Growing Pains For The Top Outfield Prospects

Tyler Austin 2013

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod.  Stats are as of Wednesday)

The Yankees entered this season with what appeared to be very good prospect depth in the outfield.  At best, 4 of their top 10 organizational prospects were outfielders, with 3 of them showing up in almost every respectable top 5 list.  Anticipation and expectations were high for this group based on what they did in 2012, and it was starting to look like the outfield was going to be one spot where the team would have good options for the future if they were planning on committing to a reduced payroll.  Almost 2 months into the MiL season, it appears as though the first potholes in this group’s development have been hit.

Mason Williams– .229/.328/.331, .311 wOBA in 184 PA

Tyler Austin– .248/.365/.348, .340 wOBA in 192 PA

Slade Heathcott– .236/.292/.343, .293 wOBA in 155 PA

Ramon Flores– .244/.332/.318, .308 wOBA in 206 PA

That’s as sobering a collection of slash lines as you’ll see from top hitting prospects.  … Click here to read the rest

Sickels ranks farm system 14th in MLB

Yesterday, John Sickels of Minor League Ball ranked the Yankees’ farm system 14th in Major League Baseball, up two spots from last year’s ranking of 16. Sickels comment on the Yankees was as follows:

14) New York Yankees (16): Strengths: quartet of young hitters at the top, with Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott all potential impact prospects, though all have some questions. Good depth in C+ types behind them. Weaknesses: impact pitching. I don’t count Manny Banuelos as an automatic Tommy John recovery. Wildcard: Rafael DePaula, who could vault up lists quickly once he pitches against people his own age.

So they’re not blowing the world away, but they’re not falling behind, either. The construction of the farm system–at least the top thereof–shows us how quickly things can change in a farm system. Just a few years ago, we were excited about the “Killer B’s,” pitchers Manny Banuelos, Andrew Brackman, and Dellin Betances.… Click here to read the rest

Don’t Move Tyler Austin To Third Base

Courtesy of Mark LoMoglio

(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

Give the Yankees credit for leaving no stone unturned in their search to find a long-term replacement for Alex Rodriguez at third base.  Earlier this last week, Chad Jennings of LoHud had some Minor League news bits, and one of them mentioned Yankee brass giving thought to moving top prospect Tyler Austin back to third.  By the sounds of Chad’s report, we aren’t going to be seeing Austin back at the hot corner next season, but it also didn’t sound like the idea of was ruled out completely.

“’He’s a better defender in right,’ vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. ‘But (putting him back at third) is something we’ve thought about. It’s a possibility.’”

Austin was originally drafted as a catcher, quickly moved to third base last season, and then moved to right field almost as quickly.  Far be it for me to tell the Yankees where he’s best suited in the field, but I think if it was already decided that he might not be able to handle third base, then he and the Yankees are better off not moving him to third base and keeping him right where he is in right.… Click here to read the rest

Top-30 Prospects Preview: How Far Has Manuel Banuelos Fallen?

Manuel Banuelos was the no-doubt top Yankee prospect entering this season, and held down the #2 spot, behind Jesus Montero, for a year before that. A lot of people, myself included, expect him to spend time on the Yankee roster down the stretch in 2012, and move on to a bright major league career. Instead, Banuelos had pretty much the worst possible 2012 season: after months of trying to rehab an elbow injury, Banuelos was shut down on August 6th after pitching just 24 innings.

Banuelos was 21 years old entering this season, and impressive age for someone starting at Triple-A. After having his 2010 season cut short by an appendectomy and his 2011 season slowed by innings and pitch counts, it was supposed to be his time to stretch out and put some serious workload on his body. Instead, he’ll have to deal with another season of careful handling and strict limits. He’ll be only 22 years old, but the development time lost makes him start to feel older.… Click here to read the rest

2012 Pre-Draft Top-20 Prospect Rankings

Its that time again. Three days from now, the Yankees will add 30-40 young baseball players into their organization. Before that happens, it is appropriate that we take stock of the Yankee farm system, so that we may better understand the Yankee draft and signing strategy.

Below are my Top-20 prospect rankings. I usually rank 30 players, but given that we’re a year away from the last draft, I figure there are serious diminishing returns to going all the way to 30 at this time of the year. And it also makes the graphics a little too large. And I irrationally love graphics.

I used my prospect rating system for the ranking. A full explanation of the system is available here. I also copied some helpful graphics explaining the system below the fold to prevent everyone from having to click on the link. I like the system as a way of clearly explaining why I believe that certain players should be ranked where they are.… Click here to read the rest

When Do You Promote Tyler Austin To Tampa?

Tyler Austin hasn’t hit a home run in his last 10 games. Instead, he’s just hit a pedestrian .452/.540/.595, raising his average all the way to .323. His walk rate has significantly increased in the month of May, even as his strikeouts have remained elevated. He’s even chipped in on the bases with 7 stolen bases without being caught over his last 10 games.

The dude’s on fire, and has been for a long time now. Austin is now sitting at .336/.408/.618 in 98 career minor league games. If he were drafted in the 1st round instead of the the 13th, we would probably be talking about in as a top-10 prospect in all of baseball this year.  He wasn’t drafted in the 1st round for good reason, but the longer Austin continues to destroy pitchers who are on average older and much more experienced than he is, the more he starts to look like that prospect, even if he profiles as a 1st baseman long term.… Click here to read the rest

Tyler Austin shows no signs of slowing down

Tyler Austin has put up impressive offensive numbers at pretty much every stop in his minor league career, and prospect watchers are beginning to take notice.  I certainly include myself among people who have underrated Austin throughout his short career, probably unfairly, because he didn’t have an elite draft pedigree or play a premium position.  As a guy who is likely limited to a corner outfield positions, the Austin’s offensive production needs to be very strong for him to be taken seriously as a legitimate prospect.

Evaluating players in the lower minors solely on the basis of numbers is problematic, since the level of competition is not always strong.  At the lower levels, pitchers likely have inferior command, weak secondary offerings, and lower velocity than more advanced pitchers, which could allow a hitter with significant flaws to put up impressive numbers.  It is still too early to tell whether this is the case with Austin, but with every day of continued success (and every rave from a scout who has seen him in person) it becomes increasingly less likely.… Click here to read the rest

Tyler Austin and Minor League First Basemen

I don’t have a lot of time today, but I’d like to offer a brief thought on Tyler Austin. As you’ve probably heard by now, Austin is on fire. He is hitting .444/.487/1.028 on the season, a year after slugging .354/.418/.579 in 47 games for the GCL Yankees. He’s finally getting some attention for being a strong prospect, but still probably isn’t considered on the same level as the rest of the Charleston Riverdogs players. Why? Because he plays first base.

Minor league first basemen get no respect, especially ones like Austin who were signed out of high school. For the most part, this is for good reason. A player who is already  unable to play any position other than first base at that young of an age have little room for error. A shortstop can always shift to second or third base, or a center fielder can slot over to right or left. A first baseman needs to perform at that position, because if they had the speed or athleticism to play another position, they would have moved over already.… Click here to read the rest

Yankee Farm System Timing Looks Good

I want to step back and take a big-picture look at the Yankee organization for a second. The 2012 Yankee roster probably won’t need a lot of help from down on the farm this season, barring a very injury call-ups. They have plenty of guys – Ramiro Pena, Adam Warren, David Phelps, Brandon Laird – who can fill those roles, along with your higher ceiling prospects guys like Betances, Romine, and Banuelos sitting at Triple-A. But the Yankees have enough guys either in their prime (Sabathia, Granderson, Cano, Gardner, Swisher, Robertson) or close enough (Kuroda, Teixeira, Martin, Pineda) to contend in 2012, and probably 2013. After that, they’ll be faced with more and more aging players, and possibly one or two big-money contracts added to the system, but the team will probably overall be on the down slope. With $189 million looming on the horizon, the team could be quickly hungry for reinforcements.

Lucky for the Yankees, they are well positioned for the calvary to come riding in right about the time that their roster starts to look very, very old.… Click here to read the rest