New York Yankees' Top 10 Prospects for 2014
The New York Yankees were decimated by injuries this year, though it did allow them to set a new franchise record by using 56 different players.
Things went just as poorly for the Yankees' top prospects down on the farm. Two of the organization’s more promising young arms, Manny Banuelos and Ty Hensley, didn’t throw a pitch and missed the entire year with respective injuries.
However, they did receive breakthrough performances from right-hander Jose Ramirez, who boasts the best pure stuff in the system but has struggled to stay healthy, and catcher J.R. Murphy, who ultimately reached the major leagues as a September call-up.
As for well-known position prospects Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams, well, they were reunited at Double-A Trenton during the second half of the regular season, though none of them fared particularly well at the more advanced level.
In fact, if anything, they regressed, both individually and collectively. To make matters worse, Heathcott and Austin both spent significant time on the disabled list.
Thankfully, the Yankees received a nice haul in the 2013 draft, thanks to three first-round picks, as they selected third baseman Eric Jagielo, outfielder Aaron Judge and left-hander Ian Clarkin. However, the organization still has a ways to go in terms of boasting a top-ranked farm system.
Here’s a look at the New York Yankees’ top 10 prospects for the 2014 season.
10. Aaron Judge, OF
DOB: 04/26/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 255 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2013 (Fresno State)
At 6’7”, 255 pounds, Aaron Judge is an absolute physical specimen with surprising athleticism and loud tools; right-handed hitter boasts 80-grade raw power to all fields and showcased it more consistently in games last spring; easy 25-plus home run potential at maturity; strikeouts will always be part of his game, like most long-limbed sluggers; swing can get long at times, and he struggles to drive pitches at the bottom of the strike zone; fringy hit tool projection; compensates for a lack of impact bat speed with sheer strength.
Defensively, Judge’s above-average range and plus arm are ideal for a career in right field; some concern that his monster frame will lead to injuries with age; lacks the finesse and glove to move to first base.
Ceiling: First-division player
9. Ian Clarkin, LHP
DOB: 02/24/1995 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 186 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2013 (Madison HS, Calif.)
A lot of moving parts in delivery; starts by moving back with a high leg kick and brings hands up high around his head before moving toward the plate; good extension out front; big stride toward the plate; release point tends to change from pitch to pitch, though not an uncommon trait in high school arms; clean arm action and ability to release ball late helps velocity play up.
Fastball command is below-average at present but will flash at least average in spots; inconsistent command and release point; needs to stay on top of it more consistently; sits 90-92 right now with ability to add another 1-2 miles at peak.
Breaking ball has hard, late bite; 12-6 shape on pitch with depth that can buckle knees; doesn't always finish well out front, leading to pitch bouncing in front of the plate; future plus offering that should miss bats; doesn't trust changeup in game situations; will occasionally show flashes of being an average offering; above-average movement on the pitch; good arm speed.
Ceiling: No. 3 or 4 starter
8. Greg Bird, 1B
DOB: 11/09/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215 pounds
Drafted: Fifth round, 2011 (Grandview HS, Colo.)
Physically strong player at 6’3”, 215 pounds; he gets billed as a Three True Outcome hitter but is more than that; bat speed is slightly above-average; employs a mature and consistent approach from the left side of the plate; works deep counts thanks to solid pitch recognition and a feel for the strike zone; present extra-base machine with the upside of 20-plus home runs in his prime; drives the ball with backspin carry to all fields; hit tool could surprise people in 2014 and translate favorably in the Florida State League.
A back injury in 2012 forced Bird from catcher to first base full time this past season; below-average runner; possesses decent range, but his lack of athleticism and quickness will prevent him from becoming a top-notch defender; still learning specifics of the position; overall value will always be tied to his bat.
Ceiling: Second-division regular/platoon player
7. Eric Jagielo, 3B
DOB: 5/17/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2013 (Notre Dame)
Upright stance; sets up with high hands and loads deep; hand positioning has been lowered slightly since summer; some length to swing; stays inside the ball well; has become more comfortable using entire field; showcases shorter swing on inner-half offerings; tends to extend arms early with pitches on the outer half; streaky hitter with patient approach; sees a lot of pitches; goes through periods where he expands the zone; can strike out in bunches.
Two-handed swing with high finish is geared toward driving the ball; derives power from strong lower half; easy power, especially to the pull side; should be able to showcase more opposite-field pop as a professional with a shorter bat path.
Below-average runner; lacks quickness; may lose another step as he continues to mature physically; average defensive third baseman; makes the plays; some athleticism; decent instincts but lacks overall quickness; fringy range; arm is strongest defensive asset; suitable for the hot corner; would also play as a left fielder or first baseman if he's forced off the position.
Ceiling: Second-division regular
6. Mason Williams, OF
DOB: 8/21/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’0", 180 pounds
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2010 (West Orange HS, Fla.)
6’0”, 180-pound frame is loaded with athleticism; underwent season-ending surgery on his left shoulder in 2012; endured significant regression at the plate last season; left-handed hitter employed a weaker swing, trying too hard to slap the ball in play rather than make adjustments; struggled mightily to keep weight back against secondary offerings; too much swing-and-miss to his overall game; speed has lost a grade over the last year, partially a result of his lack of on-field hustle.
Still offers above-average to plus defense in center field; struggles to track balls over his head; good reads and routes; athletic, fluid actions; average arm strength is ideal for center field.
Ceiling: Second-division outfielder
5. Tyler Austin, OF
DOB: 09/06/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 200 pounds
Drafted: 13th round, 2010 (Heritage HS, Ga.)
Physically strong player who drives the ball across the entire field; majority of power is to right-center field; works to stay inside the ball; good plate coverage and bat-to-ball ability; hit tool should be at least serviceable in the major leagues; nagging wrist injury limited his power in 2013; should showcase more over-the-fence pop when healthy; still learning to turn on the ball; potential to hit 15-20 home runs at maturity; strong track record against left-handed pitching gives him upside as a platoon option.
Swing has some length that could make him vulnerable to elevated velocity at higher levels; has strong track record against quality pitchers over last two seasons; employs a patient approach; doesn’t waste many at-bats; overall intelligent hitter capable of making in-game adjustments.
Actions look natural in outfield, despite background as a corner infielder; above-average arm is ideal for a corner spot; moves well for his size and showcases range that’s better than expected; defensive skill set plays up thanks to high baseball IQ; only an average runner but has sneaky speed and athleticism; instinctual baserunner who picks his spots to run; 45 stolen bases in 47 attempts during professional career.
Ceiling: Second-division regular/reserve outfielder
4. J.R. Murphy, C
DOB: 05/13/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 195 pounds
Drafted: Second round, 2009 (The Pendleton School, Fla.)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013)
Murphy turned in a breakout performance in 2013 and was rewarded with a 16-game stint with the Yankees in September; 22-year-old has always possessed a mature approach and feel for the strike zone; both his strikeout and walk rates have improved in the face of advanced competition; consistent right-handed swing with solid bat speed, but some question his ability to square-up velocity; works to get extension after contact; learned to lift the ball last year and posted career-best power numbers.
Defense has improved considerably over the last two seasons; well rounded defensive profile, despite lack of a carrying tool; average receiver with room to improve; footwork will be an area of focus as he prepares for 2014 season; compensates for average arm strength with a quick release and good catch-and-throw skills; poised for a career as a solid backup with the potential to play his way into a more serious role.
Ceiling: Second-division regular/backup catcher
3. Slade Heathcott, OF
DOB: 9/28/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 190 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2009 (Texas HS, Texas)
Leadoff hitter-type who gets down out of the box in a hurry; best athlete in the system; quick hands but slashy swing that lacks leverage; above-average bat speed but needs to keep barrel in the zone longer; inconsistent bat path; plus speed makes him a constant extra-base threat at the plate; potential for 20-plus stolen bases annually; tendency to rip open and pull off with front side, which limits the use of his hands; could develop moderate over-the-fence pop with better use of lower half; unnecessary pre-pitch movement causes a lack of fluidity in swing; fringy pitch recognition.
Hard-nosed, high-energy player; does everything at 100 percent; worrisome injury history due to playing style; good defensive center fielder with above-average range and impressive closing speed; tracks the ball well; impressive arm strength; shows impressive closing speed on balls in the gaps; takes direct routes.
Ceiling: First-division regular
2. Jose Ramirez, RHP
DOB: 01/21/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190 pounds
Signed: 2007 (Dominican Republic)
Durable frame at 6’3”, 190 pounds; low-three-quarters arm slot; delivery involves some effort; quick arm but inconsistent release point.
Plus fastball that works consistently in the mid-90s with sink; fringy command of pitch; throws a hard slider that registers in upper-80s with depth and tilt; at least average potential; changeup has outstanding fade in the mid-80s and flashes plus-plus potential.
Overall command can get away from him at any point; history of shoulder and arm problems; big upside out of the bullpen if starting doesn’t work out.
Ceiling: No. 2 or 3 starter/late-inning reliever
1. Gary Sanchez, C
DOB: 12/02/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 220 pounds
Signed: 2009 (Dominican Republic)
Has improved plate discipline and contact rate this season; above-average power potential from a well-balanced swing; plus bat speed; feel for striking the ball; has some serious thump in bat; overaggressive approach; ability to control strike zone is better but still has plenty of room to improve; impressive young hitter; bat will play, regardless of future position.
Defense and work ethic has significantly improved since start of 2012; possesses underrated athleticism and agility; blocking and receiving skills leave room for improvement; arm strength is biggest asset; game-calling and leadership improving with experience; not a guarantee to remain behind the plate.
Ceiling: First-division regular