Pedro Feliciano had an MRI this winter before he signed with the Yankees. It showed no problems. When he got to spring training, he pitched with no pain and no cause for concern. In his fourth spring outing, he allowed one hit and struck out the other three batters he faced. It seemed to be another good sign, but that’s the day Feliciano first felt something in his shoulder.
“That day that I pitched, I remember I threw long toss with Soriano and I was fine,” he said. “I did my short toss and everything, then in the bullpen I was fine. After I got my first out, I got a single bloop to the righty and then I got my two strikeouts. I got the last two outs, but it wasn’t me. That inning was weird. I’ve never had that, so I thought it would go away. That’s why I kept pitching, but the next day was bad.”
Initially, Feliciano thought it was just unexpected soreness. When it lingered, he initially labeled it a triceps issue. Gradually, the diagnosis shifted closer to the shoulder, and yesterday he found out that there’s a small tear in his shoulder capsule. Feliciano believes it’s a new injury, one that happened that day in Florida, not over time at Citi Field. He wonders if it’s connected to all the weight lifting he did this spring.
Bottom line, Feliciano will see Dr. Andrews on Monday for a second opinion, but he’s expecting to have surgery. The Yankees are expecting the same. Brian Cashman called it a “very obvious” diagnosis, and surgery will keep him out all year.
Even if Andrews says surgery is not necessary, Feliciano will still be out several more weeks leaving the Yankees without their primary left-handed reliever, the guy they gave two year, $8 million this winter. The Yankees were well aware of Feliciano’s workload with the Mets, but they thought this was a risk worth taking.
“He was definitely abused over there,” Cashman said. “But we knew that.”
Here’s Cashman. It’s worth a listen. He talked for about 20 minutes about the Yankees own history of overusing pitchers. Cashman said he spoke to Joe Torre about it several times, asking that he not go to the same guys over and over again, and he seems happy that it’s no longer an issue with Joe Girardi.
• For now, the Yankees are going to stick with Boone Logan as their only left-handed reliever. There’s no one in the system they’re considering calling up at the moment, and Girardi said he doesn’t expect to find a lefty on the market right now.
• The most obvious left-handed addition might be Andy Sisco, but Cashman said Sisco’s fastball in Scranton hasn’t been what it was when the Yankees saw him this winter. Sisco might be an option down the road, but Cashman said he’s not an option right now.
• Here’s Joe Girardi on the bullpen without Feliciano: “The bullpen is what it is. We believe that we have right-handers that are capable of getting left-handers out. At this point, Pedro has to make a decision on what he’s going to do. It’s disappointing. We were counting on him to be a big left-hander out of our bullpen. Boone Logan stepped up for us last year, and he’s going to have to do it again.”
• The Associated Press reports that Major League Baseball is leaning toward expanded use of instant replay next season.
• Both Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos have been placed on the Double-A disabled list because of blisters. Cashman said he believe it’s because the seams are smaller — not as raised — on minor league baseballs, which might have been an issue for Betances and Banuelos shifting from big league spring training to the minor league season.
• In other minor league injury news, Josh Norris reports that Gary Sanchez is headed for the disabled list in Charleston. Not sure why.
• Obviously today is a pretty big start for Phil Hughes, as big as a third start of the season can be anyway. Both Girardi and Cashman said Hughes has generally been slow to generate velocity, that it usually doesn’t come until a little later in the season. Last year was an exception to the rule. Girardi said he still considers the velocity a secondary issue. “I wasn’t getting so caught up in it,” he said. “It comes down to locating the ball and changing speeds.”
Brian Roberts 2B
Nick Markakis RF
Derrek Lee 1B
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Luke Scott LF
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 3B
Matt Wieters C
Cesar Izturis SS
Associated Press photo of Feliciano
Get that Enter Sandman track ready to play.
Mariano Rivera is expected to arrive in Yankees camp tomorrow. He talked to Joe Girardi last night and said he would fly to Tampa tonight, arriving in time to report to camp in the morning. He’s been away to stay with one of his kids, who’s sick with something flu-like.
“Whenever Mo gets here is fine,” Brian Cashman said.
Truth is, Rivera wouldn’t be pitching right now even if he were in camp. He follows his own schedule and doesn’t start throwing until much later. This early in camp, all he does is long toss and fielding drills. In theory, how long could he wait to actually show up?
“As long as we don’t let it out – I don’t want him getting any ideas next year – he could have went for a while,” Joe Girardi said.
• Sounds like the infield is a priority for the Yankees bench. Girardi said the team might very well carry Andrew Jones as the only reserve outfielder, leaving room for both a utility man and a second backup infielder (maybe Eric Chavez or Ronnie Belliard). “The dynamics of how many outfielders we carry probably depends on the infielders,” Girardi said.
• Speaking of Jones, he stopped by the clubhouse this afternoon and said he chose the Yankees largely because he thought it was a good opportunity to get fairly regular playing time. “I look at him more as a corner guy that’s going to play against lefties, a lot sometimes,” Girardi said. Girardi said he doesn’t need Jones in center field — “Not with the two guys that we have,” he said — so he’ll simply move Brett Gardner to center field on the days Curtis Granderson gets a day off.
• Girardi said the Yankees could find creative ways to get Jesus Montero or Austin Romine at-bats if they were to break camp as the backup catcher. “You can develop a lot playing twice a week too at this level,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said it’s “fair to say” it’s a three-man race for the backup catching job: Montero, Romine and Francisco Cervelli.
• Cashman on releasing Neal Cotts: “You go through the medicals for a reason. He had his physical, and from that, we decided to release him.”
• Hector Noesi is still dealing with visa issues. It’s unclear when he’ll actually arrive in Tampa.
• The New York Post reported this morning that catching prospect Gary Sanchez was sent for medical tests on his heart, but the test revealed nothing serious. “There’s no worries now with Gary Sanchez,” Cashman said. “Simple as that. Nothing more to talk about.”
• Nick Swisher was among the position players hitting at the Yankees minor league complex today.
• One non-weight note about Joba Chamberlain: He’s made a small adjustment with his hands during his delivery. “When I talked to (Larry Rothschild) about the idea, he said yeah, that was one of the things that I noticed,” Chamberlain said. “Just my hands traveling away from the center of my body, and that’s when your hand doesn’t catch up. And that’s where they were when I first got called up. I thought I’d go back and try that to get away from my hands being back up here because I bounce a lot and don’t get over the rubber.”
Associated Press photos: Cashman, Billy Eppler and Girardi watching the bullpen sessions; Pedro Feliciano throwing a bullpen
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.
Maxwell: “I feel pretty much 100 percent” • 02.02.11
“We’re a little over three months out and I feel pretty much 100 percent,” Maxwell told Bryan Hoch at MLB.com. “I’ve already been hitting and throwing, doing everything. I feel good.”
At this time last year, Maxwell was considered the Nationals’ eighth-best prospect according to Baseball America. The magazine noted his “above-average power potential” and said he was a “plus runner” and an “above-average defender.” I saw him a little bit during my last year in Scranton. I just remember him as a toolsy guy, a player who had the attention of the league.
At the end of last season, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said he was looking forward to giving Maxwell another shot in 2011.
“Hopefully, it all comes together and he has a good spring for us and he’s part of the ballclub next year,” Riggleman said. “There’s no reason to give up on him. I think it’s all going to click. There’s no last-chance situation. I wouldn’t put that on him. I’m just hoping he does use the opportunities on the field, as sparing as they’ve been, to show us that he’s the real deal.”
Some other notes and links on this icy Wednesday:
• Terrific piece from my friend Donnie Collins, who wrote that Russ Springer’s retirement sparked memories of watching the Yankees with his grandmother. Be sure to give that a read.
• The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Lou Piniella has accepted a job in the Giants front office. The paper notes that, “GM Brian Sabean goes back with Piniella to their Yankee years in the ’80s, and they’ve remained tight.”
• Josh Norris posted a Q&A with vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman. I didn’t realize the Yankees had moved Vic Valencia to Charleston to work with Gary Sanchez this season.” He’s done a nice job with the catchers he’s worked with so far,” Newman said. “We move staff around to try and match them up with players so we get the biggest bang for our buck from our staff.”
• Heres’s a video of Nick Swisher addressing the media before last night’s Munson dinner. Swisher started to give his acceptance speech in the press room, but ultimately cut it short and saved it for the ballroom.
• Looks like the Rays minor league deal with Felipe Lopez is all but official.
• Here on the blog, I haven’t really mentioned the Mets situation. If you’re curious but haven’t been following the whole mess, here’s a good Times story on the situation. It still seems unclear how this will affect the Mets moving forward.
• I was never a huge White Stripes fan — always thought they were interesting but only bought a couple of their albums — but today the band announced that it’s splitting up, with no plans to ever record or tour again. That’s a shame. At the very least they were always making music that stood out as something different.
Associated Press photo of Maxwell
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.
Talking prospects over at mlb.com • 01.26.11
Want to talk prospects this afternoon? Yesterday, mlb.com and MLB Network announced their Top 50 prospects, with three Yankees making the cut. This afternoon at 2 ET, minor league guru Jonathan Mayo will chat about the list and about prospects in general.
For those of you only interested in the Yankees who made the cut, the Yankees were one of eight teams to have three different players in the top 50, and one of only four teams to place three players in the top 35. These are the Yankees who made the list.
No. 9: Jesus Montero
The Yankees top prospect landed in the top 10 on the strength of, “a bat that should be penciled into the middle of the big league lineup for years to come.” Predictably, mlb.com mentioned Montero’s defensive future as the only remaining question, but the site also noted that Montero has “more than enough bat” to be a designated hitter or first baseman.
No. 32: Gary Sanchez
Even in an organization with remarkable catching depth, mlb.com note that Sanchez, “just might end up being better than all of them.” He’s very young, which is why he’s only in the middle of this list, but Sanchez has “plenty” of power and ability to hit for average — similar to Montero — and he has “better defensive tools” than Austin Romine. The question with him is development. He still has a long way to go.
No. 35: Manny Banuelos
It’s been mentioned several times that Banuelos came back from appendectomy and showed better fitness and stuff. He gained velocity to show a mid-90s fastball, and mlb.com noted that he’s shown “glimpses of above average or better” secondary pitches. If his development continues, Banuelos could have “front-of-a-rotation stuff,” and he doesn’t have far to go before he’s ready for New York.
No. 53: Dellin Betances
In addition to the Top 50, mlb.com listed the 10 players who just missed the cut, including the top right-handed pitcher in the Yankees farm system. Betances was actually ranked ahead of Banuelos by Baseball America. With a list like this, the difference between No. 35 and No. 53 is pretty small.
Yankees organizational depth: Catcher • 01.08.11
Let’s start a position-by-position look at the Yankees organization by looking behind the plate. It’s probably the most intriguing spot in the entire system, both because of what’s happening at the big league level and what’s coming up from the minor leagues. This has been Jorge Posada’s position for more than a decade, but that’s about to change.
In the big leagues
The transition is about to begin, and it will start with Russell Martin. Signed this winter to a one-year deal, Martin says he’s healthy and that he’s shifted his workout routine to try to regain the power that made him a coveted young player just three years ago. Martin is a short-term fix, but at 27 years old, he could have some long-term upside if he returns to form. Can’t count him out beyond this season. Francisco Cervelli is, of course, poised to return to his backup role, while Posada is still around for occasional starts behind the plate. If you count Posada, it seems entirely possible that the Yankees will carry three catchers at all times this year.
On the verge
The catching future of the Yankees starts with Jesus Montero. He’s the most highly touted player in the system, and he’s one step away from the big leagues. There are still questions about his ability to catch, but he seems to convince more and more people each year. He might never be great, but his defense might play enough to keep his bat in the lineup without clogging the DH spot. Behind him is Austin Romine. The Yankees expected him to open this season in Triple-A before the Martin signing. Now it’s entirely possible Romine will be bumped back to Double-A, at least to start the year. He was good but didn’t exactly dominate that level last year — .268/.324/.402 and the league’s worst caught stealing percentage — so a return isn’t exactly a waste of time. Gustavo Molina, who has some big league time, was signed as a minor league free agent and could help in a pinch. He’ll likely start the season coming off the bench in Triple-A.
Deep in the system
It’s unusual that a minor league system would have the Yankees combination of talent and depth at the catcher position. Montero is obviously the star of the show, but 18-year-old Gary Sanchez could be a similar talent. He’s considered a better defensive prospect, and although he doesn’t have quite Montero’s power, he does have considerable pop in his bat. He’s an elite prospect himself. JR Murphy’s ultimate position is unclear, but he also has enough bat to be worth following. Kyle Higashioka doesn’t generate nearly the same buzz, but he was the youngest player invited to big league camp last year. He’s on the radar.
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: Russell Martin
Scranton/WB: Jesus Montero
Trenton: Austin Romine
Tampa: Kyle Higashioka
Charleston: Gary Sanchez
There are six players who could, given the right circumstances, get some big league time at catcher this season: Martin, Cervelli, Posada, Montero, Molina and Romine. All of those come with different levels of concern, but that’s also a lot of depth at a position that’s often very thin.
Further down in the system, Murphy figures into this depth chart mix somewhere — either Tampa or Charleston — but he’ll also see some time at the infield and outfield corners. He shouldn’t be overlooked, even in this catching-rich system. Tyler Austin was the top catcher selected by the Yankees in last year’s draft (13th round), but it seems uncertain whether he’ll stay behind the plate as a pro. He played only two games last season before an injury. Those two games were at DH and first base.
Associated Press photo of Posada, headshots of Martin, Montero and Murphy
For now, all the Russell Martin signing means for the immediate future of Jesus Montero — and Austin Romine for that matter — is that the Yankees have options. Martin gives the Yankees flexibility, plain and simple.
“Breaking in Robinson Cano at second base, or Brett Gardner in left field, or Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen, or Phil Hughes at the back of the rotation, or (Dave) Robertson in the bullpen,” Brian Cashman said, “those are a lot easier than breaking in a young catcher in the big leagues, especially with high veteran starters and relievers in a pennant race in the American League East. Russell Martin, we hope, is the perfect situation to come along to allow us the timeframe to gives these kids the chance to (develop).”
Montero just turned 21. He hit .252/.328/.415 in the first half last season, and he had to be disciplined for his attitude. By all accounts, things changed in the second half when he was better behind the plate, at the plate and in the dugout. I truly believe that the Yankees think he’s ready for the big leagues, but a few more months in Triple-A certainly won’t hurt him. Romine has never caught a game above Double-A, and he hit .268 in Trenton last season. At this very moment, he’s hardly a can’t-miss option at the big league level.
There’s no need to rush either of them, and adding an experienced catcher — especially one with Martin’s potential — makes obvious sense. But what might it ultimately mean for the future of Montero and Romine? Well, this move is about giving the Yankees options, and there are plenty of options for their young catchers.
New plan, same as the old plan
It doesn’t seem likely, but Cashman didn’t rule out the idea of either Montero or Romine beating Francisco Cervelli for the backup job out of spring training. “Those are things we’re going to work through in the spring,” Cashman said. There is still a chance — especially if Martin gets hurt again — that one of those two could open the season in New York, in one role or another. Not likely, but certainly an option.
The change of plans could be temporary. If Montero crushes the ball in Triple-A, or Romine takes a giant step forward, one of them could force his way to New York by mid-season. Martin isn’t a sure thing after two disappointing seasons, and his signing could do nothing but buy a little time for Montero or Romine to force the Yankees hand. Things could also change with a mid-season injury in New York.
See you in September
Could be that Martin is nothing but a one-year stepping stone. If Martin hits this season, and the young guys make progress in the minors, the Yankees could wait until September to give Montero or Romine a look in the big leagues — get their feet wet that way — and make the transition next season when the development has taken another step forward.
One is good, two is better
Martin is still arbitration eligible next season, and Jorge Posada is in the last year of his contract. Isn’t it entirely possible that Martin could bounce back to his all-star self, the Yankees could decide he’s actually their catcher of the near future and Montero could step into Posada’s DH role next season? Instead of being the bridge to Montero, couldn’t Martin become the bridge to Gary Sanchez? It’s possible.
Prospects are prospects, nothing more
Can’t pretend that every possible scenario is a good one. There’s a lot to like about Montero and Romine, but they haven’t done a thing at the big league level, and there’s always the chance they never will. The addition of Martin lets the Yankees keep the young guys in the minor leagues, where holes might be discovered and best-case scenario’s might not play out. There’s always the chance that Martin is, in fact, the best 20-something catcher currently in the Yankees organization.
From friend to foe
This is the part that makes a lot of folks nervous: Martin makes it easier for the Yankees to trade Montero or Romine if the right opportunity presents itself. Cashman has made it clear he’ll be hesitant to deal a proven hitter like Montero. Think of all the times Cashman did not trade Phil Hughes. It’s that kind of situation. If Montero is dealt, it will be for an elite player (like the Cliff Lee proposal in the summer). That’s one of the benefits of having considerable depth at a single position, and Martin limits the short-term impact if Cashman does pull the trigger.
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.
Baseball America was scheduled to release its Yankees Top 10 prospects today, but the schedule changed and the list will now hit the website next week. Given the Daily News report about Jesus Montero, though, today actually seems to be the perfect day for the Yankees Top 10.
The good news is, the list is already out in print editions and it’s hitting the web. I first saw it on the Trenton blog run by Josh Norris. I’ll be sure to link to Baseball America when their scouting reports go live. For now, here are the names that make up the Yankees Top 10, beginning with the guy who might be starting at catcher next season.
1. Jesus Montero
2. Gary Sanchez
3. Dellin Betances
4. Manny Banuelos
5. Andrew Brackman
6. Austin Romine
7. Hector Noesi
8. Eduardo Nunez
9. Slade Heathcott
10. Brandon Laird
Montero is the clear No. 1. His bat is one of the best in minor league baseball, and it should play at the Major League level regardless of his glove.
Nos. 2 through 6 are probably easy choices, though the order might change depending on the person doing the ranking. I probably would have ranked Banuelos second, but that’s extreme nitpicking.
In an organization so rich in upper-level pitching, I agree with Donnie Collins that it’s interesting — though not right or wrong — that Noesi got a Top 10 spot ahead of guys like David Phelps or Adam Warren or even Graham Stoneburner. Again, not saying I disagree, I just find it interesting that Baseball America values him at the top of that second tier of organizational pitching prospects.
Nunez proved 2009 wasn’t a fluke, and that moved him into the Top 10. Heathcott’s performance was shaky this season, but his talent kept him in the Top 10. Rounding out the list is Laird, who didn’t even crack Baseball America’s Top 30 last season. Says a lot about how far he’s climbed in the eyes of scouts and front-office types. When a player keeps hitting in the upper levels, the rest of baseball pays attention.
Those are headshots of Montero and Betances