Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Recently over on the Lohud Yankees blog, Chad Jennings wrote an interesting article on the Yankees farm system. Instead of focusing on what the farm looks like right now, Jennings created a top 10 list for next season.

The purpose of this was to show the best case scenario for the system; if the system performed perfectly this is what their farm system would look like. I found this concept very appealing and decided to make my own version of it. This is obviously a very optimistic look at the system, as prospects are not this predictable, consider this piece the Yankees brightest timeline.

1. Gary Sanchez:

The best case scenario for Sanchez would be to continue to make progress defensively. He has a golden opportunity to learn the position in spring training, as he'll get the chance to be mentored by Tony Pena, and Joe Girardi. Pena is noted for improving the pitch framing abilities of many Yankee catchers.Sanchez already throws out runners at a high clip, so if he learns to frame pitches he might be an above average defender.

Hopefully he exits spring training with this knowledge. That way he can focus on his offensive game during the season.Sanchez always puts up good offensive numbers, especially when you consider his age and the parks he plays in. But it would really benefit his stock if he could cut down on some of his strikeouts and walk a bit more. His defense was well bellow average a few seasons ago, so you have to wonder how much time he devoted to getting to where he is and how that hindered his offensive game.

2. Manny Banuelos:

Banuelos stock has dropped over the past two seasons, due to the fact that he has been out of action with an injury. While I do feel it will take him a while to readjust, I don't think Tommy John surgery will diminish his ability. After all at he was once thought to be a top 50 prospect. If he could return to form, the Yankees would have one best offensive and pitching prospect combinations in baseball. Of course he would have to work on his control, but in general he has great potential.

Jennings had these players in reverse order, this makes sense because Banuelos returning to form would be very good for the system. However, I feel that even if he returns to form Sanchez should be ranked higher, because he has MVP potential. If these two players perform to their abilities and show they can reach their ceilings, the Yankees could have two top 40 prospects.

3. Mason Williams:

Williams was a consensus top 50 prospect a year ago, and can realistically get back there with a good year. Like Jennings I agree with the idea that Slade would easily be in this spot, but if everyone is playing up to their capabilities, and injuries no longer really exist than Slade should be in the majors.

With that said if he rebounds, Mason would be a great number three prospect. To redeem himself  he show up to spring training in good shape a work on his hitting approach. If Mason does these two things he will be able to live up to his initial comparison to Jacoby Ellsbury. It is unclear whether or not he will hit for power for this fictional scenario, as scouts have downgraded his power potential. 

4. Aaron Judge:

Judge is an interesting prospect as he has yet to perform up to his full ability.. This is fortunate for the Yankees, because if he had done so in college,  he would've never fallen so far in the draft. Keith Law recently stated that he is a future top 25 prospect talent.Even with a great season next year, I do not see him getting ranked that high but I do feel it is possible for him to crack some top 100 lists. The best case scenario is for Judge to begin the year in High-A, and show his power potential right away. This would make him a possible midseason call-up to AA.

It might not seem ideal to have zero infield prospects at this point, but I want to make this article at least semi-realistic. The top four players on the list all have a legitimate shot at being top 100 players next year. That would easily change the perception of this system. Last year they had 3 or 4 top 100 guys and were considered an above average system. Furthermore this top 4 would be better regarded, as three of these players can be top 50 prospects.

5. Rafael De Paula:

De Paula had a very interesting season last year, as he dominated A-Ball and really struggled in High-A. At the midpoint of the season he was considered a top 50 prospect, but after the season some questioned if he could ever be a starter. The best case scenario for De Paula is to begin the 2014 season in High-A, and quickly show that he can, in fact, throw strikes. Additionally, he would also need to work on his secondary pitches.

 6. Jose Ramirez:

Ramirez could realistically be placed into this slot even if he moves to the pen, as he would be an elite relief prospect. However, since this is a best case scenario article, he will be considered a starter. This would mean starting the year in AAA, and not getting injured.

If he finally becomes a durable starter in 2014, he will be a great addition to this list. He has a great fastball and changeup combination, but his slider still needs to improve. If everything goes perfectly he will not need to be called up to the majors and can spend the entire season in AAA, becoming a top prospect. Even with such a year he would probably not make the top 100 list as a starter, as he doesn't have the greatest track record.

Jennings had De Puala ranked number three because he felt the team would benefit from having another top of the rotation arm raked in the top 5. I agree with that logic, but still think high cieling hitters are worth more than high ceiling pitchers. I also don't think De Puala can realistically be  ranked higher on top 100 lists next year than the players ranked above him.

But I do agree that the Yankees need high end pitchers in their top 10 list, which is why both he and Ramirez are ranked where they are. If both pitchers prove they're starters next season the Yankees system will have a great combination of near MLB ready pitching and hitting prospects.

Tyler Austin would have been ranked 6th, but I feel that the Yankees may need him in the majors at some point. Also I do feel he will become more versatile. The Yankees want him to be able to play third and in this timeline he is capable of doing so. Even if he is below average at third, there is a good chance the Yankees play him there, because they don't have the greatest options at the moment.

7. Eric Jagielo:

Jagielo was the safest Yankee draft pick in sometime, but lacks the upside of some of the above players. But he does fill a big need and has a lot of potential. The best case scenario for Jagielo is pretty realistic, when compared to players like Judge and Ramirez.

He should start the year in High-A and prove that he can play the position. People really don't question the bat, and assuming he becomes a passable defender at third the Yankees should get a very productive player.

8. Angelo Gumbs:

Gumbs performing up to his capabilities would be a huge boost to this system. He would most probably begin the year in A+, and earn a promotion to AA in the middle of the season. If Gumbs finally takes advantage of his extraordinary tools the Yankees would have a realistic replacement for Robinson Cano sometime in 2016. While that may seem like a long time to wait, it would be worth it if Gumbs develops perfectly.

Gumbs and Jagielo may not be top 100 players next season but their development is crucial for the Yankees future. The Yankees need all the infield help they can get, and these two players can turn a systems weakness into a strength. Jagielo would certainly move through the system faster than Gumbs but they both can move quickly if they perform to their full potential next season.

9. Bryan Mitchell:

The only reason that Mitchell isn't higher is that I don't know if he can realistically tone down his walks. If he does, then  he would another interesting upper-minor pitching prospect. Mitchell has two plus pitches: a curveball and a fastball. He also is developing a changeup in this ideal scenario he would have to perfect a third pitch,whether or not that's his changeup doesn't really matter. Hopefully Gil Patterson is able to reach him, because he has a lot of potential.

10. Greg Bird:

I feel that Bird is a good player to end this list on, because we know what kind of player he is capable of being. If he continues to develop defensively and proves that he really does have power, he will be much higher on this list. But his ranking here is under the assumption that his critics are right when they question his power potential. 

Another reason he is only ranked 10th, is that first base prospects are always a little underrated and if he is going to be underrated in prospect graders eyes he should be underrated here as well. I do feel that he has a lot of potential but for now it makes sense to rank him at 10th.

The last two spots on this could really go to a lot of different players, but I felt that best case scenario for the Yankee system was to have every single member of their top ten prospects be in AA or above by the end of next season. In truth this isn't entirely unrealistic, as the team does have 5 current/former top 100 players in AA and above, and guys like Slade and Austin could still be ranked. But chances are a player from A-ball or High-A will make the list next year.


Josh Sabo is a Minor League writer for Yanks Beat Blog.


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