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
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
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 Mitchell – RHSP, 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 Notables: Walter 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