Fangraphs has ranked the Yankees Top 15 prospects and released the list into the world. Some of it was expected and some of it was surprising. The list includes seven pitchers, three catchers, three outfielders, and two second basemen.
The top four are Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott, and Tyler Austin, which comes as no surprise at all. Sometimes Sanchez has topped prospect lists, but Williams has consistently been ranked as the top outfielder in the system. The organization's top pitching prospect, Jose Campos, rounds out the top five.
#1 - Marc Hulet believes Mason Williams could end up as a 20-20 hitter, but for now he will start the year in High-A Tampa with the ability to move up to Double-A Trenton with a strong first half. He gives him an ETA of 2014 or 2015, but 2015 sounds like the more realistic year if he continues to move through the system slowly.
My Take - Williams could become the next Brett Gardner in terms of elite outfield defense and can be a threat everywhere else. He is finally starting to get into the higher parts of the system so the real test is coming up and the question is not whether or not he'll succeed, it's how much will he succeed by.
#2 - Gary Sanchez is favored to be able to stick behind the plate and could even be considered a 'good' defender if he continues to improve. He is more athletic and has better instincts than Jesus Montero, but still needs to improve his game-calling abilities. At times he can be too aggressive and home run oriented. He will remain with High-A Tampa, but could move up to Trenton soon.
My Take - After the Montero debacle I am skeptical as to how the Yankee organization evaluates their catching talent. Granted, Sanchez is the superior prospect, but he's never going to be a Molina behind the plate, so unless he flattens out all his offensive flaws, the Yankees will have something to complain about. Hulet believes he could be in the majors before he turns 22, and I agree, but I'll believe it when I see it.
#3 - Slade Heathcott is limited only by his inability to stay on the field, since he has yet to complete a full year in his profesional career. He boasts both gap power and plus speed, as well as strong, yet wild, defense, so he could be a terror all over the field. His good showing in the Arizona Fall League could carry over into either Tampa or Trenton.
My Take - He is listed as an OF/DH, but I don't think that is very likely when Heathcott has yet to display home run power. Evaluators seem to shrug off his injury history, but I find it alarming, especially since surgeries can deplete a player's abilities. He's already had two surgeries on his shoulder and it will likely be an issue throughout his career.
#4 - As an ex-catcher and infielder, Tyler Austin will develop into an average defender in the outfield. He has good bat speed and could hit for high average in the majors. He might also have average power, maxing out at 15-20 home runs a season.
My Take - If Austin has the season he had last year he could be in the majors by September. Hopefully he can still be the same player he was in 2012, because he would easily become the top prospect in the system. Brian Cashman has described him as a "mega-prospect" and he could likely end up in that category with a strong 2013 season.
#5 - Jose Campos has a mid-90s fastball along with a curveball and changeup that project to be above average major league pitches. He has solid command and control, but an elbow injury limited his playing time in 2012. He is likely to return to Low-A Charleston this season and as a 20-year-old he has plenty of time to get back on track.
My Take - I'm hopeful that he'll put up the numbers that everyone believes he's capable of, but an elbow injury at 20 is still a concern and he still has not had Tommy John surgery. Campos could become everything he has been projected to be or he could flame out; 2013 might be the most important season of his career at this point.
The next five on the list incorporate some less often mentioned names like Angelo Gumbs and Brett Marshall, but also has top prospects like Ty Hensley, Jose Ramirez, and Mark Montgomery.
#6 - Hulet describes Angelo Gumbs as an under-the-radar prospect who has yet to reach his potential because of mechanical issues and limited playing time from an elbow injury. He has shown potential gap power and the ability to steal 40 bases a year and could become an above average defensive second baseman. He'll be moving up to High-A Tampa this year.
My Take - This ranking seems kind of high, especially considering the talent he placed over. He's no Robinson Cano, but I like the idea of a base stealing gap hitter who can potentially move the Yankees away from their statuary base running policy. His future in the organization depends entirely on Cano's contract situation
#7 - Brett Marshall has a four pitch repertoire that includes an 88-93 mph fastball, a plus changeup, and two average pitches in the making; a curveball and a slider. He doesn't have a high ceiling, but he does project as a potential three or four starter. His prospect ranking depends entirely on his ability to log innings and be consistent.
My Take - Brett Marshall is a real surprise here, not only because of his high ranking, but also because of his presence on this list. I like his major league-readiness, but I would put him in the David Phelps/Adam Warren category circa 2011, who were never this high on a list, if at all.
#8 - Ty Hensley miraculously fell to the Yankees in last season's draft and has already proven himself as a big time prospect. He has a 91-95 mph fastball and a plus curveball, with a changeup he's still working on. He's a big guy so his he could be the definition of a workhorse if the anomalies in his shoulder turn out to be nothing. He will start the season in A-Ball and will work on his changeup and command.
My Take - He certainly has the makeup to be a big time pitcher, but he's so far away that it's hard to tell what to expect from him. If his shoulder ends up being nothing then he could be CC Sabathia-like in his ability to withstand a heavy workload. He sounds like he knows how to pitch, rather than simply throw and that is great to see so early on.
#9 - Jose Ramirez has a 92-96 mph fastball, a plus changeup and he's working on a slider at the moment. Scouts like his poise on the mound and his ability to throw strikes consistently. He has the ceiling of a number three in the rotation, but if he fails to develop a good breaking ball he could end up as a backend reliever. He will start the season in Double-A Trenton, so he will face a huge bump in competition in 2013.
My Take - I have high hopes for Ramirez, who seems to have finally figured it out. Mariano Rivera says he's the real deal and his killer changeup could make him a force in the rotation or the bullpen. I like the confidence he has shown on the mound, so you don't have to worry about him being intimidated by heightened competition.
#10 - Mark Montgomery throws a 90-94 mph fastball and his knock out slider ranks as one of the best breaking balls in the Yankees system. He has the tools needed to succeed, but if he tightens his control on his fastball he'll dominate even further. He reached Double-A in only his first full professional season and can easily make the majors at some point in the season.
My Take - Montgomery has the potential to be the next David Robertson, but like D-Rob he needs to improve his command. If he can do that then we can talk about his potential as a closer. I was hoping he would make it hard for the Yankees to cut him this spring, but he hasn't looked as good as I hoped. Let him get on a roll first.
The bottom five have a couple familiar names with Manny Banuelos, Austin Romine, and David Adams. It also sports Bryan Mitchell and, surprisingly, JR Murphy.
#11 - Southpaw Manny Banuelos was once the organization's top pitching prospects until control issues and injuries knocked him down. Now that he'll miss all of 2013, even after missing most of 2012, he has lost a substantial amount of development time. His repertoire includes an 89-94 mph fastball and a promising curveball and changeup, but now he will have to wait until 2014 to work on them. He should rejoin Triple-A in 2014 with a shot at a major league career in 2015.
My Take - ManBan's injury was very disappointing, especially because the organization's attempt to rehab him lost him precious time in the end anyway. He's still so young (22) that even after missing so much time he'll still be at a normal age when he gets back to pitching. I doubt he'll be able to improve his control in time to be in the majors at a younger-than-average age, but he still won't be considered old when he finally does crack the MLB roster.
#12 - Bryan Mitchell has developed slowly, but he still has incredible stuff with a plus fastball and plus slider, while he develops a changeup. His ability to tap into his potential relies heavily on his ability to mature as a pitcher and work out his delivery inconsistencies. He'll start in High-A Tampa in 2013, but could easily begin to move up the ladder if he shows that he is improving.
My Take - I've heard good things about Mitchell, but his walk rate from last year flashes images of Dellin Betances before my eyes. If he still needs to iron out his mechanics then it's hard to really peg where he'll be at in the next few years. This could be his make or break season as a Top prospect.
#13 - Austin Romine is on the cusp of a major league career, whether that turns into a good one or underwhelming one is yet to be seen. Injuries have cost him precious time to prove himself as a real option as a starter and his performance when healthy has been disappointing. He still has the potential to hit 10-15 home runs a season, but is probably more of a gap hitter at his best. If he can put up good numbers at Triple-A he could be called up at some point this season.
My Take - Hulet believes that his ceiling has dropped to a platoon catcher, but I've never been very high on him in the first place so I always thoguht he wouldn't be much of an option as a starter. If he can hit competently and prove to be superior to Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli, he could get a callup when the Yankees see how bad their MLB catchers will be. I will be surprised if his game will be worth sacrificing Stewart's cherished defense.
#14 - Hulet believes that David Adams could be very valuable to the Yankees as either a platoon player or off the bench as they try to be more budget conscious. He will never be a power hitter, but he can hit for average. He can play both second base and third base, but a severe ankle injury won't allow him to stick regularly as a middle infielder and his bat doesn't profile well at third.
My Take - I'm not as confident in Adam's ability to stay on the field or the Yankees' interest in him as a major league option. If he's gone from being an above average second baseman to a below average third baseman I don't think the team has much use for him unless it's an emergency. Maybe he can be something similar to Eduardo Nunez with better defense.
#15 - JR Murphy has been moved from catcher to third base and back to catcher and has finally started to improve. He has shown the ability to control the running game, but still has a lot to work on in terms of everything else a catcher does. He has been a solid contact hitter who can hit the ball to all fields, however the organization seems to want him to pull the ball more and be more patient at the plate. He'll be in Double-A this year and could make the majors at some point in 2014.
My Take - I want to like Murphy, but his offense has been even more underwhelming than Romine's has been, which kind of says a lot. If he's still trying to figure out this whole catching thing at 21 then I'm somewhat pessimistic about his career potential. He can't make it as a hitter anywhere else so he needs to be behind the plate. Hulet says the worst case scenario for him is a third string catcher and that sounds more likely than not at this point.
Notable Absences: Zoilo Almonte, Dante Bichette Jr, Cito Culver, Ramon Flores, Corban Joseph, Nik Turley