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Nick Melotte's Yankees Top 20 Prospects

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Blowing past international bonus pool restrictions is a great way to infuse talent as the Yankees spent over $30M on international free agents to bolster and already deep farm system.

Yankees right handed pitcher Luis Severino.
Yankees right handed pitcher Luis Severino.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For how I grade prospects and what I like to call my "secret sauce", click here for a more detailed breakdown of the process.

The Grading System

My grading system will be familiar to those who keep up with college football recruiting or played the MLB2K video game series as I use a star rating system from one to five stars with half grades in between. An outline of what each level would represent looks like this, but remember these are examples and not definite.

5 star
The cream of the crop. A five star rating is reserved for the elite talents of the minor leagues. These players do not have a glaring weakness and if there is a blemish on their record, it is miniscule. Don't expect to see many of these, as this is reserved for players with the best chance to become super stars or top of the rotation stalwarts. Call this a 75-80 or A rating.

4.5 star
The rest of the elite. A 4.5 star rating encompasses players that are still elite, but not the potential mega stars a five star player would have. Receiving a 4.5 star rating means the player has all-star caliber potential with a good chance of being in a contending team's starting line up and have a long career. A 4.5 star pitcher could be generalized as a future #2 or 3 starter. Equal to 60-70 or A-/B+ type.

4 star
Garnering a four star rating means the player has the potential to be a productive major leaguer with an all-star season or two in his career. Four star players should develop into regulars in the lineup, dominant relief arms or a mid-rotation starters. This kind of player may have a true talent level higher but injuries may hold him back from reaching their full potential. Similar to a B/B- or 50-55 rated player.

3.5 star
A player receiving 3.5 stars projects to see time as starters in the majors, but more than likely on a team out of the playoff picture where a below-average season once in awhile won't kill them. Innings eating strike throwers would fall into this category, as would set up men and defensive-oriented starters. This would be a 45 or B-type of player.

3 star
Three star players are your 4th outfielders and relievers with live arms and control problems. Hitters who may lack enough tools to hold down a starting gig, futures as a platoon players, and swing men types capable of spot starting would be three star players. Recent IFA's with little or no track record usually are included here as well. A low 45/high 40 grade or C+/C type player would fall here.

2.5 star
Not every one gets to collect MLB paychecks, but some get them every once in awhile. 2.5 star players are your up and down guys who shuttle between the big leagues and AAA. September cups of coffee cielings fall here, as are the injury replacements and players riding the waiver wire. These players aren't expected to make any serious impact. 40 grade players and C type or lower organizational filler.

Anything below 2.5 stars is someone who doesn't project to be a major league player, therefore they are not mentioned.

Now that we have that out of the way, here are the Top 20 Prospects in the New York Yankees organization. All ages are for the upcoming 2015 season and the affiliates mentioned are where I project them to begin the year.

Previous Rankings and #1 Prospect

Atlanta Braves - 2B Jose Peraza

Miami Marlins - RHP Tyler Kolek

New York Mets - RHP Noah Syndergaard

Philadelphia Phillies - SS JP Crawford

Washington Nationals - RHP Lucas Giolito

Boston Red Sox - IF Yoan Moncada

Baltimore Orioles - RHP Dylan Bundy

New York Yankees

4.5 star

1. RHSP Luis Severino - 21 years old, AA Trenton

luis severino

Photo courtesy of Flickr user slgckgc

2014 stats -

6 5 0 24 24 113.1 93 36 31 3 27 127
2.46 2.40 1.06 5.9 27.8 4.70 7.4 0.220 0.272 0.296 0.567 0.303 73.2

Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 17 year old, Luis Severino garnered a $225,000 bonus during the 2011-12 international signing period. The 6 foot, 185 pound right hander has only put on 10 pounds since signing out of the San Pedro de Macoris area, but professional instruction has gotten the most out of his smallish frame. He spent 2012 dominating the Dominican Summer League before making his stateside debut in 2013 which was split between the GCL Yankees and Low A Charleston RiverDogs. He showed signs of a break out holding his own as a 19 year old in full season ball while dramatically improving his strike out rate, slightly lowering his walk rate, and only giving up one long ball.

The 2014 season was a boon to Severino's value as he blew through three levels, culminating in a six start stint with AA Trenton. It all started with 14 excellent starts with Charleston where he threw 67.2 innings of 2.79 ERA ball with a 2.70 FIP, 70 strike outs (25.3%), just 15 walks (5.4%), 62 hits (8.25 H/9), and only two home runs allowed. A .321 BABIP was a bit on the unlucky side, but a 72.5% strand rate mitigates that. Severino was able to induce ground balls 48.7% of the time, over four points better than the South Atlantic League average, and he posted a 1.54 ground out to air out ratio. The organization bumped him up to A+ Tampa in mid-June where he proceeded to chuck 20.1 frames over four starts. He whiffed 28 batters (35%) while issuing six free passes (7.5%) and just 11 hits (4.79 H/9) with a 1.33 ERA and 1.55 FIP. The average on balls in play was unreasonably low at .239, and the strand rate was a bit elevated as well at 76.5%. His GO/AO ratio was 2.50 while balls were put on the ground 56.5% of the time, almost 12 points over the Florida State League average. Another promotion to AA Trenton in mid-July brought even more encouraging results. Severino made six starts spanning 25 innings with a 2.52 ERA, a 2.27 FIP, 29 strike outs (29%), six walks (6%), and 20 hits (7.2 H/9) with one home run. His BABIP and strand rate were near league average with a .297 average on balls in play and 73.2% strand rate. He also continued to post ground ball rates better than league average with a 44.6% ground ball rate, besting the Eastern League average by three percentage points.

The scouting report on Luis Severino consists of a three pitch mix of a fastball, change up, and slider. The heat is already a double plus offering and the change up has the potential to be that good as well. His fastball sits around 94-97 mph and falls just shy of triple digits when he maxes out. It's not Yordano Ventura cheese, but he generates excellent movement on the pitch with sink low in the zone and arm-side run. He can spot it to both sides of the plate, and also knows when to elevate it. It really is everything you want in a fastball. His change up isn't quite double plus just yet as it still has some projection remaining, but it's already a plus pitch. It generates excellent deception as it comes from the exact same arm slot as his terrific fastball, but with 10-15 mph of separation from his heater and late fade. He took to the pitch very well after signing and it has come a long way in just three years 221.1 professional innings and 130.2 innings in full season ball. The slide piece shows excellent movement when he gets it right, but is severely lack in the consistency department. It can range from 82 to 91 mph, sometimes looking like a cutter while other times bearing a striking resemblance to a cement mixer. This inconsistency is the crux of his issues with his breaking ball, and could be the determining factor in him moving to the pen or staying in the rotation. It's a below average pitch right now, but I believe he can improve upon it with more repetitions to get it to an at least average grade. On the bump he's shows a bulldog mentality with a competitive streak and a good feel for pitching. A proponent of the "drop and drive" delivery, Severino has shown great command and control and has drawn ridiculously lofty comparisons to Pedro Martinez for his size and excellent FB/CH combo. If the slider takes a step forward, we could be looking at a legitimate #2 starter in the AL East.

2015 Outlook -

While the six start stint to cap of the year with Trenton was impressive, I think the organization sends him back there to start the year, but will be the first of the starter in AA to get promoted. Seeing him in pinstripes by season's end is absolutely a possibility where he could make an impact in the bullpen down the stretch, a la Brandon Finnegan last year.

2. RF Aaron Judge - 23 years old, AA Trenton

aaron judge

Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt

2014 stats -

563 467 80 144 24 4 17 78 1 0 89 131
131 15.8 23.3 45 0.308 0.419 0.486 0.905 158 0.414 0.178 0.393

Usually when you look at the vitals for a player and it says he's 6'7 and 255 pounds, nine times out of ten we're talking about a pitcher. The monstrous right handed outfielder was the Yankees first round selection in 2013 out of Fresno State. The 32nd overall pick and second of three first round picks for the Yanks, Aaron Judge earned a $1.8M signing bonus but did not appear in his draft year due to a torn right quadriceps. The 2014 campaign marked his debut as a professional and he showed himself to be far too advanced for the lower levels of the minor leagues.

Judge started the year for Low A Charleston, making 278 trips to the dish over 65 games with a .333/.428/.530 triple slash, a 167 wRC+ and a .432 wOBA. He hit nine home runs to go with 15 doubles, two triples and a stolen base with 39 walks (14%) to 59 strike outs (21.2%). There's no doubt he was buoyed by a hefty .408 BABIP, but he also roped line drives seven and half points better than South Atlantic League average. A mid-June promotion to A+ Tampa was certainly deserved as he finished out the year there. In Tampa he took 285 more plate appearances over 66 games with a .283/.411/.442 line, a 149 wRC+, and a .397 wOBA. Judge drew 50 walks (17.5%) with 72 strike outs (25.3%), eight home runs, nine doubles, and two more triples. His BABIP was well over league average again at .377, but so was his line drive rate at 20.4%, six points better than the Florida State League average. His composite numbers between both levels are listed above. After the regular season, the Yankees sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he hit .278/.377/.467 over 106 plate appearances. He launched four more home runs, five doubles, and 13 walks (12.3%) to 22 strike outs (20.8%).

Raw, unadulterated power is The Judge's calling card. With a frame more associated with power forwards and linebackers, he generates incredible power and shows it off in BP by launching balls into the stratosphere. Come game time though, he alters his approach by toning down his swing and looking to make solid contact rather than hit balls 500 feet. His approach at the plate is excellent with a willingness to work the count and take his walks. On the bases he's an average runner with decent range in the outfield that plays up due to his quick first step and great reads. That's all fine and dandy, but his arm strength is his best asset in the field, grading out as an easy plus tool. He gunned down six runners from right field this past year, including two double plays. Looking at the total package here, and you get a guy with at least average tools across the board and the prototypical right field profile with a big arm and thump. He's a hulking figure that will intimidate the hell out of pitchers as he climbs the ladder, and will make them pay for any mistakes over the plate where he can extend his arms.

2015 Outlook -

My line of thinking with Judge is that until he shows some serious struggles, I would keep him at the same pace as last year by having him spend half the year at each stop. That would mean breaking camp with AA Trenton and finishing the year in AAA with an outside shot at a cup of joe in September.

4 star

3. 1B Greg Bird - 22 years old, AA Trenton

4. LHSP Ian Clarkin - 20 years old, A+ Tampa

5. RHSP Domingo German - 22 years old, A+ Tampa

6. LHP Jacob Lindgren - 22 years old, AAA Scranton/WB

7. SS Jorge Mateo - 20 years old, A- Staten Island

8. 2B Rob Refsnyder - 24 years old, AAA Scranton/WB

9. 3B Eric Jagielo - 23 years old, AA Trenton

3.5 star

10. C Gary Sanchez - 22 years old, AAA Scranton/WB

11. RHSP Jaron Long - 23 years old, AAA Scranton/WB

12. C Luis Torrens - 19 years old, Low A Charleston

[Editors Note - Torrens is out for 2015 with labrum surgery, rankings were done prior to injury]

13. CF Jake Cave - 22 years old, AA Trenton

14. RHSP Brady Lail - 21 years old, A+ Tampa

15. LHSP Miguel Sulbaran - 21 years old, AA Trenton

16. LHP Chasen Shreve - 24 years old, MLB New York

17. LF Michael O'Neill - 23 years old, A+ Tampa

18. 3B Miguel Andujar - 20 years old, A+ Tampa

19. SS Tyler Wade - 20 years old, A+ Tampa

20. OF Juan De Leon - 17 years old, Rookie GCL

Honorable Mentions (three star players, in no particular order) - 2B Jose Pirela, SS Angel Aguilar, RF Ramon Flores, RF Alex Palma, RF/1B Tyler Austin, CF Dustin Fowler, 3B Dante Bichette, C John Ryan Murphy, 2B Gosuke Katoh, SS Abiatal Avelino, CF Mason Williams, CF Mark Payton, 3B Dermis Garcia, 3B Nelson Gomez, RHSP Bryan Mitchell, RHSP Rookie Davis, LHSP Caleb Smith, RHP Eric Ruth, LHP Tyler Webb, RHP Nick Rumbelow, LHSP Justin Kamplain, RHSP Ty Hensley, RHSP Austin DeCarr, and RHP Johnny Barbato.

New York Yankees Age Pos Team Stars
1 Luis Severino 21 RHSP AA 4.5
2 Aaron Judge 23 RF A+ 4.5
3 Greg Bird 22 1B AA 4
4 Ian Clarkin 20 LHSP A+ 4
5 Domingo German 22 RHSP A 4
6 Jacob Lindgren 22 LHP AA 4
7 Jorge Mateo 20 SS R 4
8 Rob Refsnyder 24 2B AAA 4
9 Eric Jagielo 23 3B A+ 4
10 Gary Sanchez 22 C AA 3.5
11 Jaron Long 23 RHSP AA 3.5
12 Luis Torrens 19 C A 3.5
13 Jake Cave 22 CF AA 3.5
14 Brady Lail 21 RHSP A+ 3.5
15 Miguel Sulbaran 21 LHSP A+ 3.5
16 Chasen Shreve 24 LHP MLB 3.5
17 Michael O'Neill 23 LF A 3.5
18 Miguel Andujar 20 3B A 3.5
19 Tyler Wade 20 SS A 3.5
20 Juan DeLeon 17 OF DNP 3.5

Team Codes: AAA - Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, AA - Trenton Thunder, A+ - Tampa Yankees, A - Charleston RiverDogs, A- - Staten Island Yankees, R - Gulf Coast League Yankees 1 and 2, DSL - Dominican Summer League Yankees 1 and 2, DNP - Did Not Play