After making the 2014 top 50 prospect list this season I had a few names in mind who were either close to making the list and just got edged off, or are talented enough that they could easily be on this list by the end of the year. Here are 20 guys who could easily slot in the 35-50 range depending on who you ask. In some cases, even higher.
This is one of the more difficult exercises in Yankees prospect ranking. A lot of these rankings are based on pure conjecture and scouting reports from potentially unreliable sources. That said, these guys are all worthy of this list.
1. Ramon Flores – OF, 5-foot-10, 180-pounds, LHB, 22 – Of all the people on this list, Flores probably belongs at number 35-40 on the countdown. He dropped off because of the injuries and the lack of proven, consistent power. That said he’s still young and I’ve convinced myself (after the fact) that he should be in the top 50 somewhere. Great patience, great work ethic, and solid fielding. I look forward to seeing him play next season.
2. Mark Montgomery – RHP, RP, 5-foot-11, 205-pounds, 23 – If he can ever regain that knockout slider he’ll be a shoe-in for the major league bullpen. Problem is his slider is not what it was, and his fastball isn’t a good enough complement right now. For now he stays off the list. His stats are actually quite good, but the higher ups obviously see that something is missing with him.
3. Mark Payton – OF, 5-foot-7, 165-pounds, LHB, 22 – The Yankees thought highly enough of him to place him directly in Charleston this season, and he has proven that it was no accident. So far he has hit .360/.455/.520/.975 with two homeruns in 20 games. It remains to be seen if he can do this long term. When he was first drafted he seemed a lot like Taylor Dugas, and that is probably a good comp. The one thing he adds to the mix though is that he has better power than Dugas, at least so far. If he finishes out the year strong he could easily end up in the top 50 by the end of the season.
4. Nik Turley – LHP, SP, 6-foot-4, 195-pounds, 24 – To go from where he was ranked last year to off the countdown is quite the precipitous fall. Injuries, ineffectiveness, and being dropped off the 40-man roster can often do that to a guy though. He’s now healthy, and he’s pitching every five days in the Triple-A rotation. If he can get back to his low-mid 90’s fastball with solid secondary offerings and pinpoint control, then the Yankees may still have something here.
5. Mason Williams – OF, 6-foot-1, 180-pounds, LHB, 22 – Still has all the tools to be a great major league player. Problem is he now has two seasons in a row where he has extremely poor production. If he can ever put it all together then he could be a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately I am skeptical that this day will ever come. One positive thing is that I recently saw him play and he looked like he had really shortened up his swing. Only issue is that he was facing a low velocity pitcher, which will often speed up a swing a bit. Jury’s out.
6. Zach Nuding – RHP, SP, 6-foot-4, 260-pounds, 24 – Had the chance to watch him recently and overall he looks pretty good. Excellent control, maintains his velocity, and a breaking ball that has enough action to keep batters from making hard contact. He has a bit of a stiff delivery and his fastball velocity ranges from 89-93, mostly sitting 92. His slider sits low 80’s, and he appears to have a changeup which is high 70’s low 80’s. Overall he’s a solid spec, but I think his stuff would play up in relief. On top of that, he is a fly ball pitcher. I would have to guess some of the balls that Arm & Hammer Park are holding in will sail out of Yankees Stadium.
7. Nick Goody – RHP, RP, 5-foot-11, 195-pounds, 23 – Still has really good stuff, but is recovering from Tommy John Surgery this season and has struggled to find his rhythm. By next year I expect him to be back to normal. If that’s the case, he could quickly move up to Triple-A and from there to the big leagues very soon. The only question is if the old stuff comes back. If it does, the Yankees are in business here.
8. Cesar Vargas – RHP, RP, 6-foot-1, 170-pounds, 22 – I’m unsure if there has been a spike in velocity since he was sent to the bullpen, but there has definitely been a spike in performance. His k/9 have gone from 6.9 to 10 in his switch to relief. His walk rate has decreased almost in half, and his batting average against has gone from .242 to .215. Putting all of these things together, his ERA is 2.50 in 54.0 innings this season. If there has been a spike in stuff, he will start to move very quickly, but that remains to be seen.
9. Chaz Hebert – LHP, SP, 6-foot-2, 180-pounds, 21 – At just 21 years old, he has put together a good season in Charleston so far. He has a 3.31 ERA and 43 K in 51.2 IP. Moreover, in his last nine starts he has a 3.05 ERA and in his last four starts is striking out more than a batter per inning. He’s got the size to be an impact lefty in the system, and his stuff has shown some promise. He can sit in low-90’s with the fastball and still has the frame to increase that a bit more. He’s a guy who could quickly leap frog this list if he has an uptick.
10. Eduardo de Oleo – C, 5-foot-10, 180-pounds, RHB, 21 – de Oleo has come out of nowhere this year and has 12 homeruns in just 59 games. The only problem is that aside from that he hasn’t done much else. He is a solid defender but has not hit for much average and has an OBP of .284. Still, you can’t teach power and he appears to have some, so he remains on the prospect radar, although he’s on the outside looking in on the top 50 list.
11. Gabe Encinas – RHP, SP, 6-foot-3, 195-pounds, 22 – Another player recovering from Tommy John who was in the midst of a breakout season last year, he only recently returned to action. I don’t expect him to be at full strength until the start of next season. If he does return to full strength however, he’s a huge breakout candidate for next year. Don’t be surprised if you see him in the top 20 as soon as midseason 2015. He has mid-90’s fastball with the secondary stuff to back it up.
12. Isaias Tejeda – C, 6-foot-0, 195-pounds, RHB, 22 – Haven’t heard his name talked about for two years now, and with good reason. He has not been playing well. This year, however, that has all changed. He was given an opportunity to start for Staten Island and has ran with it. He is hitting .344/.396/.583/.980 in 29 games with three homeruns and 14 doubles. Something has clicked with him and he has also improved defensively immensely. He could be ready for quick moves in the minors.
13. Thairo Estrada – SS, 5-foot-10, 165-pounds, RHB, 18 – Already in Staten Island at the age of 18, and that is never a bad thing. He is mighty polished, although small framed. He’s a smooth shortstop with solid defensive skills. Unfortunately he hasn’t played in a game since July 4th, but he is still very young and could crack the countdown next season if he improves his numbers a bit. Hitting .271/.348/.288/.637 now, but .371/.436/.400/.836 in the 10 games prior to the injury.
14. David Palladino – RHP, 6-foot-8, 235-pounds, 21 – He didn’t get the promo to Charleston this year, but that’s okay. The Yankees saw him as a rare college long term project when they drafted him. His stats are moderately improved from last season, with a better strikeout numbers, average against, and ERA (4.10). The key with him, as with most tall pitchers, will be control. Once he learns to repeat his delivery, the velocity and control should improve.
15. Justin Kamplain – LHP, SP, 6-foot-0, 175-pounds, 21 – A bit small for a starter, but the Yankees have shown they don’t care about that in the past. Kamplain was just promoted to Charleston, a good sign that the Yankees like what he has shown them thus far. He has some ridiculously good stats in Staten Island, with a 0.43 ERA and 25 K in 21 IP. He’s allowed just nine hits and two walks, and has a .129 average against. Before pitching for the Yankees, his fastball was in the 88-91 range. I’ve not seen him or heard about him since then, so I have to assume that’s where he still sits. Prior to the draft he was seen as a guy who needed to improve his control. Looks like he has done just that so far.
16. Connor Spencer – 1B, 6-foot-2, 215, LHB, 21 – Another college guy, the 8th round pick for the Yankees. He is a polished hitter who will take a walk and has solid gap power at this stage in his career. He’s not expected to develop much power either. That said if he hits the gym hard he could be a guy who develops late. In the meantime his .322 average looks pretty good in the SI lineup.
17. Rony Bautista – LHP, 6-foot-7, 200-pounds, 22 – He has likely been permanently relegated to the bullpen at this point, because he just doesn’t have good enough control to last deep into games. He has likewise been quite inconsistent this season. That said he has a body and stuff you can really dream on. He has 46 K in 32.1 IP this season with a 4.18 ERA. If he ever learns to harness his stuff he’s gonna be a beast. That’s a big if at this point though.
18. Angel Aguilar – SS, 6-foot-0, 170-pounds, RHB, 19 – Hitting .271/.348/.517/.865 with seven SB and six HR in the GCL. Not bad for a guy who just turned 19 in June. He’s a good fielding SS and has some power behind his stroke. He could easily end up being top 50 next year.
19. Manolo Reyes – RHP, SP, 6-foot-1, 190-pounds, 23 – Definitely an 80 name tool, but he needs to sharpen up his game a bit still. He has an excellent power repertoire but needs better control. He’s a young 23, in that he hasn’t had much in the way of coaching or training. He stays off the countdown because he will have to move quickly to ever be taken seriously as a prospect. The Yankees did pay out quite a bit to get him though, so he’s got a shot.
20. Adonis Garcia – OF, 3B, 5-foot-9, 190-pounds, RHB, 28 – At this point he is what he is. He’s a small, cheap, international signing who has done well at every level up to Triple-A. He best fits as a bench guy, but the question remains whether he will ever be given an opportunity. It’s safe to say that he could probably hit at the major league level now. His defense is questionable though and so is his patience.
Honorable mention: Dan Burawa, Pat Venditte, Cito Culver, Angelo Gumbs, Giovanny Gallegos, Allen Vallerio, Billy Fleming, Domonic Jose, Juan Jimenez, Christopher Cabrera, Branden Pinder, Jonny Drozd, Ericson Leonora, Chris Breen, Wilmer Romero, Bo Thompson, Jake Hernandez, Jonathan Padilla, Carlos Diaz.
After the trades today by the way, everyone basically moves up one spot on the top 50, and you can go ahead and slot Ramon Flores in at number 50. Ah, I feel a little bit better now that he’s on the list.