New York Yankees' Top 10 Prospects for 2015
The 2014 season didn’t go as planned for the New York Yankees, who failed to reach the playoffs for a second straight year despite signing high-profile free agents such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.
Things went much better down on the farm, though, as the organization’s top prospects took a huge step forward individually and collectively.
Outfielder Aaron Judge flashed his offensive upside with an impressive professional debut across both Class-A levels, while 20-year-old right-handed pitcher Luis Severino and his electric arm turned in a breakout performance highlighted by a trip to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.
The Bronx Bombers’ up-the-middle prospects also put themselves on the prospect radar, as shortstop Jorge Mateo and catcher Luis Torrens opened eyes in the low minors. Meanwhile, an unexpected offensive outburst by outfielder-turned-second baseman Robert Refsnyder has him in the mix for playing time in 2015.
First baseman Greg Bird’s power returned after a late-season promotion to Double-A Trenton, and he improved his overall prospect stock considerably with an MVP award-winning campaign in the Arizona Fall League. And then there's the organization's former top prospect, 22-year-old catcher Gary Sanchez, whose power potential makes him anything but an afterthought within the Yankees’ flourishing system.
Here’s a look at the New York Yankees’ top 10 prospects for the 2015 season.
How They're Ranked
- Body type/athleticism
- Hitting mechanics; bat speed
- Injury history
- Statistical trends
- Age vs. level: How well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
- Tools: Number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
- Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most important—but also the hardest to project
- League and park factors
- On-base skills: Approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
- Place on organization's depth chart
- Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential
- Body type/athleticism/strength
- Mechanics: Delivery; arm speed; release point
- Age vs. highest level of experience
- Injury history (durability)
- Statistical trends
- Arsenal quality and depth
- Pitch projections: Present vs. future grades
- Hittability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
- Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
- Pitchability: Feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal
- Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?
- Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?
Notable Omissions (no specific order)
Tyler Austin, OF [Scouting Video]
Miguel Andujar, 3B
Eric Jagielo, 3B
Austin DeCarr, RHP
Leonardo Molina, CF
10. Domingo German, RHP
DOB: 08/04/1992 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 175 lbs
Signed: 2009 by Miami Marlins (Dominican Republic)
Last Year’s Rank: NR
2014 Stats (A): 25 GS, 123.1 IP, 2.48 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .249 BAA, 0.4 HR/9, 1.8 BB/9, 8.2 K/9
Scouting Report (Future Grades Only)
The 6’2”, 175-pound right-hander sits comfortably in the 90-94 mph range, usually toward the low end; adept at pounding the zone with the pitch; athletic delivery and arm action give it late sinking action.
Least advanced offering, registering in the low 80s; inconsistent shape and pace; will need to time to refine the pitch in the coming years.
German’s secondary arsenal is highlighted by changeup that has at least potential; already shows an advanced feel for the pitch relative to his fastball.
Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 4 starter)
While German's an overall work in progress, his arm strength and strike-throwing ability provide a solid foundation for future growth. However, his long-term role, as in starter versus reliever, will depend on the development of a legitimate third pitch.
9. Luis Torrens, C
DOB: 05/02/1996 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 175 lbs
Signed: 2012 (Venezuela)
Last Year’s Rank: NR
2014 Stats (Rk/SS/A): 62 G, 254 PA, .256/.331/.383, 34.5 XBH%, 3 HR, 7.9 BB%, 19.7 K%
Good present strength to frame with room for more; quick wrists produce above-average bat speed; swing is short and effortless, geared toward consistent hard contact; feel for using the whole field; tracks fastballs well but still learning to recognize secondary offerings.
Plus raw power; will take time to tap into given age and inexperience; in-game pop should start to emerge as he gets stronger and learns to turn on the ball.
Torrens moves surprising well on both sides of the ball, though his speed is only below average.
Big arm strength should allow him to control the running game as other defensive skills develop; knows that he has a gun and likes to showcase it.
Athletic and agile behind the plate; advanced catch-and-throw skills thanks to quick feet and arm; explodes from crouch; blocking is a work in progress; learning how to angle pitches back toward field of play; has tendency to lift glove early on pitches in the dirt; stabs at too many pitches within the zone.
Ceiling (OFP): 60 (First-division catcher)
Torrens’ mix of youth, tools and overall baseball aptitude highlights his dual-threat upside at maturity, though it’s obviously yet to be seen how his bat and power translate against advanced pitching.
8. Jacob Lindgren, LHP
DOB: 03/12/1993 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 180 lbs
Drafted: Second round, 2014 (Mississippi State)
Last Year’s Rank: NR
2014 Stats (Rk/A/A+/AA): 19 G, 25.0 IP, 2.16 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, .135 BAA, 0.0 HR/9, 4.7 BB/9, 17.3 K/9
Left-hander works comfortably in the low 90s with some late arm-side life; keeps ball on the ground; velocity can play up thanks to deceptive arm action; doesn’t shy away from attacking right-handed batters; below-average control will require more refinement in minor leagues.
True swing-and-miss pitch; 82-85 mph with devastating late break out of the zone; highly effective against both left- and right-handed batters; MLB-ready.
Seldom-used offering due to outstanding fastball-slider combination; flashes average potential with decent sink; developing pitch won’t be crucial toward his future in the bullpen.
Ceiling (OFP): 50 (Late-inning reliever/potential closer)
Lindgren has the kind of pure stuff, highlighted by a devastating swing-and-miss slider, to make an impact out of the Bronx Bombers bullpen next season. The southpaw’s control needs some work, but based on his utter dominance in his professional debut, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes his debut relatively early in the season.
7. Robert Refsnyder, 2B/OF
DOB: 03/26/1991 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 205 lbs
Drafted: Fifth round, 2012 (Arizona)
Last Year’s Rank: NR
2014 Stats (AA/AAA): 137 G, 577 PA, .318/.387/.497, 35.4 XBH%, 14 HR, 9 SB, 9.5 BB%, 18.2 K%
Pure hitter with good feel for the strike zone to go along with advanced pitch recognition; works deep counts; barrels the ball to all fields with line-drive stroke; overhauled stance last season, standing more upright and open in order to be more direct to pitches on the inner-third; addition of aggressive leg kick produced more power but also a lot more swing-and-miss.
Traded contact for power last season by adding leg kick; smashes line drives from gap to gap; average-at-best power potential, with most going to his pull side; picks his spots to cut it loose; quieting approach might reduce the strikeouts, but would likely cost him power.
Good all-around athlete with average speed.
Average arm strength is a good fit at second base; also profiles at both corner outfield positions.
Range and arm strength both are about average, limiting him to second base on the field; moves more fluidly in the outfield; defense at the keystone has improved greatly in the last year; footwork and glove will require more reps; naturally quick hands aid his double-play turns.
Ceiling (OFP): 50 (Second-division 2B)
Refsnyder is more likely to be a sum-of-all-parts player rather than an impact everyday guy, but at the same time, it’s hard to discount his ability to make swift adjustments against advanced competition and surpass expectations. While he’s likely to return to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to begin the 2015 season in order work on his defense, the Yankees’ hole at the keystone means Refsnyder will receive an extended look in spring training.
6. Greg Bird, 1B
DOB: 11/09/1992 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215 lbs
Drafted: Fifth round, 2011 (Grandview HS, Colorado)
Last Year’s Rank: 8
2014 Stats (A+/AA): 102 G, 441 PA, .271/.376/.472, 45.0 XBH%, 14 HR, 14.3 BB%, 22.0 K%
Left-handed batter with above-average bat speed and a smooth swing; good barrel awareness within strike zone; advanced approach allows him to see lots of pitches and makes him comfortable working deep counts but at times also makes him too passive; will always feature some swing-and-miss; advanced on-base skills.
Doesn’t sell out for power, instead focusing on driving the ball back up the middle or toward the left-center field gap; struggles against quality secondary stuff on outer half, feeling for contact rather than waiting back and driving the pitch with authority.
The home run Bird hit in the Fall Stars Game is a perfect example of his plus raw power; leveraged swing is conducive to in-game power; present extra-base hit machine with the upside of 25 home runs at maturity; drives the ball with backspin carry to all fields; most power is to straightaway center field or right-center field gap.
Average arm strength played behind the plate as high school catcher, but not an important part of his defensive profile as a first baseman.
A back injury forced Bird from catcher to first base full time starting in 2013; possesses fringy range; lack of athleticism and quickness will prevent him from becoming a top-notch defender.
Ceiling (OFP): 50 (Second-division 1B)
As a first-base only prospect, Bird’s value will always be tied to his bat. Luckily, he has the chance to have a good one, as he showcased this past fall by taking home MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League. But while his swing is bound to produce power at the highest level, the extent of its utility is likely to be determined by his approach.
5. Ian Clarkin, LHP
DOB: 02/14/1995 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 186 lbs
Drafted: First round, 2013 (Madison HS, California)
Last Year’s Rank: 9
2014 Stats (A/A+): 17 G/16 GS, 75.0 IP, 3.21 ERA, 1.229 WHIP, .258 BAA, 0.7 HR/9, 2.8 BB/9, 9.0 K/9
Left-hander sits 90-92 mph right now and should add another 1-2 mph with physical development; command is below average at present but improved over course of 2014 season
Clean, fluid arm action but inconsistent arm slot and release point; needs to stay on top and work on consistently downhill plane with pitch, extending his reach so as to create more arm-side action.
Potential plus offering with 12-6 shape, good depth and late bite; doesn't always release out front, resulting in bad misses in the dirt or very high; could be a bat-missing pitch with more consistent feel and ability to work it to both sides of the plate.
Present feel for turning over, but still learning to trust pitch in game situations; flashes slightly above-average potential with decent fading action; slows down front-side release and arm at times,
Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 starter)
Clarkin is already a good strike-thrower despite having too many moving parts in his delivery, making it easy to envision everything coming together for him in a hurry with a few mechanical adjustments (and many repetitions). His 2014 full-season debut was very, very encouraging, and he could emerge as one of the game’s better left-handed pitching prospects with an equally strong follow-up performance.
4. Gary Sanchez, C
DOB: 12/02/1992 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 200 lbs
Signed: 2009 (Dominican Republic)
Last Year’s Rank: 1
ETA: Late 2015
2014 Stats (AA): 110 G, 477 PA, .270/.338/.406, 27.6 XBH%, 13 HR, 9.0 BB%, 19.1 K%
Sanchez has plus bat speed with the natural feel for striking the ball; gets good extension through contact; pure fastball hitter; plate discipline continues to improve but still has a ways to go; struggles at times to recognize secondary offerings; combination of overaggressive approach and good bat-to-ball skills produces too much weak contact; still learning to control strike zone.
Big-time strength to his 6’2”, 220-pound frame, and he knows how to use lower half; plus raw power to all fields; leveraged swing complements his natural thump; development of in-game power tied to approach and pitch-selection issues.
Well below-average speed.
Plus-plus arm strength is loudest tool, and it allows him to compensate for other defensive shortcomings; aggressive with trying to back-pick base runners.
Athleticism and agility work right now but could force him from behind the plate later on; catch-and-throw skills play up thanks to impressive arm strength; blocking and receiving skills haven’t progressed as hoped; too many defensive lapses in general, both physically and mentally.
Ceiling (OFP): 50—Second-division DH/1B
Sanchez’s prospect stock took a hit in 2014 with a disappointing full season at Double-A Trenton. Yet the reality is that the once highly touted prospect recently turned 22, meaning he still has plenty of time to develop and get things figured out. Even if his defensive behind the plate is never good enough for him to serve as an everyday catcher, Sanchez’s bat, specifically his power, should eventually allow him to carve out a role in the major leagues as a designated hitter or first baseman.
3. Jorge Mateo, SS
DOB: 06/23/1995 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 188 lbs
Signed: 2012 (Dominican Republic)
Last Year’s Rank: NR
2014 Stats (Rk): 15 G, 65 PA, ,276/.354/.397, 37.5 XBH%, 0 HR, 11 SB, 10.8 BB%, 26.2 K%
*Played in only 15 games due to broken left wrist
Young, right-handed hitter has loose wrists and natural feel for barreling the ball; promising barrel awareness; bat speed is above average and produces hard contact from line to line; will sometimes lead with his hips and drift toward ball rather than exploding through point of contact; lack of experience against quality arms makes it difficult to gauge his approach and pitch recognition.
Athletic, wiry-strong frame should fill out nicely; present gap power could evolve into double-digit home run power at maturity; will always produce a high number of extra-base hits.
Outstanding athlete with legitimate 80-grade speed; impacts game on both sides of the ball; potential infield-hit and base-stealing machine; turns singles into doubles and doubles into triples.
Above-average arm strength suitable for shortstop.
Inconsistent and raw defender like most teenage shortstops; shows above-average range laterally; lacks body control when attacking the ball; quick feet allow him to make adjustments; good hands and transfer skills.
Ceiling (OFP): 60—First-division SS
Mateo is easily the most exciting prospect in the Yankees farm system, with an impressive collection of tools that could make an impact on both sides of the ball. Though his future is bright, Mateo has a large gap between his present ability and future potential. If he pans out as hoped, Mateo has the potential to be an All-Star-caliber shortstop. If not, his floor should still be that of an everyday middle infielder.
2. Luis Severino, RHP
DOB: 02/20/1994 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 195 lbs
Signed: 2011 (Dominican Republic)
Last Year’s Rank: NR
ETA: Late 2015
2014 Stats (A/A+/AA): 24 GS, 113.1 IP, 2.46 ERA, 1.059 WHIP, .220 BAA, 0.4 HR/9, 2.2 BB/9, 10.4 K/9
Severino may be undersized at 6’0”, 195 pounds, but the right-hander’s electric arm speed generates an explosive mid-90s fastball that reaches 97-98 mph; velocity is a result of pure arm strength; shorter stride allows a lightning-quick arm whip, but it also prevents him from using his lower half.
Shows present control of the pitch, attacking hitters to both sides of the plate; good feel for when to air it out up in the zone.
Changeup flashes plus in low to mid-80s with late sink; excellent speed differential compared to heater; sells offering with fastball-like arm action from same slot; consistently around the plate with the pitch, with a good feel for keeping it down in the zone.
Least developed offering, working 83-84 mph with some depth; would seemingly benefit from throwing pitch with more velocity given changeup range; tends to sling the pitch across his body rather than working from fastball/changeup slot, causing it to spin at times rather than bite; struggles to consistently throw it for a strike.
Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 2 starter)
Severino has the highest ceiling among Yankees' pitching prospects, projecting to be a power pitcher in the same mold as Yordano Ventura. The right-hander's breaking ball needs to be cleaned up, but the fastball and changeup are both dynamic offerings, and his strong control should continue to aid his transition at higher levels. However, Severino's ability to remain a starter will likely be determined by his health and durability. If that doesn't work out, it's easy to envision his electric arm at the back end of the Yankees bullpen.
1. Aaron Judge, OF
DOB: 04/26/1992 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’7”, 230 lbs
Drafted: First round, 2013 (Fresno State)
Last Year’s Rank: 10
2014 Stats (A/A+): 131 G, 563 PA, .308/.419/.486, 31.3 XBH%, 17 HR, 15.8 BB%, 23.3 K%
Judge doesn’t have a typical big-man’s swing; instead, he features a surprisingly compact stroke, keeping his hands close to his body throughout, and his barrel stays in the hitting zone for an extended period of time.
Employs a patient approach that allows him to see lots of pitches; tracks the ball well horizontally, especially away; looks to work deep counts and will take his free passes; should maintain solid on-base skills even if bat doesn’t pan out.
Judge’s height and natural swing length could make him susceptible to good velocity on the hands; can struggle to keep his hands back against quality breaking balls; will always have some swing-and-miss to his game, but how much?
Judge’s swing lacks lift, but with tremendous physical strength and above-average bat speed, he can still effortlessly rope line drives over fences to the deepest part of any park.
Huge power upside if he can learn to get on top of pitches at the top of the zone; pull power will be tested by inner-third velocity; drops bombs to the gaps when arms get fully extended.
Judge runs better than one might expect given his frame, showing average speed on both sides of the ball, but he’s very likely to lose a lot of that giddy-up with natural physical development.
Plus arm strength is ideal for right field at the highest level; quick release but gets on top of throws, generating good carry with improving accuracy.
Moves well in right field, with solid closing speed in all directions, especially toward the line; solid reads off the bat despite lack of professional experience; average range stems from combination of average speed and enormous stride; durability will always be a concerns given his size.
Ceiling (OFP): 60—First-division RF
At 6’7”, 230 pounds (debatable), Judge is not the poorly coordinated ogre you’d expect him to be. Rather, he’s an impressive athlete with loud tools and promising secondary skills on both sides of the ball. Both hit-tool ceiling and long-term durability are question marks, but as long as he stays healthy, Judge has the potential for 20-plus home runs with a high on-base percentage while playing a solid right field in the major leagues.
Want to talk prospects? Hit me up on Twitter: @GoldenSombrero