Early last week, Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis was asked for his personal list of the Top 10 farm systems in baseball. His list started with the Cardinals, ended with the Astros, and left no room for the Yankees. So I called Jim with a simple question: How close were the Yankees to making his Top 10?
Turns out, there are four Baseball America writers who have input into the magazine’s overall farm system rankings, and all four of them – including Callis – ranked the Yankees 11th.
“There’s some obvious talent in the system,” Callis said. “But I think the thing they lack that prevents them from ranking higher is they don’t have that (high-end) talent that’s ready to step in at the big league level.”
Callis offers only one man’s opinion, but at least in his office, there seems to be a universal agreement that the Yankees are very nearly, but not quite, a Top 10 farm system. The problem is in the hurdles along the way: The Yankees top hitting prospects have high ceilings but a long way to go, and many of their top pitching prospects are either hurt or extremely young. Baseball America is not alone in having picked Mason Williams as the Yankees top individual prospect, with Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin rounding out the top four. All four have significant upside, but none has significant experience beyond Class A.
“(Williams) has a chance to be a star,” Callis said. “I really think you could say that about all their top guys. … If they do it in Double-A, then all of a sudden they’re knocking on the door.”
In other words: If those top four take the next step, they’ll bring the Yankees system with them.
Opinions on the Yankees minor league pitching will depend a lot on how well Manny Banuelos and Jose Campos — Callis called Campos “real interesting” — bounce back from elbow injuries. Opinions will also change depending on how well high-risk, low-level pitchers like Rafael DePaula and Ty Hensley progress.
“They have some intriguing arms,” Callis said. “But a lot of them come with question marks.”
Callis called Brett Marshall a “relatively safe bet to make it to the big leagues,” but when asked to name prospects outside of the organizational Top 10 to keep an eye on, Callis mentioned three other pitchers: Mark Montgomery (“nasty, nasty slider”), Bryan Mitchell (“some of the best stuff in the system, just kind of inconsistent”) and Jose Ramirez (“terrific arm, will flash a breaking ball”).
Callis is one of several analysts at Baseball America, and Baseball America is one of several publications ranking prospects each winter. There’s no such thing as ay definitive voice in something like this, but it’s interesting to find out how these opinions are formed and what they might indicate about the future of the Yankees.
“(The Yankees) should shoot for the moon,” Callis said. “You’re not asking your farm system to fill your whole big league team. You’re looking for some talented players to build around.”
Associated Press photo of Williams