Friday, January 31, 2014

A few years ago, the catching position was by far the deepest position in  the system, and perhaps one of the deepest in baseball. In 2011, the Yankees had 3 top 100 prospects, all from the catching position -- Jesus Montero, Gary Sanchez, and Austin Romine. While the system is not as deep now as it was then, there are a still a few noteworthy players at the position in the farm. In total, the Yankees have a lot of prospects slated to start 2014 in Double-A or higher, and a few interesting catching prospects below Single-A.

Major League Ready:

The first player in this category was a part of the strong 2011 class, but has since fallen from grace. Romine's decline as a prospect is centered around a string of injuries. These injuries limited Romine over the past few seasons. At the time of his call-up he only had played 31 games in AAA, and that was over a span of two seasons.

So while Romine didn't perform well last year, we can probably say that most of his struggles were related to the lack of playing time he received in the past few years. After all Romine is still a rookie, and it often takes catchers a  lot of time to reach their potential. Romine still has time to reach his ceiling as an average catcher, but his stock has never been lower.

Before his injuries Romine was a similar prospect to J.R. Murphy the next prospect on this list. Murphy and Romine both seem to have 15 homerun potential, with okay bats, and need to show more patience at the plate. They are also both slated to start the 2013 season in AAA and both could be a useful trade chips.

However Murphy's current value is a lot higher than Romine's, because he has a lot more recent success. Because of this most people consider Murphy a top 5 Yankee prospect, and a player that could start at the majors right now. In a recent article Keith Law said “going to be an every-day catcher for somebody”

At this point Murphy is considered a good defensive catcher who would be able to hit .270 with 10-15 homeruns in the majors. Murphy and Romine both have more upside than Francisco Cervelli, and might be worth holding on to. After all Brian Mccann has gotten injured a bit over the years.

Depth Below AAA:

The Yankees best prospect, at any position, is Gary Sanchez. While a few Yankee prospects have have enormous ceilings, no one in the system comes close to matching Sanchez's yet. Sanchez is a future MVP candidate if everyone goes right. That's because his defense is finally catching up to his bat.

Sanchez always had a great arm, and threw at runners at a high clip, but last year he improved the other aspects of his defensive game. His only big weakness on defense is the fact that allows so many passed balls. This isn't a huge concern of mine because of his age, and the fact that it's hard to tell the difference between a wild pitch and a passed ball in the minors.

Sanchez's floor as an offensive player may be greater than Murphy's or Romine's ceiling. If everything goes right for Sanchez he may be able to hit for average and 20-30 homeruns a season. Sanchez will begin the 2014 season at AA, and will probably get another late season promotion if he does well. Considering Sanchez's upside it would be a mistake to trade him right now.

Like Sanchez, Peter O'Brien also has great power, however that's where their similarities seem to end.O'bien has two major weaknesses. The first is defense which some think will force him to switch positions, and the second is his contact rate.

O'Brien is big for his position, and while he is agile he hasn't really shown he can play the position. This part of the reason that he was moved to third base last season. Though that move was probably made necessary by the presence of Gary Sanchez. At the moment O'Brien may be the Yankees version of Evan Gattis, as he can play multiple positions, but will probably be viewed as DH with a glove.

However the Yankees believe in his defense and it often hard to really evaluate catching defense. At the moment he still is a catcher and people should give him time to improve at the position before dismissing the possibility. O'Brien biggest concern should be limiting his strikeouts, as he had a 134 Ks last year. If he manages to cut down on his strikeouts his bat will become even more intriguing, and at that point it won't matter where he plays.


The biggest sleeper in this category and perhaps in this system is Luis Torrens. Torrens was the Yankees biggest international signing in 2012. He signed for 1.3 million. At the time he had never even played the catcher position. However, he quickly has become a good defensive catcher.

Considering how long it took the Yankees to make Sanchez and Murphy acceptable defensive players, this is a pretty big deal. Now all he has to do is reach his offensive potential and he may be able to one day become the best all-around prospect in the system. And no one really questions his bat, which is why he was able to make Baseball America top 20 GCL list without putting up great numbers.

This is what Law had to say about Torren's potential, “A new convert to catching, Torrens took to it extremely well, with plus hands and plus defense overall, with a good swing and feel at the plate, only lacking power but likely hitting for average with good OBP when he develops.”

At the moment it doesn't seem like Torrens has any competition to be considered the top catching prospect below AA. But there still are a couple of other guys that could break out. One such prospect is Eduardo De Oleo, who finished the year strong. Oleo had a .783 OPS overall, but most of it was produced in August. Considering he is only 21 years old now there's still time for him to prove he is a real prospect.

Like Oleo, catchers Alvaro Noriega, Jesus Aparicio,and  Brian Reyes had good numbers in their respectives leagues (GCL or DSL), but aren't currently thought of as top guys. This could change next year as Reyes, and Aparicio both may make their state-side debuts. At the moment they all have shown good offensive ability, but the lower you go in down the minor league ladder the less stats really matter.

The last two sleepers may make the majors for their defensive ability but have shown little at the plate. Kyle Higashioka, and Trent Garrison are both capable of playing the position but they are thought to have limited offensive potential.

This wasn't always the case with Higashioka, as he was once thought to have the potential to hit, but he has failed to meet those expectations. Last year, in a tiny sample size,seemed to be start of a very good season for him (.880 OPS in first 7 games), but an injury kept him out for most of the year. In 2014 Higashioka will have to beat out the likes of Romine, Murphy, Sanchez and O'Brien for playing time.

Garrison was a .300 hitter in college but his time in Staten Island suggests that he will have difficulty hitting advanced pitching. A 23 year old generally shouldn't struggle that much in rookie ball. However he will have a chance to redeem himself next year, as the Yankees don't have a major catching prospect in Low A or High A.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Yankees announced yesterday that they have invited 26 players not on the 40-man roster to spring training this year, bringing the total number of players that will be in camp up to 66.

While 66 may sound like a lot of players, it comes far short of the 84 players that the Yankees brought to Tampa last year.

Starting when pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 14th, the Yankees will begin evaluating these players in an attempt to figure out who most deserves a spot on the 25-man roster for when the team breaks camp and heads to Houston to open the season.

Heading into the spring, the Yankees are pretty much set in the outfield and the rotation, for the most part, but still have some holes to fill in the bullpen and the infield. Here is the list of non-roster invitees:


Francisco Arcia
Jose Gil
Peter O'Brien


Russ Canzler
Corbin Joseph
Jose Pirela
Scott Sizemore
Yangervis Solarte
Zelous Wheeler


Tyler Austin
Adonis Garcia
Antoan Richardson
Mason Williams

Right-handed pitchers:

Bruce Billings
Danny Burawa
Robert Coello
Matt Daley
Brian Gordon
Chris Leroux
David Henderson
Jim Miller
Mark Montgomery
Yoshinori Tateyama
Chase Whitley

Left-handed pitchers:

Fred Lewis
Francisco Rondon

First and foremost, it should be noted that Ronnie Mustelier was left off the invite list after nearly making the club last spring. He was putting a together a good run, but suffered an injury -- what else would happen to a Yankee in 2013? -- that kept him from getting a roster spot. He was never able to carry the spring success into the regular season, struggling in the minors last year. leading to him missing the cut in 2014.

There is no solid third base candidate for the Yankees in the foreseeable future, and it looks like Mustier won't be one of the options very time soon, as the Yanks won't even be bringing him to camp.

Of the group listed above, I would say that only the pitchers and infielders have an actual of making the team. Like I mentioned before, the Yankees' bullpen right now is pretty much just David Robertson and Shawn Kelley.

Leroux was just recently signed, and could compete for a bullpen spot. He pitcher for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic last March, and most recently appeared in a couple games for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. We saw Daley briefly in the Bronx in 2013, and could see him in pinstripes again in 2014. you could also look at Montgomery, who had a fairly decent year in Triple-A last season.

The signing of Brian McCann kind of created a backload of catchers, with Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli competing for the backup job. J.R. Murphy and Garzy Sanchez will also be in camp because they are on the 40-man roster, but won't be competing for a big league job. Actually, Murphy could compete if he has a good spring.

Like I said before, the outfield is already full, but the infield has a lot of question marks. Of the invited players, Canzler, Sizemore and Joseph have good chances of making the club.

A recent article in the New York Time's suggests that Mark Teixeira might not be completely healthy entering the season, and while the Yankees could use Kelly Johnson to play base, first is Canzler's main position, and could be the backup there.

Sizemore can play third base -- the position with the biggest concern -- and might see most of his spring time there. And Joseph debuted with the Yankees last season and might get another chance to play in the Bronx to start the year.

Depth Below AA:

Most of the Yankees pitching prospects have yet to reach AA, so part two of this feature will include bigger names, with a lot more potential. This section includes players who spent most of their 2013 season below AA.

The first name on this list is my personal favorite Yankee SP prospect. Luis Severino was one of the few breakout stars of the 2013 season.Severino started the year in the GCL, but quickly advanced all the way to A Ball before the season ended. His performance really raised his stock and now he is considered a top ten Yankee prospect.

Severino combines plus fastball velocity (93-96) with a good changeup, and a slider that shows plus potential. Severino has shown a knack for getting grounders, and the ability for striking people out.

Severino biggest strength is the fact that he attacks the zone. This aspect of his game really separates himself from other players in this category. For example, Byran Mitchell has always received praise from scouts for his enormous potential, but has consistently disappointment Yankee fans because he refuses to be more aggressive.

People believe his control problems are related to his maturity or mental game. This would make the problem correctable. In cases like these sometimes players just need to challenged. That seemed to have happened in 2013, as Mitchell reduced his walk rate significantly, and put up a 2.45 FIP in AA, while only walking 2.41 batters per 9.

While his success in AA was based off of a small sample size. It does match his capabilities. Mitchell throws a fastball, curveball, and changeup.While his changeup is still a work in progress, his other two pitches are rated as plus-plus by scouts. With his improved control and his present stuff, he should be able to reach his high ceiling.

Even with his past struggles no one has ever questioned Mitchell's ability to remain a starter or his upside. However that is not the case for the next high ceiling prospect on this list. Rafael De Paula, finally made his long awaited stateside debut last season. The beginning of Depuala's season went very well as he dominated Low A.

But he really struggled after his promotion; he had a BB/9 rate of 5.5. Furthermore he allowed almost 10 hits per 9 innings. His struggles have led to the suggestion of making him a reliever. People think the Yankees can speed up his progression if they move him to pen. But there really is no rush to get him to the majors. There really is no good reason to make someone a relief pitcher before he fails as a starter, and one bad half isn't failing as a starter.

Besides De Paula has the stuff to be a successful starter. He has a fastball that can reach 98 as a starter, a hard curveball and a promising changeup. De Paula may not have mastered his control or his secondary pitches, but he is still an inexperienced pitcher which has shown a lot of potential. The fact that he was thought to be a top 50 prospect at middle of the 2013 season shows that he has the ability to be one of the games best prospects.

Depuala isn't the only front-line starter in the Yankees system with question marks. As both Jose Campos, and Gabriel Encinas could've made the Yankees top prospect list if elbow injuries didn't slow them down.

Campos's injury occurred in 2012, when he was dominating Low A. Because of his injury, Campos had to start 2013 at the same level. More importantly it put a strict innings limit on Campos, so he wasn't able to reach A+ in 2014. The injury also cost him several miles off of his fastball.

While these setbacks are disappointing, Campos is still just 21 years old and has time to regain his velocity(92-95) and develop his secondary pitches. Campos throws promising but raw changeup and  curveball. Furthermore Campos has shown good command and control, so he may be able to pitch with reduced velocity(92-93).

Campos reportedly got stronger at the of the 2013 season, so it seems likely that he will get his velocity back. The fact that he played an entire season last year, and did well,  3.41 ERA, 2.87 FIP, and 77/16 K/BB in 87 2/3 inning, means that there is still reason to believe he is a good prospect. Campos should begin the year in Tampa next season.

 Like Campos, Encinas was dominating Low A before he succumbed to Tommy John surgery. However Encinas's dominance was a bit less expected than Campos's. For this reason the injury may have had a bigger effect on Encinas's stock.

Encinas is a three pitch pitcher(fastball, curveball, changeup), but is mostly a fastball pitcher.  Encinas had a velocity bump a few years ago and now throws 92-95 MPH. He only threw up to 92 MPH in high school so it took him some time to get used to the increased velocity. However he seemed to have gotten used to it last season.

In his first season in A Ball Encinas, put up an ERA of 0.77, and a WHIP of 1.086. He also struck out over 8 batters per 9, and reduced his walk rate to 4.1. If he had been able to replicate this success in A+, he would have probably made a lot of Yankees top 10 lists.
The Yankees have a couple more players who need to prove that they are top starters. In the past two years the Yankees used a first round to pick two high ceiling pitching prospects. Tyler Hensley and Ian Clarkin, may have not pitched much at all for the Yankees but they are still considered two of the Yankees biggest prospects.

Clarkin already has a good feel for three pitches. A fastball that ranges from 90-92, but reaches 94, a plus curveball, and a promising changeup. While he still has work to do on his delivery, he isn't as raw as most high school players.

The same can be said about Tyler Hensley, who missed the entire 2013 season because of a hip injury. Hensley throws slightly harder than Clarkin, and has reached 97 MPH. Like Clarkin, Hensley throws a good curveball but needs to work on his change.

Both of these pitchers have immense potential, but have yet to see many innings as Yankees. This will hopefully change in 2014 and the duo may be a part of a very strong Charleston rotation.

The Low A rotation may also include players like Brady Lail, Giovanny Gallegos, Rookie Davis, all of which have some decent potential. 


The first two sleepers are in some ways very similar. Both Dietrich Enns and Caleb Smith are left handed starters who have outperformed their draft day ratings. Additionally they have the same combination of pitches(fastball, slider, changeup), and are the same age (23).

In some ways both of their ceilings depend on how well they develop the slider and how they command their other pitches. At the moment Smith seems to be ahead of Enns in both regards.There is a good chance that these pitchers both start the year at Trenton this season.

Like the previous two pitchers Dan Camarena  is a three pitch lefty who has shown good potential. However, instead of throwing a slider Camarena  throws a curveball.Additionally some believe based off of Camarena's frame that he may end up throwing harder than he is now (87-79).

Camarena's season was a lot like Tracy's in the sense that Camarena  acted as if he was two separate pitchers. In his first half at A ball Camarena had an ERA over 6. He was much better in the second half and had a 2.89 ERA. Camarena should begin the year in A+, and even if he doesn't gain velocity he can become a viable big league pitcher.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Spring Training is just over a couple weeks away, and they Yankees have begun the preparations by announcing the signings of nine players to minor league deals, as well as 17 other non-roster invites that will be in Tampa when pitchers and catchers report on February 14th.

Those nine players are: RHP Bruce Billings, INF Russ Canzler, RHP Robert Coello, RHP Brian Gordon, RHP Chris Leroux, OF Antoan Richardson, INF Scott Sizemore, INF Yangervis Solarte and INF Zelous Wheeler. Here is the entire press release:

"The New York Yankees today announced that they have signed nine players to minor league contracts with an invitation to Major League Spring Training: RHP Bruce Billings, INF Russ Canzler, RHP Robert Coello, RHP Brian Gordon, RHP Chris Leroux, OF Antoan Richardson, INF Scott Sizemore, INF Yangervis Solarte and INF Zelous Wheeler. The club has also invited 17 additional players to 2014 spring training, bringing the total number of invitees to 26 (13 pitchers, three catchers, six infielders and four outfielders). The number of players now scheduled to report is 66-18 fewer than 2013's total of 84.

"Canzler , 27, has appeared in 29 Major League games-three with Tampa Bay in 2011 and 26 with Cleveland in 2012-combining to bat .271 (26-for-96) as a first baseman, outfielder and designated hitter. He was selected out of Hazleton Area High School (Pa.) by the Chicago Cubs in the 30th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft and spent seven seasons (2004-10) with the organization.

"Coello (pronounced koo-WAY-oh), 29, has combined to make 28 Major League relief appearances with Boston (2010), Toronto (2012) and Los Angeles-AL (2013), going 2-3 with one save and a 5.90 ERA (29.0IP, 19ER, 39K). He allowed only one run in his first 11 outings (13.1IP) with the Angels last season, retiring 21 consecutive batters (12K) in six games from May 13-25. In his career, Coello has averaged 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and held right-handed hitters to a .209 (14-for-67) batting average. He was selected by the Cincinnati Reds as a catcher in the 20th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, but was converted to a pitcher by the Angels organization prior to the 2007 season.

"Leroux (lah-RUE), 29, has made 63 Major League relief appearances with Florida (2009-10) and Pittsburgh (2010-13), going 1-2 with a 5.56 ERA (69.2IP, 43ER, 63K, 3HR). He played for Canada in the 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics, combining to go 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA (4.2IP, 3H, 2BB, 5K). After being claimed off waivers by the Pirates on September 13, 2010, Leroux went 1-1 with a 2.88 ERA (25.0IP, 8ER, 24K, 7BB) in 23 games with the club in 2011. He made two appearances with the Pirates in 2013 before becoming a free agent on April 17. He then joined the Yakult Swallows of the Japan Central League, going 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in five starts (22.0IP, 22ER). Leroux was selected by the Marlins in the seventh round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft after playing baseball for three seasons at Winthrop University (S.C.).

"Sizemore , 29, has appeared in 160 Major League games for Detroit (2010-11) and Oakland (2011, '13), combining to bat .238 (123-for-517) with 14 home runs while playing second base and third base. After being traded to Oakland on May 27, 2011, Sizemore started 88 of the A's final 102 games at third base and batted .249 (76-for-305), ranking second on the team in home runs (11) and tying for second in RBI (52) over the stretch. He played baseball at Virginia Commonwealth University for three seasons before being selected by the Tigers in the fifth round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

"RHP Matt Daley , INF Corban Joseph and RHP Jim Miller earned invitations after spending a portion of the 2013 season with the Yankees. Daley, 31, was selected to the Major League roster on September 6 and did not allow a run in his seven appearances with the club (6.0IP, 2H, 0BB, 8K), holding opponents hitless in his final five games (4.0IP). On September 26 vs. Tampa Bay, Daley struck out his only batter faced after replacing Mariano Rivera in his final career appearance. Joseph, 25, appeared in two games with the Yankees when he was called up as the club's 26th Man for the May 13 doubleheader at Cleveland, starting the opener at first base (0-for-2, 1BB) and starting the nightcap at second base (1-for-4, 1R). Miller, 31, made his only Major League appearance of the season on September 7 vs. Boston (1.1IP, 3H, 3ER, 1HR, 1BB).

"Also earning an invitation is RHP David Herndon, who is 2-8 with a 3.85 ERA (117.0IP, 50ER) in 97 Major League relief appearances, all with Philadelphia (2010-12). After spending his first four professional seasons (2006-09) in the Angels' minor league system, he was selected by the Phillies in the Rule 5 Draft on December 10, 2009, making the club's Opening Day roster in three consecutive years (2010-12). He appeared in 92 games (109.1IP) in his first two Major League seasons, holding right-handed hitters to a .200 (26-for-130) batting average in 2011. Herndon was selected out of Gulf Coast Community College by Los Angeles-AL in the fifth round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

"RHP Yoshinori Tateyama earned an invitation after joining the Yankees organization during the 2013 season. He spent his first 12 professional seasons in Japan (1999-2010), going 35-43 with 27 saves and a 3.43 ERA (661.2IP, 252ER) in 438 appearances with the Nippon Ham Fighters. He signed with the Texas Rangers on November 30, 2010, and spent two full seasons and part of a third with the organization before being traded to the Yankees on June 21, 2013, for future considerations. Tateyama has made 53 Major League relief appearances-all with Texas-going 3-0 with one save and a 5.75 ERA (61.0IP, 39ER, 61K, 17BB) from 2011-12.

"The list of invitees includes five of the Yankees' selections from the 2010 First-Year Player Draft: OF Mason Williams (fourth round),RHP Danny Burawa (12th), OF Tyler Austin (13th), RHP Chase Whitley (15 th) and LHP Fred Lewis (47th). Following the 2013 season, Williams was ranked by Baseball America as the third-best prospect in the organization, as well as the "Fastest Baserunner," "Best Athlete" and "Best Defensive Outfielder."

"Also earning an invitation are recent Yankees draft picks RHP Mark Montgomery (2011, 11th round) and C Pete O'Brien (2012, second round). Montgomery was voted the Yankees' minor league "Pitcher of the Year" in 2012, and following the 2013 season his slider was ranked as the best in the organization by Baseball America. O'Brien led all Yankees minor leaguers in 2013 with 22 home runs and 96 RBI, batting .291 (130-for-447) with a .544 slugging percentage as a catcher, third baseman and designated hitter.

"Rounding out the Yankees' invitees are C Francisco Arcia, OF Adonis Garcia, C Jose Gil, INF Jose Pirela and LHP Francisco Rondon."

The upper level starting pitching depth is shallow compared to their relief depth, but there are still a few players that are worth following. Especially when you consider the fact that the team is finally getting a former top 50 prospect back onto the field.

Major League Ready RHP:

With the departure of Brett Marshall, Jose Ramirez has become the Yankees most MLB ready RHP prospect. However, there are still questions about Ramirez's durability. These questions made me consider putting him in the reliever part of this series.

As a reliever Ramirez would be a top 100 prospect according to Kiley McDaniel at This shows just how special he would be in that role. But at moment the Yankees seem to still think of him as a starting pitcher.

Stuff wise he should be able to become a very good starter. Ramirez fastball sits around 97 MPH and he also throws a good changeup and an improving slider. At separate points in his career his changeup and fastball have been ranked as the best pitch in the Yankees system by Baseball America.

 In addition to durability concerns, some worry about his overall consistency. Someone with the type of stuff Ramirez has should have a much more impressive stat sheet. If Ramirez doesn't start the year off well, he may end up in the pen. In this sense Ramirez could be this year's Dellin Betances. With that said there is still a lot of hope that Ramirez can still start.

After Ramirez there is a big drop off in this category. The next best Yankee RHP prospect is Shane Greene. Greene had a solid year in A+ and AA and earned himself a spot of the 40 man roster. Considering the team refused to protect other high end relief prospects, they must feel that Greene can stay in the rotation.

Greene's breakthrough season may have surprised many, but he truly always had the stuff to be a successful starter. Greene is armed with a good fastball slider combination, that gives him a nice floor as a reliever. But he also throws a change-up and a sinker.

Before 2013 Greene was thought to be afraid of attacking the zone but something changed last season and he only walked 1.7 batters per 9. This is a big improvement, as in 2012 he had a BB/9 of over 5.Greene is a good reason why fans shouldn't give up so quickly on players with plus tools or pitches.

This isn't to say Greene is a sure thing, as he still had a high WHIP in AA, and may begin 2014 at that level. This late bloomer truly has the talent to be a major league starter and no one in the system is really forcing him to move to the pen. If he continues to be aggressive and throw strikes he might have a chance to become a part of the Yankees future.

Major League Ready LHP:

While Greene and Ramirez both have talent, Manny Banuelos is easily the best pitcher in this category and probably in the entire system. Manny Banuelos, is a former top 50 prospect who flew through the Yankee farm system. By the time he was 20 he was already in AAA, and looked to be ready for the big leagues in 2012.

Unfortunately for the Yankees Banuelos began feeling elbow discomfort two seasons ago. The Yankees attempted to avoid sending the young lefty under the knife, but after a while it became inevitable. Because the Yankees waited so long to give him surgery, he essentially ended up missing two seasons instead of one. 

Because he has missed so much time, his stock has plummeted. However he still very young and was once thought to be among the best prospects in baseball. TJ surgery is a relatively safe procedure, so it's not like we should doubt his ability. For that reason we can assume his stuff is basically the same as when we last saw him.

Manny throws a 91-94 mph fastball that occasionally reaches 96 MPH. His fastball has good life and may be a bit faster coming off surgery. In addition to a good fastball, Manny also throws a solid curveball and changeup. All three pitches are above average to plus big league offerings. He has also shown good command and control in the past, though he was a bit wild in his last full season.

Manny is already on the 40 man roster so there's a good chance we will see Banuelos in the majors at some point. Banuelos is the type of prospect than can completely change how analysts look at the Yankee system. Manny had a front-line stuff two seasons ago and if we assume that he is still the same player than the Yankees may have already have their replacement for Hiroki Kuroda.

While the next lefty, Vidal Nuno, doesn't have Banuelos's upside, he does seem like a possible future back-end starter. Vidal Nuno is a later bloomer who appears to be ready to contribute to the 2014 Yankees. Nuno is a former Clevland Indians prospect that was given up on a few years ago. However a slight bump in velocity has made him an interesting Yankee prospect.

Nuno still doesn't throw very hard, but he does have five average pitches-- two types of fastballs (two and four-seamer), a curveball, a slider, a changeup and a cutter.  Despite his large arsenal most scouts question his ability to go through a major league lineup twice. Because of this he might be best suited in the bullpen.

There is a chance that he passes his ceiling, as he is very similar to ex-Yankee prospect Jose Quintana. Quintanna was also expected to fail as a starter but so far has exceeded expectations. Nuno might have the same future, and has already played decently enough in his short stint in the big leagues.

While most believe his success as a starter is based off of smoke and mirrors, something has to be said for being consistent. If the next Yankee prospect in this category was that consistent he would be considered a mid-rotation starter. However Matt Tracy had a dreadful 2013 season where he was seemingly two different pitchers.

Tracy has good command of a low 90s fastball, and is able to use it effectively vs right handed batters. In addition to his fastball he has a curveball and changeup. While he hasn't fully perfected either pitch yet, most agree that they have potential. The inconsistency of his secondary pitches might explain his overall performance in 2013. But it's important to remember that despite his age he is still an inexperienced pitcher.

It's also worth noting that Tracy missed a good chunk of the 2013 season due to a hip injury. Because of this his sample size is rather small. To put his sample size into context, essentially one fourth of his earned runs came in one start.

Despite his struggles he had a few good starts which showed us that he still had the ability to do well. He gave up two runs or less in half of his starts.

(To fully appreciate just how on and off of a year he had, his game logs can be seen HERE.)

Unlike Tracy and a lot of other Yankee players Nik Turley finished the entire 2013 season without a major injury. The former 50th round pick pitched in 145 innings last year, and showed that he has the talent to succeed as a starter.

Turley's stats suggest he could be a durable, inning eater type pitcher in the majors one day. But his lack of plus stuff will limit him to a back-end or mid-rotation starter. Currently Turley throws a fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. His fastball ranges from 88-92 MPH, and has some sinking and cutting action. Turley's curveball is his second best pitch and the pitch has plus potential.

Turley is on the 40 man roster and should make his major league debut during 2014. While some will immediately think of Andy Pettitte when he pitches, he really doesn't have that kind of upside. Turley will someday be a useful starting option rather soon, but he will not be the type of guy that anchors a rotation. Instead he will be consistent and stable force in the back end of a rotation.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

In the first part of the series we looked at players who were on the verge of making the majors. Those players played most of the 2013 season in AA. But there are obviously much more prospects in the system and now we will look at best prospects below AA and the systems best sleepers.

Depth Below AA:

Nick Goody is easily the best pitcher in this category. Like most good Yankee prospects Goody is coming off of an injury. Goody had Tommy John Surgery at the beginning of the season.

Goody should remind Yankee fans of David Robertson, because they both have deceptive deliveries. Goody is mostly a two pitch pitcher (fastball and slider), but he is also working on a changeup. Goody has good command and control of his pitches. In his only full season he had a 52-9 k-BB ratio.

Once he proves that he is healthy he should continue to move through the system at an accelerated pace. He should start the year at High A, and may even be a long shot to contribute to the 2014 Yankees.

In many ways Nick Rumbelow is the next Nick Goody. For one thing it was Rumbelow that replaced Goody as the LSU closer in 2013. But more importantly, Rumbelow should be able to move through the Yankees system rather quickly, with good command and control of his fastball.

Rumbelow's fastball is a bit harder than Goody's and sits in the 93-95 range. Rumbelow also throws a good but inconsistent curveball and a change up. Rumbelow should begin the 2013 season in A+ with Goody and may be able to show that he he deserves the same recognition as his former teammate.

Branden Pinder has as much upside as either of the above pitchers, but there is a bit more risk involved. Pinder began the year at AA, but for whatever reason really struggled at the level. In 24 innings he had ERA of 6.29 and was walking almost 6 guys per 9 innings. This performance resulted in a quick demotion to A+.

He quickly got himself together in A+, and even got back to AA to end the 2013 season. The biggest cause of concern for Pinder is that he doesn't really have a consistent secondary pitch. Pinder mainly throws a great fastball, but not much else.

While Pinder hasn't perfected a secondary pitch just yet, he does have the ability to throw a slider, a curveball, and a changeup.Before 2013 his slider was thought to have plus potential.

Pinder should begin the season in AA and he has a good chance of redeeming himself. His fastball has become such a good pitch that if he just figures out one more pitch he should be able to reach his potential as a closer.

Sleepers :

The biggest sleeper in the system may be left handed reliever James Pazos. Pazos a 13th round pick in the 2012 draft, really emerged as an interesting prospect late last season.

Pazos began the season on the disabled list, after undergoing a minor surgery. After recovering it took him some time to really get into a groove, but once he did he really well. Well enough that the Yankees allowed him to pitch in the hitters friendly Arizona Fall League, despite not advancing past A ball.

It was there that Pazos started impressing outside evaluators. Pazos shocked many by putting up an ERA of 1.74 in the league. Many pundits were also surprised that he was capable of throwing in the upper 90's, and some noted his improved slider. In addition to these pitches Pazos also has a show me changeup.

While Pazos still has to perform at higher levels, it seems that at the very least he can become a great lefty specialist. The best outcome would be a good lefty setup arm.

If he keeps improving, and his walk rate stays low he should move quickly next season. However, he has almost no chance to make the big league team next season.

Manny Barreda, the next player in this category is proof of just how much can go wrong with  prospects.A few years ago Barreda seemed to have been progressing nicely, but in 2009 he had Tommy John surgery and it took him several years to recover.Now entering his 8th season in the Yankees system, the 25 year old must move quickly. Or else he will become a  forgotten prospect.

What makes Barreda a good sleeper is his great strikeout rates, and his well developed pitching repertoire. Barreda has three good pitches: a slider, a changeup, and a fastball. However he often struggles with his location and control, resulting in high walk rates.

If he could improve that aspect of his game he would be sure-fire closer. As it stands now Barreda may either became a great bullpen option or never advance to the majors. There truly is no middle ground with a pitcher like Barreda.

The last player in this category may end up being more than a reliever, but with the amount of starting options in the lower levels of the Yankees system it seems probable that Phil Walby is moved to the pen. Such a move wouldn't be surprising as Baseball America felt he was better suited for the pen anyway.

Like Rumbelow Walby was a 2013 draft pick. However Walby's stock was much higher coming into the draft. Walby was ranked as the 282nd best draft prospect last year. As a reliever Walby should be able to sit at 94-97 with his fastball. His other pitches include a slurvy slider and inconsistent changeup, that he has no feel for.

Essentially Walby is a one pitch pitcher who is starting to improve his breaking ball. As a recent pick few have truly scouted Walby, but those who have seem to be impressed. Matt Filippi from called said he's the type of guy fans should keep an eye on.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Despite the vast amount of criticism the Yankee system has attracted in the past year there still are many players to root for. In this series we will be looking at the organizational depth at each Yankee position. This should show us a few of the Yankees better prospects at each position and the systems best sleeper prospects. The series will highlight the Yankee prospects that are most capable improving the system’s stock.

The first part of our series will look at the Yankees bullpen depth. This is an obvious starting point because the Yankees may need to rely on some of these prospects in order to succeed in 2014. As it stands, it is also one of the deepest areas in the system. This feature will be broken into 2 parts. The first will look at players that can contribute in 2014, while Part 2 will look at the systems lower level prospects and sleepers.

Major League Ready Right Handed Relievers:

The safest option to help the 2014 Yankees is Chase Whitley. If it weren’t for an oblique injury it is likely that Yankee fans would’ve already seen his debut. Whitley is known for his consistency, and has never had a bad season as Yankee. His consistent success led the Yankees to give him some time as starter in 2013, but he expected to be a reliever in the future. 

Whitley pitched two full seasons in AAA, so he would be able to transition to the big leagues at the start of the 2014 season. That is if he wins a job in spring training. If he does make the majors his strong changeup fastball combination should make him a viable middle relief option.

The next two options in this category, Dellin Betances and Mark Montgomery, are much riskier than Whitley, but have much more upside.

Like Whitley, Mark Montgomery would probably be in the majors already if an injury hadn’t slowed him down. However, Montgomery's shoulder injury seemed to have impacted his overall game. Montgomery lost a couple miles off of his fastball, and walked over 5 batters per 9 innings.

Despite his poor year he still had a k/9 of 11.03, so it was clear that his plus slider was still working. In addition to his slider and fastball, Montgomery occasionally, but rarely throws a changeup. If he is able to regain his fastball he should be able to become the next great Yankee setup man.

The next player in this category is very familiar to Yankee fans as a once great prospect. While Betances will never reach that level of hype again, he could still be a very productive player out of the pen. After being made a full time reliever Betances put up a k/9 of about 13 and an ERA of 1.35. Armed with a plus fastball and curveball, Betances may be salvageable as a reliever.

The final pitcher in the category is Daniel Burawa. Burawa is known for his fastball, which is generally 95 MPH and an inconsistent but good slider. Like Montgomery he also throws a changeup but it's more of a show me pitch.

After missing the entire 2012 season, Burawa needed some time to adjust to AA but ended the year very strong. In his last 18 innings in AA Burawa only allowed one run. Burawa should start 2014 in AAA, and will probably be added to the roster at some point during the season.

Major League Ready Left Handed Relievers:

Unfortunately the Yankees do not have a lefty version of Chase Whitley and all of their top left handed relievers are wildcards at this point. Despite the uncertainty in this category, they are several players with good potential in  AAA. With the departure of Boone Logan, some of these players will probably be called upon at some point.

If the Yankees choose to open camp with two left handed relievers, there is a good chance that Cesar Cabral is their man. Cabral initially came over to the Yankees through the Rule 5 Draft and has managed to stay a Yankee despite having a major injury.

Cabral arsenal is bigger than one might think he throws: a fastball, circle change, a slider and a curvebal. His changeup is probably his best pitch. With his combination of control and command he may end up being a serviceable reliever. As a part of the Yankees forty man roster Cabral has a good chance to be a part of the Yankees opening day bullpen.

 If Cabral proves inadequate at the major league level the Yankees have an emerging prospect in Fred Lewis who would be able to step up. Lewis is actually older than Cabral, but it has taken quite some time to put his game together.

Lewis throws a bit harder than Cabral sitting around 93 MPH, and has similar blend of secondary pitches. Lewis's main strength is the fact that he produces so many ground balls. In a recent interview farm director Mark Newman remarked “He has a good arm, throws 95 to 96 (mph) and can spin the ball,” .... “He had a stupid (3.57-1) ground ball-fly ball ratio.”

In total Lewis throws five pitches as he also throws a sinker. This combination of pitches should allow him to get righties and lefties out. The Yankees were very fortunate he wasn't selected in the Rule 5 Draft, and it is entirely possible that he beats Cabral for a spot in the Yankees pen. He has the ability to be a left-handed setup man.

The last major lefty that is on the verge of making the Yankees is Jeremy Bleich. At this point most fans have probably forgotten this former first round pick, as he has been injured for most of his tenure. However he really seemed to have turned things around in 2013.

Bleich pitched 65.1 solid innings in AA last year, which is about as much as he has thrown from 2010-2012. Most of these innings came as a reliever. Bleich has three average to above average pitches: a curveball, a changeup and a fastball. It has taken some time for him to regain his stuff post-shoulder surgery, but based off his numbers it appears that his stuff is finally back.

While he did start a few games last year, it is doubtful the Yankees let someone his age continue to develop as a starter. Considering how much time he has missed moving him to the pen full time makes a lot of sense, and as a reliever he can become a good middle reliever.

The 2014 Yankees seem to be done making major moves and chances are the success of the teams bullpen will depend on a few young relievers. Fortunately, the Yankees have several prospects who can contribute in 2014.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes ended on Wednesday when the Japanese righty agreed to a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees. The contract includes an opt-out clause that he can exercise after the 2017 season.

Tanaka went 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA in seven seasons with Japan's Rakuten Golden Eagles. Last season was easily his best in Japan, as he went 24-0 with a sensational ERA of 1.27. Though this is not enough to convince some Yankees fans that his story won't be different from that of their last major Japanese pitching acquisition, Kei Igawa.

When the Boston Red Sox signed former Japanese sensation Daisuke Matsuzaka to a six-year deal before the 2007 season, the Yankees retaliated by signing a less talented Japanese pitcher, Kei Igawa, to a five-year deal.

Igawa imploded immediately, going 2-3 with a 6.25 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) for the Yankees in 2007 before being sent to the Minor Leagues. He would only appear in the Majors one more time, in 2008, where he gave up 6 earned runs in 4 innings pitched over 2 games. It is fair to call Igawa's contract a disaster.

The reason Tanaka will do better in the Major Leagues is simple: he is better than Igawa. Yes, it sounds like lame reasoning, but it makes more sense than meets the eye. Igawa's best season in Japan was 2002, when he went 14-9 with a solid 2.49 ERA as well as 206 strikeouts and only allowed 15 home runs. In his final season in Japan, 2006, he again went 14-9 and put together another stellar ERA of 2.97.

Tanaka's best season (besides 2013) was 2011, where he went 19-5 with a ridiculous 1.27 ERA and a WHIP of 0.875. In 2013 he was unbeatable, literally. The Golden Eagles' ace went 24-0 and again posted an ERA of 1.27.

One of the major differences between Tanaka and Igawa is their ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. Both were very good in Japan, but Tanaka was much better.

Igawa gave up 15 home runs in 2002, his best season. In 2011 and 2013, Tanaka gave up a combined total of 14 and in his worst season, 2007, he gave up 17. This would be his career high.

Igawa would give up 15 home runs in 67.2 innings pitched in 2007 with the Yankees.

Aside from the ERA difference, Tanaka also walks far fewer batters than Igawa did.  In his final five seasons in Japan, Tanaka only walked 35-plus hitters in a single season once. In Igawa's last five seasons before making the transition to the Major Leagues, he walked less than 50 batters only once.

Also, Tanaka will use more off-speed pitches in the Major Leagues. Tanaka throws a decent slider, a fastball that can reach the mid to upper 90's, and a devastating splitter. According to Fangraphs, Igawa only threw a fastball, a cutter, and a changeup during his time in the big leagues.

Masahiro Tanaka and Kei Igawa are not even on a similar level.

One final thought for those who are concerned about Tanaka's lack of strikeouts. His 183 strikeouts this past season outnumbered the Yankees current star Hiroki Kuroda's Japanese high by 18.

Don't worry about the strikeouts.

Friday, January 24, 2014

With the Yankees now past the $189 million spending "limit", some have speculated that they may be thinking about adding Stephen Drew. This rumor makes sense because once the Yankees pass the $189 million mark, they might as well do whatever it takes to become the best team possible.

While this logic ignores the possibility that they have an actual budget, it does seem like the logical move. Assuming the Yankees have the money to spend there are positives and negatives of signing a player like Drew. After all, there's a reason that Drew is still a free agent despite his good season last year, and the state of the shortstop position. 

The positives of signing Drew are simple. The Yankees are currently relying on question marks all over their infield. Derek Jeter, Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts, and Scott Sizemore, all come with durability or defensive concerns. Even Mark Teixeira may not be dependable at this point, there's always the risk he re-injures his wrist.

Drew could play all of those positions and he most likely wouldn't struggle doing so. That's a big improvement over current utility player Eduardo Nunez, who would probably be cut if Drew joins the Yankees.

But Drew is more than just a good glove, he is also an above average hitter for his position. Drew finished in top ten last year in WOBA and WRC+. While most of his production came at home, his homerun swing would work very well in Yankee Stadium. He only had a career-total of 13 homeruns, but looking at his hit chart we see that he would have had a few more homeruns if he played in Yankee Stadium.


 Embedded image permalink

According to Steamer projections on Fangraphs, Drew is a two win player. If we assume that Tanaka is a three win player, which is a safe projection, the Yankees would be a 90 win team. This would be the 10th highest WAR projection and would really make them strong contenders.

Of course there are also negatives to signing him. And one those negatives will be his contract. He projects as a 1.5 to 2 win player depending on which projection system you use. While the Yankees could take that risk, it might not be worth it since Dean Anna's projections are similar.

Additionally, the Yankees would have to give up a second round pick in next year's draft to acquire him. This isn't a huge deal as most second round picks don't make it to the big leagues, but it might deter the Yankees from signing him. Then again the Yankees could turn this negative into a positive by offering him a one or two year deal. If Drew has another two years like he had last year, he will be the type of player that would actually be worth giving up a first round pick for, and the Yankees would essentially be trading a second round pick for a first round pick.

There's also questions about Drew's durability. It may not make sense to sign a guy who keeps getting hurt as an insurance option. Last season he had hamstring and concussion injuries, and had a very serious ankle injury in 2011.

With that said the Yankees can afford the risks. He may not be projected to be that great but that may be because he has played so little in 2011 and 2012. The Yankee already spent so much money they need to finish the job and get as close to a perfect team as possible. Drew gives them another option in case of an injury and they need that. The only reason to not sign him is if it means the Yankees can't use the money elsewhere. For instance the Brewers may be willing to trade Aramis Ramirez if they aren't competing and the Yankees would benefit more from getting him than Drew.