New York Yankees: Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 10 Prospects Entering May

Peter RichmanCorrespondent IApril 28, 2014

New York Yankees: Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 10 Prospects Entering May

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    The Yankees' No. 3 prospect, C John Ryan Murphy has caught six games in the Bronx and quickly boosted his stock since his recall from Triple-A.
    The Yankees' No. 3 prospect, C John Ryan Murphy has caught six games in the Bronx and quickly boosted his stock since his recall from Triple-A.USA TODAY Sports

    Since the start of the 2014 season, we've taken a look at the weekly progress and stocks of the New York Yankees' top-10 prospects. With April baseball nearly completed, this report provides the one-month stock updates of some of the Bombers' young organizational talent before heading into May.

    Although only six of the 10 prospects have seen playing time, they've provided us with four-week sample sizes that give ample, early indications of their outlooks for 2014.

    And despite a stellar 15-10 record and 2.5-game lead in the AL East, the big league team has not been immune to injury and underperformance in the month of April, both of which have already opened the door for several minor leaguers. The 162-game schedule quickly resembles a war of attrition, and as we've seen early on, the Yankees will be wise to keep that revolving door moving—to be just as confident in calling up a hot hitter as they are in sending down a struggling one.

    Over the past week, the formerly cold-hitting catching prospect John Ryan Murphy (No. 3) has begun to establish himself as a viable MLB backup in the wake of Francisco Cervelli's trip to the disabled list, even picking up three of the team's four RBI—including his first major league home run—in Saturday's 4-3 win over the Angels.

    Meanwhile, outfielder Aaron Judge (No. 7), the 2013 first-rounder, has been locked in for four weeks in Charleston, going 25-for-75 for a .333 average in the first month of his professional career.

    And another catcher, unanimous top Yankees prospect Gary Sanchez (No. 1), has continued to tear up pitching in Double-A. At the least, he's proven his hype; at the most, he's increasing the pressure for a promotion if he stays hot, and he could be on the move to Scranton in the coming months.

    Based upon their statistics and performances from April, this report breaks down which top-10 Yankees' prospects' stocks have risen or fallen ahead of baseball's second month.

     

    *Note: OF Slade Heathcott (No. 2), 1B Greg Bird (No. 8), RHP Jose Ramirez (No. 9) and LHP Ian Clarkin (No. 10) have not logged any playing time in 2014.

    Heathcott will begin in Triple-A but is recovering from offseason surgery; Bird is being held back from a start in Double-A due to a back injury; Ramirez is recovering from a strained oblique after competing for a big league role in the spring; and Clarkin will see time in Low-A but with just five innings of rookie ball under his belt, he'll pick up more experiences before pro ball.

    **All statistics courtesy of milb.com, baseball-reference.com and yankees.com unless noted otherwise.

No. 7: OF Aaron Judge, Low-A Charleston RiverDogs

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    Week 4 Stats

    6 G, 24 PA, 8 H, .400/.500/.550, 1 2B, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K

     

    Notes

    Aaron Judge, the 22-year-old from Linden, California, has done nothing but impress since beginning his professional career for the Yankees' Low-A affiliate, the Charleston RiverDogs. The 6'7", 230-pound outfielder continues to rake against low-level pitching (24-for-74), which shouldn't come as a surprise given his NCAA experience at Cal State Fresno (.347 career). He leads the team in hits, walks and runs and is second in OBP, third in OPS (.877) and fourth in average.

    The Bombers selected him 32nd overall in the 2013 draft, and so far they seem to have cunningly invested both their scouting and—in part—the future of the outfield in the physically imposing Judge. With his age, experience, plate discipline (16 BB in 21 G) and raw power (4 XBH, 10 RBI), he could rise through the system fairly quickly in 2014.

    Expect his MLB debut to come in 2015 because of the logjam in the Bronx outfield (Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki) and because of the other minor leaguers in his path (Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, Zoilo Almonte).

    Before a call-up, moreover, you'd like to see his swing-and-misses slow down as he hits his second and third months of 2014. If there's a case to be made that his strikeouts are simply growing pains as he adjusts to life (and pitching) as a pro, he's reinforced that confidence in April with his ability to get on base.

     

    April Stats

    21 G, 90 PA, 24 H, .324/.444/.419, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 16 BB, 18 K

     

    April Stock: UP

    (last 3 weeks: UP, UP, UP)

No. 6: OF Tyler Austin, Double-A Trenton Thunder

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    Austin has struggled since his wrist injury in 2013. He's off to a slow start in April and just returned to the DL on Thursday.
    Austin has struggled since his wrist injury in 2013. He's off to a slow start in April and just returned to the DL on Thursday.USA TODAY Sports

    Week 4 Stats

    3 G, 12 PA, 3 H, .300/.417/.500, 1 3B, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2 SB, 2 BB, 2 K

     

    Notes

    The good news for the 2010 13th-round pick is that he began his 2014 season healthy—albeit a week late—after finishing his rehab for an injured wrist. The injury likely caused a drop-off in 2013, when he hit just .257/.344/.373 with only six homers.

    The bad news is he got off to a similar slightly below-average start the past two weeks in Trenton, batting just .238 with 11 strikeouts through 11 games. And the worse news, according to Baseball America's Josh Norris, is he returned to the disabled list on Thursday with a strained groin. It doesn't appear as though he'll be sidelined for a significant amount of time, but when he comes back it'll be imperative that he shows signs of improvement and puts his ongoing regression to a halt.

    With the aforementioned outfield picture for the big league club and the rising talent in the lower levels (see: Judge), Austin's sub.-400 slugging and his average hovering around. 250 aren't going to instill enough confidence for a promotion.

    That he sits fourth on the Thunder in strikeouts with nearly half the at-bats and as many as nine games fewer is the biggest sign of weakness for the No. 6 prospect's stock heading into May. 

     

    April Stats

    14 G, 60 PA, 13 H, .250/.333/.346, 1 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 7 BB, 13 K

     

    April Stock: DOWN

    (last 3 weeks: N/A, DOWN, DOWN)

No. 5: 3B Eric Jagielo, High-A Tampa Yankees

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    Week 4 Stats

    6 G, 24 PA, 4 H, .190/.292/.190, 0 XBH, 0 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K

     

    Notes

    Two players in High-A Tampa obscured the April performance of third baseman Eric Jagielo: infielder Zach Wilson and catcher Peter O'Brien. Wilson went 16-for-35 (.457) in 10 games, and O'Brien collected eight homers, eight doubles and 16 RBI through 21 games while hitting .354/.388/.759.

    But Jagielo, the 2013 first-round pick out of Notre Dame, is second on the team in homers (4), RBI (14) and walks (12), and he's third in runs (13).

    He hit a bit of a rough patch this past week, going 4-for-21 without an extra-base hit, but he's off to a respectable start in his first month of 2014, undeniably impressing on the High-A affiliate. He'd also been slowly improving prior this week, as he batted just .220 through the first 10 games and jumped up to .364 over the following six.

    You can expect his batting average to climb after April; he hit .321 in college and posted a .500 OBP his final season. Last season in Staten Island, Jagielo played 51 games and hit .266/.376/.451 while collecting six homers, 14 doubles, 27 RBI and walking 26 times.

    The strikeouts stand out for April, and the fact that he bookended his .364 stretch with a 9-for-41 start and 4-for-21 final week don't mitigate the picture. But, during that slightly slow start, he still homered three times, and over the past week his strikeouts were down and he still drew three walks in six games. Keep an eye on Jagielo with no firm long-term plan at third base in the Bronx. 

     

    April Stats

    22 G, 94 PA, 21 H, .250/.330/.429, 3 2B, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 12 BB, 21 K

     

    April Stock: UP

    (last 3 weeks: DOWN, UP, UP)

No. 4: OF Mason Williams, Double-A Trenton Thunder

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    Mason Williams, the No. 4 prospect, will need to have a bounce-back 2014 and escape an early hole if he wants to get back in the Bronx outfield discussion.
    Mason Williams, the No. 4 prospect, will need to have a bounce-back 2014 and escape an early hole if he wants to get back in the Bronx outfield discussion.USA TODAY Sports

    Week 4 Stats

    6 G, 32 PA, 5 H, .179/.258/.179, 0 XBH, 3 RBI, 2 SB, 3 BB, 6 K

     

    Notes

    Outfielder Mason Williams continued his cold streak at the plate during the month of April. The athletic 2010 fourth-rounder has seen his batting average, OBP and stolen bases decrease each year since his age-19 season with Staten Island in 2011, when he hit .349/.395/.468 and stole 28 bases in 68 games. 

    In 2013, he played 100 games for Tampa and 17 in his promotion to Trenton, finishing with a .245/.304/.337 line and 15 stolen bases. In spring training, he batted only .154, and he's at just .221 with a sub.-300 OBP after one month.

    MLB.com ranked Williams as high as the 32nd overall prospect prior to the 2010 season and 41st before the 2013 season, and Baseball America ranked him the No. 3 organizational prospect prior to 2014. 

    But Baseball America's Josh Norris speaks to the issue of his falling stock (subscription required): "Williams didn’t show the same tools he had in 2012, particularly at the plate, where he rarely made hard contact...Scouts thought Williams had gained weight—most evident in his inability to catch up to quality fastballs—and lost speed. He didn’t turn in good times to first base, either, because of less effort."

    If his struggles continue through the summer, you can expect his stock to plummet with it. Meanwhile, his future outlook is suspect, with his former teammate and fellow outfielder Slade Heathcott beginning above him in Triple-A once he returns to health, and with the Yankees currently saturated with outfielders at the highest levels.

     

    April Stats

    22 G, 104 PA, 21 H, .221/.282/.316, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 3 SB, 8 BB, 14 K

     

    April Stock: DOWN

    (last 3 weeks: UP, UP, DOWN)

No. 3: C John Ryan Murphy, New York Yankees

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    Week 4 Stats (MLB)

    3 G, 5 PA, 3 H, .600/.600/1.200, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K

     

    Notes

    A major league call-up, by default, boosts a prospect's stock in the organization. Experience and, often, big opportunities to cement a big league role invariably come with the roster spot. 

    John Ryan Murphy, despite a slump that covered a 16-game debut in 2013, spring training and the start of 2014 in Triple-A, made his return to the Bronx when Cervelli went on the DL. He caught a winning ballgame from Michael Pineda in his first game, caught a win between six Yankee pitchers in his third game and on Saturday he caught all nine innings of the five-pitcher victory.

    In his last two games, he's gone 3-for-5. On Saturday, he had the first multihit game of his young career. Murphy had a two-run single in his first at-bat and later hit his first MLB home run (see: video above) in a game the Yankees won 4-3. 

    He'll likely return to Scranton once Cervelli is healthy, but the 22-year-old can significantly boost his stock if he continues his solid game-calling and provides the added bonus of production at the plate. Said Joe Girardi after the game, per MLB.com's Steven Miller: "We win a game 4-3, and he has three of the RBIs, so a huge day. He did a great job behind home plate working Nuno and our bullpen. He just had a really good day. ... It's special, and it means even more because we won the game by one run [because of] what he did. He'll never forget it."

    Murphy, whom Girardi has trusted as little more than a replacement-level catcher, could prove to be a positive insurance option. As much as fans would love to see catcher Gary Sanchez make his debut, the possibility of Murphy improving the rest of the year takes some of the pressure off rushing the No. 1 prospect through the system.

     

    April Stats

    AAA: 7 G, 26 PA, 5 H, .192/.192./.308, 3 2B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 5 K

    MLB: 6 G, 13 PA, 4 H, .308/.308/.538, 0 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K

    Total (AAA/MLB)13 G, 39 PA, 9 H, .231/.231/.385, 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 0 BB, 7 K

     

    April Stock: UP

    (last 3 weeks: DOWN, DOWN, DOWN)

No. 1: C Gary Sanchez, Double-A Trenton Thunder

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    Gary Sanchez is off to the exact start the Yankees would hope from their prized talent. He's batting .299 with two homers, seven doubles and 18 RBI in April.
    Gary Sanchez is off to the exact start the Yankees would hope from their prized talent. He's batting .299 with two homers, seven doubles and 18 RBI in April.The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

    Week 4 Stats

    4 G, 19 PA, 5 H, .278/.316/.556, 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K

     

    Notes

    The Yankees' top prospect put together another strong week, his last full one of April. He collected only five hits, but three of them went for extra bases to go along with five RBI and just two strikeouts. 

    Sanchez has been excelling at the plate since spring training, showing signs that he may approach a final-year average close to the .290 he put up in 2012. In 2013, he hit just .253/.324/.412, though his power was obvious with 15 homers, 27 doubles and 71 RBI.

    He continued to show off his improved defense and his above-average arm, throwing out 46 percent of base stealers in 94 games in High-A Tampa (via Baseball America's Josh Norris). As Norris noted prior to this season: "His defense has gotten better and he’s quieter behind the plate. ... Sanchez took charge behind the plate [in 2013] and was handling staffs with much more authority than in years past."

    The major obstacle for Sanchez's first MLB experience is Brian McCann, whom the Yankees signed this offseason for five years. Cervelli and Murphy are next, though by 2015 it could be redundant for the Yanks to hold on to both with Sanchez likely to begin in Triple-A. 

    In his last game on Sunday, Sanchez's 17th, he went 2-for-4 with his second homer of the year, his seventh double and his 16th, 17th and 18th RBI. It's been a month plus spring training, so if you're the Yankees, the more pragmatic decision is to be patient and see him hit around .300 for several months against advanced pitching rather than rush him up based on the current streak. 

    As noted, if Murphy makes a further impact on the big league club, it should slow the rise of—and the desperation for—Sanchez's premature call-up.

     

    April Stats

    17 G, 76 PA, 20 H, .299/.382/.493, 7 2B, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 8 BB, 11 K

     

    April Stock: UP

    (last 3 weeks: UP, UP, UP)

     

    *For more, check out the Week 1Week 2 and Week 3 stock reports for April. 

    Peter F. Richman is a Featured Columnist for the New York Yankees. Follow him for more on Twitter: