This list was in my physical copy of Baseball America earlier this week, but it finally became fully available on Baseball America’s website yesterday, so I don’t feel bad posting their rankings here. Head over to the actual BA site to read their full breakdown of the system and their scouting reports.
For now, these are the Yankees top 10 prospects according to Baseball America. There will be plenty of other publications that come up with their own rankings, and it’s important to use these as little more than a guideline for some of the more talented guys in the system.
1. Mason Williams
21 years old
Who: The Yankees fourth-round pick in 2010. An athletic center fielder who can run and hit for a little bit of power.
Why: It seems that Williams could move fairly quickly. He jumped from Low-A to High-A this season, only to have his year cut short by an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. But the injury is not considered serious, and Williams hit .298/.346/.474 for the year. He has a good bat, good speed and plays a premium defensive position. Hence the perceived value.
Where: Should open next season with High-A Tampa. Had he not hurt his shoulder, Williams might have been a candidate for Double-A, but for now it’s seems far more likely that the Yankees will let him get a real taste of High-A before pushing him into the upper levels.
When: Late 2014 is a fairly aggressive estimate for Williams to make his big league debut. The better bet is probably sometime in 2015.
2. Slade Heathcott
22 years old
Who: The Yankees top pick in 2009. Progress slowed by two shoulder surgeries, but still a speedy, five-tool outfielder.
Why: Heathcott’s prospect status seemed to be falling, but he got back on track by coming back from his latest shoulder surgery to hit .307/.378/.470 in High-A Tampa this year. The Yankees moved slowly with him and had him open in extended spring training, but they’ve sent let him loose in the Arizona Fall League. His ceiling remains basically just as high as Williams.
Where: Seems likely that Heathcott will open next season in Double-A (I suppose there’s a chance he could return to Tampa to start the season, but certainly Double-A would be in the plan). If he’s healthy, Heathcott could progress fairly quickly as the Yankees face center field uncertainty beyond this season.
When: A big league debut in early 2015 seems perfectly reasonable and late 2014 seems entirely possible. If things go amazingly well, Heathcott could push for a big league job opening 2014, but that’s extremely optimistic.
3. Gary Sanchez
19 years old
Who: Turns 20 in December and already pushing for a Double-A spot. Considered one of the elite catching prospects in all of baseball.
Why: Occasionally described as a mix of Jesus Montero’s bat and Austin Romine’s glove. That’s probably an over simplification — the bat might not be quite at Montero’s level, and the glove lags behind Romine — but the point is crystal clear: Sanchez has a potential to be a terrific power hitter with a legitimate chance to stay behind the plate. He hit .290/.344/.485 between Low-A and High-A this season.
Where: Only played 48 High-A games this season, so he could go back there to start next season, but it’s perfectly reasonable to think Sanchez could reach Double-A as a 20-year-old next year.
When: Sanchez is very young, and he’s still learning a position that really requires a lot of experience and repetition. That makes me think the Yankees will move fairly slowly with Sanchez, leaving 2015 as the earliest I would predict Sanchez making his big league debut. He could debut in 2016 without really experiencing a setback.
4. Tyler Austin
21 years old
Who: Looking like a draft-day steal as a 13th-round pick in 2010. Arguably the biggest breakout prospect in all of baseball this year.
Why: Austin makes his Top 10 debut on the strength of a dominant all-around season. After moving from the infield corners to a full-time job in right field, Austin climbed from Low-A to Double-A this season, hitting .322/.400/.559 along the way. He’s emerged as an elite all-around hitter.
Where: The Yankees bumped Austin to Double-A at the end of this season, and I have to think he’ll probably open next season with a return to Trenton.
When: Austin is clearly on a fast track, and the Yankees could have a real need in right field within a year or two. There’s a chance Austin could hit his way to the big leagues late next year. Might be more realistic to think he could make his debut in 2014 and be a real everyday option by Opening Day 2015.
5. Jose Campos
20 years old
Who: The young pitching prospect the Yankees received in last winter’s Jesus Montero trade for Michael Pineda.
Why: As soon as last winter’s trade was complete, Campos was quickly considered a Top 10 prospect for the Yankees. He’s remained there despite pitching just five games this season. Campos was getting good results with Low-A Charleston, but he had his year cut short because of elbow soreness. Elbow injuries have a good enough track record that the injury hasn’t derailed Campos’ perceived upside.
Where: Hard to say where Campos will open next season. Could be extended spring training, could be Low-A, could be High-A. Probably depends on what he shows this spring and how the Yankees feel about his elbow.
When: Assuming a step-by-step climb, Campos would be in New York in 2016. That said, he’s talented enough that he could move more quickly if he stays healthy, and if that elbow proves troublesome, his debut could be delayed.
6. Brett Marshall
22 years old
Who: The Yankees sixth-round pick in 2008 needs to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this winter. Steady sinkerball pitcher.
Why: Not necessarily flashy, but Marshall has been a reliable starter the past two years and he’s coming off a nice season in Double-A where he had a 3.52 ERA with 1.20 strikeouts. Marshall generates a lot of groundballs, and the organization likes his fastball movement and ability to keep the ball down in the zone. Baseball American also picked him as having the best changeup in the organization.
Where: He’ll be a step away from the big leagues this season. After a strong year in Double-A, it’s time for Marshall to step up to Triple-A and contend with Adam Warren for a call-up. Marshall should have a 40-man spot, but so he’ll be a phone call away.
When: Ideally Marshall will do enough in Triple-A this season to earn a spot start or a relief role this season.
7. Angelo Gumbs
20 years old
Who: The Yankees second pick in 2010 has passed their top pick from that draft, SS Cito Culver, in terms of prospect status.
Why: Gumbs continues to climb lists like these because he keeps showing offensive promise and keeps getting better in the field. He’s learned second base as a pro, and he’s given the Yankees some much needed middle-infield promise. He was hitting .272/.320/.432 with 26 stolen bases in High-A Tampa last season when his year came to an end because an elbow injury.
Where: Opening next season in High A doesn’t seem to be out of the question, and it’s worth wondering how much longer the Yankees will keep him and Culver paired with one another. The Yankees like Culver’s defense, but his bat just hasn’t come around.
When: Gumbs was drafted out of high school, and the Yankees haven’t shown a particularly aggressive approach to his development. If he continues at this pace his debut might not come until 2016, late 2015 at the earliest.
8. Manny Banuelos
21 years old
Who: The Yankees top pitching prospect entering this season, Banuelos had Tommy John surgery and will miss 2013.
Why: Banuelos lost considerable ground on this list because of the injury. His command hasn’t been particularly good the past two years, and this year included only six Triple-A starts before the elbow injury that wouldn’t go away and finally required surgery. He’s still a Top 10 talent because of his upside as a lefty with a good fastball, curveball, changeup combination.
Where: Banuelos is in for a year of rehab. He won’t be back in a game until 2014. As Baseball America points out, he’ll still be just 23 years old then.
When: Best-case scenario is that Banuelos is back to his old self in 2014 and could make an immediate impact that season, but some Tommy John guys say it takes two years to feel 100 percent.
9. Ty Hensley
19 years old
Who: The Yankees first-round pick this year is a 6-foot-6 teenager with a big curveball.
Why: Baseball America ranked Hensley in the Yankees Top 10 for the same reasons the Yankees drafted him in the first round. He’s a big kid with a fastball in the mid-90s and a curveball that Baseball America calls one of the best curves in this year’s draft. Hensley made only five appearances in rookie ball this season, but the results were encouraging with eight hits, seven walks and 14 strikeouts through 12 innings. Opponents hit .174 against him.
Where: Hard to say with a high school kid like Hensley. He could open next season in extended spring and eventually get to short-season Staten Island, but the Yankees have also been known to push some of their high school first-rounders (they had Dante Bichette open in Low-A this year).
When: This is a teenager who’s been a pro for a matter of months. A timetable is pretty tough to figure out. He could move quickly through the system and still not get to the big leagues until 2016.
10. Rafael DePaula
21 years old
Who: International signing out of the Dominican Republic who’s had various visa and identity complications to postpone his U.S. arrival.
Why: Personally, I was surprised to see Baseball America rank DePaula in the Top 10. The talent is immense, but he’s a bit of an unknown and a real wild card, which BA acknowledges while also writing that DePaula’s ceiling is as high as anyone in the system. In short, that’s why he’s on this list, because he was overwhelming in the Dominican Summer League this year – 85 strikeouts and 35 hits through 62 innings – but he doesn’t rank any higher because he has yet to be tested against advanced competition.
Where: Baseball America writes that DePaula is expected to jump all the way to High-A Tampa next year. He’s old enough for that level, but it’s quite a leap for a guy who’s used to facing the kids in the Dominican. If the Yankees do push DePaula like that, it would say a ton about what they think of him.
When: DePaula will be 22 next year, so the idea of moving him quickly shouldn’t be out of the question. It’s just a matter of how well he adapts against better competition. The idea of a 2014 big league debut seems too optimistic, but I suppose it’s not out of the question. I’d say 2015 or 2016 is more likely.