Earlier this week the prospect gurus at MLB.com released their annual top 30 Yankees prospects list. The other scouting publications released their Yankees prospect lists within the last few weeks as well. As always, MLB.com’s list is entirely free. The list, the scouting reports, the scouting grades, the whole nine. It’s a great resource.
MLB.com posted their top 100 prospects last month. Here are their top ten Yankees prospects and their place on the top 100 list:
- OF Estevan Florial (No. 57 on the top 100)
- RHP Jonathan Loaisiga (No. 66 on the top 100)
- RHP Albert Abreu
- RHP Deivi Garcia
- RHP Clarke Schmidt
- C Anthony Seigler
- OF Everson Pereira
- RHP Trevor Stephan
- OF Antonio Cabello
- RHP Roansy Contreras
“While the Yankees’ farm system isn’t as overflowing with big league-ready talent as it has been recently, they do have an impressive stockpile of high-ceiling/high-risk youngsters,” writes Jim Callis. “… New York is one of the best organizations at helping pitchers improve their velocity and spin rates, giving it an intriguing wave of overpowering arms that has yet to surface in the big leagues.”
Noticeably absent from MLB.com’s top 30 list is RHP Freicer Perez, who ranked eighth last year. Six disaster starts and season-ending shoulder surgery will do that. I dropped Perez to 19th on my top 30 list. Anyway, here are some thoughts on MLB.com’s top 30 list, or rather some thoughts on the information included in the scouting reports.
1. Putting numbers on Florial’s tools. Most of the chatter about Florial this winter revolved around his pitch recognition, or lack thereof. And yes, his pitch recognition is a significant issue. It must improve for him to have a long and productive big league career. Fortunately he turned only 21 in November and has time to get better.
All the attention being paid to Florial’s pitch recognition can make it easy to forget what makes him such a quality prospect. MLB.com’s 20-80 scouting scale grades give him the best grade in four of the five tools among the top 30. Look at this:
- Power: 55 (tied with C Josh Breaux, OF Anthony Garcia, OF Ryder Green)
- Speed: 65
- Fielding: 60 (tied with OF Everson Pereira)
- Throwing: 65
As a reminder, 20 on the 20-80 scale is terrible, 80 is great, and 50 is average. Florial is above-average in four of the five tools and a full grade better than average in three of the five. His 45 hit tool is what prevents him from being a truly elite prospect, but damn, four above-average tools? It’s easy to lose sight of that. If he is able to conquer his pitch recognition issues — a big IF, of course — Florial can be a big time all-around impact player.
2. Are Medina’s issues mental? RHP Luis Medina has the most electric arm in the system. It’s easy upper-90s gas with a hammer curveball and a good changeup. The kid just has no idea where the ball is going. He walked 46 batters in 36 innings with Rookie Pulaski last year, or exactly one-quarter of the batters he faced. Medina also uncorked a dozen wild pitches, so yeah, control is an issue.
In MLB.com’s scouting report, they note “some observers believe his strike-throwing issues are more mental than physical.” They’re not the only publication to mention this either. FanGraphs said something similar in their recent top Yankees prospects list. From FanGraphs:
Medina’s issues aren’t physical — his delivery is fine and his arm stroke is clean. Instead, the problem appears to be mostly mental. He’ll throw well in the bullpen only to have things will snowball for him in game situations. One source described his issues as stemming from a need for greater mental maturity and to not be so hard on himself, which are exactly the kinds of traits that come with general social maturity.
Huh. Most of what I’ve read attributed Medina’s control issues to a delivery he struggles to repeat. MLB.com and FanGraphs both say that no, the delivery is good, the control problems are more mental than physical. Medina is still only 19 and it’s silly to think he should be more polished than he is at this age. Dellin Betances had (has) similar stuff and it took him until his mid-20s to harness it. Medina strikes me a similar long-term project. Strike-throwing issues stemming from a mental block seem more difficult to correct than strike-throwing issues that stem from a bad delivery, but who knows. Everyone is different. Medina’s control issues are bad but we’re not in Jeff Degano/Jason Neighborgall territory either. Hopefully as he gains experience he’ll get the ball closer to the plate. I just thought it was interesting to read his control problems could be mental rather than related to his delivery.
3. Osiel Rodriguez is the next big thing. At this time last year Pereira was the next big thing. He signed as an international amateur free agent the previous summer and quickly filled out his frame and shown increased power potential. This year’s next big thing is 17-year-old Cuban righty Osiel Rodriguez, who the Yankees gave $600,000 last year after acquiring bonus pool space in the Luke Voit trade. MLB.com ranks Rodriguez the 18th best prospect in the system. A snippet of their scouting report:
Somewhat reminiscent of former Yankees star Orlando Hernandez, Rodriguez has a seemingly endless combination of pitches and arm slots. He has an electric arm that produces 92-95 mph fastballs that top out at 97 with high spin rates that give him rising life up in the strike zone. His hard curveball is a bit more effective than his harder slider, with both displaying the potential to become plus pitches, and his changeup has splitter action and similar upside … He has a lofty ceiling, as his chance to develop four plus offerings could make him a frontline starter.
Well then. Rodriguez will play this entire season at age 17 and he’s yet to appear in a pro game, so as exciting as that scouting report is, we have to pump the brakes a bit. The scouting report mentions he “doesn’t have the cleanest arm action and there’s effort in his delivery,” which you can see in the video below, and pro hitters will tell us what they think about Rodriguez once he gets into games. Since the 2014-15 signing spree dud, the Yankees have done some great work internationally — six of MLB.com’s top ten Yankees prospects were originally signed internationally by the Yankees — and Rodriguez (and unranked OF Kevin Alcantara) looks like this year’s breakout candidate.
5. The Yankees are really short on infield talent. There is one (1) infielder on MLB.com’s top 30 Yankees prospects list. That is SS Thairo Estrada, who is coming back from what was essentially a lost season. That’s it. He’s the best infield prospect in the organization. The Yankees are very deep in pitching (21 pitchers in the top 30) and Florial, Pereira, and Cabello give them some high-end outfield talent. The infield? Not so much. Granted, having Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar at the big league level lessens the need infield prospects, but the infield is a weakness in the farm system right now. Recent international signees like SS Ronny Rojas, SS Roberto Chirinos, and SS Oswald Peraza could help correct the infield deficiency in the coming years. At this time last year the Yankees were short on catchers. Now they’re short on infielders. I don’t believe the Yankees specifically drafted Seigler and Breaux to address their catching shortage last year and I don’t think they’d prioritize infielders early in the draft this year either. At the top of the draft, you have to take the best talent regardless of position. Drafting for need is pointless because it’s so difficult to project what you’ll need three or four years down the line, when that prospect is big league ready. That all said, it would certainly be convenient if the best available player is an infielder when the Yankees make their first few draft picks this summer. The system needs an infield infusion.