New York Yankees Top 20 Prospects for 2015
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 2015 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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) Luis Severino, RHP, Grade B+/Borderline A-: Age 20, posted 2.46 ERA with 127/27 K/BB in 113 innings at three levels, finishing well in Double-A. Fastball up to 97, very good change-up, slider has improved, breakout season looks genuine, knows how to pitch. Possible number two starter if he holds up to full workload.
2) Aaron Judge, OF, Grade B+/Borderline A-: Age 22, Fresno State product hit .308/.419/.486 with 17 homers, 89 walks, 131 strikeouts in 467 at-bats at two levels of A-ball. Big raw power from 6-7 frame but has solid hitting/OBP skills to go with it, profiles as classic power-hitting right fielder.
3) Greg Bird, 1B, Grade B+/Borderline B: Age 22, hit .271/.376/.472 with 14 homers, 63 walks, 97 strikeouts in 369 at-bats in High-A and Double-A, sound strike zone judgment to go with power. Not a terrific athlete or fielder but projects as Nick Swisher-type hitter.
4) Rob Refsnyder, 2B, Grade B: Age 23, hit .318/.387/.497 with 38 doubles, 14 homers, 55 walks, 105 strikeouts in 515 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A. Former University of Arizona outfielder making progress at second base without losing any offensive momentum. Strong plate discipline and surprising pop, plays above his tools
5) Gary Sanchez, C, Grade B: Age 22, hit .270/.338/.406 with 13 homers, 43 walks, 91 strikeouts in 429 at-bats in Double-A. Effective at throwing out runners but defense remains rough otherwise, continues to produce above-average numbers for context without truly breaking through. Stock down somewhat, far from a lost cause but needs a clean transition to Triple-A.
6) Jacob Lindgren, LHP, Grade B: Age 21, second rounder out of Mississippi State in 2014 draft finished his first summer in Double-A, rapid rise on strength of fastball up to 94 and a killer slider. Could see majors in 2015 and not merely a LOOGY, has closer potential.
7) Ian Clarkin, LHP, Grade B/Borderline B-: About to turn 20, posted 3.21 ERA with 71/22 K/BB in 71 innings in Low-A, good control of low-90s fastball, curve, change-up, new cutter. Good pitchability, mid-rotation upside depending on stamina.
8) Luis Torrens, C, Grade B-/Borderline B: Age 18, hit .270/.327/.405, threw out 42% of runners in the New York-Penn League. Outstanding defensive skills are a no-brainer, projects well offensively but could still develop in any number of directions, we’ll have to see how hitting balances out. Could be at the top of this list a year from now if he maximizes offensive output.
9) Miguel Andujar, 3B, Grade B-: Age 19, hit.267/.318/.397 with 10 homers, 35 walks, 83 strikeouts in 484 at-bats in Low-A. Very hot in the second half, projects to hit for both power and average, needs defensive polish but has arm strength and range to manage third base with more experience. Stock on the rise.
10) Jorge Mateo, SS, Grade B-: Age 19, hit .276/.354/.397 with 11 steals in 58 at-bats in rookie ball. Excellent tools but missed most of the season with broken wrist. Would rank higher on pure tools alone but I’d like to see how they translate to higher levels. Power/speed potential and a good chance to remain at shortstop.
11) Tyler Austin, OF, Grade B-/Borderline C+: Age 23, hit .275/.336/.419 in Double-A but .336/.397/.557 in the last month of the season, as long-standing wrist/hand injury finally receded in the background. Maybe that is just cherry-picking stats but he hit well in Arizona Fall League, too. Still has a shot at being a solid player.
12) Eric Jagielo, 3B, Grade B-/Borderline C+: Age 22, hit .259/.354/.460 in Florida State League, which is strong production for context (wRC+132). Power is real, but platoon issues and defense could make him more of a role player than long-term regular.
13) Domingo German, RHP, Grade C+/Borderline B-: Age 22, acquired this winter from Marlins, posted 2.48 ERA with 113/25 K/BB in 123 innings in Low-A. Low-90s fastball, good change-up, throws strikes, breaking stuff draws mixed reviews and will be main focus of improvement as he moves up. Mid-rotation upside if that comes together.
14) Jose Ramirez, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, amazing pure stuff with mid/upper-90s heat but command issues and nagging injuries hold him back, 1.46 ERA with 16/10 K/BB in 12 innings in Triple-A, 5.40 ERA with 10/7 K/BB in 10 big league innings. Middle relief profile with closer possibilities if he can develop more consistency.
15) Bryan Mitchell, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, 4.37 ERA with 94/45 K/BB in 103 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Another low/mid-90s arm, sometimes higher, curve, change-up, and cutter all have potential but shaky command gives him an erratic track record. Mid-rotation slot possible if command improves, if not he’ll head to the bullpen.
16) Jake Cave, OF, Grade C+: Age 22, hit .294/.351/.414 between High-A and Double-A, something of a tweener perhaps without huge power or speed but featuring decent pure hitting skills, hustle, outfield versatility. Fourth outfielder profile.
17) Angel Aguilar, SS, Grade C+: Age 19, hit .311/.373/.536 with eight steals, 14 walks, 28 strikeouts in 151 at-bats in rookie ball. Small sample but tools are here for Venezuelan with a reasonable chance to stay at shortstop..
18) Alexander Palma, OF, Grade C+: Age 19, hit .305/.318/.451 with four homers, nine steals in 213 at-bats, just 15 strikeouts but only three walks in rookie ball. Observers report impressive bat speed and power potential, good use of speed on the bases, makes contact, unusually low strikeout rate for a guy with power. Very aggressive approach, however, and miniscule walk rate is a caution flag for higher level adjustment. If he transitions well to full-season ball will advance up the list quickly.
19) Ty Hensley, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, first round pick from 2012 has been slowed by hip labrum injuries but performed well in 31 innings in short-season ball last year, 2.93 ERA with 40/11 K/BB. Can hit mid-90s with strong curveball, needs innings to solidify his change-up and overall sense of command but has one of the highest ceilings in the system. Mid-rotation potential or maybe a bullpen option if durability remains an issue.
20) Austin DeCarr, RHP, Grade C+: Age 19, third round pick in 2014, posted 4.63 ERA with 24/7 K/BB in 23 innings in rookie ball. Sturdy 6-3, 220 build with low/mid-90s fastball, impressive curve. Cold-weather arm understandably needs polish with change-up and command but like Hensley he has mid-rotation possibilities.
OTHER GRADE C+: Abiatal Avelino, SS; Gosuke Katoh, 2B; Nick Rumbelow, RHP; Chasen Shreve, LHP; Tyler Wade, SS; Tyler Webb, LHP. These guys could be slotted in the 15-20 range.
OTHERS: Dante Bichette, 3B; Danny Burawa, RHP; Dan Camarena, LHP; Taylor Dugas, OF; Ramon Flores, OF; Michael Ford, 1B; Slade Heathcott, OF; Brady Lail, RHP; Jaron Long, RHP; Leonardo Molina, OF; Jordan Montgomery, LHP; Michael O’Neill, OF; Mark Payton, OF; Brandon Pinder, RHP; Jose Pirela, UT; Caleb Smith, LHP; Miguel Sulbaran, LHP; Mason Williams, OF.
While the Yankees farm system is not at the very top of the organization rankings,it has improved over the last couple of years, should continue to improve, and certainly rates as an upper-tier system. The large amount of Grade C+ talent gives depth and since much of that talent is quite young and projectable with potentially higher grades to come, there is a lot to look forward to.
The big news in 2014 was massive investment in the international market. The Yankees broke through the bonus limits to sign a highly-impressive class including shortstop Wilkerman Garcia, catcher Miguel Flames (great name), shortstops Diego Castillo and Nelson Gomez, and outfielders Juan De Leon, Bryan Emery, Antonio Arias, and Jonathan Amundaray. Those guys haven’t played yet and given the historic volatility of international signees it is best to be cautious at this point.. Many times the big bonus guys bust while lower bonus players develop unexpectedly.
For example, the best prospect in the system is right-hander Luis Severino, who got a $225,000 bonus in 2011. Impressive shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo got the same money, $225,000 in 2010. The Yankees have not eschewed lower bonus players of course and the 2014 signings do show their renewed commitment to farm development.
Among talents who have played, Severino is the best overall pitching prospect though he could be beaten to the majors by 2014 second rounder Jacob Lindgren. Jose Ramirez and Bryan Mitchell bring quality stuff to the cusp of the majors as well as questions about their roles. There are some potential four/five starters and other arms looking for bullpen work. The Yankees always seem to have a group of steady C/C+ type prospects, often from the college ranks, looking to slot in as Shane Greene or David Phelps (both since traded) style useful utility arms. Trade acquisition Domingo German could be a steal.
Offensive depth is provided by Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and the very intriguing Rob Refsnyder. Gary Sanchez is rather enigmatic but if he can’t break through Luis Torrens is the next big catching prospect and should provide a better balance of offense and defense based on the early returns. There are a large number of potential role players and as mentioned the 2014 international class could provide a lot of firepower if even a third of those guys reach their upside.
Overall, this is an impressive aggregation of talent that should just get better in the coming year.