Gary Sanchez - Nick Laham-Getty Images
New York Yankees Top 20 Prospects for 2013
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. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2013 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 reasonable 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. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) 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.
This list is current as of January 15, 2013
1) Gary Sanchez, C, Grade B+: Youngest of the top Yankee hitting prospects, and plays the most difficult position, showing enough defensive improvement to give decent hope that he can stick there.
2) Tyler Austin, OF, Grade B+: Tremendous instincts, solid tools, and hits for power and average. How did this guy last until the 13th round?
3) Mason Williams, OF, Grade B: Borderline B+: Tools are a notch ahead of Austin's, but Tyler wins on current polish and makeup and they are the same age. It is also unclear how much power Williams will develop. Speed and defense should be very valuable.
4) Slade Heathcott, OF, Grade B: Oldest of the quartet at age 22 and injury history is discouraging, but he's starting to tap his power and I was very impressed with him in the Arizona Fall League. An outfield of Heathcott in left, Williams in center, and Austin in right would be stellar defensively and highly-productive on offense if everyone maxes out their hitting skills.
5) Brett Marshall, RHP, Grade B-: Marshall is the best pitching prospect by default, thanks to the health problems of Banuelos and Campos, and the simple uncertainty regarding DePaula. Mid-rotation projection, should be a nice inning-eater.
6) Jose Campos, RHP, Grade B-: First class stuff and he threw strikes in his 25 innings in Low-A, but was shut down with elbow problems. Higher ceiling than Marshall, but will his arm hold up? I'm cautious until we know.
7) Angelo Gumbs, 2B, Grade B-: What's with all the elbow problems? Lost half the year with a torn ligament but at least it was non-throwing elbow. Turning into a fine defender, uses his speed well, should develop more power. Transition to High-A at age 20 should prove interesting.
8) Mark Montgomery, RHP, Grade B-: It is tough to rank relief prospects, but this guy has it: outstanding slider, good fastball, good control, excellent performance metrics. Clear closer potential, at least for many organizations.
9) Ty Hensley, RHP, Grade B-: First round pick from Oklahoma high school ranks, looks like he can develop into a hard-throwing workhorse, assuming that the "shoulder abnormality" revealed by his physical is no big deal.
10) Manny Banuelos, LHP, Grade B-: Will miss the season recovering from Tommy John. Tough to rank, and he wasn't living up to his press clippings even before he got hurt.
11) Nik Turley, LHP, Grade B-: Sleeper prospect woke up with sound season in High-A. Mid-rotation upside, and he's still under most radars.
12) Corey Black, RHP, Grade B-: Got up to 100 MPH after signing out of Faulkner University in the fourth round and command was better than expected in pro ball. Could move very quickly.
13) Rafael DePaula, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Very difficult to rank on a list like this. His upside is obvious and he could end up much higher on the list quickly, but he hasn't pitched against remotely appropriate competition and he turns 22 in March. I am in the process of studying him in greater depth and this grade may change considerably before the book goes to press, as well as his ranking on this list. I will let you know what the final decision is.
14) JR Murphy, C, Grade C+: Defense is improving but bat seems stagnant. Still has time at age 21/22 to grow into his potential.
15) Ramon Flores, OF, Grade C+: Tweener perhaps but he consistently plays above his tools and does a little bit of everything. Would make a fine fourth outfielder behind Heathcott/Williams/Austin.
16) Bryan Mitchell, RHP, Grade C+: Above-average curveball and slider give him strong K/IP and H/IP marks in Low-A, but he's got to sharpen his command. Another guy with mid-rotation upside.
17) Austin Romine, C, Grade C+: Not great against baserunners, but otherwise sound defensively. Bat seems stagnant and back injury didn't help. Should have a long career but not likely to become a star.
18) Corban Joseph, 2B, Grade C+: Under the radar guy but has shown potent offense in the high minors despite blah batting averages due to patience and moderate power. Not sure how he fits into roster scheme but would make a nice trade chit.
19) Nick Goody, RHP, Grade C+: The Yankees do good work finding the college relievers and LSU product Goody could follow in Montgomery's footsteps as a bullpen dominator if the early results are any indication.
20) Dante Bichette JR, 3B, Grade C+: Borderline C. You could slot toolsy-but-impatient outfielders Zoilo Almonte or Melky Mesa here and both will be ready far sooner than Bichette. Both also have significant problems with plate discipline which will likely prevent them from reaching their potential, though they could be useful as reserves. Bichette, meanwhile, is a sound defender at third base who didn't hit nearly as well as expected in Low-A. He will get more chances to live up to his bloodline.
OTHERS: David Adams, 2B; Zoilo Almonte, OF; Austin Aune, SS; Dellin Betances, RHP; Gregory Bird, 1B; Daniel Camarena, LHP; Jordan Cote, RHP; Cito Culver, SS; Rookie Davis, RHP; Tom Kahnle, RHP; Melky Mesa, OF; Ronnier Mustelier, UT; Vidal Nuno, LHP; Branden Pinder, RHP; Jose Pirela, UT; Jose A. Ramirez, RHP; Rob Refsnyder, OF; Francisco Rondon, LHP; Ravel Santana, OF; Adam Warren, RHP; Chase Whitley, RHP.
This is a system with a unique mixture of strengths, weaknesses, and lots of question-marks.
The greatest depth is in the outfield. Austin, Heathcott, and Williams all have All-Star potential. Austin has the best balance between tools and skills. Heathcott has made a lot of progress over the last year but has to prove he can stay on the field. Williams could develop into a star on both offense and defense, but the buzz about his makeup was unusually public and unusually negative last summer. He has time to outgrow that, but it was enough to give some pause.
Gary Sanchez, meanwhile, has the combination of a booming bat and a premium defensive position, assuming that he keeps making progress behind the plate. There is additional catching depth as well. Beyond the top group of outfielders and catchers, there are some guys who look like useful role players, but they all have doubts or questions of some kind. Cuban defector Ronnier Mustelier is too old to be a "real" prospect at age 28, but the guy can hit and could be useful for several teams if the Yankees don't want him.
Pitching is tough to get a grasp on. Injury attrition has taken a toll. There is a lot of material for a bullpen and much of it will be ready soon, but what about starting pitching? Campos has a great ceiling but how is his elbow? Is Hensley's shoulder a real issue? How will Banuelos recover from Tommy John? Is Rafael DePaula the real thing?
DePaula is the real wild card here: you can draw a scenario where he is one of the top pitching prospects in the game six months from now, but it is hard to assume that for a 21/22 year old based on 62 innings in the Dominican Summer League against high school-age kids.