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As the winter winds down, the report date for pitchers and catchers is right around the corner. That means it is time to look deep into the future of the New York Yankees organization and rank some of the players who are among the best bets to make it to the Bronx someday. Just a reminder, a prospects list balances on pure talent and probability of reaching, and staying, at the major league level. To be eligible for this list, a player must simply retain their eligibility to be considered for Rookie of the Year at the major league level.
1) Gary Sanchez, C, Age 20
2012 Statistics: .290 BA, 18 HR, 85 RBI, 15 SB with Charleston and Tampa.
One of the best catching prospects in the game, Sanchez’s ceiling likely helped contribute to Brian Cashman’s willingness to trade catching prospect Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners. Sanchez is a pure hitter who has demonstrated excellent power at each level so far. Baseball America recently ranked Sanchez as the top power hitter in the Yankees’ organization. Additionally, Sanchez is improving defensively behind the plate, and scouts within the Yankees organization believe he will ultimately be good enough defensively to last behind home plate in the big leagues.
2) Mason Williams, OF, Age 21
2012 Statistics: .298 BA, 11 HR, 35 RBI, 20 SB with Charleston and Tampa
Williams might be the closest thing the Yankees have to a true five-tool prospect, but I believe his ceiling is slightly below that of Sanchez. The 21-year-old outfielder saw his 2012 season get cut short due to a torn shoulder labrum shortly after being promoted to High-A Tampa. Williams is a contact hitter who excels at combining his speed with gap power to record extra-base hits. Williams projects a lot like former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams with a bit more speed and a better arm.
3) Tyler Austin, OF, Age 21
2012 Statistics: .322 BA, 17 HR, 80 RBI, 23 SB with Charleston, Tampa, and Trenton
After last season’s breakout performance, Tyler Austin appears poised to take one more step towards becoming the Yankees’ right fielder of the future. Austin showed great pop at each level and earned midseason All-Star honors with the Charleston RiverDogs. He may be the best pure hitter in the organization, and was recently rated as the organization’s top hitter for average. His defense still needs a little work – 2012 was his first season in the outfield – but he appears poised to begin the season at Trenton and could eventually crack the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre line-up later this season.
4) Slade Heathcott, OF, Age 22
2012 Statistics: .307 BA, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 17 SB with Tampa
The 22-year-old former first-round draft pick solidified his position on this list after drawing rave reviews in both the Florida State League and Arizona Fall League last season. During a limited regular season after coming back from injury, Heathcott was one of the most intriguing players in Tampa, playing with true grit and determination and appearing to be an advanced contact hitter. In the Arizona Fall League, Heathcott wowed scouts with his hustle on every play and has led some to believe he could be ML-ready by the end of 2013.
5) Manny Banuelos, LHP, Age 21
2012 Statistics: 0-2, 4.50 ERA, 22/10 K/BB, 24.0 IP with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Despite an injury-plagued 2012 that would eventually end with Tommy John Surgery that will knock him out for all of 2013, Banuelos remains the top pitching prospect in the New York Yankees Farm System. With three plus pitches, Banuelos stands to be just about ML-ready when he returns, perhaps only needing another half-season in Triple-A before making the jump to the big leagues.
6) Rafael DePaula, RHP, Age 21
2012 Statistics: 8-2, 1.46 ERA, 85/18 K/BB, 61.2 IP with DSL Yankees
A very high ranking considering DePaula has never pitched in the United States, but a ranking absolutely deserved by all accounts. DePaula was lights out in 2012 in the Dominican Summer League, and projects to jump to Charleston for 2013. He has the highest ceiling out of any pitcher in the system and already sports a plus fastball-curveball combination to go along with an average changeup. DePaula had a ridiculous 0.86 WHIP in the DSL last season and at just 21 years old, projects to develop into a true ace
7) Angelo Gumbs, 2B, Age 20
2012 Statistics: .272 BA, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 26 SB with Charleston
Gumbs may be one of the best overall athletes in the Yankees’ organization. With plus speed, superior defensive skills, and a very quick bat, Gumbs already possesses three major tools needed on the road to stardom. After spending a full season in Charleston in 2012, Gumbs seems likely to serve as the Tampa Yankees’ starting second baseman in 2013. He could replace Robinson Cano at second base in the future.
8) Jose Campos, RHP, Age 20
2012 Statistics: 3-0, 4.01 ERA, 26/8 K/BB, 24.2 IP with Charleston
Campos was shut down in May with an elbow injury and did not make an appearance the remainder of the season. Originally acquired last January in the Jesus Montero trade, Campos has good velocity on his fastball and has good control of the pitch. His second pitch is a curveball that needs some work still, but has shown potential of getting the pitch under control. His easy delivery has been compared to that of Roy Oswalt.
9) Brett Marshall, RHP, Age 22
2012 Statistics: 13-7, 3.52 ERA, 120/53 K/BB, 158.1 IP with Trenton
Marshall’s great year in 2012 propelled him to finishing second in voting for the Eastern League’s Pitcher of the Year award. Equipped with the best changeup in the Yankees’ farm system, Marshall will likely begin the season with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. With a very good sinker and an improving slider, Marshall’s three-pitch arsenal is just about ML-ready. He could get a look in a spot start during 2013, though more than likely will be tasked with replacing either Hiroki Kuroda or Andy Pettitte in 2014.
10) Ramon Flores, OF, Age 20
2012 Statistics: .303 BA, 7 HR, 41 RBI, 24 SB with Tampa and Trenton
Promoted to Trenton for the Eastern League playoffs, I got to see Flores’s talent first-hand throughout September. His ceiling is not as high as some other outfielders on this list, but he has much less bust potential. He is a very solid overall player who grades out with above-average plate discipline, defense, and speed, while his power is likely to improve as he gets older.
11) Ty Hensley, RHP, Age 19
2012 Statistics: 1-2, 3.00 ERA, 14/7 K/BB, 12.0 IP with GCL Yankees
The Yankees’ first-round pick last season, Hensley already has a big frame and a near-plus fastball, which was clocked regularly in the mid-90’s last season. Hensley also features an improving curveball, which projects to rate as a near-plus pitch in the future. He must improve his control, but has all the signs of a star in the making.
12) Jose A. Ramirez, RHP, Age 22
2012 Statistics: 7-6, 3.19 ERA, 94/30 K/BB, 98.2 IP with Tampa
Ramirez owns a fastball that consistently sits in the 92-95 range and was recently rated as the top fastball in the Yankees’ farm system. The 22-year-old also sports a power change and a power slider, and both project to be strong secondary pitches going forward. With his strong performance in Tampa last season, he has earned a crack at Trenton to begin the 2012 season. Some scouts believe that Ramirez may be the best pitching prospect long-term in the Yankees’ system, even trumping the ceilings of Manny Banuelos and Rafael DePaula. Ramirez could be the first starter promoted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre if he has a strong first half in the Eastern League.
13) David Adams, IF, Age 25
2012 Statistics: .306 BA, 8 HR, 48 RBI, 3 SB with Trenton
David Adams might have the best overall bat of all the players currently in the Yankees’ farm system. He makes consistent contact with the ball, shows a good eye at the plate, and has gap-to-gap power. Last season, Adams finished second on the Thunder with 23 doubles and led all regulars in batting average. Adams has played both second base and third base in the past, and is adequate defensively at both spots. Before the signing of Kevin Youkilis, some (myself included) were advocating for Adams to fill part of a platoon to replace Alex Rodriguez at third base. He is just a notch below ML-ready, and I still say Adams is in the big leagues by the summer.
14) Austin Romine, C, Age 24
2012 Statistics: .243 BA, 4 HR, 15 RBI, .333 OBP with GCL Yankees, Tampa, and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Romine missed the majority of the 2012 season with a back injury suffered in Spring Training. Romine’s calling card is his defense, as he sports a very good throwing arm, good receiving skills and plus intangibles behind the plate. Offensively, Romine shows gap-to-gap power, but his contact ability and plate discipline are just a little above average. With just 21 games total in Triple-A, Romine needs some time in the minors to improve his hitting before breaking into the majors full-time. With the Yankees current catching situation, there is a very good chance Romine is in the majors by the All-Star Break.
15) Mark Montgomery, RHP, Age 22
2012 Statistics: 7-2, 1.54 ERA, 15 SV, 99/22 K/BB, 64.1 IP
In terms of relief pitching, Mark Montgomery is the crown jewel of the New York Yankees Farm System. Montgomery owns a good fastball that sits between 91 and 93 MPH, though he does need to improve his control with the pitch. His most dominant pitch is a slider, which is considered by Baseball America as the best slider in the organization, and it might be the most dominant slider in all of Minor League Baseball. Montgomery also keeps the ball in the park, allowing just one home run all season. With his current make-up, there is a chance Montgomery makes his Major League debut in 2013. Long-term, Montgomery should be considered as one of the favorites to eventually replace the great Mariano Rivera.
16) Nik Turley, LHP, Age 23
2012 Statistics: 10-5, 3.00 ERA, 117/45 K/BB, 117.0 IP
A former 50th round draft pick, Turley’s pickoff move has been compared to the move of Yankees great Andy Pettitte. Turley has a big frame (6’6, 230 lbs.), which the Yankees have always preferred in their starting pitchers. He was recently added to the 40-man roster, which means the Yankees thought enough of him that they did not want to risk exposing him to the Rule V Draft in December. Turley sports a fastball that sits around 91 MPH and two good secondary pitches in a change-up and a curveball. He is nearly ML-ready and projects as a likely “middle-of-the-rotation” starter.
17) Bryan Mitchell, RHP, Age 21
2012 Statistics: 9-11, 4.58 ERA, 121/72 K/BB, 120.0 IP with Charleston
Mitchell has a solid 1-2 punch with plus velocity on his fastball and one of the best curveballs in the organization. Despite this, Mitchell hasn’t advanced past the SALLY league due to poor command. After a career high 120 innings in 2012, Mitchell will need to top that total again this season and continue working on his command. This could be a make-or-break year for Mitchell as a prospect.
18) Corban Joseph, 2B, Age 24
2012 Statistics: .276 BA, 15 HR, 62 RBI, .375 OBP with Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Joseph was promoted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on June 1 and never looked back. He showed a very good all-around bat, making solid, consistent contact at the plate and showing good plate discipline. The left-handed hitting Joseph has good power for a middle infielder, ripping 46 extra-base hits last season. He is an average defender at second base who made 15 errors this past season. There is not much room left to grow, and it stands to reason that Joseph would be the first one to get a call should Robinson Cano go down with an injury.
19) Gregory Bird, C/1B, Age 20
2012 Statistics: .337 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI, .450 OBP with GCL Yankees and Staten Island
Bird absolutely dominated the NY/Penn League in his short stint there this season, and may be following the same career path as top prospect Tyler Austin. Bird, like Austin was at this point, is a superior offensive talent who needs a lot of work defensively. Bird possesses a good bat coupled with phenomenal power for his age at the plate. He currently projects to be an average-to-above average defensive first baseman. Bird should be poised for a breakout year offensively, which could him into the top 10 on midseason lists.
20) Ravel Santana, OF, Age 20
2012 Statistics: .216 BA, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 3 SB with Staten Island
Saying that Santana’s 2012 season was disappointing would be an understatement. Coming off a gruesome ankle injury, Santana failed to impress anyone in the NY/Penn League last season, but still has some of the best raw tools of any player in the system. I’m pegging 2012 as the year when he finally breaks out and finally shows the skills that give him the 20 home run, 20 stolen base potential so many have thought he possessed in the past.
21) J.R. Murphy, C, Age 21
2012 Statistics: .248 BA, 9 HR, 44 RBI, 4 SB with Tampa and Trenton
Once thought of as a pure hitter, Murphy has developed into one of the best defensive catchers in the Yankees’ system over the past two years. Murphy’s leadership ability and intangibles behind the plate are second to none, which has really helped him to develop as a player. Murphy shows good discipline at the plate and has gap-to-gap power. He will likely never be much of a home run threat. Murphy had a down year in 2012 and will need to bounce back quickly in 2013 to avoid losing playing time to Gary Sanchez down the stretch.
22) Dante Bichette, Jr., 3B, Age 20
2012 Statistics: .248 BA, 3 HR, 46 RBI, 3 SB with Charleston
Bichette struggled horribly at the plate in 2012, his first year in full-season baseball. The 2011 first-round pick showed minimal home-run power, though he does still project as a good offensive prospect due to his plate discipline and pitch recognition skills. The statistics do not reflect it, but Bichette made great strides on defense in 2012, showing soft hands and good range at third base. It is unknown whether he will repeat Charleston or move up to Tampa for 2013.
23) Nick Goody, RHP, Age 21
2012 Statistics: 1-2, 1.12 ERA, 7 SV, 52/9 K/BB, 32.0 IP with Staten Island, Charleston, and Tampa
Drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 Amateur Draft, Goody has all the signs of a fast-moving relief pitcher. After beginning his professional career in Staten Island, Goody quickly rose to Charleston, where he dominated opposing hitters. With a 14.6 K/9 rate, Goody is a budding star as a power reliever. He already throws a plus fastball that sits in the 93-96 MPH range and sports an above-average slider with above-average control. Goody was bumped to Tampa for three appearances at the end of the season and will likely begin the 2013 campaign there.
24) Dellin Betances, RHP, Age 24
2012 Statistics: 6-9, 6.44 ERA, 124/99 K/BB, 131.1 IP with Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
After a brief stint in the Bronx to end the 2011 season, Betances imploded in every possible way in 2012. He showed no ability to control his pitches, resulting in a late-June demotion to Trenton. Prior to his demotion, Betances had the highest walk rate and WHIP of any starting pitcher in the International League. His fastball/curveball combination leave him the ability to perform like a second or third starter, but he is maddeningly inconsistent, reminding many of former Yankee A.J. Burnett.
25) Adam Warren, RHP, Age 25
2012 Statistics: 7-8, 3.71 ERA, 107/46 K/BB, 152.2 IP with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Warren made a disastrous spot start for the Yankees in June, his only major-league action of the season after losing out to David Phelps for the long relief job in Spring Training. Warren was an efficient, innings-eater type for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2012, showing good control on his four-pitch repertoire. Currently, Warren sports plus four-seam and two-seam fastballs, as well as an average slider and change-up. There’s not much projection left here, and Warren looks like a relief pitcher and spot starter long-term.
26) Melky Mesa, OF, Age 25
2012 Statistics: .264 BA, 23 HR, 67 RBI, 22 SB with Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Mesa got a brief taste of the big leagues as a September call-up in 2012, serving mainly as a defensive replacement and pinch runner. He is an excellent defender with one of the strongest outfield arms in the organization. Mesa mixes a very good speed and power combination, but fails to make consistent contact. Given his skill set and the current lack of an obvious fourth-outfielder, Mesa could be considered a long shot to break camp with the Yankees. At worst, it is likely that Mesa sees time as a reserve outfielder in the Bronx this season.
27) Chase Whitley, RHP, Age 23
2012 Statistics: 9-5, 3.09 ERA, 2 SV, 73/27 K/BB, 84.1 IP with Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Some would argue that Whitley could have cracked the Yankees bullpen at times during the 2012 season. After beginning 2012 with Trenton, Whitley was promoted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after just two appearances, spending the rest of his season in middle relief for the Triple-A club. With a solid three pitch repertoire including a fastball which sits between 90-93 MPH, a plus change-up and an average slider, Whitley is as major-league ready as he is going to get. He should see time in the big leagues this season, and would be a candidate to break camp with the team should injuries strike in March.
28) Cito Culver, SS, Age 20
2012 Statistics: .215 BA, 2 HR, 40 RBI, 22 SB with Charleston
The Yankees’ first-round pick in 2010, Culver’s first year in full-season ball was an absolute disaster. Despite already being a plus defensive infielder with good range and a strong arm, Culver showed a lack of ability to do anything at the plate. One scout reported that his left-handed swing was “a mess,” while others suggested the Yankees could ask Culver to stop switch-hitting and focus on hitting solely from the right side. He will never be a power hitter, even by the standards of a middle infielder, so he will need to work extensively on making consistent contact if he ever wants to find success in the upper levels.
29) Austin Aune, SS, Age 19
2012 Statistics: .273 BA, 1 HR, 20 RBI, 6 SB
The Yankees’ second-round selection this past year, Aune is already one of the best all-around athletes in the system. He has very good plate discipline for a 19-year-old, and projects to continue getting better in that category. Aune has demonstrated the ability to hit the ball to all fields and his quick bat allows him to get around on almost any pitch. Aune has a great arm, but still needs to work on his defensive skills. Aune could eventually become the heir to Derek Jeter’s throne.
30) Giovanny Gallegos, RHP, Age 21
2012 Statistics: 0-1, 1.67 ERA, 22/2 K/BB, 27.0 IP with GCL Yankees
Gallegos’ calling card is his nice, smooth delivery which highlights his plus mechanics. He already has great command and a plus fastball/curveball combination. Most reports have his fastball sitting in the 91-93 MPH range and his curveball touching 86 MPH. Gallegos is still a long way from the Bronx, but the Yankees appear to be very high on the Mexican native. He may begin 2013 in the GCL, but you can expect him to start being discussed as one of the better pitching prospects before long.
Follow Dan on Twitter at @danpfeiffer74.