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.

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Posted on February 6, 2013, in No Category. Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. Jimmy – I have read his stuff on Twitter and he seems to know what he’s talking about. What is his background? All I know about him is he lives in Japan I think…..is that true? Tell us about him.

  2. he scouts the NPB and keeps track of the NY farm as well. i’ll have to ask him again what exactly his background is, but he’s always pretty spot on with his analysis and it generally falls in line with the stuff you’ll see from law and callis for instance. i’ve been following for quite some time, both on twitter and at his site, yankeesource.com

  3. jimmy, this was one of the best articles I have read on this site, very interesting. I liked the way Heathcott looked in the Fall league, I saw him in 3 games on TV. Hope he stays healthy from hear on out.

    • Doug – What did you think of Adams in the Fall Lg? He’s a guy I think can be a player for the Yankees as early as this season. If Youk gets hurt, he could play or if Nunez doesn’t seize the opportunity, Adams could play 3B vs LHP with Youk DH’ing.

      He’s a line-drive machine with good SO/BB ratio and is showing some defensive versatility. Obviously, he and Joseph could get a real shot if Cano walks but I think even if Robby stays, Adams could have a role. Even if ARod comes back in 2014, he’ll be mostly a DH so Adams could play 3B.

      Also, did you see the video I posted of Slade? I’m sure you saw that game on the MLB channel but man that kid is fun to watch, huh?

      • fishjam, yes I’m excited about Heathcott. He looks to be a good player with some good skill sets. To me he looks like a budget Mantle or Trout. He just has to stay healthy and keep progressing. As for Adams he looks like a major leaguer. He had a ankle injury a few years ago and that really has held him back. Adams can play in the big leagues he just needs to get the right opportunity. 2014 might be the time for the young players to break through for the Yanks. Players like Adams, Heathcott, Williams, Campos, Pineda, Banuelos, Montgomery, Whitley, Sanchez, and Austin should be the backbone of the next waves of Yanks. As we know only half of them will make it and make a significant contrbution.

        • Yeah, probably less than half Doug. Slade has never played more than 76 games in a season yet so he’s just as likely to fizzle out as he is to become an All-Star. But it’s nice to have a talent like him to speculate about. Giving a chance to a young, dynamic kid like him is far more interesting than signing another 38-40 year old guy, way past his prime. That will be the one positive that could come from the budget tightening in 2014.

  4. Yes network right now is doing a feature on spring training. Right now they are talking about Gary Sanchez.

  5. Where are guys like Sanchez, Austin, Heathcott and Williams starting out. Will all be in AA?

    • Yeah I would assume it’s safe to say that they will all start out in Trenton (AA) Fish and Jimmy T would have a better feel for this though. Here is a good article that came out a couple days ago about these guys.

      http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130205&content_id=41404868&vkey=news_nyy&c_id=nyy

    • I wish Sanchez was starting out behind home plate on opening day in Yankee Stadium Matt, but he’s penciled in for Trenton.
      Cervelli and Chad Stewart will “battle it out” for the starting spot with Romine starting the year in Scranton. (cue projectile vomiting noises)

      • Matthew P….you sound like you just had Sanchez tottooed on your arm, also.
        ( cue laughing children )

        • Is it true that Sanchez has his name on his arm?

          • Where is camouflage Ken tonight? hiding again…..

            • KEN REED?…he must of caught up with his lovely wife.
              And if all the stars were in alignment…and I think they were.
              Then look for him around the Memorial Day weekend.

          • t-ball….it sure isn’t ‘Twasp’…he has tattooed there.

            • Is that a canon Ken has in one of his gravatars or is he just happy to see me?

              • t-ball…it’s actually a mortar. And, it looks like he is
                more than glad to see you.

                • non related baseball talk in the non related thread guys please.

                • Be nice to your Betters, er I mean, your elders, or “ye shall feel the winds of tumult and destruction”

                  That’s what Matt S is getting at but, as I am a nice sweet old guy, running around in a wheel chair saying it and you guys are suckers, strike that last word! I meant to say; you guys are true gentlemen of the first, and last order and would never take advantage of a man in a wheel chair…I would, but you guys are nice and PC.
                  Just because one of you is an Irishman means nothing to me, any sane person would never jump into ice water in the middle of winter so, you are thrown out of the clan McRead.

                  Hi guys! About time someone has shown up, what is it the middle of April now?

    • Mason & Sanchez will likely begin the season in High A Tampa then bounce up to AA after a couple of months.

      Sanchez began 2012 in Low A Charleston and got a mid-season call-up to Tampa. He only just turned 20 and his bat is ahead of his Catching skills. Murphy will start in AA & Romine in AAA. When Sanchez shows he’s ready he’ll get bumped to AA.

      Austin & Heathcott will likely start in AA Trenton (along with Ramon Flores in the OF). There’s a chance Austin starts in Tampa also but hopefully they’ll challenge him in AA right off the bat.

  6. Here is the latest video out of the Yankees Triple A team the Rail Riders (def going to take some time getting used to that name). The ballpark is starting to look really good.

  7. t-ball…your old friend Rooster, sent me a post yesterday. He says this site treats
    me like a modern day leper. I don’t think so. Maybe you should talk to him?
    How did you survive the nor’easter?

    • Dan , Dan the Rooster man! Yup, have him show up around here Twasp…give him a buzz!

      • Its been a while Dan. Like everyone else, you are welcome here to talk Yankees. Would like to hear your thoughts on the direction of the franchise and prediction for this season. But, If you feel that it won’t be an enjoyable experience and your presence will cause a disruption, I understand your choice to stay away.

      • Well Dan…I can always say I tried but,do what you think is right. It is very strange to say it is because of Patrick, did, I miss something here? :(

  8. Oh, it’s you! ..Thank God!…I hid behind the wood shed.
    I never heard him coming, very stealth.

  9. Matt – how are you? Any damage to the boat in Lake H. ? A tree hit my sisters car on Schwarz blvd.

  10. I don’t think Sanchez moves to Trenton until Murphy moves to SWB and that won’t happen until romine gets call. Unless position change takes place for murph or Sanchez. Which I don’t see this season. I see slade and Ramon heading to Trenton to start season and have Austin go to Tampa for a brief stop. Until the figure out log jam in the outfield. Have what seems to be 60 outfielders and have to find places with proper playing times

    • Yeah, it would be ideal if they could all move up together but I don’t think they will hold a prospect like Sanchez back. When he proves he’s ready, I think he’ll move up. Catcher’s don’t catch everyday so it’s easy enough to split some reps for a few weeks or so. One of them can DH and Murph also has experience at 3B.

      Austin is another guy who is too good to hold back. They brought him up to Trenton at the end of last season and had him play First Base in the playoffs. They already like him in RF so it’s always possible they give him some reps at 1B or even back at 3B.

      The yanks are deep in OFs with Melky, Zoilo, Abe Almonte, Adonis Garcia, Mustelier and possibly one of Juan Rivera or Matt Diaz at the AAA level. So that likely pushes one of those players back to AA.

      But, most of these logjams work themselves out after Spring Training as players will get hurt and play themselves up or down. There is also the weather factor. April in Trenton can be hellish so they may elect to start someone with a nagging injury in Tampa to avoild the cold and rain of NJ but we will see. Having quality prospects and a deep system is a good problem to have.

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