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Ranking the 5 Most Underrated Yankees Prospects Heading into 2014

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Ranking the 5 Most Underrated Yankees Prospects Heading into 2014
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About a month ago, we first checked in on Baseball America's ranking of the top 10 prospects for the New York Yankees while projecting big league arrival dates. Just last week, we looked at the top Yankees prospect at each position. Whether you're a farm-system nut or you simply like to stay up on the minor league talent, we're continuing the trend this week and uncovering some of the hidden gems. 

We're going to dive into the less-discussed Yankees prospects heading into the 2014 season, and we're going to rank the five who are most underrated.

You may still be numb from the Wednesday news, per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, that the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka, delivering the Japanese ace to the Bronx for the next seven years. And only 22 days from this frigid, snowy mess in New York, pitchers and catchers will report to the team's spring training complex in Tampa, Fla., followed just five days later by the position players. 

But as excited as we may be for Tanaka, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, let's not forget this is also the ultimate time to check in on the prospect pool and look to the future.

It's a significant intersection for minor leaguers, as they face high pressure to perform but no real ceilings for their emergence.

Some players—particularly relief pitchers and position players like J.R. Murphy and Zoilo Almonte—will virtually fight for Opening Day roster spots. But the vast majority of them fly well under the radar. They will strive to stand out in the spring, to leave a mark (and not a stain) at their positions and to enter the discussion of future big league talent for the Yankees.

But how do we categorize the most "underrated" of these prospects?

One could argue that, since much of the Yankees' top prospect pool has yet to reach the Triple-A level, they are all underrated in some fashion.

But that's not entirely true. Not only have we been bombarded by repetitive talk of potentially overrated prospects, but, in the process, we also have inevitably glossed over many diamonds in the rough.

In fact, the system that continues to praise the well-acknowledged players is the very same that obscures the more underrated ones: the official rankings and the hype-inducing narrative. I'm sure you've grown slightly weary of hearing about Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams or Eric Jagielo; you may even feel they could prove overrated.

This isn't a ranking of the prospects with the most flat-out upside; rather, it is a ranking of the five most overlooked, underrated players in the system heading into 2014. They don't necessarily warrant your undivided attention, but they certainly deserve some of it.

It takes more than major league projections into account. We consider players largely absent from the tops of recent rankings and from the "top prospect" narrative, trends like statistical consistency, improvement or upside, and relevant factors such as age and experience.

Ultimately, we've narrowed those prospects down to the following five players who are the most under-the-radar, underrated talents in the system.

 

Statistics and advanced metrics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, respectively, unless otherwise noted.

Think there's another prospect whom this ranking just snubbed? Feel free to drop me a comment.

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