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March 8, 2012

Future Shock

Yankees Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: The loss of Jesus Montero hurts, but the organization is suddenly flush with young talent.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Manny Banuelos, LHP
2. Gary Sanchez, C
Four-Star Prospects
3. Dellin Betances, RHP
4. Mason Williams, OF
Three-Star Prospects
5. Jose Campos, RHP
6. Ravel Santana, OF
7. Dante Bichette, 3B
8. Angelo Gumbs, SS
9. Austin Romine, C
Two-Star Prospects
10. Cito Culver, SS
11. J.R. Murphy, C/3B
Nine More:
12. Brett Marshall, RHP: Short righty has power arm, but needs to improve secondary pitches.
13. Slade Heathcott, OF: Extreme athlete remains raw, as injuries have held him back.
14. Adam Warren, RHP: Battler with average stuff who could start or relieve in low-leverage roles.
15. Claudio Custodio, SS: Impressive tools and skills, and would rank higher if scouts thought he could stick at shortstop.
16. D.J. Mitchell, RHP: Sinker specialist could see big league innings this year.
17. Brandon Laird, 3B/OF: Spent some time in big leagues as bench bat; that might also be his ceiling.
18. Mark Montgomery, RHP: Potentially a fast moving reliever with decent heat but outstanding slider.
19. Ramon Flores, OF: Impressive young hitter, but limited defensively.
20. Jake Cave, OF: Sixth-round pick is athletic outfielder with intriguing, yet raw, hitting ability.

1. Manny Banuelos, LHP
: 3/13/91
Height/Weight: 5’11/155
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Mexico, 2008
2011 Stats: 3.59 ERA (95.1-94-52-94) at Double-A (20 G), 4.19 ERA (34.1-36-19-31) at Triple-A (7 G)
Tools Profile: Short lefty with the stuff and mechanics to start.

Year in Review: Stayed healthy, but struggled with location while spending a full season at the upper levels as a 20-year-old.
The Good: Banuelos has plenty of stuff. His fastball is above-average, sitting in the low-90s and touching the mids, and his best pitch is a plus-or-better changeup which combines impressive deception and movement. His curveball is at least average and flashes plus. While undersized, his delivery is fluid and athletic, and his frame is broad.
The Bad: Banuelos had trouble throwing strikes last year, and can be guilty of overthrowing all of his pitches. He averaged 109 pitches per six innings in his seven Triple-A starts, and needs to be more efficient.
Ephemera: Among players born in Mexico, Fernando Valenzuela (173), Esteban Loaiza (126) and Ismael Valdez (104) are the only three to win 100 or more big league games.
Perfect World Projection: Banuelos should become at least a number three starter, but there is upside beyond that.
Fantasy Impact: Above-average starter for a team that can get him wins.
Path to the Big Leagues: Banuelos will begin the year at Triple-A and should make his debut at some point in during the season.
ETA: Late 2012.

2. Gary Sanchez, C
: 12/2/92
Height/Weight: 6’2/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009
2011 Stats: .256/.335/.485 at A (82 G)
Tools Profile: Potentially special bat, but it might have to be.

Year in Review: An ugly first-half marred by poor performances and suspensions for poor behavior; eventually found his swing, hitting seven home runs in his last nine games before being sidelined with a thumb injury.
The Good: Sanchez has special power that he's already tapping into as a teenager. He works the count well and looks for pitches to drive, and knows how to crush mistakes. He has well above-average arm strength.
The Bad: Sanchez is a poor defender who might be forced to first base. He does not receive well, and seems lackadaisical behind the plate. He'll often sell out for power instead of focusing on hard contact and letting his natural strength work for him. He's a well below-average runner.
Ephemera: During 15 games in which he batted sixth for Charleston in 2011, Sanchez hit .442/.525/.962 by going 23-for-53 with eight home runs.
Perfect World Projection: All-Star catcher.
Fantasy Impact: If he can stay behind the plate, he could be a fantasy stud. That's a big if.
Path to the Big Leagues: Sanchez could move to the Florida State League in 2012, but that's not a guarantee.
ETA: 2015

3. Dellin Betances, RHP
: 3/23/88
Height/Weight: 6’8/255
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 8th round, 2006, Grand Street Campus HS (NY)
2011 Stats: 3.42 ERA (105.1-86-55-115) at Double-A (21 G), 5.14 ERA (21.0-16-15-27) at Triple-A (4 G), 6.75 ERA (2.2-1-6-2) at MLB (2 G)
Tools Profile: Huge man, huge stuff.

Year in Review: Built off breakout 2010 season with impressive year at the upper levels that included a wild big league debut.
The Good: Betances is a massive physical specimen who attacks hitters with pure power stuff. His fastball sits at 92-94 mph and touches 96, and he can put away hitters with an 82-84 mph hard curveball that features plenty of spin.
The Bad: Betances doesn't have confidence in his average changeup, a pitch he can often lose feel on. He's hardly pretty mechanically, and often fails to finish his delivery, which leads to control issues. His combination of injury history, arsenal and mechanics have many scouts believing his future is as a late-inning reliever.
Ephemera: Of the 47 254th overall picks in draft history, Reds closer Ryan Madson is the all time leader with 47 wins, and no other pitcher has more than four.
Perfect World Projection: Overpowering pitcher, but he might end up in the bullpen when all is said and done.
Fantasy Impact: Will get plenty of strikeouts, but will those come with wins or saves?
Path to the Big Leagues: Betances will remain a starter for now, and be part of a potent 1-2 rotation punch at Triple-A.
ETA: Late 2012.

4. Mason Williams, OF
: 8/21/91
Height/Weight: 6’0/150
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2010, West Orange HS (FL)
2011 Stats: .349/.395/.468 at Low-A (68 G)
Tools Profile: Impressive combination of hitting skills and pure speed.

Year in Review: Fourth-round pick had an explosive half-season in the New York-Penn League.
The Good: Williams is the most exciting player in the system. Some scouts go as high as plus-plus when projecting Williams' hit tool, as he combines outstanding bat speed with impressive hand-eye coordination. His burner-level speed serves him well on the base paths, and he covers plenty of ground in center field.
The Bad: While Williams makes consistent hard contact, he's neither big nor strong, and doesn't have much in the way of power potential. For a player with a top-of-the-order physical profile, he needs to develop more patience at the plate.
Ephemera: The list of 145th overall picks almost looks like a curse, as no player signing out of that selection has ever hit a major league home run.
Perfect World Projection: First-division leadoff man and center fielder.
Fantasy Impact: Should provide average and stolen bases.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Yankees' Low-A affiliate at Charleston will be among the most interesting in baseball, and Williams will lead off for them in 2012.
ETA: 2015.

5. Jose Campos, RHP
: 7/27/92
Height/Weight: 6’4/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2009
2011 Stats: 2.32 ERA (81.1-66-13-85) at Low-A (14 G)
Tools Profile: Big right-hander with even bigger arm.

Year in Review: High-ceiling Venezuelan teenager was even better than expected in state-side debut; came to New York in the Jesus Montero deal.
The Good: Campos had one of the best fastballs in the short-season leagues in 2011. It's plus and more in terms of velocity, sitting in the low 90s with plenty of 95-96 readings every time out, but Campos also throws the pitch with the kind of command usually found only in big leaguers; he works both sides of the plate with it, paints the corners and comes at hitters with a strong downward angle. He's broad-shouldered with a very smooth delivery.
The Bad: Campos can fall into being a one-pitch pitcher at times. His changeup and hybrid breaking ball both lag behind his fastball, and will need significant improvement for him to start at the upper levels. He's physically mature and might not feature as much projection as most players his age.
Ephemera: Campos did not allow a first-inning walk in his 14 starts for Everett, allowing just five hits and striking out 12.
Perfect World Projection: Campos has a very high ceiling, but there is still work to be done.
Fantasy Impact: Potentially huge, as he could be the rare strikeout pitcher without control issues.
Path to the Big Leagues: Campos will make his highly-anticipated full-season debut for Low-A Charleston in 2012.
ETA: 2015

6. Ravel Santana, OF
: 5/1/92
Height/Weight: 6’2/160
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2008
2011 Stats: .296/.361/.568 at Rookie (41 G)
Tools Profile: Yes, and plenty of them.

Year in Review: Teenage Dominican was the most impressive player in the Gulf Coast League.
The Good: Santana is loaded with athleticism. He still has plenty of room to fill out on his skinny frame, and has the potential for plus power to go with his good feel for the strike zone. He has a quick bat that produces hard contact to all fields. He runs well and has the skills for center field, and he has enough arm to play right field.
The Bad: Like many young players early in their development, Santana has trouble with secondary pitches, and lefties gave him significant trouble. Much of his final projection is a bit of an unknown, as he could end up a speedy center fielder with some power, or a power-hitting right fielder with some speed. The risk with those two projections is him turning into a tweener.
Ephemera: Santana raised his OPS nearly 100 points in his last ten games of the season, going 17-for-34.
Perfect World Projection: Dynamic, star-level center fielder.
Fantasy Impact: He has 20/20 potential, but he's still eons away.
Path to the Big Leagues: Santana will not be rushed through the system, and is likely sticking around in extended spring training until the short-season leagues begin.
ETA: 2015.

7. Dante Bichette, 3B
: 9/26/92
Height/Weight: 6’1/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2011, Orangewood Christian HS (FL)
2011 Stats: .342/.446/.505 at Rookie (52 G), .143/.250/.571 at Low-A (2 G)
Tools Profile: Hit, hit, hit.

Year in Review: Yankees top pick in the draft got off to a slow start but finished the year as the hottest hitter in the Gulf Coast League.
The Good: Bichette impresses with his hitting ability. He works the count like an advanced minor leaguer and has the potential to hit for average to go with his above-average power. He surprised even the Yankees with his defensive ability at the hot corner, as he showed good instincts and an impressive arm.
The Bad: Bichette still has work to do defensively in improving his footwork and throw accuracy. Much of his power is still in the potential category, as his swing needs more loft and backspin. He's not especially athletic and is just under an average runner.
Ephemera: Bichette didn't get his batting average above the Mendoza line until the 21st game of his GCL season. He went 14-for-71 in the first 20 games, but hit .424 from there on (53-for-125)
Perfect World Projection: Offense-oriented third baseman.
Fantasy Impact: Certainly should hit for average, and we'll see if the power comes.
Path to the Big Leagues: Bichette could see his prospect stock skyrocket with a strong season at Low-A Charleston.
ETA: 2015

8. Angelo Gumbs, 2B
: 10/13/92
Height/Weight: 6’0/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2010, Torrance HS (CA)
2011 Stats: .264/.332/.406 at Low-A (51 G)
Tools Profile: Hitting and speed.

Year in Review: Big bonus baby from 2010 impressed as an 18-year-old in the New York-Penn League.
The Good: Gumbs is a high-ceiling player based solely on his tools. He has some of the best bat speed in the system; an improved approach led to better results to go with gap power. He's a plus runner who made progress in his first exposure to a new position.
The Bad: Gumbs remains quite raw. He can be prone to chasing pitches outside the zone, and his defensive fundamentals still need significant improvement. His power ceiling is short of average, so he'll need to hit and reach base all the way up the ladder.
Ephemera: Gumbs is one of 17 players drafted out of Torrance High, with the most well known being the father-son catching duo of Fred and Jason Kendall.
Perfect World Projection: Offense-oriented second baseman.
Fantasy Impact: Should provide average and speed, with a chance for power.
Path to the Big Leagues: Gumbs will make his full-season debut at Low-A Charleston in 2012.
ETA: 2015.

9. Austin Romine, C
: 11/22/88
Height/Weight: 6’0/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2007, El Toro HS (CA)
2011 Stats: .286/.351/.378 at Double-A (85 G), .133/.133/.133 at Triple-A (4 G), .158/.200/.158 at MLB (9 G)
Tools Profile: Solid but unspectacular.

Year in Review: Stagnated while repeating Double-A.
The Good: Romine is an athletic catcher who some scouts still think can improve significantly. He has an average hit tool with gap power and a solid approach, and is more athletic than most backstops; he's a 40 runner who moves well behind the plate.
The Bad: Romine does most of his damage against left-handed pitching and he simply stopped driving balls in 2011. His strong arm is mitigated by a long release and accuracy problems, while he needs to improve his receiving skills due to a tendency to stab at pitches.
Ephemera: Romine became the first Yankees second-round pick to reach the majors since Shelley Duncan, and is just the third of Yankee second-rounder to reach the big leagues since 1994.
Perfect World Projection: Second-division everyday catcher.
Fantasy Impact: Nothing special.
Path to the Big Leagues: Romine will move up to Triple-A but–without more progress both at the plate and behind it–it's hard to see much of a future for him in New York.
ETA: 2013.

10. Cito Culver, SS
: 8/26/92
Height/Weight: 6’0/185
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2010, West Irondequoit HS (NY)
2011 Stats: .250/.323/.337 at Low-A (69 G)
Tools Profile: Plus glove at shortstop, so cross your fingers for the bat.

Year in Review: Surprise first-round pick had a surprising performance in the New York-Penn League, so maybe we should stop being surprised.
The Good: Culver was noted for his defense in high school, and was every bit as good as advertised, with above-average range, hands, footwork and arm strength. His offense was a pleasant surprise as he showed a good approach and steady line-drive bat.
The Bad: Culver has little chance to develop enough offensive firepower for anywhere but the bottom third of a batting order, as he makes a lot of weak contact and doesn't have much power projection. He's more quick than fast.
Ephemera: No player drafted with the 32nd overall pick in the draft has played a single game at shortstop in the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: Everyday shortstop known more for his glove than his bat.
Fantasy Impact: Nothing of note.
Path to the Big Leagues: Culver will be yet another part of a fascinating roster at Low-A Charleston.
ETA: 2015.

11. J.R. Murphy, C/3B
: 5/13/91
Height/Weight: 6’0/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2009, The Pendleton School (FL)
2011 Stats: .297/.343/.457 at A (63 G), .259/.270/.365 at High-A (23 G)
Tools Profile: Hitter looking for a position

Year in Review: 2009 second-rounder began to live up to his offensive potential.
The Good: Murphy is an excellent hitter who consistently barrels pitches with gap power. He's primarily played catcher as a pro, and made progress there, though remains raw in terms of fundamentals. His strong arm showed at third base, and he's a good athlete who runs well.
The Bad: Murphy absolutely crushed left-handed pitching, and struggles against good right-handers. Scouts have trouble figuring out where he profiles, as he might lack the physicality to handle a full-season behind the plate, but he doesn't have corner infield power either.
Ephemera: While none of the 10 players drafted out of The Pendleton School has reached the big leagues, Murphy's former high school teammate Tyler Pastornicky will likely become the first in April.
Perfect World Projection: Offense first catcher.
Fantasy Impact: He could be the rare catcher that provides some batting average and a bit of power.
Path to the Big Leagues: Murphy will move up to High-A Tampa in 2012.
ETA: 2014

The Sleeper: The younger brother of Brewers first baseman Mat, Ben Gamel has an impressive bat and enough arm for right, and could become a prospect with the addition of power to his game.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Michael Pineda, RHP

2. Manny Banuelos, LHP
3. Ivan Nova, RHP
4. Gary Sanchez, C
5. Dellin Betances, RHP
6. Phil Hughes, RHP
7. Mason Williams, OF
8. Jose Campos, RHP
9. Ravel Santana, OF
10. Dante Bichette, 3B

Pineda is a potential front line starter who is still three or four years away from his prime. He needs to improve his command and his changeup, and the American League East isn't like pitching in Seattle; expect some bumps in the road early, although nobody should be worked up about his early March lack of prime velocity. Nova is a massive regression candidate because of his inability to miss bats, but should settle in nicely as a No. 4 starter. Phil Hughes remains young and talented, but nobody is quite sure how to harness it.

Summary: Recent drafts and international signings give the Yankees plenty to dream on, but the system's immediate future remains revolved around Banuelos and Betances.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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