Previous Rankings: 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: With a quartet of five-star prospects and a wealth of pitching overall, no system in baseball took a bigger step forward last year.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Jesus Montero, C
2. Manny Banuelos, LHP

3. Gary Sanchez, C
4. Dellin Betances, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
5. Eduardo Nunez, SS
6. Austin Romine, C
7. Andrew Brackman, RHP
8. Ivan Nova, RHP
9. Hector Noesi, RHP

10. Brett Marshall, RHP
11. Adam Warren, RHP

Nine More:
12. Graham Stoneburner, RHP: His plus sinker/slider combination has impressed to far, but he'll need a third pitch to remain a starter.
13. Brandon Laird, 3B/OF: A good offensive prospect, but his free-swinging ways caught up to him at Triple-A, and most of the value revolves around the bat.
14. Slade Heathcott, OF: He showed plenty of tools in his pro debut, but power has yet to show up in games, and scouts are worried about his swing.
15. Cito Culver, SS: A surprise first-round pick, speed and arm strength are his best tools, but will he hit?
16. David Phelps, RHP: Armed with average stuff and plus command and control, he could get a big-league look if the back end of the rotation falters.
17. Melky Mesa, OF: An impressive outfielder with plus power and speed, but his pure hit tool gives scouts pause.
18. D.J. Mitchell, RHP: This ground-ball machine is small but athletic; ultimately, he probably fits better in the bullpen.
19. Colin Curtis, OF: He will never be an everyday outfielder, but could be a good fourth right now.
20. Angelo Gumbs, SS: An impressive quick-twitch athlete with plenty of upside, but you'll find carpaccio that is less raw.

1. Jesus Montero, C
: 11/18/89
Height/Weight: 6-4/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2006, Venezuela
2010 Stats: .289/.353/.517 at Triple-A (123 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/glove

Year in Review: Arguably the best hitting prospect in the minors, Montero had some initial struggles as a 20-year-old in Triple-A, but he was the International League's top hitter in the second half, cranking out a .351/.396/.684 line after the All-Star break.
The Good: Montero is the rare prospect with both plus-plus power and hitting ability. He has excellent bat speed, fantastic hands, quick wrists, and immense strength that allows him to drive balls out of any part of the park while maintaining a high batting average. He's showing continued improvement in his approach, and takes a fair share of work. Despite having praise heaped on him since he was 16, he's a very hard worker, and is constantly striving to improve his defense.
The Bad: Despite all of his work, Montero remains a well below-average catcher, and someone who just isn't designed to play to position. He's a poor receiver who handcuffs balls, he has trouble blocking pitches in the dirt, and his arm strength is mitigated by the amount of time it takes his immense frame to get out of a crouch and release the ball. Offensively, he has no weaknesses other than his well below-average speed, which borders on base-clogging.
Ephemera: The Cardinals have a 19-year-old catcher in their system named Jesus Montero. Not only do the two players share a name and position, but both were born in Guacara, Venezuela.
Perfect World Projection: He's an impact hitter with consistent All-Star-level numbers, but it's probably not going to come with him at catcher.
Fantasy Impact: It could be massive, even without any stolen bases.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Yankees are considering carrying Montero in the big leagues as a twice-a-week backup catcher who gets some plate appearances elsewhere, but he'll likely return to Triple-A so that he can get consistent playing time.
ETA: 2011

2. Manny Banuelos, LHP
: 3/13/91
Height/Weight: 5-10/155
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Mexico
2010 Stats: 1.80 ERA (5.0-1-3-6) at Rookie (2 G); 2.23 ERA (44.1-38-14-62) at High-A (10 G); 3.52 ERA (15.1-15-8-17) at Double-A (3 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/curve

Year in Review: After missing the first part of the year following an emergency appendectomy, Banuelos blew away Florida State League scouts, and more than held his own in a trio of Double-A starts as a 19-year-old.
The Good: Banuelos added significant velocity in 2010, with a fastball that suddenly was sitting at 92-94 mph while touching 96. His changeup is a true plus offering with excellent fade and deception, and he shows the kind of consistency with it rarely found in a pitcher so young. He'll flash a good curve, and has extremely easy mechanics and clean arm action that combine to provide above-average command and control.
The Bad: Banuelos' curveball can be inconsistent, and he clearly loses feel for the pitch at times. Despite the quality of his stuff, his small frame is cause for some concern, and he has yet to throw more than 109 innings in a season, so his ability to handle a big-league workload is unproven.
Ephemera: Banuelos gave up five runs in just three innings on July 27 against Charlotte, and four over six in his final Florida State League outing. In his eight other games for Tampa, he had a 0.76 ERA
Perfect World Projection: Banuelos has the stuff to pitch towards the front end of a big-league rotation.
Fantasy Impact: No category should be a weakness.
Path to the Big Leagues: After making three Double-A starts last year, Banuelos will begin the year back at Double-A Trenton, where he will still be among the league's youngest players.
ETA: 2012

3. Gary Sanchez, C
: 12/2/90
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: .353/.419/.597 at Rookie (31 G); .278/.333/.426 at Short-Season (16 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/speed

Year in Review: Signed for $3 million in 2009, Sanchez was every bit as good as advertised in his pro debut, if not better.
The Good: Sanchez's combination of hitting ability and raw power has already drawn some scouting comparisons to a young Montero. He's one of the players where the ball just makes a different sound coming off his bat, and scouts have little problem projecting him to hit for both average and power throughout his development. He's a good athlete for a catcher, and his plus arm is his best defensive tool.
The Bad: His defense still needs considerable work, in particular his receiving skills, as his footwork and hands both get sloppy. He's a bit of a free swinger, and it might be hard for him to unlock his power potential without a more patient approach, as he can be guilty of lunging at balls and making weak contact at times.
Ephemera: All six of Sanchez' 2010 home runs came with runners on base, as he went homer-less in 58 at-bats with the bases empty.
Perfect World Projection: While he's still a long ways away, Sanchez at least has the potential to be the rare catcher who hits in the middle of a lineup.
Fantasy Impact: Catchers with power always go off the board early.
Path to the Big Leagues: Sanchez proved enough last year to be ready for a full-season league, and will spend the 2011 season at Low-A Charleston.
ETA: 2014

4. Dellin Betances, RHP
: 3/23/88
Height/Weight: 6-8/245
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Eighth round, 2006, Grand Street HS (NY)
2010 Stats: 1.77 ERA (71.0-43-19-88) at High-A (14 G); 3.77 ERA (14.1-10-3-20) at Double-A (3 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Curveball/changeup

Year in Review: Almost off the map following 2009 elbow surgery, Betances returned mid-season and was among the most impressive pitchers in the minors.
The Good: When Betances has everything going at the same time, he's unstoppable. His fastball sits in the low to mid-90s, consistently touches 97 mph, features some natural tailing action, and that's not even his best pitch, as he generates downright embarrassing swings with his power curveball, which comes in hard and then falls off the table. He has made some progress with a changeup, a pitch that can flash plus, and his delivery is much cleaner than the one from his pre-surgery days.
The Bad: Like Banuelos, Betances is anything but a proven commodity. He only pitched 85 1/3 innings last year, has thrown less than 300 in his five years as a pro, and he needs to prove that he can maintain his stuff over a full season. His changeup is still highly inconsistent, as he can lose feel on it and overthrow. He has put significant bulk on his frame over the past three years, and conditioning could be an issue down the road.
Ephemera: In his 14 starts for Tampa, Betances didn't give up an earned run in the first inning, limiting opposing batters to 3-for-47 (.064) with 21 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: Bentances has the best pure stuff in the system, and profiles for some as an ace, but he doesn't come without risk.
Fantasy Impact: Potentially massive, but there are still possibilities for a bust.
Path to the Big Leagues: Betances will join Banuelos at Double-A Trenton in what should be one of the minors' top rotations.
ETA: 2012

5. Eduardo Nunez, SS
: 6/15/87
Height/Weight: 6-0/155
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2004, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: .289/.340/.381 at Triple-A (118 G); .280/.321/.360 at MLB (30 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Arm/power

Year in Review: After recovering his prospect status in 2009, Nunez made a solid showing at Triple-A while getting his first taste of the big leagues.
The Good: Nunez earns plenty of high grades on a scouting report, especially on the defensive side of the card, as he's a plus defender with good range, outstanding fundamentals, and the best infield arm in the system. He's a sound hitter with a knack for contact and gap power, and some believe that he'll be good for 10-12 home runs annually down the road. He's a true plus runner, and an effective baserunner.
The Bad: Nunez lacks impact potential with the bat, as he lacks the power or patience to fit well at the top of the lineup. His ability to make contact has him swinging freely, but at times he can devolve into a hacker.
Ephemera: In 2010, Nunez became the 27th player other than Derek Jeter to play shortstop for the Yankees since the latter took over the position in 1996.
Perfect World Projection: Not a star, but at least an everyday shortstop in the major leagues, and that's a rare thing on its own.
Fantasy Impact: He should provide a decent average and a good number of stolen bases, which has value considering the position he plays.
Path to the Big Leagues: Nunez will likely break camp in the big leagues as a utility player at three infield positions, but he'll need a trade to get a starting opportunity anytime soon.
ETA: 2011

6. Austin Romine, C
: 11/22/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2007, El Toro HS (CA)
2010 Stats: .268/.324/.402 at Double-A (115 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Bat/glove

Year in Review: The potential Yankee catcher of the immediate future due to Montero's defensive struggles, Romine got off to a great start at Double-A Trenton, but his performance withered at the end of the year.
The Good: Romine has above-average offensive potential for his position. He makes consistent hard contact with gap to average power, and he could hit as many at 15-20 home runs annually. He's a very good athlete for a catcher, and can show 40-45 speed on the 20-to-80 scale.
The Bad: Romine lacks the physicality of most catchers, and was clearly worn out towards the end of the season. He's a messy receiver who stabs at pitches as opposed to receiving them, and while his arm is strong, he still struggles against the running game.
Ephemera: Indians reliever Joe Smith is the only player this century drafted 94th overall to reach the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: While Romine lacks star-level tools, he as the all-around abilities to be an above-average everyday catcher.
Fantasy Impact: Decent, but only because he's a catcher.
Path to the Big Leagues: Romine is ready for Triple-A, but the Montero situation could have him returning to the Eastern League for now, which will also give him more experience in catching some of the Yankees' top pitching prospects.
ETA: 2012

7. Andrew Brackman, RHP
: 12/4/85
Height/Weight: 6-10/240
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2007, North Carolina State University
2010 Stats: 5.10 ERA (60.0-67-9-56) at High-A (12 G); 3.01 ERA (80.2-77-30-70) at Double-A (15 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Curveball/changeup

Year in Review: The controversial first-round pick from 2007 had his best year as a pro, showing plenty of progress in terms of his secondary offerings and command.
The Good: Brackman's fastball generally sits in the low 90s, touches 96 mph, and his height adds considerable downward plane to the pitch, leading to plenty of ground balls. His curve was once a fringy offering, but he's refined it into an easy plus offering by focusing more on spin than velocity. After struggling with his control throughout his career, he threw strikes in 2010, and scouts noted a much more consistent delivery.
The Bad: Brackman remains highly inconsistent, with one scout saying, “I wanted to submit two reports on him; the good Brackman and the bad one.” He had starts where his heat sat at 90-92, and others where he rarely went below 94, and still had some occasional struggles with finding the strike zone. His changeup remains a below-average pitch, as he telegraphs it with notably different arm action.
Ephemera: Brackman was an all-state baseball and basketball player at Moeller High School in Cincinnati, one of the best high schools in the country for athletics, graduating Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin, several NFL players, and Speaker of the House John Boehner.
Perfect World Projection: Scouting projections on Brackman are as varied as the reports on him, with everything from No. 3 starter to set-up reliever.
Fantasy Impact: It's hard to see him developing into an early pick, but he should have some value.
Path to the Big Leagues: Brackman will begin the year at Triple-A, but if he pitches well, he'll be on the short list to get a call as either a starter or reliever should the need arise.
ETA: 2011

8. Ivan Nova, RHP
DOB: 1/12/87
Height/Weight: 6-4/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2004, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: 2.86 ERA (145.0-135-48-115) at Triple-A (23 G); 4.50 ERA (42.0-44-17-26) at MLB (10 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/Curve

Year in Review: A slow-developing right-hander, Nova built on a strong 2009 showing by pitching well at Triple-A, and then spending the latter part of the season in the big leagues.
The Good: Nova is a pure power arm who lives off a fastball that sits at 92-95 mph while touching 97. He'll flash a good power curve that sits in the low 80s, and has some feel for a changeup. He has a power pitcher's frame that is built to eat innings, and he wasn't rattled by pitching in New York.
The Bad: Nova's secondary offerings remain inconsistent, especially his changeup. His delivery is far from easy, which combined with his arsenal leaves some wondering about his long-term future as a starter.
Ephemera: Nova walked 15 of the 103 batters he faced in the third inning of Triple-A games in 2010, but only one of 79 he faced in the fourth.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a solid back-end rotation starter, but many scouts believe he'd be more effective in shorter stints.
Fantasy Impact: Nothing big, either way.
Path to the Big Leagues: With the Yankees failing to land another starter in the offseason, Nova is an early favorite to break camp in the rotation.
ETA: 2011

9. Hector Noesi, RHP
: 1/26/87
Height/Weight: 6-2/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2004, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: 2.72 ERA (43.0-35-6-53) at High-A (8 G); 3.10 ERA (98.2-90-18-86) at Double-A (17 G); 4.82 ERA (18.2-23-4-14) at Triple-A (3 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Control/curveball

Year in Review: A strike-throwing specialist, Noesi proved that he can more the survive at the upper levels with more finesse than stuff.
The Good: One scout labeled Noesi as, “a command pitcher's command pitcher,” as his average-velocity fastball plays up do to his ability to paint all four corners with the pitch while almost never missing the strike zone. His changeup has good tumble and rates a tick above average, and he's an excellent athlete with a near picture-perfect delivery.
The Bad: Noesi will never light up a radar gun, and his game has precious little room for error. Scouts would feel more comfortable with his big-league projection if he can tighten up his fringy breaking ball.
Ephemera: Across all three levels Noesi pitched at in 2010, opposing batters facing him with runners in scoring position and two outs went 7-for-65 (.108).
Perfect World Projection: Noesi has the polish to be a solid fourth or fifth starter.
Fantasy Impact: Noesi will not be on the cover of any of the thousands of fantasy annuals at your local newstand.
Path to the Big Leagues: Noesi will begin the year at Triple-A Scranton, but considering the back of the big-league rotation, he could get a look at some point in the year.
ETA: 2011

10. Brett Marshall, RHP
: 3/22/90
Height/Weight: 6-0/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Sixth round, 2008, Sterling HS (TX)
2010 Stats: 2.25 ERA (8.0-6-4-8) at Rookie (2 G); 2.50 ERA (72.0-52-22-56) at Low-A (13 G); 4.50 ERA (4.0-5-0-6) at High-A (1 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: After earning a well above-average bonus of $850,000 and not pitching well in 2009, Marshall returned from Tommy John surgery with the kind of stuff that hasn't been seen since his high school days.
The Good: Marshall is a fastball specialist with two quality heaters. He primarily uses a low-90s hard-running sinker, a pitch with plenty of movement, and he can dial up a four-seam fastball up to 96 mph when he needs an out pitch with two strikes. He gets good bite on a two-plane slider, and has shown some feel for his changeup.
The Bad: Marshall is undersized for a power pitcher, and needs to prove he can handle a full workload, having yet to pitch more than 100 innings in a season. His secondary pitches need both refinement and consistency, especially the changeup.
Ephemera: Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who was drafted as a first baseman in 1988, is the only player selected with the 200th overall pick to win a game in the big leagues… 193 of them, actually.
Perfect World Projection: Yankees officials have a hard time hiding their excitement about Marshall, with some believing that there's another step forward in him. The midpoint of his projection is third starter.
Fantasy Impact: It'll be at least good, with the possibility for more.
Path to the Big Leagues: Marshall will head back to the Florida State League to begin the year, but he could move up to Double-A at some point during the season.
ETA: 2014

11. Adam Warren, RHP
: 8/25/87
Height/Weight: 6-1/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2009, University of North Carolina
2010 Stats: 2.22 ERA (81.0-72-17-67) at High-A (15 G); 3.15 ERA (54.1-49-16-59) at Double-A (10 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: Known more for his command and control than his stuff, Warren found more velocity and saw his stock rise while reaching Double-A.
The Good: After rarely showing more than average velocity in college, Warren now fills the strike zone with a 91-94 mph fastball that touches 96; it's a pitch that rides in on left-handed hitters. He has a decent slider/changeup combination that he'll use when he's ahead in the count, which is nearly always. He's a good athlete, and he repeats his delivery well.
The Bad: Warren's fastball is his only plus offering, as his slider, changeup, and occasional curve are all fringy, inconsistent offerings. Because of his age and frame, some scouts think he is what he is, with little room for improvement.
Ephemera: A factory for pitching, the University of North Carolina has had 28 pitching draft picks since 2000, including three top ten picks, six first-rounders, and 11 Top 100 selections.
Perfect World Projection: He's a fourth starter, with an outside shot of turning into a third if the other pitches improve.
Fantasy Impact: He'll eat up innings without hurting your team, but he's not going to make a big impact, either.
Path to the Big Leagues: In a system loaded with pitching prospects, Warren will continue to toil away in the shadows, likely beginning the year back at Double-A.
ETA: 2012

The Sleeper: This is a crazy-deep sleeper that wouldn't make my Top 50 in the system, but the Yankees are intrigued by the arm of left-hander Steve Evarts, who was signed in December. A supplemental first-round pick in 2006, Evarts hasn't played organized ball since 2008 due to injuries and off-field issues. For all that, he's still just 23, and has the kind of fastball command that the Yankees look for. Again, this is crazy deep as selections go, but there just might be something there.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/85 or later)
1. Jesus Montero, C
2. Phil Hughes, RHP
3. Manny Banuelos, LHP
4. Gary Sanchez, C
5. Dellin Betances, RHP
6. Joba Chamberlain, RHP
7. Eduardo Nunez, SS
8. Austin Romine, C
9. Andrew Brackman, RHP
10. Ivan Nova, RHP

I struggled with ranking Hughes first or second, but his second half created some legitimate concerns. Joba was even tougher to rank. Everyone knows the story by now, and I'll accept an argument to rank him third as easily as I'd welcome one that ranked him ninth. Just missing was reliever David Robertson, who one could easily argue for a spot towards to bottom, although his lack of progress in terms of command and control is bothersome.

Summary: The Yankees system had plenty of talent that can help soon, plenty of talent to dream on at the lower levels, and plenty of pitching that will serve them well in the trade market. This is easily one of the better farm systems in the game.