If you somehow missed Part I of the countdown yesterday, please check it out and bring yourself up to speed here. Today we're moving from the periphery of the system, where individual preferences can influence whether a player even makes it onto a list, into the middle portion, where all the players included are recognized as legitimate top prospects, just with differing opinions on how high or low they should sit in that top portion. This group of names should look familiar if you're a huge prospect follower. It should inspire some debate about the ranking choices if you are. Here's the next 10 in this year's IIATMS Top 30:
20) Leonardo Molina- CF, GCL Yankees
Age: 17, Height: 6'2", Weight: 180 Bats: Right, Throws: Right Key 2014 Stats: .193/.267/.260, 18 R, 21 RBI, 10 2B, 1 HR, in 53 Games (217 PA) ETA: 2020 Brad's Rank: 22nd, Dom's Rank: 19th, EJ's Rank: 24th
Tamar's Take- The 17-year-old outfield prospect from the Dominican Republic is widely touted as having five-tool potential. Molina is expected to stay in center field, projecting to be an above-average or plus defensive outfielder. His speed and strong throwing arm should make a lot of base runners nervous. His swing is nice and loose with good bat speed, and if he can continue to improve his approach, Molina may have one of the highest ceilings in the Yankees' system. He made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League last year at age 16 and while his numbers didn't impress at all, the young outfielder is still growing and the potential is pretty exciting.
19) Mason Williams- CF, Double-A Trenton
Age: 23, Height: 6'1", Weight: 180 Bats: Left, Throws: Right Key 2014 Stats: .223/.290/.304, 67 R, 40 RBI, 18 2B, 5 HR, 21/29 SB in 128 Games (563 PA) ETA: 2016 Brad's Rank: 19th, Dom's Rank: 22nd, EJ's Rank: 18th
Brad's Take- This time 2 years ago, Williams was recognized as a top 40-50 prospect in all of baseball. It's been a slow descent off the national scene since then, and it may have bottomed out in 2014 with a disastrous full season in Trenton. Williams continues to draw very poor reviews for his hitting approach and swing mechanics, and poor press for reported attitude problems and more than one benching. Despite all of that, Williams may have actually become a bit underrated. Even without anything from his bat, he's got plus-plus speed and athleticism and by all accounts could step in and play a very good Major League center field tomorrow. If he ever works out the kinks in his approach to go with his solid BB rate (8.3 %) and excellent contact skills (12.1% K rate), he could become a productive everyday player.
18) Jose Ramirez- RHRP, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Age: 25, Height: 6'3", Weight: 190 Throws: Right Key 2014 Stats: 5.40 ERA, 6.43 FIP, 10 K in 10.0 MLB IP; 1.46 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 16 K in 12.1 MiL IP ETA: 2015 Brad's Rank: 15th, Dom's Rank: 21st, EJ's Rank: 20th
Brad's Take- I've been higher on Ramirez than anybody out there for a long time, even if he's given me no reason to be. His performance as a starter was uneven for years and his body couldn't hold up to the stress. He spent a ton of time on the DL and was moved to the bullpen full-time to start the 2014 season. Of course he got hurt in Spring Training and ended up only throwing 22.1 innings all year. He seems like a guy destined to always pull or strain something, and yet that stuff is still too good to ignore. Mid-90s heat that can be dialed up higher, a swing-and-miss changeup that continues to improve, and a decent enough slider. He struck out over a batter per inning last year and maybe, just maybe, he can stay healthy enough to secure himself a spot at the back end of the Major League bullpen this year.
17) Ty Hensley- RHSP, Low-A Charleston
Age: 21, Height: 6'4", Weight: 220 Throws: Right Key 2014 Stats: 2.97 ERA, 40 K, 11 BB in 30.1 IP split between GCL and SS SI (11 Appearances) ETA: 2018-2019 Brad's Rank: 18th, Dom's Rank: 16th, EJ's Rank: 17th
Brad's Take- It was another season of highs and lows for Hensley in 2014. It started off high with his return to the mound after double hip surgery caused him to miss all of the 2013 season and it finished with a scary low when he suffered a broken jaw and multiple facial lacerations as a result of an attack at a bar. The initial reports and pictures made it sound very serious, but we found out recently that Hensley is already back throwing and should be ready for the start of the 2015 season. Hensley showed off his big arm and improving offspeed stuff in short stints last year, and although he's still inexperienced from all the lost time, the Yankees will most likely push him to full-season ball this year and start to build his innings count. Believe it or not, he's only thrown 42.1 since being drafted in 2012.
16) Bryan Mitchell- RHSP, Triple-A SWB
Age: 23, Height: 6'3", Weight: 205 Throws: Right Key 2014 Stats: 2.45 ERA, 7 K, 3 BB in 11.0 MLB IP; 4.37 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 94 K in 103.0 MiL IP ETA: 2015 Brad's Rank: 14th, Dom's Rank: 18th, EJ's Rank: 16th
Stacey's Take- Mitchell, who was drafted by the Yankees in 2009, made it to the Majors in 2014 thanks in part to the Yankees’ pitching staff becoming afflicted with long-term injury-itis. In a funny twist, Mitchell's own debut was delayed a few months because he injured his arm while warming up for his first appearance in April and was sent back down to the Minors. His numbers in the Minors weren't exactly the kind that jump out at you (Double-A: 14 G, 61.1 IP, 4.84 ERA, 4.09 FIP / Triple-A: 9 G, 41.2 IP, 3.67 ERA, 4.44 FIP), but the Yankees liked his mid-90s fastball and his breaking stuff. When he made it back, Mitchell appeared in 3 games for the big club, throwing 11 innings and finishing with a 2.45 ERA/3.22 FIP. He does have some control issues and he doesn't have a great strikeout rate, but if he can keep his walks down he could be used, once again, as a spot starter if the Yankees' rotation falls apart in 2015.
15) Ramon Flores- OF, Triple-A SWB
Age: 22, Height: 5'10", Weight: 160 Bats: Left, Throws: Left Key 2014 Stats: .247/.339/.443, 30 R, 23 RBI, 17 2B, 7 HR in 63 Games (271 PA) ETA: 2015 Brad's Rank: 12th, Dom's Rank: 15th, EJ's Rank: 12th
Brad's Take- Every year Flores gets overlooked in the pool of Yankee outfield prospects and every year he puts together another solid season. It was the same story in 2014 as he posted a .782 OPS with a 12.2% BB rate in Triple-A. Flores has always been a good average/OBP guy, but this past season he added a little more pop to his bat (.196 ISO). He missed a lot of the summer due to injury, but he played well in the Venezuelan Winter League and he's slated to be the starter in left for the RailRiders again. A player who can hit, draw walks, run the bases, and play a pretty good defensive outfield should be a valuable commodity on any Major League bench. Flores hasn't drawn the kind of attention for that skill set as he should have, but this year could be the year.
14) Jacob Lindgren- LHRP, Triple-A SWB
Age: 21, Height: 5'11", Weight: 180 Throws: Left Key 2014 Stats: 2.19 ERA, 0.89 FIP, 48 K, 14 BB in 24.2 MiL IP (Spread across 4 levels) ETA: 2015 Brad's Rank: 11th, Dom's Rank: 13th, EJ's Rank: 13th
Dom's Take- Drafting a reliever may not be the sexiest use of one’s top pick (or the smartest), yet Lindgren showcased the excellent stuff that made the Yankee brass salivate as he mowed down hitters across four leagues last season. In 24.2 IP, Lindgren allowed only 12 hits, striking out 48 and maintaining a 4.38 groundball-to-flyball ratio. He dominates hitters on both sides of the plate with a mid-90s fastball with solid movement and a true plus slider in the low-to-mid 80s. While he struggled with his command at times in his professional debut (walking 12 and plunking one), Lindgren has the stuff to be a late inning asset for the Yankees as soon as this season, with a chance to be a frontline closer.
T-12) Jake Cave- CF, Double-A Trenton
Age: 22, Height: 6'0", Weight: 180 Bats: Left, Throws: Left Key 2014 Stats: .294/.351/.414, 74 R, 42 RBI, 28 2B, 9 3B, 7 HR, 12/18 SB in 132 Games (613 PA) ETA: 2017 Brad's Rank: 16th, Dom's Rank: 6th, EJ's Rank: 14th
Dom's Take- You can read my extended thoughts on Cave here. The short version is that Cave profiles as an above-average defender in center field, with the ability to hit for average, swipe double-digit bases, and, perhaps knock out double-digit dingers. He reminds me of the 2011 incarnation of Melky Cabrera in terms of his approach and swing, and I believe that that is what his peak offensive production could look like. He's overtaken Williams as the top center field prospect in the Yankee system, and another solid turn in Trenton could force him into the playing time discussion at SWB sooner rather than later.
T-12) Miguel Andujar- 3B, High-A Tampa
Age: 19, Height: 6'0", Weight: 175 Bats: Right, Throws: Right Key 2014 Stats: .267/.318/.397, 75 R, 70 RBI, 25 2B, 10 HR in 127 Games (527 PA) ETA: 2018-2019 Brad's Rank: 13th, Dom's Rank: 8th, EJ's Rank: 15th
EJ's Take- I wrote earlier this week that Andujar is as good of a bet for a breakout as any prospect in the system. Andujar was one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League last year, and consequentially had a bumpy season. But if you read the tea leaves, Andujar's breakout may have started in the second half of the season when he hit .319/.367/.456, and struggled in all the ways talented but inexperienced hitters struggle. The Yankee system is loaded with talented Low-A IFAs like Andujar, but Miguel may be the best of the bunch.
11) Jorge Mateo: SS, GCL Yankees
Age: 19, Height: 6'0", Weight: 190 Bats: Right, Throws: Right Key 2014 Stats: .276/.354/.397, 14 R, 16 H, 5 2B, 1 3B, 11/12 SB in 15 Games (65 PA) ETA: 2019 Brad's Rank: 17th, Dom's Rank: 9th, EJ's Rank: 8th
EJ's Take- Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus ranked Mateo at #3 and #5 in the Yankee system, which are very aggressive rankings for a 19-year-old shortstop with just 15 games in North America. He impressed the hell out of scouts with true 80 speed, average or better defense, and a swing that profiles more line drive than slap. A lot of young speedsters are one tool players, but Mateo is much more of an all around athlete. He has the best raw tools in the system. Given his minimal experience, the Yankees could choose to hold him back in a short-season league again this season. If he keeps doing what he did last year, he'll be quickly bumped up to Charleston.
** Coming up tomorrow- Spots 10-1. **