Grading the Performance of New York Yankees' Top Prospects at Spring Training

Anthony MaimoneFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2014

Grading the Performance of New York Yankees' Top Prospects at Spring Training

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    As shown by their massive spending spree this offseason, the New York Yankees retool through free agency and not through their minor league system.

    However, it is hard to know if they do that by choice or if they are forced to by a lack of organizational depth.

    Entering the season, ESPN.com's Keith Law (subscription required) ranked the Yankees farm system 20th in MLB. That rank is mainly because they lack any big league-ready players.

    That couldn't have been made any clearer than this spring when only six players currently ranked in the Yankees' top 20 prospects, according to MLB.com, saw any time in camp.

    Three other top prospects, Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin and Jose Ramirez were at camp but didn't see any action due to injuries.

    In this slideshow, I'll focus on those six individuals that saw action and grade them not just on their statistical impact but will look at longevity in camp and other credentials such as teammates and coaching support.

1. John Ryan Murphy

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    John Ryan Murphy has been given every opportunity to show the Yankees what he is made of.

    So far, it hasn't been pretty.

    Murphy is getting an extended look this spring, because when camp opened, he had a shot at serving as Brian McCann's backup.

    That idea is probably long gone now. Murphy has only two hits in 26 at-bats in camp. He has struck out six times and only walked once.

    Couple those numbers with the fact that Francisco Cervelli is smacking the cover off the ball, and it seems all but certain Murphy will be optioned to the minors when spring training is over.

    Murphy is still very young, only 22 years old, so he still has time to develop, but if he could show some skills soon, it would give the Yanks the opportunity to shop him to other teams.

    Grade: D

2. Manny Banuelos

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    According to Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman raised the possibility that Manny Banuelos could make the major league club out of camp to be the second lefty out of the pen.

    That possibility was officially diminished when Banuelos was optioned five days ago to Single-A Tampa.

    In only two appearances, Banuelos was touched up for seven earned runs, amounting to a 63.00 ERA.

    Banuelos will get a little break from me because these were his first appearances since 2012 as he is coming back from Tommy John surgery.

    Only 23 and with management on his side, the future could be bright for Banuelos, and hopefully, a stint in the minors to fine-tune his pitching will do the trick.

    Grade: C-

3. Bryan Mitchell

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Little-known prospect Bryan Mitchell turned a few heads this spring with some overpowering stuff.

    Mitchell was drafted in the 16th round in the 2009 draft right out of high school.

    In two appearances this spring, Mitchell was able to pick up a win and pitch to a perfect ERA.

    In only three innings, Mitchell struck out five batters.

    MLB.com compared Mitchell to a former Yankee, A.J. Burnett, for his build and stuff.

    Mitchell was optioned to Triple-A Scranton where he will be featured in the rotation.

    At age 22, Mitchell might be the closest starter the Yankees have in their system, and a strong season could allow him the opportunity to be a late-season call-up.

    Grade: B+

4. Mark Montgomery

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Mark Montgomery was a quick riser through the ranks of the Yankees system heading into last season.

    But a disappointing 2013 saw his shine begin to fade a bit.

    Montgomery features a slider, which can be almost unhittable at times, and posts the type of K-rate numbers you want to see out of a dominant reliever.

    So far this spring, the strikeouts haven't been there, but Montgomery has pitched very well.

    In over four innings pitched, opponents are only hitting .071 against him, and he has yet to walk a batter.

    The Yankees are very content with their new closer David Robertson, but if Montgomery handles the back injury that plagued him last season and improves on his numbers, he would be an excellent addition to the back end of the Yankees bullpen.

    Grade: B

5. Gary Sanchez

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Gary Sanchez is the Yankees' top prospect and catcher of the future.

    Known best for his big bat, Sanchez did not disappoint this spring.

    In only 11 at-bats, Sanchez batted .364 with two home runs. 

    The Yankees know exactly what they have in Sanchez and don't need to see a lot of him in camp to change their opinion on him.

    He was optioned to Double-A Trenton March 12, where he will spend most of his season.

    McCann is blocking his way to the majors right now, but it won't be long before he moves to a DH role, paving the way for Sanchez to take his spot behind the plate.

    Grade: A-

6. Mason Williams

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    David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

    Mason Williams is ranked as the Yankees' No. 2 prospect, and I'm beginning to wonder why.

    Williams has dealt with injuries in his young career that could be stunting his growth, but excuses cannot always be made for lack of production.

    Williams was handed a lengthy stay at camp this spring and did absolutely nothing to improve his stock.

    He batted only .174 in 23 at-bats and was thrown out on the one stolen-base attempt he had.

    I'm going to be more harsh on Williams, because had he shown more improvements last season, it is possible the Yankees wouldn't have spent millions retooling their outfield with the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran.

    Like many of the guys on this list, Williams is still very young, and obviously, scouts see something in him to rank him as well as they do, but you can call me skeptical.

    Grade: F