For those of you who may have missed the April and May editions, The Monthly Prospector represents a broad-strokes update with respect to TYA’s combined top-twenty prospects list. In addition to providing a glimpse into the present production of the team’s potential future, such an exercise also offers a wonderful excuse for snark and ‘I told you so’s,’ both of which are usually amusing. Some will laugh, some will cry, and some may not quite understand what is going on … and everyone will walk away a bit more informed.
In writing this, I am utilizing three main sources – my own eyes (thanks to MiLB.tv, footage from around the ‘net, and a few trips to the ballpark), a few friends within the industry, and the works of Baseball Prospectus, John Sickels, Baseball America, and numerous other outlets.
As was the case last time, if you would like to see more prospects next time around, let me know in the comments or on Twitter. All statistics presented are current as of Sunday, July 1, with tips of the hat to Baseball America and FanGraphs for their indispensable work.
01. Manny Banuelos – Empire State Yankees, Triple-A
24.0 IP, 29 H, 10 BB, 22 K, 4.50 ERA, 3.83 FIP
Banuelos has not pitched since May 18th, with what has been alternately referred to as ‘elbow soreness’ and a ‘tired arm.’ I lamented his proclivity for the disabled list last time around and, while many of his injuries have not been baseball-related, this stint on the shelf remains disconcerting. It is worth noting that Banuelos did show signs of significant improvement prior to this latest injury, albeit in a small sample size (18.2 IP).
Brad had an excellent take on this a few weeks back.
02. Gary Sanchez – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
.304/.356/.529, 13 HR, 11 SB, 139 wRC+ (281 PA)
June was something of a consolidation month for Sanchez, as he combined the patience and contact from April and the power numbers from May to bat .324/.381/.595, with 6 HR, 8 BB, and only 16 K. The offensive explosion, though, may have come at the expense of his early season improvements behind the dish, as he allowed more passed balls and made as many errors in June as he did in April and May combined. There remains a common opinion that he has improved defensively on the whole (at least to a minor degree), but the inconsistencies are somewhat maddening.
Regardless, I suspect a promotion to High-A is in his near future.
03. Mason Williams – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
.309/.357/.498, 8 HR, 19 SB, 130 wRC+ (301 PA)
On the heels of the worst month of his professional career, Williams had … the best month of his professional career. The center-fielder hit a ridiculous .351/.384/.617 with five home runs in twenty-three June contests (after hitting 6 HR in his previous 117 games). The power surge is by and large unexpected, but Keith Law has been touting the merits of Williams’ power potential for awhile now, and it is exciting to see him tap into that, if only for a month.
04. Dellin Betances – Trenton Thunder, Double-A & Empire State Yankees, Triple-A
Double-A – 6.0 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 3.03 FIP
Triple-A – 74.2 IP, 70 H, 69 BB, 71 K, 6.39 ERA, 5.88 FIP
It may be an understatement to refer to Betances’ 2012 as a disaster at this juncture, but I doubt that even the most talented wordsmith could find a more accurate term. After nearly three months of walking nearly a batter per inning, Betances was demoted to Double-A, perhaps with the hopes that he can recapture the magic that found him rocketing up prospect lists after the 2010 season. He promptly walked three batters in his first start with Trenton, though he did throw more strikes than usual. The demotion makes sense to a degree, as confidence may well be the key to Betances’ success. I am more inclined to agree with Kevin Goldstein, however, in that a shift to the bullpen or a dramatic mechanical overhaul may be the only way to salvage something of value here.
05. Jose Campos – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
24.2 IP, 20 H, 8 BB, 26 K, 4.01 ERA, 3.24 FIP
Campos remains sidelined with an elbow malady, most recently referred to as ‘elbow inflammation.’ He has not appeared in a game since May 7th. Per Mike Ashmore, he and Banuelos are currently rehabbing in Tampa.
06. Dante Bichette, Jr. – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
.262/.337/.335, 1 HR, 2 SB, 87 wRC+ (306 PA)
On the heels of two incredibly frustrating months, Bichette turned in … another terrible month. In April and May, we were able to cling to Bichette maintaining his very sound approach at the plate, as he walked in 11.2% of his PA and struck out in just under 20%. Sure, the lack of power – his right-handed power his greatest quality, to many – was baffling, but at least he wasn’t completely lost at the plate. He proceeded to hit .261/.292/.359 last month, with 2 BB and 19 K in 93 PA.
I have often criticized the overly reactionary nature of prospecting, yet it is difficult to be anything but disappointed with Bichette’s effort thus far. I think it’s fairly pragmatic to believe that June was a simple blip on the radar, a representation of a player hacking away with the hopes of breaking out of a slump.
07. Austin Romine
A “mid-July” return date remains the target for Romine.
XX. J.R. Murphy – Tampa Yankees, High-A
.261/.324/.379, 5 HR, 4 SB, 101 wRC+ (289 PA)
Things seemed to click for Murphy in June, as he batted .314/.355/.500 with 7 2B and 3 HR. It would be foolhardy to claim that this is a sure sign of things to come, but, unlike Bichette, Murphy’s approach has been there throughout the season, and the results may well have caught up to the process. A hitch in his swing may have been causing some of his early season issues, as well, and his swing looked more level throughout the month of June. If he continues to do well in July, I would like to see him challenged at Double-A, at least for a few weeks in August.
08. David Phelps – Tampa Yankees, High-A & New York Yankees, MLB
Low-A – 5.1 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, 1.89 FIP
MLB – 37.0 IP, 35 H, 14 BB, 34 K, 3.16 ERA, 4.55 FIP
The utilization of Phelps in June, or lack thereof, was fairly puzzling. Despite generally strong results, Phelps did not pitch from June 2 through June 21, when he started for Tampa in an effort to stretch him out. Given the ineffectiveness of Adam Warren on Friday night, that turn in the rotation will go to Phelps until one (or both) of Sabathia and Pettitte are healthy … but it seems somewhat inane that he wasn’t ready for that opportunity.
09. Adam Warren – Empire State Yankees, Triple-A & New York Yankees, MLB
Triple-A – 86.1 IP, 99 H, 27 BB, 59 K, 3.86 ERA, 4.23 FIP
MLB – 2.1 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 1 K, 23.14 ERA, 15.92 FIP
It would be somewhat disingenuous to state that Warren received a shot in the rotation due to the Yankees awkward use pattern of Phelps, particularly given Warren’s stellar June … but I am going to imply it, heavily. While the strikeout numbers were a bit lacking this past month (only 18 in 31 IP), it was very encouraging to see Warren showcase the abilities that could see him in the back of a Major League rotation – specifically, walking only 8 batters in those 31 IP and maintaining a tidy 3.0 GB/FB mark. He will always be prone to rough outings along the lines of his big league debut, as he is at his best when he’s pitching to contact, but there’s still quite a bit to like here.
10. Brett Marshall – Trenton Thunder, Double-A
90.1 IP, 93 H, 30 BB, 54 K, 3.09 ERA, 4.32 FIP
Last month, I wrote a bit about Marshall’s transition from a fireballer to a pitch-to-contact type pitcher on the heels of Tommy John Surgery, and June appeared to be more of the same. The strikeouts, walks, and grounders were up a tick, as was his velocity, and he allowed 27 H in 24 IP as he continues to pound the bottom of the strikezone. Marshall remains a personal favorite, though it seems likely that we will have to reevaluate his ceiling (and floor) relatively soon.
11. Slade Heathcott – GCL Yankees, Rookie & Tampa Yankees, High-A
Rookie – .235/.409/.353, 0 HR, 2 SB, 151 wRC+ (22 PA)
High-A – .269/.367/.577, 2 HR, 1 SB, 171 wRC+ (30 PA)
It is incredibly encouraging to see Heathcott pick up where he left off after his latest shoulder injury as he eases back into the swing of things. He has not played in the field yet, likely due to his all-out style of play, but it is nice to see the Yankees were aggressive in pushing him to High-A relatively quickly.
12. Ravel Santana – Staten Island Yankees, Short-Season
.176/.317/.176, 0 HR, 0 SB, 66 wRC+ (41 PA)
Reports on Santana thus far are a bit discouraging, as he has appeared somewhat lost (or apprehensive) at the plate, but we should not expect much more than baby steps on the heels of a relatively devastating injury. Unlike Heathcott, Santana has already played nine games in center (though he has been apprehensive out there, as well). With both players, it is simply nice to see them on the field.
13. Tyler Austin – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
.323/.403/.608, 14 HR, 17 SB, 175 wRC+ (300 PA)
Reports indicate that SAL pitchers are simply unwilling to pitch to Austin anymore, staying low and away on every pitch. Austin, for his part, has done quite well against this approach, hitting for average (.313 in June) and drawing walks (14.6% of PA) as his power numbers slip. It will be interesting to see if he is promoted alongside Sanchez at some point in the near future, as it is difficult to imagine that either has much more to prove in Charleston.
14. Angelo Gumbs – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
.268/.317/.428, 7 HR, 26 SB, 110 wRC+ (278 PA)
Gumbs recently hit the disabled list with an elbow issue that had been bothering him for awhile, but June was another strong month nevertheless. Mike Newman wrote a terrific scouting report on Gumbs for FanGraphs, which I highly recommend checking out.
15. Ramon Flores – Tampa Yankees, High-A
.292/.356/.387, 4 HR, 9 SB, 114 wRC+ (342 PA)
Flores’ walk, strikeout, and power numbers continue to trend in the right direction, as he has improved significantly each month. The key right now appears to be consistency, but the tools remain for Flores to develop into a David DeJesus doppelganger.
16. Cito Culver – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
.207/.316/.280, 2 HR, 13 SB, 72 wRC+ (310 PA)
Culver hit two home runs in June – his first home runs of the season … and that’s the only positive thing one can say about this past month, if not this year. Weak contact, walks, and swings and misses make up the bulk of Culver’s plate appearances, and he has been successful in only seven of his last twelve steal attempts. I still like his defense, but he is the sort of player that a scout would describe as ‘getting the bat knocked out of his hands.’
17. Greg Bird – GCL Yankees, Rookie
.200/.368/.200, 0 HR, 0 SB, 90 wRC+ (19 PA)
The Yankees played it safe with Bird, holding the 18-year-old back in the GCL instead of pushing him to Staten Island. His power potential is his most exciting tool, so keep an eye on the extra-base hits as the season progresses.
18. D.J. Mitchell – Empire State Yankees, Triple-A & New York Yankees, MLB
Triple-A – 80.2 IP, 81 H, 28 BB, 67 K, 5.36 ERA, 4.09 FIP
MLB – 2.2 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 1 K, 3.38 ERA, 3.40 FIP
Mitchell struggled mightily in June, on the heels of a subpar May, with every peripheral trending in the wrong direction. It’s difficult to take much away from this, as Mitchell is on his third turn through the International League, but I would like to see him dominating the level given his age and experience. He was re-called to the show yesterday, and I am interested to see how he will be utilized.
19. Bryan Mitchell – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
66.0 IP, 61 H, 37 BB, 69 K, 4.50 ERA, 3.47 FIP
Mitchell was as bad in June as he was good in May, but such is life with pitchers of his ilk. He picked up plenty of swings and misses, but his velocity was down and he was very hittable from wire to wire. The most important thing for Mitchell is maintaining his mechanics, and most reports indicate that he’s done a solid job of that to date. Bill Ballew interviewed Mitchell for MiLB.com over the SAL All-Star break.
20. Branden Pinder – Tampa Yankees, High-A
41.2 IP, 54 H, 20 BB, 40 K, 4.10 ERA, 3.25 FIP
Pinder’s season has been fairly confusing, as he continues to generate superb strikeout numbers despite allowing well over a hit per inning (and a high BABIP doesn’t explain it away, as he’s allowed a great deal of hard contact). The stuff is there, and he has limited the damage from putting an unhealthy amount of runners on-base … but he should be doing better.
By popular demand:
Mark Montgomery – Tampa Yankees, High-A
35.0 IP, 21 H, 12 BB, 53 K, 1.54 ERA, 1.46 FIP
Montgomery has been nothing short of dominant since making his professional debut last summer, and he is likely to earn a promotion to Double-A fairly soon. The most impressive aspect of his season may not be his gaudy strikeout totals, but rather his improvement in control (from 4.13 BB/9 to 3.09). A pitcher with his ability to keep the ball on the ground and miss bats can be really special with that sort of control.
Rafael De Paula – DSL Yankees, Rookie
21.2 IP, 12 H, 9 BB, 31 K, 2.49 ERA, 2.78 FIP
It is great to see De Paula performing so well after being away from the game for so long, as he has the body and raw stuff to be a very special pitcher. There does not appear to be a timetable for a promotion, but it would be difficult to fault the Yankees for easing him into professional baseball by keeping him in a more controlled environment.
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