New York Yankees 2014 Top 15 Prospects

Nov 2, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; New York Yankees catcher Peter O’Brien

The New York Yankees have been in the news lately signing some big free agents, particularly Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury. But we here at Grading on the Curve are going to tell you about the Yankees’ minor league system today, thanks to Ricky Keeler and Jason Evans over at Yanks Go Yard, our FanSided sister site.

The Yankees’ minor league affiliates, for those of you keeping track at home:

Triple-A: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders (International League)
Double-A: Trenton Thunder (Eastern League)
High-A: Tampa Yankees (Florida State League)
Class-A: Charleston RiverDogs (South Atlantic League)
Short-Season A: Staten Island Yankees (New York-Penn League)
Complex-Rookie: GCL Yankees* (Gulf Coast League)

*Note: In 2013, the Yankees had two teams in the Gulf Coast League. They were called (coincidentally enough) GCL Yankees 1 and GCL Yankees 2.

#15

Peter O’Brien – C, 3B
Date of Birth: July 15, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’3”/215 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2012 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
2013222 Teams2 LgsA+-ANYY1195064477813039422960141134.291.350.544.893
201322CharlestonSALLANYY5322619447632211141002258.325.394.6191.012
201322TampaFLORA+NYY6628025331671731155011976.265.314.486.800
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.


Analysis
: O’Brien has begun to move off of his original position of catcher because the Yankees’ system is so deep at behind the plate. O’Brien, now 23, is making a lot of noise with his bat, demolishing the Midwest League and maintaining solid numbers in High-A in a season with 22 home runs and an almost .900 OPS in 506 plate appearances. He also continued to get some work, particularly at third base, in the Arizona Fall League where he hit four home runs in 63 at bats but hit .190 with a .212 OBP. O’Brien’s 134 strikeouts last season are a big red flag and that, combined with his lack of contact in the AFL, means that he’s going to have to take some big steps forward going into the higher minors.

2014 Prognosis: O’Brien likely gets a chance to start 2014 in Double-A. He’ll turn 24 this year and will need to make an impact at the higher levels to maintain prospect status.

#14

Jose Ramirez – RHP
Date of Birth: January 21, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’3”/190 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2007; signing bonus unknown

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGSGFSVIPHRERHRBBSOHBPWPWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
2013232 Teams2 LgsAA-AAANYY26.2503.6717161173.2573530103678791.2627.01.24.49.52.17
201323TrentonELAANYY13.2502.76981142.128151371550371.0166.01.53.210.63.33
201323Scranton/Wilkes-BarreILAAANYY13.2504.88880031.129201732128421.5968.30.96.08.01.33
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.


Analysis
: Ramirez is a starter in the minors but is looking more and more like a guy who shifts to the bullpen in the big leagues. With a high 90’s fastball, a sharp slider and a surprisingly good changeup, he struck out more than a batter per inning last season in the minors. With a reputation as being a bit injury prone, Ramirez needs to stay healthy before he can make the big club. The biggest knock to Ramirez is his lack of control. After a very strong 2012 in High-A Tampa, Ramirez was still showing solid control in Double-A but it really got away from him when he made the jump to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre walking 21 in 31 1/3 innings while his strikeout rate dropped at the higher level.

2014 Prognosis: Once again, Ramirez’s health is probably the biggest factor here. If the Yankees want him to keep getting innings under his belt, he’ll probably be a starter in Triple-A. If the Yankees need a bullpen arm, he could see the major leagues in 2014.

#13

Manny Banuelos – LHP
Date of Birth: March 13, 1991
Height/Weight: 5’10”/155 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of Mexico in 2008; signing bonus unknown (the Yankees spent $450,000 on four prospects signed in 2008)

2013 Stats: Did not play

Analysis: Banuelos is coming off Tommy John surgery, and if all goes well, could get a look in September 2014. Banuelos would be higher on the list if he had had a healthy 2013 campaign. Banuelos opened eyes in Spring Training a couple years ago and at just 22 years old could still have a big big league career. Left-handed pitching plays well at Yankee Stadium, and they still have high hopes for Banuelos.

2014 Prognosis: He reached Triple-A at 20 in 2011 and started there in 2012 but struggled somewhat (particularly with his command). If Banuelos is right when he returns after Spring Training, he’ll likely get eased back into things in Tampa at High-A before ascending the tree to return to Triple-A by the end of the season.

#12

Dante Bichette Jr. – 3B
Date of Birth: September 26, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’1”/215 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (51st overall) of the 2011 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
201320CharlestonSALLANYY114486435479316111611043119.214.292.331.623
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.


Analysis
: The former Yankee first round pick ended up repeating Class-A ball in 2013 and regressed in many areas, hitting just .214. One area in which he made some strides is in his power,  hitting 11 home runs, up from three the year before. He does show a good eye at the plate, which could help him going forward. The Yankees know he has a good work ethic and is capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark. The negative on Bichette Jr. was that his strikeout numbers went up in 2013. He does have 40+ walks each of the last two years and the productive at-bats, however, should increase in the coming years. Scouts love his makeup and work ethic and believe that, at 21 for the 2014 minor league season, he’s still young enough to improve dramatically.

2014 Prognosis: With two years of full-season ball under his belt, he’ll likely move up to Tampa in the Florida State League.

#11

Mark Montgomery – RHP
Date of Birth: August 30, 1990
Height/Weight: 5’11”/205 lbs
Acquired: 11th round of the 2011 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGSGFSVIPHRERHRBBSOHBPWPWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
2013223 Teams2 LgsAAA-RkNYY23.4003.382944045.141191742559261.4568.10.85.011.72.36
201322Yankees 2GULFRkNYY000.0022002.0100002100.5004.50.00.09.0
201322Yankees 1GULFRkNYY005.4022003.1422008001.20010.80.00.021.6
201322Scranton/Wilkes-BarreILAAANYY23.4003.382504040.036171542549161.5258.10.95.611.01.96
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.


Analysis
: Despite shoulder injuries that sidelined him for much of the season, Montgomery is on track for a possible major league debut in 2014. He’s risen quickly through the minors as a college arm who was immediately profiled as a closer-type. He’s not overpowering, throwing around 93 mph but he has an excellent slider that will make him very effective against right-handed hitters.

2014 Prognosis: Montgomery has an outside shot at a bullpen spot in the big leagues in 2014.

Jul 1, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Zoilo Almonte (45) hits a RBI single in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Yankees won 10-4. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

#10

J.R. Murphy – C
Date of Birth
: May 13, 1991
Height/Weight: 5’11”/195 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2009 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
2013222 Teams2 LgsAAA-AANYY108468413601112901246114773.269.347.426.773
201322TrentonELAANYY492111833449100625102432.268.352.421.773
201322Scranton/Wilkes-BarreILAAANYY592572302662190621012341.270.342.430.773
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.


Analysis
: Murphy was a player who gained valuable big league time behind the plate in September due to the concussion to Austin Romine. The Yankees value his ability to defend behind the plate (which has improved as he’s spent more time there) and hope that can translate to his offensive game. He had 12 HRs and a very solid .426 slugging percentage in the minor leagues last year split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

2014 Prognosis: The signing of Brian McCann really throws a wrench into Murphy’s long-term plans to be an every day catcher in the big leagues. Murphy will either back McCann up or be the starter in Triple-A but he also has Gary Sanchez to worry about breathing down his neck. He’s only 22 though and could feature in a trade to bring the Yankees back another piece.

#9

Ty Hensley – RHP
Date of Birth: July 30, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’4”/220 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (30th overall) of the 2012 draft

2013 Stats: Did not play

Analysis: Hensley missed all of 2013 after undergoing hip surgery. He may need three or four years of development before he reaches the majors because of this but he’s got a power arm that can hit 97 mph with the fastball and two offspeed pitches that include a very good curve and a developing changeup . Scouts love his frame and arm action and could be a big riser in 2014.

2014 Prognosis: Depending on where the Yankees feel his development is in Spring Training, Hensley could either go to Extended Spring Training bound for Staten Island or he could head out to Charleston although they’ll probably keep a close eye on his innings in full-season ball.

#8

Ian Clarkin – LHP
Date of Birth: February 14, 1995
Height/Weight: 6’2”/186 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (33rd overall) of the 2013 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGSIPHRERHRBBSOHBPBKWPWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
201318Yankees 1GULFRkNYY02.00010.80335.05662441111.8009.03.67.27.21.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.


Analysis
: Clarkin is the first of the Yankees’ 2013 first round picks on this list. Despite being limited due to injuries, Clarkin impressed scouts in his first exposure to pro baseball this season. Clarkin’s got three different pitches he can turn to with a fastball in the low-90s (hitting 93), a hard power-curve and a developing changeup. Without much of a professional resume at this point, Clarkin is more of a wait-and-see type of guy.

2014 Prognosis: Clarkin will only be 19 in 2014 and will likely stay in Extended Spring Training for another season in the GCL or a step up to Staten Island in the New York-Penn League.

#7

Zoilo Almonte – OF
Date of Birth: June 10, 1989
Height/Weight: 6’0”/205 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2005; signing bonus unknown

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
201324Scranton/Wilkes-BarreILAAANYY682932593077121636413047.297.369.421.789
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.
YearAgeTmLgGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSOPS+
201324NYYAL34113106925401931619.236.274.302.57659
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.


Analysis
: Almonte profiles as a fourth-outfielder with the potential for more if he can hit better at the major league level. Capable of playing all three outfield positions, Almonte is aggressive at the plate but he also did a great job in the majors in 2013 in terms of working the count and having productive at-bats. He also has decent speed and can run the bases. It will be interesting to see if he can make an impact on the bench in the Bronx for 2014. There are high hopes for this player who was third in the Yankees minor leagues in home runs in 2012.

2014 Prognosis: Despite signing Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson will be on the move and Almonte could hold on to his fourth outfielder spot in the bigs.

#6

Eric Jagielo – 3B
Date of Birth: May 17, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’2”/195 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (26th overall) of the 2013 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
2013213 Teams2 LgsA–RkNYY552291932251161627002756.264.376.451.826
201321Yankees 1GULFRkNYY1321000000000.000.333.000.333
201321Yankees 2GULFRkNYY3872220000012.286.375.571.946
201321Staten IslandNYPLA-NYY512181841949141627002654.266.376.451.827
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.


Analysis
: In his first professional season, Jagielo shined in Staten Island with 21 extra-base hits (including 6 HRs) and 27 RBI’s in 51 games. He also showed good patience at the plate with an 11.9% walk rate but still strikes out too much with a 24.8% strikeout rate. The pluses outweigh the minuses, particularly since Jagielo was coming off a full college season (and playing in the Cape Cod League in the summer). Since the Yankees could use a third baseman in the future, Jagielo fits the bill at the position. The Yankees have high hopes for this kid’s future.

2014 Prognosis: Jagielo will likely start 2014 in full-season ball and the Yankees are hoping that he can show his stuff and force the club to move him up through the system quickly.

Feb 17, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez during spring training at Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

#5

Rafael De Paula – RHP
Date of Birth: March 24, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’2”/212 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2010; $500,000 signing bonus

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLW-L%ERAGGSIPHRERHRBBSOHBPBKWPWHIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9SO/BB
2013222 Teams2 LgsA-A+NYY75.5834.292423113.197565485314685131.3247.70.64.211.62.75
201322CharlestonSALLANYY62.7502.94131364.1432121323963581.0266.00.43.213.44.17
201322TampaFLORA+NYY13.2506.06111049.0543533530505051.7149.90.95.59.21.67
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.


Analysis
: After it was discovered that De Paula was not who he said he was (originally Rafael De Paula Figueroa), he had visa issues and only made his US debut last season at the age of 22. Dominating in the Sally League, De Paula emerged as one of the top arms in the Yankees organization last season, hitting 99 mph on the radar gun. His secondary pitches are a little bit behind his fastball development but the hard curve and changeup will need to progress for De Paula to be effective in the high minors; the hitters who faced him in the South Atlantic League were overwhelmed but the hitters in the Florida State League weren’t fooled by the blistering heat. While his 6.06 ERA and 1.71 WHIP are a bit ugly, his BABIP was high at .345 and his FIP was a much more reasonable 4.63.

2014 Prognosis: With 2014 being his Age-23 season, De Paula will likely be moved up quickly and will start in Double-A Trenton.

#4

Slade Heathcott – OF
Date of Birth: September 28, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’0”/195 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (29th overall) of the 2009 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
201322TrentonELAANYY1034443995910422784915836107.261.327.411.738
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.


Analysis
: Heathcott is a former number one pick who’s battled some demons but has a ton of ability. With excellent batspeed, Heathcott is showing the ability to hit at higher levels after being moved forward to Double-A Trenton last year. He struck out over 100 times and only walked 36 and for a speed-type of player, he’s going to need to get on base more and strikeout less. Scouts feel that his defense and arm are the best parts of his game besides his speed.

2014 Prognosis: At 23 years old for the 2014 season, Heathcott could repeat Double-A without affecting his development. He faces quality pitching in the Eastern League and more time working on plate discipline and contact could help polish his skills before moving up.

#3

Tyler Austin – RF
Date of Birth: September 6, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’1”/220 lbs
Acquired: 13th round of the 2010 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
2013212 Teams2 LgsAA-RkNYY853733254486171640404279.265.351.378.730
201321Yankees 2GULFRkNYY2761400000010.667.714.6671.381
201321TrentonELAANYY833663194382171640404179.257.344.373.717
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.


Analysis
: Austin has moved quickly through the Yankees system, primarily due to his very well developed approach at the plate. He’s a plus hitter and is patient, posting walk rates consistently above 10% while his strikeout rates hover around 20% hitting 21.6% last season in Double-A. Because his peripherals are staying consistent, Austin is being considered a solid prospect although it’s thought that he won’t have the power typical of corner outfielders. He also lacks a plus arm but has looked good in right after moving from the infield in 2012.

2014 Prognosis: With solid numbers across the board, Austin might make the jump to Triple-A in 2014. On the other hand, he could stick around and repeat Double-A after having his season cut short due to injury.

#2

Mason Williams – CF
Date of Birth: August 21, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’1”/180 lbs
Acquired: 4th round of the 2010 draft

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
2013212 Teams2 LgsA+-AANYY117537478631172444281594079.245.304.337.641
201321TampaFLORA+NYY100461406561062133241593961.261.327.350.676
201321TrentonELAANYY177672711311400118.153.164.264.428
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.


Analysis
: When watching this player at Staten Island a couple of years ago, Mason Williams looked like the real deal. In 2011, he had a .395 on-base percentage with SI and seemed to get to first base in every at-bat. He has a decent glove in center field making just four errors last season in Tampa. The problem was he hit just .245 last season (split between Tampa and Trenton). In reality, the .245 overall batting average was brought down by his very unlucky (.199 BABIP) 76 plate appearances in Double-A. Williams is a very good contact hitter who gets on base and doesn’t strike out much and has very good speed. If he can stay healthy, this is a very good prospect that could be enticing if not for the Yankees (with Jacoby Ellsbury currently in center field and Brett Gardner in left), but for another team.

2014 Prognosis: Williams will get another try at Double-A for a full season.

#1

Gary Sanchez – C
Date of Birth
: December 2, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’2”/220 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2009; $3 million signing bonus

2013 Stats:

YearAgeTmLgLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
2013202 Teams2 LgsA+-AANYY117509454501152701571314187.253.324.412.736
201320TampaFLORA+NYY9439936238922101361312871.254.313.420.733
201320TrentonELAANYY2311092122360210001316.250.364.380.744
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/4/2013.


Analysis
: Sanchez has been the catcher of the future for a while. There haven’t been any questions about his bat but scouts wonder whether or not his defense will be good enough at the major league level. Since he’ll only be 21 in 2014, Sanchez is ahead of his level, especially considering the rigors of catching and how receivers generally take longer to develop. He impresses with his raw power and his arm strength but he’s also shown big strides in his approach at the plate, striking out just over twice as much as he walked in 2013.

2014 Prognosis: Sanchez was just added to the 40 man roster but with the acquisition of McCann and with Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy closer to the majors, a major league debut anytime before 2015 is unlikely. He’ll probably start the season in Double-A Trenton before getting a callup if he performs well.