Brackman easing into his potential • 02.21.11
After Joe Girardi raved about Brackman this afternoon, the entire beat crew surrounded Brackman’s locker just before the Rodriguez press conference. He couldn’t have been expecting it, and he seemed surprised to look up to see at least a dozen guys beginning to circle around him, but Brackman had been there before. He was a first-round pick backin 2007, so he’s carried the weight of expectation and attention for a long time. I was surprised at just how comfortable he seemed — not arrogant or boastful, just at ease — in that sort of spotlight.
Brackman said he’s focusing on the steady progression that got him to this point, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that he has an outside chance of winning a big league spot. He notices when Girardi is watching him, it just doesn’t affect him the way it used to.
“I think that’s what hurt me my first and second year as a young guy coming up,” he said. “All the big guys are behind there watching you, so you kind of want to say, ‘I can do more with this pitch’ or ‘I can make this breaking ball better.’ Larry (Rothschild) gave me some really good advice the other day: Your stuff comes second. It’s all about repeating your mechanics. If you can repeat and repeat, your stuff will come.”
Here’s Brackman. Give it a listen.
Andrew Brackman is not new to Yankees camp. He’s a familiar face around here, and almost everyone in the big league clubhouse is long past first impressions of the tall right-hander.
But Justin Maxwell is new. He arrived in Tampa having only heard of Brackman, and today Maxwell faced the highly touted prospect for the first time in live batting practice. Maxwell’s first impression?
“Really good command,” he said.
Never would have heard that two years ago. Today, Brackman opened eyes with an impressive batting practice session that included all of his pitches, and most importantly, included a bunch of strikes.
“He’s much further ahead than he was (at this time last year),” Joe Girardi said. “He had a hard time consistently throwing strikes, where now it appears that’s behind him. You look at what he’s done the second half of last year, what he’s done here in spring training, he’s throwing a lot of strikes. That’s a big part of the battle when you’re pitching.”
As Mark Feinsand detailed this weekend, Brackman has been fighting that battle ever since his 2007 Tommy John surgery, and he finally seems to be winning after a breakout 2010 season in Trenton.
“My first two camps, those BPs would have been awful,” Brackman said. “Nowhere near the plate or anything like that. The further away I get from surgery, the more comfortable I get on the mound.”
• Hank Steinbrenner spoke after the Rodriguez press conference this afternoon, including a comment that seemed to be a shot at Derek Jeter. In fact, I have a hard time coming up with another way to take it: “Sometimes I think maybe they celebrated a little too much last year,” Steinbrenner said. “Some of the players are too busy building mansions and doing other things, not concentrating on winning. I have no problem saying that. I think they’ve come into this spring with a new hunger.” There’s always something unexpected that pops up around here.
• Jorge Posada did the catching portion of team fielding drills this morning. It was the first time he’d gone through catching drills. The Yankees still haven’t had him squatting or throwing to second base, but that will happen soon. He’s supposed to catch a bullpen Wednesday or Thursday. “He’s been great talking to the players and being involved, but we haven’t asked him to do much behind the plate,” Girardi said.
• Mariano Rivera will throw his first bullpen this week, probably Wednesday or Thursday. “It won’t be long now,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said no injury concerns have popped up. Gustavo Molina was dealing with a quad issue, but he caught a bullpen today and is feeling fine.
• Just a personal observation: Eric Chavez still looks awfully good at third base. He made some solid plays going to his right during batting practice.
• Speaking of BP defense: Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Eduardo Nunez were taking turns fielding grounders at shortstop — it’s just a ground ball drill, the position on the field doesn’t really matter — and after Jeter charged a ball kind of awkwardly, Nunez started dancing around in shallow left field, mocking the Captain’s approach. Cano and Jeter were cracking up, and Jeter gave Nunez a little shove.
• I mentioned it earlier today, but Ronnie Belliard got some time at first base after working at second yesterday. Kevin Russo worked at second after working in the outfield yesterday.
• Boone Logan signed autographs for a while after the morning long toss session. One of his throws had sailed way over Buddy Carlyle and hit a little girl in the stands, so Logan tried to make up for it. Head’s up people! Even the pros let one slip every now and then.
• Joe Girardi is still trying to figure out, plan and schedule a team outing, but there aren’t many options, and the dates are limited before this weekend’s first game. Friday might be the best bet. “We’re going to try,” Girardi said.
Associated Press photos. That’s Kyle Higashioka at the top.
In case you missed it, Sam and I held a video chat this afternoon, and you can go back and watch it in the archives. Otherwise, here are a few notes and links from the day.
• Jerry Crasnick reported the contract details of Eric Chavez’s minor league deal with the Yankees: He’ll make $1.5 million if he makes the big league roster, and he has the chance to earn another $4 million or so based on plate appearances and time on the roster.
• Joel Sherman reports that the Yankees managed to void their minor league contract with reliever Luis Vizcaino after he was injured this winter. Perhaps most interesting is Sherman reporting that the Yankees’ scouts had Vizcaino steadily hitting the mid-90s and thought he was a legitimate candidate to make the roster.
• Kevin Long expects most of the Yankees lineup to be better in 2011 than in 2010. “It would be hard for Cano and Swisher to duplicate what they did last year,” Long told ESPNNewYork. “If they stay even close to that, great. But I expect the rest of them to do better.”
• Frankie Piliere is high on the Yankees top prospects, ranking Jesus Montero (4), Manny Banuelos (13), Gary Sanchez (34), Dellin Betances (44) and Andrew Brackman (60) among the Top 100 prospects in baseball.
• FanGraphs likes the Red Sox signing of Alfredo Aceves as a low-risk move with some upside.
• It almost goes without saying, but Bryan Hoch took a look at Michael Young as a potential trade target for the Yankees and found that it’s not a good fit.
• Good news for former Yankees pitcher Ross Ohlendorf: He won his arbitration hearing.
• Bad news for Ohlendorf: He’s still with the Pirates.
Dispatches from the minor league complex • 02.08.11
To picture the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa, imagine a Little League complex with nicer fields and less seating. There are four fields arranged in a circle (using a clock as a reference, there’s a field between 12 and 3, another from 3 to 6, and so on). In the middle is a small building with seating up top so scouts and coordinators can keep an eye on all four fields. Mark Newman practically lives up there when minor league camp opens.
Between two of the fields — essentially at 12 o’clock — there is a bullpen with three or four mounds. Between two more fields — at 9 o’clock — there is a set of batting cages. The Yankees minor league office is in the back, behind two fields, with a clubhouse for the players.
It’s a nice complex, with everything a baseball player could possibly need, but nothing about it feels Major League. And it’s certainly not glamorous. The players who are there right now, are there to work. Nothing more. So far, three New York writers are on the scene: Erik Boland, Brian Costello and the newly arrived Anthony McCarron. There’s not a lot going on out there, but those three have it covered.
• First to arrive this morning was Dave Robertson, probably wearing high socks and some sort of camouflage. Just a guess.
• New Yankees catcher Russell Martin said he’s still not 100 percent — he’s coming back from a hip injury and minor knee surgery — but he expects to be 100 percent by Opening Day and should do some catching tomorrow.
• Martin said he still feels a need to earn the everyday job, and he’s gotten himself into good shape this offseason. He weights about 15 pounds less than last spring.
• Jesus Montero was also at the complex today. He said his goal is to break camp as the Yankees starting catcher. I don’t think it will happen, but you’ve got to love the fact Montero wants to make that kind of impression.
• Derek Jeter was back at the complex. He took some batting practice with Rob Thomson.
REMINDER: Sam and I have a video chat tomorrow at 12:15 p.m. We’ll be right here talking about the Yankees heading into spring training.
Associated Press photo of Martin (obviously not taken this morning)
Spring decision: Back of the rotation • 02.07.11
For the week leading up to spring training, I thought we’d take a daily look at some of the decisions the Yankees have to make before Opening Day. No sense starting with anything but the most obvious decision of all.
Think back. You might remember hearing something this winter about Cliff Lee going to Philadelphia, Andy Pettitte staying home in Texas and the Yankees sorting through the scraps of the free agent starting pitcher market. It was the biggest Yankees story of the offseason, an on-going saga that won’t be settled until a five-man rotation finally comes together this spring (and one that might not be settled — one way or another — until mid-season). For now the Yankees have three starters in place, and two spots up for grabs.
Assuming no late-minute trades or additions, the Yankees have four prominent candidates for two spots: Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. Both Garcia and Colon are in camp on minor league deals, while the rookie Nova is actually coming to camp as an incumbent and a favorite. The Yankees could also look deeper in the farm system, giving prospects like David Phelps, Hector Noesi and Adam Warren a chance to impress.
The easy choice
Last season, Nova showed promise in New York and Garcia was reasonably productive in Chicago. Heading into spring training, they seem to be the front-runners for the fourth and fifth spots. Mitre, though, is even further removed from Tommy John surgery and got some spot starts last season. From the outside — my opinion anyway — he seems more likely to end up back in the bullpen, but Joe Girardi seems to like him, and Mitre is probably a legitimate candidate. He could certainly pitch his way into the rotation.
Colon is a complete wild card here. He hasn’t pitched a full big league season since he won the Cy Young back in 2005. He didn’t pitch at all last year, and it’s hard to believe he has much left, but the Yankees were impressed in winter ball, so he’ll get a look. More intriguing options come from the minor league system where the Yankees have considerable pitching depth.
Noesi, Phelps and D.J. Mitchell each finished last season in Triple-A. It’s impossible to count out any of those three. Andrew Brackman also took considerable steps forward in Double-A last year, but it’s Warren who’s name is brought up surprisingly often. A fourth-round pick in 2009, Warren made just 10 Double-A starts last year, but he was impressive, and his name seems to always come up in interviews with Girardi and Brian Cashman. He seems like a long shot, but one that might get a long look.
A separate but related issue
It’s a minor issue — one that will hardly matter by the second week of the season — but the Yankees have a decide how to line up the top of the rotation. CC Sabathia will obviously start on Opening Day, but who gets Game 2? Should the Yankees show A.J. Burnett that they still have confidence in him, or should they acknowledge that Phil Hughes seems to be the more reliable option at this point? Hughes and Burnett will be the Nos. 2 and 3, but who gets which number is a matter of opinion.
Associated Press photos of Nova and Garcia
Sherman pointed out that 10 years ago, Alfonso Soriano hit his way into a big league role sooner than expected, and four years ago, injuries forced Phil Hughes into a big league role sooner than the Yankees would have liked. Who’s to say something similar couldn’t happen this season with the Yankees talented young pitchers?
It’s a good point, especially considering Hughes was rushed to the big leagues precisely because the Yankees rotation became very thin, very quickly. That’s a scenario that could easily play out with a rotation that’s pretty thin to begin with. The Yankees would prefer to move slowly with Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, but if one of those three once again cruises through minor league hitters — especially Brackman, who’s more advanced — the Yankees could combine need with performance and make those moves sooner than expected.
Right now, Hector Noesi, David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell might be closer to a big league role than any of the Killer Bs — Noesi, Phelps and Mitchell have already pitched in Triple-A — but it’s worth remembering that back in 2007 the Yankees went through Darrell Rasner, Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright before calling on their top pitching prospect. Even so, they still had Hughes in the big leagues before the end of April.
2. “I think it remains a pretty good likelihood that Andy Pettitte will return and the Yanks will make a trade in spring for a starter…”
It’s not clear whether this is based on conversations within the Yankees front office or simply a guess on Sherman’s part. The Pettitte part isn’t what interests me — at this point I think everyone has an opinion, but no one has a strong sense of what he’s going to do — but I wonder if Sherman’s onto something about a spring trade.
Obviously the starting pitcher trade market didn’t offer much of interest this winter. I’m sure there were names tossed back and forth, but ultimately Brian Cashman decided nothing made sense for the Yankees. The market, though, might change once spring training gets started and teams get a better sense of exactly what they have.
Who might the Yankees target? I have no idea, and that’s kind of the point. If there were an obvious trade partner right now the Yankees would have pulled the trigger already. As it stands, though, it seems that nothing worthwhile is out there, so the Yankees need something to shake up the market. Spring training might be just the thing to do that.
Associated Press photo of Hughes
Pinch hitting: David Brandwein • 02.02.11
Next up in our Pinch Hitters series is David Brandwein, a college professor in the Department of Doctoral Studies at Kean University. He is a lifelong Yankees fan who said his fondest Yankees memory came during Picture Day at Yankee Stadium during the 1980’s where he saw Dave Winfield catch a batting practice fly by jumping at the right-field wall, all while “singing ‘Jump’ while Van Halen’s Jump was playing over the Stadium PA,” David wrote.
For his guest post, David made the case that it’s time for a Yankees youth movement… no matter the cost.
“Let Them Play, Let Them Play, Let Them Play”
**Red Sox 100-62 —
*Rays 87-75 13
Yankees 86-76 14
Blue Jays 83-79 17
Orioles 76-86 24
** Division Winner
* Wild Card Winner
OK, I know this is enough to make some of you say, “I’m not reading this anymore”, but please… give me a minute or two of your valuable internet time.
Some you might have read the title to this blog entry and immediately went to the scene in The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training — my favorite baseball movie — where thousands of fans in the Houston Astrodome wanted to see two Little League teams more than the Astros (hey, in the 1970’s, would you have wanted to see the Astros play?)
But, that is not what I am talking about.
The “Let Them Play” refers to the kids, the prospects, our future… Montero, Romine, Brackman, Nova, Betances. Now, if Seattle calls up and offers Felix Hernandez for any combination of these guys, I will pack their bags, book their flights, and drive them to the airport. Outside of that remote possibility, though, I would be willing to give these guys a chance — now.
Put Montero behind the plate, make Nova the fourth starter, and let Brackman and Betances fight it out for fifth starter and/or long reliever. It might mean missing the playoffs in 2011, and it might be painful to watch at times, but I think the team needs to know if these kids can get the job done. I, for one, think they should get the shot.
If last season was any indication of what baseball is becoming, youth (especially young pitching) and speed will reign. Right now, the Yankees are behind the curve. We saw that, painfully, in the ALCS last year. Without the kids, will it be any different this year?
Now, take yourself to the last day of the baseball season in 2012. You wake up and see the following:
Montero .325 BA, 25 HR, 125 RBI
Nova 3.75 ERA, 17 wins, 8 losses
Brackman 3.90 ERA, 15 wins, 6 losses
Betances 4.10 ERA, 13 wins, 7 losses
Yankees 97 wins, 63 losses, 1st place
We could have the makings of a lasting, cheap dynasty, showing everyone that the Yankees can win without spending more than the gross national product of a third-world country. What would Red Sox fans say then?
Associated Press photo of Nova
For whatever reason, there’s been a lot of prospect stuff going on the past few days. Probably because it’s late January and there isn’t much else going on.
Today, Keith Law chimed in with his Top 100 list, and it’s much kinder to the Yankees than the MLB Network list was a few days ago.
Law lists Jesus Montero at No. 4, immediately behind the game’s trio of premier outfield prospects: Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Domonic Brown. In his evaluation, Law brings up the idea of immediately moving Montero away from the catcher position:
With a bat this potentially strong, why risk injury or give up the 20-25 games a year when your catcher has to rest? Montero could solve the Yankees’ DH problem for the next 10 years if they commit to it, a move they are unlikely to ever regret.
Law is also high on Manny Banuelos, who ranked 12th on this list, one spot ahead of the Blue Jays Kyle Drabek, two spots ahead of the Rays Jeremy Hellickson and three spots ahead of the Reds Aroldis Chapman. That’s impressive company.
Gary Sanchez, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman all fell between 60 and 90 on Law’s list. Catcher Austin Romine was mentioned as one of the players who just missed the cut, with Law noting that he’s not completely sold on Romine’s bat and that he’s seen Romine struggle with “basic receiving tasks.”
Arodys Vizcaino — the young right-hander the Yankees lost in The Boone Logan Trade — made it just inside the top 50 at No. 47.
In his team-by-team rankings, Law shows some love for Graham Stoneburner, ranking him as the seventh-best prospect in the Yankees system, just ahead of Slade Heathcott and immediately behind Romine.
There is perhaps no higher commodity in baseball than a young starting pitcher. As the Yankees have discovered this winter, finding a reliable starter on the trade market is difficult and costly, and the free agent market is no sure thing. The bad news for the Yankees is that the back of their big league rotation is still unsettled. The good news is that there are a lot of legitimate pitching prospects nearly ready for the show.
In the big leagues
The Yankees have their ace in CC Sabathia. They have their young gun in Phil Hughes. They have their erratic talent in A.J. Burnett. Beyond that, the Yankees have high-hopes for Ivan Nova and a whole lot of praying for rain. For now, Sergio Mitre seems to be the top in-house option to round out the rotation, but that will almost certainly change — in one way or another — between now and spring training. There is still hope that Andy Pettitte will come back, and if he doesn’t, the free agent market still offers a handful of risk-reward pitchers coming back from injury, plus a few veterans looking for some sort of resurgence. The Yankees top pitching target went elsewhere, and now they’ll have to build a rotation with the pieces that are left.
On the verge
At this point, Nova seems nearly locked into a big league rotation spot, but the Triple-A rotation could still have five legitimate prospects, headlined by Hector Noesi and Andrew Brackman, each of whom is on the 40-man, possibly leaving them in line for early promotions should the Yankees need an additional starter. D.J. Mitchell and David Phelps are also in line to open in Triple-A after finishing last season at that level. Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos — considered, along with Brackman, to be the top pitching prospects in the system, affectionately known as the Killer Bs — will likely return to Double-A, but they could move quickly.
Adam Warren, Gordon Stoneburner and Shaeffer Hall are also legitimate rotation prospects who would be far more prominent in most systems but fall somewhat into the shadows because of the Yankees upper-level depth. Warren in the most advanced of those three, having made 10 Double-A starts, but Stoneburner might be generating the most buzz after a 2.41 ERA between Low-A and High-A last season. Hall is a lefty out of Florida State, and the Yankees are willing to push him aggressively.
Deep in the system
The bulk of the Yankees rotation prospects are actually in the upper levels of the system, having already cleared several minor league hurdles. That’s one of the most impressive things about the system as a whole. In the lowest levels, there are three names that stand out: Brett Marshall, Jose Ramirez and Bryan Mitchell. Back from Tommy John surgery, Marshall had a 2.50 ERA and a .199 opponents batting average in Charleston last season. Ramirez put himself firmly on the map in 2009 with a terrific first season in the States. He followed that with a 3.60 ERA and 105 strikeouts last season in Charleston. Mitchell is the youngest of this trio, and he pitched well in the short-season leagues in his first taste of pro ball. He was a 16th-round pick in 2009, falling only because of signability issues. He’s considered a front-line talent.
As a rule, I’m hesitant to get too caught up in players at the Class A level — pitchers especially — because they have so far to go, but those three standout as names to know and follow right now. Other names to keep tucked away: Jairo Heredia (talent slowed by health and conditioning issues), Gabe Encinas (the top starter taken in last year’s draft) and Sean Black (seventh-round pick in ’09 had a 3.88 ERA in Charleston and made two Tampa starts last season).
Organizational depth chart
My own rough guess. It’s far too early for the Yankees to settle on who will be where next season.
New York: CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova and a free agent
Scranton/WB: Hector Noesi, Andrew Brackman, David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell and Lance Pendleton
Trenton: Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Graham Stoneburner, Shaeffer Hall
Tampa: Jose Ramirez, Brett Marshall, Sean Black, Jairo Heredia, Josh Romanski
Charleston: Bryan Mitchell, Shane Greene, Michael O’Brien, Nik Turley, Zachary Varce
Even this late into the offseason, the big league rotation remains a work in progress. As for who gets the first call beyond those top five, that’s also up in the air. There should be enough talent in Scranton to build a legitimate competition for any spot-starter needs that pop up during the season.
For now, I’ve projected a Scranton rotation that includes Pendleton, a Rule 5 pick currently hoping to win a spot in the Astros rotation. Minor league signee Andy Sisco could also work as a Triple-A starter, as could Kei Igawa if necessary. When he’s ready to come back from surgery, Jeremy Bleich could rejoin the Trenton rotation. He made eight starts there last season. Craig Heyer, who was sent to the Arizona Fall League and has worked as both a starter and reliever, could fit into the Trenton rotation at some point, especially if Pendleton sticks with Houston. As for the lower levels, those rotations are more difficult for me to predict, and some of those assignments might be based on what these pitches show in spring training.
Associated Press photo of Hughes, headshots of Sabathia, Brackman and Marshall
Let’s go heavy on prospects today, shall we? This is Baseball America’s Top 30 Yankees prospects heading into this season, listed with each player’s rank at the beginning of the season and the level where he finished the season.
No. 1 Jesus Montero
After a rocky start to the season, Montero turned things around in the second half and could fight for a big league job in spring training. He remains one of the elite prospects in baseball, with the only significant questions being where he’ll play in the field.
No. 2 Austin Romine
Romine dropped to sixth in this year’s rankings, but I’m not sure his ceiling or expectations have fallen. He had a kind of Derek Jeter-type season, starting strong and finishing strong, with three rough months in the middle. He’s in the Arizona Fall League now, and it’s easy to forget that he hasn’t turned 22 yet. Still very highly regarded, but he was passed on Baseball America’s list by young players and injured players whose stock soared after strong seasons.
No. 3 Arodys Vizcaino
Traded to the Braves
The big prospect in The Boone Logan Trade had a 2.74 ERA between two Class-A levels this season, but he was shutdown with an elbow injury.
No. 4 Slade Heathcott
Low-A center fielder
Got to Charleston at the start of June, and he might have lost a little ground in the prospect standings — he hit .258 with 101 strikeouts — but it’s hard to read too much into a 19-year-old’s first season of pro ball. He still in Baseball America’s Top 10 for the orgnization.
No. 5 Zach McAllister
Traded to Cleveland
This was the cost for two months of Austin Kearns. Had he stuck around, McAllister probably would have fallen out of the Top 10 after a 5.09 ERA in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was certainly overshadowed by several other upper-level pitchers.
No. 6 Manny Banuelos
Double-A left-handed starter
After a healthy second half that took him from High-A to Double-A, Banuelos is living up to expectations. Building up his workload seems to be the next step in his development. He’s in the Arizona Fall League right now and could pitch himself to the cusp of the big leagues next season. At 19 years old, he’s the youngest of the Yankees Killer B pitching prospects.
No. 7 Gary Sanchez
He’s been compared to Montero, except with more defensive tools. That’s why he moved all the way to No. 2 on this year’s Baseball America list. There is a ton of talent, but also a long way to go.
No. 8 J.R. Murphy
In so many ways, Murphy is “the other” catching prospect in the Yankees system. He’s only 19 years old — one year older than Sanchez — and he already held his own in Charleston. The power started to show in the second half.
No. 9 Jeremy Bleich
Injured Double-A left-handed starter
Stock took a hit because of shoulder surgery. He made only eight starts for Trenton. Hard to learn much about him from this season.
No. 10 Andrew Brackman
Double-A right-handed starter
This season might have been the best-case scenario for Brackman, the towering right-hander who had Tommy John surgery before throwing a single professional pitch. Brackman has always been a high-end talent, but he lived up to those expectations with a healthy and much-improved second season.
No. 11 Bryan Mitchell
Short-season right-handed starter
Opened in extended spring training, then pitched in the Gulf Coast League and got up to Staten Island in September. Still young, and Rookie Ball opponents hit .190 against him. Obvious potential. Obviously young.
No. 12 Mike Dunn
Traded to Atlanta
Another part of The Boone Logan Trade, he pitched his way to Atlanta but the Yankees might have gotten the better of the two young lefties in that trade.
No. 13 Corban Joseph
Double-A second baseman
Terrific numbers in Tampa sparked a second-half call-up to Trenton, where Joseph struggled with his first taste of upper-level pitching. Could play second or third base. Nothing especially flashy, but he lived up to expectation and might have exceeded it with his promotion.
No. 14 Eduardo Nunez
Major League shortstop
Nunez had to prove that 2009 was not a fluke, and he did just that with a terrific Triple-A season that ended with a call-up to New York and a late spot on the postseason roster. He hit .289 in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but also showed an improved glove. That combination pushed him into the Yankees Top 10.
No. 15 Mark Melancon
Traded to Houston
Sent to the Astros in the Lance Berkman deal, Melancon simply never made that final step with the Yankees. He pitched pretty well in 20 appearances for the Astros.
No. 16 Ivan Nova
Major League right-handed starter
The Yankees always liked Nova’s potential, but he developed slowly until a strong 2009 season that landed him a spot on the 40-man. Now he’s a candidate for a spot in the back of the big league rotation. He’s the most advanced of the Yankees many upper-level pitching prospects.
No. 17 D.J. Mitchell
Triple-A right-handed starter
Moved into the Yankees Top 20 prospects, then got an invitation to big league camp, then pitched his way from Double-A to Triple-A. He generated better than a 2-to-1 ground out to fly out ratio in Double-A, then had a 3.57 ERA in three Triple-A starts. Overshadowed by some teammates, but he had a very nice season.
No. 18 Melky Mesa
High-A center fielder
He obviously did something right because now he’s on the 40-man roster. The MVP of the Florida State League has legitimate power and speed, but he also strikes out a ton and this year’s .260 average was actually his career-high. A complete wild card in this system.
No. 19 Kelvin DeLeon
Short-season right fielder
Stock might have slipped through a .236 average with six home runs and 80 strikeouts. Just turned 20, so there’s plenty of room to grow, but also a long way to go.
No. 20 Jose Ramirez
Low-A right-handed starter
A good arm lurking in the lower-levels of the Yankees minor league system, he had a 3.60 ERA with 105 strikeouts in Charleston this season. For now, he exists in the shadows of the pitchers ahead of him, but he’s certainly not an unknown. He’s a legitimate prospect in his own right.
No. 21 Graham Stoneburner
High-A right-handed starter
Leading into this season, Stoneburner was a favorite among writers and bloggers who closely follow the Yankees minor league system. He proved those believers right with a 2.41 ERA between Charleston and Tampa. He could be one of the fastest-rising stars in the organization, and there is considerable speculation that he could eventually end up in the bullpen, making ascent even faster.
No. 22 David Adams
Injured Double-A second baseman
Off to a .309 start in Trenton, Adams’ season was cut short by an ankle injury that cost him the bulk of the year and might have cost the Yankees a shot at Cliff Lee. I tend to lump Adams and Joseph together as Double-A guys able to play second or third. He seemed to be showing a lot this season, but it’s hard to make much of 39 games.
No. 23 Caleb Cotham
Cotham should have been in Charleston, but a pair of surgeries left him unable to pitch in an actual game this season. He has only eight professional innings to his name.
No. 24. Hector Noesi
Triple-A right-handed starter
Noesi had pitched only nine games above Low A when the Yankees put him on the 40-man roster this season. That said a lot about their expectations, and Noesi lived up them with a season that catapulted him into Baseball America’s Top 10. From High-A to Double-A to Triple-A, he could be next year’s Ivan Nova.
No. 25 David Phelps
Triple-A right-handed starter
There’s a common theme among most of these back-end starting pitchers: Except the injured Cotham, they were all outstanding. This was Phelps’ second full season, and he finished it with a 3.07 ERA in 12 Triple-A outings.
No. 26 Adam Warren
Double-A right-handed starter
Kind of like a one-year-younger version of Phelps, Warren had a 3.15 ERA in 10 Double-A starts after opening the year with a 2.22 in Tampa. The upper-level pitching depth in this system is incredible, as evidenced by the fact neither Phelps nor Warren deserved a spot among the Yankees Top 10 prospects.
No. 27 Kevin Russo
Major League utility
Russo’s value is in his ability to do a lot of things well. He served that role perfectly as a call-up who shifted to left-field when the Yankees were searching for outfield help. Nothing flashy, but when he was getting regular at-bats, he was contributing. He could easily play that same role next season.
No. 28 Dellin Betances
Double-A right-handed starter
This is the biggest leap of the bunch, and his jump into the Top 10 had as much to do with his health as his performance. Betances has always been a premier talent, but this year he got healthy and stayed healthy through a dominant second half. Expectations are sky
high again. He just has to stay off the disabled list this time.
No. 29 Jairo Heredia
High-A right-handed starter
Kind of like Nova in 2008 and Noesi in 2009, the Yankees have to decide whether to protect Heredia from the Rule 5 or take their chances that an unproven but talented young pitcher will sneak through. Heredia just turned 21, but he pitched just six times above Low A this season. Opponents there hit .359 against him.
No. 30 Jamie Hoffmann
Rule 5 pick sent back to Dodgers
The Yankees were clearly never planning to bring back Brian Bruney this offseason, so they traded him away for the right to draft Hoffmann. He hung around spring training for a while, but was ultimately sent back to the Dodgers. He hit .310 with eight home runs, 17 steals and 36 doubles in Triple-A.