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Yankees top talent comes near the bottom of the system

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[2]At this time last year, the Yankees top prospect was Jesus Montero. The long-awaited catcher who’d made his big league debut late in 2011 and seemed finally ready to play an everyday role in 2012.

Until Brian Cashman traded him.

This winter, the top of the Yankees prospect list might not have the same sort of trade value. The Yankees elite young players — and really, the top four on Baseball America’s list are all pretty elite — are also very young and relatively inexperienced. None has more than a handful of at-bats above High-A, and that limits their value on the trade market.

“If you’re talking about big chips, they’re younger guys that are farther away,” Cashman said. “Montero was right there and major-league ready. If you’re talking chips that are major-league ready, you’re talking Phelps, Warren, those guys. If you’re talking about high-end ceiling projected everyday position players, you’re talking about Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, Gary Sanchez. They’re father away. They’re not going to help anyone this year at the major-league level. They would certainly make Baseball America jump somebody else’s prospect list significantly.

“I’m not interested in moving those guys. I’d like them to be here for us, but I felt the same way about Montero. It depends on how your team shakes out, what your needs are. If there’s a need that compels you to be forced to move something, I’d be open-minded to it. I’m a reluctant trader, but I think I’ve proven that I’m not afraid to make a trade with a big name. I’ll give something to try and get something, too.”

Associated Press photo