This morning we turn to the New York Yankees in our series of 2014 farm system reviews. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON list. This is not a new list. These are pre-season rankings and grades. This is a review of 2014, not a preview of 2015.
1) Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, Grade A. 12-4, 2.51 in 18 starts for the Yankees, 135/19 K/BB in 129 innings. Obviously outstanding before the elbow injury.
2) Gary Sanchez, C, Grade B+: Hit .270/.338/.406 with 13 homers, 43 walks, 91 strikeouts in 429 at-bats for Double-A Trenton, threw out 39% of runners although error rate remains high. Not a bad year at age 21 but not dominant either.
3) Greg Bird, 1B, Grade B: Hit .277/.375/.442 in 274 at-bats for High-A Tampa, then .253/.379/.558 in 95 at-bats for Double-A Trenton. Still profiles as low-batting average hitter with good OBP and power.
4) Eric Jagielo, 3B, Grade B: Hit .259/.354/.460 in 309 at-bats for Tampa, 16 homers, 38 walks, 93 strikeouts. Defense was rough and he had to fight injuries but finished strong. Like Bird, a low-average hitter with power and hopefully OBP. Age 22.
5) Slade Heathcott, OF, Grade B-: Played just nine games due to knee injury.
6) J. R. Murphy, C, Grade B-: Hit .246/.292/.397 in 196 at-bats in Triple-A, .292/.311/.375 in 74 at-bats in the majors. Seems likely to have a career as a role player. Age 23.
7) Tyler Austin, OF, Grade B-: Hit .275/.336/.419 with nine homers, 36 walks, 80 strikeouts in 396 at-bats for Trenton. Production slightly above league norms at 110 wRC+. He had a bad wrist last year and it may have still been bothering him early this season; he had a slow start but hit .336/.397/.557 in his last month of action. Age 23, needs to get his momentum back in ’15.
8) Aaron Judge, OF, Grade B-: Hit .333/.428/.530 with nine homers for Low-A Charleston in 234 at-bats, then .283/.441/.442 with eight homers in 233 at-bats for Tampa. Combined for 89 walks, 131 strikeouts. Did a good job with power, only stole one base despite projecting as a steal threat pre-season. Age 22. Stock up.
9) Luis Severino, RHP, Grade B-: Dominant season in Low-A, High-A, Double-A, combined for 2.46 ERA, 127/27 K/BB in 113 innings, 93 hits. Scouting reports are as good as the numbers; this breakthrough candidate broke through. Age 20, at least a B+ at this point.
10) Ian Clarkin, LHP, Grade B-: Successful full-season debut for 2013 first-rounder, posted, 3.12 ERA with 75/23 K/BB in 75 innings for Charleston and Tampa, 71 hits. Age 19.
11) Gosuke Katoh, 2B, Grade B-: Hit .222/.345/.326 with three homers, 71 walks, 142 strikeouts, 20 steals in 383 at-bats for Charleston. Good patience, but lacks power at this point. Age 19.
12) Mason Williams, OF, Grade C+: Hit .223/.290/.304 with 21 steals, 47 walks, 68 strikeouts in 507 at-bats for Trenton. Second-straight disappointing season, reports remain good on glove but has made no progress with the hitting and is now 23. Stock declining.
13) Jose Ramirez, RHP, Grade C+: 5.40 ERA in 10 big league innings, 10/7 K/BB. Sent down to Scranton in July and went on the DL almost immediately. Good arm, can still be a good reliever if he stays healthy and improves his command. Age 24.
14) Dellin Betances, RHP, Grade C+: Incredible season in Yankees bullpen, 1.37 ERA with 128/23 K//BB in 86 innings, just 42 hits allowed. He’s found his niche.
15) Manny Banuelos, LHP, Grade C+: Tommy John recovery season, pitched High-A, Double-A, Triple-A combining for 4.11 ERA, 71/31 K/BB in 77 innings, 64 hits. Age 23, now needs to show how he handles larger workload next year.
16) Rafael De Paula, RHP, Grade C+: Traded to San Diego Padres, posted 4.92 ERA with 145/55 K/BB in 132 innings between Tampa and Lake Elsinore in the California League, 135 hits. Age 23, no question about the arm strength but still working on consistency.
17) Luis Torrens, C, Grade C+: Hit .270/.327/.405 with two homers, 14 walks, 41 strikeouts in 185 at-bats for Staten Island in the New York-Penn League. Threw out 42% of runners but gave up 14 passed balls in 39 games. Age 18, good reports on his defensive potential.
18) Jose Campos, RHP, Grade C+: Missed season with Tommy John surgery.
19) Miguel Andujar, 3B, Grade C+: Borderline C. Hit .267/.318/.397 with 10 homers, 35 walks, 83 strikeouts in 484 at-bats for Charleston. League-average production from a 19 year old, but hit .319/.367/.456 in second half of the season; breakthrough candidate for 2015.
20) Nik Turley, LHP, Grade C+: Borderline C. 4.62 ERA with 44/43 K/BB in 60 innings for Scranton, 55 hits. Disappointing slippage in K/BB ratio with increase in walks and decline in strikeouts compared to his previous standards. Age 25.
This is a farm system in a transitional phase, both in terms of talent turnover and imminent changes in the Yankees front office. While the farm system has been criticized frequently over the years, the fact is that several key members of the pitching staff are home-grown, including bullpen stalwart David Robertson, Adam Warren, David Phelps, rookie relief sensation Dellin Betances, and a pair of 15th round rookie sleepers who’ve proved useful in Shane Greene and Chase Whitley. The organization has shown the ability to find useable pitchers in later rounds of the draft and that’s a good skill to have.
Shane Greene, photo by Jim McIsaac, Getty Images
Pitching is also present on the farm, with Ian Clarkin and Luis Severino solidifying their standing among the better pitching prospects in all of baseball. Manny Banuelos and Bryan Mitchell could be ready for larger roles next year. Austin DeCarr and Jacob Lindgren from the 2014 draft add additional depth.
Lack of impact bats is an issue. The "future stars" outfield trio of Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, and Mason Williams that got so much hype a couple of years ago disintegrated due to injuries and general ineffectiveness in Double-A. They could still be role players, but the strongest hopes for regular bats now rest on Greg Bird, Eric Jagielo, and Aaron Judge. Jake Cave and Robert Refsnyder are also moving up the prospect lists quickly. There are no certain stars in that group, either, but this summer’s massive investment in Latin American talent may change that in a few years.
The Yankees ranked 21st among the 30 farm systems for me pre-season. That could improve quickly over the next few campaigns if the ’14 international class lives up to expectations.