Over the past few years the Yankees have been able to accumulate outfielders in their system who could have a major league future. In addition to what they already have in their system, they will have more talent coming over from the DSL next year. They also recently signed one of the best Latin American players on the market, Leonardo Molina, who is said to be a major talent.
There are a few guys who may come over from the DSL to patrol the GCL outfield. Frank Frias seems to be the most likely candidate, hitting .305/.434/.433/.867 with four homers, eight doubles, three triples, and 26 stolen bases this year as an 19 year old. Others who could come include Pedro Urena, 18, and Wilmer Romero, 19, who both had six homers this year in the DSL. A dark horse candidate would be Aussie Adam Silva who is 19 and projected to have some power.
All in all none of the five above players will factor into these rankings, but will be interesting to follow next season. Zoilo Almonte is also not included here because he played significant time in the majors this year. Otherwise he’d be fifth on this list.
1. Tyler Austin – “3:16″ – RF, 6-foot-2, 200-pounds, RHB, 22 – Suffered a setback in the AFL with his wrist injury which is concerning to say the least. The Yankees are officially saying it just started to bother him and is not a significant injury. He just needs to rest it. I “officially” don’t believe them, but that doesn’t change the fact that Austin is a possible impact player in this system who’s already in the upper minors. If he comes back healthy in 2014, look for him to mash and possibly compete for a spot on the roster in 2015. He was playing third base in the AFL, so a position change is still a possibility but for now he is a good defensive outfielder who can play multiple positions and hits for some power and average when healthy. He hit a respectable .254/.344/.373/.717 with six homeruns but was fighting injuries all season. Highest level: Double-A. Will start 2014 at: Double-A. Estimated arrival: 2015. Ceiling: 25+ homeruns, .300+ average, all-star right fielder. Floor: fourth outfielder, or worse yet injury bust. Likelihood of hitting ceiling: intermediate.
2. Slade Heathcott – CF, 6-foot-1, 190-pounds, LHB, 23 – Although many called his season a flop, he actually batted .261/.327/.411/.738 with eight homers and 15 stolen bases. Not too bad for the first season in Double-A, and his second half was much stronger than his first half, showing that he made an adjustment. He played in 108 games, which is progress for him. He missed a lot of development time from injuries, so he still has some catching up to do. Slade is the most athletic player in the entire system, including speed, strength, and hand-eye coordination. If he realizes his full potential he is going to be scary good. Think homeruns, steals, and defense. Basically the three most important things in an outfielder. Highest level: Double-A. Will start 2014 at: Double-A or Triple-A. Estimated arrival: 2015. Ceiling: 20+ homers, 20+ steals, stellar defense, all-star center fielder. Floor: High risk of being an injury bust. Likelihood of hitting ceiling: Low.
3. Mason Williams – CF, 6-foot-0, 180-pounds, LHB, 22 – It’s amazing how quickly things can change. He was seen as the best outfielder in the system, and widely thought to be the best overall player in the system less than a year ago. Now all of that has changed because of one lousy season. Mason dealt with many issues this year, including a DUI, maturity issues, and ineffectiveness. Overall it was a trying season for Williams, but it’s still only one season and he has a chance to learn from it and become a better player. Athletically, he’s still got a heap of physical talent. The story with Williams is that he has to learn to harness it. Next year will be huge in determining his future. Another .245/.304/.337/.641 season with four homers and 15 stolen bases just isn’t going to cut it. Highest level: Double-A. Will start 2014 at: Double-A. Estimated arrival: 2016. Ceiling: 15+ homeruns, 40+ stolen bases. Floor: Flop. Likelihood of hitting ceiling: low.
4. Aaron Judge – RF, 6-foot-7, 230-pounds, RHB, 21 – He’s big. He’s strong. He’s athletic. He can hit. He can throw. Aaron Judge is a massive man and he appears to be a good athlete on top of that. He has shown plus power in college and the ability to hit for average. If everything goes right, Judge could be a Giancarlo Stanton type player with a massive ceiling. He’s all projection at this point though because no one has seen him play against professional competition. Highest level: N/a. Will start 2015 at: Low-A Charleston. Estimated arrival: 2017. Ceiling: 40+ homeruns, .280+ average, all-star. Floor: bust. Likelihood of hitting ceiling: very low.
5. Ramon Flores – “Ray-Flo”: OF, 5-foot-11, 190-pounds, LHB, 21 – He is yet another of the big name outfielders who was disappointing overall last year. That said he was just 21 years old and he came on like a madman towards the end of the season. He finished the season .260/.353/.364/.717. He managed 37 extra base hits in 2013 but his power regressed for the second year in a row as he hit just six homeruns and less doubles than the last two years. All of that said he is an incredibly patient hitter who plays a solid left field. When he’s at his best he can hit for average and doesn’t strike out much. If he could just develop serviceable power he would be a valuable major leaguer. Highest level: Double-A. Will start 2014 at: Double-A or Triple-A. Estimated arrival: 2015. Ceiling: 15+ homeruns, 10+ SB, .300+ average, solid outfielder, above average major leaguer.
6. Ben Gamel – OF, 5-foot-11, 180-pounds, LHB, 21 – Same story as Flores, but different name. The only difference is that Gamel significantly increased his power output from 2012 to 2013. He doubled him homerun output, hitting four homeruns, and hit nine more doubles (32) than he did in 2013. He has excellent patience at the plate and will look to turn some of those doubles into homeruns as he moves up the latter. If he is able to do that he will be a valuable commodity for the Yankees going forward. He was able to steal 22 bases this season and has above average speed. He can play all three outfield positions well, but profiles best in left field. Gamel got a taste of Double-A towards the end of 2013, and will look to hit the ground running next season. Highest level: Double-A. Will start 2014 at: Double-A. Estimated arrival: 2016. Ceiling: 10+ homeruns, 20+ SB, .300+ average, .380+ OBP, above average fielder.
7. Jake Cave – OF, 6-foot-0, 179-pounds, LHB, 20 – He’s a lefty, hit .282/.347/.401/.748 in his first full season, and is a plus defender. He hit two homeruns and had a whopping 37 doubles along with six triples. Extra base hits were the key to his success this year. Cave was also able to steal 18 bases. Overall he is a major sleeper going into next season, especially if he can bulk up a bit and turn some of those doubles into homers. He has good patience at the plate and a sweet stroke from the left side. Highest level: Low-A. Will start 2014 at: High-A. Estimated arrival: 2016. Ceiling: 15+ homeruns, 20+ SB, .300+ average, plus fielder.
8. Ericson Leonora – OF, 5-foot-11, 174-pounds, RHB, 21 – Now here’s a guy you haven’t heard of who could make a splash next year. Leonora ended the season in 2013 with Low-A and he hit .302/.340/.496/.836 in 38 games at the level. He was just 20 years old so he is age appropriate for Low-A, and he managed to hit four homeruns in just a short period of time. He also hit 13 doubles and one triple. He has power, speed, and is a hard worker who goes about his work in a quiet way. Because of his low key nature, he has stayed under the radar. Highest level: Low-A. Will start 2014 at: Low-A or High-A. Estimated arrival: 2017. Ceiling: 20+ homeruns, 10+ steals, .300+ average, good defender.
9. Brandon Thomas – OF, 6-foot-3, 180-pounds, Switch hitter, 22 – Thomas was one of my favorite picks in this draft by the Yankees. They managed to get him in the 8th round. He had a bout of mononucleosis in 2013 which held him out for a few weeks. In addition, mono has been known to seriously sap a player’s power. He still managed to hit six homeruns in Staten Island, although he batted just .214. He also stole nine bases, and is a potential 5-tool player. Any time you can get a guy with this many tools this late in the draft, it’s a steal. In 2014 he will be full strength and could have a Peter O’Brien type year for the Yankees. Highest level: Staten Island. Will start 2014 at: Low-A. Estimated arrival: 2018. Ceiling: 20+ homeruns, 20+ steals, .275+ average, above average fielder. Floor: bust. Likelihood of hitting ceiling: Low.
10. Taylor Dugas – OF, 5-foot-8, 170-pounds, LHB, 23 – In terms of tools, there’s not much there for Dugas. He has above average speed but so far hasn’t been able to do much in terms of turning that into stolen bases. He does not have much in the way of power. What he does to an excellent job of is getting on base. In fact, he is a machine in that respect. He also has a great hit tool and rarely strikes out. His career OBP is .427. He’s a bit old to learn new skills, but if he can somehow learn to hit for more power or steal more bases, he could lift himself into legitimate prospect status. Highest level: High-A. Will start 2014 at: High-A Tampa. Estimated arrival: 2016. Ceiling: 4th outfielder. Floor: Quadruple-A player. Likelihood of hitting ceiling: Intermediate-low.
11. Michael O’Neill – OF, 6-foot-1, 195-pounds, RHB, 21 – It wasn’t a banner year for third round draft pick Michael O’Neill, nephew of Paul O’Neill. He did, however, draw a lot of praise prior to the season as a good draft pick for the Yankees and one who could turn into a legitimate outfielder long term. The fact is he did not adjust well to pro ball this season, but he’ll have plenty of time to make adjustments beginning next year. He’s got above average speed and average power. If he can just make more frequent and better contact next year he could make us all forget about his bad first year in Staten Island. Highest level: Staten Island. Will start 2014 at: Charleston. Ceiling: 15 HR, 15 SB, .270 average, good defender. Floor: bust. Likelihood of hitting ceiling: long-shot.
12. Dustin Fowler – OF, 6-foot-0, 185-pounds, LHB, 18 – Dustin Fowler is an athletic outfielder with a sweet swing. He held his own in his first season of rookie ball as an 18th round draft pick. He’s a raw athlete but the Yankees have plenty of time to develop him since he is just 18. He has the potential to hit for power and average. Next year will be a big year for him but given his athleticism he could be one of those guys who really begins to take off now that he has a little bit of experience and top notch coaching. Highest level: Rookie ball. Will start 2014 at: Rookie ball. Estimated arrival: 2019. Ceiling: Lots of steals, homeruns, and defense. Floor: Flop. Likelihood of reaching ceiling: long-shot.
13. Nathan Mikolas – OF, 6-foot-0, 200-pounds, LHB, 19 – At the age of 19, he’s still young, and he really picked up his game in 2013. He hit .256/.355/.405/.760 on the season with five homeruns and even contributed six stolen bases. Showing improvement is the most important thing at this age, so continuing to do that will be big going forward. He’s got good long term power potential and a sweet left handed swing. Next year he should get an opportunity at Staten Island which will be a good test for him. Highest level: Rookie Ball. Will start 2014 at: Staten Island. Estimated arrival: 2018. Ceiling: 30+ homeruns, .260+ average, .350+ OBP. Floor: bust. Likelihood of hitting ceiling: Low.
14. Kendall Coleman – RF, 6-foot-4, 200-pounds, LHB, 18 years old – Coleman only had 28 at bats in 2013, and was the Yankees 11th round draft pick in the draft. As you can see, he is a big kid. Coleman has below average speed and arm strength, but when he connects he can really drop some bombs. At his size with a lefty swing he was definitely worth taking a chance on in the 11th round. He is more of a long term project at this point but all it will take is one big season to put him on the map. Highest level: Rookie ball. Will start 2014 at: Rookie ball. Estimated arrival: 2019. Ceiling: Big time power. Floor: Bust. Likelihood of hitting ceiling: Long-shot.
15. Jordan Barnes – CF, 5-foot-11, 180-pounds, RHB, 19 – At this stage in his career, Jordan Barnes is all about speed. Drafted in the 15th round of the 2013 draft by the Yankees he certainly has a great deal of speed and athleticism. The problem is he his little to nothing in the way of power. His first season was a bit disappointing and the sample size wasn’t small, so he’ll have a lot to work on if he wants to make an impact here. Highest level: Rookie ball. Will start 2014 at: Staten Island. Estimated arrival: 2018. Ceiling: Brett Gardner. Floor: never reaching full season ball. Likelihood of reaching ceiling: long shot.