New York Yankees 2013 Top 15 Prospects
The rest of Bullpen Banter’s 2013 Top 15 Prospects can be found on the 2013 Team Prospect Lists Bar on the right side of your screen. Thanks for reading! -BB
Bullpen Banter New York Yankees 2013 Top 15 Prospects
|8||Rafael De Paula||RHP|
Jeff Reese: Rounding out our series, we have the New York Yankees. I swear, we did not deliberately put them last… even if Al is a BoSox fan! The Yankees may be notorious for spending lavishly on free agents, but unlike some other big spenders, they do not eschew their minor league system. In the draft they pursue draftees with large bonus demands, take chances on those who have seen their stock dip, and let those who do fall for whatever reason, fall into their lap. Internationally, even before the new rules mandated in the CBA, the Yankees were not in one every highly regarded prospect; instead they targeted one or two near the top that they particularly liked and filled out their class from there. This is how you would expect a large market team to behave — shoot for upside with home-grown products because the risk is mitigated by their affluence.
Leading the position player group is international signee Gary Sanchez and former draftee Mason Williams; which you prefer is a more minute detail. Sanchez offers exciting power potential and a good feel for hitting, but the defense lags behind. The tools to stick behind the plate gives hope that the polish in his defensive game will eventually come; however, even if a move to 1B proves necessary, the bat will play. Mason Williams is the opposite. A wonderful defensive center fielder, Williams shows the bat speed and tools to be a good offensive player, but how the power is still mostly a projection — good progress was made prior to the injury in 2012 though.
The international pitchers all seem to come with their share of health question marks. Jose Campos was one of the primary pieces in the Jesus Montero deal but developed elbow issues after a handful of starts in Charleston. When healthy Campos has the ingredients of an elite pitching prospect with a heavy, mid 90s fastball that he shows some aptitude in commanding, an 11-5 curve ball that flashes sharp break, some ability to throw a change up, and projection remaining in his tall, wide frame. Everyone here at Bullpen Banter was very high on him after his season with the Everett AquaSox. Manny Banuelos is a smallish left-hander who looked like an elite level prospect a couple of years ago. He featured three advanced offerings with an extraordinary changeup; command and injuries have stalled his career. Jose Ramirez has been similarly frustrating; despite showing good raw stuff, he has consistently missed chunks of each season with injury and has not quite translated the stuff to results. Jose Rafael DePaula meanwhile has been stalled by visa issues. He finally was granted one in March of 2012 and eventually made a dozen starts in the DSL. He gives the Yankees another pitcher with tremendous upside.
Slade Heathcott is next in line for the drafted players and has seen his share of injury delays as well. A tremendous athlete with a high energy approach to the game, Heathcott has a well rounded offensive ceiling and profiles as an above-average regular. The biggest breakout campaign came from Tyler Austin; drafted initially as a third baseman, he made the transition to right field in 2012 and showed surprising polish with his bat. The raw upside may not match a Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, or Slade Heathcott, but his approach and ability to hit gives him a lot of safety. Angelo Gumbs is not nearly as safe. A gifted athlete with tremendous bat speed and loud raw tools, the translation into production may be slow. 2012 marked good progress until losing the last half of the year to an elbow injury. Ty Hensley possesses the most upside of the drafted pitchers with his ideal frame and excellent fastball/curve ball combination. Most of the other drafted pitchers profile as more mid-to-back of the rotation arms. The Yankees have done a fantastic job of identifying that player type and getting the absolute most out of them; did anyone expect Adam Warren to be more than a really good college pitcher?
On raw upside, this is one of the better farm systems in baseball. Finding a way to keep them all healthy and productive is the major challenge.
Al Skorupa: We definitely did not put the Yankees last for any negative purpose! Jeff and I choose a theme for the order each year and we settled on “average age of position players.” All things being equal I’d rather get the Yankees system out of the way early as it’s typically a big draw. It’s also one of the easier ones for me to write as I do get to see a decent amount of their minor leaguers, being located in the Northeast.
A lot of writers seem to be creating this narrative that the Yankees system had a down year. I don’t entirely disagree, but if you’ve been reading here for awhile you’ll know most of our staff had questions about Dellin Betances and Manny Baneulos. Dante Bichette, Jr. had a poor year as well, but he’s another guy who wasn’t all that highly regarded as an amateur. I obviously didn’t expect the injuries to Banuelos and Jose Campos. The Campos injury really stings and it’s not really clear if he’s fully healthy yet. I’m still not willing to drop Campos or Banuelos very far when I’m making a pref list for this system even so. They’re both too talented to ignore for long. Maybe Banuelos ends up in the pen – and there is more that recommends him for that role than just Tommy John surgery. If he does I imagine he’ll be a late inning reliever and potential relief ace.
When we talk about what went right for Yankees farm hands this year we definitely want to talk about the four guys at the top of this list. Mason Williams had labrum surgery on his shoulder but he hit well at two stops and the tools remain loud. Gary Sanchez’s game reportedly took a step forward. The bat continues to impress. Even if Sanchez ends up a very similar player to Jesus Montero… well, that’s a pretty nice consolation prize! Tyler Austin just raked and raked. He’s probably worked his way into New York’s long and short term plans. He’s only played 2 games above A ball, but he’s so polished a hitter he really isn’t that far away from helping. The resurgent Slade Heathcott remains a very hard player for me to evaluate and rank. I really like players who play the way Heathcott does. Baseball is meant to be played hard and played with enthusiasm. I am concerned about his injuries and the swing is a work in progress. Mark Montgomery is the latest in a series of unheralded relievers the Yankee player development people turned into exciting prospects (ie. Robertson, Melancon, etc… ). Montgomery can get major league hitters out right now and he’ll soon get the chance.
I thought New York did a very good job in the draft this year, too. Ty Hensley was one of my favorite prep arms in the Spring. He’s a big kid with a live arm and an advanced curve. Don’t expect him to move fast, but he has a considerable ceiling. Austin Aune has loud tools for a 2nd rounder. I’m a believer in Peter O’Brien’s bat. He had a great batting practice when I saw him in the NYPL. I’m optimistic that he can be cleaned up defensively. O’Brien didn’t stand out as a player who definitely can’t stick at the position. He has some sloppy habits that can be cleaned up but he’s never going to be a plus defender. Corey Black was a player I heard good things about and had circled on my draft board later in the Spring. I tend to think junior college, NAIA and division 2 and 3 players tend to get underrated generally. Black fits that mold. He has some very impressive arm strength and could be a very good bullpen piece down the road.
In last year’s Yankees Top 15 list I mentioned I liked the next wave of talent more than the Montero-Banuelos-Betances generation. Well, that next wave has begun to arrive and they’re looking pretty exciting.
OF Mason Williams (Al Skorupa)
OF Ravel Santana (Jeff Reese)
2B/OF Angelo Gumbs (Al Skorupa)
C Peter O’Brien (Jeff Reese)
SS Claudio Custodio (Jeff Reese)
SS Cito Culver (Al Skorupa)
LHP Evan Rutckyj (Jeff Reese)
OF Exicardo Cayones (Jeff Reese)
RHP Bryan Mitchell (Al Skorupa)