Minor League Keeper Thoughts: New York Yankees

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Jason Hunt takes a look at some of the top fantasy prospects in the New York Yankees organization.

Over the coming weeks, Craig and I will be taking a look at some of the more relevant prospects in each of the 30 MLB organizations. We won't be looking at each prospect in every organization, but rather to provide brief profiles of players that are either expected to make an impact as soon as next season, or are worth watching in dynasty and keeper formats. In general, they will be sorted in the order of when they are anticipated to be in the Majors, even though it is no guarantee that they will get there.

Our goal is to speak more to each prospect's fantasy value, so while we do look at a player's defense, it is really only in the context of where they will end up when they get to the Majors, and how that may affect their long term outlook. We will be going roughly in alphabetical order, and planning to have the series completed by the end of the year.

Previous Reviews

NL West: Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles
NL Central: Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee
NL East: Atlanta, Miami, New York
AL East: Baltimore, Boston
AL Central: Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Minnesota
AL West: Houston, Los Angeles

System Overview

The Yankees have had a bit of a mixed season in terms of the development of their prospects. You saw major steps forward from prospects like Mason Williams and Tyler Austin, but also saw major steps backward from top pitching prospects like Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances. Overall, the system has some impact talent, but a large amount of question marks. The team has done well to get high ceiling prospects like Ravel Santana, Slade Heathcott, and others into the system, and only time will tell us if they can develop them into major league regulars.

Graduates in 2012

David Phelps, Cody Eppley

AA in 2012

These are players who reached the Yankees' Eastern League affiliate in Trenton in 2012. They could see time in the Majors in 2013, but are more likely to arrive during the 2014 season.

Tyler Austin (BBRef Statistics, Profile from May)

Craig wrote about Austin after his hot start in April, and while he did cool off somewhat, his overall line for the season still ended up very good between Low-A, High-A, and a two game stint in AA. Overall, he finished with 17 home runs, 23 stolen bases, and a .322/.400/.559 slash line between the three stops.

One of the key concerns about Austin coming into the season was where he would end up on the diamond. However, it sounds like Austin has cemented himself into right field in the long term, and should be just fine there. The performance we saw from him in 2012 looks to be a sign of things to come, as the scouting reports indicate a player who should hit for decent power, a solid batting average, and provide solid speed as he progresses through the minors. While it appears unlikely that he will be elite in any of the standard five fantasy categories, he should provide at least average value in all of them.

High-A in 2012

These are players who reached the Yankees' Florida State League affiliate in Tampa in 2012. They are likely at least two seasons away from contributing in the Majors.

Mason Williams (BBref Statistics, Profile from January)

Williams appeared in just 91 games this year between Low A and High-A, but really put on a show to the tune of a .298/.346/.474 line with 11 home runs and 20 stolen bases. His season ended early in 2012 due to a dislocated shoulder, but the future is extremely bright for Williams.

Williams projects as a true five-tool center fielder, and while only his speed appears to be elite, all of his tools appear to grade out as at least average or better. His basestealing needs work (13 CS in 33 attempts this year), but it sounds like it is more of him learning to get better jumps and better reads than a speed issue. He doesn't look like he will be a huge power threat, but should still provide 15-20 home runs, with the potential for more at times. He has also shown excellent contact skills, striking out a very reasonable 12.7% in his minor league career, and should hit for a good batting average as well. There have been concerns mentioned about his maturity level, but it sounds like those should improve over time. All in all, a very strong prospect, and likely a top 50 prospect for many people.

Gary Sanchez (BBRef Statistics)

Sanchez needed a solid season in 2012 after he missed time in 2011 due to injuries and maturity concerns. The Yankees returned Sanchez to Low-A Charleston, and he did not disappoint, hitting .297/.353/.517 with 13 home runs in just 68 games. A promotion to High-A Tampa didn't really slow him either, as he hit .279/.330/.436 with 5 home runs in 48 games there.

We ranked Sanchez as our #3 fantasy catching prospect behind only Travis d'Arnaud and Mike Zunino, and with good reason. Sanchez's bat projects to play very well regardless of the position, including plus power potential long term. While he is not a lock to stay behind the plate, he showed improvement this season which leads me to believe that it isn't a guarantee that he will have to move. I think we could realistically see seasons with a .280 batting average and 20-25 home runs when he gets to the Majors. It may not be immediately, but he is very likely the Yankees' catcher of the future, and he could be there by the end of 2014.

Short Season in 2012

These players made it to one of the Yankees' short season affiliates in the Gulf Coast League or New York Penn Leagues. They are likely to be at least 3 or more seasons away from contributing at the Major League level.

Ty Hensley (BBRef Statistics)

Hensley was the Yankees' top draft pick in 2012, taken 30th overall. He threw just 12 innings in the Gulf Coast League, striking out 14 and walking 7. The son of a former major league draft pick, Hensley was committed to go to Mississippi, and could potentially have been a pitcher or a position player there. At this point, Hensley is nearly all projection, but already features a good fastball and a curveball which has been graded as plus on a few of the reports I read. I can see Hensley returning to either the GCL or potentially the NY Penn League for the 2013 season, as they look to build up his innings totals.

Others of Note

Manny Banuelos - Banuelos missed most of the season after being shut down in May with elbow pain, and as it turns out ended up needing Tommy John surgery in October. He'll miss the entire 2013 season, and realistically may not be ready for the Yankees' rotation until 2015.

Dellin Betances - Betances was sent back to the starting rotation for the 2012 season, and it really was a lost year for him. He split time between AA and AAA this year, but was not really effective at either stop, notching 124 strikeouts and 99 walks in 131 innings pitched. I have to imagine he will return to AAA this year, and his future as a starting pitcher in the long term could be short-lived.

Cito Culver - Culver spent the full season at Low-A Charleston, and it was not a good performance in terms of the production (.215/.321/.283, 2 HR, 22 SB). Baseball America rated Culver the top defensive infielder in the Yankees' system, and it sounds like his bat will need to catch up as he progresses through the minors.

Jose Campos - Campos was the other player acquired by the Yankees in the Jesus Montero trade, and unfortunately, Campos also missed the majority of the season with an elbow injury. In the 5 starts he did make he had a very solid 26/8 K/BB ratio, and still may have more upside than any other pitching prospect in the system right now.

Slade Heathcott - At this point, Heathcott still remains a lot of projection. He hit .307/.378/.470 with 5 home runs and 19 stolen bases in just 65 games, but has missed significant time in the past two seasons due to injuries. All the tools are there for Heathcott, and Baseball America recently rated him as the #2 prospect in the Yankees' system behind only Williams, which is definitely high praise. With a good season at AA in 2013, Heathcott could be one of the biggest jumpers in all of the minors.

Angelo Gumbs - We ranked Gumbs as our #10 fantasy 2B prospect this year, and at this point it will be interesting to see what he can do in a full season. He stole 26 bases and hit 7 home runs in just 67 games with Low-A Charleston this year, and he could be very interesting with a full season in High-A this year.

Zoilo Almonte - Almonte was added to the 40 man roster last month, and has shown average power so far, including 21 home runs in AA this year. The biggest question mark about Almonte is whether or not he will be able to make enough contact to be a starting corner outfielder, or if it will limit him further than that.

Ravel Santana - Another toolsy outfielder, Santana's performance in the NY Penn League this year wasn't exactly earth-shattering. Santana has shown both power and speed at times, along with a solid hit tool as well. If you're looking for a high-upside, high-risk prospect, Santana may be the poster child at this point. He could very well turn into a 5-tool monster for fantasy, or not progress past the low minors.

Statistics from Baseball Reference, Minor League Central, and Fangraphs

You can follow me on Twitter @jasonsbaseball

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