but he debuted in April and has been electric (2.65 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 30.8 K% in 37.1 IP). Concerns about his durability remain, however.
- C J.R. Murphy, 22, AA: No prospect has improved his stock more this year. Murphy’s defense continues to improve and he’s having a career-best year offensively (.275/.362/.431, 119 wRC+ in 186 PA).
- OF Ramon Flores, 21, AA: I love him and he is young for the level, but .243/.328/.329 (84 wRC+) in 257 PA is really disappointing.
- LHSP Manny Banuelos, 22, no level: Banuelos had Tommy John surgery in October and will miss the entire season. He’s here on reputation, basically.
- RHSP Jose Campos, 20, A-: The Yankees have held Campos to a very strict pitch count following last year’s injury, but he hasn’t been quite as electric or effective (4.21 ERA and 3.42 FIP in 36.1 IP) as he has been in the past.
- 2B Angelo Gumbs, 20, A+: Gumbs was terrible before missing a month with a finger injury, but he’s been better of late despite a .211/.261/.327 (64 wRC+) overall line 119 PA. He’s still so young.
- RHSP Ty Hensley, 19, no level: Last year’s first rounder had hip surgery in early-April and is expected to miss the entire season. Such is life.
- LHSP Nik Turley, 23, AA: Had a very rough start to the year but has settled down of late and been his usually effective self (4.14 ERA and 4.03 FIP in 54.1 IP). He’s still at least a year away from the show.
- RHRP Mark Montgomery, 22, AAA: The Yankees were reportedly unhappy with his offseason work and the results have been below his usual standard so far (3.10 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 26.7 K% in 29 IP). He might have been in the bigs by now had he gotten off to a better start.
- RHSP Corey Black, 21, A+: His huge arm is likely destined for the bullpen long-term, but Black has been pleasantly surprising as a starter so far this year (4.22 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 26.0 K% in 53.1 IP).
- RHSP Bryan Mitchell, 22, A+: The performance (4.50 ERA and 3.53 FIP in 66 IP) never seems to improve, but Mitchell remains on the list because his stuff is arguably the best in the system.
- C Austin Romine, 24, MLB: Instead of getting much-needed regular at-bats in the minors, Romine is masquerading as the big league backup and failing (122 wRC+ in Triple-A, -4 wRC+ in MLB).
- RHRP Adam Warren, 25, MLB: Warren has found a niche as a long reliever with the big league team (3.77 ERA and 4.11 FIP in 28.2 IP) rather than spending a third straight year in Triple-A.
- SS Austin Aune, 19, ExST: Aune and his big left-handed power will likely join Short Season Staten Island when the season starts in a few weeks.
- LHSP Vidal Nuno, 25, AAA: He’s bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues all year and been effective in whatever role the team has used him. The ranking is almost entirely probability-based, but I can’t ignore him anymore.
- IF David Adams, 26, MLB: From released to re-signed to Triple-A to the Bronx in the matter of a few weeks, Adams has already managed to carve out a big league role despite his recent slump (.242/.266/.387, 73 wRC+ in 64 PA).
- 2B Corban Joseph, 24, AAA: CoJo made his big league debut a few weeks ago, but otherwise he remains nothing more than a backup plan in the minors (.239/.329/.383, 94 wRC+ in 213 PA).
- RHSP Brett Marshall, 23, AAA: He made his big league debut with a long relief appearance last month, but otherwise Marshall has been just awful this year (7.27 ERA and 6.59 FIP in 43.1 IP). At least there’s nowhere to go but up.
- RHRP Nick Goody, 21, A+: Managed three whole innings before blowing out his elbow and requiring Tommy John surgery. We won’t see him again until 2014.
- RHSP Gabe Encinas, 21, A-: Encinas was having a breakout year (0.77 ERA and 2.89 FIP in 35 IP) before hurting his elbow and having season-ending surgery. Three pitchers who are out for the year due to injury on the list is probably too many. So it goes.
- RHRP Preston Claiborne, 25, MLB: Got the call to the show in place of Montgomery and has quickly become a valuable reliever for Joe Girardi (0.55 ERA and 2.27 FIP in 16.1 IP).
- LHSP Matt Tracy, 24, AA: Has alternated awesome starts with awful starts so far, so hopefully he settles into a groove as the season progresses (5.09 ERA and 4.67 FIP in 53 IP).
- RHRP Chase Whitley, 23, AAA: An oblique strain delayed the start of Whitley’s season and he is still trying to find his way (5.06 ERA and 3.86 FIP in 10.2 IP). He might have been up instead of Claiborne had he been healthy.
- 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: Following a dreadful start, Bichette had a one-day pow-wow with the hitting coach to clean up some mechanics and the early returns have been positive. His overall season line remains very underwhelming (.229/.294/.328, 76 wRC+ in 221 PA).
- OF Zoilo Almonte, 23, AAA: Got off to a fantastic start, but he’s returned to Earth a bit in recent weeks (.282/.366/.432, 118 wRC+ in 238 PA). Still doesn’t do much other than hit the ball out of the park on occasion.
The 2012 minor league season was pretty close to a nightmare for the Yankees. It didn’t get all the way there, but it was close. Their top pitching prospects either suffered series elbow injuries or just stopped throwing strikes, and a few of their top hitting prospects dealt with injuries or played so poorly we have to go back and question how good they were in the first place.
That said, the Yankees still have a pretty strong farm system with four no-doubt top 100 prospects in my opinion. The drop-off after those four is drastic, but there’s a solid group of upside guys coming off injury and probability guys knocking on the door. The Yankees have more high-end position player prospects right now than at any point since the law firm of Johnson, Soriano & Henson were calling the farm system shots in the early-2000s.
As I say every year, ranking prospects is all about your personal balance between potential and probability. Some prefer upside over probability while others tends to value the safer guys a little more. Talent always reigns supreme to me, but I’ve definitely come to value closeness to the big leagues as well in recent years. For the most part, there won’t be much difference between two prospects ranked consecutively. There usually is a difference between guys who are five or six or ten spots apart, however.
I use the standard rookie eligibility rules — 130 at-bats or 50 innings at the MLB level — to determine who is and who isn’t a prospect without regards to service time limit. That stuff is a pain. We need a cut-off point and rookie eligibility seems like a convenient enough place to draw the line. The only prospect to graduate from last year’s preseason list was RHSP David Phelps. That’s a function of the distribution of talent in the farm system at the moment — most of the best prospects are in the lower minors and still a good year or two away from seeing the show.
All of my previous top 30 lists — including the pre-draft and post-draft lists — dating back to the start of RAB in 2007 can be found right here. All of the ages listed below are as of April 1st, or approximately Opening Day. Enjoy.
The amateur draft changed in a big way thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, as clubs sniffed out ways to maximize their draft pool money and accumulate as much talent as possible. The Yankees draft college seniors in the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth rounds and paid them a combined $50k in bonuses. The savings went to overslot bonuses for high schoolers in other rounds.
For the most part this list is just my pre-draft list with some 2012 draftees squeezed in. The order of the guys who’ve been in the organization a while didn’t change all that much, though I did do some reshuffling. Nothing major though, and besides, the difference between two players ranked consecutively is usually too small to argue. It’s all about personal preference at that point; I don’t think there’s much different between the #16 and #30 prospects in this list.
Here are my preseason and pre-draft lists. No one has graduated to the big leagues — though David Phelps is a handful of innings away from losing prospect status — and no one fell off due to injury. The ages listed are as of today and I’ve included pre-draft rankings in parenthesis where applicable. Let’s dive in…
- Mason Williams, OF, 20 (2) — started slowly after the promotion from Low-A Charleston to High-A Tampa, but he’s gotten in a groove of late and figures to be a top-30 prospect in baseball after the season
- Gary Sanchez, C, 19 (3) — has shown the same power this year as last (.229 vs. .219 ISO) while cutting down on the strikeouts a bit (23.1 vs. 27.1 K%)
- Manny Banuelos, LHP, 21 (1) — it’s been a lost season for the team’s best pitching prospect due to an elbow injury, but he’s still way ahead of schedule as the youngest player in the Triple-A International League
- Tyler Austin, OF, 20 (7) — the MVP of the farm system so far has already been bumped to High-A Tampa and has a realistic chance of reaching Triple-A Scranton as a 21-year-old in the second half of next season
- Jose Campos, RHP, 19 (4) — another season lost due to an elbow injury, Campos still has plenty of time to catch up like Banuelos due to his age
- David Phelps, RHP, 25 (8) — he’s shown improved velocity this season and has progressively gotten better during the summer while pitching in the big leagues
- Ty Hensley, RHP, 18 (N/A) — his mid-90s fastball and power curveball is the best two-pitch mix in the system, and whatever shoulder abnormality they found during his pre-signing physical isn’t serious enough to keep him off the mound
- Dante Bichette Jr., 3B, 19 (6) — it’s been a disappointing season for last year’s first rounder, specifically his lack of power (.081 ISO) with Low-A Charleston
- J.R. Murphy, C, 21 (10) — he’s reached Double-A Trenton and has quietly shown big time improvement behind the plate, particularly with his throwing (thrown out 32 of 96 attempted base-stealers, 33%)
- Ravel Santana, CF, 20 (11) — the ankle injury is fully behind him and the bat has started to come around after a slow start with Short Season Staten Island
- Ramon Flores, OF, 20 (14) — it’s easy to forget he won’t turn 21 until next March because he’s been around for a while, but he’s having another strong year and could be with Triple-A Scranton at this time next year
- Austin Romine, C, 23 (13) — the back injury has effectively wiped out his season, but he has started to appear in some low-level rehab games over the last week or two
- Slade Heathcott, OF, 21 (15) — has played the field sparingly following his second left shoulder surgery but is already two walks shy of last year’s total in 121 fewer plate appearances
- Angelo Gumbs, 2B, 19 (19) — easy to overlook given the other star power at Low-A Charleston, Gumbs showed serious power (.162 ISO) and speed (26-for-29 in stolen base attempts, 90%) before hurting his elbow on a swing
- Dellin Betances, RHP, 24 (9) — his control deteriorated to the point where basic strike-throwing had become a challenge, resulting in a demotion to Double-A Trenton
- Mark Montgomery, RHP, 21 (17) — the strikeout extraordinaire (14.7 K/9 and 39.4 K% as a pro) has reached Double-A Trenton and should be big league ready at this time next year
- D.J. Mitchell, RHP, 25 (12) — has been used sparingly in several big league stints, but he’s very quietly put up his best strikeout (7.6 K/9 and 19.7 K%) and walk (3.0 BB/9 and 7.9 BB%) rates with Triple-A Empire State since his first pro season in 2009
- Nik Turley, LHP, 22 (22) — blister problems have been a speed bump this year, but the big southpaw just continues to get better and better each year and with each start
- Austin Aune, SS, 18 (N/A) — a left-handed hitter with pop who was drafted as an outfielder, this year’s second rounder will stay at shortstop until he shows he can’t handle it
- Adam Warren, RHP, 24 (16) — forget about his disastrous (and only) big league start, his performance in the minor leagues has gone backwards for the second straight year
- Brett Marshall, RHP, 22 (18) — hasn’t missed a start since having Tommy John surgery in late-2009, but the lack of strikeouts (5.7 K/9 and 15.4 K%) at Double-A Trenton is a concern
- Peter O’Brien, C, 22 (N/A)– whether he can remain behind the plate long-term remains to be seen, but O’Brien offers some pop from the right side and catchers who can hit are very hard to find
- Bryan Mitchell, RHP, 21 (20) — he flashes pure dominance at times thanks to be the best curveball in the organization, but he still has a long way to go before harnessing it all
- Zoilo Almonte, OF, 23 (23) — he’s mashed since returning from a hamstring injury but is going to have to do a lot more to force his way into the outfield picture at some point in the next year or two
- Cito Culver, SS, 19 (21) — it’s been a real struggle offensively for the team’s first rounder of two years ago, but he’s shown nice plate discipline (13.1 BB%) and can play the hell out of the shortstop position
- Ben Gamel, OF, 20 (25) — missed some time with a minor injury but has shown contact skills and more recently some power potential in the form of doubles
- Greg Bird, C, 19 (24) — played in just four games for the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees before a back strain sidelined him, and the unconfirmed rumor is that his days as a catcher are over and he’ll return as a first baseman
- Nick Goody, RHP, 21 (N/A) — this year’s sixth round is a potential quick moving power reliever capable of missing bats within the strike zone with his fastball-slider combo
- Corban Joseph, 2B, 23 (30) — a shoulder injury delayed the start of his season, but CoJo has moved up to Triple-A Empire State and has started to answer some of those power questions by hitting hit two more homers than last year in 261 fewer plate appearances
- Jordan Cote, RHP, 19 (NR) — the big and raw right-hander has made great strides with his delivery and command since signing and is poised to zoom up these rankings within the next few months
I jumped the gun big time with RHP Rafael DePaula, who I ranked fifth (!) in the pre-draft list even though he hadn’t even appeared in a game yet. My usual policy to leave international free agents unranked until they make their U.S. debut, which DePaula has yet to do because he’s spending the season in the Dominican Summer League. That’s why I left him out this time, I was just uncomfortable ranking him without an assignment to one of the six domestic affiliates.
RHP Chase Whitely (26), UTIL Ronnie Mustelier (27), LHP Daniel Camarena (29) were squeezed out in the numbers crunch. Camarena’s shoulder issue didn’t help his cause either, though I remain a big fan. 3B/OF Rob Segedin and 2B David Adams were both right on the bubble as well, the latter because of continued injury concerns. He’s hitting though, let’s just hope he can stay on the field going forward. I also really like RHP Gio Gallegos and it’s hard to ignore LHP Vidal Nuno, but I need more info on both guys before I can start ranking them somewhere. You can’t scout a box score.
The regular season is only two months old, but it’s already safe to say it’s been a pretty down year for the farm system. Injuries have wreaked havoc on some of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects and a few of the lower level position players have battled extended slumps. The number of disappointments is always greater than the number of surprises, but I feel like it’s been taken to the extreme in 2012.
The pre-draft list is unquestionably my least favorite of the three prospects lists I publish (preseason, pre-draft, post-draft) because not a much has changed this early in the season. There’s always injuries and extreme performances (both good and bad), but most prospects just maintain the status quo. Just three prospects have dropped off the Preseason Top 30 List — Cesar Cabral, Graham Stoneburner, and David Adams — and that’s almost entirely due to injury. None of the preseason list guys have graduated to the big leagues yet, though David Phelps is getting awfully close.
The post-draft list is always a ton of fun though. Figuring out where the new guys fit in is always a challenge and frankly, it’s nice to have new players to write about. There’s only so long you can write about these guys before you start to get prospect fatigue (coughDellinBetancescough). Anyway, so here is an updated look at the 30 best aspiring big leaguers in the Yankees’ organization. Ages are as of today.
- LHP Manny Banuelos, 21 — currently on the DL with a sore elbow after missing time with a lat issue, we really haven’t gotten a chance to see the southpaw all that much this season (3.83 FIP in just 24.0 IP)
- OF Mason Williams, 20 — the most exciting player in the system got off a scorching hot start but has battling nagging injuries and perhaps relatedly, a prolonged slump over the last two or three weeks (.331 wOBA)
- C Gary Sanchez, 19 — he’s pounding Low-A pitching (.383 wOBA) as he should be in his second tour of duty, and you have to figure a promotion is coming soon
- RHP Jose Campos, 19 — manhandled the competition (3.24 FIP in 24.2 IP) before elbow inflammation put him on the shelf indefinitely
- RHP Rafael DePaula, 21 — has yet to appear in a game after finally securing his visa, so this ranking is based on his substantial upside
- 3B Dante Bichette Jr., 19 — he got off to a slow start and didn’t hit his first homer until yesterday, but DBJ has come on strong of late (.324 wOBA) and is poised for a big second half
- OF Tyler Austin, 20 — the run-away favorite for farm system MVP through the first two months (.477 wOBA), Austin has continued to show his all-around offensive game while adapting well to right field
- RHP David Phelps, 25 — has pitched to a 4.49 FIP in 33.1 IP as a swingman for the big league team, and I doubt he’ll be eligible for the post-draft list in mid-July
- RHP Dellin Betances, 24 — his control issues have gone from bad to worse (7.69 BB/9 and 18.5 BB%) and his days as a starter appear to be numbered
- C J.R. Murphy, 21 — having what might be the quietest bad year in Yankees’ prospect history (.297 wOBA), though his walk (9.5%) and strikeout (12.2%) rates remain very strong
- OF Ravel Santana, 20 — the ankle is all healed up and he’s slated to join Short Season Staten Island when their season begins later this month
- RHP D.J. Mitchell, 25 — got his first taste of the big leagues and is having another solid season with the traveling circus in Triple-A (3.40 FIP)
- C Austin Romine, 23 — hasn’t played yet this season due to an inflamed disc in his back, but he’s been cleared to resume baseball activities and is expected to return until July
- OF Ramon Flores, 20 — he’s been pretty streaky so far (.313 wOBA) but continues to control the strike zone well (8.1 BB% and 16.5 K%)
- OF Slade Heathcott, 21 — has yet to play this season due to another left shoulder surgery, but he’s scheduled to debut with High-A Tampa next week
- RHP Adam Warren, 24 — hasn’t pitched all that well this year (4.74 FIP) and frankly, has been underwhelming in Triple-A since getting their last season (4.24 FIP in 207.2 IP)
- RHP Mark Montgomery, 21 — I’m not going to call him the next David Robertson, but Montgomery is the closest thing we’ve seen to the next D-Rob thanks to his knockout slider and pure dominance (1.21 FIP)
- RHP Brett Marshall, 22 — has turned into a steady and reliable workhorse, but he isn’t missing bats in Double-A (5.02 K/9 and 13.7 K%) and that’s a red flag
- 2B Angelo Gumbs, 19 — has been sneaky great so far (.355 wOBA) and has done his best work on the bases (19-for-22 in stolen base attempts)
- RHP Bryan Mitchell, 21 — the long-term project has been inconsistent from start-to-start but has some of the best stuff in the organization (3.20 FIP) and the strikeout rates to back it up (9.62 K/9 and 26.3 K%)
- SS Cito Culver, 19 — another slow starter (.310 wOBA), Culver gets a bit of a pass because his missed time following his grandfather’s death … he’s started to kick it into gear in May and has shown off a great batting eye (14.6 BB%)
- LHP Nik Turley, 22 — has battled on-and-off blister issues but has otherwise continued the progress he made last season (2.97 FIP)
- OF Zoilo Almonte, 22 — missed several weeks with a hamstring issue but has hit well when on the field (.342 wOBA)
- C Greg Bird, 19 — power-hitting backstop will try to prove he can stick behind the plate when he joins one of the Short Season clubs later this month
- OF Ben Gamel, 20 — Mat’s little brother has been a consistent producer this season (.325 wOBA) but he needs to develop some pop down to road since he’s stuck in the corner outfield
- RHP Chase Whitley, 22 — three-pitch reliever has forced his way to Triple-A early this spring (3.61 FIP) and could be in line for a late-season call-up
- UTIL Ronnie Mustelier, 27 — is he the position player version of Al Aceves? I don’t know, but you can’t ignore the .412 wOBA he’s put up since signing
- UTIL Brandon Laird, 24 — hasn’t hit at all in Triple-A dating back to two years ago (.299 wOBA in 823 plate appearances), but he sneaks into the list because he’s versatile and does have power
- LHP Daniel Camarena, 19 — three-pitch command lefty is likely to debut with the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees following his stint in Extended Spring Training
- 2B Corban Joseph, 23 — returning to Double-A for a third straight season (.390 wOBA) after starting the year on the DL with a shoulder program is odd, but he was hanging onto the list by the skin of his teeth anyway
It was going to be next to impossible for the 2011 minor league season to feel like anything but a disappointment after all the success of 2010. Last year was more normal than anything else though, with a typical number of breakouts, steps back, and injuries. The Yankees still boast several high-end prospects and an absurd amount of depth, particularly on the mound. Not everyone is bound for stardom, but the Yankees have a plethora of useful players on the way to fill their roster and/or use in trades.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that ranking prospects is not a black-and-white exercise, there’s no right or wrong. It’s an inexact science, and everyone has their own personal philosophy. Some prefer pure upside while some place more value on probability, and everyone’s balancing act is different. I lean slightly towards probability, but I think you’re going to see clubs place a much greater emphasis on ceiling given the draft and international spending restrictions put in place by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Premium talent will be harder to come buy, especially for a perennial contender like the Yankees.
I won’t argue (much) if you think two prospects ranked consecutively should be flip-flopped, in most cases we’d just be splitting hairs. The gap between the number one and number four prospect this year is pretty small, as is the gap between number five and number 15 prospect or so. All the guys after that are pretty interchangeable. Once again, it all comes down to preference. Like everyone else, I use rookie status to determine prospect eligibility. That means anyone with more than 130 at-bats or 50 IP in the big leagues is not eligible for the list, though I ignore the service time cutoff because that stuff is too difficult to track. Two top 30 guys from last year — Ivan Nova and Eduardo Nunez — graduated to the big leagues in 2011 while three others — Jesus Montero, Andrew Brackman, and Hector Noesi — have since moved on to other clubs.
The draft signing deadline has come and gone, and depending on your point of view, the Yankees either landed some promising talent or had another underwhelming draft. I’m somewhere in the middle, loving the arms but a little iffy on the bats. It would have been nice if they had signed second rounder Sam Stafford, since power lefties are always in demand. Anyway, these guys are new members of the Yankees family, and now we have to figure out exactly where they fit in.
Unsurprisingly, not all that much has changed since my pre-draft list. There just hasn’t been enough time for anyone to change their stock all that much, one way or another. As you’ll see, the majority of the players that moved around did so due to injury. Let’s dive in, with the most familiar of prospect names up top…
- Jesus Montero, C, AAA – strong April (~.365 wOBA), subpar May and June (~.315), big July and August (~.375 wOBA) … stuck in Triple-A because the Yankees are unwilling to put the best team on the field
- Manny Banuelos, LHSP, AAA – uncharacteristically mediocre control this year, but he’s still a 20-year-old kid in the highest level of the minors
- Dellin Betances, RHSP, AAA – having a typical Betances year, but the key is that he’s been completely healthy aside from a little blister in April
- Austin Romine, C, AA – he needs to be in Triple-A and VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman admitted it … the lack of a Montero promotion has a trickle down effect
- Gary Sanchez, C, LoA – attitude issues in the first half, then a broken finger derailed what had been a big second half (~.375 wOBA and a dozen homers in 38 games)
- Mason Williams, CF, SS – not just having a great year for SI, but apparently he has way more power potential than I realized
- J.R. Murphy, C, HiA – has been out with some kind of leg/foot injury for a month now, but impressed with improved defense and a measly strikeout rate (12.8%) in the first half
- Hector Noesi, RHRP, MLB – technically still a prospect, but that 50 IP cutoff isn’t far away (he’s at 42.2 IP) … I really wish he was starting in AAA
- Adam Warren, RHSP, AAA – has pitched his way into being the next guy in line should the Yankees need a starter
- David Phelps, RHSP, AAA – had a little shoulder scare, but he rejoined the AAA rotation last week
- Brett Marshall, RHSP, HiA – stuff came back after Tommy John surgery and he’s getting a ton of grounders … hopefully the whiffs will follow
- Slade Heathcott, CF, HiA – another year, another shoulder injury … that’s his third since his senior year of high school, including one surgery
- Bryan Mitchell, RHSP, SS – huge stuff but really raw … going to be a long-term project, but there’s significant upside here
- Graham Stoneburner, RHSP, AA – the neck strain from hell cost him a little more than two months, and he’s still just working his way back to full effectiveness
- Corban Joseph, 2B, AA – can definitely hit, but I have to wonder where he’ll wind up defensively because he isn’t unseating Robinson Cano … trade bait
- Ramon Flores, LF, LoA – showing off top notch plate discipline and gap power, which will hopefully develop into over the fence power as he grows into his 5-foot-10 frame
- Brandon Laird, 3B, AAA – not having a great year in Triple-A, but got his first taste of the bigs and serves a purpose
- Cito Culver, SS, SS – solid year with SI, not great but not terrible … going to have to keep proving the doubters wrong
- Rob Segedin, 3B, HiA – made quick work of the Sally League and has held his own in the Florida State League, though an injury cost him some time
- Greg Bird, C – we’ll see if he can catch, but either way it’s up to the lefty power bat to carry him
- George Kontos, RHRP, AAA – proving himself to be strikeout reliever at the minors’ highest level, he’s on the cusp right now
- D.J. Mitchell, RHSP, AAA – servicable arm still has some issues with lefties, but he’s as big league ready as it gets
- Chase Whitley, RHRP, AA – hasn’t missed a ton of bats in his first full year as a pro, but the Yankees are trying to teach him a slider in lieu of the his usual changeup
- Andrew Brackman, RHRP, AAA – it’s been an ugly year and time is starting to run out … has just one more minor league option for next year
- Dante Bichette Jr., 3B, Rk – what we do know: he can crush GCL pitching … what we don’t know: where’s he going to play down the road?
- David Adams, 2B, HiA – made it back for a few weeks before hitting the DL again, but he can definitely hit … can he ever manage to stay on the field?
- Ravel Santana, CF, Rk – brutal ankle injury ended what was exciting U.S. debut, with lots of power (.273 ISO) and lots of speed (10-for-13 in SB attempts)
- Jordan Cote, RHSP – big (6-foot-5, 205 lbs.), raw, and projectable, so he’s right up my alley
- Jose Ramirez, RHSP, LoA – just hasn’t progressed much since the start of last year (if at all), but the fastball-changeup combo is still very good
- Melky Mesa, CF, AA – still has an all-world tools package, but hasn’t been able to build on the progress he made last year
Number 31 was Tyler Austin, who was very tough to leave off the list. He’s too good to be a sleeper, but I like some other guys just a little more. Stafford would have certainly cracked the top 30, likely between Mitchell and Whitley without putting a ton of thought into it. Four players dropped off the pre-draft list entirely: Ryan Pope, Eduardo Sosa, Zach Nuding, and Tim Norton. All four missed time with injury and had barely made the cut in the first place, so some healthy new draftees took their spots. I’ll be perfectly honest, I did not expect all three of Montero, Banuelos, and Betances to still be around after the trade deadline, but I’m happy to have them and I’m sure the team is too.
With the draft scheduled to begin on Monday, it’s time to quickly take stock of the Yankees’ farm system and rank their prospects midway through the 2011 season. Of the three top 30 lists I do each year, this one is easily my least favorite, just because the minor league season is only 50 games old and that’s really not enough to change my opinion one way or the other.
Ivan Nova is the only player from my preseason list to have since graduated to the majors, however I’m also considering Eduardo Nunez graduated for practical reasons. He’s 31 at-bats shy of the rookie cutoff, so he’ll certainly get there this summer, barring injury. The ages listed are as of today, and the fun starts after the jump …
The 2010 season was a banner year for the Yankees’ farm system, featuring many breakouts and steps forward and very few major injuries, regressions and the like. It really was the best case scenario, and it leaves them with a system generally regarded as one of the deeper ones in the game. They boast high-ceiling talent both on the mound and at the plate, and plenty of depth in the form of back-end starters and average everyday players or bench pieces, which come in handy on the trade market and for filling holes at the Major League level.
The Triple-A Scranton Yankees continued their reign atop the International League’s North Division, winning their fifth consecutive division title. Double-A Trenton won their second straight division title and fourth in five years, but High-A Tampa outdid them both, winning their second consecutive division title and repeating as Florida State League champions. Yankee farmhands took home MVP honors at both the Double-A and High-A levels. With an overall record of 371-318, the six domestic affiliates finished with the third best combined winning percentage (.538) in the minors, trailing only the Cardinals (.569) and Cubs (.542).
As I say every year, ranking prospects is all about trying to find a balance between performance, projection, and probability. Talent and great stats are wonderful, but context is important: how old is the player, what level was he in, what’s the home park like, etc. There are certainly times that the player’s upside is so great that you can’t ignore it, no matter how far down the ladder they are. Remember, a lot of these guys are very interchangeable. I don’t think there’s much of a difference between this year’s #2 and #5 prospects, or the #8 and #16 prospects. When guys are that close, it comes down to personal preference.
Here are my lists from 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. Happy fifth anniversary, I can’t believe it’s been this long already. The listed ages are as of Opening Day, give or take a day or two. Fun starts after the jump.