New York Yankees 2014 All-Prospect Team
The New York Yankees have, of late, shown more signs of taking themselves out of the pressure-cooker of the American League wild-card race than of sneaking toward its forefront. Going just 4-6 in their last 10 and losing their last two, the Bombers' final 20 games may not be enough to close the 5.5-game gap of the second slot.
A case of "one step forward, two steps back" has continued to materialize the very graspable notion that Derek Jeter's career could end before the month of October. The late-season wheel-spinning has made a mediocre year that much more disappointing.
With the minor league regular season recently wrapped, however, we shift—or happily divert—our focus this week to the Baby Bombers, where we can find solace in some bright spots on the farm to create a virtual all-star lineup of top performers.
The Yankees, routinely resorting—and criticized for going—to the free-agent and trade markets for roster additions, are as well known for their lack of recent in-house blue-chip prospects as they are for their robust finances.
But don't get it twisted; there are more than just international and draft busts plying their trades from Scranton down to Staten Island.
Bleacher Report's 2014 All-Prospect team is compiled from New York's best organizational talent below the major league level, with one player selected for each position (including starting pitcher and reliever). Based on statistics from this season, the selection process weighs production equally across all levels—that is, it doesn't discriminate against performances in the lower levels of the minors where one could argue it's easier to bat .300.
Some of the following names—like Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge—are quickly recognizable, having adorned the tops of many prospect rankings since the winter; though others may surprise you after putting up standout numbers or breakout seasons.
Take a look at the Yankees 2014 All-Prospect team, momentarily take your mind off the situation in the Bronx (if you must) and let us know in the comments below who you think was snubbed.
C: Gary Sanchez, AA
The 21-year-old Santo Domingo product came into the 2014 season heralded as the organization's top prospect (via Baseball America and MLB.com). He likely won't hang on to the top spot for 2015 after breakout performances like that of pitcher Luis Severino, but the 6'3", 235-pounder put together a solid year—still the best among Yankees minor league catchers.
In his fifth year of pro ball, Sanchez hit .270/.338/.406 (108 wRC+, per FanGraphs) for the Trenton Thunder (AA) with 13 home runs, 19 doubles and a team-leading 65 RBI in 110 games. Equally known for his power as he is for his arm behind the plate, Sanchez threw out nearly 64 percent of baserunners (37 of 58), though he had continued problems with both passed balls (10) and errors (17).
"He still needs to work on his receiving and blocking balls," says MLB.com, who dropped him one spot (to No. 2) in its Yankees prospect rankings following the season. "Sanchez's strong throwing arm remains an asset behind the plate. His bat would make him a valuable major leaguer, even if he had to change positions, but he has star potential as a catcher."
Many might have expected a bigger year for the future of Yankees catching, though Sanchez is still young, and his numbers didn't stray much from his averages. In fact, he showed improvement over 2013 in some offensive categories (.253 last year), and he only struck out four more times (91) this season.
It's tough to call 2014 a disappointment, though it certainly wasn't inspiring. The Journal News' Chad Jennings wrote that Sanchez's "numbers were basically [stagnant] in his return to Trenton. He's still just 21 years old...but the year was underwhelming for such a touted hitter. Right-handers held him to a .255/.320/.332 slash line."
Honorable Mentions: John Ryan Murphy (.246, six HR, nine 2B, 28 RBI); Austin Romine (.242, six HR, 17 2B, 33 RBI); Francisco Arcia (.276, 11 2B, 25 RBI).
1B: Kyle Roller, AA/AAA
Kyle Roller, the Yankees' eighth-round pick in 2010, flew under the radar heading into the season. In fairness, the 26-year-old batted just .266 for High-A Tampa in 2012 and .253 for Double-A Trenton a season ago. But across Double-A and Triple-A in 2014, Roller hit .300/.391/.550 with 26 homers (second in organization), 30 doubles and 74 RBI.
He earned his first promotion to Triple-A this season after 21 games in Trenton saw him hit .385 with nine homers, six double and 23 RBI. He then played 104 games for Scranton where he hit .283 (143 wRC+) and led the team in slugging (.497) and OPS (.875) while adding 17 more homers, 24 doubles and 51 RBI.
The main knocks on Roller are his swing-and-miss potential and limited defense; he struck out at least 110 times in each full season—totaling an ugly 143 (28 percent K rate) in Trenton last season and 146 across both levels in 2014 (28.6 percent in AAA). The good news: He led the Thunder with 49 walks.
Roller, the former East Carolina Pirate, split time between first base and designated hitter and committed just four errors (.993 fielding percentage) in 68 games in the field.
Honorable Mentions: Greg Bird (.271, 14 HR, 30 2B, 43 RBI); Mike Ford (.292, 13 HR, 19 2B, 56 RBI).
2B: Rob Refsnyder, AA/AAA
The 6'1", 205-pound second baseman put together a breakout year in 2014, splitting 137 games between Trenton (60 G, 159 wRC+) and Scranton (77 G, 137 wRC+). It might've seemed difficult to improve upon his 2013 campaign that saw him hit .293 with 32 doubles and 23 stolen bases across Low-A and High-A.
But the former Arizona Wildcat slashed a .318/.387/.497 this season. Despite facing increasingly tougher pitching, Refsnyder, a 2012 fifth-rounder, posted career highs in average, homers (14), doubles (38), triples (six), RBI (63) and OPS (.884).
The 23-year-old likely failed to receive a call-up due to his defense, a result of making the transition from the outfield—where he played in college—to the infield (12 errors in 2014). Regardless, he's a recently popular name for Yankees fans (see video above), and he's poised to be the future second baseman in the Bronx, given the lack of depth or reliability since Robinson Cano's departure.
He entered the season without a mention on any top prospect rankings, but he leaves it as MLB.com's No. 6 man.
The Journal News' Jennings says, "[H]e could make a case for a big league job as soon as spring training."
Honorable Mentions: Jose Pirela (Utility: .305, 10 HR, 21 2B, 11 3B, 60 RBI, 15 SB).
3B: Miguel Andujar, A
The six-foot, 19-year-old native of San Cristobal played his first full season in 2014 and did it with ease and production. After signing as an international free agent in the summer of 2011, Andujar caught many scouts' eyes in his first two seasons of Yankees rookie ball, claiming Baseball America's No. 18 prospect spot following 2013.
Baseball America writes (subscription required): "[H]e jumped straight to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and struggled to adjust in 2012. The Yankees kept Andujar in the same league in 2013, and he broke out." The Yankees were not only impressed by his 2013 performance—he raked; .323/.368/.496 (152 wRC+)—but also comfortable enough to allow him in 2014 to bypass short-season Staten Island and begin the year with Low-A Charleston.
The decision proved correct since Andujar handled his own in the full-season South Atlantic League, slashing .267/.318/.397 with double-digit homers (10), 25 doubles, four triples, 70 RBI and above-average 15.7 K rate (83 in 127 games). While his final average is unexciting, Andujar showed vast improvement in the second half, batting .310 and .330 in the final two months.
Adds Baseball America: "His manager in the GCL [rookie ball], Mario Garza, said that if Andujar concentrated on-base hits and sacrificed power, he could hit .400. And while that might be hyperbolic, it highlights Andujar's chops at the plate."
The only tool Andujar lacks—remember, he's not even 20—is his speed, though he has plus raw power, above-average bat speed and a smooth, sound swing that profiles to hit for average as he progresses. Baseball America believes that, with his good arm and range, he's a future third baseman, though he'll need much more refinement on his defense and footwork that have seen high error totals.
Honorable Mentions: Eric Jagielo (.256, 18 HR, 14 2B, 58 RBI); Dante Bichette Jr. (.264, 10 HR, 30 2B, 68 RBI); Zelous Wheeler (.296, nine HR, 25 2B, 40 RBI).
SS: Tyler Wade, A
The 19-year-old high school product out of Murrieta, California comprised the other half of the left side of the infield for Charleston, where he led the team in hits (138). The Yankees drafted the 6'1", 180-pound defensive specialist in the fourth round in 2013, though he showed off a surprising bat in his first year of rookie ball, batting .309 with 12 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 46 games.
Baseball America references his frame, saying, "Wade is a live-bodied athlete with above-average speed," and of his offense, notes, "He has a handsy swing and a line-drive approach, and he could become an average hitter down the road. He needs to get stronger, and he projects for below-average power."
In 129 games this year, he hit .272/.350/.349 (100 wRC+) with 24 doubles (second only to Andujar), six triples (tied for first), 51 RBI (third) and a homer. He also used that speed to swipe 22 bags—tied for second on the team.
Though he struck out 118 times (20.5 K rate), his 57 walks were also good for second on the RiverDogs.
Honorable Mentions: Ali Castillo (.254, 2 HR, 18 2B, 3 3B, 42 RBI, 17 SB).
LF: Taylor Dugas, AA/AAA
Taylor Dugas, a 5'9" product of the University of Alabama, gets the start in left field for the All-Prospect team after putting up his best offensive year to date. Taken in the eighth round in 2012, Dugas has confidently climbed the rungs of the Yankees farm, earning his first promotion to Triple-A for the second half of 2014.
He finished 2014 at .299/.399/.390 with 15 doubles, seven triples and 40 RBI, and he was second and first, respectively, in OBP for Trenton and Scranton.
In four seasons with the Crimson Tide, he hit .360 and became the school's all-time hits leader, per Baseball America, who called his collegiate years "a storied career" and compared him to Sam Fuld for his style of play and contact despite his lack of power. In his first full season of pro ball last year, the former SEC outfielder hit .250 for Low-A Charleston but then .321 for High-A Tampa.
Following his first year of short-season ball in 2012, Baseball America credited Dugas with the best strike-zone discipline in the Yankees system (51 BB in 59 G). Indeed, this year, it was in Dugas' strikeout and walk numbers where he really sparkled (59 K, 47 BB). His strikeout and walk rates actually improved when he faced the best pitching the minors have to offer, posting a stellar 14.6 percent K rate and well-above-average 11.7 percent BB rate in Scranton.
Dugas, who bats left and throws left, hit .294/.403/.424 (136 wRC+) in 54 games with Trenton this season to go along with 10 doubles, five triples and 23 RBI. In his 57 games at Triple-A Scranton, he improved his average to .305 (116 wRC+) and added five doubles, two triples and 17 RBI to close out the year.
CF: Jake Cave, A+/AA
Twenty-one-year-old Jake Cave gets the nod for center field on the Yankees 2014 All-Prospect team. After hitting .282 (117 wRC+) with 37 doubles and 18 stolen bases in his first full season in 2013 (after which Baseball America named him the No. 22 Yankees prospect), the 6'0", 180-pounder from Hampton, Virginia, didn't need to improve his production as much as prove his consistency.
In 132 games across High-A (90 G, 116 wRC+) and Double-A (42 G, 121 wRC+) this season, he slashed .294/.351/.414 with a career-high seven homers, 28 doubles, nine triples, 42 RBI and 12 stolen bags. Cave led the Tampa Yankees with 117 hits before finishing his year with a promotion to Trenton.
In Tampa he was outstanding at .304/.354/.395, and he only increased his stock against higher-level pitching in Trenton, finishing at .273/.344/.455. After his promotion, in fewer than half the games of his time in Tampa, Cave hit more homers and triples and just six fewer RBI.
In Cave's 2011 draft report, Baseball America said: "[He] was a big reason scouts were excited to cover Virginia this spring," and called him "A legitimate two-way prospect." He played 109 of his 2014 games in center and committed just three errors for a .988 fielding percentage.
Despite lacking a spot on Yankees prospect rankings coming in to 2014, MLB.com now places Cave at No. 7 in its Top 20.
RF: Aaron Judge, A/A+
Aaron Judge—ranked No. 6 and 9 among Yankees prospects by Baseball America and MLB.com, respectively, ahead of 2014—proved that he's much more than a do-or-die power hitter (don't worry, Baseball America still named Judge the South Atlantic League's best power prospect of 2014).
The monster 6'7", 230-pound college outfielder (2013 32nd overall pick) split 133 games down the middle between Charleston (65 G, 167 wRC+) and Tampa (66 G, 149 wRC+) this season after missing 2013 to injury.
Prior to 2014, MLB.com noted: "With his long arms, his swing can get very long...which results in strikeouts and reduces his ability to hit for average." Judge ultimately cast doubts aside for the latter half of that statement, showing scouts and personnel that he's more than capable of hitting for average.
He finished the year at a combined .308/.419/.486 (.905 OPS) with 17 homers, 24 doubles, four triples and 78 RBI. The other added benefit for Judge's stock in the organization: patience and plate discipline. The masher walked 89 times, including 50 times in just the 66 games (outstanding 17.5 percent K rate) he logged in his promotion to High-A ball.
Judge designated hit for 16 games in 2014 but played all of his defense in right field (116 G), and Baseball America recognized him as the Florida State League's best outfield arm (four assists for Tampa). MLB.com wrote prior to the season: "Judge moves very well for a big man, with his solid speed and strong arm making him a nice fit in right field."
MLB.com now ranks Judge it's No. 5 Yankee prospect following the season, and he could be on the move quickly through the minors if he continues to hit for average and draw walks. He easily possesses the best raw power of any Yankees prospect, and he's more than likely the organization's best hitter heading into 2015. His defense only betters his case for a future in the Bronx.
Honorable Mentions (OF): Adonis Garcia (.319, nine homers, 20 2B, 45 RBI); Antoan Richardson (.271, 26 SB); Ramon Flores (.254, nine HR, 20 2B, 26 RBI); Tyler Austin (.275, nine HR, 20 2B, 47 RBI); Michael O'Neill (.256, 42 SB).
SP: Luis Severino, A/A+/AA
If you haven't heard much of Luis Severino's name, that will all change ahead of the 2015 season—quite rapidly, too. He went from MLB.com's 10th-best Yankees prospect to its No. 1 in 2014, and his No. 9 ranking by Baseball America is sure to change soon.
MLB.com summarizes the 20-year-old Dominican's ascension: "Severino began 2013 as an unknown Yankees prospect who had yet to make his U.S. debut, and he finished it as the top right-handed pitching prospect in the system. He has made another leap in 2014, becoming the organization's top prospect, period, and [pitched] in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game."
The 6'0", 195-pound right-hander pitched 44 innings between rookie ball and Low-A in 2013, posting a 2.45 combined ERA, 1.068 WHIP and allowing only one long ball. This season, Severino started 24 games across three levels and eclipsed the 100-inning mark (113.1), finishing with a combined 2.46 ERA, 1.059 WHIP, 127 strikeouts (10.1 K/9), 2.1 BB/9 and surrendered just three homers.
He excelled at each stop: In Low-A he went 3-2 in 14 starts with a 2.79 (2.70 FIP) and 9.31 K/9; in High-A he went 1-1 in four starts with a 1.31 (1.55 FIP) and outstanding 12.2 K/9; and in Double-A he finished at 2-2 in six starts with a 2.52 (2.27 FIP) and stellar 10.4 K/9.
His fastball sits in the mid-90s, touching 98, and has sinking action at lower speeds, while his hard slider and still-in-progress changeup both project to be solid or better offerings, per MLB.com, who note that Severino's accelerated timetable is dependent upon developing all three pitches.
He's emerged as more than a top Yankees prospect; he's one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.
Honorable Mentions: Shane Greene (13 GS, 5-2, 4.61, 3.40 FIP, 7.7 K/9); Ian Clarkin (16 GS, 4-3, 3.12, 1.253 WHIP, 9.0 K/9); Nik Turley (13 GS, 5-3, 4.43, 1.600 WHIP, 6.6 K/9); Manny Banuelos (25 GS, 2-3, 4.11, 1.239 WHIP, 8.3 K/9).
RP: Jacob Lindgren, Rk/A/A+/AA
The Yankees' first selection of the 2014 draft (second round) impressed mightily in his first professional experience. Jacob Lindgren closed ballgames for Mississippi State in his final season, a role he very well may hold for the Yankees in the future.
Writes MLB.com, who ranks the lefty as the No. 9 Yankees prospect: "Lindgren helped pitch Mississippi State to the College World Series as a starter in 2013, then dominated after a shift to the bullpen this spring."
When he switched to the pen, Lindgren's fastball jumped from 87-91 mph to 91-95, and his slider went from a secondary pitch to "a true wipeout pitch at 82-84 mph, with late bite," per MLB.com.
Though the 5'11", 180-pounder tossed just 25 innings, he was absolutely lights-out with a 17.3 K/9. He struck out 48, walked 13 and failed to give up the long ball, finishing with a 2.16 ERA.
"When batters manage to make contact against Lindgren, they struggle to put the ball in the air," says MLB.com, and The Journal News' Jennings believes he "immediately" looks like a big league option for next year.
Considering his NCAA experience and dominance, as well as his early track record and lightning-quick climb to Double-A, Lindgren should be a vital left-handed—and late-inning—piece of the Bronx bullpen moving forward.
Honorable Mentions: Tyler Webb (12 SV, 68.2 IP, 3.80 ERA, 1.180 WHIP, 12.3 K/9); Nick Rumbelow (eight SV, 58.1 IP, 2.62 ERA, 1.080 WHIP, 12.5 K/9); James Pazos (10 SV, 67 IP, 2.42 ERA, 1.134 WHIP, 10.9 K/9); Cesar Vargas (14 SV, 69.2 IP, 2.58 ERA, 0.962 WHIP, 9.8 K/9).