The moment you’ve been waiting for has arrived! No, not Opening Day… The Yankees’ top 20 prospect list has arrived! I know it’s not as exciting but the players on the list made by Jim Callis may be standing on the field for Opening Day in the future. The Yankees’ minor league system has been in bad shape for a few years now but Callis’s list boasts some pretty respectable guys. Fans of the Bombers should become familiar with these names because they could be the future stars of the New York Yankees.
Callis’s Top 20 Yankees Prospects:
1. Gary Sanchez C
2. Mason Williams OF
3. Slade Heathcott OF
4. John Ryan Murphy C
5. Eric Jagielo 3B
6. Tyler Austin OF
7. Greg Bird 1B
8. Ian Clarkin P
9. Aaron Judge OF
10. Luis Severino P
11. Gosuke Katoh 2B
13. Jose Ramirez P
14. Bryan Mitchell P
17. Luis Torrens C
18. Abiatal Avelino SS
19. Miguel Andujar 3B
20. Jose Campos P
Okay so there’s no Trout or Harper brand names but we all know that it takes more than a hyped up super prospect to make a team. The Yankees have made a habit of turning seemingly unknown youngsters into household names. Just ask borderline Hall of Famers Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada who were both drafted past the 20th round. So let’s take a moment to meet and greet the cream of the crop.
The Yankees are particularly rich in catching prospects. With number one prospect Gary Sanchez being viewed as the starting catcher of the future and John Ryan Murphy (#4) possibly making an impact on the Yankees this season they’ve got themselves quite a talented crop of backstops. Sanchez has shown improvement over his career with the Yankees and finally reached Double-A Trenton in 2013. He’s shined in Spring Training this year by showing off some of his fabled power and has even opened some eyes with his defense. With the Yankees addition of Brian McCann, Sanchez has more time to develop and in a few years he could become a legitimate Major League slugger from behind the plate. Murphy is not seen as a potential superstar like Sanchez, but he is more big league ready as he made his debut at the end of last year. Murphy, who may always be remembered as the last man ever to catch a pitch from the great Mariano Rivera, has shown some decent power numbers and is very good behind the plate. With trade rumors flying left and right, Murphy could find himself as the Yankees backup catcher if the guys ahead of him on the depth chart are dealt. Of course we can’t forget about Luis Torrens who signed out of Venezuela in 2012. Torrens made his minor league debut in 2013 and got off to a rough start. He batted .241 with one home run and 14 RBI in 48 games, but he did show some very good potential as a solid overall catcher. Safe to say that catching is not an issue in the Yankees’ farm system.
Something the Yankees’ need more of are infielders as the big league diamond is in a state of turmoil with Alex Rodriguez suspended, Robinson Cano bolting for Seattle, Mark Teixeira showing decline and of course…the legendary Derek Jeter is retiring at the end of the season. But support may be on the way. Last year the Yankees drafted third baseman Eric Jagielo (#5) with the 26th pick, along with second baseman Gosuke Katoh (#11) with the 66th pick. Jagielo was a jewel in the draft as he was expected to go much earlier. The left-handed batter out of Notre Dame batted for a .264/.376/.451 slash line along with 6 home runs and 27 RBI in 55 games to start his professional career. He possess a slick glove and the Yankees love the idea of putting his big bat in the Bronx with the short porch in right field.
The surprise of the Yankees 2014 draft was Gosuke Katoh who was expected to go closer to the 200th pick before the Yankees grabbed him in the 2nd round. His defensive skills were never in question and he’s drawn comparisons to Astros’ second baseman Jose Altuve for his quick hands and excellent middle infield ability. It was his bat that was seen as trouble but in 2013 he surprised a lot of people when he hit for a .310 batting average along with a .402 on-base percentage and a monstrous .522 slugging percentage. He shockingly hit 6 home runs, drove in 25 runs and stole 4 bases in 50 games. He’s far from Major League ready, but so far he’s definitely turning some heads.
As far as infielders go, first baseman Greg Bird (#7) may be the closest to being Major League ready. With Mark Teixeira nearing the end of his contract in a few years, many see Bird as his immediate successor. He ranked high amongt baseball’s top first base prospects and is looking to improve once again in 2014. In 2013 he played 130 games for Single-A Charleston and batted .288 with 20 home runs and 84 RBI. He led the South Atlantic League in OBP (.428) and ranked in the top 5 in hits (132), runs scored (84), and doubles (36) and led all minor league players in walks with 107. Bird has time to get better while he waits for his chance at first within the next few years.
Shortstop Abiatal Avelino (#18) and third baseman Miguel Andujar (#19) would have been higher on this list if Jagielo, Katoh, and Bird had not burst into the spotlight. Avelino signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 and has proven to be an above average player at the shortstop position. He hit .303 with 60 hits in his first 51 games and has showed great plate discipline by walking more than he struck out and boasting a .381 OBP. But his lack of power may be holding him back as he’s yet to hit home run and is only sporting a .399 slugging percentage. Andujar also signed out of the Dominican in 2011 and has put up a .323/.368/.496 slash line with 4 home runs and 25 RBI. However, he’s been pushed back now that all hopes are on Jagielo to be the heir to third base.
Oh the outfield. The Yankees bolstered the Major League lineup by buying big time outfielders and it has come at the cost of their top prospects. Once upon a time, Mason Williams (#2), Slade Heathcott (#3), and Tyler Austin (#6) were seen as the Yankees super trio but it seems like those dreams become less and less a reality each year. While Williams has impressed with both the bat and the glove in big league spring training, he’s more than likely headed back to the minors to start 2014. He’s displayed great speed and has dazzled with a little pop in his bat but there are just too many outfielders on the Yankees right now to fit him in. Heathcott is no different. He’s not a huge power threat, but more of an overall hitter. His speed is a huge asset to his game and he finds doubles more endearing than the long ball. Heathcott projects to collect a lot of hits and a lot of strikeouts but is nonetheless a top outfielder who is stuck in the minors. Austin has had his fair share of injuries throughout his career, but has not let that affect his game too much. He’s a career .265 hitter and I’m sure that the Yankees would love that to bump up in 2014. His game is absent of power but his youth may allow him to boost his slugging ability.
With the 32nd overall pick in the 2013 the Yankees selected a 6’7″ 230 pound outfielder named Aaron Judge (#9) out of Fresno State University. Judge is far enough away from the Majors to not be as affected by the Yankees offseason spending spree. The right-handed beast was a center fielder in college but his huge frame looks to have him moving to right field. He possess a powerful swing and could become a huge threat at the plate if and when he reaches the big leagues. Judge was kept from making his professional debut due to a lingering injury but he’ll look to make an impact in 2014,
Young pitching has fooled us Yankees fans before but the hurlers on this list may be different. Ian Clarkin (#8), Luis Severino (#10), Manny Banuelos (#12), Jose Ramirez (#13), Bryan Mitchell (#14),
Whether you believe in the Yankees system or not is up to you, but they do hold some very talented players. There is no doubt that the farm system needs work but these 20 players are a very good start. However prospects are prospects and these guys have a lot to prove before we can totally tell what kind of players they are.