MLB Trade Speculation: 5 Yankees Prospects Who Could Move at the Deadline
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"You have to know what your opposition is doing and scout outside the organization. At some point you have to decide who are the core players, who are the complimentary guys. Who has value, who should you trade? - John Mirabelli, Cleveland Indians Assistant General Manager
Unlike other general managers who find their hands tied by a barren farm system while trying to improve their team, New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman plays the part of Old McDonald on what many perceive to be a farm full of talent.
Without question, the 2011 Yankees are a team in flux.
Core players such as Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and to some degree Alex Rodriguez have all begun to show signs of slowing down, as age and the wear-and-tear that comes from years of playing start to catch up to them.
After C.C. Sabathia, the Yankees have relied heavily on the arms of re-treads such as Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon in the starting rotation. In the bullpen, after Mariano Rivera and David Robertson, the Yankees have been forced to shuttle pitchers in and out from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to maintain their effectiveness late in games.
Facing a yearly edict of "win now" from ownership, a ravenous fan base and even the local press, Brian Cashman could soon find himself under mounting pressure to make some changes.
If change is indeed coming to the Bronx, chances are that the rosters of their minor league affiliates will be affected as a result.
After the jump, five players who could facilitate that change.
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What is left to say about Jesus Montero, the 21-year-old starting catcher and number three hitter for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees?
Ranked as the third best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America entering the 2011 season, it is no secret that Montero is poised to become an offensive force in the major leagues.
But...where on the diamond does he fit?
While others have doubted his defensive prowess, Montero has no question about his ability: "I want to be a catcher. I love to catch. I like to be a catcher. I like to be in the middle of the game. I mean, it's my position. I want to play my position."
His defense has improved drastically since he burst onto the scene in 2007, and while others may disagree, it is still entirely possible that other teams, perhaps even the Yankees themselves, view him as their catcher of the future.
With immense natural power and the ability to hit the ball to all fields, Montero is arguably the best hitting prospect in all of minor league baseball. Certainly, he is in the same discussion as Mike Trout of the Anaheim Angels and Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, the two players who happen to be ranked ahead of him by Baseball America.
Montero could be made available to other teams, but the asking price will be steep.
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Knowing full well that he would need Tommy John surgery, the Yankees still chose to give Andrew Brackman a four-year, $4.55 million contract after drafting the 6'11" right handed pitcher out of North Carolina State in 2007.
An incredible athlete (he played both baseball and basketball at NC State), Brackman possesses three excellent pitches: a two-seam and four-seam fastball in the mid-to-upper 90's that have downright nasty movement, and a late-breaking curveball in the mid-to-upper 70's.
One-third of the "Killer B's"—the other two-thirds are comprised of pitchers Manuel Banuelos and Delin Betances, both currently playing with the Double-A Trenton Thunder, Brian Cashman has already intimated that both Banuelos and Betances are not available.
After a promising 2010 campaign that saw him split time between Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton: 10-11 W-L, 3.90 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 39 BB and 126 K's , he has struggled with his command and consistency thus far in 2011 with the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees: 2-3, 6.35 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 33 BB and 36 K's.
Ranked as the 78th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America coming into the 2011 season, the 25-year-old Brackman is considered "old" for a prospect.
Yet Brackman still has enough raw talent to become an effective major league pitcher, though whether his best fit is as a starter or reliever remains to be seen.
As usual, pitching is in high demand, so it is entirely possible that he could garner a nice return were he to be made available by the Yankees.
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Ranked 98th out of the top 100 prospects in baseball by Baseball America heading into the 2011 season, Austin Romine is seemingly stuck in limbo until the fate of Jesus Montero is decided.
Widely regarded as a solid defensive catcher with a strong throwing arm, Romine's offensive skills pale in comparison to Montero's.
This is not to say that Romine cannot hit—he's currently hitting .301 for the Double-A Trenton Thunder and has potential in the power department as well. Don't expect to see any gaudy power numbers while he is in Trenton however, as Mercer County Waterfront Park, the Thunder's home field, is notoriously unkind to batters.
While he does not project to be a major force with the bat, Romine certainly will not become an "automatic out" once the 22-year-old reaches the majors. At the same time, with Montero ahead of him and phenom Gary Sanchez behind him, Romine could find himself the victim of a numbers game.
Should Romine become available, teams who are looking for their catcher of the future most certainly would be calling.
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Like Jesus Montero and Andrew Brackman, Brandon Laird's position in the big leagues has yet to be determined.
Currently the starting third baseman for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, the 23-year old Laird has the ability to play both corner positions in either the infield or outfield, and doesn't necessarily have a preference as to where he ends up. Says Laird: "I'll play anywhere."
While taking part in spring training this year, GM Brian Cashman had this to say about Laird: “He’s come a long way defensively. He can definitely handle the position (3B) and we can definitely see him in the outfield if we want.”
Coming off a stellar season with the Double-A Trenton Thunder that saw him win the Eastern League MVP Award after hitting .291 with 23 HR and 93 RBI, Laird has gotten off to a slower start in the more advanced International League this season, with a line of .254, two HR and 15 RBI.
Talent on the diamond runs in his family—his older brother Gerald is currently the backup catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, though Brandon may be the more talented of the two. Possessing natural power and the ability to drive the ball to all fields, Laird projects as a solid middle-of-the-order hitter once he reaches the Bronx.
Blocked at first base by Mark Teixeira and at third base by Alex Rodriguez, Laird's best chance to stick with the Yankees would be as a corner outfielder—perhaps as a replacement for the affable but streaky Nick Swisher, who becomes a free agent after this season.
His ability to play multiple positions makes him an intriguing prospect, one that the Yankees simply would not give away unless the return was substantial.
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Less than a year after making his professional debut in 2006, Hector Noesi found himself suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball for violating their policy on performance enhancing drugs. Upon returning to the mound in 2007, Noesi found himself out of action again, this time due to Tommy John surgery.
Fast forward to 2009, and Hector Noesi's career finally begins in earnest. He would finish the season in High-A with the Tampa Yankees, putting up a combined 6-4 record and 2.92 ERA over 117 innings pitched. More impressive were his 118 strikeouts and 15 walks on the season.
2010 saw Noesi move quickly through the Yankee farm system, spending time with Tampa, Trenton and finally with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Once again, his numbers were impressive: a combined 14-7 record, 3.20 ERA, 28 BBand 153 K's over 160.1 innings.
After starting this season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Noesi currently finds himself pitching out of the Yankee bullpen where he has been effective in long relief, pitching to a 0.96 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.
Armed with a fastball in the mid 90's that he can seemingly put wherever he wants, Noesi is no one-trick pony. He rounds out his repertoire with a changeup, slider and curveball, though the last two pitches are still works in progress.
While he may not have the name recognition and front of the rotation potential as his fellow pitching prospects Andrew Brackman, Delin Betances and Manuel Banuelos do, the 24-year old Noesi could very well be a capable innings-eater as a No. 2 or 3 starter in a major league rotation.
Whether or not that will be with the Yankees remains to be seen.
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These five players are certainly not the only prospects that the Yankees have, but I believe they are the players who could command the most in return and who would feasibly be available in a trade, should Brian Cashman decide that is the route to go.
Gary Sanchez, the 18-year-old catching phenom who I mentioned briefly in the discussion about Austin Romine, was left off this list simply because I don't see any possible way that the Yankees would consider trading him. Much like Delin Betances and Manuel Banuelos, I would classify Sanchez as "untouchable" at this point.
Others, such as outfielders Zach "Slade" Heathcott, Melky Mesa and Mason Williams, shortstop Cito Culver and second baseman David Adams, while still highly thought of prospects with bright futures ahead of them, simply would not bring back the type of quality, impact player(s) at this point in their development that the Yankees would be looking to acquire.