1. C Gary Sanchez: My number one prospect before the season, Sanchez has done nothing to lose that ranking since. His home run rate is down from 2011, but he’s already eclipsed his total number of doubles from last year, and all of his triple slash line numbers are higher as well. Also drawing some good reviews on his defense, though still has a lot of work to do with the glove.
2. LHP Manny Banuelos: 2012 hasn’t been kind to Banuelos so far, as the guy just about everyone else considers the Yankees’ top prospect dealt with a bout of walking everyone and has already spent time on the disabled list with two separate injuries (lat and elbow). Pitched pretty well between the DL stints, however, do hopefully this rough start has just been a blip for Banuelos.
3. OF Mason Williams: Is marred in a slump at the moment that’s dragging his numbers down, but has more than held his own through most of the season at Single-A, and is just three extra base hits shy of his 2011 total in 98 fewer plate appearances as of this writing.
4. RHP Jose Campos: Another Yankee pitching prospect on the disabled list with elbow soreness, the other guy in the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade has been very good for most of the time he’s been on the mound at Charleston. In particular he continues to show good command of his mid-90′s fastball.
5. OF Tyler Austin: The biggest mover in the system at the moment, I had Austin all the way down at 14th before the season, but I’m moving him up into the top five after his ridiculous start at Charleston. Simply put, Austin has mashed at every level he’s played at, and is drawing good reviews for his work in the outfield, after a bit of a rocky stint at third base in the short season levels. He’s still very much a bat first prospect, but so far the bat looks like it has the potential to be very good.
6. 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: Got off to a slow start at Charleston this year, but that’s no cause for concern for a player who’s skipping a level less than a year after being drafted out of high school. Has been picking it up at the plate recently, and owned a .355 OBP and .321 wOBA entering play on Sunday. Not bad at all for someone his age playing at that level, and his defense at the hot corner continues to be solid.
7. RHP Dellin Betances: It’s hard to say that any Yankee prospect has hard a worse start to the season than Betances. Always one to have trouble with repeating his delivery and consistently finding the strike zone, Betances’s walk problem has turned into a catastrophe, as he sports am 18.5% walk rate (7.86 BB/9) through his first eleven starts. It’s not looking like his future as a starter is very bright right now, but his stuff is good enough that even if he fizzles in that respect, he could definitely turn into a very good reliever.
8. OF Ravel Santana: By all accounts he’s recovered from the severe ankle injury that ended his season last year, which is obviously a big plus for the five tool outfielder. Santana might be my favorite prospect in the system, and I can’t wait until he gets his season started with Staten Island in a couple of weeks.
9. RHP Rafael DePaula: I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure where to put DePaula on this list. On the one hand, his stuff is very good, and his upside is off the charts. On the other hand, he hasn’t pitched in the states yet, and his visa problems left him in limbo for some time, and I just don’t know what sort of effect that’s going to have on him. For now, I’m going to be somewhat conservative and rank him towards the bottom of the top 10, but he could be as high as fourth on this list if there weren’t as many questions about him as there are. Another guy that will be a lot of fun to keep an eye on over the rest of the summer.
10. RHP David Phelps: On the verge of graduating from this list as he’s spent the entire season thus far in the big leagues both in the bullpen and the rotation. Has proven that he can get major league hitters out, but still looks like he has the upside of a back end starter or bullpen swingman.
11. 2B Angelo Gumbs: Another Charleston infielder that got off to a slow start, Gumbs has really come on to have a good season thus far, with a .347 wOBA through his first 205 plate appearances in Charleston as a 19 year old. I was a little bit concerned that I was being too aggressive in ranking Gumbs at number 12 back before the season, now part of me wonders if I’m not selling the kid short by leaving him out of the top 10.
12. C Austin Romine: A back injury has kept Romine out of action since early spring, his slide is mostly related to other prospects jumping ahead of him than anything he’s done (or hasn’t done).
13. C J.R. Murphy: Murphy, on the other hand, is both healthy and not having a very good year for High-A Tampa. Has a .297 wOBA through his first 194 plate appearances, and has just 17 extra base hits in 283 total plate appearances with Tampa.
14. OF Ramon Flores: Another guy who’s falling mostly because of other prospects rising above him, Flores has been streaky for Tampa this year, but all in all is holding his own in his first tour of High-A ball, with a wRC+ of 94 in 236 plate appearances. If he can adjust to the new level and get hot after the All-Star break that overall line will look a lot nicer.
15. OF Slade Heathcott: Still progressing back from shoulder surgery, the big question with Heathcott remains how he’s going to be able to recover from his injuries.
16. RHP Adam Warren: Though he was a favorite of many in the spring and got a few chances to start with the big league club, Warren is off to a very disappointing start in Triple-A, with a 4.88 ERA and 4.74 FIP in ten starts. That’s quite a bit worse than he was in 2011, however, so perhaps Warren is an example of a guy being hurt by the Triple-A Yankees unique accommodations this season.
17. RHP Mark Montgomery : Another fast riser, our June prospect of the month has just been dominating hitters in the Florida State League this year, and should get the chance to do the same in the Eastern League before the year is over.
18. RHP D.J. Mitchell: Made his big league debut in a brief call up stint already this year, and has been a bright spot in the Triple-A rotation. His 3.52 FIP is a lot nicer than his 4.42 ERA, but I’m still not a big believer in his stuff and he just turned 25 years old a few weeks ago to boot. Still looks to have the ceiling of a long reliever type to me.
19. 2B Corban Joseph: I considered moving him down the list quite a bit after being sent back for another tour of Double-A, but all he’s done is since is hit the cover off of the ball. Hit .314/.412/.430 in Trenton before being called up to Triple-A at the beginning of the month, where he promptly homered in his first at bat. His lack of power and limitations on defense still mean it’s hard to see him sticking as a big league regular, but if the average and OBP can translate he could make a nice utility player to be sure.
20. LHP Nik Turley: Has dealt with some blister issues, but when he’s been healthy he’s continued to rack up strikeouts (24.1% K%) with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 45-15.
21. RHP Bryan Mitchell: Has not done much at all to shake my involuntary habit of imagining A.J. Burnett every time I see his name. The strikeouts are there (25.5% strikeout rate), but so are the walks (13.9%), and he’s had three starts last two innings or fewer so far this season. If he figures out how to harness his stuff he’ll be a good one.
22. RHP Brett Marshall: I might be being unfair to Marshall in ranking him so low, but his strikeout rate has plummeted since moving up to Double-A (5.02 K/9), and I think he has a lower ceiling than Turley or Mitchell.
23. SS Cito Culver: Oh, Cito. I want to like you, I really do, but at some point you’re going to have to hit, and that just hasn’t happened yet. Has a wRC+ of 84 in 217 plate appearances for Charleston, but is still getting good grades on his defense. His .344 OBP could be reason to hope that he may yet figure it out at the plate.
24. OF Zoilo Almonte: Another guy who raised some eyebrows in spring training, Almonte hasn’t seen that carry over into the minor league schedule with consistency. Spent some time on the disabled list, and when he’s been healthy he’s continued to rack up the strikeouts (28.4% strikeout rate), though he’s also been fairly productive with a wRC+ of 111, although he’s got just 81 plate appearances as of this writing.
25. OF/3B Rob Segedin: Really raking in his second tour of duty with Tampa after struggling there last year, he should expect to get a call up to Double-A sometime soon.
26. OF Ben Gamel: Has shown a knack for picking up the well timed steal with 10 swiped bags in 13 tries, but for a bat first corner outfield prospect a .361 slugging percentage with 11 extra base hits in 208 plate appearances isn’t going to cut it.
27. RHP Chase Whitley: Hasn’t gotten a ton of attention in Triple-A, but he’s been pretty solid all the same, with a 3.61 FIP in 27 innings spread over 16 appearances. Could definitely be extra fodder for the big league bullpen if the team has any other needs there this year, but probably isn’t much more than an extra arm at the end of the pen.
28. RHP Graham Stoneburner: Another farmhand hurler who’s dealt with injuries most of the season, Stoneburner has made just four starts and amassed just 12.1 innings so far in 2012.It’s tough to draw too much out of that, obviously, but he’s struck out 10 batters to just two walks so far this season, so the fact that he’s just barely hanging on here is much more about health than performance.
29. 3B/1B Brandon Laird: So far his second trip through Triple-A is going even worse than his first run, with his strikeout rate up while his average and power numbers are all down. His OBP is up though, thanks to an increase in his walk rates. Would not bet on him remaining in the top 30 after the signing deadline.
30. OF/3B Ronnier Mustelier: I probably should include a 27 year old who wasn’t on the prospect radar at all before the season, but it’s kind of hard to ignore someone hitting the way Mustelier has in the high minors this year. Put up a wRC+ of 178 in Trenton before being called up to Triple-A, where he’s hitting .299/.333/.485 (130 wRC+) in 105 plate appearances. At the least it’s not impossible to imagine him as a piece of a big league bench somewhere with those kind of numbers.
This is, of course, just a snap shot of where the system is right now and, again, will change again in about a month when the Yankees are finished signing their new draft picks. There are also a few wild cards still in the upper half of the rankings, namely DePaula and Heathcott, who could rise up based on their potential if and when they answer a few of the question marks surrounding them. In any case, while there have been some major disappointments at the top of the system this year, particularly with respect to Banuelos and Betances, I still feel like the system as a whole is in pretty good shape, with a ton of talent lurking in the lower minors.