I’ve had my disagreements with John Sickels in the past, mostly over how he judges some prospects, but I’ve always had a lot of respect for his rankings. I love that he’s a tough grader: his grades seem pretty evenly spread across a normal bell curve, where most legitimate MLB prospects are in the C- to C+ range. This allows real differentiation when you’re ranking prospects, and it’s something that I’ve tried to recreate in my own system.
Sickels ranked the top-20 Yankee prospects this weekend. Here are his top-5 prospects:
1) Jesus Montero, C-DH, Grade A: What he did in the majors last year was not a fluke. It was at the high end of expectation, yes, and I wouldn’t expect him to hit like that over 500 plate appearances at age 22. He may need some adjustment time, but his bat is truly outstanding and he wasn’t just getting lucky. His glove isn’t very good and while he’s not a complete player in terms of contributing speed or defense, his hitting is so strong he still gets a Grade A from me.
2) Gary Sanchez, C, Grade B+: Excellent power production in full-season ball at age 18; that is rare. His glove needs work and he needs to take his career more seriously, but he has time to outgrow emotional immaturity.
3) Manny Banuelos, LHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. He got a B last year and I can’t bump his grade up a notch given the command difficulties he had in Double-A. He’s still a fine prospect, however, projecting as a number three starter if all goes well.
4) Dellin Betances, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. He’s got plenty of stuff but command wobbles prevent the B+ at this time. Ceiling is a tad higher than Banuelos, but I’m less confident that he’ll reach it. Depending on what happens with his command, he could develop into anything from a number two starter to a disappointing mop-up man.
5) Mason Williams, OF, Grade B: We need to see him higher than the New York-Penn League, but he showed progress with both the bat and the glove. Main question is how much power he’ll develop. Grade may be a bit aggressive.
I highly recommend going here and reading his entire post. Sickels is not only a freely-readable outside source on the Yankees, but also one who has been relatively tough on the Yankees prior to last season. He’s overall very positive on the Yankee system. He notes that while doesn’t have the top-end talent of some of the top farm systems in baseball, the Yankees certainly aren’t lacking for depth. Despite Ivan Nova, Andrew Brackman, and Hector Noesi leaving the list, Sickels still lists 18 C+ or better prospects.
Better yet, you can see a shift in Sickel’s list since last season. Vaulting up the list were tons of young guys: Mason Williams (5), Dante Bichette (6), Ravel Santana (8) and Tyler Austin (9) all broke into the top-10 after not appearing last season. Sickels notes that he’s aggressive in ranking these players, which is a strong complement from him. Add on Jesus Montero, Angelo Gumbs, Cito Culver, Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott, Ramon Flores, J.R. Murphy and Daniel Murphy, and you’ll see that the majority of the list is made up of high-ceiling young position players. That’s a major shift from the last 5 years for the Yankees, whose farm system concentrated on hitters. And the list doesn’t even include 2011 bonus babies Jake Cave, Matt Duran, Rookie Davis or Miguel Andujar.
Over the next week or so, I’ll be writing about Austin Romine, Ravel Santana, Cito Culver and Manuel Banuelos individually. For now, some bullet point thoughts on the list:
- Tyler Austin has definite potential, but I’m not sold yet. He’s still a probable 1st baseman only in the majors, which doesn’t leave him a lot of room to succeed without really mashing. Let’s see him in full season ball before rating him a top-10 prospect.
- It’s good to see Gary Sanchez get some respect outside the Yankee blogosphere. I know he upset some expectations following his 2010 destruction of the GCL, but he’s still a plausible catcher who hit .256/.335/.485 in full season ball. That may not be a Montero-level debut, but it’s still pretty amazing.
- I’m 100% OK saying, by Sickels’ definition, that Corban Joseph is a C+ prospect. He’s a solid, consistent hitter who can play 2nd, and is healthy.
- David Phelps for most underrated prospect in the Yankee system? I’ll take him over Bartolo Colon in the 2012 rotation, easily, especially after holding his own in the AFL.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk some Cito Culver: the quietest, but still solid, first round pick in recent memory.
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