The recent Yankees draft strategy has been to take guys who are signability cases. While this is definitely the right move for a team with the financial resources, there is a downside to this plan.
While other teams have their top picks playing in short season leagues, the Yankees are still negotiating. By the time the Yankees get all of their top picks signed, the short season leagues are nearly over and the players get nothing more than a cameo appearance.
On September 28th, Baseball America released it's list of the top 20 prospects in the New York-Penn League. There are 14 teams in the league, so it'd be nice to see the Yankees have two or three prospects on the list. This time, though, the Yankees had four players selected as top-20 prospects. In 2008, the Yankees had no players in the top-20, so it is great to see them grade so strongly this season.
Arodys Vizcaino came in as the third-best prospect in the league, and he is widely regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in the organization. He doesn't have the polish of Zach McAllister, but his ceiling is much greater. He injured his back, which caused him to miss the end of the Staten Island season; the bright side is that it's not an arm injury. He profiles as a front-end starter, and health permitting, I expect to see him starting for Charleston next season.
The RHP out of powerhouse UNC, Adam Warren, was ranked the 12th best prospect in the NYPL, after being Staten Island's best starter. The Yankees paid him slot in the fourth round, so expectations weren't too high for him. An increase in velocity and improved command has impressed the Yankees organization. I ranked him the 16th best prospect in the organization, and have a Q&A coming up with him very soon.
The next one was a bit of a surprise to me. 2006 signee Jimmy Paredes, who only received an $80,000 signing bonus, made a good impression and landed the 14th spot on the list. The 20-year-old put together a wOBA of .350, but has posted walk rates of only 4.7 percent in back-to-back seasons. He didn't grade too well in my dominance factors, but he's definitely a guy to watch in Charleston next season. He probably has the highest ceiling of any non-catcher infield prospect in the organization.
Coming in last, but not least, is famed Staten Island home run record holder, Neil Medchill (pictured). The 18th best prospect in the NYPL was drafted by the Yankees in the 11th round, and quickly turned himself into a legit prospect by crushing the ball. He led the entire minor league organization with an insane .273 ISO. He'll probably be ticketed for Tampa next season, and has to prove he can hit against better pitching.
This class of Staten Island alumni is full of potential. Vizcaino and Paredes have a ton of upside, but are very far away. Medchill needs to cut down on the K-rate, but if he continues to hit the ball with such authority, it will be impossible to ignore him. Warren doesn't have the ceiling of a Vizcaino, but he has the polish to move through the system quickly. These guys will all be worth looking out for in 2010.
While the upside is there, there are a ton of guys who succeed in short season baseball, but never find that same level of success in full season leagues. Also, no first rounders played extensively in the NYPL, so the top prospects this year probably aren't as good as they have been in years past.