While we all love our Baby Bombers, we try to temper our expectations or rein in our enthusiasm. This morning, we’re going to tell you which Yankee prospects we think are getting a little too much love.
E.J. Fagan: Ravel Santana. I love a true 5-tool guy who hit .298/.361/.568 as a 19 year-old in the Gulf Coast League as much as anyone, but Santana has two major knocks against him. His ankle injury was truly horrible to end last season. Although his prognosis has been relatively optimistic and the ankle isn’t as much of a problem area as the elbow, shoulder, or knee, I would urge a lot of caution. We saw with David Adams that brutal injuries are brutal injuries, and recovery timetables are always uncertain. Couple that Santana’s extreme inexperience and distance from the major leagues and you have yourself a very risky prospect. Publications that rank Santana in the top-10, ahead of someone like Austin Romine, are failing to account for this risk.
Domenic Lanza: Over the past two seasons, I have been somewhat baffled by the praise heaped upon Austin Romine. I feel as if much of this is a product of his being (unfairly) paired with Jesus Montero as some sort of two-headed catching prospect juggernaut, but it has yet to die down despite consistently mediocre results from Romine. Now, it may not quite jibe with our collaborate top-twenty effort, nor even my own placement of Romine as the ninth best prospect in the system, but none of this is to suggest that he is not a fine prospect – he’s just more risky and less proven than most seem to appreciate.
In his second full season with Trenton, Romine produced a reasonable facsimile of his 2010 campaign. His walk rate ticked up and his strike rate declined, but his power slipped and his average and slugging were likely propped-up by a .331 BABIP. Much, if not all of this can be explained by his donning the tools of ignorance on a full-time basis for the first time in his career – he simply wore down. I do not quite buy that line of reasoning, though, as his numbers were fairly consistent from month-to-month. His results still portend a catcher capable of league-average offense – a boon, to be sure – but not much else.
Defensively, for all of Romine’s raw tools he has yet to truly ‘wow’ behind the dish. Romine allowed more passed balls and wild pitches (allowing for quirky calls by the scorekeeper) in 2011 … and in fewer innings. Additionally, his caught-stealing numbers remained steady but unspectacular. As is the case with his bat, Romine has shown he can be a strong defender – but not much else.
Matt Imbrogno: Domenic stole mine, so I’ll tack on to his. Romine’s career high walk rate is encouraging, as has been the consistent drop in strikeouts. However, the dropping power and overall raw OPS decline of the past few years are disconcerting. Like Dom, I’m still waiting for the big breakout from Romine, and just not seeing it. This isn’t to say he won’t be without use for the Yankees, but I’m not convinced he’s the long-term solution at backstop for the Yankees.
Brad Vietrogoski: It’s tough to call a player overrated when he has yet to really break in at the Major League level, but if I had to pick one of the Yankees’ top prospects for this distinction I would have to go with Dellin Betances. His raw talent and potential is undeniable, but his overall performance and development in his time in the farm system leaves more questions than answers as to what he will eventually become. After six years in the system (some of that time taken up by injury), Betances’ calling card is still his stuff, but we have seen little to no improvement in his command or ability to limit walks over the course of his MiL career. 2010 was the exception rather than the rule in regards to command, which raises huge questions about how his stuff will translate at the next level.
For all the talk about how high Betances’ ceiling is because of his stuff, that ceiling becomes harder to define and very easy to lower when the guy’s ability to consistently throw strikes comes into question. To simply say that he can become a dominant reliever if things don’t work out as a starter at the Major League level is also premature if Betances is unable to harness his stuff and hit his spots consistently. Last time I checked, relievers needed to throw strikes too and the ones that can’t usually don’t last any longer in their roles than starters who can’t. Betances has all the tools to be an elite starting pitcher, but his inability to make strides in the refinement of his game as he has advanced from level to level makes him a pretty big wildcard.
Eric Schultz: This is one hurts for me, because I have been a big Slade Heathcott fan since even before he was drafted (the only time in recent memory I’ve accurately predicted the Yankees’ 1st-round pick). On the surface, there is a lot to like: 1st-round pedigree, 5-tool potential, and great athleticism. On talent alone, Slade is easily a top-10 prospect in the system, and at times he has shown flashes of putting it all together.
However, the way I see it, Heathcott has greater flameout potential than virtually any other prospect in the system. There are two reasons for this assessment. First, he has had a number of injuries, including an ACL tear in high school, and 2 shoulder surgeries, which I worry could sap some of his explosiveness and athleticism. Then of course there is the much-discussed makeup issue: an unstable family situation growing up, struggles with alcoholism, and difficulty controlling his anger (as evidenced by the brawl that he was involved in last year).
Individually, these problems would not be too much to overcome, but in conjunction, I worry that they might prevent Heathcott from reaching his high ceiling. I hope I’m wrong, and my grading of him reflects that optimism somewhat. However, if I were to pick anybody on this list who could be out of baseball in a year or two, Heathcott would be far and away my top choice, and that’s a lot of risk to take on with a guy close to the organizational top 10.
Michael Eder: My overrated player is Dante Bichette Jr.
In 2010, the backlash from fans on the Yankees first round pick was over the top. When a team drafts the 168th ranked player by Baseball America in the first round, everyone becomes a critic. A year after the infamous Cito Culver pick, the Yankees picked Dante Bichette Jr 51st overall, and fans went mad again. Despite the initial reactions, in the first few months, I was really impressed by Bichette, his patient bat and work ethic aren’t common in such young players. Then something magical happened; he started hitting, and refused to stop. Bichette seemingly went from an immediate flop, to the projected third baseman of the future.
While I’m glad I never wrote him off, his numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt. His 240 at bats in rookie ball have defined his current prospect rank, a small enough sample size where I could a handful of better 2011 seasons. Though slightly older, Tyler Austin, Isaias Tejeda, and Jose Rosario had very similar seasons to Bichette, some arguably better, yet you rarely see any of their names close to Bichette on prospect lists. When it comes down to it, Bichette’s first round status and last name has propelled him up lists. While I like Bichette going forward, I still don’t think he’ll be a top prospect until he develops power. Four homeruns does not impress me yet.