Yankees Top 40 Prospects for 2012

Could Mason Williams be #1 on this list next year?

Based on their recent actions and remarks, it seems the Yankees are serious about sticking to a smaller payroll now and at least through the 2014 season in an attempt to get under the $189 Million Luxury Tax threshold.  In order to do so, the club will need to look  to fill important positions from within and develop both impact and role players.

The Yankees system became known in recent years as being deep in Pitchers and Catchers but lacking in strong position prospects.  This was definitely a weakness identified by Mark Newman & Damon Oppenheimer and they addressed it by adding several solid up the middle athletes and corner players who can rake in the last 2 years.  Now, the system is more well-rounded although there is definitely a lack of upper-echelon hitters in the higher levels of the organization.

The system is still strong in upper level pitching. Even with Nova & Noesi graduating to NY, they still have 5 potential MLB starters in AAA (Banuelos, Betances, Warren, Phelps, DJ Mitchell).  The next level of pitching is led by Brett Marshall and several guys that need to take a step forward in 2012.  Oppenheimer has a history of drafting good college relievers and there are many strong-armed righties in the pipeline who could advance quickly.

Today, I will list the Top 40 with a quick blurb, then will follow-up with more in-depth on the Top 20 or so players in the coming weeks.  Each player has their position, Opening Day 2012 Age & expected level to start season.

1) Jesus Montero - C/DH, 22 – MLB

Has an elite bat that will make him a middle of the order MLB hitter for the next decade+. Rare blend of natural power to all fields with ability to make adjustments and take what pitcher gives him.   Only question is whether he will be anything more than a DH but a .300 hitter with 30 HR power will always find a spot even if he’s eventually a full-time DH.

2) Manny Banuelos- LHSP, 21 – AAA

Manny Banuelos

Had control issues in AA/AAA but most believe it’s just a matter of trying to be too fine as he has solid mechanics and repeats his delivery well.  Threw a career-high 130 innings so will be in line for 150-160 this year and could be ready to pitch for NY in 2nd half.

3) Gary Sanchez - C, 19 – HiA

Has big-time raw power and still growing into his 6’2″ frame.  His defense has been poor but I think he has the athleticism to convert to corner OF or 1B down the line and his bat is definitely strong enough to support such a switch.

4) Dellin Betances - RHSP, 24 - AAA

This is a big year for Betances. At 24, he needs to have a good year in AAA to prove he can pitch in a MLB rotation. Has plus, swing-and-miss stuff but most improve his control to cut down his pitch counts.

5) Mason Williams – CF, 20 – LoA

Dynamic player with plus-plus MLB speed and defense already. He put on a show in rookie ball and if he shows his offensive skills are for real this year in full-season ball, he may vault to #1 on this list next year.

6)  Dante Bichette, Jr. - 3B, 19 – LoA

Drafted for his plus power, he’s shown better defense than was thought. He’s really impressed the organization with his intangibles & makeup - namely his work ethic, advanced approach, knowledge of the game & leadership. Baseball America named him top prospect in Gulf Coast League and VP of baseball operations Mark Newman calls him “a special player and person.”

7) Austin Romine- C, 23 – AAA

His defense behind the plate is MLB-ready now.  His bat isn’t special but will be good enough for him to have a long career as a starting catcher in the bigs.

Phelps is a winner.

8) David Phelps - RHSP, 25 – AAA

Phelps is a winner who knows how to pitch. He’s 38-15 with a 2.61 ERA in his 4 years in the organization. He’s maintained the same solid numbers at every level including a 7.4 K/9 & 2.0 BB/9. Reminds me a little of Ian Kennedy. Missed time with shoulder issue but came back strong in August and was solid in AFL also.

9) Ravel Santana – OF, 19 – LoA

Tremendous physical skill set with power & speed. BA rated the wiry 6’2″ 160 pounder  right behind Bichette as best in the Gulf Coast League after he put up a .425 wOBA. Will have to overcome the broken ankle & torn ligaments he suffered last season so will likely start in extended ST this year.

10) Tyler Austin- 3B, 20 – LoA

Tyler Austin can hit for average and power.

I seem to be in the minority but I  really like this guy. He made his debut in the Gulf Coast and smashed to a .517 wOBA in 20 games, then followed up with .448 wOBA  in Staten Island. Has power to all fields and an advanced approach that helps him drive off-speed pitches. How many 20-year olds can you say that about? BA ranked him 8th best prospect in NY Penn League. Only question mark is his defense at 3B but he’s athletic enough to play the OF if need be. He even stole 18 of 18 bases in just 47 games which tells me he has good instincts and a feel for the game.

11) J.R. Murphy - C/3B, 20 – HiA

Improved his game offensively & defensively before ending season early with leg injury. Rips line drives to all fields and scouts now believe he has the ability to remain as a catcher while also showing the athleticism to play 3B and OF. Could become a very versatile asset in the Majors.

12) Slade Heathcott - CF, 21 – HiA

He’s Gardner-like in the OF right now and has more offensive potential. However, I’m a little concerned with his constant injuries and questionable makeup. To have his speed and get thrown out stealing 17 times in 38 attempts is baffling. But, if he matures and stays healthy, he could be special.

13) Brett Marshall- RHSP, 22 – AA

Brett Marshall

Now fully recovered from his 2009 Tommy John Surgery, he threw career high 140 IP with 3.24 FIP. Has good low 90s sinker and makings of a plus slider. Has flashed mid 90s velocity at times and will be interesting how he does in AA this year.

14) Adam Warren- RHSP,  24 – AAA

Warren is next in a succession of Yankee right handers, behind Nova and Noesi, ready to advance to the majors. He threw 152 IP in AAA with a 3.60 ERA and on a lesser team without depth, he’d have a great chance to make the rotation.

15) Corban Joseph - 2B, 23 – AAA

Has patient approach and nice lefty stroke that generates hard line drives but there are concerns about his defense at 2B and 3B. He had .346 wOBA in Trenton with 38 doubles and 8 triples but doesn’t get the lift and backspin to hit HRs.

16) Zoilo Almonte – OF, 22 – AA

Solid all-around skills. Good defense, speed and power that has improved the last 2 years. Yanks added the switch-hitter to their 40-man to protect him from Rule 5 draft and he could be a candidate to make the team in 2013.

17) Graham Stoneburner - RHSP, 24 – AA

Season was marred by a neck injury that kept him out 2 months and he was never quite effective as excellent debut in 2010. But he still has a great sinking fastball that gets tons of grounders.

18) David Adams - 2B, 24 – AA

The ankle injury he suffered in 2010 lingered all season and the Yankees were very careful with Adams. He played sparingly in only 29 games.  If he’s finally healthy this season he could progress quickly as he has an excellent bat that rips line drives to all fields.

19) Angelo Gumbs- 2B, 19 – LoA

Great up the middle athlete shows lightning quick bat speed and raw power to go with strong arm and nice speed. BA rated him 14th best prospect in NY Penn League where he had .341 wOBA, 4 triples & 11 SB in 220 PAs.

Nik Turley has that Andy Pettitte look down pat.

20) Nik Turley - LHSP. 22 – HiA

6’7″ lefty reminds me a litle of Andy Pettitte.  Took a step forward with 2.51 ERA and 8.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 82 IP in Charleston til a broken hand ended his season after being promoted to Tampa.

21) DJ Mitchell - RHSP, 24 – AAA

Similar to David Phelps, Mitchell is someone who just keeps pitching well and winning. Sinker/slider pitcher with solid change-up could be another back end starter/long-relief candidate.

22) Mark Montgomery - RHRP, 21 – HiA

Overwhelmed hitters with low-mid 90s Fastball and an unhittable slider leading to a 16.4 K/9 and 1.91 ERA as closer in Charleston.  His slider is just unfair to young hitters and he needs to be tested against more advanced hitters to see how quick he can advance.

23) Brandon Laird - 3B, 24 – AAA

Strong defensive 3B with good power but he doesn’t take many walks or hit for much average.  Has also played some 1B & LF so could be a backup candidate in NY.

24) Cito Culver- SS, 19 – LoA

Showed strong arm with smoothness in the field and compact swing from both sides of the plate. BA rated him 6th best prospect in NYPenn League where he hit .250/.323/.337.  He’s a project that will take time to develop his offensive game.

25) Ramon Flores - OF, 20 – HiA

Sweet lefty stroke and patient approach at plate, had .350 wOBA in Charleston. Good OF with strong arm and solid all-around tools. Only 5’10″ 160 so should get stronger and develop some pop.

26) George Kontos - RHRP, 26 – MLB

Standard FB/Slider reliever, held RH hitters to a .182 BAA in AAA.  Averages about a strikeout per inning but is a fly-ball pitcher who is prone to HRs.

27) Claudio Custodio - 2B, 21 – LoA

Talented 2B/SS with very good speed.  Hit ball well in GCL and  showed willingness to take a walk.  Hit .325 with .433 OBP and 26 SB in 28 attempts.

28) Tommy Kahnle - RHRP, 22 – HiA

Power reliever had 2.45 FIP in 81 IP with 12.4 K/9 but also 5.4 BB/9. Sits around 93-95 and can dial it up to 96-97 with a developing slider.  Needs to improve his command and secondary pitches.

29) Isias Tejada – C, 20 – LoA

Next in line of promising Yankee catcher prospects, Tejada showed his ability to make good, hard contact with a .971 OPS in the GCL with only a 12% strike out rate.

30) Brandon Pinder - RHRP, 23 – LoA

Dominated mostly younger hitters as closer in Staten Island with 11.0 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 and 1.16 ERA.  Has great command of 94-95 mph Fastball but has no quality secondary pitch yet.

31) Bryan MitchellRHSP, 20 – LoA

Plus stuff but still very raw. Put things together by end of year and shows strikeout (8.6 K/9) and ground-ball stuff (2.19 GO/AO rate)

32) Jose Rosario- SS/2B, 20 – LoA

Hit just as well as teammate Bichette with .331 average and .529 SLG%.  He’s a hacker with a 3.2% Walk rate but he’s caught the attention of the organization and earned a late season promotion to Charleston. Mark Newman stated, “He can run (11 SB in 43 games) and throw. He hit 6 HRs, so he has some ability to impact the ball.  By diligence, he’s turning himself into a quality prospect.”

33) Taylor Morton - RHSP, 20 – LoA

Made impressive debut in GCL. The 6’3″ righty should get stronger and he already possesses a plus change, low 90′s FB and good command.

34) Rob Segedin - 3B, 23 – HiA

Big 3B/OF with strong hitting skills. Earned promotion with .395wOBA at Charleston but struggled some in Tampa. Yanks put him in AFL this Fall where he went .250/.367/.407.

35) Daniel Lopez – CF, 20 – LoA

Another emerging all-around athlete with good speed. Showed power potential this year hitting .327/.413/.490 with 27 SB in 61 games across 3 levels.

36) Jose Ramirez - RHSP, 22 – HiA

Promising arm took a step back this year but still notched strong K rates so stuff is still there.

37) Evan Rutckyj- LHSP, 20 – LoA

Big strong 6’5″ lefty got stronger as the season progressed and generates a lot of ground-balls.

38) Cesar Cabral - LHRP, 23 – MLB

Rule 5 pick from Red Sox system, he’ll have chance to make team in ST as second lefty in pen. Gets a lot of Ks with good Fastball and plus Changeup.

39) Pat Venditte SWRP, 26 – AAA

Doesn’t have dominating stuff but continues to post good overall numbers and solid K rates at every level.  Biggest drawback is he’s a heavy flyball pitcher.

40) Abe Almonte – OF, 22 – AA

Plus defender and baserunner but wildly inconsistent at the plate. Switch-hitter had huge 2nd half, riding a 30-game hitting streak and showing off good extra base hit power.  Needs to prove 2nd half surge was real at AA this year.

Other NotablesWalter Ibarra, Kyle Roller, Zach Nuding, Dan Burawa, Chase Whitley, Ronnie Mustlier, Yeicock Calderon, Robert Lyerly, Melky Mesa, Dan Brewer, Brad Suttle, Jorge Vazquez, Ben Gamel, Gabe  Encinas, Matt Tracy, Zach Wilson, Evan DeLuca, Mikey O’Brien

New Additions to Watch in 2012: Greg Bird, Jake Cave, Matt Duran, Jordan Cote, Justin James, Dan Camarena, Hayden Sharp, Rookie Davis, Miquel Andujar

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About fishjam25

Was a 4-yr Pitcher and Communications Major at Seton Hall University in the 90s. His knowledge & opinion of the game comes from his background as a player and ardent lifetime Yankee fan. However, Fishjam also incorporates sabermetrics and statistical support to form a well-rounded view of the game.

Posted on January 3, 2012, in Minor League Updates and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Fishjam this article is amazing Kudos to you. What was your hardest choice in your ranking of the Top Ten. any of the players you were thinking of flopping?

    • Thanks Matt.

      Hardest thing when ranking is measuring the balance between upside and how likely a player is to reach that upside. For instance a player like Betances has all the tools to be a front-end starter but what is the liklehood that he smooths out his mechanics, finds his command and stays durable enough to pitch 200ip every yr?

      Romine to me is a guy who could start for a lot of MLB teams right now and have a nice career but I also don’t think he’ll ever be a special player. I think guys like Murphy, Santana, Austin & Heathcott all have potential to be special players but they all have a lot of risk so I rated them below Romine.

      It comes down to what is more valuable….a sure MLB starter or guys who could be great players but are also further down the ladder and have yet to prove it.

      • thanks for your thoughts.

        Is Venditte more a of a minor league “attraction” or does he have a shot to make it to the big league club in the future.

        • Well his stuff is underwhelming for a MLB reliever however, you can’t discount the success he’s had at every level and the advantage he has by always having the platoon advantage in his favor. He’s upper 80′s as a righty with a solid breaking ball….lefty he is low 80s but drops down and is deceptive.

          He might pitch in AA again this yr because Scranton will be on the road all yr so maybe Trenton could use the “attraction”. But if he keeps getting hitters out, he will eventually get a shot somewhere. He’d definitely be a novelty that would add some interest to a team looking for a boost. Then once he’s in the bigs, if he’s getting people out, he’ll stick.

  2. Good list Fish but Matt Tracy is a top 40 prospect.

    • I probably should have put Tracy on there. He was low 30′s on my preliminary lists but I eventually left him off of my final list to include some others.

      He pitched great in relief for Staten island and really put it together at the end of the season when they stretched him out. I eventually decided to keep him off until he proves himself against better competition since he was generally 3 or more years older than most of the hitters he faced. The few videos I saw of him showed a very polished pitcher with good sinking fastball and change up kept low and away vs RHs. Saw 1 decent curve vs LH but his reverse platoon splits lead me to believe it’s not his best pitch.

      This is what I wrote about him when I summed up Staten Island’s season in Sept:

      Tracy was a 24th rd pick out of U of Mississippi this yr who had a solid season splitting time as a starter and reliever. He was 1-2 with a 3.04 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 9.1 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and 2.26 ground out to Air out ratio. He was the team’s best starter in the post-season going 2-0 including 6 shutout innings of 3-hit ball in the clincher.

      What do you like about him Dan?

      • Fish from what I have read about him he has 3 potential plus pitches with good velocity for a lefty. He should move fast through the system. He’s a bit under the radar as he was more of a position player in college.

  3. Hopefully Slade can stay injury free this season. He has the tools to be a star.

  4. Great job Fish, mostly on track with others i have read with your own spin. Having not seen any or very littleof these guys I always wonder how they really compare with other prospects as their are only so many jobs in all of MLB. How many actually make it? Is their a % that is realisticly used? errr 3 to the Yankees starting line-up 3 as trade bait for others as starters 3 back-ups, and the rest as organizational fillers to be annualy replaced with the next draft? Thanks for sharing

    • Thanks John. I wanted to put my list out before most of the MSM put out there’s so I wouldn’t be influenced. I actually it done last week but we decided to wait til after new year to post it. In that time, a couple other sites put up lists.

      From what i’ve read and seen, the Yanks system definitely ranks in the upper 3rd of the league. Very hard to find % of guys who make it but it’s fair to say that not many do actually pan out.

  5. Great article! Out of all the prospects that we have actually seen, only one has truly impressed me. #1. Jesus Montero. I did like some things that I saw from Brandon Laird when he was with the Yankees with the 40 man roster, but I get the feeling that the Yankees are over hyping Dellin Betances. From what I saw in September, Betances seems like an average pitcher. Hopefully we’ll see some of these guys play in Spring Training in 2012.

    • I think you will be taking those comments back on Betances Delia. He is going to be something special. Don’t judge a couple days on the MLB team for what he will become.

      • Yeah, as Betances ages, he should develop greater control. It’s just a matter of whether he becomes a relief pitcher or a starter. I’d imagine if he learns to control the zone in addition to his already filthy stuff, he could be very good starter. But is an “if”.

  6. yeah think the interesting thing with scouts is some favor guys with tools and some production and steadiness. Good job fish

  7. Originally I had heard Dellin threw in the high 90′s topping out at 98-99. When he made his debut he was mostly 94, does he have more or were the scouting reports false?

  8. Betances sits 94-95 throws a lot of 96 and tops out 98-99. He also throws a cutter and 2-seamer, which I noticed people are recording as 4-seamer velocity. BA had him sitting 91-95, this is wrong. They are conflating cutter and two-seam velocities with his 4. 93 is the bottom of his velo scale on his four-seam fastball.

    • Ryan…..Dealin Dellin is correct from what I’ve seen.

      Betances throws his 4-seamer 93-95,usually maxing at 96. I’ve seen instances of him up to 98 but it is rare.

  9. I’ll ask it. How many of those prospects have you seen live? You are basically just cobbling together a list from reading BA and a other sources. Not saying its a bad thing but it is third and fourth hand. You’d be better off not doing a top 40 since everyone knows you haven’t seen any of these kids and just focus on one like Mason Williams and call four or five scouts and get their opinion of him. Food for thought.

    • I was with Fish when he saw Charleston play Lakewood from the scouts area right behind home plate.

    • Antonio – Who do you speak for when you make remarks like “everyone knows you haven’t seen any of these kids?” That would be an incorrect assumption on your and everyone’s part.

      I’ve seen more than half of these players live but I do not think that it is required to see someone play live to have an opinion? With TV, internet & video, you can watch for yourself mostly all of these players if you want to do the legwork.

      As I mentioned in the preface, this is just a list with a quick blurb and I will go into more depth on the top 20 in coming weeks. Thank for the suggestion on getting scout’s take. I will try to incorporate that though the scouts I have known will be hesitant to go on the record and it’s perfectly justified. They are paid for their opinions so why give it out for free to all?

      Also, as Dan L. can attest to, when we watched Charleston play live, we sat next to and spoke with a scout from a NL West team the whole game and also spoke with a player on this list’s Dad. While getting info from these sources helped form my opinions on players, it would be irrresponsible for me to put in writing their words when they did not approve me to do so. We also spoke to Stick Michael who was at the game sitting with Brian Cashman 3 rows behind us although no specific players were discussed.

      I thank you for offering your constructive criticisms and hope you come back to read the more in-depth reviews on players that will have more of what you want to see.

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