If you couldn't tell, it's prospect ranking season. We've already seen lists from Baseball Prospectus (Gary Sanchez No. 85) and MLB.com (Sanchez No. 47, Mason Williams No. 75), and now it's time for Keith Law of ESPN to step into the ring and offer up his own rankings. Yankee fans might like him the most as he includes three Yankee prospects in his list, however, none of them reach the top 50.
Law had good things to say about Gary Sanchez, ranking him No. 68. He believes Sanchez has All-Star potential, he just needs to show it at a consistent rate. He also thinks that Sanchez is a much better catcher, in every category, than Jesus Montero ever was, and even average defense could set him up as an MVP candidate.
He has huge upside as a hitter, with plus-plus raw power and very hard contact, even with a slightly noisy approach, thanks to huge hip rotation and great strength in his wrists and forearms. His recognition of secondary stuff needs work, but his hand-eye coordination is so good that he's always had good contact rates, even striking out less often in the Florida State League than fellow young'uns Miguel Sano, Javier Baez and Byron Buxton.
Sanchez is often compared, unfairly, to former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero, but Sanchez has always been a better catcher across the board -- catching, throwing, agility -- and just needed to show the commitment and a better work ethic, which he did in 2013. He has a cannon, at least a 70-grade arm, and has improved his release over the past few years, but the finer points of catching like game-calling are still a ways off, and he may never be a good framer.
My Hot Take: It's good to know that Sanchez is better behind the plate than Montero. I feel like we were all a little lied to about how well Montero had improved behind the plate. Did you see him with the Mariners? At this point, if Sanchez can learn game-calling skills then that's just icing on the cake because all he needs to be is adequate behind the plate. Yes, he's young, but he needs to break out in 2014 and show that he can be the potential All-Star/MVP that people keep talking about.
He ranked Mason Williams at 87, believing he still has the potential to be a "high-average, doubles-power guy who might hit 15 homers in his best season." His biggest knock against Mason is that he seemingly came into the 2013 season out of shape and lacking energy in the outfield and out of the box, though he looked much better in the Arizona Fall League after dropping some weight.
He is a potential Gold Glove defender in center, a future 70 on the 20-80 scale with good reads off the bat and bursting speed to chase down balls in the gaps. He's not a hacker at the plate, but he's not as selective as he should be; he can make contact so easily that he often chases pitches he should let go by and needs to be willing to work the count more to his advantage. Williams also had some mechanical issues at the plate in 2013, finishing too closed after striding and sometimes getting his front hip out too early, all of which need to be reined in to maximize his production.
My Hot Take: I just don't really know if Mason will ever put it all together and reach his potential. Evaluators have spoken about his coachability issues and if he's gaining weight and losing speed because of it, I don't think he's heading in the right direction. He might be useful as a fourth outfielder, but unless he can start becoming more selective, like a Brett Gardner-type, I don't know if his current tool set can offer much more. The 2014 season is key.
The third Yankee to finally make any major prospect list was Tyler Austin, who Law ranked at No. 85. Law believes that the wrist injury he suffered this year practically ruined his season.
When healthy, Austin has a very sound swing that is geared both toward contact and power and is short to contact with good extension. He rotates his hips well to generate power, all with enough patience to keep his OBP in the .350 range. The wrist injury left his bat speed slower -- you see he was late on fastballs he'd have squared up a season before -- and it sapped most of his power as well.
He'll be only about average in right field -- making the necessary plays but not much more -- so he needs to hit and hit for power to be a regular. Like Hak-Ju Lee, he's still on this list as I wait to see if he's back to full strength in 2014, because I do believe in his potential with the bat.
My Hot Take: I have to agree that the wrist injury really did a number on his season, so I'd like to see what he can do when he's healthy. I think Austin can hit, but my concern is whether or not his power will ever develop because without being able to hit ~20 home runs a season, he's going to end up as a bench bat.
So there you have it, and clearly you're getting a sense at just how volatile these lists can be. Sanchez was No.85 according to BP, but according to Law, that's as good as Tyler Austin. MLB is the only list to give the Yankees a top 50 prospect. What do you think of these rankings? Give us your hot take.