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Mmm, Aaah, Prospects: Part II

Picking where we left off on Wednesday, let's take a look at what's become of the top five Yankees' prospects over the last four years whose last names fall in the latter half of the alphabet (it's a mouthful, I know)...

Ian Kennedy
Originally one of the "Big Three" alongside Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, Kennedy was ranked fourth in the Yankees' system by Baseball America in 2008. Kennedy's career as a Yankee was marred by injuries; he has had significantly more success in the majors as a member of the Diamondbacks, finishing fourth in NL Cy Young voting last season. With an already full rotation, the Yankees included him in the trade for Curtis Granderson after the 2009 season, a trade that has, so far, worked out for all of the teams involved—the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Tigers all made last year's postseason. We might here pause to consider that of the Chamberlain-Hughes-Kennedy triumvirate, Kennedy was considered to have the lowest ceiling, but he is the only one to have pitched over 180 innings in a season in the majors even once—and he has done it twice.

Zach McAllister
BA ranked McAllister 30 in 2008, brought him all the way up to sixth in 2009, 5th in 2010, and did not rank him in 2011 (by which time he was an Indian). McAllister has only appeared in four games at the major-league level, and he was not exactly successful. He is entering his age-24 season, so it's still too soon to make any lasting judgments, but he hasn't given the Yankees reason to regret sending him to the Indians in the Austin Kearns trade.

Jesus Montero
In 2008, while ranking him the Yankees' sixth-best prospect, BA stated of Montero, "he has exceptional raw power to all fields, coupling a discerning eye for a young player with brute strength and bat speed." By 2011, Montero ranked the top prospect in the Yankees' system, and BA's scouting report boasted that "Montero may be the best all-around hitter in the minors." Indeed, Montero acquired a .328/.406/.590 batting line to accompany four home runs in 18 games with the Yankees last September. The Yankees traded him for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos, a trade, that at its most basic, occurred because the Yankees needed pitching help, the Mariners needed a bat, and Montero lacked a position. Still, Montero was the best position prospect the Yankees have had in ages.

Austin Romine
As written previously, for awhile Romine was like Montero's little brother—good, but always trying to live up to the hype and feats of his older sibling. With the emergence of Gary Sanchez, Romine is perhaps now more like the uncomfortable middle child, squeezed out from above and below. Romine was ranked 22nd by BA in 2008; he was sixth in 2011, but only second among catchers, after Sanchez. Romine should be the first line of defense should Francisco Cervelli get hurt (and, based on a concussion history that would make the NFL blush, this may be a when more than an if), so he'll get his chances.

Gary Sanchez
Sanchez's stateside debut was so prolific that he vaulted straight into the number two spot on BA's list last season. His follow-up last season was hampered by so-called "attitude" issues, but if such lessons must take place, it is much better for them to occur while Sanchez is 18 than when he is 23. BA's 2011 scouting report remarked that Sanchez has a higher ceiling of anyone in the organization, and with Montero was included under that umbrella, one can get a sense of where the Yankees might see Sanchez's potential. Still, Sanchez only has one year of full season ball under his belt, so whether or not he actually reaches his ceiling is not an answer we are likely to find out in 2012.

Jose Tabata
The outfielder was ranked third in the Yankees' organization by BA in 2008; traded that year to Pittsburgh as part of the deal that landed the Yankees Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte, Tabata ranked third and second for the Pirates in 2009 and 2010, before graduating to the majors last season. Tabata has had his share of off-field issues, but the on-field potential is still there, even if the Yankees won't be the ones reaping the benefits—Tabata doesn't hit for power like a corner outfielder is supposed to, and posted an OPS last season similar to Brett Gardner, but if he is, in fact, 23 years old, there is still significant room for growth.

Arodys Vizcaino

Ranked by BA as their third-best prospect prior to the 2010 season, the young pitcher was traded to the Braves along with Melky Cabrera for Javier Vazquez. The Yankees don't miss Cabrera, and Vazquez did not not have a fantastic season in pinstripes. Brian Cashman doesn't have a long history of bad trades, but no GM is infallible, and the Yankees may regret Vizcaino as the one who got away. BA ranked Vizcaino seventh in the pitching-heavy Braves system at the start of last season, and the year's Prospect Handbook remarked that if he could answer questions about his durability, his ceiling remained high. He made his major-league debut last August, at just 21 years of age, as a reliever; many project Vizcaino to be a starter, long-term, but some experts, such as Kevin Goldstein, disagree—in either case, Vizcaino has serious potential.

Over the past few seasons, the Yankees' farm system has been considered one of the better ones in baseball, but as we have seen over the past couple posts, predicting the success of even top-rated prospects still contains a significant degree of guesswork. Some of the Yankees top prospects have had significant major-league success, but only Chamberlain has done so as a Yankee. On the other hand, that's not to say no Yankee prospect over the past few seasons has been successful—David Robertson, Brett Gardner, and Ivan Nova have all become crucial parts of the team. Prospect rankings can be fun for fans and, to a degree, useful for front offices, but the thing that makes baseball fun is that it isn't a game played on paper. As much as we want to predict, no one really knows what a prospect will do until he has a bat or ball in his hands on a major-league diamond.