Down on the Farm: An interview with @yankeesource
As a follow up to yesterday’s Top 40 Prospects I did a quick interview with David P, known on the twitterverse as @yankeesource, who has a pretty good handle on the NY farm system and is always glad to answer some questions when he has the time. For the most part I’m right there with him on most of the topics covered. Here’s the Q&A followed by my take on the questions posed:
1.) Do you have any sleeper prospects and/or breakout players for 2013?
Nik Turley is a good pick for having a breakout season in 2013. He had a terrific 2012 campaign but he could become a popular name throughout baseball by the end 2013. Ravel Santana isn’t much of a sleeper but he is another player who could wind up making big strides with superstar potential. Angelo Gumbs could also make big strides this season.
2.) What do you think about the changing of the guard with Connors let go and Contreras switched in favor of Gil Patterson from the A’s as new MiL pitching director?
Considering some of the problems the Yankees have had over the years developing pitchers, this move seemed inevitable. The A’s have had a terrific record of developing young pitchers and you have to hope that Patterson brings some of that knowledge and implements it into the Yankees system. The pitching talent in the system is deep and it is all a matter of development and some luck.
3.) Of those that struggled in 2012, who would be your comeback prospect of the year?
Jose Campos. He has the stuff and the maturity to come back strong and have a huge year in the minors. He looked pretty solid before he went down with an injury last year and I expect him to come back and look like the pitcher the Yankees acquired for Jesus Montero.
4.) Can you name the pitcher(s) you’re most looking forward to in 2013 and what you expect of them in the long run?
As every year, Jose Ramirez tops my list because of the stuff and high ceiling. I think it could be a breakout year for him and he could wind up as the top minor league arm in the system by the end of the year. His ceiling all depends on his durability but his development would also help the Yankees in terms of having valuable trade chips for a Mike Stanton level trade. He’s a front-line starter at best and a solid reliever if injuries derail him. I think he’s a better pitcher to have in the system than Arodys Vizcaino at this point in time.
5.) Can you name the position player(s) you’re most looking forward to in 2013 and what you expect of them in the long run?
I’d usually answer this question by saying Tyler Austin but Slade Heathcott really intrigues me. Heathcott is a scout’s dream and if he can stay on the field he might be the most exciting high level prospect the Yankees have. It’s hard to project his future considering his reckless abandon on the field but if he can stay on the field and stay away from off-field issues he might be the next big outfielder for the Yankees.
6.) What do you expect for the big four (Austin, Sanchez, Heathcott and Williams) this upcoming season?
I wouldn’t be shocked if Heathcott outplays all of these players in 2013. He looked great in the AFL and it could easily carry over into the season. Tyler Austin’s bat looks ready for AA-AAA and I don’t see him having a down year in AA because the bat is simply too consistent. With Gary Sanchez it is all about his defense behind the plate. With major defensive improvements, he could move through the system much faster and with holes at the catching position in the majors this is a great chance for Gary Sanchez to knock on the MLB door and say “hey remember me?” I expect Mason Williams to start off a little slow and turn it up another notch when the weather heats up. It might be wise for him to take it a little slow at the start as well.
Overall, I think all four will have good seasons barring injuries. Don’t forget about Ramon Flores either who should definitely be among the names mentioned with these four prospects.
7.) Slade Heathcott in particular turned some heads to finish off the year and into the AFL, do you feel he’s one of those types that, if healthy he could propel himself up the top 100 prospect lists?
He’s definitely barreling his way to the top 100 lists with the way he’s played. I think Heathcott would be a fan-favorite if he made it to the Yankees because he plays the game like Brett Gardner but with a better skill set. His shoulder is worrisome but his skills make him a dangerous player at any level and with the injuries behind him he is poised to have a big season in AA.
8.) Dellin Betances finally saw bullpen work when in the AFL this year; do you feel that’s where he’s best suited and could thrive or is he destined for life off the diamond?
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees tried him in the bullpen in 2013. I would prefer to keep him as a starter and try to build back some value. It seems like a long shot that he ever makes it to the majors with the Yankees so they are better off leaving the starter label on Betances. I don’t think his command is suited for the pen or rotation and maybe some more work can make him into a serviceable back of the rotation arm on a non-contender. That is still more valuable than trying to sell him as a middle reliever with no command.
9.) What’s your overall view of the farm system, both today and moving forward.
The system took a hit last year with the injuries to Banuelos and Campos, the decline of Betances, and the lack of major talent in AA-AAA. Even still they were ranked 11th by BA (preliminary rankings) which does show that the system is still deep in talent. There is a load of pitching talent throughout the system and the Yankees aren’t that far away from having major prospects from A- to AAA. With an aging Jeter and A-Rod, the Yankees do need some more SS/3B/IF depth in the system. Miguel Andujar is good but a long ways away from the majors. The same goes for Christopher Tamarez. Aledmys Diaz would be a great addition to the system and instant depth at SS behind Jeter if the team can sign him.
I see the Yankees being a top 10 system in 2014 and closer to top 5 in 2015. This guesstimate is completely based on the low level talent in the system and expecting them to progress as scheduled (injuries not considered). Obviously many of them will fail but there is plenty of talent to offset a few busts.
Off the bat, I was glad to see him mention Flores, who loses a bit of luster with all of the OF prospects that grab the limelight but the kid can flat out hit, plays decent defense and has done it at a young enough age in each level that there is some projection left there. I also dig the mention of Jose Ramirez, who fell in my list a bit due to durability and repeat-ability issues but is on my radar to have a big year. I’m also looking forward to seeing DePaula face some stiffer competition; he’s got some big time stuff but it remains to be seen if it will translate stateside. David had Campos as his comeback guy of the year, and while I agree, if I had to pick one it would be Dante Bichette Jr. Campos’ bad year was injury related while Dante was busy working out his timing mechanism and didn’t get it figured out until late in the season. Either one qualifies but my nod goes to DBJ. Slade Heathcott once again generates some excitement, and who can blame him? Slade tore up the fall leagues after an impressive season, stayed on the field and even broke on to a top 100 list. He’s got arguably the highest ceiling in the system for position players but has some durability issues that hold him back on the overall rankings. Without a doubt, if he can remain on the field he has the chance to make a real impact on the big league team.
Where David and I were not in agreement was with Dellin Betances. I’m not going to argue that a starter is more valuable than a reliever, but I’m just not sold he can hold it together (at least yet) for the long haul of 6 or 7 innings. What struck me was something that Tony Franklin had mentioned in an interview, saying that Dellin had focus issues which would pop up in the middle of an outing. His walks tend to come in bunches, where he’ll lose his command for an inning, issue a few walks and consequently surrender runs. I’m of the mind that the kid should focus on his two best pitches and concentrate on one inning at a time. There is no saying that once he gets his stuff together and maybe works on his weaker offerings on the side that he can’t move back into the rotation. Previous injury issues are also a concern, and maybe the rigors of 200 inning seasons aren’t the best for him. I also have to disagree with Nik Turley as the sleeper prospect. At this point, at least on this blog many of us are aware of what Nik can do and have some pretty high hopes for the big lefty. That could be our own bias but hey, we’re allowed that right? Anyway, my pick goes to another lefty, Matt Tracy. Tracy was converted from relief to the starting role so he had to make some adjustments but put up solid numbers last year. Now that he’s had a year to acclimate I expect a big step forward in 2013, and some more attention shown his way.
We touched on this yesterday in the comments section, so I’ll do a quick recap on the state of the farm system. Things are looking up, and considering that we don’t have any big time prospects in the AA or higher levels to get ranked in the 10-14 range by various sources is a testament to the depth of the system. We also lost our two best pitching prospects to injury, two guys who also would have made top 100 lists without a doubt, so that took it’s toll on the overall ratings. What they do have is a ton of high ceiling talent, albeit several steps away. There’s strength in numbers though, and even with the rate of attrition of prospects we have a good chance of seeing some of these guys develop into major league players, a couple even stars. I’m with David in that he sees them vaulting to the top 5 in the next two years, assuming we don’t have an all around meltdown of course. For a team that hasn’t seen a top pick in many many years, the Yankees farm is looking pretty solid.