Kyle (St Louis): How many of your top 10 do you believe are worthy of making the top overall 100?
John Manuel: I'm thinking the top five players, from Montero to Mason Williams, all make it. I thought I had four in my personal top 50 but double-checked and realize I left Gary Sanchez out of the top 50 this year, after running him way up last year. Big bat, lots of maturing yet to do.
Kelly (St Cloud, MN): In last year's scouting report of Betances, you mentioned the possibility of him becoming a RP. Is this still a good possibility, or are the Yanks set on him starting?
John Manuel: They seem to still want him to start. He'll never have refined command, and the bigger worry is that his 2010 season looks like the aberration. He had about 2.5 BB per 9 in '10 and was back around 5 per 9 in 2011, like he had been previously. I mentioned AJ Burnett in his writeup, not as a comp but as a similar type of pitcher who has big stuff and has had some success despite never really having average command, or even average control. Betances' stuff is front-of-the-rotation. He'll never throw enough quality strikes to be a true 1 or 2 starter, though. He's still a high-risk, high-reward guy even five years out from being drafted.
Ben (Leland Grove): Are the Yanks not nearly as willing to part with Montero now as they were a year ago?
John Manuel: I believe that is the case. The Yankees' lineup really has no reliable RH power aside from A-Rod. Russ Martin had two nice months, and Jeter slugged under .400. Obviously they realize this; hence Andruw Jones is back. I don't think Jones' return means they don't want Montero's bat in the lineup. He fits, he's ready, and I expect him to both DH and get some time at C in 2012 in the Bronx. I'm still interested to see if he plays any games at 1b; he's done nothing but C and DH as a pro.
Zach (New York): On a scale from 1 to 10, how worried are you about Sanchez's makeup?
John Manuel: I'll say 5, because there are several red flags from this year but most of them are maturity-related. He's 19 and was handed $3 million as a 16-year-old. Most of us would not handle that particularly well. I give him more leeway because, you know, he can really, really hit. More worried about the receiving issues, but he has time to iron that out, and I found scouts who continue to believe he has the tools to be average as a receiver.
Laura (Queens NY): More raw power between Montero, Stanton and Harper?
John Manuel: I'd go Stanton & Harper both over Montero. I'm not sure whom I'd pick in Stanton vs. Harper, an informed guess would be Harper but that's almost moot. I will say I don't get 80 grades on Montero's power anymore, more 70s these days. He's been 70 hit and 70 power the last two Handbooks.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Did previous less-than-stellar international experiences lead to the Yanks deciding to bid so conservatively on Darvish? Had they won his rights and signed him, would you have ranked him above Montero for #1?
John Manuel: I don't think Kei Igawa helped their cause to get Darvish in any way. But I don't know what they bid for Darvish; I thought that was Rangers all the way. Very hard to say on Darvish vs. Montero; I might still go Montero over Darvish considering the hitter vs. pitcher and how safe I consider Montero to be as a prospect. He's going to be a very productive hitter, I think for a long time, who will catch enough for you to use him on your Strat team there, at least for the first few years. To me he's comparable to Paul Konerko, peak value Paulie.
Paul (Louisville, KY): From Sanchez' scouting report: "some scouts believe he's a lost cause as a receiver". If catching doesn't work out for him, where else would he be best suited for?
John Manuel: I haven't asked that question, but it's a good one. He's got plenty of arm strength so maybe you could try an outfield corner but he's not much of a runner. 1B seems most likely.
Joel (KCK): As with any pitcher Banuelo's size, durability seems to be a possible issue in the future. Do scouts seem concerned at all about his ability to remain a starter? Thanks!
John Manuel: Durability was his biggest question last year, and considering he'd never thrown more than 110 IP, I never thought he'd be in the majors in 2011, even in spring training. He answered some of those durability Q's this year by essentially staying healthy all year. His delivery raises no red flags. I don't think anyone sees him as anything other than a starter going forward.
Cy (Western Mass.): Manny Banuelos and Martin Perez are the same age and seem to have similar size and stuff. Who has more potential and who has a greater chance of fulfilling his potential?
John Manuel: I ranked Banuelos ahead on my personal top 50 but it's a coin flip on those two guys. Neither one has been terribly consistent in the last year or so. I probably ranked Banuelos higher because of greater familiarity, they are very similar.
Dean (Fortaleza, Brasil): If Mason Williams, Ravel Santana and Slade Heathcott all make it to the major with the Yankees which outfield position will each play? Who has the best tools and who is most likely to reach their potential?
John Manuel: Williams is a CF and has the best tools of the group by a hair over Santana, at least if you believe in Williams' power. He's a bit raw in applying his speed but he's a burner; Santana has more pop, bigger arm, more of an RF. I like Heathcott but his arm having required surgery twice already, it's easier to send him to LF in that scenario.
@ProspectD2J (Toronto): How do you think the new draft bugets will affect the way the Yankees acquire amateur talent?
John Manuel: The international changes impact the Yankees more than the draft rules. They've been more active and bigger spenders internationally, and those changes could shackle the organization, which has been extremely aggressive internationally in terms of big-money signings but also quantity of six-figure signings. All the "competitive balance" rules, both in the recent CBA and in terms of revenue sharing, are intended to "shackle" the Yankees. It is what it is.
@ProspectD2J (Toronto): Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain didn't exactly pan out the way everyone expected when they were on the cusp of the big leagues (a lot of that could be contributed to the hype machine). Have the Yankees learned anything from that, and are they more cautious now in promoting young pitchers like Betances and Banuelos until they truly are ready? Thanks for your time.
John Manuel: I actually think the Yankees are too cautious with their pitchers. But I don't want to bore everybody with another long pitching rant.
Avi (New Jersey): Dante Bichette Jr was ranked at #108 in Baseball America's pre draft rankings. Did the Yankees just know more than the "concensus", or is this a case of "reach pick" exceeding his expectations?
John Manuel: Good question. He exceeded our expectations; that's for sure. I don't think he exceeded New York's expectations offensively but he did defensively. He ranked 108 for us because of the profile as a right-right OF. The fact that he played well at 3B is a game-changer; he's got much more value if he can stay at 3b, and the Yankees are confident that he can. That said, the area guys in Florida we had spoken with over the years were not as high on him staying in the infield. That's where the Yankees bucked the consensus and so far they look good for it.
Jerry (NYC): Happy New Year John: Hector Noesi, does he have the ceiling and stuff to be a mid-rotation starter for AL East Competition? Who is the better long-term prospect and has better stuff and command, Phelps or Warren? Does the Yankees have one of the top 10 Farm System in Baseball? Does Yankees have another Robertson like Pitcher in their system that can be a contributor in 2012?
John Manuel: I was bullish on Noesi last year but even then saw his as more of a 4th starter than a guy you want starting twice in a playoff series. Long-term, I prefer Warren to Phelps. Yes, the Yankees system is more than top 10, I have it in my top 5.