Prospect Week is nearly here, and the Internets have been kind enough to share some more assessments of the Yankee farm system with us. Once again, we get some interesting and differing perspectives on the Yankee farm that illustrates the lack of consensus about the ranking of the top prospects in the Yankee farm, and how they fit in with the best prospects in the minor leagues. We have lists from two sources that are thought of as being more statistically focused, though the rankings don’t necessarily seem to reflect that bias.
John Sickels over at SBN’s Minor League Ball posted his top 120 prospects list today, which included 4 Yankees, and 2 more that just missed. John has been writing about prospects for a while, but this is the first time that he posted a combined top prospects list (previously he made separate top 50 lists for hitters and pitchers). Although I don’t always agree with John, I do appreciate how transparent he is about his thought processes relative to other writers, and also his willingness to critique himself when looking back at his old lists.
As on the vast majority of prospect lists, Manny Banuelos is the first prospect listed, checking in at #45. John has been tough on Banuelos in the past because he believed that Manny’s small stature constituted a significant injury risk, but this ranking may represent some acknowledgement of Banuelos’ durabilty. It may still be somewhat on the lower end of Banuelos rankings, but is still close enough to the consensus range. Banuelos is followed by Gary Sanchez at #61, Mason Williams at #92, and Dellin Betances at #103. The Betances ranking is a little lower than most, but the placement of Sanchez and Williams seems to be in the consensus range. Dante Bichette and Jose Campos were on the list of players who just missed.
Stat-geek central Fangraphs has stepped up its prospect game of late, and today they released an interesting list from Marc Hulet, who ranked the top 15 players in the Yankee system. I know Sickels tends to use input from scouts when he makes his lists, but I’m not too sure about Fangraphs’ methodology. #1 was Banuelos again, but seeing Jose Campos at #2 was quite a surprise. Hulet was very high on Campos, writing that “I love his arm and believe the Mariners will eventually rue the day they included him in the Michael Pineda/Jesus Montero trade…the foundation is there for a No. 1 or 2 starter if he develops properly.” This is high praise for Campos, whose development may very well determine the winner and loser of the Montero/Pineda trade. This is the kind of bold ranking that at first glance seems like opposing the consensus for the sake of standing out. I’m not sure I have seen Campos this high on any list, but it is defensible if one thinks that Campos has true #1 upside and the other guys behind him have some significant flaws (which they do).
The next 3 players on Hulet’s list are Dellin Betances, Mason Williams, and Gary Sanchez. With all 3 the warts and substantial upsides are discussed. He sees Williams as possibly having 15-20 home run power, which is on the high side for most power projections I have seen for him (other than Keith Law, who had him as a top 40 prospect in the entire minors). If this potential is realized, and combined with Mason’s great hit tool, plus-plus speed, and strong defense in center field, that could be the makings of a true superstar.
6-10 on the list consist of Dante Bichette, Austin Romine, Slade Heathcott, Ravel Santana, and JR Murphy, all guys who would be on many Yankees’ top 10 lists (with Santana and Heathcott representing possible exceptions due to injuries). Things get more interesting in the 11-15 range, not surprisingly, with Tyler Austin, David Phelps, Greg Bird, Adam Warren, and Ben Gamel rounding out the list. Gamel is a bit of a sleeper who put together a very solid season in Staten Island last year, but was largely overlooked due to the presence of Mason Williams, Cito Culver, and Angelo Gumbs. I have never seen him this high, but once you get into this range things get a little more variable. Bird is a bit of a wild card due to the lack of pro data, but the $1 million bonus and impressive reports on his bat speak volumes.
Fangraphs also threw in a scouting report of one of my favorite sleeper prospects from last year, Ramon Flores. Mike Newman (of Scouting the Sally), who actually sees many of these lower-level prospects on a regular basis, wrote a nice report that discussed Ramon’s strengths and weaknesses. While Newman is impressed with Flores’ plate discipline and hitting ability, he wonders whether Flores is a “tweener” who is not quite fast enough to play center field, and not quite powerful enough to provide good value at a corner position. This seems to be a fair assessment given Flores’ small stature (seems to be a running theme here), though I think Newman is a little too dismissive of Flores’ plate discipline being a sustainable skill throughout the minors. Instead, he thinks that his walk rate will drop significantly once he faces better pitching (the same arguments were made about Brett Gardner, who was never as good of a hitter as Flores). There is certainly some good anecdotal evidence that plate discipline is not a skill that can be learned well, but players that have the skill tend to retain it throughout their career.
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