Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses of the Yankees' Top 10 Prospects
- Gary Sanchez C
- Slade Heathcott OF
- Mason Williams OF
- Eric Jagielo 3B
- Tyler Austin 1B/3B/OF
- Gregory Bird 1B
- Aaron Judge OF
- Luis Severino RHP
- Peter O'Brien C/3B/OF
- Ian Clarkin LHP
Following the conclusion of Day 1 of the MLB Draft, I wrote a piece re-ranking the New York Yankees' Top 10 prospects. Now, I take a more in-depth look at those players and determine their biggest strengths and weaknesses.
My rankings went as such:
While the Yankees' farm system certainly does not boast the cream of the crop—Fangraphs ranked them as having the 20th best farm going into the year—there are several players here who have made some waves within the organization.
Of course, any minor leaguer will have some flaws, and so without further ado, it is time to take a closer look and break down what these players do best.
10. Ian Clarkin LHP
A Team USA gold medal winner, Clarkin was taken by New York with the 33rd overall pick in the 2013 draft.
A sprained ankle limited him to just three games in his first season of professional baseball last year. This season Clarkin is 2-3 with a 4.17 ERA for the Single-A Charleston RiverDogs.
Throwing from the left side, Clarkin has a live fastball, coming in at 94 miles per hour. Throw in a 12-to-6 curveball that scouts called the best among high school pitchers in the 2013 draft class and good command, and Clarkin already has two nice pitches at his disposal.
Solidify another pitch in that repertoire, and he will have the stuff to become a big league power pitcher. Clarkin is already doing a nice job of fanning opposing hitters, as he has an 9.1 K/9 ratio in eight starts this season.
Keep in mind, lefties tend to bode well in Yankee Stadium as well.
Clarkin's To Do List should start with solidifying a third pitch. He currently has a changeup to complement the heater and the curve, but the pitch lacks in comparison to the reliability of the other two. Two good pitches may work now in the lower levels of the minors, but Clarkin will need more than that to succeed in the majors as a starter.
Other than that, Clarkin has not provided much of a sample size to judge. At just 19 years old, he is already ahead of the game being at Class A. He will continue to learn and mature as a pitcher.
9. Peter O'Brien C/3B/OF
O'Brien, a Florida native and product of the University of Miami, did not have to travel far when the Yankees took him in the second round in 2012 and assigned him to their Gulf Coast League squad.
Now, only two years later, a hot start from O'Brien is turning heads among Yankees scouts and officials.
With a .275 average, 13 doubles, 22 homers and 48 RBI between two levels over the course of 61 games, O'Brien has become a force to reckon with at the plate. With a quick, powerful swing, O'Brien has taken the minors by storm, earning himself a promotion to the Double-A Trenton Thunder only 30 games into his 2014 campaign.
This season is not the first time O'Brien has put his power on display, as he hit 39 doubles, 22 homers and 96 RBI last year.
O'Brien's biggest problem has been finding a home on the diamond. After catching at Miami, the Yanks decided a change of position was best considering the organization's surplus of backstops. A try at third base failed after O'Brien made 18 errors in 38 games in 2013. This year O'Brien has spent time in right field as well and will begin to see time at first base, according to Nick Peruffo of The Trentonian.
Another problem is that O'Brien has shown little selection at the plate. He does not walk much, 11 times this year to be exact. His 57 strikeouts are not a good sign either.
O'Brien will have to learn to work counts and accept free passes. Because if he keeps hitting the way he is now, pitchers are going to stay out of the strike zone.
8. Luis Severino RHP
When Severino first signed on with the Yankees he was just an 18-year-old kid from the Dominican Republic.
Only two years later, the young righty is carving up minor league hitters as he works his way through the Yankees system. In 2012 Severino went 4-2 with a 1.68 ERA in 14 starts for the Yankees Dominican Summer League team. Last year he went 4-2 with a 2.45 ERA for the Yankees Rookie and Class A level teams.
Back in February, ESPN's Andrew Marchand asked if Severino was the Yankees' next international star.
At 6'0" and 195 pounds, Severino may not have a strong build, but boy can he fire the ball. While his heater normally cruises around 94-95 mph, Severino has no problem rearing back and reaching a top speed of 98 mph when he needs to. As if that is not hard enough to hit, the fastball has a natural sink to it.
Also in Severino's arsenal are a hard slider and a changeup, both of which have already become quality pitches. With three reliable pitches at his disposal, Severino has had no problem striking out hitters this season. He has a 9.0 K/9 ratio in 13 starts as well as a 2.92 ERA.
If Severino has any weakness, it is in his slender frame. Severino has great talent and filthy stuff, but can that body and arm withstand throwing in the mid-90s over the course of a full season, say 32 starts? Can Severino maintain his velocity and control throughout a six-inning start?
Severino clearly has great stuff, he just needs time to let his body grow and develop. If it does not, he can still be a forceful option out of the bullpen.
7. Aaron Judge OF
Judge, who played at California State University Fresno, was the Yankees' first-round pick (32nd overall) in the 2013 draft.
The opposite of Severino, the 6'7", 230-pound outfielder is anything but slender. His size and athleticism brought him several college football scholarships, but the former tight end ultimately stuck with baseball. Now, he is one of the better young outfielders in the Yankees farm system.
Judge's size allows him to drive the ball with ease. Currently in his first season of pro ball with the Single-A Charleston RiverDogs, Judge is crushing opposing pitching. In 62 games the 22-year-old has 14 doubles, eight homers, 39 RBI and is hitting an impressive .321. Not a bad start his professional career.
In addition, Judge has good speed considering his size. He is by no means a threat to steal, but he can run the bases well and has range in the outfield. Add a strong arm and Judge serves as a solid defender.
With a big body and long limbs, Judge has a tendency to get a bit long with his swing. At times he has difficulty catching up to pitches, especially ones on the inner half of the plate.
The long swing has led to a lot of strikeouts, as Judge has 57 in 221 at-bats on the season.
Even with some flaws in his swing, Judge is one of the more impressive outfielders in the Yankees organization. Look for him to rise through the minor leagues in the coming years.
6. Gregory Bird 1B
A former catcher, Bird was the Yankees' 2011 fifth-round pick.
The Aurora, Colorado, high school standout, now a first baseman, is now showing tremendous upside at the plate thanks to his advanced approach and technique.
Bird has demonstrated an incredible eye so far in his minor league career. In 2013 he showed great discipline in the batter's box, drawing 107 walks. No minor league hitter earned more free passes than Bird that year.
In addition to the sharp eyesight, Bird can hit the ball too. 2013 was an all-around breakout campaign for him, as he hit .288 while belting 36 doubles, 20 homers and driving in 84 runs. With a combination of patience and pop, Bird has developed a very balanced approach as a hitter.
A weaker part of Bird's game is his defense, as he is still getting the hang of first base. Part of that may be because injuries have limited his athletic ability in past years. Back issues were the reason for Bird's transition to first, as he has had trouble staying healthy in his minor league career. Before 2013, Bird had never played more than 28 games in a season. He played 130 last year.
Like Judge, Bird can also be guilty of having a long swing, as shown by his 132 strikeouts last year.
This year Bird is off to a slow start, batting just .239 through 32 games.
5. Tyler Austin 1B/3B/OF
Just a kid in high school at the time, Austin was drafted by New York in the 13th round of the 2013 MLB draft.
Austin has moved around the diamond quite a bit since joining the organization, playing right field, first base and third base in an effort to avoid logjams at certain positions. His versatility could one day be an asset.
2012 saw Austin put his power on display, as he was named the Yankees Minor League Player of the Year thanks to his impressive offensive numbers. In 110 games Austin hit .322, drove in 80 runs and cracked 35 doubles and 17 home runs while playing at four different levels. His last stop was a promotion to the Double-A Trenton Thunder.
Austin also has a knack for waiting back on off-speed pitches, an ability that will help him succeed as he reaches the higher levels of Minor League Baseball.
Lastly, Austin has shown impeccable timing on the basepaths. While he is no Rickey Henderson, Austin knows how to get away with stealing. In 50 career attempts he has been caught just three times.
Injuries hampered Austin throughout the 2013 season, keeping him from growing after his outstanding 2012 campaign. Austin was held to just 85 games last year due to a sprained thumb. This year he has dealt with a sore wrist; something the Yankees hope will not become a lingering issue.
Austin has just two homers and 18 RBI in 44 games so far this year.
4. Eric Jagielo 3B
A former member of the Fighting Irish, the Yankees selected Jagielo with the 26th overall pick in the 2013 draft, the first time the Bombers had used a first-rounder on a position player in 12 years.
Jagielo solidified his place on MLB draft boards after spending the summer of 2012 playing in the Cape Cod League. He finished second in the league with 13 long balls.
A left-handed hitter, Jagielo's offensive game is all about power. In 42 games he has 10 home runs and has 31 runs knocked in for the Single-A Tampa Yankees. Eventually, New York hopes the 22-year-old finds his way to Yankee Stadium, where the short right field porch will be a perfect match for Jagielo's lefty pop.
Jagielo also has shown patience in the batter's box. While he has only drawn 19 walks in comparison to 41 strikeouts this year, Jagielo sees a lot of pitches and can work the count.
Defensively, Jagielo's biggest tool is his strong arm, which is a good thing because he may need it at another position...
Many scouts project Jagielo to be an average third baseman at best due to a lack of athleticism and quickness in the field. According to Josh Norris of Baseball America, there is "zero question" Jagielo will at some point have to shift from third base to first base. His strong arm could serve him well as a corner outfielder too.
Additionally, Jagielo is not much of a contact hitter. He is hitting .256 so far this year.
3. Mason Williams OF
The Yankees selected Williams, a product of Florida's West Orange High School, with their fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft.
A talented outfielder, Mason Williams comes from a family of professional athletes. His father Derwin played for the NFL's New England Patriots while his grandfather, Walt, spent 10 seasons as a major league outfielder. Now, Mason is trying to prove his own as a member of the Yankees organization.
A strong athlete, Williams has above-average speed. A solid defender, Williams covers a lot of ground in center field. He is also a threat to run on the basepaths. Williams has already swiped 13 bags this year and has only been caught three times.
Williams has also shown patience at the plate, an asset that nicely compliments his speed. In 230 at-bats Williams has 27 walks. Not bad when compared to his 34 strikeouts.
Aside from the sharp eye, Williams has been disappointing at the plate. After a 2012 season that saw him hit .298 at two different levels, Williams' offensive game has fallen off the map. Last year he hit just .245 and is batting a minuscule .226 this year in 57 games.
The biggest reason for Williams' struggles are the mechanics of his swing. It is long and choppy, which prevents him from driving the ball and hitting with power.
He may have speed, but he is going to have to do more than beat out infield singles to be a successful big leaguer.
2. Slade Heathcott OF
Heathcott was taken by the Yankees in the first round of the 2009 MLB draft with the 29th overall pick.
A Texas native, Heathcott has become one of the top outfielders in a Yankees farm system overrun by outfielders. He is the closest of the top outfielders here to being big league ready. He just needs to stay healthy.
Think of Heathcott as an unpolished Brett Gardner, but with slower legs and more pop (he hit eight homers in 2013). He has enough speed to make him a legitimate center fielder in the majors, but with Jacoby Ellsbury in town a shift to right is likely to happen. He may never compete with Gardner or Ellsbury for the team lead in stolen bases, but Heathcott is fast enough on the bases to have swiped 15 or more bags in each of his last 3 seasons.
Another strength of Heathcott's is his attitude.
He has a pure love for the game and takes nothing for granted, something that can often be underestimated. "I learned that this game is about having fun," Heathcott said in an ESPN story by Andrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews. "It is not about being so serious. It is a privilege to play the game."
One of Heathcott's biggest weaknesses is, well, his attitude. In the story, ESPN's Keith Law said a scout described Heathcott as "legitimately a crazy person."
With an all-out style of play, the 23-year-old can get a bit reckless at times. Normally that would not be such a bad thing, but Heathcott has been hindered by knee and shoulder injuries since he was in high school. The injuries have definitely impeded his development over the years.
As hard as it may be, Heathcott may need to tone things down a bit, because his biggest obstacle to reaching the majors is his health.
1. Gary Sanchez C
At just 16 years old, Sanchez packed up his bags and left his home in Santo Domingo of the Dominican Republic in favor of a $3 million contract with the Yankees in 2009.
Now, at age 21, Sanchez is undoubtedly the best prospect the Yankees have to offer. Baseball America ranked the catcher as the 35th-best prospect in all of baseball heading into the 2014 season.
Sanchez has exhibited strong power the past three years, hitting at least 15 bombs in each of his last three seasons. His best season came in 2012 when he hit .290 with 18 homers and 85 RBI.
Sanchez also has a good approach at the plate. Aside from his .253 mark last season, Sanchez has hit for respectable (not great) average throughout his minor league career. He is batting .272 over the course of five seasons. Sanchez also reduced his number of strikeouts from 2012 to 2013 while drawing more walks.
A gifted hitter, Sanchez has the potential to be more than just a home run threat at the plate. He is currently batting .251 with seven homers and 36 RBI for Double-A Trenton.
As of now, Sanchez has not solidified himself as a big league catcher. He has a strong arm behind the plate, but his defense leaves much to be desired as a receiver. Two specific areas he needs to work on are blocking balls in the dirt and and calling games.
Sanchez is still young, so he has time to improve as a catcher. He is good enough there that his powerful swing will continue to keep him the center of attention among Yankees minor leaguers.
All stats were obtained via Baseball-Reference and are accurate as of the end of play on June 11, 2014.
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