The Right and Wrong Ways to Think About Prospect Hugging

I’m a prospect guy. I’ve always been most passionate about baseball when I’m reading about or watching some guy in High-A who might make the major leagues some day. Last week, I advocated trading four young Yankee players, including top outfield prospects Mason Williams or Slade Heathcott, in a package for Padres star Chase Headley.

Reacting to my post, several readers dug in their heels against the idea of trading prospects in general. Their reaction is probably best summarized by OldYankeeFan’s comment:

I would NOT give up any prime meat for a 2 year rental.
You never know who is going to make it large.
We dangled Mo, Cano and others in the past. Fortunately, they weren’t taken. AJax was!

Remember. THE DYNASTY WAS BUILD ON THE BACKS OF FIVE HOMEGROWN PLAYERS!!!
That will NEVER happen again if we keep trading our better/best prospect for ONE shiney object.

I share some of this instinct, but I think it is misguided. Obviously, if any given talented group of prospects were going to turn out to produce all of (or really, any single one of) Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, and Andy Pettitte, you would handcuff them to the team and throw away the key. But we know that’s not the reality. All four of those players have an argument for the Hall of Fame, and two are arguably the best players ever at their position. Prospects turning into these four players are rare events.

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IIATMS Top 30 Prospects 2013

With Spring Training underway and the Yankees gearing up for their first “game,” it seems like a good time to look at the Yankees of the future. The bulk of the Yankees’ strongest prospects still have at least a couple years to go, but they are getting closer. Some of these guys may find their way to the Bronx at during the next seven or eight months, others are still a few years away from the majors and – of course – some may never get the chance to run out onto a big league field. Regardless, here are some names to keep an eye on during this year’s Farm Reports.

1. Gary Sanchez (C):
We had Sanchez at the top of our list all last season and see no real reason to move him out of that top spot, though some of the other young guys make this a bit of a harder decision – but more about them later. The Yankees have had a wealth of catcher prospects over the last few years, but with Jesus Montero now in Seattle and Austin Romine missing most of last season with another back injury, Sanchez has become the focal point in the Yankees’ internal search for their future catcher. Sanchez had a rough 2011, with some “character” issues and a mediocre year at the plate, but he seemed to turn it around quite a bit in 2012.

Offensively, Sanchez still is a bit raw, but at 20 he continues to improve and has always projected to hit for average and power. He hit .290/.344/.485 between Charleston and Tampa in 2012. He was SAL Player of the Week twice and picked up SAL Mid-Season All-Star and MiLB.com Organization All-Star honors. Much like Montero, Sanchez’s offensive potential has never been questioned, but his ability to stick behind the plate continues to garner discussion. He has a strong arm and appears to be making improvements defensively. He is probably a safer bet to play catcher than Montero ever was, but some scouts continue to doubt whether this will happen. Sanchez will likely start the year in Tampa and find himself in Trenton by the end of the season, giving him a few more years until we see him in the Bronx.

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Yankees have four players on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects List

Baseball America released its 100 Top Prospects list and four Yankees make an appearance on the list. None of the names are surprising but their postions in the list might be. None of them are in the Top 30 – the highest prospect appears at #32. The number one prospect on BA’s list is Jurickson Profar, a highly touted SS/2B in the Texas Rangers organization.

The Yankees on the list are:

OF Mason Williams at #32
C Gary Sanchez at #57
OF Slade Heathcott at #63
OF Tyler Austin at #77

Last year, the Yankees had four players on the list as well, with Manny Banuelos named the highest ranked Yankee prospect, appearing at #29 on the list. Banuelos is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery. Another player not appearing on this year’s list is Dellin Betances who was slotted into #63 on 2012’s list.

Betances was also the victim of a very disappointing 2012. His problems were not injury-related like Banuelos, they were mainly were performance related. He split his time with the Empire State Yankees and Double A Trenton and finished the year with a 6-9 record with a 6.44 ERA.

Sanchez and Williams also appeared on last year’s list at #81 and #85 respectively. Continue reading Yankees have four players on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects List

Campos ready for Spring Training

The last ten months or so have been downright brutal for the Yankees’ farm system in the pitching department, but perhaps they’re getting off to a good start in 2013. Via George King, Yankees’ player development chief Mark Newman confirms that Jose Campos has completed his throwing program and is ready to return to the field this spring. Campos, 20, got off to a scorching start with Charleston last April before being sidelined with a mysterious elbow injury. He went on to miss the rest of the season. I would imagine that he’s ticketed for a return to the Riverdogs this year, but the main goal will have to be keeping him healthy over a year of full season ball.
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Yankees 10th in Law’s organization rankings

The Yankees’ farm system isn’t quite as impressive at first blush as they were at this time last year, but they still have a lot of talent (albeit towards the bottom of the system), and they still stack up pretty well against the rest of the league. In fact, Keith Law thinks they have a top ten system, putting them in the tenth spot in his just released organizational rankings. That corresponds pretty closely with the rankings of Baseball America (11th) and John Sickels (14th), putting the Yankees squarely in the top half of the league. After trading away Jesus Montero and having Manny Banuelos and Jose Campos go down with injuries in 2012, that’s a real testament to the work Brian Cashman and the front office has done in investing in player development recently.

On a quick programming note: You should probably expect light blogging from me over the next two days. I have a small parade to attend tomorrow that will occupy most of my day, and as for today, well frankly I’m far too distracted/exhausted to find many interesting things about baseball. We’ll still be on top of any developing news and what have you though, rest assured, and if that just doesn’t do it for you, On the Money is going to a four day a week schedule now that February has arrived, and Stacey and I will be live at 9:00 P.M. through Thursday. I apologize in advance for my meandering into football talk tonight. Continue reading Yankees 10th in Law’s organization rankings

Sanchez is Mayo’s third best catching prospect

It’s never a bad time for prospect hype, so here’s the latest such bit for the Yankees’ organization: MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has ranked Gary Sanchez as the third best catching prospect in the game, behind the Mets’ Travis d’Arnaud and Seattle’s Mike Zunino. Those are a couple of stud prospects and the consensus top two prospects at the position, so in effect, Mayo is calling Sanchez the leader of the rest of the pack in the minor leagues, which is really something. That said, though I’m fairly bullish on Sanchez myself, I think Mayo might be a little bit overly optimistic in his evaluation of Sanchez, especially his defense. Sanchez has made gains there, but most of the people who give him better than average reviews for his defense still see him as an adequate at best backstop, while Mayo seems to be saying that he could be an asset behind the plate as well as in the batter’s box.

Sanchez topped my own prospect rankings last season, and should get an invitation to big league camp from the Yankees. With Francisco Cervelli slated to play in the World Baseball Classic, there’s even a decent chance we’ll get to see him play a good bit over the Grapefruit League schedule. Continue reading Sanchez is Mayo’s third best catching prospect

Austin gets invite to big league camp

I’m not sure if this already broke and I just missed it, but via this interview with MILB.com, the Yankees have invited Tyler Austin to big league camp in Tampa. Austin, of course, had a breakout season last year and even got the direct attention of Brian Cashman, so the invitation is well deserved. He only topped out with a cup of coffee at Double-A, however, so don’t mistake this as him getting a serious chance to make the major league roster by any means (though there are worse way to address the current DH hole, amirite?), but more as a chance for the major league coaches to get a good look at him, and for Austin to learn from the big league coaches and players, and maybe even as a bit of an acknowledgement of the tremendous year he had in 2012. Most of all, it means there’s a good chance we’ll get to see Austin take at least a few at bats in the early schedule games, which I’m legitimately excited about.

I would imagine that a full list of non-roster invites should be released soon, and I expect several familiar prospects to make the cut, including Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and Mark Montgomery. Off hand, I do know that the Yankees have extended an invitation to fireballing righty Corey Black, as Black announced as much on Twitter recently. Continue reading Austin gets invite to big league camp

Thames to become Tampa hitting coach

Former Yankee Marcus Thames is retiring from MLB to become the hitting coach for the Tampa Yankees, the club’s High-A affiliate. The team announced the move on their Twitter page. Thames was mostly known for his ability to hit left-handed pitching, and finishes his major league career with 115 home runs and a .246/.309/.485 slash line. He spent one season with the Yankees, 2010, a year in which he hit .288/.350/.491 with 12 home runs and served as a key part of the team’s bench as they advanced to the ALCS before losing to Texas. He also hit a memorable walk off home run against the Red Sox in May of that year for his defining moment in pinstripes. Congratulations to Thames on a very nice big league career, and good luck in his new job.
Continue reading Thames to become Tampa hitting coach

Sickels’ top Yankees’ prospects

It doesn’t get the same amount of attention that the lists put out by Baseball America or Baseball Prospectus do, but John Sickels’ annual prospect rankings may well be the most unique of all of the prospect rankings that come out annually. That’s because, in addition to his own unique perspective and preferences on prospects, Sickels assigns a traditional letter grade to prospects, adding an additional level of depth and context above a simple stacked list of players. He put his list of the Yankees’ top twenty prospects out back before Christmas and, as always, it’s worth a once-over if you’re into the prospecting thing. The top of his list is fairly un-controversial, but there’s some interesting selections in the 8-15 range.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: Sickels will be joining Stacey and I on On the Money tonight to talk about his rankings, as will our own minor league editor Tamar Chalker. The show goes liver at 9:00 P.M. EST, and can be listened to here. As usual, I’m sure a good time will be had by all. Continue reading Sickels’ top Yankees’ prospects