15 short season players worth getting excited about

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In what has been in many ways a disappointing season on the farm, one of the bright spots has been the short season leagues. While I don’t think this season went nearly as badly as many do, it’s hard to deny that the Yankees system suffered at least statistically in 2013. When analyzing the success of short season players, it’s important to recognize the high rate of failure amongst these players. This is why looking at the scouting reports and statistics are equally important at this level. The other important factor in judging the low minors is abundance. The sheer number of legit prospects can bear more importance than any other factor.

This year the Yankees short season programs have just that, an abundance of talent. Most years the Yankees have 3-5 guys worth getting excited about. This year the Yankees are brimming with talent, and that is key for the future success of the farm system. If put all your eggs in one basket for anyone on this list, you are likely to be disappointed. On the other hand, if you look at this list and say “hey, maybe 4-5 of these guys end up being top prospects, and who knows what can happen from there,” then you are thinking more realistically. Some of these are obvious, but others might not have jumped off the page at you until recently. I included anyone on this list who began the season in Staten Island or lower (not including rehab assignments). I originally wanted to make this list 10 players long, but in making the list I quickly realized there were too many other players who needed to be on it.

15. Joey Maher – RHP, 6-foot-5, 200-pounds, 21 years old – Maher is a big kid with a heavy fastball. He has a devastating sinker that induces ground ball after ground ball, and has a 2.09 ERA to show for it. He has just 24 K in 51.2 innings, but that’s likely a result of pitching to contact with the sinker. He has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the GCL this season. If he continues to develop and can gain some velocity on his pitches, he could be a Chien-Ming Wang type before the injury.

14. Alvaro Noriega – C, 6-foot-0, 198-pounds, RHB, 18 years old – The only justification for putting him on this list, and not Luis Torrens is that he is performing better in the GCL. I admit that these statistics are arbitrary, but at the same time I think Noriega needs to be recognized as he may not be in the short season leagues much longer, while Torrens is a sure bet to repeat the GCL in the same manner that Miguel Andujar did this season. Noriega has hit .329/.359/.435/.794 in 29 games this season. He is known as a hit first catcher, so his bat will have to carry him. He has performed well in the GCL and he is at a premium position. He is young and a decent sized kid so his power may come as time goes by.

13. Thairo Estrada – SS, 5-foot-10, 154-pounds, RHB, 17 years old – It speaks volumes about Estrada that the Yankees were willing to send him to the United States at just 17 years old, even with his small frame. He has done nothing but prove them right since his arrival. He’s hitting .287/.354/.439/.794, and has seven stolen bases. Recently, he has been hitting for more power as well. At his size it is unlikely he will ever be a big time power hitter, but if he can continue to hit and field as he has while advancing through the system he could be a valuable player long term. He’s also just 17 so he has a lot of physical development to go through yet.

12. Rony Bautista – LHP, 6-foot-7, 200-pounds, 22 years old – The same things that are working in his favor are also working against him. He’s lefty and he’s 6-foot-7, meaning that he has trouble repeating his delivery and mechanics. On the other hand, he’s lefty and he’s 6-foot-7, which allows him to have significant deception, leverage, velocity, and decreased distance to home plate. This year he has been quite dominant when he is throwing strikes. Opposing batters have just a .179 average against him and he has struck out 48 in just 35.2 innings. He has a 2.52 ERA. The area of his game he really needs to work on is his control though. At higher levels he’s not going to get the opposition to swing at those bad pitches, so the control needs to get much better. He’s also 22, so he’s a bit old for the level. If he irons out his control, however, he has ace potential.

11. Brady Lail – RHP, 6-foot-2, 175-pounds, 20 years old – He just turned 20 two weeks ago so he is still relatively young, and he is performing well in the GCL. More importantly the Yankees are impressed with him. He’s got good velocity on his fastball and pinpoint control of all of his pitches. This season he has pitched 52.1 IP, including 3 innings in High-A Tampa because they were in need of a starter. He has a 2.58 ERA and 48 K during that time. One of the 2012 high school draft picks, he will move rapidly if he keeps playing like this. He’s not going to show up on any top 100 lists, but he’ got a good chance to be a David Phelps or Adam Warren type in the future, and maybe even more than that.

10. Tyler Wade – SS, 6-foot-1, 180-pounds, LHB, 18 years old – Wade is your prototypical slick fielding speedy shortstop. The biggest thing he has to his advantage is that he bats lefty. While he hasn’t hit for much power so far this season, he does have five doubles in his last 10 games, which is encouraging. In addition to that, he walks at a huge clip, with 30 walks on the season. He has 9 SB to just one CS. If he develops some power as time goes on he could end up being a top prospect. Depending on who you ask he either has great or above average speed, so it will be interesting to see how his career plays out.

9. Jordan Cote – RHP, 6-foot-5, 215-pounds, 20 years old – At this point he has nothing left to prove at the GCL level. He has been working on keeping the ball down and refining his secondary stuff this season, and has dominated the competition. He has 28.0 IP this season and has a 0.96 ERA with 20 K. He had similar numbers last season. His batting average against is just .182. He’s been mostly low 90′s with the fastball. Next year he could be in line for significant time in Charleston, but that will again be a crowded rotation so only time will tell.

8. Ian Clarkin – LHP, 6-foot-2, 186-pounds, 18 years old – Just pitched in his first inning as a pro on August 20th and managed to throw a scoreless inning. That inning aside, because it doesn’t mean anything, this kid has great stuff and will be a major factor in the future of this farm. As a lefty he will be given every opportunity to succeed, especially if he is able to keep his fastball touching the 90′s. He’s the type of player who could really lift this system up in the future.

7. Gosuke Katoh – 2B, 6-foot-2, 180-pounds, LHB, 18 years old – He is easily the most pleasant surprise from the 2013 draft. Every scouting report you read on him was that he had no power and was a defense first second baseman. So far in the GCL he has shown that he can in fact hit for power. He has 21 extra base hits in just 44 games. Just as impressive is his plate approach, as he has 23 walks during that time. He has 6 homeruns, and his batting line on the season is .321/.410/.556/.965. Not bad for a guy who was pegged as someone who couldn’t hit. Even more encouraging is the fact that he is so skinny. His body could easily pack on 20 pounds and still be an athletic build. If he does that there’s no telling where his power will end up. He also apparently has great speed, but that hasn’t shown up just yet in his stolen base totals.

6. Aaron Judge – OF, 6-foot-7, 230-pounds, RHB, 21 years old – Hasn’t stepped foot on the field yet for any of the teams, but he’s this year’s first round draft pick and has all of the talent in the world. His tools are fantastic and if things break right he could be a Giancarlo Stanton type player. That right there is enough to get excited about.

5. Rookie Davis – RHP, 6-foot-3, 235-pounds, 20 years old – He’s spent the year in Staten Island an performed exceedingly well. He’s pitched 42.0 IP, and struck out 39, while keeping his ERA at a paltry 2.36. All of this after experiencing an uptick in stuff during the offseason. He appears to be controlling his stuff well and most importantly he’s getting hitters out. His fastball now sits mid 90′s with good secondary stuff. He is a good candidate to be this year’s Gabe Encinas except hopefully minus the injury. If so next year will be his coming out party.

4. Miguel Andujar – 3B, 6-foot-0, 175-pounds, RHB, 18 years old – Andujar spent his first season (2012) in the GCL adjusting to life in the United States and the American way of playing baseball. He has spent his second season so far dominating the league. As I write this he hit his fourth homerun of the season in his 30th game. Yesterday he broke a 16 game hitting streak. His OPS is a staggering .881. His ceiling is every bit as high as Jagielo, and he’s showing it with his performance in the GCL.

3. Abiatal Avelino – SS, 5-foot-11, 186-pounds, RHB, 18 years old – Here’s a kid who took the GCL by storm and was sent to Staten Island after just 33 games as a pro because he was that dominant. Overall on the season he is batting .311/.393/.422/.816 with 25 SB and just 4 CS. All of this as an 18 year old. He is holding his own in Staten Island and looks like a strong candidate to be the starting shortstop for Charleston next season. His speed and athleticism tools are off the charts. If he keeps is up he has superprospect written all over him.

2. Luis Severino – RHP, 6-foot-0, 195-pound, 19 years old – Moving the 19 year old from the GCL to Charleston in his first season stateside was both shocking and telling. Shocking because the Yankees have not been this aggressive with a 19 year old for a long time, and telling because it demonstrates just how highly they think of him. He manhandled the competition in the GCL with a 1.37 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 26.1 innings. With his mid 90′s stuff and great control of his secondary pitches it’s no surprise. Now he’s holding his own as a 19 year old in Low-A, still striking out 21 in 17.2 innings, with a 4.08 ERA so far. Barring injury, he is a superprospect.

1. Eric Jagielo – 3B, 6-foot-2, 195-pounds, LHB, 21 years old – He’s got four homeruns in 40 games so far in Staten Island, three of which have come in the last 10 games. Look like he has made an adjustment. He’s also getting a lot of extra base hits, which is always a good sign. His BA on the season is .289 and his OPS is .879 on the season. He’s an all around solid player and is the best bet on this last to stick in the majors. There’s no question he’s worth getting excited about.

Here’s five more guys who could make an impact

Luis Torrens – 17 years old and highly touted, has held his own in the GCL this season while adjusting. He will follow the Andujar pattern.

David Palladino – He’s got the size and potential for sure. If he can limit walks, he has legitimate starting potential.

Dallas Martinez – 18 year old right hander out of Mexico who has performed relatively well so far and has great stuff. He’s drawn comps to Nova.

Caleb Smith – Left hander who reminds me a lot of Matt Tracy. Scouts have been raving about his stuff.

Brandon Thomas – Tough year so far but the homeruns have been there. He has six so far. He reminds me of Peter O’Brien last year because he had an illness earlier in the year that sapped him of some of his strength. He could come out of nowhere next year much like O’Brien did this year.

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11 Responses to 15 short season players worth getting excited about

  1. teamplayer says:

    I think you need to include Nathan Mikolas on that list.

  2. wally says:

    Impressive that Yanks have fielded two GCL teams — and their combined record is well over .500. Will be interesting to see who Makes BA's top GCL prospects list this fall. Any guesses, Gregg?

    • gcorcoran says:

      It definitely depends on who's eligible. Here are my guys depending on eligibility.

      Definites:
      1. Abiatal Avelino
      2. Luis Severino
      3. Miguel Andujar

      Good chance:
      4. Gosuke Katoh
      5. Rony Bautista
      6. Tyler Wade

      Outside chance:
      7. Thairo Estrada
      8. Jordan Cote
      9. Dallas Martinez

      I'm guessing 4-5 make it of that group realistically (if the list is 20 long like I think it is) but that's pretty damned impressive. I admittedly don't know much about the other teams though so if this is a particularly talented class I could be wrong.

  3. teamplayer says:

    Abiatal Avelino, Gosuke Katoh, Miguel Andujar and Tyler Wade. I believe that these four will be given consideration for top prospects for the GCL.

    That said The system has had two poor yrs development wise when you include the full season teams. I opinion is that with owners choosing to not engage financially between 2009 (Gary Sanchez not withstanding) and 2012/13 with most of the Big name IFA that were available and well before 2012 going on a strict draft budget of barely 6 mil as seriously limited the org from acquiring top flight talent for the system and now they are paying the price for the oversight of the owners. Now after the season some of that top mgmt leadership may lose their jobs and new people will be brought in, but at the end of the day if the owners insist on restrictive player procurement budgets then I don't see any change in the outcome.

    • gcorcoran says:

      They can't spend more than their allotment or they will not be able to sign ANY players from the following season. Most years it would not be worth it to do it.

  4. teamplayer says:

    Thanks for the reply yes there is now a cap on spending in both the draft and the 7/2nd sigings but the yankees as well as any other club can choose to go over that cap if they have the opportunity to land talent(s) who may otherwise not be available to them. So far both in 2012 and also 2013 teams have chosen to go over the limit to acquire/sign their players (Rays, Blue Jays to name two). The NYY are not a charity, rather they are 2-3 billion dollar entity and the issue is will they be aggressive when they have to be or need to be to land young players who are major league talent as other deep pocket teams are doing or will they feign poverty and say that they cannot spend more that 1.3 mil on IFA because MLB will punish them. I think this off-season as well as next yrs draft and 7/2 will tell whether the owners are cheap (money hoarders) or wise (realize talent brings success)

  5. wally says:

    I think the issue goes beyond cheap. I just question whether Hal has the cojones to make big game-changing moves. His father obviously did. And George — for all his mistakes — understood the role of getting the biggest names to raise attendance and TV ratings. Hal seems more like a timid caretaker who resents the big money in the game (even though it's made him fabulously wealthy and privileged). I hope I'm wrong but it seems to me Yankee fans may want to root for new ownership.

    And Greg, thanks for your answer. I remember you wrote some months ago that other teams were envious of Yankee talent in L. America. Heard anything more on that?

    • gcorcoran says:

      Haven't heard anything one way or another, but what I can say for sure is that the Yankees talent in the DSL produced better than any other team's DSL guys as a whole this season similarly to last year.

  6. wally says:

    Good news indeed. Thanks, Greg.