2013 Top Prospects
The Yankees Minor league system had an up and down year in 2012. Several of their older and upper-tier prospects had injuries (Banuelos, Romine, Campos) or setbacks (Betances). Add to that the trade of #1 prospect Jesus Montero and it left the upper levels of the system without much impact talent ready to help in the Bronx. However, it wasn’t all bad news as the organization saw the continued positive development from a wave of strong young players who began the year at the A-ball level. What the system loses in not having much in the way of near MLB-ready talent, it makes up for with a deep well of quality players in the lower rungs. These players, led by M.Williams, Sanchez, Austin & Heathcott, will start in High A or AA this year and could make this a Top 5 system by next year. Most of the main Prospect Writers have the Yankee system rated in the #10-14 range right now.
As we have seen this offseason, Yankees ownership is serious about cutting payroll to get below the Competitive Balance Tax Threshold in 2014 and beyond. The only way the team can remain a playoff contender is to start getting major contributions from their Farm System. Unfortunately, the high-end talent likely won’t be ready to make a major impact until 2015-2016 but some of these guys may get an opportunity to play in the majors sooner rather than later. And for the first time in years, the team may start to give legitimate opportunities to their prospects in New York.
Following is a breakdown of the organizations Top 40 prospects as chosen by myself (Jamie or Fish) and fellow-writer Rob (jimmytoucan). We tried to talk to some minor-lg coaches and writers to get their input on certain players and have included some quotes from those we have spoken to personally.
1) Mason Williams – CF, 21 – AA, 2015
Mason has literally grown into the team’s best prospect. No one questioned his amazing defense in CF, plus speed or quality hitting & bunting skills but many wondered if he’d ever be more than a slap-hitting singles hitter. He responded by adding 30 pounds last offseason and delivering 11 HRs with a .474 SLG% in 359 ABs before shoulder surgery cut his season short in July.
Fish: I ranked him 1st because I think he’ll continue to gain strength and become a solid 2-way CF. I see his floor as no worse than a Brett Gardner-type player in the majors. He doesn’t walk as much as Gardner but he has great contact skills and could very well develop into a much stronger offensive player.
Rob: Toolsy CF’er with tremendous contact ability. Hits for average with room to add some power. Potential plus defender and 30 SB capability. I had him ranked #2 on my list simply because I value the catcher position a bit more in a system with three outfielders in the top 4.
2) Gary Sanchez – C, 20 – HiA, 2015
Sanchez earned a reputation as an immature kid with questionable work ethic in 2011 and his ability to remain a Catcher was in question as he had 26 Passed Balls in just 60 games. But he was a new man in 2012, showcasing much improved defensive skills and the leadership required to guide a pitching staff. His ability to crush a baseball was never in question and his plus power to all fields makes him one of the top Catching prospects in the game.
Fish: 2011 was his first full season in the U.S. so I give him a pass for his struggles as an 18 year old kid. I love Sanchez’ bat and I think it will be MLB-ready well before his ability to catch is. With the Yanks’ preference for defense at the Catcher spot, I wonder if Sanchez will want to make the sacrifices needed to become a Catcher, but worse case scenario I think he’ll hit enough to support a switch to 1B down the road.
Rob: My number one overall pick, due to playing a more difficult position. Defense was in question rolling into 2012 but from various accounts has taken steps forward. Rated best power hitter in the system, plus arm and hit tool. Ranked the #3 catching prospect in baseball.
Kiley McDaniel: We asked him if Sanchez has the ability to catch for the Yankees with their emphasis on defense, “Could. Will take lots of work, up to him.”
3) Slade Heathcott – CF 22 – AA, 2014
Slade has the most ability in the entire system and is the closest thing they have to a 5-tool player. His short career has been filled with shoulder injuries and some character questions but he was finally healthy and put it all together last year. Hit .307/.378/.470 in Tampa and then hit .388 with 10 XBH’s in 18 games in the Arizona Fall Lg where he was ranked as the #6 prospect.
Fish: Slade jumps out at you when you watch a game. His immense talent is obvious and he plays the game with a fervor and intensity that is a joy to watch. Because of that zeal and aggressiveness, he may be more prone to injuries but if he can stay healthy, he could be a star and fan favorite in NY. He’ll need to turn it down a notch to withstand the rigors of a 162-game season.
Rob: Had people buzzing after his performance in the AFL this year. Potential five tool player in spite of his second shoulder surgery. Brings a level of intensity to the field that could actually be his downfall. Huge ceiling with a pretty low floor.
Former Charleston Hitting Coach & current Boston Red Sox Hitting Coach Greg Colbrunn : “He has ability to adjust his swing, we call it “Adjustability” with his swing – he can be fooled and still get the bat head to the ball. He definitely has the power, has the bat speed, can run, put the ball in play, get on base…..so he has all the things you look for in a Major League player”
Taken from ESPN.com…..Keith Law: “I do think he has star potential if he stays healthy, which is a huge if. He plays like his hair’s on fire (and) that’s not a great thing for a player who’s injury-prone … the star potential is from the athleticism – plus runner, really good swing, strong hands. Just needs to dial it down one notch.”
4) Tyler Austin – RF, 21 – AA, 2014
No Yankee prospect was more productive in 2012. He has hit at every level and his .322/.400/.559/.960 season vaulted him from a #13th round pick in 2010 to a Top 100 prospect who was chosen to play in the Futures Game. He changed positions with ease from 3B to RF and shows ability to be an above-average OF.
Fish: I’ve always admired Austin’s baseball instincts and smarts. He’s solid in all aspects and despite being an average runner, he has stolen 41 of 43 bases the last 2 years by picking the right pitches and situations. He’s a gamer and will rise quickly – don’t be surprised to see him in the Bronx next year.
Rob: Solid defender that whose bat should play well in RF. High baseball IQ, high floor. Solid bet to be a slightly above average everyday player with room for a bit more.
5) Manny Banuelos – LHP, 22, AAA/INJ – 2014
The elbow injury essentially sets Manny back 2 years in his development but it is not a death sentence by any means. He’ll still be only 23 in 2014 and recovered from TJS. He was the #13 prospect in all of MLB this time last year and showed command improvements in May before he was shutdown. He has great makeup & pitchability to go along with a plus Changeup, plus low to mid-90s FB and average or better Curve.
Fish: I really like Banuelos for his poise and confidence on the mound. That mound presence from a lefty with 3 plus piches make him an attractive starter. The big question with him will be his durability.
Rob: Manny is still my top pitching prospect due to him being a left hander that can get into the mid 90’s, the best changeup in the system and two more secondary offerings that give him #2 potential. His size is the biggest knock against him but he has an easy delivery that does not require max effort every pitch.
6) Jose Campos – RHP, 20, HiA – 2015
Was extremley impressive in his first 4 starts at Charleston but missed almost the entire year with elbow problems. It didn’t require surgery and he’s healthy and throwing now. Campos is 6’4″ with long arms and has front of the rotation potential. Could be a very fast mover up the ladder if 100% as he has both the stuff and the pitchability to succeed.
Rob: Tremendous polish for a pitcher his age, he throws in the mid 90’s with solid command. Secondary stuff needs work but he has plenty of time to get it under wraps. Great projectable frame with upper rotation potential. For me he was a real coup in “The Trade” and could swing it handily in the Yankees’ favor.
Fish: I agree with Rob, Campos is the guy who could salvage the Montero trade but it will take a few years to see. When I spoke to his pitching coach in Charleston, Danny Borrell, he raved about him.
Danny Borrell, Charleston RiverDogs Pitching Coach: “Kid really knows how to pitch and to back it up he has plus stuff across the board. His intangibles are very impressive. He pitches in well, the pace of the game in which he pitches makes hitters uncomfortable, he can pitch his way through a lineup. For someone his age to know how to do that is impressive.”
“He was 90-95, a Curveball he can throw for a strike in any count and a Change up that is developing – but something that will be a very good pitch for him as he gets older. He’s been throwing and by all accounts he’s healthy now.”
7) Angelo Gumbs – 2B, 20 – HiA – 2015
Tremendous athlete with incredible bat speed. Stole 26 bases and hit 7 HRs in just 67 games before his season ended with a triceps injury. He plays hard and has had complements on his work ethic. Reviews are mixed on his defense but he has a strong arm and great athleticism so could move to the OF down the road if needed.
Rob: Incredible bat speed out of Gumbs, he’ll be a bat first second baseman. While Cano has us fans spoiled a guy like Gumbs could make losing Robbie to FA sting a bit less, although he’s a couple of years away yet. His defense isn’t quite as flashy as our current 2B, but it’s plenty good that his bat could bridge some of that gap. Overall he’s got above average potential that’s 3 years away.
Fish: Reminds me a little of Austin Jackson. They were both drafted for their incredible athletic ability knowing it would take them a while to develop their baseball skills. It worked with Jackson and Gumbs is coming along nicely. He gets overshadowed by mason Williams but Gumbs was drafted 2 rounds before him and he is every bit as talented as Mason.
8) Brett Marshall – RHP – 23, AAA – 2014
Marshall doesn’t have the upside of the guys in front of him but falls in the Top 10 because he’s looks like a lock to be a back-end of the rotation MLB starter. Showed potential in Yankee Spring Training then went 13-7 with a 3.52 ERA in AA so he’s on the doorstep of NY. He’s got a big time Changeup and features a hard sinking Fastball that sits 91-93 MPH. His Slider was more of a show-me pitch last year until something clicked in the 2nd Half and he began unleashing a nasty one. His K per 9 went from 6.0 in the 1st half to 9.0 with the improved Slider.
Fish: Marshall reminds me of David Phelps with his poise and the way he attacks hitters. His Change is a weapon vs LH hitters and if his Slider is for real he now has an equal weapon vs RH hitters. Eats innings because he keeps his pitch counts low by challenging hitters and getting easy outs with his Sinker.
Rob: Steady Eddie. Mentioning his name might not raise too many eyebrows, but he continues to move along at a steady pace and chew up innings. He’s got a heavy sinker/slider combo that may not miss a ton of bats but he induces enough weak contact to make up for it. I like any guy that can keep the ball down, especially pitching in YS3.
9) Ramon Flores – OF, 21 HiA/AA – 2015
Flores is overshadowed by the big 3 OF’s in the system but he is a quality prospect in his own right. Has perhaps the sweetest, most natural swing in the system and his strikezone awarness his excellent. Hit .303/.370/.425 in Tampa and homered in his one game in AA. He’s solid defensively and has average speed, the only question mark is will he hit for power. He’s getting stronger each year and many think his power will develop later similar to Cano.
Rob: I had him slightly lower on my list, and I’ll admit it has something to do with the positional plethora in the OF, and his slightly lower ceiling than those that outranked him. He makes great contact, has hit everywhere he goes and can hold his own in the field. Amongst a group filled with the likes of Williams, Heathcott and Austin he looks more like the odd man out/4th outfielder
Fish: His swing is a hitting coach’s dream and has been compared to Cano when he was in the minors. His stroke and great patience/strikezone recognition remind me more of fellow Venezuelan Bobby Abreu. Flores hits breaking balls well and may be a guy who hits better against stronger pitching at higher levels.
Former Charleston Hitting Coach & current Boston Red Sox Hitting Coach Greg Colbrunn: “He picks up pitches as well as anyone I’ve seen come through here. He picks up pitches right out of the pitcher’s hands and has real good strike zone discipline and pitch recognition – and he recognizes it real early. The biggest thing with him was getting him to be more aggressive in counts where he could take advantage of it and let some of his natural ability take off more. He has one of the most natural swings we’ve had come through here. And he does have some power. The difference between 2 years ago when I first saw him and last year when his body filled out and the strength he had was big.”
10) Ty Hensley – RHP, 19 LoA – 2017
2012’s 1st round pick is a big (6’5 215 pounds) kid with a power repertoire and huge ceiling. He’s been sitting at 92-95 with a knee-buckling 12-6 Curve. has makings of a good Change too but only has 12 pro innings so far so he has a lon way to go. MRI after Draft found a shoulder “abnormality” but he continues to pitch without pain or limitations.
Fish: Difficult to rank a kid just drafted who I’ve never seen but he makes but he has the pedigree, size and arm you look for in the 1st round.
Rob: Like many pitchers his age he’s got work to do on his secondary stuff, but he’s got upper rotation potential and seems very driven to get to the BX as soon as possible.
Ty Hensley in interview with Fish in July: “The picture (MRI) has nothing to do with ability and until something hurts or there are symptoms or until there is instability there is no reason to be concerned. I’m healthy, I’m gonna be healthy and will keep working to stay healthy.”
11) Rafael DePaula – RHP, 22 – LoA – 2015
DePaula is another hard-throwing, high-ceiling RHP who sits 93-96 with an already nasty Curveball. The yanks signed him out of the Dominican in November 2010 but he wasn’t cleared by MLB until 16 months later because of age verification issues. He dominated the Domincan Summer Lg then put on a show in the Instructional league this Fall. He should move quickly up through system.
Rob: This is a long time coming, and many of us have been anticipating his arrival stateside for years now. the competition in the DSL was no match for a guy with his kind of fastball and a solid second offering so the numbers are a little deceiving. Like Campos he has a serious FB, good command and some work to do on his offspeed/breaking pitches.
Fish: Even harder to rank than Hensley. We don’t know how old he really is but if we believe his latest birth certificate he’ll be 22 in March. At that age he should dominate the lower levels. But his stuff is said to be electric and he was highly coveted coming out of DR.
12) David Adams – 2B/3B, 25 – AAA – 2013
Adams was finally healthy in 2012 after missing 2 years due to the ankle injury. he was moved to 3B at the end of the season which helps his versatility since he’s already considered an average 2B who turns the pivot very well. But it’s his excellent plate discipline and line drive producing bat that is his greatest strength. Showed increased power with 8 HRs in 86 games and another 3 in 22 Arizona Fall lg games where he had an impressive .912 OPS.
Rob: His bat would certainly play better at second, but positional need at the major league level may have prompted the switch. For me his ranking is more about his proximity to the majors than it is his ceiling, and having guys that are close to stepping in is a bit of a commodity at this point in the farms overall standing.
Fish: I like Adams and think he could play in the majors now if there was an opening. That opening may come next season if Cano walks or if ARod is a DH only (or worse) and I wouldn’t mind seeing Adams get an opportunity.
13) Mark Montgomery – RHP, 22 AAA – 2013
Montgomery has rocketed through the system since being drafted in 2011. His Slider is a truly filthy pitch and coupled with his 92-94 MPH moving Fastball give him the tools to pitch a MLB bullpen right now. He dominated in HiA and AA this year allowing just a .157 oppossing BA and striking out 99 in 64 innings. He then pitched in the Arizona Fall Lg where he K’d 19 in 10 IP with a .143 BA against.
Borrell: “His Slider is a big lg pitch, a plus pitch that gets swing and misses from hitters on both sides (lefties & righties). His slider is something special. an asset for him in the big leagues.”
14) Nik Turley – LHP, 23, AA – 2014
The 6’6 lefty continues to get better and has worked hard to improve his stuff from fringy/average to above average. His Changeup has always been considered a quality offering and he greatly improved his Fastball and Curve in 2012. His FB now sits in the 90-92 range and he started throwing a tighter, harder Curveball that gives him 3 effective offerings. He struck out a batter per IP and went 10-5 with a 3.00 ERA.
Rob: I like him because he’s not the flashy high 90’s guy that blows barn doors off, he just goes out there and runs his game. Lefties always play up to pitching in YS3 and his size indicates he could be of the workhorse type.
15) Austin Romine – C, 24 – AAA – 2013
Romine was on the doorstep of NY after getting his feet wet in the Bronx in September of 2011. Unfortunately a back injury limited him to just 31 total games and another 18 in the AFL. Back injuries are not good for Catchers and Romine will have to prove he’s healthy enough to catch every day in AAA. Defensively he is solid in every aspect which is important since the team favors defensive catchers. Offensively, he shows some promise with a patient approach and some potential to it for some pop but right now he is a defense-first catcher.
Rob: I actually had Romine ranked a few spots higher, mostly due to the Yankees looking to give him a chance to play in the BX to open the season as well as a bit of a positional bump for being a catcher. He doesn’t have the ceiling of Sanchez, but he plays solid D and handles the staff well. His bat leaves a bit to be desired and it’s hard to go all in on a kid that missed much of the previous season but I think he could be good for ~50 games behind the dish this year.
Fish: I knocked Romine down a few slots on my list because of the Back injuries. Back problems are chronic and can be a killer for a catcher. I still think he has the skills to be a MLB catcher but his offensive numbers have been in decline and I wonder if he’ll ever be a good MLB hitter.
16) Corban Joseph – 2B, 24 – AAA – 2014
Joseph has always had a nice line drive stroke that produced Singles and Doubles but he never had more than 6 HRs in a season. This year he started to get more lift and backspin on those liners and hit 15 HRs at AAA. What’s even more impressive is the new found HR-power also coincided with less strikeouts and more Walks. Joseph’s always good strikezone recognition was excellent and he looks like he’s ready to hit MLB pitching. His defense will never be a strength but it’s considered adequate.
Rob: While no one is going to replace Cano, having Joseph and Adams able to hold down the position until Gumbs is ready to step in full time is somewhat relieving. Jospeh mashed righties last year so he’d be on the heavy end of a platoon if that’s the direction they had to go. His D is nothing to write home about, but he plays the spot well enough that his bat can close that gap and make it worth having him there.
Fish: Love his 68 to 70 Walk to Strikeout ratio AND his improved power. He crushed RHP with a .961 OPS and I’d like to see hi get an opportunity in NY. If they didn’t sign Hafner, they could have give him a look at DH vs RHP. I definitely think he’ll hit enough to be a starting 2B in the majors – whether that’s with the Yanks or not, we’ll see.
Greg Colbrunn: “Corban is natural, gets bigger & stronger every year, ball comes off the bat a little crisper. He has an uncanny ability to get the barrel to the ball. He can be fooled, he can be beaten by a fastball and still be able to get the barrel to the ball. Great set of hands on him, he can go out and flick some things or jump on some things. Corban’s going to hit wherever he goes.”
17) JR Murphy – C, 21 – AA 2015
Murphy is often forgotten in the Yankee system because of the attention Romine, Sanchez and previously, Montero received as Catchers. But Murphy is a fine prospect who keeps getting better. He has a nice short stroke that rips line drives from gap to gap and like Joseph, he also has excellent contact skills and strikezone recognition. He’ll develop more power as he develops. Defensively, he took big strides in 2012 and he looks like a strong all-around Catcher.
Rob: His work behind the plate is worth talking about, and if he can catch up to his level with the bat he’ll be a nice commodity to have. He’s similar to Romine but with a bit more pop in his bat. He fills out the top three levels in the system with a guy that could spend time at the position in the majors and that gives us some strength of depth at a premium position.
Fish: I like Murph a lot and think he could develop into a better pro than Romine. He’s a good leader who has become a strong defender in every category. His offensive numbers lagged in 2012 but he was a 21-yr old catcher in AA. I think he’ll have a strong year in 2013.
18) Bryan Mitchell – 21, RHP – HiA – 2016
Mitchell’s first year in full-season ball produced a 9-11, 4.58 ERA. He struck out 121 in 120ip and allowed just 7 HRs and a .240 BA against but he also walked 72 hitters. What the numbers don’t show is that Mitchell has perhaps the best natural stuff in the entire system. His fastball sits 94-96 and can push up into the upper 90s. His Curveball is a Plus pitch and the Changeup has that ability also.
Rob: He still struggles to throw strikes, but some of his runs allowed fall on the lack of defense behind him at times. Overall he has some of the better stuff in the system but if he’s going to succeed he’s going to have to be more consistent and cut down on the walks. This was one pick where Fish and I were pretty far apart; I’d love to dream on him more and if he can get his stuff together he’ll climb quickly up my rankings.
Fish: Yes, I ranked Mitchell a lot higher than Rob. The adjective “Electric” is thrown around a lot to describe pitcher’s stuff but in Mitchell’s case it truly applies. He just needs to harness his amazing stuff and find the best way to command his pitches. I asked Danny Borrell, who has been his pitching Coach the last 2 seasons in Staten Island and Charleston, how he has improved…..
Borrell: ” He’s going through the typical maturation process, just growing into his body. His last 3 starts in Charleston were what all of us envision he should look like,…he pitched under control but still had his mid-90s velocity, was able to throw his Curveball for a strike and his Changeup for a strike. Whenever you are able to do that with the power stuff that he has…. he has a chance to be special.”
Borrell on if he’s concerned with Mitchell’s high Walk totals, “You see a track record with a lot of these power pitchers, it just take some time to grow into their velocity, grow into their body. His last 3 starts are really what’s in store for him as he moves up, just a mentality of pitching within himself …understanding that its OK to go at 80% because 80% is gonna be mid to upper 90s anyway.
19) Dante Bichette, Jr. – 3B, 20 – LoA – 2017
Dante had a tough year adjusting to his first season away from home and in his first full season league. He hit just .248 with 3 HRs after an impressive debut in the Gulf Coast Lg in 2011. He still has the hitting and power tools that made him a 2nd round pick along with the great work ethich and makeup that the Yankees covet. He could easily fly back up these rankings with a solid 2013.
Rob: Normally I’d be a bit more concerned than I am, but after reading that he spent much of the season tinkering around with his swing I thought it would be wise to give him a mulligan. He went on to say he got locked into something comfortable at the ned of the year, which was when he started hitting again so hopefully that carries through to 2013. He seems like a really bright kid with excellent makeup and a mature approach to the game; I’m looking for Dante to be my comeback player of the year.
20) Jose Ramirez – RHP, 23 – AA – 2015
After a poor 2011, things clicked for Ramirez in 2012. He’s always had amazing stuff, a moving Fastball in the 93-96 range and a plus-plus Changeup with excellent fade that is a swing and miss pitch. He also commands both pitches well for a young pitcher. This year he finally began throwing a consistent breaking pitch – a Slider that gives him a weapon against RH hitters. His stuff is now big-league caliber but he must improve his maturity, confidence and aggressiveness.
Rob: The more I think about it the more I wonder why I don’t have this guy ranked a bit higher. I guess I need to see if his breaking ball is for real or not. He’s got mid rotation potential if his third pitch stays with him and if it doesn’t he could always make a nice living as a late inning reliever.
Fish: We’ve long heard about his amazing stuff and this year he finally backed it up in competition. He always seems to impress in Instructs and ST but falls apart too much in actual games. Adding the Slider may finally give him the “intestinal fortitude” to compete more and toughen up a bit in games.
21) Dellin Betances – RHP, 25 – AAA – 2013
Quite a drop for Betances who’s days as a starting pitcher may be over. His control totally fell apart in AAA this year that he had to be demoted to Trenton where he didn’t walk as many but gave up even more hits. Overall he walked 99 and gave up 144 hits in 131 innings. he pitched out of the pen in the AFL and showed better control so perhaps he can carve a niche in the pen.
Rob: If this is the end of the Dellin to the rotation experiment then he might just be able to contribute to the big club as soon as this coming season. At this point they need to figure it out since he’s taking up a spot on the 40 man, which are a valuable commodity these days.
Fish: He seems overwhelmed on the mound and perhaps giving him just an inning to worry about at a time will take some pressure off him and allow him to concentrate on getting an out at a time. He still has quality stuff so it’s worth trying to salvage him in the pen.
22) Zoilo Almonte – OF, 23 – AAA – 2013
Zoilo had a strong 2012 hitting .277 – 21 – 70 with 15 SBs at AA Trenton. He plays quality defense and has been improving his power the last 2 years. His downfall is his strikout to walk ratio isn’t good and, although a switch-hitter, has struggled vs LHP. He’ll start in AAA and could be the first OF called up in case of injury.
Rob: A switch hitter that has 20-20 potential is worthy of some attention, and Zoilo garnered comments from Girardi last year during ST. He can play all three OF positions and if his power is for real and he can keep his K’s under control he could go from 4th outfielder to having a starting job on a major league team.
Fish: I like Zoilo and always rate him higher than most….. at worst he could be a platoon candidate in the majors as he crushes RHP. LH power is always in demand at YS and Zoilo could see a lot of playing time in 2014 or even this year if Travis Hafner gets hurt or fails.
23) Adam Warren – RHP, 25 – AAA – 2013
Warren repeated AAA in 2012 and had a nearly identical season. He had 1 start in NY and was roughed up in 2 innings but not much can be learned from that. He’s good depth to have in AAA as back-end rotation depth and would have an opportunity to start on a lesser team. Right now he’s behind Nova and Phelps and essentially 7th on the team’s rotation depth chart.
24) Matt Tracy – LHP, 24 – AA – 2014
Tracy skipped Charleston and started straight off in HiA Tampa and had an impressive season, even getting a late season start in AAA. For a late bloomer, he has a lot of pitching smarts (pitchability) and is still improving. He has a solid Fastball at 91-94 that he consistently keeps around the knees to generate groundballs (impressive 2.18 GO to Air Out rate) . he also features 2 above-average secondary pitchers, a sinking Changeup and still improving Curveball.
Fish: When you have a big, athletic Lefty who has great mechanics, a winning demeanor, great command down in the zone and the ability to throw 3 big-league pitches for strikes….you have to be impressed. he’s going to pitch in the Majors.
Rob: His age had him ranked a bit lower on my list, and I’d like to see him pitch his way to Trenton and have some success in order for him to maintain or move up on his ranking.
Borrell: “He’s a very athletic kid, able to repeat his delivery, ability to throw 3 pitches for strikes”
25) Ravel Santana – OF, 20 – LoA – 2017
Impressed everyone with his amazing tools after his impressive 2011 season in the Gulf Coast Lg. But he had a devastating ankle injury at the end of the year which was similar to the one that set Davis Adams back for 2 years. Although Sanatan is playing, it looks like it will take time for him to get back to form. Reports were that he wasn’t 100% and there was some tentativeness in his game that was holding him back as well. Hopefully he regains his form as he could be one of the most exciting players in the system. A successful 2013 campaign could see him shoot up to the top 10 or 15 on next years list.
26) Austin Aune – SS, 19 – LoA – 2017
Aune is a good athlete who was signed to play QB at TCU before signing with the Yanks as a 2nd round pick. Although he hasn’t played much baseball, he has a natural swing and the Yanks drafted him high mostly because they believe in his ability to hit. He’s not strong defensively and may need to move to the OF but for now, they will take a look at him as a SS. He has a strong arm and good agility but he needs experience.
Rob: I had Austin ranked a bit higher, but only a couple of spots. Part of me is dreaming on his ability to stick at short, which looks like it’s going to be a bit of a long shot at this point. His hit tool is there, so if he has to move to the OF it won’t mean the end of his pro career
27) Greg Bird – 1B, 20 – LoA – 2017
Drafted for his strong hitting and power potential, Bird gave Catching a try but had back issues and was switched to 1B. He hit very well in a brief 28 game cameo between the Gulf and Staten Island. He was even more impressive in Instructs after the season showcasing his excellent strikezone judgement, sweet lefty swing and some major power potential. Bird has excellent offensive potential and could be the biggest riser in the system in 2013.
Fish: I had Bird rated ahead of Aune and in my top 20 for his tremendous hitting ability. He’s my #1 pick to break out in 2013 and climb the ladder. His strikezone recognition coupled with his smooth swing and power bat have me very excited to see him play in full-season ball.
28) Zach Nuding – RHP, 23 – AA – 2015
Nuding is a big, strong (6’4 245) righty who had a strong year in Tampa that has him in line to start in AA this year. He throws a heavy, moving 92-95 MPH Fastball that is very difficult for hitters to barrel up. His Slider and Changeup are nothing to get excited about though and may eventually force him into a relief role in the future.
Fish: I saw him pitch in 2011 and he tended to throw across his body a bit which will make it difficult to throw a consistent breaking pitch. He’s shown the ability to throw as hard as 98 MPH and I think he’d be best suited to a relief role where he could dial up that bowling ball fastball to knock the bats out of hitter’s hands.
29) Corey Black – RHP, 21 – HiA – 2016
A 4th round pick this year, Black can bring the heat. Though just 5’11, 180 pounds he can throw the ball from 96-99 MPH with some movement. He made 12 starts across 3 levels, limiting hitters to a .222 BA and struck out 50 in 52 ip. His breaking pitches lack consistency but he has a nice Changeup which is his #2 pitch. He could rocket up the system with his FB/Change combo as a reliever but the Yanks will likely try to develop him as a starter since they are flush with RH relievers.
Borrell: “We had him at 96-99 in Charleston, although reports were he got up to 100 mph, I didn’t see it he has a special arm and for our scouts to get a guy like him in that round (4th) is impressive.”
30) Cito Culver – SS, 20 – HiA – 2017
Cito had a disapointing season hitting just .215 with a scary-bad .283 SLG%. But it’s not all bad news. He shows very good defensive abilities and will be able to develop into a good defensive MLB Shortstop. Given the dearth of quality SS’s that is a good commodity to have. While he hasn’t hit yet, he has maintained a strong awareness of the strikezone as he drew 71 Walks. He’s still only 20 so there is time for his bat to develop.
31) Nick Goody – RHP, 21 – HiA – 2014
Drafted in the 6th round this year, Goody has drawn comparisons to Montgomery and David Robertson for his repertoire and aggressive demeanor on the mound. He attacks hitter with a Fastball that sits in the 91-94 range but plays up due to his extension and follow-through. His Slider can be a nasty strikeout pitch when it’s on. He K’d 52 in 32 innings and should fly through the system right behind Montgomery.
Borrell: “He;s the kind of guywho came up to Charleston after a few innings in Staten Island and looked like he belonged at the end of the game since Day 1. he looks like he wants the ball in the 8th, 9th inning to get the Save. Gets real good life and deception on his Fastball…90-95, nice Slider that he can expand when he’s ahead in the count to get swing and misses. Our track record getting these relievers in the Draft is very impresive.”
32) Brandon Pinder – RHP, 24 – AA – 2014
Pinder is another quality relief prospect with a power arm. Pinder gets good late pop on his 93-95 MPH Fastball and throws a biting Slider which is a solid 2nd pitch. Like Montgomery, he’s a reliever who could be in NY very quickly.
33) Chase Whitley – RHP, 23 – AAA – 2013
Whitley threw 80 innings in AAA in 2012 and limited hitters to a .207 BA. He doesn’t have the upside of some of the previously mentioned relievers but he’s a phone call away from the majors. His best pitch is a plus Change Up, he has decent sink on his 2-seamer and he sits 90-93. he also throws an average Slider.
34) Evan Rutckyj – LHP, 21 – LoA – 2016
The big lefty saw an uptick in his stuff in 2012 as his Fastball is now in the 91-94 range. The added velocity has made it more difficult to control which has become his primary goal – to improve his control/command. He has a solid Change and developing but inconsistent Slider. One of Rutckyj’s strengths is his ultra competitive streak and good work ethic. He was a good hockey player growing up and takes that mentality to the mound.
Borrell: ” He got much stronger this year and added some velocity. He was in the 88-94 range. He was working on slowing the game down.”
We asked Evan what he did during this off-season and he told us, “Off -season was mostly just working out 2 times a day putting some muscle on gained 15 lbs and refined my mechanics.”
Yet another power, right-handed reliever with great ability. Kahnle has had issues with his command but things clicked for him this year and he was more consistent with his mechanics. He has a big league heavy fastball that sits in the 94-96 range ad can flash even higher. He gets strikeouts with his Plus-Plus Changeup that is a weapon vs lefties and righties. If his new-found command is for real his FB-Change arsenal is good enough to get him to the Majors and he could really develop into something special if he can refine his Slider which is average at best right now.
36) Jose Pirela – 2B/SS/LF, 23 – AAA – 2014
Pirela took a big step forward offensively in 2012 and showed good versatility defensively. He puts the bat on the ball, takes walks and has some gap to gap line drive power. Doesn’t look like he’s good enough to stick at SS but he could find a niche as a bench player in the majors as someone who can play IF and OF.
37) Robert Refsnyder – 2B/OF, 22 – HiA – 2015
The Yanks drafted the College World series MVP with the idea of moving him from RF to 2B. His real assets are his strike zone discipline and ability to make hard contact and his intangibles. He has an all-out style of play that is infectous and his attitude and work ethic are his calling cards. As an OF his offense may not be enough but if he can stick at 2B he may have a bright future.
38) Jordan Cote – RHP, 20 – LoA
A 3rd round pick in 2011, he was dominant in the Gulf Coast Lg but his season was halted after 27 innings due to elbow tendinitis. He was healthy by the end of the year and showcased a nasty Change/Palm Ball in Instructs that he uses as a strikeout pitch. Shows potential to have a nice downhill plane on his pitches with his 6’5″ frame.
39) Gabe Encinas – RHP, 21 – LoA – 2017
Encinas had a mediocre year in Staten Island this season but he went through a physical maturation at the end of the season that has everyone excited about his future. His Fastball jumped from 91-92 all the way up to the 95-96 range. It took him a while to control it but he impressed a lot of people in the Fall in Yankee camp. He’s always had a great Changeup so he’s one to watch in 2013.
40) Abe Almonte – CF, 23 – AAA – 2014
Almonte is a guy with definite big-league ability. A switch-hitter with plus speed, plus defense and a solid ability to rip line drives and recognize pitches. He’s not only fast but a gifted base stealer and a true CF. The only thing that has held him back are his injuries. He’s yet to put together back to back healthy seasons which has hurt his development and leaves evaluators skeptical whether he can hold up to the rigors of a MLB season. He could be a starting CF and leadoff hitter in the bigs if he puts it all together and he’ll do no worse than a reserve OF, pinch runner, defensive replacement.
Honorable Mentions: The system is very deep and there are another 20-30 guys who could have easily made this list. One player both Fish & Rob like a lot and want to give a shout out to is Vidal Nuno. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff or an incredible ceiling, he just pitches. At one point he was bounced out of the pros and caught on with an indy league before getting recruited to come to NY. During an interview he admitted he let the life get the better of him, partied a bit too much and didn’t realize his potential in his time in the Cleveland system. After a wake-up call he re-dedicated himself to his craft, mastered an offspeed pitch and since then has been a strike throwing machine that takes the ball every five days and gets the job done. He lives in the high 80’s and gets into 90-91, but has an excellent array of secondary stuff combined with his ability to put the ball where he wants. Maybe I just have a soft spot for junkballing underdogs, but I hope he gets his shot somewhere in the majors. Left handed swing man in the BX maybe? I’d also like to give a quick mention to Ronnier Mustelier, a Cuban defector that tore through the system in two years, hitting everywhere he went and ended 2012 in Scranton. Neither one of these guys really qualify for prospect status, as their advanced age runs them out of the race, and neither one is destined to be an all star but they’ve seen some really solid results at the upper levels. Even if they don’t end up getting major playing time for a contender either one of these cats could still make a nice career for themselves on a lower tier team or in a minor bench/pen role.