Now that the 2013 MLB Draft is over and the midway point of the regular season is here, it is time to reevaluate the New York Yankees farm system and give readers a look at 25 players in the minor leagues that can play a big role in the organization’s future.
One thing to note is that these lists (attempt to) balance pure talent and the probability of reaching, and staying, at the major league level. Not everyone on this list will make it to the major leagues. Even less will make a significant major league impact. In the end, only one or two of these players may become a star, but one never truly knows how they will perform at the Major League level until they earn an opportunity.
It is worth noting that this list will include 2013 draftees, though it is truly difficult to gauge their true potential having never played a professional game before. In compiling this list, I elected to use Baseball America’s standard for eligibility: All players who haven’t exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched, without regard to service time.
Dan is usedview.com’s beat writer for the New York Yankees and the Trenton Thunder. Follow him on Twitter at @danpfeiffer74 for all the latest New York Yankees news.
1 – Gary Sanchez, C, Age 20
2013 Statistics with Tampa: .269/.330/.476, 13 HR, 59 RBI, 42% CS
We have always known that Sanchez has a monster bat that will ultimately propel him to the major leagues. However, the 20-year-old’s defense has always been shaky, causing many evaluators to wonder whether he would be able to stay behind the plate long-term. Therefore, the thing that jumps out to me about Sanchez the most is that 42 percent caught stealing rate. If that number holds up, it would easily be a career high for him, and it holds a great deal of weight in assessing his progress on defense and his ability to remain a catcher into the future. Baseball America ranked Sanchez as one of two Yankees farmhands in their midseason top 50.
2 – Tyler Austin, OF, Age 21
2013 Statistics with Trenton: .257/.349/.373, 6 HR, 39 RBI, 15 2B
Austin jumps up a spot from my previous rankings, replacing Mason Williams in the number two slot. I have seen Tyler play quite a bit this year while covering Trenton, and he is arguably the best position player on the field at ARM & HAMMER Park. Austin has shown good bat control and a bit of pop, and has really begun to heat up in the past few weeks. His defense has looked good in the outfield, with just one error in 111 chances. Long term, Austin could be an option to replace an Ichiro Suzuki/Vernon Wells platoon in the outfield in 2015.
3 – Rafael DePaula, RHP, Age 22
2013 Statistics with Charleston & Tampa: 6-4, 3.65 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 108/28 K/BB in 79.0 IP
DePaula has looked like everything the Yankees expected him to be during his first crack at pitching in the United States. I got a chance to see him for the first time when DePaula pitched in Lakewood earlier this season, and could not believe how dominant he was. DePaula struck out seven hitters while allowing just three hits in five shutout innings that day, and looked every bit like a pitcher who could be a future ace. With a fastball that runs into the high 90’s and a potential plus curveball, DePaula has the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the Yankees system. Baseball America ranked DePaula as one of two Yankees farmhands in their midseason top 50.
4 – Slade Heathcott, OF, Age 22
2013 Statistics with Trenton: .253/.322/.372, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 8 SB
Heathcott maintains his fourth spot from my pre-season rankings after a strong May where he hit .277. There is no question Heathcott is immensely talented, but entering 2013, he had not played more than 76 games in a minor league season. That took place back in 2010. Double-A is the level that truly begins the separation process for prospects, and right now, Heathcott is starting to come into his own. After spending April jumping at pitches, Heathcott has been able to make a few adjustments at the plate as he begins to excel. He’s likely not an option until late 2014, but the future remains bright for Heathcott if he can stay healthy.
5 – Jose Ramirez, RHP, Age 21
2013 Statistics with Trenton & Scranton: 2-4, 3.08 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 71/29 K/BB in 64.1 IP
Trenton manager Tony Franklin frequently tells me not to look at the numbers so much when evaluating players, which I am finally learning to do in ignoring the 2-4 record. Ramirez sports a three-pitch arsenal and touches 97 with his fastball. Mixed in with a changeup that sits between 81 and 84 MPH, Ramirez possesses a lethal combination if he can develop better command. Ramirez’s third pitch is a slider that sits between 85 and 87 MPH, and does not make many people swing and miss. If Ramirez wants to remain a starter long-term, he will have to continue developing his slider, but also will have to continue to work to develop better command. He is still probably looking at 2015 before he might have a crack at the big league rotation, but the potential is through the roof for the 21-year-old Dominican prospect.
6 – Mason Williams, OF, Age 21
2013 Statistics with Tampa: .259/.337/.358, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 10 SB
Williams has a ton of talent on the field, but needs to develop off the field as well if he is to be successful long-term. Reports of Williams consistently failing to hustle on groundballs have labeled him as lazy, and an April DUI raises questions about his maturity. On the field, Williams might be the most athletic player in the Yankees system, and is already one of the best defensive outfielders in the minor leagues. The bat is developing, but his smallish frame may make it difficult for him to hit for any power as he moves up in levels. Williams certainly has the tools to succeed, but needs to develop his mental makeup a bit to move back up this list.
7 – Eric Jagielo, 3B, Age 21
2013 Statistics with Notre Dame (NCAA): .388/.500/.633, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 19 2B
The Yankees’ first of three first-round selections in this year’s draft, Jagielo’s swing is perfectly tailored for Yankee Stadium. He is a disciplined left-handed hitter who makes good contact and has plus power. While his defense still needs improvement, many scouts seem to believe Jagielo will be able to stick at the hot corner long-term, which immediately pegs him as a future replacement for Alex Rodriguez.
8 – Manny Banuelos, LHP, Age 22
2013 Statistics with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: None (Injured)
Despite missing most of 2012 and all of the 2013 season with elbow problems and eventually, Tommy John surgery, Banuelos still ranks as one of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects. Featuring a good fastball and a plus curveball/change-up combination, the 22-year-old has plenty of development time left. If he can return from Tommy John as strong as other pitchers have in recent years, Banuelos has a chance to be a second or third starter in the long run.
9 – J.R. Murphy, C, Age 22
2013 Statistics with Trenton & Scranton: .279/.364/.446, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 43% CS rate
Murphy’s defensive improvements have been clearly noticeable and have sprung him into the top ten in regards to prospects. After a solid showing in the season’s first two months while with the Trenton Thunder, Murphy has looked sharp while playing in Scranton, just one step away from the major leagues. The 22-year-old has caught 43 percent of runners trying to steal this year, again testifying to his improvements on defense. It seems unlikely that Murphy will get much, if any, chance in the Bronx this year, but don’t be surprised if he is competing for the starting job in 2014.
10 – Jose Campos, RHP, Age 20
2013 Statistics with Charleston: 1-2, 3.75 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 55/12 K/BB, 60.0 IP
The “other” pitcher acquired in the Jesus Montero trade, Campos’ development took a hit when he pitched in just five games last year before suffering a season-ending elbow injury. This year, he has not pitched more than four innings in a game while the Yankees look to bring him along slowly as he builds up endurance. He has yet to pitch more than 81 innings in a season, making it likely that he is capped around 110 to 120 in 2013. Campos has a dominant fastball, coming in between 95 and 98, but will need to polish his curveball and slider as he moves into the upper levels.
11 – Ramon Flores, OF, Age 21
2013 Statistics with Trenton: .241/.337/.331, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 14 2B
Flores impressed enough in the first half of 2013 to earn a spot in the Eastern League All-Star game. Flores’ game is contact and walks, as his polished eye has helped him maintain a high on-base percentage throughout his career. Another strength for Flores lies in his baseball IQ, as he might be one of the smartest players in the organization. Flores does not project to be much of a power hitter long-term, which could affect his value. He often ends a season in double-digit steals, but it is intelligence, not speed, which often secures most of these.
12 – Aaron Judge, OF, Age 21
2013 Statistics with Fresno State (NCAA): .373/.461/.663, 11 HR, 35 RBI, 15 2B
One of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in the organization, Judge’s massive frame (6’7, 255 pounds) comes with the potential to possess 30 home run power at the big league level someday. His skills are raw, and he could be a risk for 150 strikeouts per season. Though Judge was a center fielder at Fresno State, his strong arm and size have him pegged as a right fielder long-term. Judge is at least three or four years away from being major league ready, and will need to significantly improve his contact ability to stick there.
13 – Ty Hensley, RHP, Age 19
2013 Statistics with GCL Yankees: None (Injured)
Hensley’s rating is based purely on potential, and he’s starting to slip quickly. The Yankees’ first-round pick in 2012 signed for less money than was slotted due to a shoulder abnormality, and is out for all of 2013 as he recovers from a hip injury. With a season and a half lost to injury, Hensley will be 20 years old with just 12 professional innings under his belt as he heads to spring training in 2014. The talent is unquestionably there for Hensley, but right now, it looks as if injuries could significantly slow his development process.
14 – Angelo Gumbs, 2B, Age 20
2013 Statistics with Tampa & Charleston: .230/.283/.352, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 11 SB
Injury and inefficiency, coupled with the emergence of Rob Refsnyder, earned Gumbs a demotion to Charleston by midseason. Gumbs may be one of the best all-around athletes in the system, but so far, has taken multiple steps back in his fourth professional season. Gumbs seems like the type of prospect that could be dangled as part of a package at the trade deadline to a team that thinks they can finally set him right. At only 20 years old, Gumbs has not hit “bust” status yet, but he is starting to head in that direction quickly.
15 – Brett Marshall, RHP, Age 23
2013 Statistics with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: 4-6, 5.99 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, 74/49 K/BB in 82.2 IP
Marshall has not looked good in his first season in Triple-A., in large part due to a surprising lack of control. The 23-year-old also struggled earlier in the year when given the opportunity to make his major league debut. Baseball America touts Marshall’s changeup as the best in the system, but he needs to refine his fastball command before getting another crack in the Bronx. We could see Marshall return to New York as a September call-up, and he will likely compete for a roster spot in 2014.
16 – Mark Montgomery, RHP, Age 22
2013 Statistics with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: 1-1, 3.06 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 39/20 K/BB in 32.1 IP
Montgomery’s dominant slider is unquestionably the best in the New York Yankees farm system, and may be the best in all of the minor leagues. He has not been as dominant during his time with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season, but I still have Montgomery pegged as the long-term replacement for Mariano Rivera. The strikeout numbers haven’t been as high this year, but his floor likely remains that of a setup man.
17 – David Adams, IF, Age 26
2013 Statistics with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: .316/.407/.490, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 6 2B (27 games)
2013 Statistics with New York (MLB): .190/.260/.276, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 4 2B (35 games)
Adams struggled in his first dose of the major leagues, batting just .190 in 116 at-bats before being demoted. The 26-year-old didn’t demonstrate a great eye at the plate, working just nine walks in 35 games. It was likely that this could be chalked up to simply a difficult first stint in the majors, as Adams still has great potential. Adams also showed a great deal of versatility, adequately handling first, second, and third base. Long-term, Adams could very well be the team’s third baseman of the future. At worst, Adams would likely be an effective utility infielder with the ability to platoon against left-handed pitching.
18 – Ian Clarkin, LHP, Age 18
2013 Statistics: None (Has yet to make professional debut)
Clarkin’s Yankee career got off to a rocky start when he commented on draft night that he “couldn’t stand the Yankees.” However, fans will surely overlook that when they see his low-to-mid 90s fastball in action. Clarkin also sports an average curveball that projects as a plus pitch, and a fringe changeup that projects to be a useable third pitch down the road. Clarkin’s command is not entirely there, but it projects to get better as his mechanics improve.
19 – Zoilo Almonte, OF, Age 24
2013 Statistics with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: .297/.369/.421, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 12 2B (68 games)
2013 Statistics with New York (MLB): .284/.319/.388, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 3 SB (20 games)
A switch-hitter with some pop in his bat, Zoilo Almonte finally got his chance in June and has made the most of it thus far. He has taken over as the Yankees’ everyday left fielder, a position he could hold through when some of the team’s top outfield prospects make it to New York. Almonte is solid defensively, and possesses a plus arm. After spending most of 2012 playing right field, Almonte shifted to left field for 2013. He profiles as a starter as a corner outfielder for the long-term, and may even make an All-Star appearance or two.
20 – Nik Turley, LHP, Age 23
2013 Statistics with Trenton & Scranton: 7-5, 4.15 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 94/45 K/BB in 89.0 IP
Turley has been Trenton’s most reliable starter this season, earning a trip to the Eastern League All-Star Game after a solid first half. The former 50th round pick has worked his way up the ladder of the New York Yankees farm system, touting a low-to-mid 90’s fastball and a sweeping curveball. Turley has also had some success with his changeup, allowing him to brandish a solid three-pitch arsenal at Double-A. The Yankees thought highly enough of Turley to add him to the 40-man roster during the offseason, and the left-hander seems likely to be a back-of-the-rotation starter when he finally peaks.
21 – Peter O’Brien, C, Age 22
2013 Statistics with Charleston & Tampa: .308/.367/.588, 14 HR, 59 RBI, 24 2B, 31% CS rate
O’Brien burst onto the scene after being a second-round pick in the 2012 draft, blasting 10 home runs in 48 games with Staten Island. This season, O’Brien tore up the SALLY league, batting .325 and hitting 11 home runs in just 53 games before a promotion to Tampa. O’Brien is big for a catcher (6’3, 215), but his skill set is good enough that he should be able to stay there long-term. O’Brien features a very good arm behind the plate. Offensively, the 22-year-old has shown some good pop in his bat, but most reports indicate he still struggles with good breaking pitches. Long-term, O’Brien could be a starter on some teams, but is unlikely to overcome J.R. Murphy or Gary Sanchez’s potential.
22 – Dellin Betances, RHP, Age 25
2013 Statistics with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: 5-4, 3.90 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 66/27 K/BB in 55.1 IP
When asked who has the best stuff in the Yankees farm system, more often than not, a scout will say Dellin Betances. The 6’7 right-hander shifted to the bullpen midway through 2013 and has looked like a changed pitcher since then. After posting a 6.00 ERA as a starter, Betances is pitching to a 2.30 ERA while hitting the high-90s with his fastball out of the pen. Betances should be in the Bronx later this season, and is being touted by many as a replacement for Joba Chamberlain in 2014.
23 – Corban Joseph, 2B, Age 24
2013 Statistics with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: .239/.329/.383, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 9 2B
Corban Joseph made his major league debut earlier in 2013, playing two games with the major league club. Primarily a second baseman, Joseph has gotten looks at third base and has taken fly balls during batting practice this season in an effort to increase his versatility. A good left-handed bat, Joseph could have a future in a utility role for the Yankees, though he is certainly no threat to unseat Robinson Cano. He sports a nice, smooth swing and has good control of the strike zone, which could make him a valuable offensive piece at some point. Joseph’s biggest limitation is his speed, which his virtually non-existent.
24 – Greg Bird, 1B, Age 20
2013 Statistics with Charleston: .272/.392/.453, 8 HR, 47 RBI, 24 2B
Drafted as a catcher in 2011, Bird has already moved out from behind the plate and over to first base. While the path to the major leagues is difficult for minor league first basemen, Bird’s smooth swing and plus power should give him a good chance to get to the show. Bird profiles as a high-average hitter with 20 home run potential. He entered 2013 pegged as one of the most likely breakout prospects in the system, and while he has not taken off like Tyler Austin did last season, Bird has hit at a pretty good clip. At just 20 years old, Bird still has plenty of time to continue developing, and could eventually replace Mark Teixeira at first base.
25 – Jake Cave, OF, Age 20
2013 Statistics with Charleston: .270/.321/.404, 1 HR, 20 RBI, 23 2B
After being drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 Amateur Draft, a kneecap injury cost Cave almost all of the ’11 and ’12 seasons as he played in just one game with the Gulf Coast League Yankees. Cave was noted by some farm system followers as one with great potential, but it was not until this season in Charleston when people really began to take notice. Cave has functioned as a prototypical leadoff hitter this season, producing a good average and on-base percentage while displaying little home run power. Cave has also flashed some speed, going 7-for-11 on the bases this year. Cave has looked pretty good on defense this year, committing just one error in center field.