Baseball America’s list of Top 10 Yankees prospects won’t be online until January 4, but the list is already available in the magazine’s print edition. It continues few surprises, but it does include one name that might not be instantly familiar to everyone.
Here’s the list with my own brief commentary. Get the full Baseball America scouting reports in the magazine or online in a few weeks.
1. Jesus Montero
Obviously. The Yankees top prospect is still their slugging catcher who projects as the big league team’s regular designated hitter next season. Baseball America predicts that Montero will “eventually follow Robinson Cano as New York’s next home-grown all-star position player.”
2. Manny Banuelos
Another fairly obvious selection. Banuelos had a strong Double-A season, leading to seven Triple-A starts. He seems likely to return to Triple-A out of spring training next year. Baseball America notes that he’s shown three plus pitches and flashes of terrific command, the next step is putting it all together. He’s advanced enough to be considered one of the better pitching prospects in the game.
3. Dellin Betances
There seems to be a general consensus that Montero, Banuelos and Betances are the top three prospects in the Yankees system. Betances showed some command problems in Double-A this season, but Baseball America also notes that his stuff is good enough that he should be able to get by with only fringy control. The magazine compares him to… brace yourselves… A.J. Burnett.
4. Gary Sanchez
The top prospect in the lower levels of the system, Sanchez is a high-upside catcher who still hasn’t turned 20 years old. His full-season debut with Low-A Charleston was at time underwhelming, but he showed power to go with a swing that Baseball America says is more pure than Montero’s. He’s very young with a long way to go, but the potential is tremendous.
5. Mason Williams
Kind of the breakout star of the Yankees system this season, Williams was a fourth-round pick in 2010 and played for short-season Staten Island this year. His combination of speed, bat and defense made him the New York-Penn League’s top prospect, and pushed him to the front of a suddenly deep position in the Yankees system. He should be in Low-A Charleston next year, getting his first taste of full-season ball.
6. Dante Bichette Jr.
Remember when this was labeled as an over-draft by the Yankees? Bichette quickly put to rest some of the doubts about his ultimate upside by having a standout debut in the Gulf Coast League. He was the league’s MVP with a power bat and a surprisingly good glove. Baseball America suggests Bichette could play with Low-A Charleston next season, but the Yankees have generally moved slowly with their high school draftees, and I wonder if they might have Bichette stay in extended spring and then move up to Staten Island like Cito Culver and Slade Heathcott did in their first full seasons.
7. Ravel Santana
This is the name that might not be familiar, mostly because Santana has played only a partial season outside of the Dominican Republic. That said, his U.S. debut included a .296/.361/.568 slash line while playing center field and showing an arm that Baseball America says has already earned some 80 grades, and consistently rates as a 70. He’s another guy with a long way to go, but he has a terrific combination of tools, giving the Yankees another intriguing, lower-level center field prospect.
8. Austin Romine
Always seen as something of a secondary prospect in the Yankees system, Romine was singled out as the organization’s best defensive catcher and projected to be the big league starter at the position in 2015. He has a solid bat — Baseball America predicts .270 with 10 to 15 homers in the big leagues — but he stands out because of his defense, which could improve with a new challenge at Triple-A next year. The Yankees clearly like him, and Joe Girardi seemed to already trust him late last season.
9. J.R. Murphy
Intriguing mostly because of his bat, the Yankees plan to let Murphy continue getting most of his reps behind that plate. That said, they’ve toyed with him at third base and the outfield corners because Murphy should hit enough to be at least a capable utility man at those positions. Baseball America compares him to Todd Ziele, who came up as a catcher before seeing considerable big league time in the infield.
10. Slade Heathcott
Two shoulder surgeries since joining the Yankees have knocked Heathcott’s prospect status down a few notches, letting players like Murphy, Williams and Santana jump ahead of him. That said, Heathcott is still a tremendous athlete with great speed, but you have to wonder what those surgeries have done to his throwing ability. Baseball America compares him to Brett Gardner with the potential for more power, but Heathcott has moved slowly so far.