The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Looking back at last year’s Top 30 Yankees prospects11.05.10

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.

ph_524968No. 1 Jesus Montero
Triple-A catcher
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
Double-A catcher
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.

ph_527055No. 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.

ph_544365No. 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
Short-season catcher
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.

ph_571974No. 8 J.R. Murphy
Low-A catcher
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.

ph_457581No. 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.

ph_543377No. 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.

ph_467100No. 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.

ph_527037No. 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.

ph_572170No. 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
Injured
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.

ph_456051No. 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.

ph_476589No. 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.

ph_476454No. 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.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 544 Comments →

Laird and Mesa named Player of the Year11.02.10

Pretty convenient timing. On the day Melky Mesa was added to the Yankees 40-man roster, he was also named the Topps/Minor League Player of the Year for the Florida State League. Brandon Laird was also chosen as a Player of the Year, with his award coming in the Eastern League. Here’s the announcement from MILB.

ph_444859ph_477186The Washington Nationals and New York Yankees each had a pair of their prospects, who also were named their league’s most valuable player, selected as a Topps Player of the Year winner. Fourteen Major League organizations are represented in the annual George M. Trautman Awards, presented in the 16 domestic Minor Leagues by the Topps Company of New York, in conjunction with Minor League Baseball.

Potomac Nationals first baseman Tyler Moore led the Carolina League in home runs, RBIs, doubles, slugging percentage, extra base hits and total bases in being named the Topps Player of the Year in the Class A loop. Randolph Oduber is the other Washington Minor Leaguer to claim a Topps award. Oduber finished in the top five in eight offensive categories in the Gulf Coast League, including leading it in batting average and slugging percentage.

Trenton third baseman Brandon Laird won the Eastern League’s MVP and Rookie of the Year awards. He finished in the top five in the league in homers and RBIs, despite being promoted to Triple-A in early August. The second Yankees honoree is Tampa outfielder Melky Mesa, who was among the Florida State League leaders in home runs, doubles, triples, RBIs, slugging percentage and extra base hits.

Topps salutes the top performances throughout Minor League Baseball, including monthly awards and all-star teams in each classification.

League

Winner

Club/Org.

POS.

International

Dan Johnson

Durham/Tampa Bay

1B

Pacific Coast

J.P. Arencibia

Las Vegas/Toronto

C

Eastern

Brandon Laird

Trenton/New York-AL

3B

Southern

Dave Sappelt

Carolina/Cincinnati

OF

Texas

Mike Moustakas

NW Arkansas/Kansas City

3B

California

Paul Goldschmidt

Visalia/Arizona

1B

Carolina

Tyler Moore

Potomac/Washington

1B

Florida State

Melky Mesa

Tampa/New York-AL

OF

Midwest

Mike Trout

Cedar Rapids/Los Angeles-AL

OF

S. Atlantic

J.D Martinez

Lexington/Houston

OF

NY-Penn

Cory Vaughn

Brooklyn/New York-NL

OF

Northwest

Jared Hoying

Spokane/Texas

OF

Appalachian

Oswaldo Arcia

Elizabethton/Minnesota

OF

Pioneer

Jake Lemmerman

Ogden/Los Angeles-NL

SS

Arizona

Ji-Man Choi

Mariners/Seattle

C

Gulf Coast

Randolph Oduber

Nationals/Washington

OF

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 115 Comments →

Rule 5 decisions looming for Yankees11.02.10

Last winter, the Yankees added seven minor leaguers to the 40-man roster. If I had to guess, I’d say it will be closer to four or five this winter.

Of the players eligible for the Rule 5 draft, only Dellin Betances and Brandon Laird jump out as guys who absolutely need to be protected. Beyond that, each addition is likely to depend on how many roster spots come open and how highly the Yankees think of some of their lower-level players.

This post is not an attempt to list every Yankees minor leaguer who’s eligible for the Rule 5 draft. These are simply some of the names who jumped out to me as leading candidates at various positions. My friend Donnie Collins has a more comprehensive list.

ph_476454Pitchers: Wilkins Arias, Dellin Betances, Jairo Heredia, Craig Heyer, Alan Horne, George Kontos, Adam Olbrychowski, Jonathan Ortiz, Lance Pendleton, Ryan Pope, Pat Venditte, Kevin Whelan, Eric Wordekemper

Betances (right) is the no-brainer of the group. He’s a huge talent who seems to be finally healthy, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could pitch his way to New York as early as next season.

Heredia is also a pretty big talent, but injuries have held him to only 39 innings above Low-A. The Yankees took a chance on getting the young and raw Ivan Nova through the Rule 5 in 2008, and that worked out. They took no such chances with Hector Noesi last year. The Yankees have to make a similar decision on Heredia this year.

Beyond Betances, the names that standout most are Arias, Pendleton and Pope. Arias is the only lefty on the list, Pendleton is coming off a nice year in Double-A (he finished in Triple-A) and Pope was invited to big league camp this spring then got an Arizona Fall League assignment this offseason. Heyer is also in the Fall League. Those Fall League assignments suggest the Yankees like the potential of Heyer and Pope, but one year ago Zach Kroenke, Grant Duff and Colin Curtis were all sent to the Fall League, but each was still left exposed to the Rule 5.

Horne and Kontos would be much more prominent in this discussion if not for injuries. Kontos is pitching again, but after a solid regular season, he’s struggling in Arizona.

ph_477186Infielders: Brandon Laird, Jose Pirela, Brad Suttle

Laird (right) was terrific this season. He can already play the infield corners, now he’s in the Fall League learning to handle the outfield. He seems like a lock.

Pirela is the biggest name of a few small-name middle infielders who are eligible. He’s never played above Class A, and the Yankees already have quite a few middle infielders on the roster. Suttle is an interesting case: A fourth-round pick who showed an impressive bat in college but missed all of 2009 with a shoulder injury. He started to hit in the second-half of this season, but I’m not sure he could actually stick on a Major League roster at this point.

ph_444859Outfielders: Abraham Almonte, Zoilo Almonte, Austin Krum, Melky Mesa, Damon Sublett

The top candidate here is Mesa (right). He can hit for power, he can run and he can throw. He also struck out 129 times in 121 games this season. And that was an improvement on last year’s 168 strikeouts. Strikeouts aside, Mesa can play center field and he brings a ton of tools. Beyond Laird, I’d say Mesa is the top position player worth a spot.

Of the other outfielders: Neither of the Almonte’s has played above Class-A, while Krum and Sublett hit below .230 in Double-A this season. Sublett and Abraham Almonte are converted infielders.

ph_468474Catchers: Jose Gil

No big names are eligible at catcher. Right or wrong, Gil (right) has been treated more like an organizational catcher than as a prospect. P.J. Pilittere will become a free agent this winter, but he’s not someone the Yankees are likely to consider adding to the roster, and he’s much better off finding a new organization.

Jesus Montero and Austin Romine are a year away from Rule 5 eligibility.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 372 Comments →

State of the Yankees: Outfield corners02.14.10

Nick Swisher is the Yankees right fielder, but everything else about the Yankees outfield is subject to change. Curtis Granderson will be in there somewhere — for this post, we’ll assume center field — and Brett Gardner is the favorite for the other starting role, but the Yankees have added a long list of candidates for bench jobs and possibly regular time in the lineup. The outfield corners are perhaps the most volatile part of New York’s lineup because of the lack of a big-name left fielder and no obvious replacements in the upper levels of the minor leagues.

Starters: Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher
Backup: Randy Winn
Veteran insurance: Marcus Thames
Almost ready: Jamie Hoffmann, David Winfree
Low Rising: Melky Mesa, Kelvin DeLeon

For a series like this, it’s much easier to lump the outfield corners together, because so many outfielders can handle both spots (including several Yankees minor leaguers who I didn’t list). For the Yankees, Winn seems best positioned to be the immediate backup in left and right – assuming he doesn’t win the everyday left field job — while Thames could very easily win a platoon role by beating out Rule 5 pick Hoffmann in spring training (you have to wonder if the Yankees are willing to let Hoffmann develop at the big league level when they have a proven option like Thames in the mix). The starting job remains Gardner’s to lose, but there are enough pieces to mix and match if necessary. Mesa and DeLeon are both quite raw, with a long road between them and the big leagues.

Worst-case scenario: Look back at 2008, when Swisher hit .219 for the White Sox and Gardner stumbled in his first big league exposure. That’s where the worst-case scenario starts. We know Swisher is going to hit for power and Gardner is going to steal some bags, but they have to make consistent contact and reach base for those things to matter. If Winn repeats 2009, Hoffmann falls flat and Thames falters against left-handed pitching, the Yankees won’t have another experienced outfielder to turn to. They’ve signed and traded for an interesting group of Triple-A outfielders to put around Colin Curtis, but no one in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfield is a sure thing.

Best-case scenario: Throughout the minor leagues, Gardner always improved in his second attempt at a given level. If he can raise his on-base percentage to around .370 – which is still 19 points lower than his career minor league OBP – the Yankees will have no need for those veteran backups they signed this winter. If Swisher finds his power stroke at home, where he had just eight home runs last season, he could easily top 30 homers for the year. A return to form from Winn and solid splits from either Thames or Hoffmann would give the Yankees a valuable outfield bench, and Winfree could hit his way into the major league conversation with a nice power showing in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. If Mesa and DeLeon could cut back on the strikeouts in A-ball, that would be gravy.

The future: The outfield corners could change drastically in the next few years, but that volatility could go away if Gardner proves himself and Swisher remains productive. Winn and Thames are on one-year deals, so they don’t factor into this discussion, but Gardner is still two years from arbitration and Swisher is signed through 2012 (the Yankees can buyout the last year). The Yankees could ultimately stick with those two — and save their free agent money for Jeter, Rivera and a starting pitcher or two – or they could dive into an upcoming free agent market that could include Carl Crawford, Adam Dunn, Michael Cuddyer, Brad Hawpe and David DeJesus.

An attempt at the complete depth chart
An educated guess, but just a guess
Scranton: Colin Curtis, David Winfree
Trenton: Edwar Gonzalez, Dan Brewer
Tampa: Taylor Grote, Melky Mesa
Charleston: Neil Medchill, Zoilo Almonte
Extended: Kelvin DeLeon
Several things could happen in the lower levels. Medchill is a college draftee with power, so he could jump all the way to Tampa. DeLeon is young but very talented, so he could prove himself ready for full-season ball. As is usually the case, there will be some mixing and matching going on in the minor league outfields. Trenton’s outfield is fairly wide open for anyone who earns at-bats. 

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 88 Comments →

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