This past Sunday, Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo gave their updated mi-season list of every team's Top 20 prospects. The Yankees' list was headlined by Luis Severino, who I ranked tenth coming into this season. My reasoning for ranking him so high was that he seemed to be flying through the Yankees system. Most pitchers don’t go from the GCL to A-ball in one season, yet Severino did so with ease. Considering he hasn't slowed down at all this season, it’s no surprise that he took the number one spot.
The number two ranked prospect was also predictable, as Gary Sanchez is probably their only other guaranteed top-100 prospect at the moment. Sanchez isn't having the type of year people expect, but that might be because people are ignoring just how young he is. Sanchez is almost 4 years younger than his competition. Furthermore he has done much better as of late. People question his defense, but Callis seems to think he improved, and he is still young enough to get better.
After these two players, it’s pretty hard to guess the Yankees' best prospects. MLB.com lists Eric Jagielo as the team’s third best prospect, but others seem to prefer Aaron Judge over him. Callis likes Jagielo's swing in Yankee stadium and feels that his defense is good enough to be a third-baseman. Jagielo was injured for a good chunk of this season, but he has shown good power. His OPS in Tampa is .807 and he has done even better in his last ten games. He has shown much more power on the road, so his numbers would be even better if he played in an average hitting environment.
Jagielo was followed by two players that were drafted after him. Ian Clarkin was ranked 4th and Aaron Judge was ranked 5th. Callis seems to think all three of Clarkin's pitches have good potential, and that overall Clarkin could be a number 2 or 3 starter. Clarkin has a very good 12-6 curve, a 90-94 MPH fastball, and a changeup that “features good fade and deception." Clarkin has been pitching very well this year, and might see some time in Tampa. He is probably near his innings limit, but it would be nice to challenge him late in the year.
Judge was ranked 5th, and in my opinion this was the biggest surprise of the list. Some pundits are talking about him as a potential top-100 guy, and he really seems to have been playing well this year. Granted he started at a low level, but he has shown good hitting ability and a patient approach at the plate. Callis points out that his swing can lead to strikeouts but so far his rates haven’t been that bad, and they have been accompanied with good power and walk numbers. Callis also notes that Judge has good speed and a strong arm, making right field a good spot for him. Callis believes that Judge will move quickly if he keeps showing contact ability. If I had to guess I would say that Judge will be ranked higher at the end of the year, though I doubt he goes to Trenton this season. It’s just too crowded at that level.
6-10 on the list was comprised of Rob Refsynder, Jake Cave, Manny Banuelos, Peter O’Brien and 2014 top pick Jacob Lindgren. Like Judge, I would've thought Refsnyder would be higher ranked, but I can see the logic of keeping him this low until he proves he can play second. Earlier this year Callis said he had gotten better, and in this report he stated that Refsnyder can become an adequate defender. Callis also called him the best pure-hitter in the Yankees system. Assuming Refsnyder isn’t called up this season, I feel that he will be ranked higher at the end of the season. He has a 151 wRC+ in AAA, and now that the Yankees have Prado, they won’t need to play him in right field anymore.
Cave really jumped in these rankings, as he wasn't even ranked in top-20 before this season. Cave has shown his breakout 2013 season was no fluke, and that he is simply a very good hitter. Of course he still hasn’t shown homerun power, but overall he seems like a decent offensive player. He earned a promotion to AA, and so far has done very well there. Hopefully, he shows more patience and power in the next couple of years, because he seems to have a good hit tool. Callis believes he can remain in center, and that he has a strong arm. This will help make up for some of his lack of power.
Banuelos moves up one spot from the pre-season list, which is disappointing but understandable. Banuelos has had two great starts in a row, but his overall numbers in AA are not that great. This of course should be expected from a guy who has an innings limit, and hasn’t pitched in two years. He still has the potential to throw 3 plus pitches, and his control hasn’t been that bad in AA this season. Callis claims that his ceiling is that of a number 2 pitcher.
The next ranked player is the recently traded Peter O’Brien, who has shown nothing but power since signing with the team. With that said, he really doesn’t seem to have contact ability and many people doubt his power will play in the majors. Essentially he is a lot like Mark Trumbo, a power hitter who can’t really field. Keith Law actually called him a worse version of Trumbo which isn’t very encouraging. According to Callis “O'Brien does swing and miss a lot, and he doesn't control the strike zone well, so there's some concern as to how much he'll be able to hit for average and tap into his power against more advanced pitchers.” Overall I will miss him in the system, but he isn’t a lot to pay for a guy like Prado. After the trade MLB.com moved everyone up a spot and added a player at number 20.
Lindgren was a semi-surprising pick for the Yankees. They generally don’t draft relievers in the early rounds, and people expected more from their first pick. But he has done very well so far, and shows the ability to go through the minors very quickly. There’s a good chance he is the first 2014 draft pick to reach the majors. He is already in A+ and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. He has struck out 26 batters in 14.1 innings, and while his walk total in A+ is high, he should be fine in that regard. I doubt that the Yankees will allow him to reach the majors this season, but early next season, seems pretty realistic.
11-15 on the original list was made up of Luis Torrens, Shane Greene, Greg Bird, Gosuke Katoh, and Jose Ramirez. Torrens has only been a catcher for 2 years, but has shown a good arm at the position. Callis notes that his work ethic and intelligence, will lead to him being a catcher in the long term despite his high pass-ball rate. According to Callis Torrens’ “has the tools to contribute offensively as well. He has good pitch-recognition skills, a patient approach and solid raw power.” It’s unfortunate that an injury kept him out for so long, but he has done really well in Staten Island.
Greene has done pretty well in the majors so far, and looks like he has good stuff. His numbers were surprisingly bad in AAA, but he is a groundball pitcher and who knows how good their defense in AAA is. Greene has a hard sinker, a good slider, and a below average changeup. Despite being mostly a two-pitch-pitcher Callis believes he has the stuff to remain in the rotation. It should also be noted that Greene has a curveball, though Callis didn't rate it. I like Greene, and feel that his high GB % will allow him to stick with the Yankees for a while. Greene greatly benefits from the recent Yankee infield acquisitions.
Greg Bird is another guy I thought would be higher, but like Refsnyder I suppose he has something to prove at his new position. Additionally he has missed some time with a back injury. Callis says that he will need his bat to carry him to the majors, which is for now doesn’t seem like a problem. When healthy he has always produced. Bird currently has a wRC+ of 133 in A+, and may be poised to get some time in AA now that O’Brien is gone.
Katoh is one of the youngest players at his level, so it’s no surprise that the 14th ranked Yankee has struggled this year. With that said Callis believes he has plus speed, a good hit tool and will be a good defensive second-baseman. Callis also states that he has “good pop for a middle-infielder”. Katoh’s overall numbers may not look good, but over his last 36 games he has an OPS of .803, and really seems to have adjusted to the level.
Ramirez is also having a tough year, but his struggles are mainly injury related. He injured himself in spring training, which forced the Yankees to move him to pen. It was a nice idea but Ramirez has gotten injured in that role as well. He is currently on the disabled list, and it’s doubtful he will get a chance to redeem his early major league struggles this season.
The rest of the top 20 was made up of: Ramon Flores, Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and Jorge Mateo. Flores was having a great season before getting injured, and trio of former top outfield prospects have either struggled, injured themselves or both. At this point Flores really looks like the best of the four. He had a .799 OPS this season in AAA, and seemed to be on the verge of making his major league debut this season. Austin has battled a wrist injury for two years now, but seems over it now, and has quietly looked a lot better at the plate. He has a .889 OPS in his last ten games, and has gotten his season OPS total up to .721. That still isn’t great, but after his slow start it is kind of impressive.
Williams and Slade have both seen their stocks drop way down. Slade had another season-ending knee injury, and Williams hasn't been able to get his OPS over .600. Unless they rebound next year, it’s likely that this will be the last time either will be ranked this high or perhaps even in the organization.
Jorge Mateo took the last spot on the original list, and he truly is one of the team’s more exciting prospects. Mateo is a super-fast shortstop who has a good hit tool and some power. Callis says teams have already been asking for him in trades, despite the fact that he hasn’t begun A-ball. Unfortunately for the Yankees he seems to be injured at the moment, but he was destroying the GCL when he was playing. Callis and scouts have high praise for the young SS, Callis’ report states that “Mateo has more upside at the plate than most shortstops. He's wiry strong, and he already shows signs of being able to hit for average and provide double-digit home run totals down the line. Mateo is still just 19 and is six levels removed from the big leagues, but one club official said the organization hasn't had a middle infielder with a ceiling higher than his since Derek Jeter.” I was a bit surprised he was rated higher than Abi Avelino, but I suppose he has the higher ceiling, and it’s not like Avelino was healthy either.
Once the Yankees traded O’Brien, every prospect ranked behind him moved up one, Austin DeCarr was able to make the list. DeCarr was the Yankees third round pick this season, and basically took up most of their draft pool spending limit. Callis feels that DeCarr could develop to above-average pitches (fastball, and curveball), and that DeCarr has shown the ability to throw his changeup for strikes. Callis states his upside is of a number 3 starter. So far DeCarr has done decently in the GCL, but still has room to improve.
The system may not be considered a top-10 system just yet, but they have a good amount of depth. I feel that at least one of Jose Campos, Bryan Mitchell, Ty Hensley, or Abi Avelino, Miguel Andujar could have cracked this list. With their big international spending spree, fans will hopefully have a lot to look forward to in the next few years.Follow @JoshSabo1