The Tampa Yankees were dubbed the “team to watch” in the Yankees farm system by Baseball Prospectus. I can’t say I agree, but nonetheless there are a number of players who will at least start the season at High-A Tampa who prospect enthusiasts will want to keep an eye on. Without further adieu, I bring you the 2013 Tampa Yankees (to start the season).
Mason Williams is seen by many as the top prospect in this system. He’s coming off nonthrowing shoulder surgery and appears to be fully healthy to start the season. He will start in center field. He is expected to do big things and he’ll have to if he wants to live up to the reputation he has built over the past two seasons. Shouldn’t be long before he is in Trenton with his excellent speed, power, and fielding combo. He hit .298/.346/.820 last season with 11 HR and 20 SB.
One of my breakout candidates for 2013, Ben Gamel showed up to camp bulked up and ready to play. The main knock on him is his power and he did everything he could in the off-season to address that. Relatively athletic and capable of stealing bases, his hit tool and patience are currently his best qualities. He’s definitely a guy to keep an eye on this season. (.306/.342/.737 with 19 SB and 2 HR last season). That stat line is basically Mason Williams without the power.
This group is headlined by Gary Sanchez. Sanchez, who improved greatly last season as a catcher, was criticized by Jorge Posada for showing up to camp out of shape this year. Whether that was just Jorge trying to light a fire under his ass or not is unknown. All Sanchez did last year though was mash and claim the top spot in the organization on prospect lists that didn’t have Mason Williams at number one. He is another who most likely will not be at this level long. Last year he hit 18 homers with a .290/.344/.829 triple slash. He also proved he can handle High-A pitching.
Matt Snyder will man third base and probably some first base for Tampa as he skips over Charleston and joins Nick Goody and Corey Black as the only three players from the 2012 draft class in High-A or above. Snyder started the 2012 season in Staten Island dreadfully, but came around late and ended up being one of their best hitters on the season. He’s already 22, so he’ll have to prove that last year’s success wasn’t just because he was older than everyone else. He’ll also have to hit for more power than 2012, but he is a legitimate hitter and the Yankees obviously have a lot of faith in him to send him directly to Tampa this season.
The biggest surprise on this roster is the second baseman. Most thought Angelo Gumbs would be in Charleston this year after succumbing to an injury. Apparently he came to camp looking so good that the Yankees couldn’t send him back to Charleston. Last year he was off to a roaring .272/.320/.752 start with seven homeruns and 26 stolen bases in just 278 at bats when the injury occurred. This year he looks even better and his defense at second is phenomenal. Probably a top prospect by the end of this season.
Short stop and third base will be manned by some combination of Casey Stevenson, Carmen Angelini, Ali Castillo, and Anderson Feliz. Feliz stands out among that group as the most likely to break out as a prospect. He’s got a sweet swing and good defense, but plays second base and will start the season behind Gumbs.
Jose Ramirez: He’ll start the season in Tampa and move to Trenton shortly thereafter. He is likely only there for a few starts because they don’t want the early season cold weather to mess up his arm. I already talked about him in Trenton’s preview.
Bryan Mitchell is looking for 2013 to be his coming out party. He has always had the stuff, and learned to harness it late last season. If that continues into this season, we could be looking at our next top pitching prospect. Hard throwing with a nasty breaking ball, this kid has all the talent to be an ace, but he has to stay under control. This year will be a big test for him, and if he can’t gain some control this season I have little faith that he ever will. Some guys just never figure it out.
Overall Mikey O’Brien had a decent year last year. He had a 3.87 ERA and a career high 142 innings pitched. He struggled a bit in Trenton so he got a demotion. He’s still just 23 though so this will be a big season for him. Most scouts think his long term role will be in the bullpen where his stuff plays up. I tend to agree.
Corey Black is another guy most feel is destined for the bullpen. Last season he had a 3.08 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 52.2 innings across three levels. Many overlook his upper 90′s fastball because of his size, but if he can start to hold that velocity later into games he could shed the perception that he is a future reliever. He’s a guy who has the stuff (and the youth) to be considered a top prospect if he has a big year.
Nick Goody is the main guy to watch in this bullpen, and he has late inning potential in the major leagues. Zach Arneson and Manuel Barreda are the other two big arms in the bullpen to keep tabs on, although you never know when someone is going to have a Kelvin Perez-esque increase in velocity.
That rounds out the full-season league previews. It is striking how much talent there is from Double-A on down. Even Triple-A is loaded with players who could be useful. The Double-A, High-A, and Low-A rotations are going to be exciting to watch, and I believe those 15 guys are going to produce a couple of top 100 prospects by the end of the year. There will be three more previews when the GCL and Staten Island start up. Until then, go Yankees!