After the first two months of the minor league season, the Yankees finally have most of their pieces on the game board. Slade Heathcott and J.R. Murphy are playing in Charleston, and the system has generally enjoyed a run of good health. We’re still waiting on a few big players to make their 2010 debuts – including Manuel Banuelos, Gary Sanchez, Kelvin De Leon, and Caleb Cotham. Even without those players, the early-season performances within the Yankee farm system, and some overdue adjustments on my part, have created significant movement from the 2009 Fall Top-30 ranking.
The story in 2006-2007 was that the Yankees had a great group of top-10 prospects but a much thinner group from 11-30. Names like Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Jesus Montero, and others brought a lot of excitement to the system. After they graduated, the 2008-2009 system, due to some poor first round draft picks, showcased a deep crew of potentially useful prospects, but less top end talent. This season, the system is a mix of the two different stories. The Yankees have two potential allstars in Jesus Montero and Austin Romine to lead their system, and a very solid group of players at 3-19 on the list. However, 20-30 (and beyond) is much weaker than in past years, and realistically can’t be expected to yield a lot of dividends.
I was more aggressive with my picks than in past years. I took far too long to recognize the achievements of guys like Austin Romine, and far too conservative when met with the potential of players like Graham Stoneburner. Below is my list, with some brief comments on each player.
- Jesus Montero – C, Triple-A – Not the least bit concerned with his slow start
- Austin Romine – C, Double-A – On the verge of being terribly underrated
- Zach McAllister – RHSP, Triple-A – Slightly unsexy, but McAllister will be a MLB starting pitcher
- Ivan Nova – RHSP, Triple-A – Slightly more sexy than McAllister, but also slightly less certain
- Slade Heathcott – OF, Low-A – Finally debuted
- Hector Noesi – RHSP, Double-A – The power of K/BB ratios
- Manuel Banuelos – LHSP, High-A – Still out, but a non-baseball related injury
- Graham Stoneburner – RHSP, High-A – Probably having the best season in the Yankee system so far
- David Adams – 2b, Double-A – Raking so far, still a middle infielder
- Jose Ramirez – RHSP, Low-A – Great stuff, tons of potential
- Gary Sanchez – C, Rookie – Still waiting for his debut
- J.R. Murphy – C, Low-A – Not worried by a slow start yet
- Brandon Laird – 1b/3b, Double-A – Booming power, but not a lot else
- Mark Melancon – RHRP, Triple-A – Starting to be concerned about his performance
- Juan Miranda – 1b/DH, Triple-A – Deserves a chance somewhere. Maybe Pittsburgh?
- David Phelps – RHSP, Double-A – Better than people think
- Adam Warren – RHSP, High-A – Maybe a tad bit overrated, but solid
- Corban Joseph – 2b, High-A – Solid potential MLB 2b
- Andrew Brackman – RHSP, High-A – Starting to put it all together, but with reduced velocity
- Kelvin De Leon – OF, Short-Season Low-A – Not so young anymore, still waiting on 2010 debut.
- Jeremy Bleich – LHSP, Double-A – Hopefully the injury explains his ineffectiveness at Double-A
- Wilkins De La Rosa – LHRP, Double-A – Seems to have stalled a bit
- Pat Venditte – SRHP, High-A – We can hope, right?
- Caleb Cotham – RHSP, Short-Season Low-A – Conspicuously absent thus far. Knee injury again?
- Jairo Heredia – RHSP, High-A – Having a terrible season, but has some margin for error still
- Brad Suttle – 3b, High-A – Really disappointing, but I’m willing to give him another half season
- Grant Duff – RHRP, Triple-A – All about the velocity.
- D.J. Mitchell – RHSP, Double-A – Getting knocked around at Double-A. Needs a bullpen conversion.
- Eduardo Nunez – SS, Triple-A – Fast start masked the old batting average-centric hitting skills, and poor defense.
- George Kontos, RHSP, Triple-A – Should be ready to pitch again soon, hopefully with his old stuff.
Honorable Mentions: Ryan Pope, Dellin Betances, Reegie Corona, Kyle Higashioka, Romulo Sanchez
You’ll see a general theme: the lower minor leagues are fairly barren because plenty of players have successfully graduated to Trenton and Scranton, and are performing well at those levels. Breakouts are abound. Stoneburner, Adams, and to a lesser extent Ramirez, Noesi and Laird have all launched themselves into true breakout seasons in so far in 2010.
I won’t be writing anything before the Yankees make their first round draft pick around 8:00 PM tonight. However, some observations: the Yankees have a lot of success with experienced college RHP and catchers, and not a lot of success in other places. While “best player available” analysis applies, the Yankees could really use an experienced and talented shortstop or outfield prospect to round out their system. They’ve tried a bit more in recent years to find hitting talent in the middle rounds without a lot of success, so we’ll see if they decide to edge toward hitting prospects with their first three picks. Players like Warren, Phelps, Mitchell, and others demonstrate a proven Yankee ability to find good college pitching with picks 4-8, so they should continue down that trend.