Yesterday, Baseball America revealed its midseason Top 50 Prospects list, and three Yankees made the cut. Jesus Montero, #3 on the preseason list, fell slightly to #8. Manny Banuelos, #41 on the old list, rose to #13. Dellin Betances jumped from 43 to 26. Gary Sanchez was another faller, beginning the season ranked #30 and now is no longer in the top 50.
I am somewhat surprised that BA didn’t knock Montero more for his mediocre start to the season, and continued negative reports on his defense. Boredom aside, Montero’s .763 OPS is far below what he is capable of doing, and is not really a line worthy of a top 10 prospect in all of baseball. That said, Montero’s ranking is indicative of BA’s faith in his hitting ability and raw power, even if he is not utilizing those tools to their fullest potential so far this season. The ranking is not really a reflection of his position value either, as I still think the majority of the BA staff views Montero as a 1b/DH long-term, and are pretty bearish on his defense.
Trenton beat writer Josh Norris got some similar evaluations of Montero from an anonymous scout. Among the comments were praise of his hitting ability: “Tremendous bat speed, power to all fields”, and criticism of his defense: “Lot of balls to the backstop, strong arm, doesn’t coordinate his release, arm action is a little bit long. He stabs at balls and doesn’t move to block really well.” Again, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before, but it’s nice to see that scouts still view Montero as a future offensive force despite his current struggles. As for his defense, well, we’ll have to play that one by ear.
The rising rankings of Banuelos and Betances despite occasional control struggles suggest that even though they have not been as dominant overall as they were in 2010, they are getting credit for pitching effectively at a higher level of competition. Their strong performances, plus continued good health (a question mark for both guys, even if in Banuelos’ case it is undeserved) and continuing to show front-line repertoires have allowed them to rise up the prospect rankings, giving the Yankees 2 of the top 12 pitching prospects in all of the minor leagues.
The Gary Sanchez situation is an interesting one, and I wonder if BA was having some buyers remorse for ranking him #30 in the offseason. Admittedly, Sanchez has had a rough season, with injuries and apparent behavioral issues. Although his offensive performance has not been up to the high standard he set last season (1.016 OPS in the GCL), a .734 OPS for an 18 year-old catcher in full season ball is nothing to sneeze at. To me, if they liked Sanchez’s talent enough to rank him at #30, a few tough months where he struggled with some injury and maturity problems shouldn’t necessarily knock him down that far. However, if you think Sanchez was probably ranked too highly before (as I probably did), then dropping him out of the top 50 is not so dramatic a decision. I imagine he will still be in the top 100 even if he doesn’t drastically improve his performance, but Sanchez is certainly capable of going on a summer-long tear to skyrocket himself up the lists again.
Once again, the Yankee farm system looks like it will be highly ranked, with 3 of the top 26 prospects at midseason and 2 more top 100 locks in my mind (Sanchez and Austin Romine). I also see Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and JR Murphy as a few guy at the lower levels of the Yankee system who have a chance to break into the top 100 with a strong finish to the season. Ultimately, rankings aren’t that big of a deal, but it is nice to see that the Yankee development system appears to be paying dividends.
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