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.  The biggest point of emphasis is the major drop in power that they’ve all experienced.  For projected gap hitters like Williams and Flores, it’s not as big a deal and they still bring tools to the table with respect to speed, defense, patience, and contact.  For someone like Austin, however, the dip in power could seriously impact his ceiling as a Major Leaguer.  He’s a guy who’s going to rise and play on the strength of his bat, and whose role (starter vs. bench player) is likely going to be determined by how much power he offers.

There’s also the non-statistical red flags that have popped up this year, namely Williams’ DUI and continued negative reports on his body language and effort from scouts and Heathcott’s health.  Slade has been banged up again, something that he can’t afford as a Double-A player behind the learning curve.  His early poor numbers are easier to swallow because of that, and he’s shown signs of life at the plate in the last week or two, but he needs to show he can stay on the field to maximize his 5-tool potential.

The good part of this situation is that it gives us, and everybody else, a chance to see how each of these players adjusts and evolves their game to improve their production.  It’s great to see Austin raking in A-ball or Heathcott tearing up the AZFL, but the true test of a prospect’s worth is what he does when he gets to the upper levels.  3 of these guys are getting a taste of that this season, with Williams likely to follow later in the summer.  The ability to still work walks and get on base is a good sign.  How they react to this challenge and play over the next few months will be just as good an indicator of their future ceilings as any of their tools.

(Photo courtesy of Beverly Schaefer) Continue reading Growing Pains For The Top Outfield Prospects

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 Continue reading Sickels ranks farm system 14th in MLB

Don’t Move Tyler Austin To Third Base

(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 Continue reading Don’t Move Tyler Austin To Third Base

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

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 Continue reading 2012 Pre-Draft Top-20 Prospect Rankings

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 Continue reading When Do You Promote Tyler Austin To Tampa?

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, Continue reading Tyler Austin shows no signs of slowing down

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 Continue reading Tyler Austin and Minor League First Basemen

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 Continue reading Yankee Farm System Timing Looks Good