Saturday, February 1, 2014

2014 Pre-Season Top 25 Yankees Prospect Rankings

by: Ben Embry

Ladies and gentlemen, it's prospect season!  And every high profile baseball publication/website is in the process of issuing their Top 100 overall and top 10 system rankings.  I am not one of those sites, but I do read them and they do affect my opinion so you can consider my top 25 a hodgepodge of the other sites, mixed with some personal subjectivity based on following these guys 12 months a year.

Please remember, I'm not a scout.  I don't even have direct contact with scouts.  I do not attend games for any of New York's minor league affiliates.  I am only a consumer of baseball news and editorials, specifically articles regarding the Yankees.  That does not make me an expert, but it does allow me to form opinions.  Basically you can say, I'm simply an educated fan.  Without further delay, here are my top 25 Yankees prospects heading into the 2014 season:

Rank Name POS
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 Ian Clarkin SP
9 Greg Bird 1B
10 Rafael de Paula SP
11 Manny Banuelos SP
12 Luis Severino SP
13 Gosuke Katoh 2B
14 Jose Ramirez SP
15 Jose Campos SP
16 Ty Hensley SP
17 Abiatal Avelino SS
18 Luis Torrens C
19 Miguel Andujar 3B
20 Peter O'Brien 3B/C
21 Gabe Encinas SP
22 Nik Turley SP
23 Bryan Mitchell SP
24 Mark Montgomery RP
25 Angelo Gumbs 2B

Sanchez was the easy choice for #1 prospect.  He's the only guy to make all the big Top 100 prospect lists.  He's ranked number one on every system list.  He has possible league MVP tools if you look hard enough.  The opinion on his catching ranges wildly; some say its adequate, some say it's pretty poor.  Specifically his arm is plus but receiving and game calling are, let's say...debatable.  His calling card is his power, though doesn't show in games as much as you'd hope.

Williams is a super talented CF that has potential at the plate.  I've heard more than once he could be a good defender in MLB right now and projects as gold glove.  His issues are strike zone awareness and "makeup".  He came into Spring Training last season over weight and was arrested last April for DUI.  He's still fairly young, (turns 23 in August), but this is a make-or-break season for his prospect status.

Jagielo was the first of three 1st round picks New York made in the 2013 draft.  His strengths are a power bat that could hit for average.  There is some debate regarding his ability to stick at 3B, but it seems most people believe he can play it adequately.  He played well last yr following the draft (.264/.376/.451 with 6 HR in 193 AB).  I think he'll start the season at A- Charleston, supplanting Dante Bichette, (I'm curious to see where they'll move DB).

Austin and Heathcott have similar stories.  Both had injuries last year that derailed seasons that were believed to be promising.  Austin's an offense first RF who may have to move to 1B, which is scary because it raises the bar offensively.  That move is far from certain but something NY has experimented with.  Heathcott is a plus defender in CF but the big knock on him is that his all-out playing style may prevent him from ever staying healthy consistently.  Makeup used to be an issue but I believe his off-field troubles are behind him.

Murphy is a C that Keith Law said recently will definitely play for someone in the bigs.  Judge and Clarkin are the other 2 first rounders from last year that saw little-to-no playing time last year due to injuries.  Greg Bird has a tremendous season offensively (.288/.428/.411 with 20 HR in 458 AB) but will have to keep those kind of numbers up due to the aforementioned high bar offensively that 1B are judged by.

De Paula is interesting to me in that he played extremely well in Charleston, (good enough to make an appearance in the Futures Game), but was dominated in A+ Tampa.  I gave him too much credit for the Charelston performance, apparently, when I ranked him 2nd at the end of last season.  He hasn't made a single Top 10 list, which forced me to adjust my opinion.  I still have him in the Top 10 and if he can improve on that Tampa performance he can move back up quickly.

Banuelos is scheduled to participate in Spring Training, and hopefully knock the rust off from being gone for two years quickly, possibly making it to the Bronx in the second half of the season.  Severino and Katoh are two youngin's that performed exceptionally well in rookie ball last year.  Both will have a chance to make a name for themselves this year and crack the top 10, if not the top half of the top 10.  Ramirez and Campos are both talented pitchers but may have to move to the bullpen, (Ramirez more-so than Campos).

Ty Hensley is a guy that I refuse to totally turn my back on, despite the fact he's still only pitched 12 innings thus far in his pro career.  He missed last season due to hip surgeries, (one each per side), and questions about his "abnormal" shoulder still linger.  It goes without saying probably, but this will be a big year for Ty.

Avelino, Torrens, and Andujar are all international signees from 2011-2012 that have performed well in rookie ball here in the States and have people excited.  Torrens received praise from Keith Law for the exceptional way he has handled a move to C, (he was a 3B when NY signed him but the plan all along was for him to move behind the dish), and said he can be a plus defender.

O'Brien is a former college C but some said 3B, maybe even 1B, are much more likely.  Man does he hit for power, though!  Encinas has always been a system favorite of Law's (or at least a notable "sleeper").  Turley and Mitchell are both A+/AA pitchers that, with solid seasons, could be next year's David Phelps or Adam Warren.  Montgomery is on the door step to the majors for the second consecutive year.  Angelo Gumbs is a talented 2B that really took a step back last year but is still top 25 worthy prospect, in my opinion.  If he's not careful, he'll join the Cito Culver-Dante Bichette-Austin Aune club.

Ok, there ya go.  I'm sure my opinions could be picked apart, but then again so can anybody else's.  Feel free to tweet or email me or leave a comment, regardless of whether you agree or not.

Twitter: @thebronxempire

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