December 8, 2014
New York Yankees Top 10 Prospects
The Top Ten
1. Aaron Judge
What Happened in 2014: Judge took on two levels of baseball in his debut season, where the 6-foot-7 monster of a man created plenty of hard contract and showed good on-base skills, but also flashed the expected swing-and-miss.
Strengths: Massive body; bottomless raw strength; moves well for his size; works to keep hands inside of offerings; generates solid bat speed; can barrel up balls hard to all fields; drives pitches with carry when arms get extended; able to hit ball out to any part of ballpark; just scratching the surface of power; arm plays well in right field; quick release; picks up ball well off the bat.
Weaknesses: Long arms lead to some holes in swing; concerns on ability to handle high velocity on inner third; bat speed comes from strength over hands; likes to extend early; leaves him prone to stuff with spin away; still learning how to get more leverage out of swing; power can play down due to hit tool; will miss in zone; defense likely to just be passable down the line.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Realistic Role: 5; average major leaguer
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; yet to reach Double-A; hit tool utility.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: It seems uncommon that a Yankee prospect would be undervalued in a dynasty context, but here we are. Judge is unlikely to be a high contributor in batting average and won’t offer much on the basepaths, but the potential 30-homer power without negative value elsewhere is what makes him a big riser in fantasy. And if you’re in an OBP league, he’s even better.
The Year Ahead: Despite a strong offensive output in the lower levels last season, Judge is still fairly unrefined with some aspects of his offensive game, including learning how to fully tap into his raw power and finding a balance with his extension to help mitigate some of his holes. Given the size and the nature of his long arms, there’s inherently going to be maintenance needed, along with the cognizance to recognize when things are getting out of whack. The hulking outfielder does show advancement with his approach at the plate, typically bringing a plan of execution and, most importantly, the willingness to grind through plate appearances. This aspect of the 22-year-old’s game bodes well for when he reaches the upper minors, likely at some point this season, which will be a strong test for the bat. There are concerns from evaluators that Judge’s hit tool will reach a plateau against more advanced competition. The potential power output is the main draw and his status as a regular hinges on being able to produce at acceptable levels. The view here sees some bumps in the road in the near term, but at the end of the day a future regular emerging.
Major league ETA: 2016
2. Luis Severino
What Happened in 2014: The hard-throwing right-hander fully emerged onto the prospect landscape, firing 113 1/3 high-octane innings across three levels, flashing legit power-arm stuff in the process.
Strengths: Fast-twitch muscle; very fast arm; loose, whippy arm action; generates easy velocity; fastball comfortably sits 93-96; touches higher in short bursts (97); late, explosive arm-side life with some sink; can be an overpowering offering; turns over quality changeup; flashes bottom-dropping action and some late tumble; throws from same arm slot as heater; deceptive to hitter’s eye; slider displays short, late break; barrel-missing bite in upper-velocity band (85-87); power-arm potential.
Weaknesses: Added strength needed to withstand rigors of position; inconsistent with landing; tends to be stiff on front foot; leads to opening early; finish suffers, which drives inconsistent command; change is firm at higher velocities; action flattens out; wrist will wrap when delivering slider; loose in lower-velocity band (83-84); concerns mechanics and size will push to bullpen.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2/3 starter
Realistic Role: 5; late-innings reliever (setup)
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; 6 Double-A starts; durability concerns.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The fastball is great, but Severino isn’t as destined for fantasy stardom as his numbers may suggest. Right now, he’s worked his way into the Dynasty 101, but with a high probability of a bullpen future, the ceiling gets muddied by risk. If he’s a starter, the strikeouts may not come in bushels without a big step forward in his slider.
The Year Ahead: On the strength of his mid-90s fastball and complementary secondary arsenal, Severino rocketed into the upper levels last season and is now set for an extended tour with Trenton to start 2015. This arm generates extremely easy velocity, with the heater exploding out of his hand, and with early feel to fill the ledger with strike after strike. The 20-year-old isn’t solely focused on trying to challenge with a constant barrage of heat to flat out beat opposing hitters. He will move the pitch around the zone, and has the potential to continue developing into a knowledgeable executor of his craft. The changeup is the lead piece of the secondary repertoire right now, flashing good deception and the type of bottom-dropping action to miss bats at the highest level. Pairing it with the potential double-plus fastball, the righty has an excellent foundation for being able to get big-league outs down the road. There are concerns about the nature of this prospect’s mechanics and whether the stuff is going to hold up over the course of the long season in a starter’s role. Add in that the slider needs a good amount of tightening to churn through lineups deep into games, and things may end up more along the lines of a late-inning power arm. However, there is plenty of development time in front of Severino to continue pushing the package closer to the overall potential, with a cup of coffee at the end of 2015 not out of the question.
Major league ETA: Late 2015
3. Gary Sanchez
What Happened in 2014: The 21-year-old backstop made some strides in the Eastern League, creating more consistent contact, but it came at the expense of his overall power output and the defense was very much touch and go.
Strengths: Excellent strength; well filled-out body; lower half to tap into for power; leveraged swing that generates extension; can jump all over fastballs out and over the plate; punishes mistakes; displays home-run power to all fields; has idea of strike zone; learning how to shorten up and take what is given to him; fluid release; near-elite arm strength; pops out of crouch well; arm to control the run game.
Weaknesses: Engagement and in-game focus drift; tends to neglect defensive game; seems like treated as an afterthought; receiving skills lag behind; gets too loose with swing leading to in-zone miss; struggles with stuff breaking across line of sight; power may play down due lack of consistent contact; well below-average run; may ultimately move off position (first base).
Overall Future Potential: High 5; solid-average regular
Realistic Role: 5; average major-league regular (1st/DH)
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; 133 games at Double-A; dual-threat development.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The shine is certainly starting to come off Sanchez in fantasy leagues, but it’s important to remember that even if he doesn’t have the defensive chops to be a full-time catcher, he could still play the position enough to claim eligibility (which is all we care about). If that happens, we could be looking at Evan Gattis type value—and he was a top-10 catcher in 2014. Without the eligibility, he’s more of a deeper mixed-league target.
The Year Ahead: It may seem like Sanchez has been around for a long time and has graced prospect lists forever, but the backstop is just 22. Still, the Dominican has lost some of the shine from the early stages of career, which does speak to the difficulties of dual-threat development and the intensity of the process when polishing both aspects of a player’s game in unison. The raw power here is undeniable, as the right-handed hitter has plenty to tap into and could hit 20-plus bombs on a regular basis. At times in 2014 he seemed to be making more of a concerted effort to navigate plate appearances more methodically and take what was given to him rather than just wildly sell out for a big payout. There were stretches, though, of inconsistency and what appeared to be a lack of engagement, especially behind the dish. Outside of the ability to throw, Sanchez is still rough with his receiving, and opinions are mixed on whether the defense just is what it is at this point. The stock is heavily tied to the potential production with the stick, which will face the next test at Triple-A this season. Some think that the closer he gets to the bright lights of the big stage, the more the intensity will ratchet up, and the offensive tools will begin to translate more consistently on the field. It’s just more likely that it doesn’t come from behind the plate.
Major league ETA: Late 2015
4. Ian Clarkin
What Happened in 2014: The projectable left-hander bypassed short-season ball and received an advanced assignment in the South Atlantic League, where the stuff proved to be more than up to the challenge, fanning a batter per inning as he demonstrated good strike-throwing ability.
Strengths: Athletic; room for added strength; good arm speed; stays tall and creates downward plane with delivery; fastball works 89-92 with late life in lower tier of zone; potential to sit a tick higher with physical maturity; spins curveball with loose wrist; flashes deep break and teeth; can turn over change; arm-side fading action; deceptive release; throws for strikes; plus command profile.
Weaknesses: Lot of moving parts to delivery; big leg kick and exaggerated hands above head; can struggle keeping arm in slot; inconsistent timing and pace; command needs grade jump; fastball lacks east/west movement; velocity will play down; curve can get too soft and float; deliberate at times with changeup.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; yet to reach upper levels; development of command.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Pitching in Tampa next season will likely do wonders for his perceived value, which makes Clarkin an interesting flier this offseason. In reality, he projects to be more of an SP4 with good all-around numbers, but no dominant categories.
The Year Ahead: Clarkin began his professional journey last season in a more aggressive setting than expected and showed that the stuff has taken an initial step forward. The projectable left-hander’s potential solid-average-to-better three-pitch mix bodes well for his prospects of sticking in the rotation over the long term. With another season of tangible progress, there’s enough ceiling to suggest that he is on the cusp of establishing himself as the top arm in the system. Those potential next steps will likely come in an assignment in the Florida State League, which will challenge Clarkin’s ability to spot his arsenal more finely and repeat his delivery on a more consistent basis. Despite less than overpowering velocity, the soon-to-be 20-year-old’s athleticism and looseness point to command growth being achievable, and the pitcher already flashes strike-throwing ability. There may be some initial growing pains, but this is an arm that, by the end of the year, could close the gap between the ceiling and reality.
Major league ETA: 2017
5. Jorge Mateo
What Happened in 2014: A broken finger limited the Dominican international signee to 14 games, but he impressed evaluators during the season and at Fall Instructs with his overall feel for the game and elite running ability.
Strengths: Very athletic; feel for the game; generates above-average bat speed; loose hands; flashes barrel control; gap pop; elite runner; high potential to impact the game on the bases; speed enables him to be disruptive and leg out hits; soft hands; moves well side to side; solid-average-to-better range; arm for left side of the infield.
Weaknesses: Limited exposure to quality arms; in the infancy stages of building approach and pitch recognition; gets caught lunging with timing; not a lock to stick at short; lacks high level of fluidity; raw fundamentals.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division starter/occasional all-star
Realistic Role: 5; average major leaguer
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; complex-league resume; secondary skill progression.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Anytime a dynasty owner sees “8 run” in the tools line, they’re going to get overly excited, and it’s warranted in Mateo’s case. There’s enough in the rest of the profile to start dreaming, and it’s not difficult to get carried away. For now, he’ll have to settle as a 50-steal dream, but one that could come much more into focus during 2015.
The Year Ahead: There were limited looks at the 19-year-old due to a finger injury during the year, but there’s strong buzz surrounding his, especially from a few sources at Fall Instructs. The huge draw, and what first comes up in conversations, is the legit 80-grade speed from the right side of the plate. Mateo accelerates extremely well in both his times down to first and when making the turn on the bases. The speed also translates in the field, where the player shows a quick first step and good foot speed ranging to both sides. The Dominican isn’t just all about speed as there’s also some nice feel for hitting at an early age and fluidity in the swing. It isn’t a stroke just geared toward slapping or slashing. Mateo has good life in his hands, with a bit of present leverage and ability to barrel hard pull side. There are plenty of unknowns here and a ways to go, but it’s a good-looking prospect and one who can gain considerable traction within the industry when the exposure increases this season, along with putting a projection as a future regular into focus.
Major league ETA: 2018
6. Rob Refsnyder
What Happened in 2014: The former fifth round pick came on strong in the upper levels of the organization to push further onto the prospect landscape, where he barreled a lot of offerings up hard and continued to flash strong on-base ability.
Strengths: Athletic; quick hands; line-drive stroke; flashes bat control; relaxed approach; likes to go deep into the count; strong knowledge of strike zone; willing to use the whole field; gap-to-gap power; can muscle up in spots; solid-average range; improving footwork; high baseball IQ.
Weaknesses: Swing has some in-zone miss; tends to get out early on front foot against stuff with spin; will chase fastballs up; footwork can get choppy around the bag; fringe-average defender (present); stroke more linear; power may ultimately play down in favor of contact; limited defensively on infield.
Overall Future Potential: High 5 solid-average regular
Realistic Role: High 4; utility/below-average regular
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; 77 games at Triple-A; bat-first profile
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Dynasty leaguers love ceiling, which is why most are hands off when it comes to Refsnyder. But given the dearth of reliable position players on the Yankees, he could find himself with plenty of opportunity in 2015 and produce surprisingly well in deeper leagues—with the potential to hit .260 with 10-12 homers. Long term, there’s more ceiling in the average, but not much more to the fantasy profile.
The Year Ahead: Another tour at Triple-A awaits Refsynder to start the season, where the main focus will be to continue polishing his defense at the keystone. It might not be long before the 23-year-old forces himself into the major-league discussion if the bat keeps trending forward like it did last season, but the reports on the glove indicate that he could definitely stand more reps before being pressed into extended action. The right-handed hitter’s easy stroke and advanced control of the strike zone are strong assets for him at the plate. The offensive profile can push .270s averages with solid on-base ability and home run pop that can approach 15 or so at peak. There are some concerns that the swing-and-miss can creep too much into Refsynder’s game against high-quality arms and sabotage the contact rates. Given this player’s nature of going deep into counts and seeing a lot of pitches, he gives himself a good chance of getting into favorable hitting conditions and having plenty of opportunities to do damage. This is more of a bat-first profile, as the defense likely peaks as average, but it’s a player who can carve out a regular role and maintain that status for a run of seasons, with the entry point potentially occurring at some point this season.
Major league ETA: 2015
7. Greg Bird
What Happened in 2014: The left-handed swinging first baseman played across two levels of baseball, where he posted a .848 OPS, and then turned things up by clubbing 12 extra-base hits in 26 games out in the Arizona Fall League.
Strengths: Good strength; physical player; swing unfolds smoothly; generates solid bat speed through the zone; creates lift with swing; power plays to all fields; flashes bat control; good batting eye; willing to hit with a strike or two; up-the-middle approach; tireless worker.
Weaknesses: Fringe-average athlete; limited defensively to first; fringy range; below-average run; swing can get tangled and long; tends to reach for breaking stuff away to weakly put into play; too passive at the plate at times; bat-first profile.
Overall Future Potential: 5; major-league regular
Realistic Role: High 4; platoon player/below-average regular
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; limited upper-level experience; bat-first profile.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Now THIS is a prospect built for fantasy. In this offensive environment, a potential .270 hitter with 25 homers is deceivingly valuable—which is driven home by the fact that Adam LaRoche did similar things this year and was a top-15 first baseman. And, like Judge, Bird gets a boost in OBP leagues because of his strong approach.
The Year Ahead: Bird is now set to fully enter the upper levels and see his skill set put to the test in the tough Eastern League. For a prospect like this, all eyes will be fully engaged on how quickly he can adjust and prove that the bat has what it takes to combat the step up in competition. The 22-year-old flashed a nice sampling out in Arizona, suggesting that things could transition smoothly in his extended tour at Double-A, but it’s also important to keep in mind that was in a hitter’s league at the end of the season. It comes down to the bat for Bird, and more specifically the swing. The player possesses the mindset and approach to grind through plate appearances and work himself into favorable hitting conditions. It’s what he can consistently do in those situations that will dictate whether he reaches the potential. There’s hitting talent here, with power to tap into, and also reports that speak very highly of the makeup. The swing does get long and loose, which drives some inability to get the fat part on offerings in all four zones. The ceiling isn’t huge, and the profile is tough given the defensive limitations, but it’s a player who can sneak up and should be a big leaguer in some capacity.
Major league ETA: 2016
8. Leonardo Molina
What Happened in 2014: The line wasn’t pretty overall, but this 17-year-old international signee was pushed with an extremely aggressive stateside assignment and possesses the raw tools to start turning heads in the near future.
Strengths: Plus athlete; excellent frame; fast-twitch muscle; room to pack on size and strength; strong hands and forearms; generates plus bat speed; stroke already shows leverage; plus-to-better raw power; flashes early makings of pro approach; easy plus run; accelerates well; instincts and feel to stick in center; arm to challenge runners.
Weaknesses: Extremely raw; loose with swing; has some mechanical adjustments to make; needs toning down at plate; can be on the aggressive side; plays fast in the field; tools are all projection.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division player/occasional all-star
Realistic Role: High 4; fourth outfielder/below-average regular
Risk Factor/Injury History: Extreme; limited pro experience; 17 years old; long developmental road ahead.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The fantasy ceiling is just plain stupid for Molina, but he remains forever and a half away. In shallow leagues with deep rosters, this is exactly the type of player for whom you should be reaching. It’s both unnecessary and unhelpful to put numbers on someone this distant, but he has the tools necessary to be an elite fantasy talent one day.
The Year Ahead: It might be a tad early and on the aggressive side ranking Molina this high right now, but a couple of sources were adamant the outfielder’s potential was high and gushed about the overall feel for the game, while reports passed along suggested this is a special player in the making. The line was unassuming and points to his being overmatched, but it’s hard to expect much more out of what’s equivalently a high-school sophomore playing in the Gulf Coast League. The tools are very loud, though far from being polished and playing together collectively as a group. The arm and speed do immediately show, along with the raw power during practice sessions. His instincts, fluidity, and early feel for judgment in center point to a player who can stick up the middle, and round into a solid-average-to-better defender. A year of experience like Molina received can be a strong trigger for pushing early career progress, but don’t expect a large breakout this season. It should be more subtle, with steps forward coming in the form of settling down at the plate and showing more comfort. It’s a boom-or-bust prospect, for sure, with a heavy serving of risk on the plate, but there’s a feel this one is going to start emerging over the next couple of seasons.
Major league ETA: 2019
9. Jacob Lindgren
What Happened in 2014: The southpaw reliever tore up the Southeastern Conference in spring before being nabbed by the Yankees in the second round, and then proceeded to immediately make his presence in this system felt by fanning 48 batters in 25 innings.
Strengths: Loose arm; creates easy velocity; fastball works 91-95; strong movement; some late wiggle; cutting action when thrown glove side; aggressive with pitch; snaps slider at 82-86; late bite in mid-80s; wipeout break; bat-misser; likes to attack zone.
Weaknesses: Command is fringe-average; releases early with fastball (misses arm side and up); can struggle to spot east/west; will start slider too low; needs to throw more for strikes; pace can get uneven; gets over amped.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; late-innings reliever (mid-tier closer)
Realistic Role: 5; late-innings reliever (setup)
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; eight appearances at Double-A; tightening of command; mature arsenal.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The left-handed reliever is coming, and coming soon—but with the uneasiness of investing in relievers and the big names ahead of him (Betances, Miller), he makes for a poor dynasty investment. In deep leagues, he can be plenty valuable without registering a single save, but you need to know your format to decide whether he’s worth taking in drafts this spring.
The Year Ahead: Lindgren profiles as a reliever all the way, and one who can begin to make an impact in the majors as soon as this season. This isn’t a high-ceiling arm or sexy profile, but in all likelihood should round into a valuable major leaguer. Both the fastball and slider are legit weapons, often overpowering batters and getting a lot of weak swings. The 21-year-old does need some fine tuning with his command, which will bear watching in the upper levels and beyond. Without being reminded that he can fill the strike zone consistently, higher quality hitters are going to be less apt to chase his pitches out of the zone, especially the slider. The athleticism and ease in the arm action points to progress being achievable, especially if Lindgren can slow the game down a tad further and smooth out his pace. This arm has all the makings of a solid setup guy, with closer potential at peak. Expect the lefty to be part of the Yankees’ bullpen during the stretch run this season.
Major league ETA: 2015
10. Luis Torrens
What Happened in 2014: The Venezuelan backstop showed promise on both sides of the ball in the New York-Penn League, impressing with his feel for the stick and big arm behind the dish.
Strengths: Well-proportioned frame; room to add more strength and mass; good present strength despite leanness; excellent arm strength; fires feet well; smooth release; has the foundation of a future above-average receiver; fluid stroke; good bat speed; loose hands; willing to use the whole field; plus raw.
Weaknesses: Raw overall game; needs added strength to withstand rigors of position; learning how to use body to get big; tends to come up early; glove hand needs work; struggles picking up stuff with spin; gets out on front foot too much; swing more geared to contact; power may ultimately play below to fringe average; below-average run; large developmental gap to go.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Realistic Role: High 4; backup/below-average starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Extreme; short-season resume; 18 years old; dual-threat development.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The ETA and the fact that he’s a catcher—and catching prospects turn into fantasy contributors at a slower rate than other positions—puts a big governor on his value, despite the upside here. Unless you’re in a league that rosters two catchers, or more than 300 prospects, he’s more of a wait-and-see. But be ready to jump on him if he starts off hot in Low-A.
The Year Ahead: Torrens took a nice step forward last year, where he showed that both sides of his game are beginning to sharpen. This is one of those profiles where patience will be required and it may take a few years for considerable traction to show, but there’s a strong foundation to work with here. The arm strength, fluid swing, and overall feel for the game all jump out as present leading assets for the 18-year-old. The ease and efficiency of the stroke give Torrens the potential to make a lot of hard contact as he begins to learn the strike zone. It’s going to be some time before the bat really starts to come into focus, but the talent to produce .270s averages with 15-to-18 home runs is there. Even if the bat falls somewhat short, the Venezuelan’s defense, especially the arm, have a chance to carry the profile as a regular. This is a true dual-threat talent, with a legit chance to develop on both sides of the ball. The next steps will come in full-season ball in 2015, where the improvements are likely to be subtle, but the expectation is this prospect can push considerably higher in the system by year end.
Major League ETA: 2018
Prospects on the Rise:
1. 3B Miguel Andujar: The 19-year-old Dominican’s season was a bit on the inconsistent side, but he finished off the final two months strong to bring a lot of positives into the offseason. Andujar’s strong wrists and forearms enable him to create plus bat speed through the hitting zone and barrel up offerings well, especially to the pull side. Sources spoken to were also complimentary of the quickness in which the prospect recognizes offerings out of the hand at his age. While the swing is presently a bit flat and more geared toward hitting line drives, the strength level and ability to drive the ball with backspin point to plus-power potential down the line. The defense is presently rough and on the choppy side, but there’s athleticism and instincts that lend clues that the prospect could improve. The developmental path will take Andujar to High-A in 2015, where the bat will be challenged by the ability of the competition to be finer within the strike zone. It might not be a coming out party, but this is a prospect with the ingredients to round into a regular at the highest level and start gaining more traction within the industry as a top name within the system.
2. RHP Austin DeCarr: The Massachusetts native brings an arsenal with projection and good size to the table, which led the organization to sign the third rounder to a seven-figure over-slot bonus. DeCarr’s low-90s fastball and hard-breaking curveball are presently the two best offerings at his disposal. The curve shows good downward bite and bat-missing potential, while there’s a chance his heater can tick up a bit further in sitting velocity as the right-hander builds more stamina and arm strength. The changeup does have a good ways to go and could push the profile into a relief role ultimately, but there’s low mileage on the soon-to-be 20-year-old’s arm and proving that the stuff can play over the long season will push this prospect into top-10 discussion in short order.
3. RHP Ty Hensley: Surgery to repair labrum damage in both hips sidelined the former first round pick for all of 2013 and put a halt to the start of the career, but the right-hander made it back to the mound in 2014 and has begun showing the form that made him an intriguing arm prior to the injury. This arm’s lively low- to mid-90s fastball and potential bat-missing curveball give him an excellent foundation to build upon as both the arm strength and experience move forward. Hensley’s overall command and changeup need good steps forward, but as the 21-year-old gets his feet firmly on the ground and is set loose this year, he can make some waves within the system and re-establish himself as one of the better arms percolating up through the ranks.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2015)
1. RHP Jose Ramirez: Things didn’t go as planned for the right-hander in 2014, first dealing with an oblique injury that delayed the start to his season, an uneven brief call-up to The Show, and then ultimately having his year end in July due to injury. It’s been a run of injury-plagued seasons since 2012 for Ramirez. The mid- to high-90s fastball and crisply fading changeup are the highlights of the arsenal. Both offerings give the arm strong pieces to attack hitters with, while also mixing in a slider than can flash solid average. Difficulties repeating his delivery lead to sub-par command, but the stuff is here to profile as a set-up guy or even potentially push as a closer. The opportunity should be there for the 25-year-old to earn a spot in the bullpen this season, where with good health he can begin to show a high-leverage reliever is emerging.
2. OF Tyler Austin: Hand injuries have hampered the former 13th round pick the last two seasons and put his progression through the system in neutral. Austin’s solid bat speed and shorter stroke allow him to get the barrel on a lot of offerings, where he typically shows a knack for squaring the ball up with backspin. The 23-year-old’s all-fields approach and relaxed nature in the box are also strong assets that enhance the offensive game. Though the right-handed hitter is strong and has nice size, the lack of big leverage in his swing leads evaluators to see a more average overall power projection. This past season, the prospect began getting some defensive work at first and third base in what is an effort to increase his versatility. A strong close to 2014 in the Eastern League and subsequent solid showing in the Arizona Fall League has left optimism that Austin is getting back on track after the hand injuries. If it holds true into 2015, and proves to be more trend than flash, the outfielder has a good chance to get a shot to help should a need arise.
3. RHP Danny Burawa: Though 2014 was a struggle for the right-hander in Triple-A, there’s a power arsenal here that can play up nicely in a seventh-inning role. Burawa features a 94-96 mph fastball, with hard arm-side run and some sinking action when thrown in the lower tier of the strike zone. The soon-to-be 26-year-old also utilizes an 83-87 mph slider that flashes late break off the table and wipeout potential when thrown in the upper band of its velocity. The nature of the prospect’s slinging arm action from a mid-three-quarters slot and positioning on the third-base side of the rubber make him a fairly uncomfortable look for right-handed batters. There is jerkiness and high effort to Burawa’s delivery, though, which lead to an inconsistent release. It comes down to whether this righty can consistently throw strikes, with a good chance for a look in the pen at some point in 2015 if that aspect of his game trends in the right direction.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/89 or later)
It’s been clear for a while now that the Yankees needed to start the transition from the Jeter-era teams to the next generation of Bombers. Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and other stalwarts of that cycle of Yankees contenders were already gone. The retirement of #2 at the conclusion of the 2014 season put an exclamation point on the need for change. Sadly, the Yankees' farm system in 2014 didn’t appear quite ready to bear the kind of fruit that would lead that transition. The emergence of Shane Greene was a bright spot, but he has since been moved to the Tigers. Yangervis Solarte played over his head in the first half, but he also was shipped out of town. Perhaps tellingly, neither player would have qualified for this 25 and Under list anyway, as they’re both too old.
The departure of Greene did, however, result in the arrival of a player who is young enough to qualify here, with shortstop Didi Gregorius coming to the Bronx. After the 2014 season, Gregorius was sent to the Diamondbacks from the Reds and at the time was seen as Arizona's long-term answer at shortstop. Disappointingly, Gregorius performed below expectations in parts of two seasons starting in the desert. Disappointment is somewhat relative, of course, and Gregorius is still young. The upside is that he's presently capable of being a fairly valuable player at a position where teams are having a hard time finding any kind of help. He possesses a broad range of skills as a plus defender at shortstop who will take a walk and has some promise with the bat. The fact it's left-handed, in Yankee Stadium, certainly doesn't hurt. Gregorius looks set to platoon with Brendan Ryan, which is a role that probably fits both well for now. Gregorius is a career .262/.332/.411 vs. RHPs, but has been awful against LHPs. The realization that it's actually going to take more than one player to replace Derek Jeter will make fans of poor jokes and tongue-in-cheek humor happy, too.
The transition into the post-Jeter Yankees era starts now, and the players on this list have some pretty big shoes to fill. It's going to be interesting to see whether the next core group of players comes from within the organization or from trades and free agency. —Al Skorupa
A Parting Thought: This system is thinner in the upper levels with potential impact talent, where the near-term contribution is likely to be more modest, but a wave brewing in the lower levels is starting to breathe some life and offer more promise.