2014, as previously mentioned, was a big year for the Yankees’ farm. A few players stepped into the prospect limelight, including Luis Severino and Aaron Judge. After the Arizona fall league, I think Greg Bird can be included in that discussion as well. The Yankees made a huge splash internationally which should provide a major infusion of talent for the minors. They also have some big time players who appear ready to take the plunge into prospect stardom in 2014, like Jorge Mateo, Domingo Acevedo, and Luis Torrens. This list was difficult to make; so difficult that I’ve already made my not top 50 list which easily could have been 30 players long if I wanted it to be. The depth is pretty fantastic right now. There are players who are not in the top 50 right now who will probably end up playing in the majors. I’d be willing to bet on that.
Anyway, overall this list was fun to make. I’m excited to see what all these guys can do, and the 2015 season can’t come soon enough.
Please note that until the Yankees re-sign Campos or Heathcott, they will be off this list. Campos would be low 30’s and Heathcott would be late 40’s if that were not the case.
1. Gary Sanchez – C, 6-foot-3, 235-pounds, RHB, 21 – Despite a less than stellar 2014 season, Sanchez remains the top catcher in the organization, and one of the best in the minors. Sure he only hit .270/.338/.406/.743 but he did it as a 21 year old in Double-A. He had 13 homeruns on the season and 19 doubles. He was far and away the best catcher in the Eastern League this year and he did it while being one of the youngest. In all of Double-A there isn’t a single catcher less than two years older than Sanchez who has performed better than him. His defense took another step forward this year. He threw out 40% of would be base stealers, and looked sharp behind the dish. He still needs some work on blocking but that is normal for a 21 year old. Seeing him play in person, his power is real. He has an explosive swing and the ball flies off his bat. He’ll be in the majors eventually, it’s just a matter of when. Perhaps I’m being stubborn keeping him here instead of Severino, but I still think he’s the best prospect in the organization.
2. Luis Severino – RHP, 6-foot-0, 195-pounds, 19 years old – Kid hits 99 mph, sits in the mid to upper 90’s with his fastball, and has plus secondary offerings. He peppers the zone with strikes and attacks hitters. There is no question that he is the top pitching prospect in the organization. He could be a number one or a number two starter in the future. He throws a plus change and a developing slider with plus potential. By the end of 2015 he could be one of the top prospects in all of baseball. His 2.46 ERA with 127 K in 113.1 innings were phenomenal this year as a 19 year old. He’ll likely start in Trenton in 2015.
3. Aaron Judge – OF, 6-foot-7, 230-pounds, RHB, 22 – Judge came through this year big time. Many people, including myself, had their doubts when he was drafted given his size. He has shown that he can use his size to his advantage. He has a decent amount of swing and miss, but that comes with the territory of being a behemoth. He is surprisingly agile in the field with an excellent arm and good patterns to the ball. The power has been better than expected, and should only improve. He has good plate discipline to go along with everything else. The overall line was .308/.419/.486/.905 with 17 home runs, 24 doubles, four triples, and 131 K : 89 BB in 131 games this year. He was recently ranked the number 15 prospect in the Florida State League. He should start in Double-A next year.
4. Rob Refsnyder – 2B, 6-foot-1, 205-pounds, RHB, 23 – This year Refsnyder broke out in a major way. He had a season that was good enough to put him in a great position to be the starting second baseman for the Yankees next season. He hits to all fields, is extremely athletic, and is becoming an average second baseman with the potential to be even better than that. He is a tireless worker and it would shock me if he wasn’t a plus defender in the coming years. He has an excellent arm and I’ve seen him make some fantastic plays. His power really came around this year, hitting 14 homeruns. This is excellent for a second baseman, and is exactly what the Yankees pictured when they drafted him. I am hoping they give him a legitimate shot to start next year, and I don’t think the Yanks will be disappointed if they do. He hit .318/.387/.497/.884 with 38 doubles, three triples and 14 homeruns this year in Double-A and Triple-A.
5. Gregory Bird – 6-foot-3, 215-pounds, LHB, 1B, 21 – He’s already hitting well in Double-A at the age of just 21, and he’s hitting for power too. He’s one of the best first base prospects in the minors right now. He’s OPSing at .848 this year despite missing significant time. His numbers are right on par with where they were last year at higher levels. He is exactly what the Yankees tend to look for in a player. High OBP, patient approach, and power. His quad slash on the season is .270/.375/.473/.848. He’ll likely start next season in Double-A, where he will have a head start since he spent the end of the season there. Of note, he also tore apart the Arizona Fall League this year, which is where all the best prospects go. This bodes well for his performance in 2015.
6. Jorge Mateo – SS, 6-foot-0, 188-pounds, RHB, 19 – The first thing that comes to the mind when you see this kid play is “tools galore.” He has ridiculous speed and his hit tool is off the charts. He knows his way around a walk, and he has above average arm strength. In the DSL, he showed he even had some power to go along with everything else, hitting seven homeruns in 64 games. His first season stateside was limited by a minor injury, but there’s no question he found some success. He hit .276/.354/.397/.750 with five doubles and a triple in 15 games. He also stole 11 bases and was caught stealing just once. The injury was deflating, but he is still easily the most talented shortstop in the system. His hit tool is right up there with Abiatal Avelino, but he walks more. Tough to pinpoint where he will start, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him anywhere between the Appalachian League (newly acquired team) to Charleston (Low-A)
7. Ian Clarkin – LHP, 6-foot-2, 186-pounds, 19 – Clarkin’s season couldn’t have gone much better in 2014, posting a 3.12 ERA in 75.0 innings while striking out 75 and walking just 23. He has a fastball that currently sits in the low 90’s (90-94), but with his size that number could creep up to the mid to upper 90’s in short order. He has pinpoint control which is huge for a kid his age. He has a high leg kick, and models his delivery to resemble Clayton Kershaw. His curveball and changeup are already plus pitches too, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he added another pitch to the arsenal before he makes it to the show. He was 2.9 years younger than the average player in his league this year, and he still dominated. Can’t wait to see how this kid develops. He’ll start in Tampa in 2015.
8. Manny Banuelos – LHP, 5-foot-10, 205-pounds, 23 – Banuelos has had a rough go of it for the past few years. He was once the crown jewel of the farm system. He probably still would be except for the fact that he got injured and required Tommy John Surgery. Instead of getting the surgery up front, the Yankees chose to wait and Banuelos lost two years of development time. Apparently even though the performance wasn’t there in 2014, the stuff was. Control is the last thing to return after Tommy John, so 2015 will be the year where we see what Banuelos can really do again. He had a 4.11 ERA in 76.2 innings this season, and struck out 71 while walking 31 in Double-A and Triple-A. If the control comes back, he will likely take his mid 90’s fastball, plus changeup, and plus curveball to the majors in 2015 as either a starter, or a late season reinforcement.
9. Luis Torrens – C, 6-foot-0, 175-pounds, RHB, 18 – Torrens is a really interesting guy. He is so young and talent evaluators everywhere have been impressed with him. He’s already played in Staten Island and Charleston at such a young age. Yet the performance has lagged behind the scouting report so far. He hit .256/.331/.383/.714 this season overall with three homers, 14 doubles, and three triples in 62 games. Not bad numbers, but could be much better. Scouts say he hits the ball to all fields well, and has a patient approach at the plate. He lets the game come to him. He has considerable power for a thin kid, and will develop much more once he bulks up. He has the potential to be the best catcher of the entire crop. His defense is better than Sanchez or Murphy at the same stage.
10. Jacob Lindgren – LHP, RP, 5-foot-11, 180-pounds, 21 – As a 21 year old Lindgren made it all the way up to Double-A, where he was effective. He only threw 25 innings because he had already thrown 55 innings for his college team. He ended up with a 2.16 ERA with 48 K in 25 IP, a dominant showing. If he continues this success he will be in the major leagues next season. His velocity sits between 90-94 mph depending on the day, and the movement is profound. Both righties and lefties struggle to pick up the fastball. The slider is even more effective, and has been described as a “wipeout slider.” Left handers and right handers alike wave at pitches in the dirt and out of the strike zone. The best hope is to identify it early and lay off. Lindgren did see a bit of that in his short time in Trenton, and his walk rate rose precipitously. As long as he can show good control going forward, he’s a safe bet to make it to the Bronx.
11. Tyler Austin – RF/3B/1B, 6-foot-1, 220-pounds, RHB, 23 – Tyler Austin got off to another bad start this season making everyone concerned that this might be the end of the road for him as a prospect. Then something clicked with him and he began mashing about mid-way through the season. We all know what Austin can do. He can hit for significant power when running on all cylinders. He is a solid defender in RF, and can play third in a pinch. He is more than capable at first base as well. This versatility may help him carve out a role in the majors if all goes well offensively. April through June were tough months for Austin, but he started blasting the ball in July and August. In July and August, he hit .302/.353/.482/.836 with six homeruns. We all know how small sample sizes can cloud judgment, but this is arguably the first time Austin has been fully healthy since 2012. There is reason for hope. If he can duplicate his last two months next year in Triple-A, it could be a renaissance for Austin and he could be on the fast track to the Bronx.
12. Eric Jagielo – 3B, 6-foot-2, 195-pounds LHB, 22 – Looking at the numbers, Jagielo was much better this season that I had initially thought. There were two things, however that jump out at me as concerning. Firstly, his average is just .256, and secondly he struck out 94 times in just 92 games. He missed some time due to injury but he’s going to have to improve on those numbers going forward if he is to become a major league threat. That said, Jagielo did some things well this year. For example, he hit 18 homeruns, and had 14 doubles. His quad slash was .256/.351/.461/.811. He showed he can be a patient hitter, and hit for some power. One other major concern in his game right now is his defense. I have read several first-hand accounts of scouts, and also non scouts who feel he will not stick at third base, and may eventually have to move over to first. The Yankees still believe he can stick at third. Only time will tell, but if he does his offense will play up at the position.
13. Jake Cave – OF, 6-foot-0, 180-pounds, LHB, 21 – Lets start out by throwing some adjectives out there for Jake Cave; explosive, electric, athletic, young, speedy. These are the words that describe some of Cave’s positive attributes. On top of that, he makes consistent hard contact, has improving power, and has above average plate discipline. He uses all fields well, and plays with an aggression comparable to Brett Gardner. This year he hit .294/.351/.414/.764 overall. He played about one-third of his games in Double-A, where he was 3.7 years younger than the average player. He still produced like he belonged there. Cave made great strides this year and will look to improve again in 2014. He is part of a talented group of outfielders who will play in the upper levels this season. Improving his power will be atop his list of goals for next season. I would love to see him in the Bronx, because it is a joy to watch his aggressive style of play.
14. Brady Lail – RHP, 6-foot-2, 170-pounds, 21 – Lail had yet another successful season in the minors in 2014. He spent most of the season in Charleston, where he was solid. Then he moved up to High-A Tampa, where he was even better. Overall he posted a 3.62 ERA with 116 K in 134.1 IP and just 26 BB. He was 2.2 years younger than the average player in his leagues this year, and yet was still effective. Lail will sit 91-94 with the fastball, but he has a plus changeup and knuckle-curveball which keep hitters off balance. He’s a big kid so the velocity can and probably will pump a bit higher, but for now he has a ceiling of a #3 starter. He’ll likely start in High-A Tampa next season.
15. Ty Hensley – RHP, 6-foot-4, 220-pounds, 21 years old – After spending the better part of two seasons on the shelf, Ty Hensley finally pitched this season. He fared pretty well in limited innings. Hensley managed 30.2 innings with 40 K and a 2.93 ERA, while walking just 11 players. When healthy, his fastball can sit mid-90’s. This season, still recovering, he sat low 90’s. At his size there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to get that velocity back. He also has good secondary offerings and should be showcasing his stuff in either Low-A or High-A to start 2015. His ceiling is tough to determine giving his limited experience, but if he can stay healthy he is definitely a guy to look out for next year. It’s hard to call a first round draft pick a sleeper, but he really went under the radar in 2014 and next year could be his coming out party.
16. Austin DeCarr – RHP, 6-foot-3, 218-pounds, 19 years old – DeCarr, the 91st overall pick in the 2014 draft. He is the next in a long line of big righties the Yankees like to draft. Already as a 19 year old he sits 92-93 mph and can reach back for 95 mph. He has a potential plus curveball and a changeup which is a work in progress. The Yankees have had a lot of success teaching that pitch to their young starters. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he was taught a cutter somewhere along the way, a pitch the Yankees seem to be teaching all of their young players. With his current stuff he has a floor of a mid to late inning reliever. With his size, and the fact that he’s from the Northeast, he does have some upside left. The ceiling right now is a number two starter, but that could change in due time. This year his numbers didn’t look great overall with a 4.63 ERA and 24 K in 23.1 IP. He exhibited good control as well. Next year he could end up anywhere between the new Appalachian League team and Charleston. Only time will tell, but it will say a lot about how much progress he made this offseason.
17. Abital Avelino – SS, 5-foot-11, 186-pounds, RHB, 19 – This year was also frustrating for Avelino, who suffered from an injury of his own that held him out of 50 or so games this season. He got healthy towards the end of the year though and limped to a .247/.308/.351/.658 overall season. Next season he will be fully healthy and we will get a chance to see what he can really do. He was off to a fantastic start before the injury. He is still one of the most talented shortstops in the system, with smooth defensive skills that are plus for the position. He has the speed to steal some bases and has a great hit tool. The patience needs to come along a bit, but I still have high hopes for this kid. I’m guessing he’ll repeat Low-A this year.
18. Miguel Andujar – 3B, 6-foot-0, 175-pounds, RHB, 19 – It was a tale of two seasons for Andujar, the first half and the second half. What you saw from him this season was exactly what you want to see from a 19 year old in Low-A, consistent improvement. The last two months of the season, he hit .323 and had an OPS of .818. He hit 15 doubles, two triples, and three homeruns in the last two months of the season. No question about it he proved he’s ready for High-A next season. His total of 10 homeruns on the season are excellent for a 19 year old and should only improve with time. Look out because he could really end up being a big time prospect. His defense is solid, but the one thing I noticed from watching him on MILB.tv was that he did not seem to have great arm strength. Other than that though he appears to be a pretty smooth fielder.
19. Caleb Smith – LHP, 6-foot-3, 180-pounds, 23 years old – Smith had a really strong start to the season in Low-A, but seemed to fade towards the end of the season. Part of that could be due to the fact that he was getting tired towards the end of the season. It was a career high for him in innings pitched. That said he is going to really need to step it up next year if he wants to remain a starter. Overall he had a solid season, with a 3.67 ERA and 116 K in 117.2 IP while walking 46. The control did falter from Smith which is was a problem for him back in college at Sam Houston State. The stuff is still there for Smith, with his 91-94 mph fastball which has touched 95. His secondary offerings are good enough to get strikeouts and get people out, but he’ll need to work on controlling them going forward to be successful. He’ll likely start off in High-A and when he masters his craft there could move up to Double-A quickly.
20. Dan Camarena – LHP, 6-foot-0, 200-pounds, 22 years old – Camarena came out and proved he belongs this year. He finished the season with a 3.40 ERA with 112 K in 143 innings. He continues to shows above average control with 2.6 BB/9. He struggled in his 55 innings in Double-A, but he finished the season with four strong starts, including one where he struck out 12 in eight innings pitched. The difficulty with Camarena comes with his projection. The guy barely scrapes 90 mph with his fastball on a good day. He has superior secondary offerings to go with it, but the question becomes whether his fastball is good enough at that velocity to keep opposing hitters honest. He has youth on his side and it’s still possible he adds a tick or two to the fastball to increase his ceiling, but at 6-foot-0 and 22 years old that seems unlikely at this point. That said he showed success and durability this year, and he could carve out a role someday as a 4th or 5th starter. He’ll likely start in Trenton next season.
21. Miguel Sulbaran – LHP, 5-foot-10, 209-pounds, 20 years old – Miguel Sulbaran is a similar player to Dan Camarena with three major differences. First he is even smaller than Camarena. He also is two years younger and will start 2014 at the same level. Lastly he throws harder than Camarena, sitting more in the low 90’s. He had a good season in 2014 but definitely faded towards the end of the year. He finished off with a 3.49 ERA and 86 K in 116 IP. He had a 2.3 BB/9 walk rate. Next season he will be 21 and will already be in Trenton. He is extremely polished for his age, so it will be interesting to see how his stuff translates to Double-A this year. Sulbaran’s ceiling is similar to Camarena’s, a fourth or fifth starter.
22. James Pazos – LHP, RP, 6-foot-3, 230-pounds, 23 – Pazos was drafted in the 13th round but he possesses some major tools. He can sit upper 90’s with his fastball and has been clocked as high as 98 mph. He has a plus sweeping slider at times and an average changeup. He managed to rise up the ranks this year after a fantastic performance. He finished up with a 2.42 ERA over two levels in 67 IP, while striking out 75. Pazos has a low three-quarters delivery and is knocking at the door to the majors. Next year he’ll test his skills in Triple-A, and could be with the major league team by midseason.
23. Nick Rumbelow – RHP, RP, 6-foot-0, 190-pounds, 23 – Rumbelow jumped all the way from Charleston to Scranton this season, across all four long season levels. His fastball is low 90’s and he has a curveball which has a sharp, tight break to it and is already a plus pitch. He has drawn quite a few comparisons to David Robertson, and this year his fastball was clocked as high as 96-97 mph. He ended up throwing 58.1 IP in 2014, while striking out 81 with a 2.62 ERA. He has a low walk rate at 2.8 BB/9. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start the year in the majors, but he might spend a month or two in Triple-A before he is handed a job.
24. Dante Bichette Jr. – 3B, 6-foot-1, 215-pounds, RHB, 21 – After two consecutive really bad seasons for Bichette, he finally found some success in High-A as a 21 year old. It was enough to get him a late season promotion to Trenton, where he struggled through 18 games. That will give him some things to work on so he can hit the ground running next season. Overall his numbers were decent in 2014, but were a major improvement from last year. He hit .264/.345/.397/.741 with 10 homeruns and 30 doubles. The power will have to improve going forward if he wants a real shot. Unlike the two above, however, there are no question marks defensively. He is solid at the position and there is little doubt he will stick there long term. He came a long way since last year, and if he can take another big step forward next year he will finally get himself back on the prospect radar.
25. Tyler Webb – LHP, RP, 6-foot-6, 225-pounds, 24 – Webb is another guy who has moved rapidly through the Yankees system. He went all the way from High-A to Triple-A while posting a 3.8 ERA and 94 K in just 68.2 IP. His walk rate was good at 2.9, and his name was mentioned by Cashman as a possible option in the bullpen. Much like Lindgren, he’ll sit 90-94 mph with his fastball, and gets a ton of movement. He also has better control than Lindgren at this stage, although he is three years older. He throws a curveball as well and is not afraid to go inside on both righties and lefties. He also throws a show me changeup which he is working on. He’s about as major league ready as they come, so don’t be surprised if he is in the mix this season.
26. Dustin Fowler – OF, 6-foot-0, 185-pounds, LHB, 19 – Fowler’s numbers aren’t terribly impressive, but as just a 19 year old in Low-A he definitely held his own and then some. He has drawn many comparisons to Jake Cave, and he has two things going for him that Cave didn’t. First of all he has not missed as much time due to injury (although he missed a significant portion of this season). Secondly, he already has shown more power than Cave. Dustin Fowler is another aggressive, athletic kid. He has more to work on than Cave but he has more time to work on it. He needs to work on his contact rate, his line drive rate, taking the ball the other way, and his patience. On the other hand, he already has shown plus power and has been impressive in the field. He was 2.5 years younger than the average player in Low-A this year, and yet he hit a respectable .257/.292/.459/.751 with nine homeruns, 13 doubles, and six triples in just 66 games. Overall it was a successful season for Fowler, who will look to continue to improve next season, where he will likely repeat Low-A with a quick promotion if things go well.
27. Tyler Wade – SS, 6-foot-1, 180-pounds, LHB, 19 – Although not quite as physically gifted as Avelino or Mateo, Wade had the best season of the three. He played in 129 games, which in and of itself is probably the most important thing development wise. He hit .272/.350/.349/.699 this year. He had just one homerun, but did manage to hit 24 doubles and six triples. He stole 22 bases with 13 CS. His defense was excellent at shortstop. He’s only 19 and he has a lot of development still to go. He has good size for a shortstop and will look to add some more strength in the offseason. He will almost definitely stick at the position. The major factor going forward with Wade is starting to hit for some power. He’s only 19 so that should come with time. I think it’s worth noting that both he and Avelino are about 2.5 years younger than the league average at this level. Good hit tool, excellent patience tool, low power tool, good arm, and excellent instincts in the field. After this season he has a good shot at starting the season in High-A.
28. Domingo Acevedo – RHP, 6-foot-7, 190-pounds, 20 years old – I’m going to put this in writing right now; Domingo Acevedo is a major sleeper going into next season. He has a great chance to make a big splash next season. Acevedo throws the ball consistently in the upper-90’s, and is working on developing his secondary offerings. If he does develop those pitches, he will have an ace ceiling. If not, he has late inning reliever potential. Either way, this is a guy to watch going forward, as is anyone who is capable of throwing the ball as hard as he can. With his size, there’s always the potential he could throw even harder. This year the numbers were okay, and he went down with some nagging injuries that cut his rookie league season short. He had just 15.1 IP, but struck out 21 and walked six. Next year he could end up anywhere from the Appalachian League to Charleston depending on how polished he looks.
29. Simon de la Rosa – RHP, 6-foot-3, 185-pounds, 21 years old – Managed to throw 42.2 innings this season stateside, and had mixed results. He had poor control walking 5.3 per 9 innings. He also struck out 53 though, showing that the talent is definitely there. Sitting at about 94 mph, he also has a plus breaking ball in his back pocket. He’s working on a changeup, but right now he looks like a guy who will eventually end up in the bullpen to me. He’ll likely start in Charleston next year now that he has some stateside experience.
30. Alexander Palma – OF, 6-foot-0, 201-pounds, RHB, 19 – Palma spent his first season stateside in 2014, and he did not disappoint. He showed he can hit for average against older competition (1.6 years younger than his league average), and he hit for some power along the way. His quad slash was .305/.318/.451/.769 with just 15 strikeouts in 52 games. He lived up to his reputation as an extreme contact hitter. Now his main assignment will be to improve his patience and continue to work on developing more power. If he does those two things he could be a force in the coming years. His defense is about average. He’ll likely play in either the Appalachian League (Rookie plus), or Short Season Staten Island next year. Charleston is not out of the question though and we’ve seen guys skip a few leagues to get to Charleston before.
31. Gosuke Katoh – 2B, 6-foot-2, 180-pounds, LHB, 19 – Katoh’s stats took a step back this year, but that was in part because he went straight from the GCL to Charleston, as a 19 year old. While he started the season poorly, he finished the season strong. He sees a ton of pitches and that is part of the reason why his average was so low. He walked 71 times this year. As he gets more aggressive the average should come up, and so should the power numbers. He also has considerable speed and stole 20 bases this year. He hit .222/.345/.326/.671 this season. Those numbers are nothing to write home about, but his approach is. He is an all fields hitter, which portends a major increase in the average going forward. His approach to this season was to be like a sponge and soak up all of the knowledge he can about the game, and see as many pitches as possible even if it meant letting some good ones go. This lead to his high strikeout totals which are the major concern with him going forward. Hopefully this approach pays off next season.
32. Jose Pirela – 2B, 5-foot-11, 210-pounds, RHB, 24 – He is a minor league free agent after this season, and I really hope the Yankees keep him around in case Refsnyder is a bust at the major league level. He hit .305/.351/.441/.792 this season with 10 homers, 11 triples, and 21 doubles. He can flat out hit and has done so at every level of the minors. He even stole 15 bases this year. At this point he will be 25 to start next season. If the Yankees don’t give him a chance soon then someone else will. He has earned it.
33. Kyle Roller – 6-foot-1, 250-pounds, LHB, 1B, 26 – No question about it, Kyle Roller has had a career year. He has done it at the highest levels of the minors too. The only caveat is that he will spend most of next season as a 27 year old in Triple-A with no major league experience. That’s always a red flag, but the way he has performed is impressive no matter how you look at it. On the season, he is hitting .299/.391/.549/.940 with 25 homeruns, 29 doubles, and three triples. He has increased his stock in a major way this season, and he’s just one Mark Teixeira injury away from being a viable major league option. He’s close to the majors and at this point he will most likely get an opportunity to play, whether it be for the Yankees or someone else. He’ll start the season in Triple-A next season, and with some good luck could see some time in the bigs. Greg Bird is breathing down his neck though.
34. Ramon Flores – OF/1B, 5-foot-10, 170-pounds, LHB, 22 – People (including myself) seem to forget how well Flores was playing this season before he went down with an injury. He had already hit nine home runs in just 68 games, and was hitting .254/.343/.472/.815 while being 4.4 years younger than the average player in Triple-A. Overall I’d say that’s impressive. Look, Ramon Flores is not going to impress anyone with his size, but he has drawn many comparisons with his swing to Robinson Cano. He has more patience than Cano has ever had. It is unlikely he ever reaches Cano’s ceiling, but he took a major step forward this season and he’s still just a baby. His fielding is slightly above average, so if he can improve upon his hitting this season he could be a wildcard to make an impact at the major league level at some point.
35. Jaron Long – RHP, 6-foot-0, 185-pounds, 23 years old – Speaking of guys with a 5th starter ceiling, Jaron Long is another guy who fits in that category. Talk about a good story, this guy was a non-drafted free agent signing for the Yankees, and he rapidly ascended the ranks this season going all the way from Charleston to Trenton. Overall he had a 2.18 ERA with 122 K in 144 innings, and a miniscule 1.4 BB/9 walk rate. His stuff is below average in terms of velocity and secondary offerings. He does have one plus tool though; his control. He was consistently effective all season, so Long could easily sneak into the back end of the Yankees’ rotation this season if there are a couple of injuries in the starting rotation. He’ll start in Triple-A.
36. Angel Aguilar – SS, 6-foot-0, 170-pounds, RHB, 19 – Aguilar came out of nowhere to be one of the top hitters in the GCL this year. Coming over from the DSL this year, this Venezuelan kid was not known for his power, but more so his fielding. All he did was come to the US and hit .311/.373/.536/.910 which was only fourth in OPS in the league, and second in homeruns (in 14 fewer games than the league leader). He hit 11 doubles and one triple in 39 games. He’s an above average fielder in all aspects. He is not expected to hit for this much power, but a lot can change in the minors. Overall he is not a guy you want to overlook when talking about Yankees’ shortstops, and he could surprise everyone and end up being the best of the lot. Don’t overlook his above average speed, as he stole eight bases this season as well. Much like Jorge Mateo, I could see him starting anywhere from the Appalachian League to Charleston next year.
37. Michael O’Neill – OF, 6-foot-1, 195-pounds, RHB, 22 – I always forget that Michael O’Neill is a third round draft pick. I don’t think that changes anything about his prospect stock, but still an interesting fact. Paul O’Neill’s nephew was able to put together a solid season this year. He showed a nice mix of power and speed, with 10 homeruns and 42 SB in 129 games. He struck out a lot and didn’t hit for great average considering he was 0.5 years older than his competition this year. That said, he greatly improved on his strikeout rate compared to last season, and he did reasonably well in his first full minor league season. I’ve seen him play a few times and he has a lot he still needs to work on, but the tools are clearly present. He’s a solid fielder and has above average speed. He has excellent base running instincts which allow him to steal bases frequently. He’ll likely start at High-A Tampa this year and could move up quickly if he again improves his contact rate.
38. Junior Valera – 2B, 6-foot-0, 180-pounds, SH, 21 – Valera took so long to get to the US because he was learning to switch hit. Now 21, he will have to move quickly despite the fact that he’s a switch hitter. The good news is he hit the ground running when he landed on US soil this year. In the GCL he hit .316/.409/.449/.857 with 14 SB, three triples, six doubles, and two homeruns in 38 games. Those numbers are great, but he was 1.4 years older than the average player in the GCL. He will have to perform against players his own age to be taken seriously. He could get a shot to play in Charleston, but Katoh and McFarland could block his way there. They could certainly split at bats by getting time at DH though. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case next year.
39. Matt Tracy – LHP, SP, 6-foot-3, 215-pounds, 26 – Tracy came into 2014 needing a full, healthy season, and he got it. He has a 91-94 mph fastball and a four pitch arsenal which he controls well. HE has a cutter, changeup, and breaking ball which are all average pitches for him, and he is a pitcher who induces contact. Tracy threw 151 innings this year, and struck out just 89. He kept the walk rate down at 3.3, a career low in long season leagues. His ERA was sustained around 3.75 despite having a tough time in Triple-A. Next year he’ll look to develop some more consistency and could be a middle relief inning-eater or a back end starter if needed at the major league level.
40. Chaz Hebert – LHP, SP, 6-foot-2, 180-pounds, 22 – Hebert ran into some major success this season in Low-A and a brief stint with High-A. As just a 21 year old, he managed a 2.76 ERA in 78.1 IP, with 65 K and a 3.2 BB/9 walk rate. He can sit anywhere from 88-92 with the fastball, and has an above average changeup and an average curveball. He has a projectable frame, so it’s still possible he will add more velocity, although at 22 that is becoming less likely. The performance, however, is good and the work ethic is there. He’ll start in High-A next year and look to have a Miguel Sulbaran-like season.
41. Leonardo Molina – OF, 6-foot-2, 180-pounds, RHB, 17 – He’s the last one on this list but has perhaps the highest ceiling of everyone. One of the few 16 year olds the Yankees ever let play in the GCL, he struggled mightily. For the untrained observer, this season might be seen as a failure for him. Scouts, however, saw a lot of positive signs this season and most feel he will make major improvements in the coming years. He has above average speed and is expected to develop significant power. He also has top notch defense and one of the best outfield arms in the system already. He hit .193/.267/.260/.528 this season with one homer and 10 doubles in 53 games. Next season he’ll probably repeat the GCL much like Miguel Andujar did in a similar situation.
42. Rookie Davis – RHP, SP, 6-foot-3, 235-pounds, 21 – Davis clearly regressed this year. He looked to be primed for a breakout season after his velocity bumped to 92-95 mph, but that didn’t end up being the case. He did throw a career high in innings which will help him build arm strength in the coming years. He still has the arm strength to fulfil his potential, but will need to work on his secondary offerings going forward to make the leap. He threw 126 innings with 106 K and a 3.0 BB/9 walk rate. He got hit pretty hard, and ended the season with a 4.93 ERA. He’ll need to develop a put-away pitch other than his fastball going forward if he wants to be successful. He’s definitely a sleeper again this year who could regain his prospect status if he regains some of his old spark.
43. Connor Spencer – 6-foot-2, 215-pounds, LHB, 1B, 21 – He’ll be 22 at the start of next season, and he will have to hit all the way up to be taken seriously as a prospect. Moreover he will have to start finding some more power. Based on his swing and size, the Yankees think that power will come. No one questions his ability to hit and he can definitely field the position. His batting line in Staten Island this year is .367/.394/.456/.849. He is going to have to improve his patience and his power going forward, but so far he has really impressed with his ability to make hard contact. He’ll likely start out in Charleston next year with Ford manning first in High-A, but he could be in for a quick call-up, especially if the Yankees are willing to temporarily shift him to the outfield to improve his versatility.
44. Mike Ford – 6-foot-0, 225-pounds, LHB, 1B, 22 – He just turned 22 on July 4th, and will start next season at the same age. We knew very little about Ford going into the season, except that he was born and raised in New Jersey and went to school at Princeton, where he excelled. This year he has shown us that he has some real talent despite being a non-drafted FA following the 2013 draft. He has 13 HR and 17 doubles in 102 games between Low-A and High-A. He has a .293/.383/.459/.842 line this season. Ford’s not the flashiest player and most probably still don’t know much about him, but trust me he’s officially on the Yankees prospect radar. He has ripped apart High-A pitching so far in his limited time there. He’ll start off in High-A next year and could move quickly to Double-A if Bird Moves up or they can fit him in at DH.
45. Mark Payton – OF, 5-foot-7, 165-pounds, LHB, 22 – When he was drafted, he drew many comparisons to a player already in the Yankees system. That player is Taylor Dugas. The main difference between the two was that Payton has more power and perhaps Dugas has more speed. As it turns out, these projections ended up being deadly accurate. Payton is an uber patient, contact-oriented player much like Dugas. When he sees his pitch, he hits it hard. He hit an impressive .320/.418/.497/.915 in his first professional season. He showed he is extremely polished, even for a college draftee. He also hit four homers, 15 doubles, and two triples in just 48 games. Payton will have to prove himself over and over because of some preconceived notions about his size, but he seems like just the guy to do it. He’ll start in either High-A or Double-A next year, and will make his case to be a quick mover yet again.
46. Ty McFarland – 2B, 6-foot-3, 190-pounds, LHB, 22 – McFarland really impressed in his first season in the minors. A 10th round draft pick, he surprised a lot of people by hitting for power, stroking five homers in 62 games this year. Overall it was a successful season for Ty. He’s a big, strong second baseman whose question marks mainly come on defense. If he can stay sharp on the defensive side and gain a bit of quickness, he can stick at second base and his bat may carry him up through the minors. He hit .278/.345/.430/.775 this year. As a power hitting lefty second baseman, he has a lot going for him that should get him some opportunities going forward. Depending on how he looks in Spring Training next year, he could start in Charleston or High-A. If he starts in High-A, I think we will see Gosuke Katoh repeat Charleston, which is perfectly okay at his young age.
47. Mason Williams – OF, 6-foot-1, 180-pounds, 23 – Let me make one thing clear I am extremely skeptical about Mason Williams going forward. I took him off my last countdown altogether. That said, the guy is less than one year removed from being a baseball america top 100 prospect (75th in the Pre-2014 rankings). That said, a lot has changed since then. In his second season in Double-A, he stunk up the joint. His swing looked long, and he had a lackluster performance. He still has some of the best athleticism in the system, so he could really turn things around this season if he shortens up his swing and starts hitting the ball harder again. For now I’m going to remain skeptical.
48. Chris Breen – OF/1B, 6-foot-3, 215-pounds, RHB, 20 – Breen clearly has come a long way in his first two seasons as a pro. He’s a big kid who can apparently hold his own in the outfield. He has burgeoning power which has improved each year in the minors. This season was far and away his best. He hit .281/.376/.504/.881 with eight homeruns, 16 doubles, and five triples in 63 games in Short Season Low-A. He was also one year younger than his average competition. He struck out too much, with 71 K this season. That is more acceptable, however, coming from a big power hitter like he is becoming. He shows good patience at the plate, and will look to strut his stuff in full season Low-A this season.
49. Gabe Encinas – RHP, 6-foot-3, 195-pounds, 22 years old – We saw a brief preview of what Encinas could do last season, when he started pumping 92-96’s and was mowing guys down in Charleston. Then, with some really poor timing, he ended up needing Tommy John Surgery. He came back towards the end of 2013, but needless to say he wasn’t yet the same guy. Next year will be the test of whether he can get back to where he was prior to the injury. If he can, then we’re looking at a guy with huge potential. He’ll likely start in either Charleston or High-A Tampa
50. Orby Taveras – LHP, 6-foot-4, 225-pounds, 20 – Taveras is a young kid who was signed last year and skipped over the DSL to perform well in the GCL rookie league. He pitched 40.1 innings of 2.68 ERA baseball with 30 K and 21 walks. He needs to work on his control but he is a big, young lefty who can pump a low 90’s fastball at times. He has the potential with his size to throw much harder than that. If he can do that and control his three pitch mix of fastball, changeup, and curve, then he could make some noise next year. He has a sky high ceiling at this stage and he’ll likely start at either the Appalachian League or Short Season Staten Island.