1. Gary Sanchez C (19): He’s topped my rankings since February, and I see no reason to change that now. Is off to a slow start since being promoted to High-A, but that’s to be expected. He raked in Charleston, however, improving his hitting stats across the board and showed improvement behind the plate by all accounts. His bat should continue to progress, and he now seems to have a realistic chance of sticking behind the plate.
2. Mason Williams CF (20): Drew more attention than any other prospect over the offseason, and backed it up with a strong start to the season in his first taste of full season ball, earning a promotion to High-A. His season is over now following surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, so for now we’ll have to hope he’s ready for Spring Training and another strong campaign next year in Tampa.
3. Manny Banuelos LHP (21): Widely considered the Yankees’ best prospect before the season, injuries and erratic performance have turned this into something of a lost season for Banuelos. He’s pitched just 24 innings over six starts in 2012, and has a 22-10 strikeout to walk ratio in that time span. He did turn in some solid work between his stints on the disabled list however, so hopefully he’ll be able to bounce back from the elbow injury that has sidelined him for months now. As of our last update, Banuelos had begun throwing and was “close” to a return to action, but there’s less than a month left in the minor league season now.
4. Tyler Austin OF (20): A somewhat unheralded prospect before the season began (the most attention I can remember him getting was being listed as the system’s best “sleeper” prospect by Keith Law), everyone is aware of Austin these days. That’s because all he’s done is continue to crush pitching in the lower levels of the minor leagues. After bursting onto the scene with a ridiculous month of April, Austin continued to dominate the South Atlantic League before earning a promotion to Tampa after posting a wRC+ of 172 in 309 plate appearances for Charleston. Unlike Sanchez and Williams, however, Austin is not yet struggling to adjust to the higher level of competition, instead introducing himself to the Florida State League much as he did the Sally League, hitting .348/.412/.457 in his first 51 plate appearances for Tampa. At this point the biggest question about Austin remains whether or not he’ll be forced to play first base in the long run, but he’s gotten good reviews on his work in right field, and if he continues to hit as he works his way up the ladder, where he’s playing will be a secondary concern.
5. Jose Campos RHP (19): After being introduced to Yankee fans as the other pitcher in the Jesus Montero–Michael Pineda swap, Campos tantalized system watchers with some very strong outings to open the season, and found himself at the top of Baseball America’s first prospect hot sheet of the season. He wound on the disabled list with a non-structural elbow injury after just five starts, however, and hasn’t been seen since The last word on Campos was that he hasn’t begun serious throwing yet, and that he won’t be seen in the minor leagues again this season in all likelihood. He’s still got a projectable 6’4″ frame, however, and had a 26-8 strikeout to walk ratio in 24.2 innings with Charleston. Hopefully he’s able to get some work in in instructional league ball this fall and comes back healthy in 2012.
6. Dante Bichette Jr. 3B (19): The Yankees’ top pick in the 2011 draft has struggled mightily in Single-A this season, but it should be remembered that the Yankees are having him skip short season ball, and that he’s still young for the level he’s playing at. Hitting for power has really been his biggest problem, but most scouting reports seem to think that will come wit maturity.
7. Ty Hensley RHP (19): The team’s first round pick in 2012, Hensley fell to the Yankees due to concerns over signability, but the Yankees wound up signing him for a below slot number after discovering “abnormalities” in his shoulder. At 6’4″/220, Hensley is a big power throwing righty with potential front of the rotation stuff and an easily projectable frame, and he starts his pro career in my top seven.
8. Ravel Santana CF (20): He’s not hitting for power (.068 ISO) and is striking out a lot (28.9% strikeout rate) in his first 135 plate appearances for Staten Island, but the ankle injury that ended his 2011 season seems to be fully healed, and the tools are still there as well.
9. Angelo Gumbs 2B (19): Is perhaps the best athlete in the entire system, but is also still very raw as a baseball player. Scouts rave about his bat speed, and thus far the tools have carried him to a respectable performance, with a 110 wRC+ in Charleston and 26 stolen bases in 29 attempts. 24 of his 69 hits have gone for extra bases this season.
10. Rafael DePaula RHP (21): Like most people, I expected DePaula to be playing for short-season Staten Island this season. Instead the Yankees have elected to take it slow with DePaula, after the right-hander finally got his visa issues straightened out, and he’s been playing in the Dominican Summer League instead. Still has top notch stuff and a big, projectable, frame, but this ranking is all about dreaming on his potential.
11. Slade Heathcott OF (21): Has recorded 144 plate appearances with High-A Tampa since coming off of the disabled list following another shoulder injury, but hasn’t allowed it to affect his performance just yet. Always a toolsy prospect, Heathcott is hitting a robust .270/.354/.476 with a 139 wRC+ and 16of his 34 hits going for extra bases for Tampa.
12. J.R. Murphy C (21): Made the Florida State League All-Star game and got promoted to Double-A despite a somewhat pedestrian performance at the plate for Tampa (98 wRC+), but he continues to make progress behind the plate, and he is holding his ground with the stick in Trenton (95 wRC+).
13. Ramon Flores OF (20): Is not the most projectable guy due to his small stature, and scouts don’t necessarily love his tools, but the guy can hit, and has continued to do so this year with a .302/.367/.410 slashline in 487 plate appearances for Tampa. It’s a little bit surprising that he hasn’t been called up to Trenton yet.
14. Austin Romine C (23): Has yet to make it back to the high minors after losing most of his season to a back injury.
15. Mark Montgomery RHP (21): Wherever he goes, he strikes guys out. Has struck out an incredible 48.6% of the batters he’s faced since being promoted to Double-A, and his plus-plus slider makes it very possible that we could see him in the Bronx sometime next season, if not this September if the Yankees decide to get aggressive with the reliever.
16. Dellin Betances RHP (24): It’s been a rough year for the top pitching prospects in the Yankees’ system, but no one has had a tougher go of things in 2012 then Betances. His performance in Triple-A was a complete disaster, to the point that the Yankees had to demote him in an attempt to get him straightened out and salvage something out of this season. Has never gotten good reviews for his athleticism, and his troubles with repeating his delivery were really exposed in Triple-A this year. His value is basically at rock bottom at the moment, but he’s still got good power stuff. It’s just not clear he’ll ever be able to harness it to the extent he can get outs at the big league level.
17. Nik Turley LHP (22): The big crafty lefty continues to pile up the strikeouts in Tampa, and will probably have a 40 man roster spot waiting for him at the end of the season.
18. Corban Joseph INF (23): I never know what to do with CoJo. My irrational prospect crush notwithstanding, Joseph is an infielder without a true positional fit, but he’s flashed some impressive power since being promoted to Triple-A. Continues to hit well, however, with a 126 wRC+ since moving up to the highest level of the minors. If he can learn to play the infield positions well enough to be a utility player, at least, he could have a very productive big league career ahead of him.
19. Adam Warren RHP (24): Had a disaster of a debut in the big leagues in a spot start against the White Sox, but hasn’t really pitched well in the minors, either. Strikes out just 5.83 batters per nine innings, and boasts an FIP of 4.09.
20. Austin Aune SS (18): The Yankees’ second round pick in 2012, they’re giving him a look at shortstop in rookie ball, though a move back to the outfield could be in his future. Does have some power in his bat as a left-handed hitter.
21. Brett Marshall RHP (22): I really worry about his lack of strikeouts (6.1 K/9), especially since he isn’t particularly adept at limiting either walks or home runs, but he’s finding a way to get it done this season, pitching to a 2.83 ERA and averaging just shy of six innings per start.
22. Peter O’Brien C (22): Another one of the Yankees’ 2012 draft picks, has good power potential from the right side of the plate, but might not be able to stick behind the plate in the long run.
23. Ben Gamel OF (20): Still needs to develop some power considering that he’s an all bat prospect, but has excellent contact skills, and has really begun to pick up the pace of late.
24. Bryan Mitchell (21): Has not been able to shake off his inconsistent tendencies in the slightest this year, and owns a BB/9 of 5.71 in 93 innings pitched. Does have great stuff, including an excellent curveball, but has to do a better job of controlling it if he’s ever going to go anywhere.
25. Zoilo Almonte OF (23): After making some of us dream of him becoming at least a stopgap outfielder for the big team with a surprisingly strong performance in Spring Training, Almonte has been a bit of a mixed bag in Double-A this year. Has hit for power (.207 ISO and 16 home runs in 314 at bats), but also strikes out a lot and doesn’t draw very many walks, with a ratio of 78-18 in those categories.
26. David Adams INF (25): Has always had offensive ability, but injuries have put a real dent in his professional career so far and brought down his prospect stock. Has managed to get 283 plate appearances so far this season, and has a wRC+ of 130 for Double-A Trenton.
27. Cito Culver SS (19): I really want to believe in Culver, but his offensive development has been shaky and he’s no longer the top shortstop prospect in the organization with the arrival of Aune. He has managed to put up an almost league average performance offensively in the South Atlantic League, however (98 wRC+), and has shown great plate discipline so far in his professional career, so all is not lost yet for the Yankees’ 2010 first round pick.
28. Jordan Cote RHP (19): At 6’5″ tall, the Yankees’ 2011 third rounder is another big framed righty. Made his debut in the Gulf Coast League this year, and is off to a scorching start with a 0.98 ERA and 25 strikeouts to four walks in his first 27.2 innings of work. I would not be surprised if he doesn’t take a big jump on this next come next spring.
29. Nick Goody RHP (21): The Yankees’ sixth round selection in the 2012 draft, Goody is a power reliever who will generate a lot of strikeouts with his fastball-slider combo.
30. Greg Bird C (19): A back injury may have ended his days as a catcher.
As for honorable mentions: David Phelps graduated from the list, Brandon Laid, Rob Segedin, and Chase Whitley fell off due to the new guys being added/their own performances, Graham Stoneburner fell off due to injuries, and Ronnier Mustelier, though a fan favorite, is still over two years older than I am.