Hey everyone, not sure how many read over at Pinstriped Bible, but I have been writing there recently, and finished off my midseason top 30 Yankees prospects last week. I figured I would condense it into one post and share it here. Fair warning, it is long. Enjoy, and hope to see you over at Pinstriped Bible! (I just posted a story on Greg Bird today, you should check it out!)
Here is the list of Yankees top 30 prospects, created July 12th:
|Rank||Name||Age||Position||Highest level 2013|
|1||Gary Sanchez||20||C||Trenton (AA)|
|2||Mason Williams||21||CF||Trenton (AA)|
|3||Rafael DePaula||22||RHP||Tampa (A+)|
|4||Greg Bird||20||1B||Charleston (A)|
|5||J.R. Murphy||22||C||Scranton (AAA)|
|6||Jose Vicente Campos||20||RHP||Charleston (A)|
|7||Eric Jagielo||21||3B||Staten Island (Low-A)|
|8||Slade Heathcott||22||CF||Trenton (AA)|
|10||Jose Ramirez||23||RHP||Scranton (AAA)|
|11||Tyler Austin||21||RF||Trenton (AA)|
|13||Nik Turley||23||LHP||Scranton (AAA)|
|15||Mark Montgomery||22||RHP||Scranton (AAA)|
|16||Dietrich Enns||22||LHP||Tampa (A+)|
|17||Peter O'Brien||22||C/3B||Tampa (A+)|
|18||Brett Marshall||23||RHP||New York (MLB)|
|20||Angelo Gumbs||20||2B||Tampa (A+)|
|21||Cito Culver||20||SS||Charleston (A)|
|22||Luis Torrens||17||C||GCL (Rookie)|
|23||Austin Aune||19||RF||GCL (Rookie)|
|24||Jose Pirela||23||2B||Trenton (AA)|
|25||Jake Cave||20||CF||Charleston (A)|
|26||Rob Refsnyder||22||2B||Tampa (A+)|
|27||Rookie Davis||20||RHP||Staten Island (Low-A)|
|28||Jordan Cote||20||RHP||GCL (Rookie)|
|29||Ben Gamel||21||LF||Tampa (A+)|
|30||Evan Rutckyj||21||LHP||Charleston (A)|
Some of these would change today. Players omitted that I might be on now include Jairo Heredia, Gosuke Katoh, Thairo Estrada, Luis Severino, and Nate Mikolas. Write-ups below include stats at time of write-up.
1. Gary Sanchez was signed by the Yankees in 2009 as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican for $3 million, which is the 4th-highest signing bonus the Yankees have ever given to a player. Seen as one of the better international bats that year, the Yankees decided to develop him at catcher, drastically increasing his value if the position stuck. So far, so good. Each year, he has had modest improvements defensively, but like Murphy, he has taken a big step forward in this facet of his game in 2013. Looking at traditional stats, he has posted the highest fielding percentage of his career (.988), the highest caught-stealing rate (45%), and the lowest rate of passed balls (13.75 per 100 games).
Over his minor-league career, he has a .277/.341/.475 line, with a 22.0 K%, a 7.8 BB%, and a 126 wRC+. That would be outstanding production for any position, and doing it as a catcher makes him a premium prospect. He has legit power, and although he could afford to walk some more, his strikeout rate has dropped by more than a third, from 27% to 17%, in the past two years, which is a great sign. His plus bat speed is now being complemented by better contact rates, which will lead to better power and production.
In 2013, he began the season with Tampa, looking to build on the 117 wRC+ in 185 plate appearances he had there in 2012. He actually did worse in Tampa this year over 399 plate appearances, only producing a 105 wRC+. However, he also had the lowest BABIP in his career by far, 31 points below his next-lowest rate (Charleston in 2011), and 64 points below his second-lowest rate (Tampa last year). The Yankees decided he was ready for a promotion, and promoted him to Double-A Trenton this past week, at the ripe old age of 20. He has a .944 OPS, 169 wRC+ in his first 18 plate appearances in Trenton. At this point, he will probably return to Trenton to start 2014, with a mid-season promotion to Scranton if all goes well. If not, he will still be 21, and a full season in Double-A next year will not set him back much. By 2016, he should be battling Murphy to be the starting catcher in the Bronx, and could turn JR into trade bait. Either way, he is a very exciting prospect, and should be on most top-30 prospect list this offseason.
2. Mason Williams was drafted in the fourth round in 2010 out of high school in Winter Garden, FL. He was ranked in the top 150 draft prospects by Baseball America, as a small, toolsy prospect who had questions about his bat but with elite speed and defense in center field. It took $1.45 million to sign him away from South Carolina, the largest signing bonus the Yankees gave out in 2010. He quickly climbed up the rankings for the Yankees, and was seen as one of their top three prospects at the end of the 2011 and 2012 seasons. The tools he showed in high school were quick to translate to pro-ball, and he produced at an above-average rate in every stop after his first summer in the minors.
Over 1147 plate appearances so far, he has been 19% better than league-average offensively, with a 119 wRC+. This has translated to a .298/.352/.426 line, with a 7.4 BB% and a 12.9 K%, and 62 stolen bases in 98 attempts. In 2013, he has struggled offensively, although he has turned it around of late. On the year, he has a .265/.331/.360 line for Tampa, but a .303/.340/.414 line since the All-Star break, with a 8.5 BB%, 12.9 K%, and a 98 wRC+.
He has been compared to another toolsy outfield prospect the Yankees once had, Austin Jackson. A-Jax was traded away for Curtis Granderson, and has turned himself into one of the better players in baseball, putting up 14.1 fWAR since his debut in 2010. However, Jackson had a career .763 OPS in the minors, with a 112 wRC+, versus Mason's .796 OPS and 119 wRC+. Plus, Jackson struck out almost twice as often as Mason (23.8 K% vs. 12.9 K%).That is not to say that he will be as good as Jackson, only that so far he has performed better in the minors than Jackson did.
He has plus speed, but he still needs to work on to turn into a productive tool on the basepaths, as he only has been successful stealing bases 63.3% of the time. Combine that with potentially elite defense, and there is a reason why he is the most exciting outfield prospect the team has had since Ruben Rivera. He has had some maturity issues, not always listening to his coaches (according to reports), and being arrested for a DUI If he can get the maturity level up (and he is only 21), he should be an average starter in the majors, with the potential to be an all-star.
3. Rafael De Paula originally signed with the Yankees in 2010 for $500,000, after being blocked the year prior from signing by MLB, due to his shady records. After admitting that he was actually a year older than he originally said he was, the Yankees signed him. However, it took him over two years to finally get a visa to come play ball in the states, due to the same issue. He threw 61.2 innings over 14 starts in the Dominican Summer League in 2012, with a 1.46 ERA, 1.84 FIP, 35.9 K%, 7.6 BB%, and a 4.7 K/BB ratio.
His performance in 2013 has many Yankees fans excited, and led to him making many mid-season top 50 prospect lists. He started the year with Charleston, putting up a 2.94 ERA, 2.03 FIP, 37.5 K%, 9.0 BB%, and a 4.2 K/BB ratio. This lead to a spot on the International Team at the Futures Game. He pitched a scoreless inning, with a strikeout, and hit a batter with a errant slider. After the Futures Game, he was promoted to Tampa. He has not been as effective in High-A ball, seeing a jump in hits and walks, and a drop in strikeouts that has produced a 6.25 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 24.3 K%, 12.8 BB%, and a less -than-stellar 1.9 K/BB ratio. He will probably start 2014 back in Tampa until he proves he can adapt and produce better than he has thus far. Given how little pro experience he has due to the visa issues, we have to go more on his stuff and scouting reports, and take a wait-and-see approach, especially once he reaches AA in late 2014 or 2015.
De Paula has the best stuff of any pitching prospects in the Yankees system right now. His mid-90s fastball has good movement and some late hop. His slider is inconsistent, but when it's on, it is nasty. The change-up is a work in progress. If his slider command and consistency comes along, he probably won't need much of a change-up, even as a starter. If it doesn't, and his change doesn't develop into a plus pitch, he could still be a plus late-inning relief arm. But right now, the team will continue to develop him as a starter until he proves he can't do it, with dreams of a top of the rotation arm dancing in their heads.
4. Greg Bird is a first baseman drafted in the fifth round in 2011 by the Yankees out of high school in Aurora, CO. Bird was known for his big-time power and polished bat coming into the draft, and it took $1.1 million to sign him away from the University of Arkansas, the highest bonus given out by the Yankees in 2011. He was a catcher in high school, but the Yankees immediately moved him to first base. He only got 13 PA in 2011, and split 2012 between the GCL Yankees and Staten Island. Over a 109 PA in 2012, he had a .337/.450/.494 line, with a 180 wRC+, striking out in 21.1% of his plate appearances, while walking in 15.6% of them.
He has built on this in 2013, with a .289/.416/.503 line in Charleston over 474 PA, with a 17.5 BB%, a 23.8 K%, and a 144 wRC+. The home runs have not showed up in Charleston, but he has hit 20 doubles. Since 2011, he has a .287/.408/.452 line in his first 392 professional PA, with 7 HR, 26 2B, 64 BB, 93 K, and a 162 wRC+. He has a legit, possibly even elite, bat, which is good since he is a first baseman. In fact, he may be the best first base prospect in baseball right now, especially looking at performance. And he has only gotten better as the season as gone on. He put up a .281/.405/.455 line in 224 pre-ASG plate appearances, and a .288/.430/.569 in the 160 plate appearances since.
In the minor leagues this year, with a minimum of 400 plate appearances, he is 7th in wRC+, with his 62% above league-average production. The six players ahead of him are all at least 25 years old, and three of them are in the Mexican League. Of the five first basemen with 400 plate appearances age 20 or younger, he is first in wRC+, the next closest being Dan Vogelbach at 126 wRC+, 36% lower than Bird. He looks like he could be the eventual replacement for Mark Teixeira in a few years - he could join the club some time in 2016. He is the best first base prospect the Yankees have had since Nick Johnson, and should be a top 100 prospect for them by the end of the year.
5. J.R. Murphy is a catcher drafted in the second round out of high school from Bradenton, FL. It took a $1.25 million signing bonus to get him to pick pro ball over the Miami Hurricanes baseball team. He has spent most of his time at catcher in the minor leagues, playing 297 of 312 career games at that position. He has a minor-league career batting line of .265/.330/.405, with a 8.8 BB%, a 15.4 K%, and a 105 wRC+. Out of high school, he was a bat-first catching prospect, and his defense was a bit rough over the first few years of his pro career. However, according to scouting reports, he has made some nice strides in that department this year, and now projects to be an average defensive catcher in the major leagues.
The great news about his glove has been supplemented by his best season with the bat since being drafted. This year, as a 22-year-old, he has a .268/.349/.420 line between Double-A and Triple-A, which is 14% better than league-average (114 wRC+). He has maintained an very good walk rate (10.7 BB%) with an equally impressive strikeout rate (15.1%). He has cooled down quite a bit since the All-Star break, posting a .212/.297/.333 line over 66 plate appearances, versus his .309/.377/.479 line in his first 94 plate appearances in Scranton. This shows he probably can use more time in Triple-A, especially considering this is his first year playing above A-ball. However, the bat has always had potential, and has produced at an above-average rate in his minor-league career. Combine that with the growth on the defensive side of his game, and he should be able to compete for the starting catcher gig out of spring training next year.
I'd expect him to start the year in Triple-A, and be called up once either he makes it impossible to ignore him, or one of the Stewart/Cervelli/Romine team implodes. Although he will probably not be the long-term answer at catcher for the team, given who the top prospect is, he should be a serviceable starter until 2016, at which point he can be used in a trade.
6. Jose Vicente Campos was signed by the Mariners out of Venezuela in 2009 as a 16-year-old for a little over $100,000. The big righty (6'4", 195) came over with Michael Pineda before the 2012 season, with Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi going to the Mariners. He has a mid-90s fastball that generates ground balls, a change-up that flashes plus, and a developing breaking ball. He has had amazing control, especially given his young age. In his minor league career, he has a 3.33 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 23.2 K%, 6.3 BB%, 3.65 K/BB. So far in 2013, as a 20-year-old in Single-A Charleston, Campos has a 3.27 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 22.2 K%, 5.1 BB%, 4.4 K/BB. That is a very, very good performance.
Campos did struggle with nagging injuries last year, and may need surgery in the future, though he has been able to stay healthy, and almost passed his career high in innings pitched, even though he is only averaging four innings per start. The Yankees are being cautious with him, and rightfully so. He is one of the Yankees' highest-potential starting pitcher prospects, right there with Ian Clarkin, Manny Banuelos, and Jose Ramirez, and he is only behind one other Yankees pitching prospect who is in the team's top five. He will probably progress one level per year, and should make Triple-A Scranton by 2016, with a chance to make the big league roster that same year or in 2017. So patience is still a virtue, but Campos could turn into something special for a team that has struggled to develop starting pitchers in recent years.
7. Eric Jagielo was the first of the three 2013 first rounders to sign, agreeing to slot as a junior out of Notre Dame. He was considered a highly-polished bat for this year's draft class. He put up a .388/.500/.633 this year in college, with 9 home runs, 35 walks versus 33 strikeouts, and 15 (!) hit by pitches (or 42 per 650 at bats). He did play with Craig Biggio's son Conor, so maybe the old man taught him how to take one for the team. So far, excluding the one game he played in rookie ball, Jagielo has a .262/.386/.345 line in Staten Island, which, given the hitting environment, is a strong 131 wRC+. He is walking at a good clip (11.9 BB%), and not striking out too much (18.8 K%), but the power has been lacking so far, with only one home run, and a .083 ISO. Given the small sample, and this being his first taste of pro ball, I expect that will change between now and the end of the year.
Jagielo's bat could be big-league ready by 2015, but the question he will face is his glove. He is currently at third base, but the scouting community is pretty pessimistic on his chances to stay at the hot corner. He should be given every chance to stay, especially because a third baseman is much more valuable to the team, but his bat may pressure the Yankees to move him to first base or a corner outfield spot. He projects to be an above-average third baseman if everything goes right, and I could see him end up somewhere between Bill Mueller and Corey Koskie offensively, with slightly below average defense that will eventually move him off the hot corner and put more pressure on his bat.
8. Slade Heathcott was drafted in the first round in 2009 out of high school in Texas. He was known as a toolsy center field prospect, with some family and personal issues that reflected poorly on his makeup. This did not scare away the Yankees, who saw his potential and drafted him much higher than most expected. He has always hit well, and is known for his defense. However, he has had a hard time staying healthy with two surgeries on his throwing shoulder since entering pro ball. This is the first season he has stayed healthy all year - so far. Should that continue, proving he can stay healthy is a huge step for him.
Heathcott has a career minor league line of .269/.346/.404, good enough for a 112 wRC+, meaning he has been 12% better than league average with his bat. He really shot up prospect rankings after a strong Arizona Fall League showing in 2011, where he posted a .388/.494/.602, 192 wRC+. He built on this in 2012, posting a .302/.380/.461, 134 wRC+ line, mostly with High-A Tampa. Add in his stolen base potential and his above-average defense, and there is a reason why he was a top 100, many times a top-50, prospect this past offseason. So far, in his first taste of Double-A, his bat is not doing as well as it has in the past. He has a .257/.316/.400, 97 wRC+ line so far this year, and his prospect status has taken a hit because of it. Unlike Tyler Austin, however, he does have defensive value to fall back on. He has an .868 OPS in his last ten games, and an .851 OPS in July. If this continues, and he proves he has adjusted to Double-A, he will push back into the top five by the end of the year.
9. Aaron Judge was one of the Yankees' three first round draft picks in this summer's amateur draft. He was the last of the three to sign, and the only one to sign over-slot, getting $1.8 million to forego his senior season at Fresno State. That was the sixth-highest signing bonus ever for a Yankees draft pick. He is a monster of a man, 6'7 and over 250 pounds, but with the ability to stay in the OF. He was actually a center fielder in college and reminds me of Kyle Blanks, as a large and surprisingly athletic outfielder, with an above-average eye and power, but hopefully he will stay healthier than Blanks has.
For such a big guy, it took until his junior season to really start tapping into his power. He finished the 2013 college season with a .373/.461/.663 line, 11 HR and 47 K to 31 BB. He also has surprising speed, going 11 for 13 in stolen bases in 2013, and 35 for 40 in his college career. He showed better plate discipline his junior year, and the Yankees will hope that he can show that type of patience in pro ball because if he does struggle with strikeouts, it will hurt his chances to be successful long-term. He has yet to play a pro-game, hopefully he will get some games in this season, and that will allow to see if he struggles with contact in his first taste of pro ball.
10. Jose Ramirez was an unheralded international free agent who signed with the Yankees in 2007. In his minor league career, he has a 3.72 ERA, 8.6 K/9, 22.3 K%, 8.8 BB%, and a 2.54 K/BB. He has always had velocity, regularly pumping his fastball into the mitt in the mid-90s. His changeup quickly became a plus pitch, with deceptive arm action and good dropping action. He has continued to improve on his breaking ball each year, now possessing a slider with decent action and the potential to be an average major-league pitch. The quality of his breaking ball, along with command of his pitches, will likely determine if he can be a starter at the big-league level, or if he will have to move to the bullpen.
He is in his age-23 season, and was recently promoted to Triple-A Scranton, after dominating Double-A Trenton, putting up a 2.76 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 30.3 K%, and 3.33 K/BB. His FIP was a bit high, at 4.26, due to a high strand-rate and a low BABIP. In Scranton, he has not been as successful, with a drop in strikeouts (8.0 K/9, 20.4 K%) and a dramatic increase in walks (15.3 BB%, 1.33 K/BB). However, this is his first year above High-A Tampa, due to nagging injury issues earlier in his career. Given that, and the small Triple-A sample size, I am still optimistic about Ramirez's future. At the very least, he should be an above-average late-inning reliever, with the potential to be a closer in that role. Given the fact that he is the highest-rated starting pitching prospect to reach Scranton for the Yankees, he should get a few opportunities next year. I would expect him to debut in a role similar to that filled by David Phelps in 2012 and Adam Warren this year, as a long man and spot starter. He has more upside than either Phelps or Warren, and that should excite Yankees fans.
11. Tyler Austin was drafted in in the 13th round of the 2010 draft, signing for an overslot $130,000. He bounced around defensively in his first couple of years in pro ball, from first base to third base to his current right field. He will never be a strong defensive player, although his arm is good for right field. His value as a prospect comes from his bat. He crushed the ball in 2011 and 2012, moving from rookie ball all the way to Double-A Trenton. In 2011, he had a combined line of .354/.418/.579, with a 182 wRC+. He got very little attention, due to his low draft position and lack of a defensive home. In 2012, he continued to rake, posting a .322/.400/.559 line with a 163 wRC+. This started to get him noticed and he became a top 10 Yankees prospect (for many a top five prospect), coming into 2013.
Unfortunately, Austin has struggled, posting a .254/.344/.367 line in Trenton, although that is still good enough to be an average offensive player (100 wRC+). For his minor league career, he has a .304/.385/.496 line, with a 145 wRC+, and he has shown surprising adeptness on the basepaths, stealing 45 bases while only being caught twice. He is still young for Double-A at age 21 and can take the rest of this year to work on adjusting to the level. If he has to repeat Double-A next year he will still be age-appropriate. By the end of 2013, he could be back into the top ten with a strong finish.
12. Manny Banuelos was the Yankees top pitching prospect in 2011 and 2012, but fell down the rankings last year due to a drop in performance, more than likely due to the elbow injury that required him to undergo Tommy John surgery in October. Banuelos was signed out of Mexico in 2008 as a 17-year-old. Before the arm surgery, the small lefty had a mid-90s fastball, an average curveball, and an average change, both with the potential to be plus pitches. In his minor-league career, he has a 3.12 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 9.1 K/9, 23.9 K%, 3.6 BB/9, 9.3 BB%, 2.55 K/BB. He is rehabbing right now and could make an appearance in the Arizona Fall League. If not, expect him to return to Triple-A Scranton next spring, and will still be an age-appropriate 23. If he can bounce back from the surgery, he could be in the Yankees starting rotation in 2015.
13. Nik Turley was drafted in the 50th and final round of 2008, a round that doesn't even exist anymore. As a Mormon, he was seen as a tough sign and was expected to go on mission before attending college. However, he signed for fifth round money, $150,000, to break his commitment to BYU. Turley is a 6'7" lefty with a low-90s fastball who has moved along slowly in the Yankees system. He doesn't possess any one out-pitch, but has a solid average curveball, a good fastball for a lefty, and a change-up that flashes some above-average potential. His stuff plays up though, due to a bulldog mentality. He has spent all but one start in Double-A Trenton this year, posting a 4.23 ERA, 4.25 FIP, 8.6 K/9, 24.0 K%, 4.6 BB/9, 11.8 BB%, 2.04 K/BB.
Over his six minor league seasons, Turley has posted a 3.30 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 8.6 K/9, 22.6 K%, 3.5 BB/9, 9.3 BB%, 2.44 K/BB. Like Montgomery, he has struggled with his control this year, posting the highest walk rate of his pro career. It could be that he is trying to be too fine with his command in Double-A, resulting in more walks and more home runs. I had him in my top ten pre-season, but given the talent added in the draft, some risers, and his struggles, this seems appropriate. Next year will be a huge test for him. He will be a 24-year-old in Triple-A - if he can show that he can make adjustments, he could be on the big league team next year. If not, he could be trade fodder or minor league depth by 2015.
14. Ian Clarkin was drafted out of high school with one of this year's three first round picks. A great pick who surprisingly fell to the Yankees, he was basically tied with Robert Kaminsky for the second-best high school lefty in this year's draft, behind Trey Ball. I had him at 21 on my personal draft board, so getting him at 33 was great value. He signed fairly early for slot, $1.65 million, even though there were rumblings that he would be a tough sign needing an overslot bonus to pry away from San Diego. Clarkin is a big lefty with a mid-90s fastball and above-average curveball whose mechanics remind some of Clayton Kershaw. He hasn't made his pro debut yet, and probably won't pitch much this year as a high school arm. This could be too low for him, but I am being conservative, wanting to see how he does in pro ball before ranking him too highly. He is the most exciting HS arm we've drafted since Gerrit Cole, and signed since Phil Hughes. I could easily see him shoot to the top of the Yankees prospect list in 2014, and onto top 100 lists by the end of next year.
15. Mark Montgomery was a top ten prospect before the season began, and was seen as potentially the eventual successor to Mariano Rivera. Montgomery was drafted in the 11th round of the 2011 draft, out of Longwood University in Virginia. He fit the Oppenheimer mold of quick-moving college relievers with one out pitch. Unlike many of these picks, Montgomery showed a lights-out, major league level slider as soon as he entered pro ball, collecting 51 strikeouts in 28.1 innings after being drafted - a ridiculous 16.2 K/9, 41.1 K%. He was similarly dominant in 2012, reaching Double-A and posted a combined 13.8 K/9, 39.4 K%. His K% didn't drop as much as his K/9 because he also cut his walk rate, from 4.1 BB/9 and 10.5 BB% to 3.1 BB/9 and 8.8 BB%.
Before 2013, he was poised to debut in Triple-A, with the expectation that he would be promoted to the big league bullpen sometime in the summer. He has fought injuries and has struggled in his transition to Triple-A. So far in 2013, he has put up a less than amazing 10.9 K/9, 27.1 K%, 4.8 BB/9, 13.9 BB%. His K/BB dropped by 56.7%, from 4.5 to 1.95 K/BB. He still should become an average middle reliever pretty easily, but he has the potential to be one of the better relief arms in the league. He will have some hiccups, like David Robertson did at first, with command and control, but assuming he works through this, he and Robertson could be a very nice 1-2 punch at the end of games over the next few years.
16. Dietrich Enns was a 19th round draft pick in the 2012 draft out of Central Michigan University. Picked as organizational filler with a chance to be a MLB reliever, Enns has so far exceeded those modest expectations. The short lefty (6'1", 195) can reach the low 90s with his fastball, and has a good curve and excellent change-up. In 2013, he has become one of the more exciting prospects for the Yankees, and probably would've made the top twenty had he stayed in the bullpen given his strong K% and K/BB ratio. However, the Yankees saw potential in him to be a starter and so far he has not disappointed. His first start came in Charleston. Afterward, he was promoted to Tampa, where he has remained in the rotation. Overall, he has a 1.46 ERA, 35.7 K%, and 4.3 K/BB between Charleston and Tampa this year. As a starter in Tampa, he has a 3.04 ERA, 27.1 K%, and 3.3 K/BB over his first 23.2 innings. Over his professional career, he holds a 1.71 ERA, 29.0 K%, and 3.5 K/BB. Even more exciting is that he has yet to give up a home run in his first 110.2 professional innings. If he continues this, he could vault into the top three arms for the Yankees, and the top ten for the farm system by the end of the year. Added pluses - one of cooler names in the system, he already did an interview with Jason Cohen, and he has an old-school over the top mechanics that remind me of Sandy Koufax (only the mechanics, not the expected results).
17. Peter O'Brien was a third round draft pick in the 2012 draft out of the University of Miami. He had previously been drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2011, but went back to school for his senior year. He was known as a bat-first college catcher, someone who was too big (6'3", 215) and too rough defensively to stay behind the plate. The Yankees gave him 94 games at catcher before recently moving him to third base. He has the arm for the position, but I'm not sure how the hands and range will pan out at the hot corner. If it doesn't work, he will have to move to first base – he doesn't have the range to handle the outfield. But wherever he plays, he will reach the majors because of his bat. So far, in 546 professional plate appearances, he has hit .272/.322/.513 with a 26.9 K% and a 6.4 BB%. This year he has scorched the ball with a .317/.370/.598, 166 wRC+ line combined between Charleston and Tampa. He was showing some promise in Charleston, dropping his K% and increasing his BB%, but that improvement has disappeared in Tampa, with his BB% dropping from 9.7% to 3.2% and his K% rising from 25.7% to 29.0%. And there is the rub with O'Brien. As good as his bat has been, he has significant issues with plate discipline and contact. This, combined with his defensive homelessness and old-for-competition age, makes me hesitant to move him much past this spot. He does have an outside chance of the top-15 at the end of the year if he can improve the walk and strikeout numbers, and show some growth at the hot corner defensively.
18. Brett Marshall was drafted by the Yankees in the sixth round in 2008 out of high school in Baylands, TX. It took $850,000 (plus $200,000 for future college costs) to sign him away from playing college ball at Rice. He broke out in 2010 in the Yankees system, getting noticed with a 2.57 ERA, 20.5 K%, and 2.7 K/BB over three levels and 84 innings before finishing the year in Tampa. He continued this success in 2011 and 2012, reaching Double-A Trenton as a 22 year old, with a 3.52 ERA, 18.1 K%, and 2.3 K/BB in 158.1 innings. His strikeout numbers have slipped as he has gone up the ladder, as has his ERA. However, he has continued to post excellent ground ball rates, posting a 60.8 GB% over his minor league career. He has struggled this year, posting a 5.99 ERA in Triple-A Scranton, with a 18.6 K% and only a 1.43 K/BB, the worst numbers of his career. His BB% has jumped, as has his HR%, while his LOB% has dropped. And that isn't even including his horrible MLB debut. He could be hitting a developmental wall, finding out his stuff isn't quite up to par for the high minors and the major leagues. However, for now I still have faith that he can become a back of the rotation starter or swingman, especially with that sinker, and could fill Adam Warren's role next year if Warren makes the starting rotation. If he continues to struggle this year, he may be much lower in the rankings by the end of the year.
19. Ty Hensley was the Yankees first round draft pick in the 2012 MLB draft out of high school in Edmond, OK. His father was a pro ballplayer, and he was a consensus first round pick leading up the the draft. I had proposed him as a possible Yankees draft pick in December 2011 over at minorleagueball.com, due to him being a big high school righty (6'4", 220) with a plus fastball and curveball, comparing him to Phil Hughes (the draft prospect). However, he was old for the draft class, turning 19 shortly after signing. He signed 25% less than slot due to an abnormality found in an MRI of his shoulder. He did have 12 innings of pro ball to get his feet wet, posting a 3.00 ERA, 24.6 K%, and 2.0 K/BB. Going into the season, I had him in my top ten Yankees prospects. However, late in March it was discovered that he had a tear in his hip labrum (the same injury that sidelined A-Rod). He will not pitch this year, and will return next year in his age-21 season, probably in Charleston. Because we don't know how he will come back from the injury and surgery, he has fallen down the rankings.
20. Angelo Gumbs was drafted in the second round in 2010 out of Torrence, CA. He was a toolsy up-the-middle player who was a bit of a surprise in the second round. However, he was also one of the youngest players in the draft, and young high school draftees have higher success rates than older ones. He possesses amazing bat speed, being compared to Gary Sheffield by some. His defense at second is average, with the potential to be more than that. So far he has put up a .254/.308/.394 line in professional ball, which on the surface seems weak. Overall, that equals a 96 wRC+ over 791 PA, with 53 stolen bases at a 76.8% success rate. Over the 2011 and 2012 seasons, he had a 110 wRC+, while being one of the youngest players in the league. He is in his fourth pro season, and he won't turn 21 until after the end of the year. He did have some struggles in his first taste of Tampa, but has turned it around since being demoted back to Charleston, putting up an .800 OPS and a 121 wRC+. Don't be surprised if he gets promoted back to Tampa at some point. He is one of my favorite Yankees prospects, and was in my top ten before the season. However, the K% and his low batting averages are a concern, as are his struggles in Tampa. This drop in the ranks is a reflection of that, combined with some new draftees and prospects that have gone up in the rankings. I am not sure if he will be in the top ten at the end of the year, but he could easily be in the top fifteen.
21. Cito Culver is the lightning rod of Yankees prospects. He was drafted in the first round in 2010 out of high school in Rochester, New York. The local product was seen as quite an overdraft by most - he was ranked the 168th best draft prospect by Baseball America. The Maryland commit was a glove first shortstop prospect, with questions about his bat. As a professional, his calling card has been strong glove, questionable bat. One of his strengths when he was drafted was his youth – he is still in his age 20 season, but this is his fourth season of professional baseball. So far, he has been very good this year. As a 20-year-old with Charleston in the South Atlantic League, he has put up a .231/.317/.369 line, good enough for a 96 wRC+ in a low-offense environment. Even repeating the league, there are only nine players younger than Cito in the Sally League. Of the 17 shortstops in the league with at least 250 PA, Cito ranks 8th in wRC+. The only two shortstops ahead of him that are younger are 6th and 7th, and within three points of wRC+. Shockingly, as I had pretty much given up on him, it looks like Culver might still turn into a useful prospect after all.
22. Luis Torrens was the second-best international free agent in the summer of 2012, according to Baseball America. The Yankees signed the Venezuelan catcher for $1.3 million and he made his pro debut this year, hitting .294/.368/.451 in his first 57 plate appearances. Getting that type of production from a 17-year-old international free agent in stateside ball is very exciting. He was mostly a third baseman before signing with the Yankees, so his defense behind the plate is still a project, but he has the athleticism and arm to make it work longterm. Because he's a bat-first catcher from Venezuela, the comparisons to Jesus Montero will be inevitable. If he turns into anywhere near that good of a prospect, Yankees fans will be ecstatic.
23. Austin Aune was drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft out of high school in Argyle, Texas. He was drafted as a shortstop and spent last summer playing there for the GCL Yankees, but this year the team has decided to move him to right field. He had the athleticism to play shortstop, or third base in the long run, but I think the team wanted to fast track his bat. He hit .273/.358/.410 last year, with a 130 wRC+. However, his bat has not had the same impact in 2013 as he has hit only .161/.156/.258, 13 wRC+ line, albeit in only 32 plate appearances with the GCL Yankees. He has a beautiful swing from the left side and I expect that he will turn things around this season. If not, he may drop to the back of the top 30 at the end of the year.
24. Jose Pirela was signed as an international free agent in 2006 out of Valera, Venezuela for $300,000. He began his pro career as a shortstop in 2007 in the Dominican Summer League. He has progressed through the system one level at a time, although he has been playing with Trenton since 2011. Last year, he moved off of SS, becoming a second baseman, and put up an .802 OPS, 123 wRC+. This year in Trenton, he has continued to produce, putting up a .259/.356/.397 line with 14 stolen bases and a 112 wRC+. His defense still needs work at second base, which is probably why he hasn't moved up to Triple-A (along with Corban Joseph's presence), but if I were the Yankees I would look to promote the stocky second baseman to Triple-A soon to give him a taste of the level before next season. If Robinson Cano doesn't re-sign, Pirela could join Joseph, David Adams, and Rob Refsnyder in the battle to replace Robbie.
25. Jake Cave was drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 draft from high school in Kecoughtan, Virginia. A knee injury sidelined him last year, but he has returned this year with only a little rust showing. He has a .267/.322/.399 line with 8 stolen bases, leading to a 102 wRC+ in a pitcher-friendly environment. His defense in center field hasn't taken the hit that was feared after he broke his kneecap in 2011. He could reach the top 20 by season's end, depending on how the second half goes for him. I expect he will perform even better in the second half, given the half a season he's had to shake off the rust.
26. Rob Refsnyder was drafted in the fifth round in 2012 out of the University of Arizona, where he was the 2012 College World Series MVP. He was seen as someone with an okay bat, but without a position on draft day. He is still trying to make second base work for him defensively, But his bat has been quite surprising this year, even though it has cooled down recently. This has moved him from organizational filler to an actual prospect who could be a contributor at the big league level. Over the season, split between Charleston and Tampa, he has a .292/.404/.419 line, with 48 walks to 54 strikeouts, and a 138 wRC+. He still has to prove that he can continue this production as he moves up the ladder but so far so good.
27. Rookie Davis was drafted in 2011 by the Yankees in the 14th round out of high school in Sneads Ferry, North Carolina. He holds a special place for me, as I drafted him in the minorleagueball.com community mock draft before the real draft in the third round. It took $550,000 to sign him away from college. As a 6'3" 230+ pound right-hander, Davis has a 2.95 FIP, 2.67 K/BB, and a 20.4 K% in 36 innings. Similar to Cote, he has a very good change-up for a young pitcher, with a developing curveball and a low 90s fastball that can hit 95. The Yankees tend to go slowly with their young arms, but if the training wheels come off next year, I could see Davis fly up the Yankees prospect rankings.
28. Jordan Cote was drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft out of high school in Sanbornton, New Hampshire. He was a late-season helium draft prospect, who was a bit of a surprise in the third round. However, he has a good pitching frame at 6'5", 215 pounds, and uses it to generate a low-90s fastball. His best pitch, however, is his change-up, rare for a high school draftee, and even rarer for a cold-weather arm. He may be more raw than other pitchers in the system, but few have the potential that Cote has. A flag is that his season ended early in 2012 due to elbow soreness, so that is something to keep an eye on. So far, in 35 professional innings, he has a 1.54 ERA, 4.67 K/BB and a 19.7 K%.
29. Ben Gamel was drafted in the 10th round in 2010 from high school in Jacksonville, Florida. He is the younger brother of Milwaukee's oft-injured Mat Gamel and has a .288/.358/.424 line for High-A Tampa this season. On the surface, that doesn't seem like much, but he actually has a 121 wRC+, meaning he is creating 21% more offensive runs than a league-average bat. This is tied for 25th highest wRC+ in the Florida State League. He may never have much defensive value, but he could be a fourth outfielder, given his lefty bat and ability to handle center field if needed.
30. Evan Rutckyj was drafted in the 16th round in 2010 from high school in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He was considered a top-200 draft prospect by Baseball America, but fell due to his perceived cost and signability. The Yankees locked up the 6'5" lefty with a $500,000 signing bonus and has put up a 4.93 ERA in 76.2 IP, with a 1.94 K/BB, 19.8 K%, and a 4.13 FIP. His heavy fastball has resulted in a 1.46 GO/AO (Ground Out to Air Out) ratio. He may end up in the bullpen, but has an outside shot at making the big league club as a starting pitcher.
So there you have it, the top 30 Yankees prospects at the mid-season break. Some things have changed since this list started, and some more will change by the time the offseason gets here. The Yankees system should have at least two players on top-100 lists, and could have as many as four by the end of the season. After this year's draft, the future is looking brighter for the Yankees system than it has since the heyday of Brackman, Betances, Banuelos, and Montero.