Minor League Keeper Thoughts: New York Yankees

FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 14: Pitcher Dellin Betances #72 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Boston Red Sox during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at City of Palms Park on March 14, 2011 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

With exactly 15 systems down, I'm hoping to finish up the last of these posts prior to the end of Spring Training. The goal with each team I look at is to discuss a few players who are likely to have an impact in the Majors in 2012, a few who could be ready by the start of 2014, and a few more who are a long ways away, but could be interesting as well. You can find links to the previous teams below:

Houston Astros | Minnesota Twins | Seattle Mariners | Baltimore Orioles

Kansas City Royals | Chicago Cubs | San Diego Padres | Pittsburgh Pirates

Colorado Rockies | Cleveland Indians | Chicago White Sox | Detroit Tigers

Oakland Athletics | Los Angeles Angels | Tampa Bay Rays

The next 3 organizations I plan on writing up are the Toronto Blue Jays, the Boston Red Sox, and the Arizona Diamondbacks, so if there are specific prospects you'd like to hear about, please post in the comments and I'll see what I can find about them.

Overview

This isn't your old Yankees' farm system, where the team failed to develop top prospects or use them effectively. The team traded what would have been their top prospect, Jesus Montero, to acquire a potentially top-flight starting pitcher in Michael Pineda. Even with that, the team still has a pair of high-ceiling young arms, as well as another top-flight catcher and a lot of potential in the low-minors. The Yankees are obviously able to take more risks than some teams due to the availability of funds, but I think it will be interesting to see if the new rules regarding draft and international spending will have any effect on how the Yankees do business.

2011 Graduates


Ready in 2012


Banuelos was signed by the Yankees out of Mexico and has been moving pretty quickly through the system to this point. He finished 2011 by making 7 starts in AAA, but the numbers have been a bit ugly at times. While he has shown excellent strikeout numbers throughout the minors (over 8.7 K/9 in each of the last 3 seasons), his walk rate has deteriorated substantially as well (at least 4.7 BB/9 since debuting in AA in 2010). That said, there's a lot to like here. Here's a bit of what Nathaniel Stoltz of Seedlings to Stars had to say about him when he ranked him as the #26 overall prospect in the minors right now:

He has three pitches that at least flash plus, with a low-90′s sinker, low-80′s sinking changeup, and 75-79 mph curveball. He throws all three offerings with the same arm action, and he utilizes a simple, low-maintenance delivery that he repeats well. He’s always been lauded for his mound presence and cool demeanor, so he’s overall far more advanced than the typical 20-year-old pitcher.

If he continues to make refinements in the coming years, there’s no reason why his three-pitch mix won’t be good enough for him to become one of the better lefthanded starters in the game.

Theres a lot of upside here, and he has advanced very quickly despite being young for nearly every level. He will likely be in AAA for most of 2012, which should allow him to continue to refine his command and further improve his status for the future. I think that he'll be in New York either late this season as a September callup, and likely to stay at some point during the 2013 season.


An 8th round draft pick back in 2006, Betances finished 2011 with the big club after making 25 starts between AA and AAA. Another high strikeout arm, Betances struck out 142 in just 126 1/3 innings across both levels. Unfortunately, he is also a high walk pitcher, walking 70 batters last year. John Sickels ranked him behind Banuelos, giving him a 'B' grade (borderline B+), and had this to say about him as a part of his top 20 Yankees prospects:

He's got plenty of stuff but command wobbles prevent the B+ at this time. Ceiling is a tad higher than Banuelos, but I'm less confident that he'll reach it. Depending on what happens with his command, he could develop into anything from a number two starter to a disappointing mop-up man.

With Betances, it seems like you're look at a pitcher who has a much higher chance of failure, but poitentially a bit more upside than Banuelos. He will likely spend most of 2012 at AAA hopefully showing that he can remain a starting pitcher. However, he will be 24 this season, and it does concern me slightly that the team may decide he won't be able to be an effective starting pitcher, and convert him to the bullpen. His fantasy value would likely drop off a cliff should that happen, as I don't particularly see him getting the first shot at the closer's job once Mariano Rivera retires.

Long-Term Prospects (Might Not Be Ready Until 2015 At Least)

Gary Sanchez

Sanchez was signed by the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic, and had an excellent stateside debut in 2010 despite being just 17 years old. He made his full season debut in 2011 in the Sally League, and continued to show excellent power, especially for his age. However, there are some concerns about Sanchez. From Keith Law's top 100 profiles:

Sanchez's priority is working on his bat, and his glove has lagged; he has arm strength, and has a better chance to remain a catcher than former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero, but Sanchez's receiving was terrible last year and he'll need to spend more time working on all aspects of his defense besides throwing. Sanchez's immaturity showed up publicly last year, as he was suspended for attitude issues, and while we can forgive him his youth, if it's affecting his play on the field, it affects his outlook until he matures.

It's not a great sign that he is showing some makeup issues already, but he remains extremely young and hopefully these will resolve themselves over time. Baseball America mentioned that he'll likely start the season back in Low-A Charleston, and I imagine his defensive skills are likely to have something to do with it. Long term the potential is immense for fantasy purposes, as Keith Law projects him as having a 30-35 HR bat in the same profile. Realistically, I wouldn't expect to see him with the Yankees until at least 2015, as the organization will likely try to do everything it can to keep Sanchez behind the plate.

Mason Williams

Williams was the Yankees' 4th round pick from the 2010 draft, but was only able to play in 5 games after signing that season. The team sent him to the short-season New York-Penn League for 2011, and Williams had an excellent season there. Keith Law gave him what was probably the most aggressive ranking I have seen for him to this point, ranking him at #34 overall on his top 100. Here's a bit of what he had to say about Williams:

He's an above-average-to-plus runner with a plus arm, but the most impressive part of his game in 2011 was the quality of his at bats, which improved over the course of the summer. He's listed at 6 feet, 150 pounds, and has barely begun to fill out; much of the 'power' you see in his stat line was the product of his speed (six triples in 68 games), but he has the hip rotation and leverage to hit for real power when he's not quite so skinny.

The fact that Williams still has the potential to fill out, which could give him a bit more power to go with that speed, is extremely exciting. He's another player who is a long way away from being a Major League contributor, as he will likely be in a full season league for the first time this year (Low-A). Long term I could see a solid leadoff profile from Williams (solid to high batting average, solid to high speed numbers, lower power but some). He's not likely to be in the Majors in my opinion until at least 2015 or possibly 2016.

Dante Bichette Jr.

Bichette was the top draft pick of the Yankees last year, as well as being the son of former major league outfielder Dante Bichette. Bichette Jr. is a 3B prospect, and signed early enough to get into 54 games for the Yankees' affiliates in the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues. He posted an excellent .335/.440/.507 line across the two levels, including 24 extra base hits. Here's what Thomas Belmont of Baseball Instinct had to say about Bichette:

Clearly an outstanding debut. 12.7% walk rate and just a 16.9% K rate along with elite power. It hasn’t shown as HRs yet, but in time those doubles start leaving the yard. He’s a long way off and the defensive spot is still in question. He’ll start 2012 with the Staten Island Yankees but could see Low-A before the end of the 2012 season. The bat doesn’t have glaring holes, so maturity and time will tell just how good he can be and if the bat will indeed be elite.

Overall, there's a lot to like about Bichette, but it remains to be seen whether or not he will be able to stay at 3B long-term. Add in the fact that he will likely be back in the New York-Penn League or possibly in Low-A, and he remains a long way away from contributing in the Bronx. I'll be very interested to see what he does in 2012, and if he hits well again I think he could break into a lot of top 100 lists overall.

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