The Monthly Prospector: May Edition

For those of you who may have missed the April Edition, The Monthly Prospector represents a broad-strokes update with respect to TYA’s combined top-twenty prospects list. In addition to providing a glimpse into the present production of the team’s potential future, such an exercise also offers a wonderful excuse for snark and ‘I told you so’s,’ both of which are usually amusing. Some will laugh, some will cry, and some may not quite understand what is going on … and everyone will walk away a bit more informed.

Through the combined grace of and some contacts in the Charleston area, I hope that this update will be a bit more thorough. I have been able to see more games firsthand, which helps quite a bit in analyzing the process over the results (which is ultimately more important in prospecting), while also enjoying access to a spreadsheet of some trustworthy notes on those I have not been able to see too frequently. For all of this, I hope that this offers a much greater purview into Yankees prospects than one can glean from a perusal of any number of statistics.

As was the case last time, if you would like to see more prospects next time around, let me know in the comments or on Twitter. All statistics presented are current as of Sunday, June 3, with tips of the hat to Baseball America and FanGraphs for their indispensable work.

01. Manny Banuelos – Empire State Yankees, Triple-A
24.0 IP, 29 H, 10 BB, 22 K, 4.50 ERA, 3.83 FIP

On the heels of a lost month of April, Banuelos returned quite strong from a nagging back injury to post solid numbers in May. Over four starts, Banuelos posted the following numbers – 18.2 IP, 15 H, 3 BB, 20 K, 2.97 ERA. While his command remained a bit lacking, particularly in terms of pitching up in the zone, his stuff was just about as strong as ever, his mechanics remained consistent, and his control was superb. His command will still need a bit of work, as MLB hitters are unlikely to chase as many pitches as their Triple-A counterparts, but that may be nitpicking.

Unfortunately, Banuelos is sidelined with another injury – this time, a sore elbow. Luckily, the injury is not considered serious, and an MRI came back clean. Durability does appear to be a reasonable concern with Banuelos at this point, and it would be very nice to see him come back strong and put together a healthy rest of the season.

02. Gary Sanchez – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
.301/.353/.505, 7 HR, 9 SB, 134 wRC+ (201 PA)

After failing to go yard in the month of April, Sanchez showcased his prodigious power by blasting seven home runs in May. Some scouts noted that he may have been selling out for power at times, and that narrative fits the numbers as Sanchez’s walks went down and his strikeouts went up quite a bit in the second month of the season. Of course, Sanchez’s bat has never really been in question – his defense is what will make or break him as a prospect. To that end, the reviews remain unchanged. Sanchez is a passable defender for the time being, but he will have to continue to work at it in order to stick behind the plate … and there are several indications that he is ready and willing to do just that.

I suspect that a promotion to High-A is in Sanchez’s near future, for what it’s worth, as he is now batting .275/.343/.499 in 548 PA for Charleston. There is no rush, to be sure, but Sanchez strikes me as the type of player that needs to be consistently challenged.

03. Mason Williams – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
.283/.340/.428, 3 HR, 14 SB, 109 wRC+ (205 PA)

May represented a down month for Williams, with everything but walks trending in the wrong direction. Williams struck out quite a bit more, struggled on the basepaths (caught stealing in five of eleven attempts), and continued a disconcerting trend of hitting more and more balls into the air. The defense and top-shelf speed were there, but we are certainly seeing some growing pains from Williams. Whether it is the league adjusting to him or a simple slump, it is important to see how he adjusts to the first real struggles of his professional career.

04. Dellin Betances – Empire State Yankees, Triple-A
52.2 IP, 45 H, 46 BB, 45 K, 5.30 ERA, 5.82 FIP

If we take a baby steps approach, May represented a noteworthy step in the right direction for Betances. He picked up more swings and misses, showed more consistency with his breaking ball (particularly where arm speed and release point are concerned), threw more strikes, and regained some semblance of his lost proclivity to keep his fastball down in the zone, thereby picking up more groundballs. He has also tightened up his mechanics just enough so that he wasn’t flying open and tipping his pitches at every turn, which may be the second most important aspect of his development … beyond command and control. However, and there is always a however here, Betances is still throwing far too many pitches and issuing an almost hilarious amount of walks. At this point in time, the ubiquitous ‘move him to the bullpen’ narrative is off-point due to his lack of command and control, and we are left wanting for the consistency that has eluded Betances for the bulk of his professional career.

05. Jose Campos – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
24.2 IP, 20 H, 8 BB, 26 K, 4.01 ERA, 3.24 FIP

Campos has been sidelined with an elbow malady (originally described as elbow inflammation) since May 7, and updates have been few and far between. As it stands, his time on the disabled list appears wholly precautionary, and it would be somewhat irresponsible to offer any information or opinion to the contrary. Here’s hoping he can get healthy and strong, and back on the field soon.

06. Dante Bichette, Jr. – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
.258/.355/.317, 1 HR, 2 SB, 91 wRC+ (214 PA)

Bichette represents an interesting test-case for scouting and reevaluation. Originally decried as a reach by the Yankees, many a tune were changed as Bichette raked his way through the Gulf Coast League, with scouts lauding both the adjustments he made along the way and his better than expected athleticism. Murmurs of an advanced player beating up on a weak league prior to the debuts of last year’s top picks reaching the professional ranks were prevalent, but often came with caveats about his work ethic, make-up, and pedigree assuaging some of those fears.

Now, those murmurs are offered without caveats as Bichette has appeared overwhelmed through the first third of the season. He has showcased a discerning batting eye at the plate, but his power has evaporated and weak contact has been his forte. As was the case with Williams, there is not necessarily a cause for alarm, but it is paramount that Bichette demonstrates an ability to adjust – and I think he will.

07. Austin Romine

As of May 23, Romine was expected to be out until “at least July” due to inflammation in his lower back.

XX. J.R. Murphy – Tampa Yankees, High-A
.234/.309/.320, 2 HR, 2 SB, 84 wRC+ (194 PA)

With Romine on the shelf, Murphy is the most advanced catching prospect in the system … and that may not be the worst of scenarios, but for his distance from contributing to the Yankees. The results may suggest otherwise, but Murphy has continued to showcase a professional approach at the plate this season, demonstrating more selectivity at the plate and strong plate coverage and bat speed. Some reports indicate that he is uppercutting the ball too much, resulting in too many pop-ups, but the good seems to outweigh the bad. Additionally, his defense is just about average, which is more than many expected from Murphy.

08. David Phelps – New York Yankees, MLB
33.2 IP, 31 H, 13 BB, 29 K, 2.94 ERA, 4.48 FIP

Phelps has been an integral piece to the Yankees bullpen thus far, pitching in high and low-leverage situations alike, eating some innings in middle relief, and performing admirably in a couple of starts. He is also likely in-line for a few more starts if the back-end of the rotation continues to struggle, and I am confident that he can hold the line in that capacity. I don’t think anyone could have asked for much more at this juncture.

09. Adam Warren – Empire State Yankees, Triple-A
55.1 IP, 72 H, 19 BB, 41 K, 4.88 ERA, 4.74 FIP

May represented a stark turnaround for Warren, who had struggled mightily in the first month of the season. The command and control returned, as he ironed out a few kinks in his mechanics (mostly in relation to his arm speed), and he burned more worms than he had since first leaving Double-A. His numbers remain a bit lackluster, but it is worth noting that the defense is not doing him many favors and, again, that process is often worth more than results.

10. Brett Marshall – Trenton Thunder, Double-A
66.1 IP, 56 H, 21 BB, 37 K, 2.44 ERA, 4.15 FIP

A few years removed from Tommy John Surgery, Marshall appears to have reinvented himself as a pitcher. This season has seen the Texan move further away from utilizing his breaking ball as a swing and miss pitch, in favor of pounding the bottom of the strike zone with a Wang-esque two-seamer. The results have been quite good, as his walks are way down and the grounders are way up, but it remains to be seen if Marshall will be able to get more advanced hitters to beat the ball into the ground with regularity. For now, the two-seamer and change-up are very impressive, and his durability is a very good sign.

11. Slade Heathcott – Extended Spring Training

The 2009 1st-rounder is currently in Extended Spring Training. As of May 24, he had yet to play the field, but was showing no ill effects from his shoulder surgery while swinging the bat. He’s likely to debut in Tampa within the next three weeks.

12. Ravel Santana – Extended Spring Training

Santana is likewise in Extended Spring Training, though he is progressing a bit more slowly on the heels of a gruesome ankle injury. He’ll join the short-season Staten Island Yankees when healthy.

13. Tyler Austin – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
.322/.399/.658, 13 HR, 13 SB, 186 wRC+ (228 PA)

May represent a … down month for Austin, as his OPS was .255 lower than it was in April. Of course, I don’t think anyone will complain about that, when he mashed to the tune of .312/.415/.541 in the season’s second month. Austin made up for the “drop-off” in power by stealing ten bases in ten attempts and more than doubling his walk rate, while playing more than adequate defense in right. TYA’s own E.J. Fagan wrote a fine piece on the potential promotion timetable for Austin – a must-read for more in-depth analysis on his tremendous performance to-date.

14. Angelo Gumbs – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
.257/.312/.428 , 6 HR, 19 SB, 108 wRC+ (205 PA)

This time last month, I was (somewhat) lamenting Gumbs’ passivity at the plate, while offering assurance that there is a bevy of potential waiting to be tapped. Five home runs, fourteen steals (in sixteen attempts), and a .306/.345/.532 slash line later, we are given a window into the brand of dynamism that Gumbs offers. I wouldn’t be shocked if Gumbs surpasses Williams in prospect stature by the end of this season, as the two offer fairly similar skill-sets … save the greater bat speed and power potential of the former.

15. Ramon Flores – Tampa Yankees, High-A
.270/.329/.341, 1 HR, 6 SB, 94 wRC+ (236 PA)

At face value, May was certainly an improvement for Flores, as he batted .315/.368/.419 with improved plate coverage, which yielded more (and louder) contact. However, and this is the key to Flores’ worth, his walk rate remained down  and, due to his lack of secondary skills, he has yet to showcase much value beyond the fluctuations of his BABIP. His age remains a mark in his favor, but the tweener label isn’t going away, either.

16. Cito Culver – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
.228/.344/.278, 0 HR, 12 SB, 84 wRC+ (217 PA)

This past month was essentially more of the same for Culver, with his propensity to swing and miss combined with an utter lack of power scaring away many a scout. His defense remains solid-average or better, but his base-running is little more than passable (he was caught in four of ten attempts in May), and I suspect the walks may dissipate at higher levels if he continues to struggle to make good contact. Yes, this is a very reactionary approach – but Culver was a fringe prospect to begin with, and he needs the few strong tools he has to play up consistently in order to have value … and that hasn’t happened with any real frequency.

17. Greg Bird – Extended Spring Training

I suspect Bird will debut for the Gulf Coast Yankees in late June, though there are rumblings that Staten Island is not out of the question as his bat has looked quite strong in Extended Spring Training.

18. D.J. Mitchell – Empire State Yankees, Triple-A & New York Yankees, MLB
AAA – 53.0 IP, 45 H, 15 BB, 46 K, 4.42 ERA, 3.52 FIP
MLB – 2.2 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 1 K, 3.38 ERA, 3.40 FIP

Mitchell’s first tour with the Yankees was fairly underwhelming, though it did provide a fair portrait of what he offers on the mound – solid command and control, solid stuff, and a propensity for groundballs. He has shown some newfound immunity to lefties this season, holding them to a .221/.292/.326 line over 86 plate appearances; a small sample size, to be sure, but something worth our consideration nonetheless. The most interesting aspect of Mitchell’s development may well be whether the next step is taken with the Yankees, as he has little to prove in the minors.

19. Bryan Mitchell – Charleston RiverDogs, Low-A
49.2 IP, 34 H, 29 BB, 53 K, 3.26 ERA, 3.40 FIP

For the month of May, Mitchell was the pitcher that E.J. swooned over in early April. The 21-year-old posted the following line: 29.0 IP, 21 H, 11 BB, 34 K, 35:10 GB:FB. Along the way Mitchell flashed decent command and control in pounding the bottom of the strikezone, while picking up a tremendous number of swings and misses with his curveball. Excitement is entirely justifiable.

20. Branden Pinder – Tampa Yankees, High-A
30.0 IP, 36 H, 14 BB, 27 K, 4.50 ERA, 3.33 FIP

The stuff has been there for Pinder thus far, with Mark Newman offering some praise for his work thus far, but the results are shaky. It is interesting to note that Pinder threw his slider less frequently in May, perhaps to gain a better idea of sequencing and commanding his fastball, and he was able to generate more grounders and reign in left-handed hitters … though, his ability to make hitters miss tumbled. I am very curious to see what June will bring for Pinder, as he is the type of pitcher that should move quickly through the system.

About Domenic Lanza

Domenic is a staff writer for It's About the Money, and the host of the It's About the Money Stupid podcast. By day, he is a mild-mannered real estate attorney on Long Island, and an aspiring intellectual degenerate.

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