Drafted by the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2008 draft, 24-year-old Corban Joseph is coming off of his first full season in Double-A. We looked at Joseph back in June.
Joseph has an excellent swing from the left side of the plate, and while he likely will never be a "power hitter," he has gap power and enough speed to take extra bases—of his 138 hits last year, 51 went for extra bases: 38 doubles, eight triples and five home runs.
In the field, he has good range but needs to continue to work on his footwork and throwing accuracy, though to advance to the majors he may eventually need to switch positions—he has played both SS and 3B previously—as 2B is locked up in the Bronx for the foreseeable future.
The Yankees like Joseph enough that they added him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft that just passed. Whether he starts 2012 back in Double-A or in Triple-A remains to be seen.
Drafted in the 11th round of the 2011 draft, 20-year-old Mark Montgomery just finished his first season as a professional ballplayer.
Montgomery has overpowered his competition to date, posting an obscene 16.2 K/9 rate in his 28 innings of work. He primarily uses two pitches—a fastball that sits in the mid 90's and a slider that frustrates hitters from both sides of the plate.
His slider, not his fastball, is his best pitch—a scary proposition for opposing batters, considering that he is still gaining arm strength and his fastball velocity could still tick upwards.
He likely will start the season back in Charleston, but if he continues to dominate hitters as he did in 2011, a quick promotion would not be a surprise.
Only 19 years old, Ramon Flores is coming off his third season in the Yankees' minor league system, one that saw him mature physically and begin to show the promise the Bombers saw in him when they signed him out of Venezuela for just under $800,000.
Flores has developing power and speed and needs to continue to mature physically—though Flores could potentially lose some speed as he adds weight to his 5'10" frame.
The best-case scenario, if his development continues on an upward trajectory and he suffers no major setbacks, is that Flores turns into a Roy White type of player.
Flores could find himself in Double-A this season, though a return to Single-A Charleston is likely in the cards for him to start the season.
Drafted as a catcher by the Yankees in the 13th round of the 2010 draft, 20-year-old Tyler Austin quickly switched positions and has played both first base and third base in his short professional career.
A right-handed hitter with big-time power potential, he has exhibited the strength and ability to drive the ball to all fields.
Austin is also exceptionally fast, having stolen 18 consecutive bases without being caught thus far—speed that could translate to a position change into a corner outfield spot.
He will spend 2012 with Low-A Charleston to get a full season of work under his belt after spending the past two playing for short-season teams.
The Yankees' first-round pick of the 2010 draft, 19-year-old Cito Culver is a work in progress.
At this point in his development, his defense is far and away the strongest part of his game. Culver has outstanding range, hands and instincts to go along with a cannon of a throwing arm—one that was throwing fastballs in the low-90's in high school.
Culver is an excellent athlete and has both the bat speed and plate discipline to become a productive hitter. That is not to say that he is devoid of power—as he continues to fill out his six-foot frame, the power will come.
Cito will likely spend the 2012 season at Low-A Charleston, continuing to work on all aspects of his game.
Back in June, I called 22-year-old Nik Turley a prospect that Yankee fans could start to get excited about.
Turley suffered a broken finger in his second start for High-A Tampa and saw his season end prematurely.
Regardless, Turley has excellent command—Baseball America lists him as having the best command of all the Yankees prospects—and he possesses multiple quality pitches in his arsenal, including a low-to-mid 90's fastball and a low-70's slurve.
Turley will start the season with High-A Tampa and, assuming he continues to be successful, could find himself promoted to Double-A Trenton before too long.
Since joining the Yankees in 2008, 24-year-old right-handed pitcher David Phelps has steadily climbed the minor league ladder.
Injuries have cost him time in the past, but when healthy Phelps has been outstanding, posting career numbers of 38-15 with a 2.61 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and a 7.4 K/9 ratio.
Phelps has five pitches in his repertoire: a fastball that sits in the mid 90's, a two-seam fastball that sits in the low 90's, a slider, changeup and curveball.
Given the state of the Yankees' starting rotation, Phelps will likely be given a shot to make the team out of spring training. The likely scenario, however, is that Phelps starts the season at Triple-A and, when a starter is needed, is the first one to be promoted.
The Yankees paid Murphy $1.25 million to sign as a second-round draft pick in 2009 and not attend the University of Miami, so they have high hopes for the 20-year-old.
Murphy outplayed his more highly-touted counterpart, Gary Sanchez while both were with the Charleston RiverDogs in 2011 which led to his promotion to High-A Tampa.
An adequate defensive catcher, Murphy has a flat swing that generates line-drive, gap-to-gap power. Behind the plate, Murphy improved enough to continue to be thought of as a catcher, but a move to 3B or one of the corner spots in the outfield is not out of the question.
Murphy will spend 2012 with High-A Tampa where he will continue to catch while also seeing some time at the hot corner as the Yankees continue to evaluate which position suits him best.
Paid $2.2 million by the Yankees as their first-round pick in the 2009 draft, 21-year-old Slade Heathcott is facing a big year in 2012.
An outstanding athlete who brings high energy and goes all-out on every play, the left-handed Heathcott has injured his throwing shoulder in each of the past three seasons, with surgery required to repair the damage in both 2010 and this past October—surgery he says will keep him out until at least February.
Slade has played in a total of 132 games since joining the Yankees in 2009. To say that he will be behind other players in the system by the time he returns from this latest injury is an understatement.
When healthy, Heathcott has excellent speed and plays outstanding defense in CF. Baseball America has compared him to* Brett Gardner but with more power.
Whether he begins back in Rookie Ball or not remains to be seen, but Slade is "sladed" to spend the majority of 2012 with High-A Tampa. The 2012 season will be about continuing to improve his overall game, but more importantly to stay healthy.
One more surgery on his throwing arm would raise a big red flag and could derail a promising career.
Jose Campos, RHP, Grade B: We need to see him at higher levels and his secondary stuff needs refinement, but his upside is very high, he throws hard, and already throws strikes.
Despite being the youngest player on the Mariners’ Short Season squad, Jose Campos has arguably been the best. The young ace gets his last home start of the season tonight, and to celebrate his accomplishments, the AquaSox are honoring him with a tip of the cap to Everett alumnus Felix Hernandez by having a devoted “Campos’ Court” cheering section. Jose Campos came into the season definitely on the prospect radar, but his performance in 2011 has exceeded everyone’s expectations. The 2009 signee out of La Guaira, Venezuela leads Seattle’s minor league affiliates in ERA (2.37), WHIP (0.98) and opponent’s average (.218) in this, his first season playing stateside for the M’s. Also on his resume is a seven-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio, 9.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings and a 1.57 ground out to air out figure. Right-handed hitters have managed just a .497 OPS off of the now 19-year-old, and he has posted a 0.95 ERA and 0.74 WHIP while pitching in his home stadium—Everett Memorial—which is traditionally one of the better hitter’s parks in the NWL. He has struck out exactly one-quarter of the batters he’s faced in 2011 (70 out of 280) and just two starts ago, Campos threw 6 1/3 perfect innings before allowing a base runner. He has been doing most of his damage with an overpowering fastball, but Everett pitching Coach Andrew Lorraine says there is more than just the fastball in Campos’ talented right arm. “Developmentally, he is pretty close to everyone else we have here; he just has a better arm,” he says. “He’s still learning it,” Lorraine said of the off-speed stuff. “His fastball is obviously there—still quite a weapon. It’s just a matter of him learning how to control it. Before he came here, he didn’t really work on other things (mechanics, off-speed pitches, etc.) very much, he just threw hard.” Part of that is the nature of international prospects, “It’s not stressed as much over there. You have to throw hard. It’s my job to teach him to pitch.” Lorraine said that Jose is learning the value of repetition, routine, and transferring what he does in practice to the games. Those practices and bullpen seasons are giving Campos, “A good frame, a good base, to go out and compete.” He then added, “You gotta figure, he’s basically a freshman in college.” As with many foreign-born players that come to Everett, Lorraine pointed out that Campos isn’t just dealing with learning about baseball—he is learning a lot of life lessons, too. “He’s picked up a lot of things quickly, especially for a first year guy in the states. He’s dealing with a lot more things than just getting better as a pitcher. He’s dealing with a different culture, dealing with the language—a lot of things that aren’t comfortable—these kids are far from home.” “It’s fun to watch him compete, start-to-start. But when Pedro Grifol and Bob Engle came through, and to hear them explain how far he’s come, that’s when it really hit home for me.” For Campos, who said to me, “I always loved baseball. When I was eight years old I said I want to play baseball,” the baseball field feels like home. And from the early returns, it looks like he could be there for a while. SeattleClubhouse offers the scouting report below, with comments from Lorraine, for Jose Campos. Delivery/Mechanics: Campos uses his frame (6-foot-4 and a solid 195 pounds) well in his delivery. He breaks his hands at the belt and throws from a high three-quarters arm slot which he repeats well. There is no violent or drastic motion in the delivery, and he finishes in good shape to field his position. Fastball: Campos throws a fastball that has been clocked in the upper-90s at times this season and it regularly sits in the 93-96 range. The pitch has good, late arm-side run and he frequently gets good sink on it as well. This is already a plus pitch, but there is potential for plus-plus here. Breaking Ball: He throws a curve, but depending on the start, velocity is varied—as high as 82-83 at times, down to 73-74. He is developing better feel for it, but Lorraine says, “He’s still learning how to make it work for him. It’s definitely going to be a harder curveball.” Changeup: This is the pitch that will determine how good Campos can be. Campos throws a circle change, and while it is still a below average offering now, it does show signs of promise. With his velocity it doesn’t need to be fantastic, it just needs to have good separation from the fastball with a consistent delivery. Something that Lorraine said he already has seen improved dramatically. Right now the pitch is about a 40. Control/Command: Obviously he is showing very good control this season as he has walked just 10 hitters in 12 starts (1.3 BB/9). Some of that can be attributed to his velocity and the level, but typically Campos commands his fastball very well, operating in the lower part of the zone with it. The breaking ball is a work in progress, and Lorraine said, “Sometimes he tries to spin it too much and it ends up a foot outside.” All in all, he has the potential for plus control and command.