Draft classes are almost always defined by their top picks, but the Yankees 2010 class has been an exception to the rule. First-rounder Cito Culver is hitting .212 in Low-A Charleston, and second-rounder Angelo Gumbs has fought some inconsistency before landing on the disabled list, but the 2010 class is still emerging as a breakthrough group this season. A recent wave of promotions has further established that class as a potential impact group.
A few of the names making noise…
RF Rob Segedin
Drafted as a third baseman, Segedin has seen most of his time in the outfield this season, and this week he was promoted from Tampa to Trenton. He was hitting .297/.362/.448 in High-A, showing significant improvement from the .245/.311/.309 slash line he posted at that level in the second half of 2011. Despite the high draft pick, Segedin ranks behind two other outfielders from this class in terms of prospect status.
CF Mason Williams
Right now, it’s Williams who seems to be the gem of the 2010 class (with a serious challenge from one of his Tampa teammates). The toolsy center fielder was hitting .304/.359/.489 with 19 steals and eight home runs in Charleston before being promoted to Tampa earlier this week. Center field is a position of depth in the lower levels of the system, but Williams is the standout, and he’s reached High-A before his 21st birthday.
RHP Tommy Kahnle
A college pitcher immediately trained as a reliever — kind of a theme of this draft class — Kahnle had 112 strikeouts out of the Charleston bullpen in 2011, but a shoulder injury kept him on the disabled list early this season. He was activated in early May and has held High-A hitters to a .179 batting average while occasionally battling some control problems. As you’ll see, Kahnle has not moved as quickly as some other pitchers in this class, but he deserves a spot on the radar.
RF Tyler Austin
This year’s breakout star of the Yankees system, Austin has emerged as the top corner outfield prospect in the organization, and he was just promoted with Williams and Gary Sanchez from Charleston to Tampa. Frankly, he was making a mockery of the South Atlantic League, hitting .320/.405/.598 with a league-best 1.002 OPS at the time of his promotion. He’s a few weeks younger than Williams, and those two are now teamed with Ramon Flores to form an impressive Tampa outfield that could get even better when Slade Heathcott is cleared to do more than DH.
RHP Chase Whitley
Promoted more aggressively than anyone else in the class, the 23-year-old former college reliever opened this season in Double-A and got to Triple-A before the end of April. He’s more than held his own at that level, becoming a trusted multi-inning reliever with a .223 opponents batting average and a 1.20 WHIP. He’s never shown overwhelming strikeout totals at any level, but he generally keeps the ball on the ground and has routinely pitched two or three innings at a time.
RHP Preston Claiborne
When Dellin Betances was demoted late last month, it was Claiborne who replaced him on the Triple-A roster, following Whitley’s footsteps from Trenton to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (or wherever the Triple-A team happens to be playing at the moment). Claiborne was knocked around in his Triple-A debut — four runs in an inning of work — but he held Double-A hitters to a .195 average with basically a strikeout per inning.
INF Casey Stevenson
Easily the least touted player on this list — this class has far bigger prospects even among those who aren’t listed here — Stevenson is worth mentioning because of his .300/.374/.438 slash line as a utility man in Charleston. At 24, he’s too old for the South Atlantic League, and the fact he’s not an everyday player with no regular position suggests he’s not a high priority in the organization. But he’s hitting, and that’s worth something.
A few other minor league notes…
• In his first start since being demoted to Double-A, Dellin Betances pitched six scoreless innings on Saturday. He struck out five, walked three and allowed three hits. Because he’s a crazy person, Mike Ashmore posted a ton of video from the Betances start. Scouts I’ve talked to recently have not been impressed by Betances this season — not at all impressed, actually — which probably comes as little surprise.
• As mentioned briefly above, center field prospect Slade Heathcott is out of extended spring training and getting regular DH at-bats with High-A Tampa. The Yankees have made it clear that they’re going to take things slow with Heathcott’s surgically repaired shoulder, but he’s hitting .275/.388/.550 through his first 11 games with Tampa. He’s hit two homers and stolen four bases.
• They aren’t members of that 2010 draft class, but catchers J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez were involved in this week’s flurry of minor league promotions. Murphy went from Tampa to Trenton after hitting .314/.355/.500 in the month of June. Sanchez went from Charleston to Tampa after hitting .297/.353/.517 during his second year in Low A.
• Tampa left fielder Ramon Flores has bounced back from a slow start to once again establish himself as one of the better on-base threats in the organization. His slash line is up to .297/.363/.393 as he’s steadily gotten better month-to-month. The guy had a .415 on-base percentage in June.
• Swing-and-miss outfielder Melky Mesa has a pretty good .280/.352/.477 slash line in Trenton, where he’s stolen 13 bases and hit 11 home runs, showing off the tools that make him an intriguing (though frustrating) player. Despite the good numbers, I’m still hearing bad things about his inability to either hit or lay off breaking balls.
Associated Press photo of Mason Williams