2013 New York Yankees Top Prospects

 

System Overview: Despite annually picking near the end of every draft the Yankees have assembled a promising, fairly deep farm system in the last few years, thanks in large part to unearthing talent outside of the first round.

Tyler Austin, the club’s top prospect, was a 13th round pick in 2010 who profiles as an All Star-caliber outfielder. Center fielder Mason Williams, a former fourth round pick, split time between A-ball and High-A before injuring his non-throwing shoulder. And reliever Mark Montgomery, the team’s sixth best prospect, could conceivably make his debut at some point in 2013, despite being an 11th round pick just two years ago.

As with Williams, injuries seemed to plague many of the other team’s better prospects last season. Left-hander Manny Banuelos underwent Tommy John surgery; right-hander Jose Campos made just five starts before his elbow flared up; Slade Heathcott had another surgery on his shoulder prior to the start of the season; second baseman Angelo Gumbs tore a ligament in his non-throwing elbow, and ambidextrous — and highly undervalued —  reliever Pat Venditte required surgery on his right labrum.

With that being said, this is still a promising collection of prospects, particular y position players. And there could be two, maybe three All Star players in the lot.

 

 

#1. Gary Sanchez, Age: 20, Position: C

 

Sanchez, who ranks among the game’s top handful of catching prospects, began the year hitting an impressive .297/.353/.517 in A-ball, with 13 homeruns, 11 stolen bases and solid peripherals (7.6% BB%, 22.5 K%, and .221 ISO) in 68 games. His total offensive production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 36% better than the South Atlantic League average.

The organization then promoted him to high-A, where he continued to impress, hitting .279/.330/.436 with five homeruns and four stolen bases, despite being three years younger than the average Florida State League batter. His total offensive production was 18% better than the league average.

Projection: Among the several promising positional prospects making their way through the New York system, Sanchez stands near the top, an above-average bat at one of the most crucial, offensively deficient positions in the game. He has above-average power, modest strike out rates, and surprising speed for a catcher. He has also shown a strong eye at the plate sporadically throughout his career. Defensively, he’s thrown out 30% of would-be base stealers throughout his career. If injuries don’t derail his career, Sanchez could develop into a .270/.340/.460-type hitter at the big league level.

Ceiling: 4.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

 

#2. Tyler Austin, Age: 21, Position: 1B/ OF

Without question one of the organization’s best picks over the past recent years, Austin, a 13th round pick in the 2010 draft, dominated two levels before ending the season with a two-game stint in Double-A, where he’ll most likely begin the 2013 season.

After hitting .320/.405/.598 with 22 doubles, five triples, 14 homeruns and 17 stolen bases in 70 games in A-ball, half of which were spent in the offense-suppressing home ballpark of the Charleston River Dogs, Austin continued his torrid pace by slugging .321/.385/.478 in 36 games in High-A. Overall, he hit .322/.400/.559 and his total offensive production was 63% higher than the league average, 12th best total among minor leaguers that played above the rookie levels and not in the Mexican League.

Projection: There’s really nothing negative to say about Austin at this point in this career. He shows above-average power, solid or better speed with matching base running instincts, a strong eye at the plate, and surprisingly low strikeout numbers. Defensively, he’s handled both first base and right field well. And his bat should play at any position. He could develop into a 25 homerun/25 stolen base threat at some point in his career.

Ceiling: 4.5-win player.

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#3. Mason Williams, Age: 21, Position: CF

Another promising prospect picked by the organization outside the first round, Williams, a fourth round pick out of West Orange High School in the 2010 draft, built on his promising first full season by hitting .304/.359/.489, with 19 doubles, four triples, eight homeruns and 19 stolen bases with the Charleston River Dogs last year. He was then promoted to high-A for 22 games, where he hit .277/.302/.422. He underwent surgery on his non-throwing shoulder after making a diving catch late in the season.

Projection: Williams profiles as a potential five-tool player, showcasing 15- to 20-homerun potential, good speed, the ability to hit for a relatively high batting average, and a strong enough arm in center field. Outside of his late season stint with Tampa, he’s shown an average-ish eye at the plate and strong contact skills, suggesting his developmental peak could be that of a good number two-type hitter. And his power surge with Charleston last season is even more impressive considering how their home ballpark tends to suppress dingers. On the opposite side, his base stealing technique — 64.5% success rate — needs improvement.

Ceiling: 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#4. Mark Montgomery, Age: 22, Position: RHP

The organization has shown a knack for finding mid- to late-round gems, and Montgomery, an 11th round pick in the 2011 draft, is no different. After a dominant debut — 28.1 IP, 16.2 K/9, 4.1 BB/9 and a 1.72 SIERA — the smallish right-hander continued his rapid ascent through the minor leagues.

Despite standing just 5-foot-11, Montgomery has continued to pile up strike outs, totaling 99 in just 64.1 innings last year. His control last season, 3.1 BB/9, took a tremendous step forward as well.

Projection: Montgomery not only looks like a tremendous steal so late in the draft, but he also has the makings of what could be a dominant backend bullpen career, potentially peaking as the team’s closer. And it wouldn’t be a shock to see the right-hander make his debut at some point in 2013.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average

 

#5. Slade Heathcott, Age: 22, Position: CF

Heathcott, who had a second surgery on his shoulder prior to 2012, showed no ill-effects once he made his way back to the field, hitting .307/.378/.470 with solid average power (.163 ISO), a decent eye at the plate (8.2% BB-rate), and above-average speed (17 SB in 21 attempts). He was, however, plagued by a troublesome K-rate (27.2%), which he’s battled during his two seasons spent in A-ball.

Projection: Heathcott, like the Cubs’ Brett Jackson, has all the tools to develop into something along the lines of an All Star-caliber player, but the strikeout numbers will eventually cap his career to something far less. There’s still plenty of developmental time for him to figure it out. But through the first 197 games of his career, he’s sporting a 26.6% K-rate.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

#6. Manny Banuelos, Age: 22, Position: LHP

Banuelos, who was shutdown in the beginning of August thanks to a cranky elbow, underwent Tommy John surgery a few months later, essentially knocking him out of 2013 season. The young left-hander, who stands just 5-foot-11 but a solidly built 200 pounds, breezed through the Yankees farm system, making his Triple-A debut in 2011, at the tender age of 20.

Projection: Historically, he’s combined the rare ability to not only miss bats at a young age, but also limit free passes as well, averaging 9.1 K/9 against just 3.6 BB/9 in his career. So it’s not really a question of talent, but rather his ability to stay healthy. With that being said, however, he probably won’t make a full season impact for the big league club until 2015.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

#7. Jose Campos, Age: 20, Position: RHP

Acquired along with Michael Pineda in a trade from Seattle, Campos — like Manny Banuelos, the team’s other top arm — lost the majority of his season to an elbow injury, though the former happened to avoid going under the knife.

The 2012 season was mostly a lost cause for Campos. He managed to make just five starts, throwing 24.2 innings, while showing his trademark dominant peripherals (9.49 K/9 and 2.92 BB/9).

Projection: If — and it’s always a big if for young pitcher, particularly those already experiencing elbow issues — Campos can stay healthy, he has a legitimate shot at landing near the front of a rotation somewhere down the line. In 196 career innings, the young right-hander has averaged 8.9 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 against older competition. At the very least, he could be pushed into the bullpen if he can’t stay healthy later.

Ceiling: 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

#8. Angelo Gumbs, Age: 20, Position: 2B

Before losing half of his season to a torn ligament in his non-throwing elbow, Gumbs was quietly putting together a solid, if not impressive year in High-A. Looking beyond a rather vanilla triple-slash line — .272/.320/.432 – he has the underlying skills for a potential everyday big league regular.

Gumbs showed plus-speed, swiping 26 bases in 29 attempts, solid-average power that could blossom into 15+ homeruns and 25- to 30-doubles, and a decent walk rate (6.5%). All of this comes despite the fact that he was just 19-years-old and in A-ball.

Projection: Despite being drafted in 2010, Gumbs has totaled just 125 games in his career at this point. And it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the rigors of a full season in 2013, assuming, of course, that he can stay healthy. If he can push his walk rate up to his 2011 numbers (9.1%), he could develop into a solid leadoff/number two-type hitter.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#9. Ramon Flores, Age: 21, Position: 1B/OF

Further along the minor league chain than the top three prospects, Flores turned in another solid season, hitting .302/.370/.420, while showing a strong eye at the plate (9.3% BB-rate), solid contact skills (14.6% K-rate), above-average speed (24 stolen bases), and modest power (.118 ISO). His total production, according Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 26% better than the Florida State League average, despite being two years younger than the average batter.

Projection: While Flores is further along developmentally speaking than the team’s top three prospects, he doesn’t profile on quite the same level. First off, his bat, which is likely going to only be about league average, plays far better in center than at either corner or first base. But moving Williams or Heathcott to a corner spot outfield spot makes their potentially elite bats at the position merely average elsewhere. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in Flores. He runs well, has the ability to play multiple positions and has a willingness to take a walk. He is very likely to fill the role that Melky Cabrera did with the team a few years back, or could get moved in a trade somewhere down the line.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

#10. Austin Aune, Age: 19, Position: SS

Aune, the organization’s most recent second round pick, had a solid debut showing in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .273/.358/.410 in 39 games, showing a strong eye (11.7 BB-rate), modest power (.137 ISO), and some speed (five stolen bases).

Projection: As I’ve done with all other 2012 draft picks, I’m going to pass judgment on Aune until following the 2013 season. His initial showing was mostly positive, though his strikeout rate, 27.6%, looks pretty scary for the time being.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#11. Ty Hensley, Age: 19, Position: RHP

Picked in the first round of last year’s draft (30th overall), Hensley managed to throw just an additional 12 professional innings, striking out 14, walking seven and hitting an additional two.

Projection: Given the current slot assignment system in place, there’s really no reason to suspect that Hensley wouldn’t be the better prospect over second rounder Austin Aune. However, I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to young pitchers; hence, the reason for the reversal in the prospect rankings.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#12. Brett Marshall, Age: 23, Position: RHP

Marshall turned in another solid yet unimpressive season while holding his own against the older competition in Double-A. The smallish right-hander made 27 starts, throwing 158.1 innings, while averaging 6.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 with a decent SIERA (4.07).

Projection: Marshall’s the type of pitcher that could easily carve out a niche in the back of a rotation somewhere down the line. Or he could just as easily fail to develop any further, remaining in the throes of the minor league s the rest of his professional career. He certainly doesn’t miss a whole lot of bats. And his walk rate hovers right around the average. But he does generate a ton of groundballs (48% last season and 51.3% in 2011), and his success has come against older competition.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win (starter); Replacement Level to 0.5-win (reliever)

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

#13. Dante Bichette, Age: 20, Position: 3B

Coming off of one of the more impressive debut showings in 2011 (.342/.446/.505), Bichette faltered mightily last year, hitting .248/.322/.331. His basic peripherals remained in close proximity (8.4% BB-rate and 18.0 K-rate). But his power was nearly halved. And his overall production was 15% below the league average.

Projection: There’s reason to remain quite bullish on Bichette’s future as a whole. At 19-years-old, he was two years younger than the average Sally League hitter and was just one of 13 qualified position players under 20. Given his 2011 showing (17 doubles, three triples, 3 homeruns and a .163 ISO) along with his frame (6-foot-1 and 215 pounds), there’s reason to believe that he could develop into solid-average power, perhaps even more. For now, though, I’m reserving judgment.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#14. Christopher Tamarez, Age: 19, Position: SS

Signed for $650,000 in 2010, the Dominican-born Tamarez shared time among the left-side of the infield and hit an impressive .338/.394/.504 against the DSL competition. He also added 18 doubles, one triple, six homeruns and a pair of stolen bases. His total offensive production was 49% better than the league average.

Projection: As impressive as his showing was in 2012, the fact remains that it was done against an age-appropriate, lower level of competition. He could develop into anything from All Star-caliber to minor league flame out at this point. But he did show solid peripherals (8.3% BB-rate, 15.7% K-rate and .154 ISO) to go along promising defense. He’s certainly one to watch for him the coming years.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: NA

 

#15. Nik Turley, Age: 23, Position: LHP

Yet another one of the those late round draft finds, Turley, a 50th round pick in 2008, set career bests in innings (117.0) and strike rate (9.0) while keeping his walk rate (3.5) around the league average (3.3).

Projection: At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Turley has the build as an innings-eating starting pitcher. And, yes, the numbers were very good last season. But it was against High-A competition. Let’s see how he adjusts to Double-A in 2013. Like Marshall, he could become anything a solid backend option in the rotation to a serviceable reliever or even a Quad-A-type player.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win (starter); Replacement Level to 0.5-win (reliever)

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate (starter); Moderate (reliever)

 

#16. Pat Venditte, Age: 28, Position: RHP/LHP

The ambidextrous Venditte — yes, he throws with both hands using a specially made glove to gain the platoon advantage — is kind of like this generation’s Chad Bradford, the reliever plucked from the White Sox because he was simply underappreciated.

Venditte has slowly, methodically made his way through the system before eventually reaching Triple-A last season at the age of 27. It, however, ended after just 13 games thanks to surgery on his right labrum. But just look at the career numbers for a second: in 277.2 career minor league innings, he’s averaged 10.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 2.30 ERA.

Projection: The numbers speak for themselves. Unfortunately, labrum surgery is not yet the slam-dunk that Tommy John has become, so Venditte’s career could be at a crossroads. Assuming he makes close to a full recovery, he could easily become a team’s 11th and 12th relief pitchers, showing the ability to pitch maybe three out of every five games given his unique talent. He doesn’t generate a lot of groundballs (29.5% in 2011), but in the right environment he could easily become a team’s most useful reliever. There’s value in having a rubber arm, or having two arms that act like one rubber one.

Ceiling: 0.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Inevitable (prior to surgery); Low to Moderate (post-surgery)

 

 

Photo of Tyler Austin Courtesy of Brian Bissell/Future Star Photos via MiLB.com



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.