The bible of baseball prospecting, Baseball America, released it's top 10 prospect list for the Yankees.
1. Jesus Montero, c
2. Austin Romine, c
3. Arodys Vizcaino, rhp
4. Slade Heathcott, of
5. Zach McAllister, rhp
6. Manny Banuelos, lhp
7. Gary Sanchez, c
8. J.R. Murphy, c
9. Jeremy Bleich, lhp
10. Andrew Brackman, rhp
My first impressions are that Romine, Sanchez and Bleich are surprisingly high. Romine projects to be a good, all-around catcher, but hasn't played above A-ball; several other prospects have produced more at similar ages with higher ceilings. Sanchez has yet to play a single pro game, and Bleich had an awful half-season at Double-A.
(FYI, Sanchez was the top IFA catcher this year. His bat doesn't project as much as Montero's, but he's supposed to be better behind the plate.)
Montero is called the best hitter for average and power, an impressive combo. Newly-acquired Jamie Hoffmann is the 'best defensive outfielder.' Frankie Cervelli is the 'best defensive catcher' while Ramiro Pena is the 'best defensive infielder.'
With four catchers in the top 10, the Yankees are clearly pursuing a defined strategy. The brain trust (Damon Oppenheimer (head of scouting), Mark Newman (head of 'baseball operations') and Brian Cashman) seem to think catching prospects are more valuable than any other prospects (outside of perhaps pitchers). And they would be right. Back when Texas had three good catching prospects (Teagarden, Ramirez and Saltalamacchia), other teams seemed willing to trade almost anybody to get one of the trio. Good catchers are hard to find, and by stock-piling them, the Yankees are ensuring they have the necessary 'chips' to land a big-name veteran when needed. The best will rise to the top while the remaining can be traded off.
We at Pinstripe Alley put together our own combined prospect list:
1. Jesus Montero
2. Mark Melancon (BA may not have considered him a prospect)
3. Zach McAllister
4. Austin Romine
5. Manny Banuelos
6. Arodys Vizcaino
7. Slade Heathcott
Honorable mentions include Eduardo Nunez, Kevin Russo, Alan Horne, Ivan Nova, George Kontos, Wilkins De La Rosa, Colin Curtis, Jairo Heredia and Hector Noesi, who each received one vote. Really, after the first six, it's a toss up.
Notes about the prospects -
Yes, there is such a thing as hype, but a few prospects actually deserve it. Montero is one of them. Having just turned 20 a few weeks ago, he's hit for a high average while maintaining low strikeout rates and decent walk rates at every minor league stop. His power has improved steadily along the way, and when you consider that he's done this against competition that's usually been a year or two older, and that most players rarely reach their power peak at 19, you've got a special player on your hands.
He's got loads of potential, but he's played only 44 games at AA. It's a testament to the amount of hype I'm willing to believe that he's ranked this high.
- jscape (ranked Montero third)
I've seen him in person. He looked like a man among boys despite being several years younger than most every other player. He hit a grand-slam and allowed two passed balls, which is basically what most experts think of him: great bat, no glove. He did, however, show off a strong arm. He should catch no worse than Mike Piazza. Jesus has a chance of debuting next year, especially if the Yanks don't sign another hitter.
No brainer that he is the top prospect. Nobody knows for sure if he can catch. Everyone who has seen him is sure he can hit.
Some scouts make the argument that Montero is the best hitting prospect in the minor leagues. That's debatable, but at the catching position, which I believe he can stick at, few players are as valuable. You just don't find too many bats as potent as his behind the dish. He's shown offensive skills reminiscent of Miguel Cabrera on his way up.
The ball rockets off his bat; he's an elite contact hitter; not patient and D isn't great... Montero has a lot of raw ability and plenty of development time on his side. And he's already proven that he has a very high offensive floor. With his skill set, he could very well turn into an annual .390+ wOBA guy... I see Jesus Montero as a potential once-in-a-generation force on offense.
[He] may not have dominating stuff, and doesn't project as an ace, but he does a little bit of everything that you want to see in a pitcher - he strikes batters out (7.1 K/9) while limiting the free passes (2.5 BB/9), and keeping the ball in the park (.4 HR/9). While workload/innings limits are still a concern heading into his age-22 season, I'm not sure he has much more to prove in AA. Barring injury or catastrophe, it won't be shocking to see him on the major league roster in late 2010 or early 2011.
There's a lot to like about Z-Mac, mostly because of his certainty. He's durable, having pitched 120+ innings the last two years, has ideal size (6'6", 230), and has been effective at nearly every level. A good ML comp is Jake Westbrook - a solid, mid-rotation innings-eater. Sinker-ballers will be more valuable to the Yankees than most other teams due to the homer-friendliness of Yankee Stadium.
The Yankee most likely to be a catcher in 2012 would be the top catching prospect in nearly any other organization.
Part of the Yanks embarrassment of riches at catcher.
Ignore what you saw from him in his brief trip to the majors in 2009. He throws strikes and keeps the ball in the yard. With two bullpen spots open after the trade of Brian Bruney and Phil Hughes' likely departure to the rotation, he should have every opportunity to fill one of them, and there's no reason he shouldn't be able to at least duplicate Bruney's production.
Got a taste of the Show in 2009, then put up a 0.906 WHIP in Scranton with more than a K per inning.
Here's a name you probably haven't heard of before. Vizcaino features a fastball that touches 94 MPH with a good curveball and changeup, and he just turned 19. What I like most about him, though, is that unlike other young strikeout pitchers, he has control - averaging 2.9 BB/9 to go with 10.4 K/9 across 86.1 professional innings. He hasn't played above short-season A ball, but if things progress well you might look for him in AA by late 2010. With three seemingly useful pitches, he seems pegged to be a starter for now, although that could change at this point.
A long way away, but a name to keep an eye on.
Everybody seems to have forgotten about him, as he's missed significant portions of the last two seasons due to injury. But in his last full minor league season, he was really, really good. At age 26, 2010 is probably make or break for him. But if he can stay healthy and regain at least most of the form he showed in 2007, he may be able to creep his way up the team's pitching depth chart.
The lefty walked way, way too many in Trenton and Scranton, but he dominated the Arizona Fall League.
Results before projection, but when the projection involves an 18 year old lefty with a fastball in the low 90s able to touch 94, with the mound presence of this guy...
What's not to like about an 18-year-old lefty that throws in the low 90's, K's 8.5/9, has a 3.5 BB/K ratio, and a 2.62 ERA? I'm very interested to see how he does in the high minors.
... it's about time the baseball world was fully aware just how talented this 18-year-old lefty actually is. He doesn't have the size at 5-foot-10 and he doesn't throw 97 mph, but the total package and maturity is something to behold. Sitting at 90-92 mph, reaching 94 mph at times, Banuelos works through a lineup with very little effort. And, with some further physical maturity, it's not unreasonable to think he could pick up a little more velocity.
Despite his good lively fastball from the left side, that's not what makes him so intriguing. It is his pitching aptitude and uncanny feel for the game. He is the owner of two above-average secondary pitches, the changeup and the curveball. There's a debate among scouts as to which is a better offering. He appeared to be more consistently comfortable with the changeup at 76-80 mph, but he also showed command for the 11-5 breaking ball at 72-74 mph.
The stuff is above average, but when you consider the advanced feel he has for pitching and the often pinpoint command he possesses it's amazing that he's still only 18. He pitches with such ease and attacks hitters with such a calm demeanor, that he can be a front-of-the-rotation pitcher in the majors a few years from now. If you're trading with New York and looking for its most complete pitching prospect, look no further than Banuelos.
- Frank Piliere
Too many hits, but the control is there (3.5 BB/9, 7.2 K/9). He's got a long ways to go, but I think the lefty will get there.
Another young, high-ceiling Dominican pitcher. He dropped down the list this year because of injuries (he only threw 38 innings), but he is very effective when healthy (3.27 ERA, 8.6 K/9, 3 BB/9). He just turned 20 so he has plenty of time to improve.
He does not have the gifts or feel for pitching that Banuelos has, but that is certainly no insult. Noesi is the type of prospect that shows up in deals quite frequently. He's a little older than you'd like for a pitcher below Double-A, but has the stuff of a No. 3 big-league starter. Another reason you may not know much about Noesi is because in 2008 he was much shorter in his arsenal than he is today.
When I had the chance to see him then, he was a pitcher severely lacking in secondary pitches despite his good velocity and fastball command. This year was a much different story. He displayed downright dominance at times, especially in his stint with at low Single-A Charleston (S.C.). Maybe most impressive of all was his stamina; his stuff would sometimes improve as his pitch count mounted. Although he still likes to mostly to work of his well spotted 90-94 mph fastball, this year there was the curveball as well. With good 12-6 action, the curveball came out whenever Noesi seemed to need it this year. He had a feel for just how much to mix it in and varied the speeds from 72-76 mph. With a second pitch that now shows flashes of being plus, and an occasional changeup mixed in, Noesi showed tremendous growth in 2009 and became a complete pitcher. He could be a guy that continues to emerge in a hurry and may not be far off from the big leagues.
- Frank Piliere
This year's first-round pick would've gone higher if not for an injury and 'attitude problems.' He has a Grady Sizemore-esque ceiling and projects as a better player than Austin Jackson: more power and a better arm.
Tools, tools, tools. This guy has 'em. Now let's see what he can do with 'em.
At this time last year it wouldn't have been unreasonable to believe that Brackman, pictured right, would be among potential untouchables, but as 2009 unfolded it was clear that he would face all the roadblocks that a near 7-foot pitcher coming off arm surgery could. To say he struggled mightily with his command is an understatement as his walk totals were off the charts. What was more concerning, however, was the fluctuation in his raw stuff. While reports were more positive when he worked as a reliever later in the year, there were times when his stuff was close to pedestrian.
In my opportunities to evaluate the towering right-hander, I saw a pitcher who appeared tentative at times to let his fastball go as he lived around 89-92 mph. He was still able to produce some good downward sink on the fastball, and use his height, but the raw velocity was just not there. Also mixed in was a downer curveball at 71-75 mph with plus potential. The command, on the other hand, was erratic at best. There is definitely a lack of comfort with his mechanics and the big question is whether he will ever develop that feel and consistency enough to be a dependable big-league pitcher. If he does, the stuff can be brilliant, but what I got a glimpse of was the ugly side of Brackman and that needs to be taken into account.
- Frank Piliere