ST PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 28: Pitcher Dellin Betances #68 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
New York Yankees Top 20 Prospects for 2012
THIS LIST WAS UPDATED JANUARY 19, 2012
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Gary Sanchez, C, Grade B+: Excellent power production in full-season ball at age 18; that is rare. His glove needs work and he needs to take his career more seriously, but he has time to outgrow emotional immaturity.
2) Manny Banuelos, LHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. He got a B last year and I can't bump his grade up a notch given the command difficulties he had in Double-A. He's still a fine prospect, however, projecting as a number three starter if all goes well.
3) Dellin Betances, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. He's got plenty of stuff but command wobbles prevent the B+ at this time. Ceiling is a tad higher than Banuelos, but I'm less confident that he'll reach it. Depending on what happens with his command, he could develop into anything from a number two starter to a disappointing mop-up man.
4) Mason Williams, OF, Grade B: We need to see him higher than the New York-Penn League, but he showed progress with both the bat and the glove. Main question is how much power he'll develop. Grade may be a bit aggressive.
5) Dante Bichette, Jr, 3B, Grade B: Way ahead of where his father was at the same stage. Controls the strike zone well, doesn't strike out much for a young power hitter, and third base defense proved to be much better than expected.
6) Juan Campos, RHP, Grade B: Acquired in the Montero/Pineda deal. Very live arm, throws strikes with plus fastball, still working on secondary pitches. High upside.
7) David Phelps, RHP, Grade B-: I like him more than most people do. Has developed the secondary pitches needed to off-set the fastball, and was one of the few pitchers who didn't get killed in the Arizona Fall League. Could be a fourth starter if given a chance.
8) Ravel Santana, OF, Grade B-: Borderline C+. This grade assumes that the gruesome ankle injury doesn't permanently hurt his career. Very high ceiling with potent power/speed combo. High risk as most young tools players are. Yankees sources indicate that Santana's injury recovery is going well. He may start the season late, but is expected to retain 100% functionality.
9) Tyler Austin, 3B, Grade B-: Borderline C+. I don't know why this guy doesn't get more attention. Polished bat for a 19-year-old, defense needs work, has stolen 18 bases without getting caught in his career so far.
10) Adam Warren, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-: Often paired with Phelps. I like Phelps a little better even though Warren gets more press. For many teams Warren's ability to eat innings with decent stuff would get him a full rotation audition in 2012.
11) Austin Romine, C, Grade C+: I don't like Romine as much as a lot of other people do. His bat is stagnating and his performance doesn't match his reputation behind the plate, at least in terms of throwing out runners. Still, he should have a long career and at age 23 he can improve much further.
12) J.R. Murphy, C, Grade C+: Defense reports improving, but bat is erratic and he had adaptation issues in High-A before getting hurt. Still very young, 2012 would be his draft year if he had gone to college.
13) Cito Culver, SS, Grade C+: Good defensive reports, still very raw with the bat but was younger than most of his competition. Grade will rise when/if he makes offensive progress.
14) Brett Marshall, RHP, Grade C+: Fully recovered from Tommy John and had solid year in High-A. Good sinker, has cleaned up delivery, possible mid-rotation starter.
15) Slade Heathcott, OF, Grade C+: Has tools to rank as high as seven, but persistent shoulder problems are slowing his development. Power has been disappointing.
16) Angelo Gumbs, 2B, Grade C+: Makes a nice double play combo with Culver and they should move up together. Needs polish on both sides of the ball, but tools are here.
17) Nik Turley, LHP, Grade C+ Breakthrough candidate for 2012. Season ended early due to broken hand and as a result he doesn't get much attention. That will change if he brings the stuff and command he showed in Low-A forward to High-A. Mid-rotation upside.
18) Daniel Lopez, OF, Grade C+: Showed speed and some power potential in Gulf Coast League.
19) David Adams, 2B, Grade C: Has lost most of two seasons to injury. Average tools but should hit if his body lets him.
20) Ramon Flores, OF, Grade C; Draws walks, contributes touches of power and speed, but could end up stuck as a tweener.
OTHERS: Zoilo Almonte, OF; Miguel Andujar, 3B; Cesar Cabral, LHP; Dan Camarena, LHP; Jake Cave, OF; Jordan Cote, RHP; Claudio Custodio, SS; Rookie Davis, RHP; Matt Duran, 3B-1B; Ben Gamel, OF; Corban Joseph, 2B; Tommy Kahnle, RHP; George Kontos, RHP; Brandon Laird, RHP; Brad Meyers, RHP; Bryan Mitchell, RHP; D.J. Mitchell, RHP; Mark Montgomery, RHP; Brandon Pinder, RHP: Graham Stoneburner, RHP; Isaias Tejeda, C: Phil Wetherell, RHP; Chase Whitley, RHP.
Some of the grades for the younger hitters in the system (Williams, Bichette, Austin, etc.) may be a touch optimistic, but I like the group and the aggressiveness the Yankees have shown the last few drafts. I also like what they have done in Latin America. Although the big bonus babies like Sanchez and the departed Jesus Montero get most of the attention, they've also found some talented players who didn't get huge bonuses, Ravel Santana for example. Also keep an eye on Miguel Andujar. He wasn't cheap at $750,000, but his bat is supposed to be more polished than most players his age from the Dominican.
Banuelos, Betances, and Andrew Brackman were the Three Bs this time last year. Brackman washed out in Triple-A and is now in Cincinnati, while both Banuelos and Betances had command struggles in Double-A. They are both impressive prospects still, but they didn't progress as hoped and they might not be ready as soon as anticipated last spring. The Yankees also seem to have a knack for finding solid pitching from the college ranks and pitchers who can contribute from the middle and later rounds of the draft, particularly in the bullpen.
Overall, there were a few glitches last year but the farm system is in good shape. They have a mixture of tools upside and players with polish. The pitching at the lower levels could use a boost and it will be interesting to see what their draft strategy is under the new CBA.