New York Yankees: Ranking the 7 Best Prospects in the Farm System
Let's face facts—the New York Yankees are an old team. Fourteen of the 25 players on the roster are on the wrong side of 30, and that's not including players currently on the disabled list such as Derek Jeter, Bartolo Colon and Rafael Soriano.
In recent times, the New York Yankees' farm system has essentially been an afterthought. Throughout much of the late 1990s - early 2000s, they did not develop many upper echelon prospects, and the ones they did develop were usually shipped over to acquire veteran talent, leaving the cupboard quite bare.
The Yankees realized that the organizational philosophy needed to change regarding the development of their prospects. They put more of their resources into their developmental system, and it has paid great dividends. In the past few seasons, we've seen contributions from Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson.
This season, the Yankees have gotten solid play from Ivan Nova, Eduardo Nunez and Hector Noesi, proving that the notion of a barren Yankee farm system is officially a thing of the past.
They are currently ranked as the fifth-best farm system in Major League Baseball according to Baseball America, and they have continued to develop an excellent group of prospects.
Here are the seven top prospects currently in the New York Yankees' farm system:
Jesus Montero, 21, C
Montero is currently the #3 prospect in all of Major League Baseball, according to Baseball America.
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Jesus Montero has been considered the best prospect in the Yankee organization for what seems like an eternity. Yet, he is still just 21 years old. He has been with the organization since July 2006, when he was signed as a free agent out of Venezuela.
He has quickly made his way through the Yankee farm system, producing strong offensive numbers along the way. Last season at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he posted a .289 batting average to go along with 21 home runs. This season, his power numbers are slightly down as he has just five HR, but he has maintained a high batting average, currently hitting .291
The big question with Montero is his defense. Last season, he threw out just 23 percent of base stealers while being charged with 15 passed balls and six errors. This season, he has only thrown out 17 percent of potential base stealers, though he has cut down on the passed balls (three) and the errors (one).
The Yankees have a great deal of depth at the catching position in terms of prospects, so it is possible that Montero may switch positions at some point or become a full-time designated hitter. One way or another, his bat should be in the Yankee lineup for years to come.
ETA: September 2011
Gary Sanchez, 18, C
Gary Sanchez has driven in 68 runs in just 99 career minor league games.
Gary Sanchez was signed out of the Dominican Republic in July 2009 at the tender age of 16. He has impressive offensive skills, great agility and a strong arm.
In 2010, his first season in the minors, Sanchez posted an impressive .329 batting average to go along with eight home runs in just 173 at bats.
During the offseason, he was found to have an extra nerve in his heart. He underwent successful heart surgery in February, and General Manager Brian Cashman said that the issue will not be a problem going forward for Sanchez.
This season, he has spent all of his time at Class A ball in Charleston. He currently has a .267 batting average, 5 HR and 25 RBI.
Because he is so young, it's hard to say with much certainly how his career will progress, but many scouts and executives believe that he has all of the tools to be a successful major league catcher down the road.
Manny Banuelos, 20, LHP
Manny Banuelos may very well be the next in a long line of great left-handed starers for the New York Yankees.
Manny Banuelos was signed by the New York Yankees out of the Mexican League in 2008. He spent most of 2009 in Class A Charleston, where he posted a 9-5 record and a 2.67 ERA in 19 starts.
He missed some time in 2010 due to an appendectomy but came back strong, compiling 62 strikeouts in just 44.1 innings to along with a 2.23 ERA for Tampa of the Florida State League. He was promoted to Class AA Trenton towards the end of the year.
Thus far he has gone 3-2 with a 3.50 ERA in 17 starts for Trenton. He has had trouble locating his pitches at times, but scouts believe that his command is his greatest asset, and it is expected that he will continue to develop.
He was paid the ultimate compliment during spring training this season when none other than the great Mariano Rivera called Banuelos the best pitching prospect he has ever seen, pointing out that Banuelos not only has great stuff but has tremendous poise and composure for such a young pitcher.
Banuelos is in the low-90s with his fastball and can top out in the mid-90s. He has what scouts say is a plus curveball and a tremendous changeup. If he can master the curve and possibly develop another pitch, he will be in the Yankee rotation in very short order.
Dellin Betances, 23, RHP
Dellin Betances has an overpowering arsenal and physical presence. He has struck out 10.4 hitters per 9 innings during his minor league career.
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Dellin Betances is a 6'8" fireballer who was drafted in the eighth round of the 2006 MLB Amateur draft. He had originally committed to Vanderbilt University, but the Yankees gave him a $1 million signing bonus to forego college.
In 2009, he struggled for Tampa of the Florida State League, finishing the year with a 2-5 record and a 5.48 ERA. Late in the year, he underwent elbow surgery which may have been the cause for his poor showing during the season.
He came back in 2010 and was downright dominant. In 14 starts, he compiled an 8-1 record and a 1.77 ERA. He struck out 88 batters in 71 innings while allowing just 43 hits and only one home run.
He was promoted to Class AA Trenton where he has continued to impress. In 15 starts for Trenton, he has gone 3-3 with a 2.84 ERA. He has 87 punchouts in 73 innings but has struggled at times with his control, walking 34 batters during his time at AA.
Betances has a mid-90s fastball to go along with an excellent curveball and a decent changeup. He has as much talent as any minor league pitcher and has a bright future in pinstripes ahead of him.
Austin Romine, 22, C
Austin Romine should be a big league catcher someday, but will it be for the Yankees?
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Austin Romine was selected by the Yankees with their second-round draft choice in 2007.
Originally thought to be more of a defensive standout than an offensive centerpiece, Romine has developed quite nicely with the bat. He has produced double-digit home run totals each season while moving up through the Yankee farm system and was named Florida State League Player of the Year in 2009.
Currently in his second season at Class AA Trenton, he has a .298 batting average with four HR and 31 RBI. The belief in many circles is that if and when Jesus Montero is promoted to the majors, Romine will be brought up to AAA.
Because of the depth that the Yankees have throughout their farm system at catcher, Romine may be the odd man out. However, scouts and executives seem to believe that Romine has legitimate potential to be a solid major league catcher.
Slade Heathcott, 20, Outfielder
Slade Heathcott has 21 stolen bases in 128 games at A Charleston.
Slade Heathcott is a wild card in many ways with regard to his potential as a major leaguer. He was drafted by the Yankees in the first round of the 2009 MLB amateur draft out of Texas High School.
Heathcott has been given the coveted "five-tool prospect" tag. He can do everything on a baseball field, though scouts seem to think he lacks elite speed or elite projectable power. The consensus seems to be that his future is roughly a 20 HR, 30-40 SB and .300 batting average player. Currently playing Class A ball for Charleston, he has a .271 batting average with four home runs and six stolen bases in 52 games.
There have been whispers in the past about his character. In high school, he was arrested for driving under the influence and kicked off the baseball team for academic reasons. But he seems to have turned his life around, and Yankee management insists they did their homework before drafting him. Heathcott is a hard-nosed typed of player, and many feel he will be an immediate fan favorite once he reaches the Bronx.
Being just two years out of high school, he is obviously still very raw in terms of his development, but Heathcott has the potential to be a fixture in the Yankee outfield for many years to come.
Adam Warren, 23, RHP
Adam Warren should be a solid contributor to the Yankees in the near future.
Adam Warren was selected by the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2009 draft out of the University of North Carolina. He was assigned to Staten Island of the New York-Pennsylvania League following the draft and compiled a 4-2 record with a 1.43 ERA.
He played with both Tampa of the Florida State League and Trenton of the Eastern League in 2010, finishing the year with an 11-7 record and a 2.59 ERA combined at both levels. This season, he has pitched at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He is 6-2 with a 3.07 ERA in 14 starts.
Warren does not have overpowering stuff, but he is a very polished pitcher who features both a cutter and a two-seam fastball. He also throws a circle change and has been trying to develop a curveball. He has very good command of his pitches and possesses one of the best pickoff moves in all of amateur baseball for a right-hander.
Warren may not be a future ace, but he should definitely have a spot on a future Yankee roster, either as a back-of-the-rotation starter or a solid middle-relief type. He should be a very serviceable major league pitcher.