Archive for Top 30 Prospects

Jun
03

2011 Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects

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(Photo Credit: Flickr user paul hadsall via Creative Commons license)

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 …

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Feb
11

2011 Preseason Top 30 Prospects

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(Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com)

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.

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2010 1st round pick Cito Culver. (Photo Credit: Andy in Sunny Daytona)

With the August 16th signing deadline now a thing of the past, we can begin to assess how the most recent amateur draft has impacted the Yankees’ farm system. Although they didn’t land a consensus elite talent, they more than made up for it in volume, signing basically all of their mid-to-late round gambles while filling out with polished college players to strike a nice balance. The Yanks were in a position to gamble some on long-term projects, which is exactly with they did. They could end up with nothing, or they could end up with something really special.

In addition to the new influx of talent, the Yanks have also benefited from a staggering number of breakout performances and strong returns from injury this year, transforming the system from one short on the “wow factor” before the season to one with waves with talent right now. The talent on the mound is both plentiful and diverse, with a mix of high-upside arms and safer, higher probability pitchers starting in Triple-A Scranton and going all the way down to High-A Tampa. And yet the Yanks’ top three prospects (four of the top five) are position players, showing the depth of the system.

Here are my preseason and pre-draft lists, for comparison’s sake. The only player on the pre-draft list that is ineligible for this one is Mark Melancon, who was shipped to the Astros in the Lance Berkman deal. Everyone else is fair game, and several players have dropped out as you can see. Some didn’t perform, others just got leapfrogged by other players. It’s not a bad thing when a live arm like Dan Burawa, a MLB-ready reserve outfielder like Colin Curtis, and a tooled up teenager with supreme plate discipline like Ramon Flores don’t make your top 30. It’s definitely an upgrade over where they were just twelve months ago.

Anyway, on to the list. The level listed is where the player is currently playing, but the new draftees get a “none” because I’m not sure exactly where they’ve been assigned, although I do have a pretty good idea. Let’s start with a completely unsurprising name at the top…

  1. Jesus Montero, C, AAA: took some time to adjust to AAA (.293 wOBA on the day on my pre-draft list), but he’s been on an absolute tear for about two months now (.368 wOBA at the moment) that has reaffirmed his position as one of the very best hitters in all of minor league baseball
  2. Austin Romine, C, AA: he’s certainly slowed down after a hot start (wOBA by month: .395, .365, .318, .276, .199), but that’s not unsurprising for a guy in his first season as a full-time catcher
  3. Slade Heathcott, CF, A-: the power component of his power-speed combination isn’t there yet (.071 ISO), but he’s shown a tremendous eye at the plate (12.4 BB%) and the strikeouts should come down as he continues to refine his swing and make more contact
  4. Andrew Brackman, RHSP, AA: he’s cut his walk rate from 6.28 BB/9 last year to 2.61 this year while maintaining a strong strikeout rate (8.47 K/9) and better than a 50% ground ball rate, plus the scouting reports have been very good
  5. Gary Sanchez, C, Rk: the 17-year-old is annihilating rookie ball (.459 wOBA), but he’s got a long way to go defensively behind the plate, more than Montero did
  6. Manny Banuelos, LHSP, A+: an appendectomy delayed the start of his season, but he’s been simply fantastic since returning (1.79 FIP) and reports indicate a welcome uptick in velocity
  7. Hector Noesi, RHSP, AA: aggressive in the zone with four pitches that are good enough to get swings and misses … he won’t be a star, but he’ll be a very nice fill-in option by this time next year
  8. Dellin Betances, RHSP, A+: I don’t think anyone expected him to be this good (1.84 FIP), this fast after elbow surgery, and the even better news is that reports indicate his stuff is all the way back as well … now it’s just a matter of staying healthy (believe it or not, but his 67 IP this season are the second most he’s ever thrown in a single year)
  9. J.R. Murphy, C, A-: he’s gotten better as the season has gone on (wOBA by month: .253, .293, .323, .389) while showing power and he ability to make hard, consistent contact … seems somewhat underappreciated to me
  10. Ivan Nova, RHSP, AAA: it’s not the highest ceiling in the world, but there’s something to be said for MLB-ready back-end arms that can miss some bats and keep the ball in the park
  11. Graham Stoneburner, RHSP, A+: his .212 AVG against is one of the very best in the minors, and he’s demonstrated the ability to miss a ton of bats and limit walks … won’t be challenged until he gets to AA
  12. Jose Ramirez, RHSP, A-: almost a forgotten man with all the pitching talent ahead of him, but Ramirez has put up a very strong year (3.04 FIP) as a 20-year-old in his first taste of a full season league
  13. David Adams, 2B, injured: crushed AA with a .403 wOBA before a broken ankle ended his season in May … you’re looking at a rock solid everyday second baseman in the bigs
  14. Cito Culver, SS, Rk: holding his own after stepping out of his graduation ceremony and into the batter’s box against the best pitching he’s ever faced in his life … the power has started to come as the season has progressed (ISO by month: .050, .094, .106)
  15. Brandon Laird, 3B/1B, AAA: breakout performer of the year (.384 wOBA in AA) has enough power and just enough defense to fake it as an every day third baseman in the show, but it’s unlikely to be his long-term position
  16. David Phelps, RHSP, AAA: arguably the best pure performance among Yankee pitching farmhands this year, but his lack of a bonafide put-away pitch is what limits his ceiling … doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective big leaguer
  17. Corban Joseph, 2B, AA: hitting machine wOBA’d .352 as a 21-year-old in pitcher friendly Florida State League, now he’s just got to improve on the defensive side of the ball
  18. Zach McAllister, RHSP, AAA: advanced hitters have not been kind of Z-Mac, who has seemingly lost the ability to miss bats, generate ground balls, and avoid the long-ball … very disappointing year
  19. Rob Segedin, 3B/OF, Rk: big time on-base ability with a great swing and moderate power potential, just need to figure out his long-term position
  20. Angelo Gumbs, CF, none: true five tool potential here, but he’s extremely raw … going to be a project
  21. Adam Warren, RHSP, AA: cruised right through A-ball with 7.44 K/9, 1.89 BB/9, and 57% ground balls before moving up, and he’s got enough stuff and command to be a back-end starter or valuable middle reliever
  22. Bryan Mitchell, RHSP, Rk: arguably the best pure arm in the system with a knockout curveball, Mitchell has only been so-so in 33.1 IP this year, but the upside is exciting
  23. Mason Williams, CF, none: received more money than another other Yankee draftee this year despite being the fourth best prospect they drafted … exciting tools, but raw and with questionable long-term power potential
  24. Brett Marshall, RHSP, A-: electric arm just back from Tommy John surgery, his ranking is based on pure stuff and potential because the performance (understandably) hasn’t been there yet
  25. Gabe Encinas, RHSP, none: very diverse arsenal and a whole lot of pitching know-how, he should carve up the low minors thanks to his ability to setup hitters and mix pitches alone
  26. Taylor Morton, RHSP, none: inconsistent spring hurt his draft stock, but he’s been up to 96 in the past with both a changeup and a curve
  27. Melky Mesa, OF, A+: old for his level but he finally seems to be putting it together … the other Melky is a tool shed, with the only knock being his ability to make consistent contact, something he’s done this year
  28. Eduardo Sosa, CF, SS: big time defensive outfielder with great speed and surprisingly good plate discipline, he’s a pretty exciting player to watch live
  29. Kelvin DeLeon, RF, SS: the 2007 bonus baby has two standout tools in his power and throwing arm, but his utter lack of plate discipline will keep from being elite
  30. Evan Rutckyj, LHSP, none: a surprise signing, the big (6-foot-5, 210 lb.) lefty has flashed promising stuff with a surprising good feel for his craft … he’s a long-term project, but there’s a lot to work with here.

Kevin Russo and Burawa were squeezed out last night when Williams and Rutckyj signed. One thing to keep in mind is that I (and we) don’t know nearly as much about this year’s draftees as we do about the guys who have been in the system for years, so it’s tough to pinpoint exactly where they belong. Don’t like having Culver below Adams? Fine, I could easily be convinced otherwise.

Also, remember the fudge factor. There’s so little difference between say, the fourth best prospect and the ninth best prospect, or the 22nd best prospect and the 30th best prospect that it’s a waste of time to get worked up over individual rankings. Think Betances should rank higher than Noesi? Fine, who cares. They’re basically on par with each other. Think of it as tiers. Jesus Montero is all by himself. Romine and Heathcott are behind him. Brackman through Betances is the next tier, and so on. The important thing is the cache of talent, which is the deepest it’s been in at least two years.

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Jun
04

2010 Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects

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Tell me this isn't an awesome picture. (Photo Credit: Andy King, AP)

When the season started, the stock line said the Yankees’ farm system had thinned out considerably over the last year because of trades, graduation, and general attrition. It was certainly true, but I think it was still a shock to everyone to see just how weak the rosters of the four full season affiliates were once the season started and DotF returned. There’s certainly some good players on each of the teams, but there’s a lot more filler and a lot fewer gotta-see-how-they-did names.

That’s the price a team pays to not just put together a World Championship club, but to sustain one. Free agent signings prior to the 2009 season robbed the Yanks of three high draft picks, and trades this past winter took away several young and talented players. The good news is that the Yanks do still have some impact prospects, though most of them are further down the ladder. Of my top eight prospects, just two are above A-ball.

This pre-draft list is more of a status update than a re-ranking, just because the season is only seven or eight weeks old and not much can change in that time. Most of the movement at the top of the list is a result of players showing us exactly what we wanted to see coming into the year rather than guys disappointing and taking a step back. Only two players from my preseason top 30 list are ineligible for this one: Frankie Cervelli because he’s eclipsed the 130 at-bat rookie limit, and Jamie Hoffmann because he was returned to the Dodgers at the end of the Spring Training.

The Yanks simply don’t have the depth that they once did, so the bottom third of the list consists of some players coming back from injury and others who project to be little more than marginal big leaguers. Don’t get too caught up in the exact placement, many of these guys are interchangeable. If you think the #29 prospect is better than the #22 prospect, you won’t get much of an argument. There’s just not much of a difference.

The level listed is where the kid is currently playing, but everything else is self-explanatory.

  1. Jesus Montero, C, AAA: no, the numbers are not where we’d like them to be (.293 wOBA), but I’m not going to dock him for struggling during his first two months in Triple-A as a 20-year-old
  2. Austin Romine, C, AA: he just keeps on getting better and better each day … like most Thunder players, he’s performed much better on the road (.380-.418-.576) than at Waterfront Park (.247-.326-.351)
  3. Slade Heathcott, CF, A-: finally promoted to a full season league this past Wednesday, he’s the system’s best combination of athleticism and baseball ability
  4. Jose Ramirez, RHSP, A-: handling his first assignment to a full season league with aplomb … 55-13 K/BB ratio and 47 hits allowed in 56 IP, but the biggest number of all is the zero homers allowed
  5. Manny Banuelos, LHSP, injured: has yet to pitch this year because of an appendectomy
  6. Andrew Brackman, RHSP, A+: he’s gotten better as he’s gotten further away from Tommy John surgery … after 6.4 BB/9 last season, he’s cut that down to 1.3 this year
  7. J.R. Murphy, C, A-: like Heathcott, he was a late add to a full season league, but there’s a case to be made that he’s the best pure hitter in the system after Montero
  8. Graham Stoneburner, RHSP, A+: dominated Low-A hitters just like he was supposed to … I was high on him out of the draft last year, and so far he’s making me look smart
  9. Zach McAllister, RHSP, AAA: solid but unspectacular during his first taste of Triple-A … the strikeouts are down (just 5.8 K/9), ditto the groundballs (40.7%, down about 10% from his career mark)
  10. Hector Noesi, RHSP, AA: seems to get better each time out … you gotta love the 61-9 K/BB ratio in 55 IP
  11. David Adams, 2B, injured: completely destroyed the Eastern League (.392 wOBA) before suffering an ankle injury trying to break up a double play
  12. Mark Melancon, RHRP, AAA: we’ve pretty much said everything that needs to be said over the last few years, just needs a chance
  13. Adam Warren, RHSP, A+: rock solid but I’m kinda surprised he’s still in Tampa … the 6.7 K/9 is low, but the 58.7 GB% is through the roof
  14. Corban Joseph, 2B, A+: we know he can hit, but we’re still not sure what else he has to offer
  15. Kelvin DeLeon, OF, ExST: will report to one of the short season leagues later this month
  16. Bryan Mitchell, RHSP, ExST: ditto DeLeon’s comment
  17. Ivan Nova, RHSP, AAA: got his first taste of the big leagues last month … nice piece of inventory to have stashed away at Triple-A
  18. Brandon Laird, 3B/1B, AA: simply annihilating the Eastern League (.381 wOBA), but he’s going to have to learn to play an outfield corner to be anything more than trade bait for the Yanks
  19. Bradley Suttle, 3B, A+: his bat has been disappointing (.291 wOBA) after missing all of 2009 with a pair of shoulder surgeries, but let’s give him the rest of the season before passing judgment
  20. David Phelps, RHSP, AA: the 440th overall pick in the 2008 continues to surprise … just 59 baserunners allowed in 63.1 IP this year
  21. Jeremy Bleich, LHSP, injured: going to be down for a while after having surgery to repair a torn labrum … has a 86-62 K/BB ratio in 106.1 IP at Double-A over the last two seasons
  22. Kevin Russo, UTIL, MLB: I’m sure he’s much happier riding the bench in the big leagues than he was playing every day in Triple-A
  23. Romulo Sanchez, RHRP, AAA: the walks are definitely too high at 5.0 BB/9, but he can miss bats and provide length out of the bullpen, and there’s value in that
  24. D.J. Mitchell, RHSP, AA: Double-A hasn’t been kind to him, but he still has time to improve the 6.4 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, and 10.5 H/9
  25. Caleb Cotham, RHSP, injured: dealing with yet another knee injury, so you have to start worrying about it becoming a chronic problem for the power pitcher
  26. Greg Golson, OF, AAA: fast, great defense, can’t hit to save his life … an outfield version of Ramiro Pena
  27. Dan Brewer, OF, AA: he’s not hitting for average (.239) or getting on base (.312) like we’ve come to expect, but he’s on pace for 46 steals, more than double his career high of 22
  28. Dellin Betances, RHSP, injured: supposedly he’ll be back with one of the affiliated teams any day now
  29. Chad Huffman, 1B/OF, AAA: his track record suggests on-base skills (career .382 OBP) and decent power (career .182 ISO), so he has value off the bench or as the righty half of a platoon
  30. Wilkin DeLaRosa, LHRP, AA: his progress has stalled since his breakout 2008 season, but he’s still a guy to watch because he’s lefthanded and throws pretty hard

Bleich is the big fall-off because of his very serious injury, but overall the top three is very good. The next tier is solid but not particularly deep, and after that you have a lot of up-and-down pieces that are probably more valuable to the Yankees as trade bait than on the field.  I’ll revisit this list soon after the August 16th signing deadline (the 15th is on a Sunday, so they pushed it back a day) to incorporate all the “new hires,” if you will.

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Feb
19

2010 Preseason Top 30 Prospects

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So here we are again. It seems like just last week that we were watching the Yankees parade down the Canyon of Heroes, and yet pitchers and catchers have already reported to Tampa. I guess that’s one of the many perks of having your favorite team win the World Series; a shorter offseason.

Just like the big league team, both High-A Tampa and Short Season Staten Island were able to capture their league championships in 2009. For the SI Yanks, it was their fifth league title of the decade. Double-A Trenton was unable to win their third consecutive Eastern League Championship, though Triple-A Scranton returned to the International League Championship Series after winning the crown in 2008. Overall, the Yanks’ six minor league affiliates combined for a 381-309 record, good for the second best winning percentage (.552) among the thirty clubs (Giants, .590).

Even with all the winning, the Yanks system took a big hit in all sorts of ways over the last year. Five key prospects graduated to the big leagues in 2009, while attrition knocked six others off my list all together. Five others are no longer with the organization for whatever reason. As a result, this year’s list features a whopping 16 new faces, quite the turnover in just 12 months.

As always, ranking prospects is all about trying to find a balance between performance, projection, and probability. Oodles of talent and great performance is all well and good, but if the player is in A-ball, we have to be careful and remember to temper expectations. 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 #15 and #30 prospects. When guys are that close, it comes down to preference.

Here’s my lists from 2007, 2008, and 2009. Hard to believe I’ve been at this for four years already, more if you count past blogging ventures. Anyway, the listed ages are as of April 1st of this year, and the fun starts after the jump.

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Now that the draft signing deadline has come and gone, we can take a second to step back and try to figure out where all the new guys fit in. I’ve always believed that if you draft & sign a guy and he instantly becomes your top prospect, you either a) landed an absolute stud, or b) have a bad system. More often then not, it’s the latter. Thankfully the Yanks aren’t in that position, although first rounder Slade Heathcott still slides comfortably into the team’s top five prospects.

For the sake of comparison, you can find my predraft list here and my preseason list here. Phil Coke and David Robertson have since graduated to the majors, hence their exclusion. So without further ado …

  1. Jesus Montero, C – out for the year with a broken finger, but a .406 wOBP and a .222 IsoP in AA as a 19-yr is as good as it gets
  2. Austin Jackson, CF – hard to believe he’s still only 22, but more power and/or fewer strikeouts would be nice
  3. Austin Romine, C – constant improvement in every aspect of the game, there’s a whole lot to like here
  4. Slade Heathcott, CF – toolsy outfielder has enormous upside, but for now he’s behind Romine because he hasn’t done anything yet
  5. Zach McAllister, RHP – rock solid, doesn’t wow you … should contribute next year, but also doubles as Grade-B trade bait
  6. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP – top notch stuff but slowed by a recent back injury … big upside
  7. Mark Melancon, RHP – everything is there, just needs an extended chance
  8. Manny Banuelos, LHP – Futures Gamer relies on polish and command rather than sheer stuff
  9. Ivan Nova, RHP – after what seems like an eternity of waiting, it finally clicked this year
  10. Andrew Brackman, RHP – well, he made every start and stayed healthy all year … that’s a positive
  11. Jeremy Bleich, LHP – not performing in AA yet, but polished lefty should be a cheap back-end option sometime next year
  12. Dellin Betances, RHP – more injuries, more walks … still dreaming on upside here
  13. Mike Dunn, LHP – super high strikeout lefty just needs to limit his walks … a nastier version of Phil Coke
  14. Graham Stoneburner, RHP – pounds the zone with three average or better pitches & is allergic to homers
  15. Kelvin DeLeon, OF – gobs of talent and gobs of strikeouts, but has big time power potential
  16. JR Murphy, C – raw hitting ability and defensive skills are there; needs experience and refinement, though
  17. Frankie Cervelli, C – big league ready backup catcher … all that needs to be said
  18. Jairo Heredia, RHP – missed most of the season with some kind of arm injury, but has rebounded well
  19. Adam Warren, RHP - polished, pounds the zone, sits low-90’s and has touched 96 with SI … pleasant surprise
  20. Bradley Suttle, 3B – out all year with a shoulder problem, but he can flat out rake when healthy
  21. Wilkins DeLaRosa, LHP – similar to Dunn, but less breaking ball
  22. DJ Mitchell, RHP – annihilates RHB but gets crushed by LHB, needs to improve that changeup to avoid ROOGY status … Gaudin 2.0?
  23. David Adams, 2B – bat control guy with gap power & good on-base skills … I’m a fan
  24. Brett Marshall, RHP – out with TJ surgery, but a big arm that was holding his own as a teenager in full season ball
  25. Dan Brewer, RF – he’s a hitting savant … mashes lefties, righties, fastballs, breaking balls, pitches down, pitches up, you name it
  26. George Kontos, RHP – out with TJ surgery, but was doing well in AAA prior to the injury and on the cusp of the big leagues
  27. Kyle Higashioka, C – impressive all-around package behind the plate, but a million miles away
  28. Kevin Russo, IF – super high OBP guy can play a ton of positions, he’ll be the backup infielder’s backup next year
  29. Gavin Brooks, LHP – huge arm from the left side could move fast as a reliever, but might get another crack at starting
  30. Corban Joseph, 2B – he can hit, but he can’t do much more than that

Damon Sublett, Matt Richardson, and Nik Turley were pushed out when Heathcott, Murphy, and Stoneburner signed. I’m generally hard on international signees (I want to see them do something, anything, in the States before I buy into the hype), so Gary Sanchez fell well short of the list. I’m a big Graham Stoneburner fan, but I’ll admit I was aggressive in ranking him. Hopefully it doesn’t come back to haunt me like Carmen Angelini did back in 2007.

Obviously major injuries to George Kontos, Chris Garcia, Bradley Suttle, and Brett Marshall affected their rankings greatly. Ivan Nova always had the stuff and projection, but never the polish to earn a high ranking. His breakout with Double-A Trenton vaults him up the list. Remember that the middle of the list is very fungible, I could have easily had someone like DJ Mitchell sitting just outside the top ten. It’s just preference, and this is how it shook out given my mood at the time.

So go ahead, file your complaints in the comments.

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David RobertsonI post three personal prospect lists a year, but the pre-draft list is by far my least favorite. There hasn’t been enough time for anything to really change from my Preseason Top 30, except maybe for a few injuries and a graduation or two. However, I do like this list because it shows me how much my opinion of some players have changed in a relatively short amount of time. Obviously most of that is performance driven, but we also have to consider other factors like health and consistency. Joe Morgan would be proud.

Anyway, the top five prospects are the same as the preseason list, but you’ll notice they’ve been shuffled around a bit. Unlike most instances when players drop because they’ve been disappointing, this movement is due to a few players making improvements and having tremendous seasons. Two players have graduated to the bigs from my preseason list early in the season (Brett Gardner & Al Aceves), and four others have dropped off the list entirely for various reasons (Carmen Angelini, Humberto Sanchez, Brandon Laird & Steven Jackson).

Keep in mind that there’s really not much difference between prospect #3 and prospect #6, or prospect #11 and prospect #22. It’s just a matter of preference, so don’t get too worked up if one of your favorite prospects is lower than you expected. Anywho, let’s get to it…

  1. Jesus Montero, C: destroyed the pitcher friendly Florida State League, and he’s now playing in AA as a teenager
  2. Austin Jackson, CF: hasn’t shown much power yet and he’ll always be prone to the strikeout, but his walk rate just keeps getting better
  3. Zach McAllister, RHP: more than holding his own as a 21-yr old in AA, and it’s not just because of the pitcher haven known as Waterfront Park (1.40 ERA on the road)
  4. Andrew Brackman, RHP: he’s passed the “just stay healthy” portion of the season, now he needs to start fufilling some of that promise
  5. Mark Melancon, RHP: low walks, high strikeouts, high groundballs, lots to like, he just needs to be challenged now
  6. Dellin Betances, RHP: struggled to maintain the impovements he made in the second half last year, then he went down with a forearm injury
  7. Phil Coke, LHP: he is what he is, a legit ML reliever that’ll make you nervous in big spots from time to time
  8. Austin Romine, C: rock solid, and he’ll finally get a chance to get out from under Montero’s shadow
  9. Jeremy Bleich, LHP: good K/BB, but I’m a bit worried because he doesn’t miss many bats
  10. David Robertson, RHP: he’s done all he can in the minors, now he just has to take advantage of his big league opportunities
  11. Manny Banuelos, LHP: tremendous strikeout rate (9.78 Kper9) and good walk rate (2.77 BBper9), lots to like here
  12. Wilkins DeLaRosa, LHP: ditto Banuelos’ comment, except with a 9.70 Kper9 & 3.42 BBper9
  13. Jairo Heredia, RHP: hasn’t pitched this year because of “soreness and tightness,” but all the tools are there for him to be very successful
  14. George Kontos, RHP: stuff is finally translating into consistent results, he’s pitched his way into big league consideration
  15. Mike Dunn, LHP: a two-outing hiccup in early May skewed his numbers, but he’s dominating both RHB & LHB with a super high K rate (11.53 Kper9)
  16. Chris Garcia, RHP: flashing the same outstanding stuff, but as usual it’s just a question of health
  17. Bradley Suttle, 3B: hasn’t played this year because of offseason shoulder surgery, doesn’t sound like he’ll be back anytime soon
  18. Brett Marshall, RHP: holding his own in his first full professional season, needs to do a better job against RHB though
  19. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP: big time stuff will be unleashed on the short season NY-Penn League later this month
  20. Frankie Cervelli, C: filled in admirably while Jorge Posada was out, but he really needs regular at-bats in the minors
  21. David Adams, 2B: showing good contact skills and plate discipline, in line for a midseason promotion
  22. DJ Mitchell, RHP: burst on the scene in a big way, but has to do better against LHB to keep it up
  23. Ramiro Pena, IF: big league defense, but another guy who should be getting regular at-bats in the minors
  24. Juan Miranda, 1B: big time improvements against LHP bode well for his future as a trade bait
  25. Kevin Russo, IF: struggling with some various leg injuries, but he’s flashed the same offensive skills he showed during his breakout year last year
  26. Ivan Nova, RHP: save for one bad outing in early May, it looks like he’s finally having that breakout year we’ve all been waiting for
  27. Ryan Pope, RHP: having an okay year in AA, but a move to the pen may be in order
  28. Garrison Lassiter, 3B: keeping his head above water in full season ball, but he’s been on the DL for over a month now with a mystery injury
  29. Jorge Vazquez, 1B: has tremendous power, but he’s got an odd reverse platoon split that needs fixin’
  30. Jon Albaladejo, RHP: I still believe he can become a solid ML middle reliever

In my opinion, there are only two players in this draft class that would unquestionably become the Yanks’ top prospect if the team managed to draft and sign them: Stephen Strasburg & Dustin Ackley. Obviously, there’s basically no chance either player makes it out of the top three picks. There’s about three or four others that would garner consideration for the top spot, but I’d have to think long and hard about it. Not to mention do more research.

The second half of this midseason prospect ranking update comes after the August 15th signing period, when we know who exactly the Yanks have added to the organization.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

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Feb
13

2009 Preseason Top 30 Prospects

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champsOver the years I’ve gone through phases when it comes to these lists. A few years ago I was all about upside; if you had a significant ceiling you were making my list, regardless if you struck out 195 times in 134 games (coughTimBattlecough). These days I find myself favoring probability and closeness to the majors. Don’t get me wrong, upside is still a huge part of prospect rankings, but I’m definitely starting to weigh readiness more in my rankings. It just makes sense considering the shift towards younger players in today’s game.

The Yankees’ system was definitely in the red this year. The losses sustained due to graduation, trades, injuries and ineffectiveness outweigh the gains brought on by breakouts and player acquisitions. Three players from last year’s top ten are no longer with the organization, and just one player from the top five makes a repeat showing there this year. On top of that the Yanks failed to sign their first and second round draft picks. While they’ll reap the benefits of the compensation picks this year, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to match the potential of Gerrit Cole, nevermind Scott Bittle. Forfeiting their first, second and third round picks in next year’s draft for signing free agents means they’ll be working at a disadvantage as they try to rebuild the system.

Despite all that, the Yanks’ affiliates did a whole lotta winning this year. Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton (pictured) each won their league titles this year, and it was Trenton’s second consecutive championship. All told the minor league affiliates combined for a 406-287  record (.586 winning percentage), far and away the best in baseball. They were the only club to eclipsed the 400 win mark, and the next best organization (Rangers) had a .556 winning percentage. Winning obviously takes a back seat to development in the minor leagues, but it’s always nice to give your young players a taste of success.

As I was putting this list together, I didn’t have to put too much thought into figuring out who the organization’s top three prospects were. Barring a trade I knew exactly who numbers one, two and three were going to be basically since September. Numbers four through seven are pretty interchangeable in my eyes, eight through nineteen even more so. Don’t get too worked up if I ranked your favorite prospect lower than you would have liked, quite often the difference between a set of two, three or ten prospects is smaller than you may think.

It’s always fun to go back in time and see how things worked out, so here’s my 2007 and 2008 lists. Otherwise, the fun starts after the jump. Ages are as of Opening Day.

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So the August 15th signing deadline came and went, but sadly a whole bunch of nothing went on in Yankeeland. The Yanks didn’t sign their first or second round pick, and made up for it only by signing their sandwich pick, a LHP who may or may not have elbow issues. It takes about five years before you can accurately judge a draft class, but so far this looks like the weakest crop of Damon Oppenheimer’s impressive tenure as Scouting Director.

That said, the Yanks did add some nice talent and solid organizational depth, with six players jumping right into my Top 30. Overall the system is down quite a bit from this time last year, partly due to the graduation of Joba & IPK, but mostly because of trades, injury and general ineffectiveness. Here’s my pre-draft list, and keep in mind that the prospects I ranked 16 through like, 28 are pretty interchangeable. Fun starts after the jump.

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The third point of the season isn’t the best time to take stock and assess how the prospects in the minors are doing, but that’s not going to stop me. There’s been a decent amount of movement at the top, which is the result of just about everything: graduation, injuries, ineffectiveness, hissy fits and domination.

Here’s my updated look at the Yanks’ top 30 prospects, as they stand the day before some fresh blood is infused into the system. You can check out my preseason list for comparisons sake.

  1. Joba Chamberlain, RHPright at 50 IP for his career, so he hasn’t passed the rookie limit yet … i think we’re all looking forward to seeing him in the rotation for the rest of the year (or at the least the smart ones are)
  2. Jesus Montero, Csurpassed all expectations for this year, there’s no one in the draft class that can knock him from this spot
  3. Austin Jackson, CFimproved his plate discipline, hitting for power, playing good D … there’s a lot to like here
  4. JB Cox, RHPcame back from TJ like a champ, much better than I expected
  5. Mark Melancon, RHPsee above
  6. Zach McAllister, RHPwent from sleeper to stud thanks to his lights out first half
  7. Dellin Betances, RHPthe walks are high, and the tired shoulder is a minor concern, but he’s doing about all you could ask him to do in his first attempt at full-season ball
  8. Ross Ohlendorf, RHPyep, he’s technically still a prospect, and he’s better than his numbers suggest
  9. Alan Horne, RHP - if it wasn’t for the biceps injury, he would probably be in the bigs
  10. Andrew Brackman, RHPtoo much talent to ignore, TJ or not
  11. Jose Tabata, RFif you want to act like a baby I’ll rank you like one … lucky for him he’s just 19
  12. Brett Gardner, CFhitting for enough power to keep pitchers honest, and that’s all he needs
  13. Jeff Marquez, RHPfinding out that Triple-A hitters make you pay when you don’t get the ball down
  14. Carmen Angelini, SSnot the best start to the year, but he’s young for his league and has loads of ability
  15. David Robertson, RHPjust keeps mowing guys down
  16. Dan McCutchen, RHPis he the guy that dominated Double-A, or the guy that’s scuffling in Triple-A?
  17. Abe Almonte, CFflashing all 5 tools and putting up the numbers … stud
  18. Austin Romine, Chaving an impressive year at the dish and behind it, which is more than you can ask from a teenage catcher in full season ball
  19. Chris Garcia, RHPgetting back into game action was step 1, step 2 is putting in the work needed to be great, because he’s got all the talent he’d ever need
  20. Colin Curtis, LFnot flashy, but he does everything just good enough
  21. Jairo Heredia, RHPtoo bad I don’t know what the “upper body injury” was
  22. Humberto Sanchez, RHPstill MIA
  23. Bradley Suttle, 3Bmashed his way into the top 20 between injuries this year after a brutal debut last year
  24. Juan Miranda, 1Bshoulder issues have sapped his power, but it was already clear that he’s a classic platoon first baseman/DH
  25. Kevin Whelan, RHPalmost a forgotten man in the system
  26. Ryan Pope, RHPenigmatic isn’t the right word, but he’s … unique
  27. Frankie Cervelli, Cholding down a spot based on reputation after the injury
  28. Mike Dunn, LHPhopefully he won’t be the top ranked lefty when I do the post-draft list, no offense to Mike
  29. Edwar Ramirez, RHPstill prospect eligible, and still striking out almost 2 batters an inning
  30. Justin Snyder, 2Ball he does is get on base and score runs
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