Here’s a list of the twenty guys who easily could have been in the top 50, but just missed the list. At the end of the list are the next 30 guys, who could bring themselves into top 50 discussion in short order if things go well this season. Again the depth is really good this year, and that’s not even including the guys who were signed internationally this year. They will only add to the increasing depth. Also what strikes me is that the Yankees have more major league close talent than I can ever remember, at least on the hitting side.
These are in no particular order, and the rankings would just be semantics anyway because 51-70 are all guys who are not far, if at all ahead of each other. In fact, you could take any of these guys and slot them in the 40-50 holes and I wouldn’t put up much of an argument.
This part of the countdown is exactly why I think our system is so deep this year. There is so much talent and major league potential on this list it’s not even funny. Some of these guys are poised to break out next year and really make some noise.
1. Drew Bridges – 3B, 6-foot-4, 230-pounds, LHB, 19 – The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Drew Bridges is, “damn, that’s a big boy.” He’s the biggest third baseman in the system, and also has the best power potential of any of them. He clubbed five homeruns this season in 52 rookie league games. He also had 15 doubles and two triples. In looking at his splits, a couple of things really jump out. First of all he struggled quite a bit against lefties. This is extremely common amongst young left handers, as they don’t face many lefties growing up. The other thing that jumps out as a major positive is the improvement he saw with each month of the season. His OPS was .540 in June, .662 in July, and .887 in August. That’s a huge improvement and it’s exactly what you want to see from your young prospects. His August stats were really impressive, with a .275/.362/.525/.887 quad slash, three homers, nine doubles, and a triple in 23 games. He definitely strikes out too much so far, but it’s still early in his career to worry too much about that (28.9% K%). If he turns the corner at instructs and looks good in Spring Training, it’s not out of the question that he could begin next year in Charleston. I’d pick Staten Island as the more likely destination though.
2. Jordan Montgomery – LHP, SP, 6-foot-4, 225-pounds, 21 years old – Jordan Montgomery is a big, somewhat hard throwing lefty who slipped to the Yankees in the fourth round this year. He’s got good stuff, with a fastball that sits low 90’s, a top notch changeup, and a curveball. He also throws a cutter to keep righties at bay. With his size, it is possible he could add some velocity to the fastball, in which case he could go from a potential back end starter to a potential number two starter. If he develops the curveball that could also elevate his game. He’s most likely to start out in Charleston next year, although there is stiff competition for that rotation.
3. Justin Kamplain – LHP, 6-foot-0, 175-pounds, 21 years old – Stuff wise he is a tick below guys like Caleb Smith and Matt Tracy, but he is similar in many ways. He throws a low 90’s fastball, and was extremely effective this season. He also throws a curve and a changeup, and going forward he will look to make an impact after a fantastic first season. Overall he had a 1.65 ERA in 43.2 IP with 46 K and a 2.7 BB/9 walk rate. He’s likely to start off next season in High-A.
4. Nick Goody – RHP, RP, 5-foot-11, 195-pounds, 23 – Goody has a mid 90’s fastball and a nasty slider. Those two things alone will allow him to excel in the majors. He piled up the strikeouts this past season but struggled quite a bit with control in his return from Tommy John Surgery. He will be almost two years out at the start of 2015, and the control should return by then. If so, look for him to make a push for a major league job next year. He’ll probably start again in Double-A and build his confidence. He’ll move quickly from that point forward if he has early success.
5. Bryan Cuevas – 2B, 5-foot-10, 179-pounds, RHB, 20 – This smallish middle infielder was the man of opportunity this season. Several injuries allowed him to get significant time at shortstop this season, and he really showed what he can do in the field and with the bat. He has a great deal of versatility to play any infield position and we know the Yankees like that. On top of that, he tore the cover off the ball in the batter’s box this year. He had a .356/.405/.564/.969 line. Long term I see him at second base due to his size, but with his versatility he could end up anywhere. He had nine doubles, eight triples, and two homeruns in 40 games this year. I don’t know much more about him yet, but he should get a chance in Staten Island next season at the very least. He has a patient approach at the plate.
6. Taylor Dugas – OF, 5-foot-9, 180-pounds, LHB, 25 – Dugas has been a bit of a surprise with his ascension through the minors, making it all the way up to Triple-A in just his second full season. His success has been consistent, with a .299 average this year, a .399 OBP, and a .390 slugging over two levels. He lacks the power for homeruns or the speed for a significant amount of stolen bases, but the kid can definitely hit and field. One thing he can do for sure is get on base. He will make a fine fourth or fifth outfielder someday, maybe as soon as this year if the Yankees don’t make any further pickups.
7. Thairo Estrada – SS, 5-foot-10, 155-pounds, RHB, 18 – Estrada is the youngest of this group and he often gets overlooked for his size. Make no mistake about it though, he can hit. This year he only played in 23 games due to injury (a common theme amongst this group of shortstops), and he was just starting to hit his stride when he got injured. He should be back and ready to go next season though, and when he is he will still be one of the youngest shortstops in the system. He’s an excellent fielder who has surprising power, decent patience, and a good hit tool. I could see him starting in Staten Island or Charleston next season.
8. Chris Gittens – 1B, 6-foot-4, 250-pounds, RHB, 20 – Gittens was a late arrival for the GCL Yankees, but he made a strong impression once he got there. He hit .286/.400/.400/.800 in 11 games. He didn’t hit a homerun, but the sample size is as small as it gets. The guy is massive, and when he was drafted he was known for his power potential and good hit tool. He appears to be a first base only prospect, but at his size that’s okay. He could become a real power hitter as soon as next season. It remains to be seen where the Yankees will start him but it will likely be either the Appalachian League team or Staten Island.
9. Frank Frias – OF, 6-foot-2, 185-pounds, RHB, 20 – The Yankees have had bad luck with athletic players who suffer horrific lower leg injuries (see David Adams and Ravel Santana). Frias hasn’t reached the potential of either of those players, but he did suffer a similar injury this year. It’s a shame too because he was in the midst of an excellent first season in the GCL. He was batting .316/.385/.391/.776 with 11 SB in 41 games. He didn’t hit for much power, but showed athleticism and ability to steal some bases. He is an above average fielder. With his calling card being athleticism, this injury could be devastating for his career. It remains to be seen just how serious the injury was, and how he will recover. So far the Yankees are 0/2 in this type of situation.
10. Zach Nuding – RHP, SP, 6-foot-4, 260-pounds, 24 – Low 90’s heat, lots of success in Double-A, and lots of failure in Triple-A. He still has the ceiling of a fifth starter. On the other side of the token, he does also have a chance to be successful in relief. He is the type who might be able to dial it up in short spurts. Nuding could also be tried in swingman type of role. Either way, Nuding is going to have to make some progress this year if he wants to get to that point. He’s going to have to get Triple-A hitters out before he gets a chance to get professional hitters out.
11. Cesar Vargas – RHP, RP, 6-foot-1, 175-pounds, 22 – Vargas needed to do something to jazz up his fantasy value. As a starter, his ceiling seemed to be a swing man, spot starter type. This year the Yankees tried him out as a reliever, and his stuff immediately spiked. He began to throw in the mid 90’s and his secondary stuff played up. Another season like 2014 and he’ll certainly be in my top 50. On the season he threw 69.2 IP and struck out 76 with just a 1.8 BB/9 walk rate. He finished the year with a 2.58 ERA. His prospect stock is restored and he now has the potential to be a late inning reliever. I suspect he’ll start 2015 in Double-A and move to Triple-A quickly if he picks up where he left off.
12. Nestor Cortes – LHP, SP, 5-foot-11, 190-pounds, 20 years old – Cortes had a season in the GCL and his numbers show that. He compares favorably to Daniel Camarena and has the pitchability to percolate similarly in the system. He threw 31.2 IP this year and had 38 K and just a 1.4 BB/9 walk rate. He had a 2.27 ERA this year. He throws the ball mostly in the upper 80’s but will hit 90 every now and then, which is not bad for a 20 year old. His secondary offerings, a changeup and curveball, are above average. If he can add a few ticks on his velocity he could shoot up the rankings. Problem is that is a shaky proposition with his size.
13. Allen Valerio – 3B, 6-foot-1, 180, RHB, 21 – Had a nice season this year in his debut season in the US, but at his age he is going to have to cruise through the system to get noticed. He hit .292/.404/.472/.876 in the GCL with 14 doubles, three triples, and two homeruns. The patience is superior and he’s got some power to his swing. It will be an uphill climb for him going forward, but the Yankees could opt to move quickly and start him in Charleston next season. If that happens, we could have a nice prospect on our hands.
14. Branden Pinder – RHP, RP, 6-foot-3, 225-pounds, 25 – There’s a reason the Yankees protected him this year, and that is the fact that he could easily stick with a major league team for a full season now. He could contribute as soon as this year in the major league bullpen. He throws a mid 90’s fastball with a sick slider that gets him strikeouts. This season he pitched to a 2.04 ERA with 37 K in 39.2 IP. The walk rate was just 2.0/9 innings. His strikeout rate leaves a little to be desired for a reliever, but his stuff indicates that he might be able to bring that number up next season.
15. Dan Burawa – RHP, RP, 6-foot-2, 210-pounds, 26 – Burawa is another reliever who was protected in the rule 5 draft this year. He didn’t exactly earn it with his stats, but his stuff is real and he’s another one who could easily be kept on a major league roster for the entire year if he manages to cut down the walk rate. This year he threw 59.1 innings and struck out 73 batters. He walked 4.6 per nine innings. His ERA was 4.7 this year, indicating he did have some struggles, especially while he was in Triple-A. If he can put his control problems in the past this year he could make a major impact in the pen because he has late inning closer stuff.
16. Ali Castillo – SS, 5-foot-10, 175-pounds, RHB, 25 – Ali Castillo has been around forever, and he’s always been more of an organizational guy. He is a defense first, light hitting short stop who has slid through the system completely unnoticed. One thing, however, that cannot go unnoticed about him is his stellar defense. There’s not a better defensive shortstop in the system right now. Defense alone won’t get you to the majors, but Castillo came a long way with the bat this year. He finished the season 53 for his last 177 (.299) with 21 walks (OBP .374). He has a slugging percentage of .367 during that period, giving him a .741 OPS to go along with his 17 steals. Those are pretty good numbers for a shortstop. More importantly, he has carried that success into the Venezuelan Winter League. He has hit .316/.349/.395/.745 there with one homer, seven doubles, and 14 SB in 45 games. Statistics are only so important though, and the scouting report on Castillo is not encouraging. He’s at best a utility infielder. He has a good shot to be the starting shortstop in Triple-A, and could be in the majors if there is an injury. He’s going to be a fun guy to root for this year and hopefully he continues to hit like he has. One thing to note is that he preyed upon younger pitchers last year in Double-A, while older pitchers held him completely in check.
17. Jordan Foley – RHP, SP, 6-foot-4, 215-pounds, 21 – Another big kid with low 90’s velocity (90-94) that has gone up to 96-97 in the past. He has an unconventional delivery which makes his mechanics difficult to repeat, which is something he has worked on since joining the Yankees. His best secondary pitch is his slider, but he’ll also mix in a changeup and splitter here and there. If he can get running on all cylinders he could start in Charleston this year and make a big impact.
18. Giovanny Gallegos – RHP, SP, 6-foot-2, 210-pounds, 23 years old – Gallegos is hitting that moment where 2015 is going to be make or break time. He will be 23 and still in High-A. His stuff regressed a bit this year and it will be important for him to get the low-mid 90’s fastball and accurate secondary offerings back this year if he wants to remain a starter. Worst case scenario, there is still the backup plan of moving him to the bullpen. He still has a ton of potential but he will have to start putting it together next year or his time will run out quickly.
19. Mark Montgomery – RHP, RP, 5-foot-11, 205-pounds, 24 years old – If you had told most farm followers two years ago at this time that Mark Montgomery would spend 2014 in Double-A and Triple-A, have a 2.10 ERA and 51 K in 51.1 IP, but would not get called up, then the response might be something like this: only if the Yankees are being run by a bunch of idiots. Truth be told, a lot has changed since then. Mark Montgomery has diminished stuff, especially velocity, and just doesn’t look like a guy who can get major league hitters out right now. It is unknown whether he will ever get back to his old stuff. If he does, he will be a big time major league contributor. If he doesn’t, he may never make it there, at least not with the Yankees.
20. David Palladino – RHP, SP, 6-foot-8, 235-pounds, 21 years old – Although Palladino is big and tall, his velocity is actually only in the low 90’s. He’s actually a finesse pitcher, but the problem is he hasn’t demonstrated that kind of control yet in his career. At his size there’s always the potential for a velocity increase, and his control could also improve. He is definitely a guy to dream on, but after spending his second straight season in short season low-a, he’ll have to put things together quickly or risk getting passed by some of the younger pitchers in the organization. There is going to be stiff competition for the Charleston rotation next year, and he absolutely must not end up on the outside looking in if he wants to be a starter going forward.
Manolo Reyes, Alex Smith, Taylor Garrison, Dietrich Enns, Phil Wetherell, Ben Gamel, Cito Culver, Vince Conde, Rony Bautista, Cesar Diaz, Carlos Diaz, Christopher Cabrera, Jonny Drozd, Matt Marsh, Hayden Sharp, Jose Mesa Jr., Sean Carley, Yancarlos Baez, Kendall Coleman, Derek Callahan, Joey Maher, Caleb Frare, Jose Figueroa, Jake Hernandez, Tyler Palmer, Rob Segedin, Trent Garrison, Dietrich Enns, Eduardo de Oleo, Connor Mullee, Juan Jimenez