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Yankees Prospect: Baseball Prospectus 2014 top ten


Baseball Prospectus has released their list of the top ten Yankees prospects going into the 2014 season. It's more traditional than Baseball America's list, but it's not overly optimistic about any of their chances to make it.

No. 1: The top prospect in the system is, of course, Gary Sanchez, though Jason Parks believes his stock fell a little bit in 2013 due to mix reviews of both his offense and defense. He still has the potential to be a first-division player as a catcher, though his more realistic future is as a major league regular first baseman/DH type.

While he's still a top 101 prospect in the game, his stock has slipped, and several scout sources continue to question his baseball makeup, and the likelihood that he reaches his tool-based ceiling.

I have concerns about his actual abilities behind the plate. We were told that he was a good defender, but then there were reports that he was just as bad (or even worse) than Jesus Montero. The Yankees kept saying Montero could stay at catcher, but it was obvious that he was horrible when he went to the Mariners. Now I'm worried that the organization is trying to pump Sanchez's value up too.

No. 2: This is the highest I've seen Jose Ramirez place. Parks believes that his health is a major concern after two injury-shortened seasons in a row. He has a plus fastball and his changeup is described as his "money pitch," however, his inconsistent command is going to hurt his potential. If everything goes right for him, he could be a No. 2-3 starter in the majors, but his more realistic future is as a late-inning reliever

If he can stay healthy (big if) and take steps forward with his delivery and overall command, Ramirez could develop into a high leverage reliever, perhaps even a closer if it really comes together. The arm is that good.

For me, injury is still a very big concern for Ramirez. He definitely has the ability to pitch, but he struggled when he made it to Double-A this season and then he got hurt again. He seems to be destined for the bullpen.

No. 3: J.R. Murphy had a breakout season in 2013, and it has paid off with his inclusion on many top prospect lists. Overall he projects to be a very quietly good player, with the ceiling of a major-league regular and a floor as a quality backup catcher. He lacks impact tools, however, he has shown enough with the bat and the glove that he could be a solid hitter and receiver.

His likely role will be as a backup, he has the potential to develop into an average major-league regular at a premium defensive position, and despite a lack of loud tools, the sum of his parts could make him a very valuable player.

I think Murphy could have been a major-league option in 2014, but he will likely get the majority of his playing time in Triple-A. I'm not entirely sold on his bat just yet, but another solid season like 2013 will make it obvious that he belongs with the Yankees.

No. 4: Playing in over 100 games for the first time in his pro career, the oft injured Slade Heathcott continued to show his toolsy potential. He has high-end physical tools, showing plus-plus athleticism and running, with a plus arm and above average glove, however his reckless style of play will hurt him in the field and at the plate. He has the potential to be a first-division player, but his more realistic role will be as a below-average major leaguer in a bench role.

His game lacks nuance, with an all-or-nothing approach and a highly contagious but often reckless style of play that limits his ability to stay healthy. If he can put the bat to the ball with enough consistency, he can bring his legs into the equation and possibly hit for a respectable average.

I don't think Heathcott will ever be a starting-caliber player. He's just lost too much time to injury and he lacks power and the plate discipline to make up for it. I do think he can be a solid fourth outfielder that can add some speed in the field and on the base paths, though I will continue to hope he builds on his decent 2013 season.

No. 5: Tyler Austin followed up his breakout 2012 season with a disappointing injury-plagued 2013, but the promise is still there. Parks sees him as a major-league regular with good bat speed and advanced approach at the plate, though his more realistic role will be as a platoon player off the bench with, at best, average defense at the corners.

Austin has natural bat-to-ball ability, with a short stroke that produces bat speed and allows him to make hard contact. That contact has yet to manifest itself as over-the-fence power, at least against upper minors pitching, but it has a chance to play to average, and the hit tool and approach could push it beyond that in a perfect world scenario.

I think Austin has the best chance out of the Yankees' three outfield prospects, but that depends largely on how much of 2012 was for real. He lacks home run power for someone who has very little defensive value, but he's still valuable if he can prove to be a good right-handed bat off the bench.

No. 6: Parks didn't seem overly impressed by Mason Williams, who was once the best/second best prospect in the system. He believes Williams is an impact athlete with excellent range in center field with a plus glove, solid arm, and above-average speed. While he does possess good contact ability at the plate, that contact is often weak and his power will be well below average. He has the potential to be a first-division player, but he is more likely to be a below-average option off the bench.

The defensive profile in center will give him value even if the bat falls short of the mark, but the concerns about his work ethic and overall baseball makeup don't offer a lot of confidence that he will reach his potential, much less overachieve his projections.

I really don't see where Mason Williams is going anymore. The 2014 season is going to be make or break for his prospect status going forward. He's struggled, and with that, questions about his makeup have emerged. He's very hard on himself, which is important to see, but it's possible he isn't taking that and being productive with it. This is where coachability issues come in. If the organization thinks it will be impossible to fix his problems, it's best to trade him now before his value completely flatlines.

No. 7: Greg Bird arrives on another prospect list for the first time after his breakout season in 2013. Parks believes he has an advanced approach at the plate with an excellent eye, often taking counts deep. He profiles as a major-league regular, but his bat is what will take him through the system, so he could end up as a platoon player.

Several industry sources were very high on Bird, including one front office (NL) source who said he would take the 21-year-old bat over every position player in the Yankees system other than Sanchez. The makeup gets positive reviews, which is encouraging, but the swing is what really matters, and Bird can hit, with bat speed and strength and the potential to bring legit power into game action.

I love Greg Bird. He led all the minors in walks and it's good to see that not only does he have power potential, but he has an excellent approach at the plate. You have to temper your expectations when it comes to prospects, but if he has another big season in 2014, I think he deserves to be one of the top two in the system, despite his defensive limitations.

No. 8: While many were impressed by Eric Jagielo's professional debut, Parks was more cautious, as he was striking out against only average pitching. Still, he believes he has a good swing and approach with some power potential. He has the arm to play third, though he's probably below-average in the field right now. Jagielo has the ceiling to be an above-average player, but he also has the floor of a below-average player, it all comes down to how he develops.

Jagielo was drafted for his polish and offensive potential, which means he should be facing an accelerated developmental plan and high expectations for immediate production. It was small sample, but I wasn't blown away with Jagielo's bat in the New York-Penn League; the bat speed wasn't special and he was often behind average stuff located over the plate. But it was the end of a long season, and several sources think the 21-year-old product of Notre Dame is going to hit, for both average and power, and if he shines in his full-season debut, he could be sitting atop this list next season.

I have to agree with Parks on this one. He wasn't overly impressive, but then again, in this system even average looks good. I still have high hopes going forward and I hope he shows that he can handle an accelerated workload.

No. 9: Ian Clarkin is one of the Yankees' pitching prospects who actually projects to stick in the rotation. Right now he has a complicated delivery and below-average command, velocity, and movement, but his fastball projects to be a future plus pitch, while his curveball could be his "money pitch." He could be a No. 2-3 pitcher in the rotation, but realistically he could be as low as a No. 4 instead.

The secondary stuff will get there eventually, as the curveball already shows legit plus potential, but the first developmental steps will likely be taken through a heavy dose of four-seam fastballs. Clarkin's a long-term project, but an athletic lefty with a promising and projectable three-pitch mix is worth the developmental patience.

It's nice to see a pitcher in the system that is actually expected to remain a starter. Everyone seems to have high hopes for Clarkin, but until I see him pitch more than five innings, I have to conserve my judgement and potential excitement.

No. 10: Despite his monstrous size, Aaron Judge has shown he's an excellent athlete with solid speed and a strong arm. He has tremendous power potential, but it needs to be harnessed with a refined swing. Judge probably has the greatest difference between potential and realistic future, as he could fall anywhere from a first-division player to a career minor leaguer.

Judge has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order power monster, but he also has the potential to flame out before he reaches the highest level.

Yes, his power potential could have us all salivating, but right now it seems to be more hypothetical than actually in-game. I fear that he could end up completely flaming out if the power doesn't develop. Even then, I don't know how good of an overall hitter he will end up being. It sounds like he could be a home run or nothing player, yet strangely has the athleticism to play the outfield.

Aside from the top ten, three other players were also set aside as prospects on the rise. Luis Severino, a right-handed pitcher who played for Low-A Charleston in 2013, could have been included in the top ten, though he might end up as a reliever down the road. Luis Torrens, another Venezuelan catcher, made his professional debut in rookie ball this year and could hone his raw tools to make big strides in 2014. Jose Campos, who normally makes these lists, has been stunted by injury, but if he's healthy he could be one of the best in the system.

I think it's fitting that Campos fell off the top ten. He has the potential, but until he can prove that he is healthy, it's best to not expect much from him.

Parks also identified three players who could find themselves contributing at the major league level in 2014: Manny Banuelos, once he overcomes any rust from missing a full season, Rafael De Paula, if he's moved to the bullpen and accelerated through the system, and Bryan Mitchell, as a starter or, more likely, a reliever.

Personally, I find De Paula and Mitchell to be very unlikely. De Paula won't be converted to a reliever just yet and Mitchell has yet to really match his results with his potential. I would love to see ManBan up in the majors, but unless he suddenly figures out his control issues, I say he stays in Triple-A until September.

Jason Parks really summarizes the system in one sentence:

It's Gary Sanchez and a list of interchangeable prospects with reliever profiles or bench futures, although the lower levels of the system might be able to put a much-needed charge into a lifeless system in the coming years.