We are ending the first half of the baseball season, with the All-Star Game next week in New York at Citi Field. The MLB Draft deadline just concluded yesterday, so what better time to review how the Yankees' prospects are doing this year. Without further ado, here is my mid-season Yankees top prospect list.
First, here is my top-20 list coming into the 2013 season:
|11||Rafael De Paula|
I actually feel pretty good about this list. Cote has yet to pitch, so he seems high, but his stuff and potential are some of the best in the system. At the top, the first eight were pretty much the same across rankings, with the order being slightly different. After that, I had Turley, De Paula, and Almonte higher than most. I definitely had Murphy lower than other lists, but I did not expect such a drastic improvement in his defense behind the plate. Williams, Austin, and Heathcott have had a rough start to the season compared to expectations, as has Gumbs. Almonte and Warren are going to pass rookie eligibility this year, most likely. De Paula, Murphy, and Bird have shot up with their performances so far.
How have things changed during the first half and after the draft? The following list tries to balance ceiling and floor, positional and defensive value, and closeness to the majors versus projectability. It probably is more focused on youth and ceiling than other rankings. Before we get to the list, here are the Honorable Mentions, sorted by last name:
On to the top Yankees prospects, #21 through #30, as of July 12, 2013:
|Rank||Name||Age||Position||Highest level 2013|
|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 (SS-A)|
|28||Jordan Cote||20||RHP||GCL (Rookie)|
|29||Ben Gamel||21||LF||Tampa (A+)|
|30||Evan Rutckyj||21||LHP||Charleston (A-)|
30. Evan Rutckyj (video here) 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.
29. Ben Gamel (video here) 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.
28. Jordan Cote (video here) 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%.
27. Rookie Davis (video here) 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.
26. Rob Refsnyder (video here) 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.
25. Jake Cave (video here) 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.
24. Jose Pirela (video here) 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.
23. Austin Aune (video here) 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.
22. Luis Torrens (video here) 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.
21. Cito Culver (video here) 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.
So there you have it, the 21st through 30th best Yankees prospects, as of right now. Discuss below. Who is too high? Too low? Who should be on this list from the honorable mentions?
Coming Soon - Yankees prospects 11-20. Can you guess who the next ten are? Share below.
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