Monday, March 31, 2014

MiLB Assignments for Top 25 Prospects

by: Ben Embry

With Spring Training wrapping up and the big league club headed to Houston to start the season, the team's minor leaguers are off to their assignments either in Scranton, Trenton, Charleston or Tampa, (some of whom will play for the A+ affiliate and others staying in extended Spring Training).  You can't really find official announcements on these assignments but Twitter is an excellent source. There are several people in the know such as Dan Pfeiffer, (@danpfeiffer74), a Trenton Thunder beat writer for Examiner.com.  Plus a lot of the players tweet where they're going on their feeds.

Here is the assignments for our pre-season Top 25 list:


For those in Extended Spring, I expect Austin and Heathcott to go to AA when ready, Bird and Campos to go to A+, Encinas to go to A-, and Clarkin and Hensley to go to Short Season in Staten Island.

It looks to me that they're being pretty aggressive with some of the younger players, notably Katoh, Torrens, and Andujar.  I love to see it, as it's a strong endorsement from the organization for those players.  It also gives me confidence that we could see a wave of prospects ready to hit the big league roster in 2016-2017.  In my opinion, the Yankees farm system has been backsliding for 2 seasons but I'm very confident that they'll be back on an upswing this year.  They drafted really well last year and there are a handful of guys in the upper-end of the minors that are good bounce back candidates.

Before I conclude, I want to give a quick shout out to fellow Yankee blogger: Draft 2 Dynasty.  He helped me out with some of the harder guys to find info on for this list.  For those on twitter, he's a must follow for Yankee fans and baseball card collectors, (@draft2dynasty).  I love his blog, which you can find at draft2dynasty.blogspot.com.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Couple of Draft Observations

by: Ben Embry

It's been 26 days since I published my second comp board for this years MLB Draft and we're now 73 days from the big day.  Even though we're not very far removed from my last comments and still 2.5 months from the draft, there have been some changes that I feel compelled to address.

The first is a change at the top.  For two years, Carlos Rodon has been the consensus top player for the 2014 draft.  He would have been the best player in last year's draft pool.  Prior to the start of this season, it was arguable he was 1 of the 10 best players not in the major leagues.  But the bandwagon has been thinning out with a couple notable names taking a step back.  Keith Law and Chris Crawford, both who write for ESPN.com, have anointed California prep lefty Brady Aiken the best prospect.  Both had Rodon the best player prior to this season, and to different degrees are contending Rodon is not the same prospect they thought he was 6 weeks ago.  They're citing command mainly, and Law says his slider, which has been an 80 on the 20-80 scale, is now a 60 or a 70 and his fastball is looking average.  Law is a little more fervent in his opinion while Crawford seemed to say he thinks Rodon will bounce back before draft day.

The more interesting situation is what the rest of the industry will have to say soon. Reading sites like Baseball America lately, it seems they believe Rodon has maintained his grip on the top spot.  They've referred to him more as "unlucky" than "less dominant".  I think there could be a fracturing of opinion on Rodon by the top sites where as previously he was the unanimously anointed best player.

As for the Yankees angle, it seems my fascination with one prospect will have to be short lived but in its place will be intrigue in an entire class of prospects.  Last post I mentioned Dylan Crase, a prep righty from Georgia, was the player I hoped would land in the Bronx.  This was based on him bring ranked 38th on my previous comp board, which is within a range that is reasonable to believe he could be available when New York makes their first pick at #47.  But upon further review, it looks less likely that Cease and the Yankees are a good match.  The main reason is that most people believe he's actually a top 15 talent and some are ranking him as such while others are hesitating because he hasn't been pitching because of a sore elbow.  This mix of opinions caused him to be drug down in the rankings from where he justifiably should be.  And it's still entirely possible that he will not have been selected when NY's first pick rolls around.  But the fact that he is so well regarded coupled with his availability will be due to some health questions, plus the issue of his commitment to Vanderbilt, (historically very tough to sign), all make it hard to see anyone being able to sign him in the second round.  He would most likely honor his commitment to Vanderbilt and re-enter the draft in 3 years.

So instead of wanting New York to sign Cease, or any one specific person for that matter, I'm going to just hope they sign one of the multitude of good young HS arms that will most likely be available.  This class is LOADED with quality prep pitchers and any ranking or mock draft you read will tell you at least a few of them will be available when NY picks.  It won't be Aiken, or Tyler Kolek, or Grant Holmes.  They'll all be gone.  Luis Ortiz probably will be, too.  And as for Cease or fellow Vandy commit Touki Toussaint, I don't believe they'll be signable.  But that still leaves guys like Sean Reid-Foley, Cameron Varga, Keaton McKinney, Kodi Meideros, Jacob Nix, Michael Kopech, Mac Marshall, Scott Blewett, Alex Verdugo, and on and on and on.  It's crazy!  In one sense, the Yankees are lucky in that in a year they do not have a pick before the second round, they can still have a shot at one of these talented kids.  I'd still rather have a pick in the first AND second, but we should be able to live with what we end up with.

Again, I will do another comp board at the end of April and one last one at the end of May.  I just wanted to give you these couple updates since I blogged last.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2014 MLB Draft Compilation Board #2

by: Ben Embry

Amateur baseball seasons are starting to get under way, and all of the big draft scouts/writers that I follow have updated their prospect rankings recently.  Between now and June 5, we can expect a lot of changes.  There will be some pop up guys, like Jonathan Gray from last year, and movement up and down the rankings for a lot of guys.  Some prospects predicted to be first round talents could easily fall multiple rounds based on how they look this Spring.  But right now, we're only two weeks into the season and there really hasn't been much opportunity for that to happen, so this is kind of like a jumping off point.

This compilaton board is a little thing I like to do to stay up on who the big names are in the draft pool. What I do is take rankings from 6 different sources that I trust the most on the subject of draft prospects and I compile them into one board.  And honestly, it is very difficult to find a lot of information on the MLB Draft on the internet, at least compared to the more popular NFL and NBA Drafts.  The MLB Draft is more niche-y, so if anything I'd like to consider what I do a service to those other MLB draftniks out there who are looking for some good information.

My previous board can be found here.  Here's the second board for the 2014 draft:

Rnk Name Pos School
1 Carlos Rodon SP NC State
2 Jeff Hoffman SP E Carolina
3 Alex Jackson C H.S.
4 Tyler Kolek SP H.S.
5 Tyler Beede SP Vandy
6 Trea Turner SS NC State
7 Derek Fisher OF Virginia
8 Nick Gordon SS H.S.
9 Jacob Gatewood SS H.S.
10 Brady Aiken SP H.S.
11 Grant Holmes SP H.S.
12 Max Pentecost C Kensaw St
13 Braxton Davidson 1B H.S.
14 Luis Ortiz SP H.S.
15 Sean Newcomb SP Hartford
16 Touki Toussaint SP H.S.
17 Brandon Finnegan SP TCU
18 Kyler Schwarber C Indiana
19 Erick Fedde SP UNLV
20 Michael Gettys SP/OF H.S.
21 Luke Weaver SP Florida St
22 Alex Verdugo SP/OF H.S.
23 Sean Reid-Foley SP H.S.
24 Aaron Nola SP LSU
25 Kodi Medeiros SP H.S.
26 Brad Zimmer OF San Fran
27 Michael Cederoth SP SD State
28 Mac Marshall SP H.S.
29 Scott Blewett SP H.S.
30 Cobi Johnson SP H.S.
31 Justus Sheffield SP H.S.
32 Nick Burdi RP Louisville
33 Michael Conforto OF Oregon St
34 Kyle Freeland SP Evansville
35 Derek Hill OF H.S.
36 Matt Chapman 3B CS Fuller.
37 Michael Chavis 3B H.S.
38 Dylan Cease SP H.S.
39 Ti'quan Forbes SS H.S.
40 Forrest Wall 2B H.S.
41 Jackson Reetz C H.S.
42 J.D. Davis SP/1B CS Fuller.
43 Monte' Harrison OF H.S.
44 Dylan Davis SP/OF Oregon St
45 Keaton McKinney SP H.S.
46 Jake Godfrey SP H.S.
47 Marcus Wilson OF H.S.
48 Sean Bouchard 3B H.S.
49 Greg Deichmann 3B H.S.
50 Taylor Sparks 3B UC Irvine
51 Jeren Kendall OF H.S.
52 Alex Blandino 3B Stanford
53 Matt Imhof SP Cal Poly
54 Jordan Brink SP Fresno St
55 Chris Ellis SP Ole Miss
56 Michael Kopech SP H.S.
57 Josh Morgan 3B H.S.
58 Cameron Varga SP H.S.
59 Jack Flaherty SS H.S.
60 Chase Vallot C H.S.
61 Austin Davis SP CS Baker.
62 Stone Garrett OF H.S.
63 Spencer Turnbull SP Alabama
64 Turner Larkins SP H.S.
65 Chad Sobotka SP SC Upstate
66 Spencer Adams SP H.S.
67 Lane Thomas OF H.S.
68 Kel Johnson OF H.S.
69 Tate Blackman 2B H.S.
70 Luke Bonfield SP/OF H.S.
71 Andrew Suarez SP Miami (FL)
72 Grayson Greiner C South Car
73 Joey Gatto SP H.S.
74 Milton Ramos SS H.S.
75 Travis Jones OF H.S.
76 Dillon Peters SP Texas
77 Jake Cosart SP JUCO
78 Scott Heineman OF Oregon
79 Evan Skoug C H.S.
80 Foster Griffin SP H.S.
81 Chris Oliver SP Arkansas
82 Zach Shannon SP/OF H.S.
83 Carl Chester OF H.S.
84 Austin Byler 3B Nevada
85 Karsten Whitson SP Florida
86 Lukas Schiraldi SP Texas
87 Joey Pankake 3B S Carolina
88 Casey Gillaspie 1B Wichita St
89 Brandon Downes OF Virginia
90 Devon Fisher C H.S.
91 Gareth Morgan OF H.S.
92 Adam Haseley SP/OF H.S.
93 Sam Coonrod SP So Illinois
94 Keith Weisenberg SP H.S.
95 JJ Schwarz C H.S.
96 Grant Hockin SP H.S.
97 Brett Austin C NC State
98 Justin Bellinger 1B H.S.
99 Blake Bivens SP H.S.
100 Riley Ferrell RP TCU

The Yankees currently have the 47th pick, with a slot of about $1.03 million.  That's actually about 10 spots better than I was thinking they would have.  In theory, they should wind up with 2 guys off this list.  In the 40-50 range, you see a lot of high school kids, which I don't think would be a bad way to go.  Based on what talent they have in the system, a HS OF would work.  HS pitchers are never a bad way to go.  I'd advocate for some college pitching, but generally the pickings get slim in that area after the first round, (if not sooner).  They can afford to stay away from advanced catchers and outfielders, and young infielders based on what they did last year and what they're working on in the international free agent class, (although it never hurts to get a good young SS if they're available).

I'm a big fan of Dylan Cease for New York right now.  He really impressed me in the Under Armour game last Summer, particularly in his strike out of 2015 stud Daz Cameron.  Baseball America said he has an athletic delivery and "produces easy velocity, with a fastball up to 97 mph" and they recently ranked his fastball as one of the best in high school.  He's currently ranked 38th, so it wouldn't be a big stretch to see him end up with the Yankees.  I think that would be a really good value for a team picking halfway into the second round, although $1 million may not be big enough to lure him away from his Vanderbilt commitment.

I should say I find it a little self defeating to have these specific guys you want your team to draft, because the chances are very slim when you draft where NY always drafts.  Last year is a prime example; I had hoped all Spring that Ryne Stanek would be available when the Yankees drafted at 26 even though no one predicted he'd last that long.  Somehow he did and yet NY took Jagielo instead.  I'll refrain from saying whether I think that was a mistake, but it was a little bit of a gut punch for me.  Still, what fun is it if you can't dream, know what I mean?

I want to make sure I give credit where credit's due, that being the six writers/publications I use to assemble my board.  Some are subscription based, some are free.  I encourage everyone to check them all out.  They are:

Big League Futures (Kevin Gallo, Matt Grabusky)

Baseball America (various writers)

ESPN (Keith Law)

MLB.com (Jim Callis, Jon Mayo)

Scouting Baseball (Kiley McDaniel)

MLB Draft Insider (Chris Crawford)

My next board will be available at the end of April.  At that point I'll have enough info to do a deep dive on some of the top prospects and some guys that are being predicted for New York.  You can expect a lot of changes and the board should get to at least 125 maybe 150 at that point; I actually have 109 names now but I don't like odd numbers like that so I cut it off at 100.  The last board, which will be available within a week prior to the draft, will expand to 250.

Email me or hit me up on twitter with any questions: info@thebronxempire.com or @thebronxempire.  Have a good day!

Monday, February 3, 2014

2014 Yankees Prospects: 5 Buy-Low Candidates

by: Ben Embry

This weekend I posted my lists for the Yankees' farm systems top 25 hitters, pitchers and overall.  Before I completely turn the page, there are 5 prospects I think will have good years and will therefore elevate their positions on the list.  In order of current ranking:

Aaron Judge, OF (rank: 7) - Judge is the classic boom or bust candidate...the kind of guy you can feel comfortable taking early when you have three first round picks.  The rumors linking Judge to the Yankees started early and at first I was concerned.  This is a guy who was supposed to be a power hitter but only had 6 HR in his first two college seasons.  His 6'7 frame suggests he probably won't be able to stick for long in CF, the position he played at Fresno State.  But he hit and played very well in 2013, (.369/.461./655 with 12 HR in 206 AB).  And just the fact he played CF makes me think his defense will be at least above average for some time when he eventually moves to one of the corners.  I have a feeling he'll play very well this year, probably in Charleston, and make all the big Top 100 lists next year.


Ty Hensley, SP (rank: 16) - Ty has everything you're looking for in an elite pitching prospect: frame (6'4, 220 lbs), repertoire (92-95 MPH fastball with big 12-to-6 curve and developing change-up), and accolades (ESPN and Gatorade Oklahoma player of the year in 2012).  Add to that being the son of former professional pitcher Mike Hensley and you get a very entriguing prospect.  He did very well in the 12 IP following the 2012 draft (3.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 10.50 K/9) and this time last year I was eagerly anticipating Ty getting assigned to Charleston.  Well unfortunately that assignment never came due to injuries that required surgeries on both hips.  Missing all of 2013 has led to Ty being sorta forgotten the way I see it.  I predict he'll have an excellent season and distinguish himself as the top pitching prospect in the system and put himself in the conversation of Top 100 overall.


Luis Torrens, C (rank: 18) - I've really been intrigued by Torrens since 2012 when Baseball America ranked him the second best IFA prospect that year.  He hit ok, despite the slash line (.248/.348/.299 in 174 AB), especially considering he was just 17 years old).  Miguel Andujar went through a similar situation the year before and last year he was outstanding (.323/.368/.496 in 133 AB).  I expect the same thing for Torrens. Plus, Keith Law mentioned recently that Luis has shown the ability to be excellent defensively behind the plate, something I was not aware of.  He should be a top 10 system prospect next year.


Peter O'Brien, C/3B/1B (rank: 20) - POWER, POWER, POWER.  He's a huge man with pop to spare.  Squating down for 150 or so pitches every day probably not easy on a 6'3" dude, which is what I'm telling myself as I hear about them moving him around the diamond.  Fact is when you can hit 22 HR in a year it doesn't really matter where you play.  And a .265 career average is more than acceptable when your OPS is .819.  The Yankees really believed in O'Brien when they took him in the second round and gave a college Senior a $460,000 bonus.  And the way he's moving through the system, you can tell their opinions haven't changed.  If he keeps posting a .265/.321/.498 line with HR to spare.


Leonardo Molina, OF (rank: not ranked) - Ok, this kid's about as far away from the bigs as you can get.  Hasn't even played one professional game yet.  Doesn't turn 17 until August.  But he's a big bonus baby with good bat speed and plus defense.  He was ranked 4th best July 2 prospect by Baseball America last year and scouts who have seen him in working in Tampa are gushing.  He'll be top 25 easy next year.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

2014 Pre-season Yankees Prospect Rankings (by position)

by: Ben Embry

Yesterday I gave you my thoughts on the Top 25 overall prospects in the Yankees farm system.  I actually go much deeper in rankings, with about 61 players on my watchlist.  So I thought I'd give you a further breakdown by rankings pitchers and hitters seperately.  First the pitchers:

Rank Player Position
1 Ian Clarkin SP
2 Rafael de Paula SP
3 Manny Banuelos SP
4 Luis Severino SP
5 Jose Ramirez SP
6 Jose Campos SP
7 Ty Hensley SP
8 Gabe Encinas SP
9 Nik Turley SP
10 Bryan Mitchell SP
11 Mark Montgomery RP
12 Caleb Smith SP
13 Omar Luis SP
14 Nick Goody RP
15 Rookie Davis SP
16 Brady Lail SP
17 Dietrich Enns SP
18 Jordan Cote SP
19 Cesar Vargas SP
20 Angel Rincon SP
21 Cale Coshow SP
22 David Palladino SP
23 Zach Nuding RP
24 Evan Rutckyj SP
25 Daniel Camarena SP

The hitters are as follows:

Rank Player Position
1 Gary Sanchez C
2 Mason Williams OF
3 Eric Jagielo 3B
4 Tyler Austin OF/1B
5 Slade Heathcott OF
6 J.R. Murphy C
7 Aaron Judge OF
8 Greg Bird 1B
9 Gosuke Katoh 2B
10 Abiatal Avelino SS
11 Luis Torrens C
12 Miguel Andujar 3B
13 Peter O'Brien 3B/C
14 Angelo Gumbs 2B
15 Mike O'Neill OF
16 Ben Gamel OF
17 Rob Refsnyder 2B
18 Ramon Flores OF
19 Tyler Wade SS
20 Thairo Estrada SS
21 Jake Cave OF
22 Alexander Palma OF
23 Cito Culver SS
24 Dante Bichette, Jr. 3B
25 Austin Aune OF

After today, I'll turn my attention back to draft rankings, begrudgingly since New York will not have a first round pick.  Still, there will be about 250 players on my list so there should still be a few prospects that end up Yankees.  And who knows, maybe a Top 25 player will inexplicably slide to the Bombers like Jon Denney did for Boston last year, (lucky bastards).  I'll also be keeping an eye on the July 2 prospects, which New York has been purported to be in VERY DEEP on.  Like, they may sign all of the top guys, who knows.  There's been a lot of information already, but only from Kiley McDaniel over at Scouting Baseball and most of what he has said has been in his premium service, so out of respect for him, I'll keep it to myself.  All I can say is...be excited.  Or as excited as you should be about kids who won't play in the majors for at least another 4-6 years.  But seriously, if you have any kind of interest in July 2 prospects, Kiley's articles are worth the subscription.

Take care everybody and have a good weekend.