New York Yankees: Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 10 Prospects for Week 7

Peter RichmanCorrespondent IMay 19, 2014

New York Yankees: Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 10 Prospects for Week 7

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    1B Greg Bird, The Yankees' Week 7 standout, picked up three doubles, one homer and five walks. The 2011 fifth-rounder is the preseason No. 8 Yanks prospect.
    1B Greg Bird, The Yankees' Week 7 standout, picked up three doubles, one homer and five walks. The 2011 fifth-rounder is the preseason No. 8 Yanks prospect.Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    In Week 7 of the 2014 MLB regular season, several New York Yankees preseason top-10 prospects continued or made debuts from extended spring training (No. 10 Ian Clarkin) or injury (No. 9 Jose Ramirez, No. 2 Slade Heathcott). Some players, like Nos. 5 and 7, Eric Jagielo and Aaron Judge, put together solid weeks that reinforced trust in their positive early-season trends. Others, like the top talent (Gary Sanchez) in the Bombers farm couldn't make it to baseball's two-month mark without experiencing a hiccup. 

    The High-A Tampa Yankees are riding a hot streak of six straight wins in the Florida State League, the Double-A Trenton Thunder are conversely sliding at six straight losses in the Eastern League, the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs concluded their weekend with two wins in a row over South Atlantic League teams and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders got back to .500 in the International League with their 21st win Sunday.

    At the big league level, New York (23-20) wrapped up a 4-3 week against NL competition: First, a split doubleheader with the New York Mets, who scored 21 runs in the first two games at Yankee Stadium before being shut out in the final two at Citi Field. Next, a three-game set hosting Pittsburgh. After a Friday rainout, the Bucs dropped the first two by a combined 11-4 and split the makeup doubleheader when they won Sunday's nightcap, 5-3.

    And over the past week, a few more minor leaguers—Zoilo Almonte, John Ryan Murphy (No. 3), Vidal Nuno and Chase Whitley—have continued, or had to step into, larger roles without the likes of starters CC Sabathia (knee, 15 days), Michael Pineda (shoulder, 15 days) and Ivan Nova (Tommy John, out for season), catcher Francisco Cervelli (hamstring, 60 days) and, as of May 15, Carlos Beltran (elbow, 15 days).

    With health an early issue, the stocks of the organization's top prospects—which were significant from Week 1 due to injury doubts in the Bronx—have only become increasingly important to keep an eye on. And if the Yankees hope to stay afloat through the summer, Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman may have to do their best possible patchwork job for maintaining a position at or near first in the fledgling AL East—a job that might require more minor league hands if holes can't be filled or backed up via trade.

    The top 10 prospects in this week's report still reflect the preseason ranking and analysis from April 3, 2013, and the criteria for their rising or falling Week 7 stocks take into account recent statistics, as well as any trends and numbers, if applicable, from previous seasons. 

     

    NYY Organizational Roundup for Week 7 (May 12-18, 2014)

    • New York Yankees (MLB, AL East)23-20, 1st, L1
    • SWB RailRiders (AAA, IL North)21-21, 5th, W1
    • Trenton Thunder (AA, EL Eastern) 23-20, 3rd, L6
    • Tampa Yankees (A, FSL North)22-20, 4th, W6
    • Charleston RiverDogs (A, SAL Southern)23-19, 3rd, W2
    • SI Yankees (SS, NYPL McNamara) N/A; season begins June 13, 2014 vs. Brooklyn.

     

    *Top 10 rankings in this report continue to refer to the preseason list and breakdown from April 3, 2014. Top 10 list subject to change (new rankings, new candidates or both) once the minor league clubs reach the midway point of the season.

    **All statistics updated through game action on May 18, 2014 and courtesy of milb.com, baseball-reference.com and yankees.com unless noted otherwise.

No. 10: LHP Ian Clarkin, Low-A Charleston RiverDogs

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    Clarkin (left) pitching for Team USA at the U18 Baseball World Championship Final (Sept. 2012). The No. 33 pick in 2013 has made just three starts in 2014.
    Clarkin (left) pitching for Team USA at the U18 Baseball World Championship Final (Sept. 2012). The No. 33 pick in 2013 has made just three starts in 2014.Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

    Week 7 Stats

    1 GS (May 14), ND, 1 ER, 6.0 IP, 1 HR, 4 H, 0 BB, 4 K

     

    Notes

    The 6'2" left-hander made his third start on Wednesday in a 5-3 loss. The 19-year-old, and No. 33 selection in last June's draft, tossed six innings and allowed three runs—one of them earned on a sixth-inning home run—on three Charleston errors and four hits. 

    After being held back in extended spring training, the impressive high school talent has one victory to go along with a 1.15 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 15.2 innings. 

    Clarkin, a San Diego native like Vidal Nuno, pitched in just three rookie level games last year, so it's a positive tell from Yanks brass that they decided to plug him into Class-A for his pro debut—and bypass short-season Staten Island. 

    Josh Norris for Baseball America (subscription required) highlights Clarkin's strengths:

    His fastball sits 90-92 mph and touches 94. He flashes a plus curveball with sharp bite and downer action, and he located it well to both sides of the plate as an amateur. He spent time sharpening an inconsistent changeup...but the pitch has shown fading action, and he sells it with good arm speed.

    Perhaps the best sign for a limited track record is Clarkin's prior success with the 18U USA team at the 2012 IBAF World Championship in South Korea, where the Yanks prospect went six innings to beat Canada in the final, and as Norris notes, boosted his draft stock in the process: "He's shown willingness to pitch inside and has a competitive streak."

    Look for that to continue in 2014.

     

    2014 Season Stats

    3 GS, 1-0, 1.15 ERA, 15.2 IP, 2 BB, 14 K

     

    Stock: UP 

    (2014 first-quarter stock: UP)

No. 9: RHP Jose Ramirez, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (NYY May 18)

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    The preseason No. 9 prospect, RHP Jose Ramirez, filled the 26th roster spot on the big league club for Sunday's doubleheader.
    The preseason No. 9 prospect, RHP Jose Ramirez, filled the 26th roster spot on the big league club for Sunday's doubleheader.USA TODAY Sports

    Week 7 Stats

    1 G (May 13), ND, 1.1 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 3 K

     

    Notes

    The 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic filled the Yankees' 26th roster spot for their doubleheader Sunday, though he'll likely head back to Scranton where he made just his third appearance of 2014 after recovering from injury.

    He went 1.1 innings on Tuesday and allowed one earned run on three hits while striking out three. He's 1-0 in the early going with a 2.70 ERA in just over three innings.

    Ramirez has spent seven seasons in the Yankees farm with a career 27-32 record, 3.71 ERA and 1.276 WHIP. MLB.com explains his background and stock:

    It took Ramirez three years to escape Class A, but just one to vault from Double-A to Triple-A and the verge of his first callup. He's the most big league-ready pitcher in the Yankees system, and he might have the best changeup in the entire organization -- including the Majors.

    Ramirez's changeup, a nasty split-action pitch, "makes hitters look silly" and "bottoms out at the plate," according to MLB.com, who thinks the righty has the potential to be a No. 3 starter in the majors. Ramirez also flashes a plus fastball (91-96 mph) to go along with the off-speed delivery.

    With a rash of injuries to the pitching staff in the Bronx, Ramirez might soon earn himself a key opportunity and role on the 25-man roster; he'll be getting more reps in Triple-A before factoring into the big league bullpen for the first time, however.

     

    2014 Season Stats

    3 G, 1-0, 3.1 IP, 1-0, 2.70 ERA, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

     

    Stock: UP 

    (2014 first-quarter stock: UP)

No. 8: 1B Greg Bird, High-A Tampa Yankees

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    Week 7 Stats

    5 G, 22 AB, 12 H, .364/.481/.636, 1 HR, 3 2B, 1 RBI, 5 BB, 5 K

     

    Notes

    First baseman Greg Bird, the fifth-round pick in 2011, sat out the first five weeks of the 2014 season due to injury but has made an excellent return to the starting lineup in his first year of High-A ball.

    He's batting an even .333 through nine games and has shown off his natural left-handed stroke, spraying the ball to all fields for four doubles and two homers in 36 at-bats. In Week 7, the 21-year-old added a home run, three doubles and five walks, a performance that not only makes him stand out among the organization's best, but also boosts his stock early in the season.

    The catcher-turned-first-baseman was "easily the Yankees' breakout player of the year" in 2013," and he possesses a "mature offensive approach...remembers pitch sequences," according to Norris. But Bird also has had lingering back issues, some scouts question his "premium bat speed" and he has just "limited range" and below-average speed.

    With no long-term plan behind Mark Teixeira, however—which is also true in the short term this year—it's a tremendous sign that Bird is excelling in his latest promotion, just his fourth season with the club. That he has begun to quell doubts of his power with six extra-base hits in nine games is just an added benefit for his stock. 

     

    2014 Season Stats

    9 G, 36 AB, 12 H, .333/.442/.611, 2 HR, 4 2B, 4 RBI, 7 BB, 8 K

     

    Stock: UP 

    (2014 first-quarter stock: UP)

No. 7: RF/DH Aaron Judge, Low-A Charleston RiverDogs

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    Week 7 Stats

    7 G, 23 AB, 7 H, .304, 0 HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 5 BB, 7 K

     

    Notes

    The big-framed (6'7", 230 lbs) Fresno State product continued his hot hitting in 2014 with an excellent seventh week in Charleston. He went 7-for-23 (.304) with two doubles and five walks, boosting his OBP to .417 on the year.

    Judge was drafted No. 32 overall last summer (six picks after Eric Jagielo, one pick before Ian Clarkin), and his raw "batting-practice power" is impossible to ignore, according to Norris, due to his "strength and leverage." 

    Scouts worried about his long path to the ball due to his size, and so far in 2014, that has unfortunately shown up in 33 strikeouts through 40 games. His highly touted power hasn't shown up often, but when it has—check out the video above—it's special. 

    He doesn't appear to need much polishing with an average and OBP over .300 and .400, respectively, and his discipline has been excellent so far, with 26 walks in 40 games. 

     

    2014 Season Stats

    40 G, 139 AB, 42 H, .302/.417/.417, 3 HR, 5 2B, 1 3B, 17 RBI, 26 BB, 33 K

     

    Stock: UP 

    (2014 first-quarter stock: UP)

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

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    The No. 5 prospect Tyler Austin saw his stock drop in the first quarter of 2014, and an average seventh week of 2014 didn't swing it in the other direction.
    The No. 5 prospect Tyler Austin saw his stock drop in the first quarter of 2014, and an average seventh week of 2014 didn't swing it in the other direction.USA TODAY Sports

    Week 7 Stats

    6 G, 23 AB, 5 H, .217, 0 HR, 2 2B, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 3 K

     

    Notes

    The Trenton outfielder batted .322/.400/.559 in his 2012 full-season debut, in which he received a promotion to Double-A, and was ultimately named Yankees Minor League Player of the Year, per MLB.com. But with thumb and wrist issues in 2013, Austin took a step back, batting .265/.351/.378 in 85 games.

    That those numbers have continued their downward trend doesn't help Austin's stock in the organization. His Week 7 stats, which included two doubles and only three strikeouts, illustrated a below-average stretch more than anything—the 5-for-23 sample saw him draw no walks. 

    MLB.com still refers to him as a "gifted hitter," grading out his power and hit tools at average to slightly above average. But he hasn't left the yard in 2014, has just a .319 OBP and nine walks through 22 games.

    The good news for Austin is the crowded Bronx outfield, which meant coming into the season that there was no need—nor viability—that he'd be on the move in 2014, anyway; he also has five extra-base hits, two of them triples. But the bad news is the depth of outfield talent in the minors as well, as prospects like No. 7 Aaron Judge or recently promoted Peter O'Brien (.308, 15 HR, 10 2B, 30 RBI) continue to outperform him and show more upside. 

    Hopefully Austin can stay healthy for the majority of 2014, find his power stroke and get his average closer to .280 and OBP up over .375.

     

    2014 Season Stats

    22 G, 84 AB, 21 H, .250/.319/.333, 0 HR, 3 2B, 2 3B, 6 RBI, 9 BB, 18 K

     

    Stock: DOWN

    (2014 first-quarter stock: DOWN)

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

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    Week 7 Stats

    6 G, 24 AB, 7 H, .292, 2 HR, 1 2B, 9 RBI, 4 BB, 7 K 

     

    Notes

    The former Notre Dame third baseman had a great week, going 7-for-24 (.292) with nine RBI and four walks. After spanning five games since his seventh long ball on the year, Jagielo had a multi-homer, five-RBI game on Thursday against the St. Lucie Mets.

    Like Judge, Jagielo is a polished hitter who could be on the move relatively quickly with the lack of prospects who possess pro-caliber offense and defense.

    The Yankees don't have a long-term plan in place at third base, and despite Yangervis Solarte's superb MLB debut (38 G, .313, 5 HR, 10 2B) that sees him currently leading the club in RBI (24), Jagielo is a great fit for thinking about that future in two to three years.

    His swing profiles excellently for Yankee Stadium, he has pop to all fields (7 2B) and his production has been solid through seven weeks, driving in 28 RBI on 16 extra-base hits and 18 walks.

     

    2014 Season Stats

    40 G, 151 AB, 38 H, .252/.333/.477, 9 HR, 7 2B, 28 RBI, 18 BB, 39 K

     

    Stock: UP 

    (2014 first-quarter stock: UP)

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

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    Mason Williams, the No. 4 preseason prospect and Trenton CF, just can't seem to get on track in 2014, posting another lackluster week of performance.
    Mason Williams, the No. 4 preseason prospect and Trenton CF, just can't seem to get on track in 2014, posting another lackluster week of performance.Associated Press

    Week 7 Stats

    2 G, 8 AB, 2 H, .250, 0 XBH, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 SB 

     

    Notes

    Five-year Yankee minor leaguer, Mason Williams, now 22, has been regressing since batting .298/.346/.474 with 22 doubles, 20 stolen bases and just 47 strikeouts in 2012.  

    Last season, the center fielder's average dropped 53 points (.245) and his strikeout total inflated by 32 (79). Williams has been well regarded by scouts and fans the past few years, and he and teammate and fellow center fielder Slade Heathcott (No. 2) had been perceived as two (fairly equally) premier prospects in the system.

    But during Williams' step back, he's seen his tools, production and upside trumped by Heathcott, the more likely future Yankee outfielder at this juncture. 

    This year at Trenton, the 2010 fourth-rounder is hitting under .200 with  sub-.300 OBP and 23 strikeouts in just 36 games. 

    This past week, Williams added his sixth stolen base and went 2-for-8, both of which bode well for an otherwise poor start to the season at Double-A—however, you have to remember, this is a prospect who was ranked No. 3 by Baseball America and No. 2 by MLB.com prior to the season.

     

    2014 Season Stats

    36 G, 148 AB, 29 H, .196/.287/.264, 1 HR, 5 2B, 1 3B, 8 RBI, 19 BB, 23 K, 6 SB

     

    Stock: DOWN 

    (2014 first-quarter stock: DOWN)

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

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    Only two games for Murphy this week—one was a pinch-hit walk against the Mets (May 12), and the other was a 1-for-3 day in the second leg of Sunday's doubleheader.
    Only two games for Murphy this week—one was a pinch-hit walk against the Mets (May 12), and the other was a 1-for-3 day in the second leg of Sunday's doubleheader.USA TODAY Sports

    Week 7 Stats

    2 G, 3 AB, 1 H, .333, 1 BB, 0 K

     

    Notes

    Murphy didn't get too many reps the week of May 12, 2014, but his rest proved valuable as the Yankees and Pirates were forced to play a doubleheader Sunday after Friday's rainout, and the young catcher filled in for Brian McCann in the nightcap. 

    He drew a walk in his only plate appearance prior to Sunday's start, in which he went 1-for-3 in the loss to Pittsburgh. 

    Murphy had a cold start at Triple-A, hitting just .192 through his first seven games. It wasn't aided by his poor MLB debut in September and below-average performance this spring.

    But when backup Francisco Cervelli hit the 60-day DL, Murphy was the next backstop up from the minors, and he's since made the most of his second call-up. He's caught several wins for the ever-changing pitching staff, including one in which he hit his first big league homer.

    If the Yankees don't trade him prior to the deadline this summer, no harm no foul holding on to a 23-year-old with clear potential as an average, reliable, MLB-caliber catcher—especially one who is terrific insurance for the more projectable and talented Gary Sanchez, who has yet to reach Triple-A at age 21.

     

    2014 Season Stats (MLB)

    12 G, 30 AB, 12 H, .400/.419/.533, 1 HR, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 6 K

     

    2014 Season Stats (AAA)

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

     

    Stock: UP 

    (2014 first-quarter stock: UP)

No. 2: CF Slade Heathcott, Double-A Trenton Thunder

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    The preseason No. 2 Yankees prospect finally made his return this week from offseason knee injury; beginning in the Trenton outfield, he got off to just a 2-for-11 start, but his hits were doubles.
    The preseason No. 2 Yankees prospect finally made his return this week from offseason knee injury; beginning in the Trenton outfield, he got off to just a 2-for-11 start, but his hits were doubles.USA TODAY Sports

    Week 7 Stats

    3 G, 11 AB, 2 H, .182/.182/.364, 2 2B, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 3 K

     

    Notes

    Slade Heathcott, the organization's No. 2 prospect and 29th pick from 2009, projects as an everyday center fielder in the big leagues, but a knee injury and offseason surgery set his start back in 2014.

    He made his debut in Week 7, going just 2-for-11 (.182) in his first and only three games. It's obviously too early to form a conclusion about the speedy 23-year-old, as he could take a few more weeks to return to regular form—such as the form that saw him bat .307/.378/.470 in 2012.

    He's been compared to Bryce Harper for his all-out, aggressive style of defense, and his injury history and future concerns are indicative of that hard-nosed attitude. 

    That his only two hits are doubles is a good sign, but given that he comes with some red flags and is off to an objectively slow start, Heathcott's stock has begun trending downward in 2014.

     

    2014 Season Stats

    3 G, 11 AB, 2 H, .182/.182./.364, 2 2B, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 3K

     

    Stock: DOWN 

    (2014 first-quarter stock: N/A)

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

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    Catcher Gary Sanchez floated around .250 for most of the first month but had a down week in which he went 2-for-17 with 1 RBI.
    Catcher Gary Sanchez floated around .250 for most of the first month but had a down week in which he went 2-for-17 with 1 RBI.The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

    Week 7 Stats

    6 G, 17 AB, 2 H, .118, 0 XBH, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 5 K

     

    Notes

    Gary Sanchez put together a great opening month of baseball, batting .299/.382/.493 with seven doubles and two home runs in the first 17 games. Since then, however, the power-hitting catcher has begun to cool off; in Week 5, despite adding two homers, Sanchez hit .150, and in Week 6 he batted .148 with one extra-base hit.

    This past week, he dipped to .118 (2-for-17) and didn't record an extra-base hit. 

    He has certainly produced, with four homers, eight doubles and 24 RBI through 36 games. But his swing-and-miss totals are beginning to pile up (28 in 26 G), and his sub-.250 average and sub-.350 OBP are beginning to paint a more negative picture for his stock—which had been trending upward since the first week.

    As Norris notes, many scouts see Sanchez's floor as a 20-homer, .260-.270 bat and still grade the young catcher out as the best offensive weapon in the farm system. On the other side, his arm is exceptional, and his defense is still improving; you'd just like to see him escape the current rut.

    With McCann signed for five years, there's nowhere to plug Sanchez in the Bronx, and there's simply no need to rush their top talent—especially if he's slumping against Double-A pitching of late, if Cervelli is able to return to his prolific ways and if the less projectable Murphy continues to play a trustworthy backup role while Sanchez gets back on track in the early part of 2014.

     

    2014 Season Stats

    36 G, 135 AB, 32 H, .237/.318/.385, 4 HR, 8 2B, 24 RBI, 16 BB, 28 K

     

    Stock: DOWN 

    (2014 first-quarter stock: UP)

     

    *For previous weekly stock updates, please check out Weeks 1-3 (April 7April 14April 21), Week 5 (May 7), as well as the one-month update (April 28, 2014) heading into May and last week's first-quarter report.

    Peter F. Richman is a B/R Copy Editor and Featured Columnist for the New York Yankees. For more NYY opinions/discussions, feel free to reach out via Twitter: