Every year at this time I like to rank each team’s top prospects. My criteria is based upon both past performance and future potential to his parent team. This is my ranking of the 2012 New York Yankees Top Prospects. If you have any questions about my rankings, feel free to shoot me a message on twitter @Jaypers413
To qualify, a prospect must have fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings in MLB
#1 Jesus Montero C Born: 11/28/1989 Highest Level Reached: MLB New York Yankees 2011 Combined Stats: MINORS: .288, 19(2B), 1(3B), 18HR, 67RBI MAJORS: .328, 4(2B), 4HR, 12RBI (20 hits in 61 at-bats)
#14 Ben Gamel OF Born: 5/17/1992 Highest Level Reached: Short-A Staten Island Yankees 2011 Combined Stats: .289, 19(2B), 1(3B), 2HR, 30RBI, 7SB
#15 Jake Cave LHP Born: 12/7/1992 Highest Level Reached: 6th Round Pick 2011 MLB Draft 2011 Combined Stats: Did Not Play In 2011
Disclaimer – I did not attend any minor league games this year, nor do I claim to have any scouting experience. These lists are the product of my own research of statistics and online scouting reports.
According to various reports out of New York, the Yankees have added five players to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. All five have played for the Trenton Thunder.
SP David Phelps, SP D.J. Mitchell, OF Zoilo Almonte, 2B Corban Joseph and 2B David Adams were all placed on the 40-man, leaving New York with one available spot for a possible Rule 5 selection or free agent signing without having to designate someone for assignment. Of those 39 players, 23 of them have played for the Thunder, not including a rehabbing Derek Jeter.
Phelps started for the Trenton Thunder in 2010 before being called up to Triple-A Scranton midway through the season, which is where he’s been ever since. A 25-year-old righty entering his fifth pro season, the personable Notre Dame alum went 6-0 with a 2.04 ERA in 14 appearances for the Thunder. Last year, a season in which he made just 18 starts due to injury, he posted a 6-6 mark with a 3.19 ERA. He has a 38-15 record over in 87 minor league appearances that totalled 496 2/3 innings of work, and a 112:410 BB/K split over that time.
He was nearly added to the 40-man roster in 2011, when he was under consideration for a big league start, but the Yankees instead signed Brian Gordon.
Mitchell will be in his just his fourth professional season in 2012 after being selected in the 10th round out of Clemson by the Yankees in 2008. The 24-year-old righty with the southern accent went 11-4 with a 4.06 ERA in 23 appearances for the Thunder in 2010; 22 of them starts.
Last season, Mitchell pitched for Triple-A Scranton, and spun a career-high 161 1/3 innings. While he won 13 games and had 112 strikeouts, just like he had the previous season, he knocked nearly a run off of his ERA (from 4.00 to 3.18) and allowed one fewer home run (11 to 10) and one fewer walk (64 to 63) in 10 2/3 more innings than 2010.
Almonte is a toolsy outfielder, much like Melky Mesa, who was added to the 40-man roster at this time last year and whom, most likely, he’ll be sharing the Waterfront Park outfield with next season. Almonte joined Trenton midway through last season and never seemed to be able to put it all together.
Just 22 years old, the Dominican-born Almonte batted .251 with three home runs and 23 RBI in his first 46 Double-A games, and experienced a marked drop-off in power from the season before (13 HR between Charleston and Tampa in 2010, four between Tampa and Trenton last year). There is still plenty of time for Almonte to develop, and his arm may very well be his most underrated asset. But don’t be fooled into thinking he’s anywhere near big league ready by his placement on the 40-man roster.
Joseph is a talented infielder who spent parts of the last two seasons in Trenton. After a disappointing first foray into Double-A — he hit just .216 in 31 games in 2010 while fighting through a wrist injury that ultimately shut him down — Joseph was the Thunder’s everyday second baseman last year, and despite some errors, showed good range and an impressive bat as well.
He hit .277 in a career-high 131 games and 499 at-bats, collecting a career-high 51 extra-base hits in the process. Joseph will likely never hit for power, and will need to re-learn the shortstop position at the pro level in order to have a serious chance for a big league promotion. He’s more of a true second baseman and doesn’t profile — at least just yet — as a utility type like a Ramiro Pena.
Adams was a strong candidate to be placed on the 40-man roster, but far from a lock. A foot injury has limited him to just 68 games over the last two seasons, including 39 with the Thunder in 2010. Adams played well for Trenton, batting .309 with three home runs and 32 RBI in 152 at-bats before being shut down with what was, at the time, believed to be a minor foot injury. That injury turned out to be a chip fracture in his ankle, and is also largely believed to have nixed a potential deal that would have sent Cliff Lee to the Yankees.
Last year, Adams somewhat surprisingly never returned to Trenton, instead splitting a 29-game lost season between the Yankees GCL affiliate and High-A Tampa. He hit .370 in 108 at-bats between the two teams, hitting one home run and driving in 15.
Yanks sign veteran lefty to minor league deal November 17th, 2011
It looks like Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has its first new addition of the offseason. According to Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated, the Yankees have signed veteran lefty Mike O’Connor to a minor league deal. O’Connor is 31 and, get this, a former Montreal Expos farmhand. He has appeared in just 14 major league games since he made 20 starts for Montreal in 2006, but nine of those appearances came out of the Mets bullpen last season. For what it’s worth, he posted a 2.70 ERA there. O’Connor has been in Triple-A for the most part since 2008, and he spent the vast majority of 2010 and 2011 in Buffalo, where results were mixed. In 2010, he posted a 2.67 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. In 2011, those numbers inflated to 5.22 and 1.50. That said, lefties were just 18 for 87 (.207) against him last season. They were 29 for 108 (.269) in 2010. I can’t picture the Yankees looking at O’Connor as a big league option as the second lefty. Not that he’s not a decent reliever. I’ve seen him have some good moments in Triple-A. It’s just that there are so many better right-handed options in the Yankees pen potentially next season that it’s not looking like New York will go overboard for a second lefty.
It was one year ago today that Dominican righthander Jose Rafael DePaula agreed to terms for a $500,000 bonus with the Yankees, contingent upon his ability to acquire a visa. That paperwork hasn't been easy to obtain for DePaula, who missed the entire 2011 season and is still in the process of trying to get his visa, according to Yankees vice president Mark Newman. DePaula is still under contract with the Yankees and has been working out at their Dominican academy. Scouts have considered DePaula one of the most promising arms in Latin America since he was believed to be eligible to sign three years ago in 2008. At the time, DePaula was presenting himself as Rafael DePaula Figueroa, born April 1, 1992. However, in May 2009, Major League Baseball suspended DePaula for one year for misrepresenting his age. In June 2010, DePaula came forward with a new name and a new date of birth (March 24, 1991) that would make him 20 years old. At around 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, DePaula had a plus fastball that touched the mid-90s with a sharp breaking ball and a good delivery at the time he signed. He would be one of the Yankees' better pitching prospects if his contract gets approved, but for now, he's still waiting,
Let’s get right into the notes. The Arizona Fall League season ended this week, so the Yankees down there — including new 40-man additions David Phelps and Corban Joseph — are finished for the year.
• After three consecutive starts without an earned, Hector Noesi allowed five hits in just 1.2 innings in his most recent Dominican Winter League outing. He was charged with five runs, but only two were earned because of a couple of errors behind him. Overall, he’s still carrying a 2.31 ERA this winter.
• In his only start after winning the Arizona Fall League’s Pitcher of the Week, David Phelps went five innings on Thursday. He allowed two runs on five hits. He walked none and struck out six. Another solid outing. His Fall League ERA dipped slightly to 4.41.
• Getting regular time at shortstop — with some time at third base — Ramiro Pena is hitting .294 down in Mexico. He’s made one error in 10 games.
• Getting all of his Arizona Fall League time at third base and designated hitter, utility prospect Ronnier Mustelier kept hitting, including doubles in back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday. Granted, it’s an offensive league, but he hit .344/.354/.516… Also in Arizona, Rob Segedin hit just .250 and didn’t homer after Oct. 27, but he got all of his time in left field, which is key for a guy used to playing third… Corban Joseph was the other Yankees position player in the Fall League. He just had a two-hit game, but he still finished hitting just .227 down there.
• Colin Curtis went deep off Carlos Zambrano for his first home run of the winter. Finally back on the field after missing this season because of a shoulder injury, Curtis is hitting .320/.452/.480 in Venezuela. He’s hit first, second, third, seventh and ninth in the lineup, and he’s played all three outfield positions (mostly left field). He has as many walks as strikeouts and he’s 1-for-1 stealing bases.
• Prospect catcher Gary Sanchez is getting a little more playing time in the Dominican. He had a three-hit game on Sunday and he’s batting .364, but he still has just 11 at-bats in five games. He’s just not seeing much playing time down there. That’s to be expected for a guy that young.
• Jorge Vazquez went 4-for-5 with two home runs on Wednesday. The guy just keeps crushing the ball down in Mexico. He’s hitting .345/.400/.655 with 33 RBI in 28 games.
• Also down in Mexico, Pat Venditte is holding opponents to a .211 batting average. He’s allowed one run in his past four outings, and he’s doing a good job against both lefties and righties. Neither side is hitting better than .227 against him.
• Chase Whitley pitched two scoreless innings out of the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League on Wednesday, and his ERA went down to 1.62 with a .200 opponents batting average down there. He’s building on a strong regular season… A good finish to a rough stint, Dan Burawa pitched 1.2 scoreless on Tuesday and finished with a 7.53 ERA in Arizona… The other Yankees pitcher in the fall league was Preston Claiborne who finished with a 3.00 ERA, .256 opponents batting average and eight strikeouts with seven walks. He was charged with one run in his last three outings.
"Jay Z got him a big raise, but he also got him a 30-day vacation – it’s called October," --Pete Rose
The Yankees have re-signed LHP Josh Romanski, who did a nice job splitting his season between the High-A rotation and the Double-A bullpen. He was originally a fourth-round pick of the Padres back in 2008, and he’s put up pretty solid results two years in a row for the Yankees. Probably nothing more than minor league depth, but he’s a lefty. Speaking of which, the Yankees also sign LHP Juan Cedeno out of independent ball.
A third left-hander, Steve Garrison, has signed a minor league deal with the Mariners. Garrison spent most of the year in Double-A, though he did get one big league call-up and make his big league debut. He was dumped from the 40-man, became a free agent and landed with the Mariners.
The Twins have siged OF Matt Carson, a former Yankees prospect who got some big league time recently with Oakland. C Omir Santos, another former fringe prospect with the Yankees, has re-signed with Detroit.
"Jay Z got him a big raise, but he also got him a 30-day vacation – it’s called October," --Pete Rose
Via Matt Eddy, the Yankees have signed left-hander Juan Cedeno to a minor league contract. The 28-year-old pitched for the Rio Grande Valley White Wings of the independent North American Baseball League this past season, striking out 65 and walking just ten in 43 relief innings. According to the club’s sabermetric pitching stats page, he also had a Power Fitness Ration of 1.744. I don’t know either.
Before heading to the indy leagues, Cedeno spent a bunch of time in the Red Sox’s and Royals’ farm systems. He also did a year in Korea. Cedeno had some major control problems earlier in his career (78 BB in 90.1 IP in 2006), but he did a nice job of limiting the free pass in 2011. It’s a shot in the dark signing that carries zero risk, sometimes these lefty relievers come out of nowhere to contribute decent innings at the big league level. Throw the kid in Double-A and see what happens.
As many of our readers know, we here at TYA tend to follow the Yankee farm system very closely, since it is often the source of the next generation of great Yankees (or trade bait to acquire great Yankees). In the past few years, the farm has been the source of a number of exciting young Yankees, including David Robertson, Jesus Montero, and Ivan Nova, and the next wave is coming. EJ put together an excellent top prospects list earlier, and I will probably put one together at some point when I have enough time to sit down and do a little extra research.
It’s definitely easy to develop a bit of an echo chamber within the Yankee blogosphere, so it is always nice to read assessments of the Yankee farm system that come from outsiders. I enjoy the reading the work of the mainstream prospecting community (such as Baseball America, Keith Law, John Sickels and Kevin Goldstein), but there are also plenty of writers and bloggers who do excellent research and analysis of prospects. One such site is Bullpen Banter, a collaborative project involving 4 bloggers from across the country who do a great job covering the minor leagues and the draft.
Bullpen Banter recently came out with a list for the top 15 prospects in the Yankee system, so I thought it would be nice to take a look and see what they thought about the Yankee farm. The full post is definitely a must-read, but I’ll provide the list and some comments here. There were two lists here (by Jeff Reese and friend of the blog Al Skorupa, each of whom have their own take on the system), so we get some idea of where there is some consensus regarding the rankings.
Both see the Yankee system as somewhat down compared to last season, which I think is a fair assessment. It’s still a very strong and deep system, but regression from a bunch of the guys who were near the top last season (the B’s, Gary Sanchez, etc.) prevented the top end from being truly elite. There is no question that there is definitely a lot of talent at the back of the list, which is evident in the lack of consensus Jeff and Al had at the second half of the list.
As you can see, Al and Jeff are in strong agreement about the top 7 names on the list, and for the most part, I agree. I might consider flip-flopping Montero and Banuelos since Montero looked so strong in his short stint in the majors this season, while Banuelos’ control regressed somewhat this year. However, I understand their rationale. I know both of them are pretty bearish on Montero’s defense, and consequently, the value of his bat is somewhat limited by his future position. Gary Sanchez not surprisingly gets a Montero comp due to his powerful bat and questionable defense, but there is more optimism about his ability to stick behind the plate. They are both fairly bullish on Ravel Santana and Dante Bichette considering they were both only in rookie ball last year, and neither of them were expected to be so good so quickly. Al mentioned that the scouting reports on Bichette seemed to have changed very quickly after the draft, which makes sense given his less exciting reports at the time of the draft and his dynamite debut.
In the 2nd half of the list, the only spot where Jeff and Al made the same pick was Cito Culver at #9, which seems like a reasonable slot. They vary significantly on a number of guys including Slade Heathcott (not on Al’s list, #10 on Jeff’s), Jake Cave, and JR Murphy, to name a few. I was a little surprised that Heathcott was left off Al’s list given his first-round pedigree and solid pre-injury performance, so I asked Al about it in the comment section. His answer:
Heathcott just missed my list. Its not a reflection of one major flaw, but rather a number of minor ones. Overall, I’ve gotten the impression from people I’ve talked to that his tools are more good than great despite his impressive physique. He’s had knee problems and his defense is pretty raw… I see him most likely ending up in a corner OF spot. He needs to make some big adjustments to his swing and approach, too. So those are the negatives, but don’t read too much into it… as I said, he just missed and its more a reflection of the list only going to 15 than it is anything else. He’s certainly the same quality of prospect as the guys above him going as high as even Romine… It was basically a toss up between him and Cave.
Sounds like a perfectly reasonable explanation, though I would probably lean Heathcott over Cave because Slade has a track record of minor league performance, and was more highly touted as an amateur (in terms of scouting reports, draft stock, and signing bonus). Slade certainly has more risk than the average first-rounder due to his injury history and personal issues, but I still consider him less risky than a guy who has never played a season of pro ball. Both guys are very high on Cave, especially Jeff, who was impressed with his performance this summer in the Coastal Plain League against collegiate competition.
There’s more good discussion in the post and comment section, so feel free to take a look at that for further information.
The New York Yankees 2012 Top 15 Prospects & discussion can be found below. Be sure to check out our other top 15 lists, conveniently linked on the left hand side. - BB Jeff Reese Al Skorupa 1 Manny Banuelos, LHS Manny Banuelos, LHS 2 Jesus Montero, DH/C Jesus Montero, DH/C 3 Gary Sanchez, C Gary Sanchez, C 4 Dellin Betances, RHP Dellin Betances, RHP 5 Mason Williams, CF Mason Williams, CF 6 Dante Bichette, 3B/LF Dante Bichette, 3B 7 Ravel Santana, CF Ravel Santana, CF 8 Jake Cave, OF Angelo Gumbs, 2B/OF 9 Cito Culver, SS Cito Culver, SS 10 Slade Heathcott, OF Austin Romine, C 11 Angelo Gumbs, 2B David Phelps, RHP 12 Austin Romine, C Adam Warren, RHP 13 JR Murphy, C Jordan Cote, RHP 14 David Phelps, RHS Bryan Mitchell, RHP 15 Adam Warren, RHP Jake Cave, OF Jeff Reese: Coming off of a season where everything seemed to go right for the New York Yankees's farm system, it is not too surprising that there was stagnation in 2011. Andrew Brackman's reversion to his previous form resulted in a banishment to the bullpen before ultimately receiving his release. The rest of the prospects managed to retain most of their prospect stock through the turbulence. Manny Banuelos made his mark during spring training before ultimately posting a rocky season over the span of AA & AAA. I still see a top of the rotation starter and one of the best lefties in the minor leagues. Jesus Montero was whom he dethroned. He started out slow offensively in his return to Wilkes-Barre, but his offensive projection hasn't changed. He shows the bat speed, leverage, and plate discipline to project as a guy who will hit for average and power. Montero has managed to lean out; however, his frame is still big and awkward behind the plate and his catch & throw skills are debilitatingly slow. I would only advocate using him at catcher on an emergency basis. Three other catchers of varying competency find a home on this list. Gary Sanchez is big bodied with a strong arm and the tools to stick; refinement eludes him at this point. Similar to Montero – albeit in a much earlier stage – Sanchez has the power and hitting ability to survive a major shift down the defensive spectrum should he remain too raw behind the plate. Murphy and Romine are lesser prospects with their own defensive uncertainties. Romine looks poised to contribute soon, while Murphy has untapped potential at the plate. Dellin Betances still looks like a power reliever to me as his delivery leads to big time command issues, and his curve ball – while devastating when going well – remains inconsistent. The past two draft classes are well represented, and most of the talent is still at the short season level. A potential plus defensive center fielder with enticing bat speed, Mason Williams emerged as the best of the 2010 class during his stint in the NYPL. Culver and Gumbs formed an athletic middle infield tandem at the same level. Dante Bichette was from the 2011 class and surprised with his wildly successful debut in the GCL, but I remain concerned about the inconsistency in his swing from day-to-day and where he will ultimately profile defensively. Ravel Santana was the other star prospect on that team as he shows promise offensively and the tools to be an elite defensive center fielder. Jake Cave made his mark this summer by being the more impressive prospect in the Coastal Plan League, putting an end to the debate as to which side of the ball he should play. He probably fits better in right field than center, but the power and athleticism should suit him well there. Heathcott was having a solid year before again succumbing to injuries. Phelps and Warren could be back of the rotation contributors. There are upside plays beyond the top 15 as well, giving Yankees fans reason to be bullish.
Al Skorupa: This is a quality system that is a bit down from last year. Jeff used the word "stagnation," and I think that's appropriate for a lot of the guys in this org. If I could only take one player from this system it would be Manny Banuelos. A lefty with good velocity and three quality pitches is something every system should envy. Banuelos is one of the best lefty pitching prospects in the game, but I do worry that his mechanical inconsistencies (especially landing on a stiff front foot that makes him leave his pitches up) and his unrefined command may keep from being a true front of the rotation type. I saw Jesus Montero live for the first time this season and his defense was actually slightly better than I expected going in - but all the same I can't imagine a major league team playing him there full time. Montero just isn't mobile enough behind the plate. Although he has a very strong arm he mitigates much of that by getting out of his crouch very slowly. His offensive abilites are also slightly overstated in my opinion. His swing is not the prettiest you'll see and it's on the long side, although he does keep the barrel in the zone well. He does have a knack for hitting and his power is not at all in question. Its striking exactly how much Gary Sanchez has come to resemble Montero. It was an easy (and lazy) comp, yes, but they both are fringy defenders with long swings and lots of power. Sanchez dropped his stock some this year but he's more than young enough to get better and I'm still a fan. Dellin Betances will be a useful major league pitcher but I think he'll be a bit of a tease. He's just one of those big guys who can't repeat his delivery well and its always going to hold him back. He's working around the strike zone more than ever, but he's still much more control (throwing strikes) than command (throwing pitches where he wants). He should be a fine middle of the rotation starter whose stuff looks like it belongs at the front of the rotation, but his best fit is probably as a power reliever. Despite his size he typically seemed to work in the low 90's when I saw him. In short bursts out of the pen he could be really fearsome, but again... he has enough about him to be a good MLB starting pitcher as well. Just don't expect him to dominate as his stuff is more hittable than it first appears. Mason Williams was a lot of fun to watch (Side note - I'll have a full scouting report with video on Williams sometime soon). He's a great athlete, plus defender and has an advanced approach at the plate. I'm not confident that there will be a whole lot of power here, but he's one of the more exciting breakout talents in the low minors. Its amazing the difference in reports on Dante Bichette before and after the draft. He's in the mold of less mobile 3B with a big arm, but I think there's reason to give him the benefit of the doubt there for now. His ranking is mostly based on his power and approach, which are both strong. Ravel Santana was making a very strong argument to rank higher on this list before he broke his ankle. The raw tools rival those of Williams. Angelo Gumbs has plenty of tools as well, but probably will end up joining Williams and Santana in CF. The Staten Island Yankees did not lack for athletes or bat speed with Williams, Gumbs and Cito Culver. I did a full scouting report on Culver you can read here. I've never quite understood the attention Austin Romine has gotten. He's sort of a bad body for a catcher (though athletic despite that) and I didn't like his receiving. He has problems with strikeouts and he's a gap to gap power guy. I see him fitting best as second division starter or backup. Phelps, Warren and Mitchell all profile as back end starters for me. Heard many good things about Jordan Cote this spring but he's a real project. The top guys scuffled a bit in 2011, but the depth of this system has improved and the next wave of talent looks good.