What could go wrong with top Yankee prospects

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Jason Parks has a great take on his top-5 Yankee prospects. Usually, we tend to evaluate prospects from an optimistic perspective. This is probably a natural way to think, but doesn’t take into account the fact that most prospects fail. Park instead frames his discussion of those prospects by looking at what could go wrong with each one of them.

I would like to add my two cents to this discussion. Here are Park’s top five prospects, with commentary:

  1. Gary Sanchez. Parks offers the best quote ever on Sanchez’s power: “The skies will turn red with the blood of his enemies.” He clearly loves Sanchez as a prospect, and is one of the few experts out there to rate him above Banuelos. I like Sanchez too, but I think that even Parks understates the downside Sanchez can bring to the table. Sanchez does in fact have a hitch in his swing that needs to be corrected. Sanchez struck out 93 times in 82 games last season, and 44 times in 47 games while mashing through the 2010 short season. Those kinds of strikeout rates are correctable, but could also linger. Sanchez was good enough to slug .485 and OPS .820 despite the high rate, but the problem could get worse. We don’t want Sanchez to become an empty power threat who is going to hit .230 every season. That’s difficult to sustain.
  2. Manuel Banuelos. Parks offers an interesting diagnosis of Banuelos that I’ve never heard before: he comes off as underwhelming. Hitters don’t see to be fooled as much as they should by his fastball, his curveball doesn’t seem to have the bite it should, etc. I’m not particularly concerned by any of this. For all the hype about his poise and mental abilities, Banuelos was still a 20 year-old playing above his head in Double-A. These are the types of complaints we should expect to see. The stuff is still there, as is the poise. I expect some real fireworks out of Banuelos coming up soon. Parks only briefly mentions size with Banuelos, but I think that’s where we should focus when talking about what could go wrong. Banuelos is a slight 5’10”, and will need to hold up to big workloads. I think he’ll do that, but the downside could involve either a shift to the bullpen or an injury-prone existence for Banuelos.
  3. Dellin Betances. Parks again mentions the bullpen conversion, which I think is overblown. Parks emphasizes Betanaces’ control issues. He’s right on, and I have nothing to add. What is missing, however, are Betances’ health problems. He has missed time for a number of ailments, and took a full 6 seasons in the minor leagues to hit his career high of 126 1/3 innings in 2011. Unlike Banuelos, Betances has missed lots of time for very baseball related injuries, ranging from the shoulder to the back to his Tommy John-repaired elbow. Staying healthy is tough for Betances.
  4. Mason Williams. Parks is afraid that he is too small and slight to produce any real power against MLB fastballs. This is definitely a concern, but I think Brett Gardner demonstrates that a player with his speed and defensive abilities can succeed at the MLB level with a light bat. Williams has a lot more potential with the bat than does Gardner, even if we’re talking about a slender guy with a sweet swing. A consistent .420 Slg% would go wonders given Williams’ speed. The downside that I would emphasize would be about how little we’ve actually seen of his abilities. Williams has completely changed expectations for his prospect status in one short season performance, and we should regard that change with skepticism.
  5. Angelo Gumbs. Parks rates Gumbs in this spot. No one else does, but that’s his opinion. Parks generally regards Gumbs has a high-ceiling, super-athletic project that needs a lot of seasoning. I think we in the Yankee sphere tend to understate how high his ceiling is. He’s an up-the-middle prospect with a bat with middle of the order type potential. Parks labels him a future center fielder, which is generally how I feel about Gumbs as well. Parks and I agree on the downside though: he’s just so raw and green that Gumbs has a long way to go. He’s even unlike a guy like Bichette or Williams who may be green, but puts their fully-functioning skillset on display at a young age. Gumbs is still about projection more than the here and now.

About EJ Fagan

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

4 thoughts on “What could go wrong with top Yankee prospects

  1. 1 Hitches are sometimes timing mechanisms though, I’d say let Sanchez ride and see what happens.

    2 Ask Boston how they feel about Pedroia’s small stature. Ask San Fran if they’re worried Lincecum is too small. Not saying he’ll be an MVP, but if he can play ball, he can play ball. If size is his only downside, I’d like to see more of him. Good point about Gardner.

    • Pedroia isn’t a good comp. Size with pitchers is more important, not a lot of starters stand 5-9 or 5’10 at 155 pounds. There are famous examples but most of those faded late, though any of us would take another Johan Santana I’m sure. Lincecum is a good comp. Lincecum is probably an inch or so taller but overall very close in size. I think there are many people currently making the argument that Linecum’s decrease in velocity and regression of his numbers is in some way linked to his size. Which is one of the reasons many are in favor of signing Cain long term and letting Tim walk in free agency, since they fear a steady regression from here on out. No ones saying he can’t play because of size, they are worried about his body and stuff will hold up. Size also isn’t his only problem, as he had walk and hit problems last year. He missed a good amount of bats but way too many men were getting on base. He didn’t overwhelm batters in anyway. Betances for instances had a walk problem too, but he had much lower hit numbers.

  2. I absolutely loved Parks’ analysis. Its highly detailed, presents the pros and cons and with each player’s skills and gives you some pointers on what to watch for with what they do well and where they can go wrong. Great stuff.

  3. Great switch on analyzing a different way toward the same destination, Big Leagues but when you get right down to it it’s the same peaks and Valleys being hashed just the order of abilities/deficiencies/pitfalls. Overall though Opinions aside I give it a B-