While many of the New York Yankees’ young hitters came into their own last season in the low minors, the organization once again demonstrated an inability to develop pitching prospects.
Expected to contribute in the major leagues last season, top pitching prospects Manny Banuelos (Tommy John surgery) and Dellin Betances (demoted from Triple-A to Double-A) took steps in the wrong direction, while Jose Campos—a potential steal acquired in the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero swap—missed most of the year with an elbow injury.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned prospects weren't the only ones hampered by injuries, as both Mason Williams (shoulder surgery) and Angelo Gumbs (elbow surgery) ultimately missed the final months of the minor league season.
The good news is that the organization has a fine assemblage of high-upside position players steadily working their way up the minor league ladder. And if all goes as planned, the Yankees could ultimately feature one of the better homegrown lineups in recent memory, with Gary Sanchez, Gumbs, Dante Bichette, Jr., Williams, Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores all expected to arrive in the major leagues between the 2014 and 2016 seasons.
Although the Yankees will likely continue to rely on free-agent signings and acquisitions via trade for at least two more seasons, there is an end in sight for their prospect dry spell.
DOB: 3/13/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 200 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Mexico
Season in Review: After nearly reaching the major leagues as a September call-up in 2011, Banuelos made only six starts at Triple-A last season before elbow discomfort sidelined him indefinitely. He ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery in October, and is expected to miss the entire 2013 season.
Scouting Report: Consistency of injuries for his age is concerning; the 5’11” left-hander is fearless on the mound and attacks hitters; has struggled to make necessary adjustments since reaching upper minor league levels; command will need substantial refinement upon return to the field.
Fastball has late run in the 90-94 mph range, and he’ll use it to pitch to both sides of the plate; curveball features nice downer movement when released correctly, and his feel for the pitch can be streaky; changeup was developing nicely at time of injury.
Spring Training Forecast: Rehabbing injury.
2013 Outlook: The best-case scenario is that the southpaw recovers in time to log a few innings in the 2013 Arizona Fall League.
DOB: 3/26/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 190 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Dominican Republic
Season in Review: The 20-year-old made big-time strides at the plate despite spending last season in the pitcher-friendly environment of the Florida State League (High-A), as he batted .302/.370/.420 with 42 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases.
Scouting Report: Has been lauded for his hit tool even before the Yankees signed him in 2008; left-handed hitter employs smooth and effortless swing; balanced weight transfer helps him keep bat head in the zone for an exceptional amount of time; sacrifices power for a line-to-line approach; plate discipline has always been impressive and continues to improve.
Stolen bases more a product of instincts and on-base skills; speed limits him to a corner outfield position but he lacks the arm strength for right field; has received increased looks at first base, which only hurts his stock.
Spring Training Forecast: Invited to big league camp, Flores will presumably receive more looks than originally expected now that Granderson is sidelined for 10 weeks.
2013 Outlook: Assuming that he opens the 2013 season back at Double-A Trenton, Flores’ advanced hit tool and solid defense could potentially get him to the major leagues as a fourth outfielder later in the year.
DOB: 8/30/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 205 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 11th round, 2011 (Longwood University)
Season in Review: In his first full professional season, Montgomery’s knack for missing bats helped him reach Double-A Trenton, as he finished the year with 15 saves, a 1.54 ERA, a .157 batting average against and a 99-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64.1 innings.
Scouting Notes: Not very tall (5’11”), but has stocky frame with strong lower half; throws partially across body which aids overall deception; success as closer in minor leagues gives him late-inning potential; highly effective against both right- and left-handed hitters.
Fastball far from overpowering at 91-93 mph with some late movement to the arm side; plus-plus slider that ranks among the best in the minor leagues and is a big league-ready pitch thrown in 83-86 mph range with excellent tilt while drawing endless whiffs.
Spring Training Forecast: As spring training unfolds over the next month, expect Montgomery to see an increased number of looks out of the Yankees bullpen, as he stands a legitimate chance to make the Opening Day roster.
2013 Outlook: With one of the more lethal sliders in the minor leagues and an overwhelming track record of success over the last two years, Montgomery should spend a majority of the 2013 season as a late-inning arm in the team’s major league bullpen.
DOB: 7/30/1993 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 220 lbs
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Edmond Santa Fe HS, Okla.)
Season in Review: The Oklahoma prep standout signed late, but missed more than one bat per inning in his brief professional debut in the Gulf Coast League.
Scouting Report: The 6’4” right-hander has a projectable frame with room to add strength despite a current weight of 220 pounds; adding strength to his lower half and core should make his delivery more repeatable and allow him to work deeper into games; will need to work on staying on top of pitches and consistently pound lower portion of strike zone.
Fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s and has reportedly scraped as high as 97 mph; pitch flattens out when left up in the zone, usually as a result of an inconsistent arm slot; a hammer breaking ball is his best offering with distinct pace and sharp, downer bite; will try to develop his changeup enough to use it in 2013; needs to learn how to attack hitters laterally and not just vertically.
Spring Training Forecast: Slated to see time in minor league camp, 2013 will inevitably be a learning year for Hensely in which he’ll need to develop more consistent mechanics and develop his secondary offerings.
2013 Outlook: Given the Yankees’ recent track record of failed and injured pitching prospects, expect them to exercise extreme caution with Hensley next season.
DOB: 10/13/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’0", 175 lbs
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2010 (Torrance HS, Calif.)
Season in Review: The top infield prospect in the Yankees system showcased an impressive blend of power and speed for Low-A Charleston, as he batted .272/.320/.432 with 24 extra-base hits and 26 stolen bases. But like so many other players on this list, Gumbs suffered a season-ending injury when he tore a left elbow ligament in June.
Scouting Notes: Legitimate plus bat speed generates loud contact to all fields; drives through the ball with explosive wrists and weight transfer; showcases impressive pop relative to his size; the excessive movement with his hands needs to be jettisoned for simpler mechanism; employs power hitter-like front leg lift that makes him vulnerable to both offspeed pitches and velocity on inner half.
Employs decent approach that should improve when he becomes more comfortable attacking breaking balls; made huge strides as a base stealer on top of present plus speed.
Gumbs was a shortstop and outfielder in high school, but converted to second base upon signing with the Yankees; plus speed translates to similar range; more than enough arm strength to handle the position; hands can be fringy but glove has steadily improved since conversion; understands defensive fundamentals of position, now just needs the experience.
Spring Training Forecast: Headed to minor league camp, Gumbs will have a chance to make up for lost time in 2012 with additional reps.
2013 Outlook: Provided that he’s healthy, Gumbs could be in a store for a breakout campaign in the low minors, as his power-speed combination gives him a chance to move quickly at an up-the-middle position.
DOB: 7/27/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 195 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Venezuela
Season in Review: After a lights-out season for Short-Season Everett in 2011, the Yankees acquired Campos and Michael Pineda from the Mariners in January 2012. The right-hander was electric in his first few starts but landed on the disabled list after five starts with elbow inflammation, which turned out to be a season-long injury.
Scouting Report: Was looking like a high-level pitching prospect until injury; 6’4” right-hander has wiry frame with efficient delivery and quick arm; doesn’t shy away from attacking opposing hitters and demonstrates advanced feel for strike zone.
Fastball jumps out of his hand with downward trajectory and arm-side run; comfortable throwing the pitch in all counts; will use it as strikeout pitch when mixing pitches effectively; snaps off plus breaking ball that’s a legitimate swing-and-miss out pitch; changeup has the potential to be a 50-55 offering given the deception relative to arm speed.
Spring Training Forecast: If the elbow injury is no longer an issue, Campos will receive limited time on the mound in minor league camp. But first, the Yankees must ensure that he’s healthy.
2013 Outlook: Campos is a wild card headed into the 2013 season as there’s legitimate concern about his elbow and overall availability. If he can avoid a major stint on the disabled listed—or Tommy John surgery for that matter—then it’s an encouraging sign for future seasons.
DOB: 9/28/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 190 lbs
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009 (Texas HS, Texas)
Season in Review: The 2009 bonus baby’s career has been derailed by personal issues and a slew of injuries; however, Heathcott was impressive in all facets of the game last year as he batted .307/.378/.470 with 17 stolen bases in 60 games for High-A Tampa.
Scouting Report: Hard-nosed, high-energy, does everything 100 percent; plus defensive center fielder with 70-grade wheels and great range; arm strength has waned since a pair of shoulder surgeries; improvement as a base stealer was good to see after time off.
Leadoff hitter-type who can fly down the line; constant extra-base threat at the plate; tendency to rip open front side and not use hands; lack of fluidity in swing may be result of lack of experience; needs to start making more consistent contact in 2013.
Spring Training Forecast: Participating in major league spring training, Heathcott will have a chance to make a favorable impression on the front office after an excellent showing in the Arizona Fall League. And like the organization’s other young outfielders, he stands to gain more playing time with Granderson on the disabled list.
2013 Outlook: After four years in the organization, Heathcott has played in only 197 games, none above High-A. The key for the 22-year-old next season will be staying healthy, which, in turn, should enable his baseball skills to catch up with his high-level athleticism.
DOB: 9/6/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 200 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 13th round, 2010 (Heritage HS, Ga.)
Season in Review: Austin made the smooth transition to a full-time role in the outfield and enjoyed a breakout season at the plate in last season, as he batted .322/.400/.559 with 17 home runs and 23 stolen bases in 110 games across three levels—including a late-season promotion to Double-A.
Scouting Report: Physically strong player who drives the ball with authority to all fields; encouraging sign that majority of power is to right-center field; excellent plate coverage and bat-to-ball ability; knowledgeable hitter with consistent approach capable of making in-game adjustments.
Actions look natural in right field despite spending 2011 as corner infielder; plus arm is ideal for position; only an average runner but has sneaky speed; instinctual and efficient base stealer; range in outfield was better than expected.
Spring Training Forecast: Invited to big-league camp, Austin stands to see more playing time at both corner positions, as Curtis Granderson’s broken forearm creates an enormous vacancy in the Yankees outfield.
2013 Outlook: Likely to open the 2013 season at Double-A, there will be plenty of pressure on Austin’s bat to echo last year’s success. But with a solid showing in big league camp followed by a similar performance to open the year at Double-A, the 21-year-old could put himself on the radar for a September call-up.
DOB: 12/2/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 220 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
Season in Review: The 19-year-old improved offensively by batting .290/.344/.485 in 116 games between both Class-A levels, and led all minor league backstops with 18 home runs.
Scouting Notes: Improved his plate discipline and contact rate in second tour of South Atlantic League; above-average power potential from a well-balanced swing; better feel for putting barrel on ball, but that doesn’t mean he needs to chase pitches out of the zone.
Defense and work ethic significantly improved relative to reports from the end of the 2011 season; athletic frame with agility; base stealers repeatedly challenged him (149 attempts), though he did throw out runners at a 30 percent clip; arm is biggest asset behind the plate; lack of experience apparent in game-calling and leadership.
Spring Training Forecast: Having received an invitation to major league spring training, Sanchez won’t see as many reps behind the plate as Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli or Austin Romine, though he should receive his share of at-bats later in games and as the team’s designated hitter.
2013 Outlook: One of the top offensive catchers in the minor leagues, Sanchez needs to improve his defense behind the plate in 2013 to ensure he remains at the position. If he’s able to do so, then it’s conceivable that the 20-year-old reaches Double-A by the end of the season.
DOB: 8/21/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’0", 150 lbs.
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2010 (West Orange HS, Fla.)
Season in Review: Williams turned in a strong follow-up campaign after batting .349/.395/.468 in 2011 as the New York-Penn League’s top prospect. Playing in 91 games between both Class-A affiliates in 2012, the outfielder batted .298/.346/.474 with 37 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases. However, he suffered a dislocated left shoulder in late July that required season-ending surgery.
Scouting Notes: Has more power than his 6’0”, 150-pound frame suggests; arms and wrists loaded with quick-twitch muscles; makes a lot of contact but could stand to be more patient; solid hand-eye coordination and bat speed; barrels the ball to all fields; excellent plate coverage; too much weak contact at times; needs to focus more on his on-base skills rather than power utilization; power will come with experience and physical development; left-handed hitter gets out of the box quickly; raw base stealer.
Excellent defensive center fielder; plus speed and above-average range; covers lots of ground; reaches max speed quickly; actions are so natural it makes him appear lazy at times; sometimes he is lazy, however; average arm strength is ideal for center field.
Spring Training Forecast: Williams didn’t receive an invitation to big league spring training, but only because he spent the final few months of the 2012 season on the disabled list. However, he’ll have a chance to prepare for the season in minor league camp.
2013 Outlook: Williams’ shoulder injury couldn’t have come at a worse time last season, as the then-20-year-old was beginning to settle in at High-A Tampa. Provided that he’s healthy on Opening Day, the toolsy outfielder could spend the second half of the 2013 season in Double-A with a strong showing back at High-A over the first few months.