Top 50 Yankees Prospects

Here are the Top 50 Yankees' prospects. PinstripesPlus.com gives a little insight on each selection in our rankings but will follow up more in-depth with individual scouting reports on each player throughout this offseason, starting in descending order.

IMPORTANT NOTES about the Top 50 - Any player with any big league service time, no matter how little, was excluded from our rankings.

ALSO, DO NOT reveal the rankings, either partially or in full, on other message boards, blogs, sites, etc. Remember this is copyrighted material and we'd hope everybody would respect the other paying subscribers by not divulging any of the information in the rankings...

...including just a listing of the names of the players in the rankings! Basically read the rankings, talk about them on our subscribers forum here, and don't share any of the information anywhere else please.


1. Jesus Montero - The offensive-minded catcher didn't have his best statistical season, hitting just .289 for Triple-A Scranton after leading the organization in hitting the two seasons prior, but he did arguably have his best season from an adjustment standpoint. He struggled mightily in the first half by his own standards, hitting just .252 with seven home runs before the All Star break. He hit nearly 100 points higher in the second half [.351], however, and clubbed fourteen home runs in 100 less at-bats. He's ready to contribute to the big league team.

2. Manny Banuelos - There wasn't a better winless pitcher in 2010. He went just 0-4 between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton after missing the first two months of the season with an appendectomy, but he posted a combined 2.51 ERA upon his return, held batters to a .229 average, and struck out nearly twelve batters per nine innings as a starting pitcher. He also saw a significant uptick in his stuff when his 90-92 mph fastball jumped up the 92-95 mph range and topped out at 97 mph. If he can harness his normal superb command to go with his higher heater, he could be an elite big league pitcher.

3. Gary Sanchez - Last year's $3 million bonus baby out of the Dominican Republic made his much anticipated professional debut in 2010 and absolutely didn't disappoint. Forgetting for a moment that the 17-year old hit a combined .329 and posted a .936 OPS in his first year in the United States, the fact that he has shown great athleticism behind the plate already and an advanced offensive approach means he is already one of the elite two-way catching prospects in the game.

4. Dellin Betances - In perhaps the strongest year for the Yankees farm system in quite some time, Betances turned in arguably one of the most impressive seasons. He not only went a combined 8-1 between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, posted a 2.11 ERA, and struck out better than eleven batters per nine innings, but he did so while coming back from Tommy John surgery in less than a year. He smoothed out his mechanics, improved his command, and developed his changeup into a reliable plus pitch. Mechanics will always be something that needs fine-tuning, but he has now proven he knows how to get them back on track when they get out of whack. His ceiling is immense and he's no longer that risky a prospect now that he's completely healthy.

5. Andrew Brackman - Brackman rounds out the "Killer B's" and is a bit of a Betances carbon copy; he's tall, has a plus fastball that reaches the high-90's, owns a plus curveball, has worked out his mechanical issues, and developed his changeup into a more reliable pitch. He spent most of his season being very deliberate in his pitching mechanics in an effort to build up the requisite muscle memory for his delivery and he was more natural by season's end, following up his nightmarish 5.91 ERA in 2009 the the low-A level for Charleston with a 3.90 ERA between high-A and Double-A in 2010 as a result. Like Betances, he's not as raw as he was two years ago and his ceiling is also huge.

6. Slade Heathcott - Some pundits might get too swayed by his first-year numbers [.258, 2 home runs, 15 stolen bases] and come away unimpressed. That would be a mistake of biblical proportions. The fact is the recently turned 20-year old has four plus tools - hitting, defense, arm, and speed [which is plus-plus], and he has above average power potential for a centerfielder too. He still has a lot of learning to do with the nuances of the game, but his combination of tools and intensity is extremely rare. Think Brett Gardner with Johnny Damon-like power potential and a Jeff Francoeur-like arm for his ceiling.

7. Austin Romine - Some have gotten down on the 2009 Florida State League Hitter of the Year after he hit just .268 with ten home runs for the Trenton Thunder this past season. His slippage in these rankings is only due to the influx of high-ceiling talent at the lower levels recently because he is still as valuable a two-way catching prospect in the game as there is. Keep in mind that his .249 average in the second half of the season is indicative of a catcher who was learning to be the primary catcher for an entire season for the first time in his career. He still has big league All Star potential.

8. Corban Joseph - Joseph's 2010 season was marred by a relatively unsuccessful Double-A debut that saw him hit just .216 for the Trenton Thunder after hitting .302 for the Tampa Yankees and leading the Florida State League in doubles before his promotion. His season ended prematurely due to a broken hand, however, and that could have been the reason for his lackluster Eastern League numbers. The fact is he is one of the better pure hitters around and he made marked improvements defensively at second base, a position in which he has the chance to man at the big league as an above average offensive player someday.

9. Adam Warren - Last year's fourth round pick is one of the biggest 'sleeper' prospects in the game. He brings everything to the mound; size, stuff, athleticism, intelligence, pitch-ability, command, and perhaps most importantly...consistency! He allowed one earned run or less in 15 of his 25 starts between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, and his stuff [93-96 mph fastball, three average to above average secondary pitches] is underrated more than his fantastic control [a little more than two walks per nine innings].

10. David Adams - A broken ankle in mid-May helped disguise the continuation of Adams' coming out party as a top prospect that began with his breakout season last year [.286, 40 doubles, seven home runs] at the A-ball levels. People forget that he was among the league leaders in every offensive category in the Eastern League prior to going down with the injury and he has average to above average defensive abilities at a middle infield position. That rare two-way combination makes him a very valuable prospect.

11. Brandon Laird - All Laird did was win the 2010 Eastern League MVP by hitting .291 and finishing in the top five with 23 home runs and 90 RBI despite spending the last month of the season in Triple-A. He hit just .246 with a pair of home runs in 31 games for Scranton-Wilkes Barre and he needs to show he can make that higher level adjustment, but he has proven he can produce like a corner guy and now he's learning the outfield position. He gives the Yankees a few different options.

12. David Phelps - Like Warren, Phelps has shot up the rankings because there's no denying his combination of stuff and results. He followed up his 13-4, 2.38 ERA season a year ago by going a combined 10-2 with a 2.50 ERA between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. He added a curveball to his repertoire too, an above average pitch that has plus potential, and now he has four pitches [including a low-to-mid-90's fastball] that he can throw for strikes with command. People should not be overlooking Phelps!

13. Bradley Suttle - A great defensive third baseman with power as a switch-hitter offensively, Suttle missed all of the 2009 season with two shoulder labrum surgeries. Once a top ten prospect two years ago, he hit just .245 with one home run prior to the All Star break this season but then rediscovered his game in the second half, hitting .293 with nine home runs before hitting .304 with more three home runs and nine RBI in the postseason. He's completely back as a prospect and don't be surprised if breaks out in a big way in 2011.

14. Melky Mesa - Widely regarded as arguably the toolsiest player in the organization for the last few years, Mesa started turning those tools into viable production en route to winning the 2010 Florida State League Hitter of the Year award by hitting a career high .260 with 19 home runs, nine triples, and stealing 31 bases. He made huge progress learning how to lay off of and even hit good breaking pitches, bringing the 'bust factor' down just enough to make him one of the most intriguing prospects around. He still has to continue to show more consistency going forward, but he at least he has now proven he has it in him to make some adjustments.

15. Brett Marshall - The incredible return of Betances from Tommy John surgery was actually rivaled by that of Marshall. He too returned quicker than most and he also responded with a career year, going 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA and holding opposing batters to a .204 average. Beyond the numbers though was a better approach on the mound, one that went right after batters, and his stuff [plus fastball, plus changeup, slider with plus potential] got better along with his command. And if there were a ranking of top work ethics, Marshall would probably lead the rankings of an impressive group.

16. J.R. Murphy - Like Heathcott, Murphy's first-year numbers belie his true abilities. He hit just .255 with seven home runs for Charleston this past season, but he did so while enduring not only his first full season but his first year behind the dish. He made marked improvements defensively and his six home runs in the second half prove he learned how to handle both duties. He still has areas to improve upon defensively and now he's learning to play some third base and right field as well, but it's his bat that has the chance to be special.

17. Mason Williams - This year's fourth round pick has a world of talent. His diminutive size [6-foot, 150 pounds] would suggest small-ball only skills but that's simply not true. Yes he's a great bunter already and his speed is top-notch as are his defensive abilities, but he also has some impressive opposite field power. Hitting the gym hard and adding some useful muscle mass could turn him into an elite prospect someday and considering his father was an NFL player with some size, family history suggests that's likely.

18. Bryan Mitchell - Mitchell put up some solid first season numbers this year, going 2-2 with a 3.94 ERA and holding opposing batters to a .211 average, but those numbers don't do his raw talent any justice. The 19-year old already has a plus fastball that sits 92-94 mph and one of the better curveballs around. Should he develop the changeup into a similarly effective pitch, his upside is as good as anyone's in the organization and that's really saying something.

19. Cito Culver - Culver's selection in the first round of the draft this year had its fair share of criticism among the pundits, mostly because he wasn't a high profile name among the national publications. The fact is, however, that tools-wise he has some real abilities. None of them are of the plus variety with the exception of his arm, but all of them are average to above average and perhaps more importantly he looks like he will stick at the shortstop position. Finding a switch-hitter with his kind of solid tools at that position isn't easy and he has the youth and size to have significant upside too.

20. Graham Stoneburner - At 9-8 with a combined 2.41 ERA between two A-ball levels and holding opposing batters to a .207 average while striking out 137 batters in 142 innings, Stoneburner couldn't have had a better year statistically. However, while the plus fastball-plus changeup combination are in place, his slider wasn't the consistent weapon needed to be to be considered one of the elite prospects. He has shown flashes of it though so don't be surprised if he shoots up the rankings at some point. His aggressive approach on the mound with an improved slider could turn him into a great relief prospect.

21. D.J. Mitchell - The fact that Mitchell ranks this low is a credit to the ever-increasing depth of the Yankees farm system. While his combined 4.00 ERA isn't spectacular, there's a reason why he went 13-4 this past season. His stuff is very much underrated. He doesn't throw particularly hard, 88-93 mph, but all of his pitches have plus movement and he has great swing-and-miss stuff on any given night. He is also arguably the best fielding pitcher, he has a good pickoff move, and great makeup. He is a complete pitcher who can help the club in a few different roles.

22. Hector Noesi - Sometimes in life things are so underrated that they have the tables turned and eventually become somewhat overrated, and Noesi is arguably the Yankee prospect version of that. He is still a quality prospect mind you, showing three above average pitches with unreal control, and that ability to not beat himself on the mound is a great trait to have, but he did have more than a few starts where he gave up five earned runs or more and he has shown he can be hittable at times. His superb strike-throwing abilities though would make him a very intriguing relief option for the Yankees.

23. Ramon Flores - Flores bounced back from a disappointing 2009 season that saw him hit just .196 in the Gulf Coast League to hit .329 for them this past season, which ranked second in the league. Like Joseph and Murphy, the 18-year old Flores doesn't have great overall tools but he does possess elite hitting ability. Unlike those two, however, Flores, who doesn't seem likely to get the necessary reps in centerfield, will be playing a corner position where his power will be a bigger question mark. He does have good power but it remains to be seen how much it will develop further given his average size. Until that gets figured out though, he has the kind of bat that can carry him.

24. Jose Ramirez - Like Stoneburner, statistically there's nothing not to like about Ramirez's season [6-5, 3.60 ERA] in his first taste of the long-season leagues, but yet the inconsistent breaking ball prevented him from securing one of the upper-echelon pitching prospect spots. And like Stoneburner, he has that kind of talent; big league power arm, big league plus changeup, aggressive approach to batters. He's the kind of guy who could become one of those top pitching prospects real soon.

25. Abraham Almonte - Almonte seemed poised for a breakout season with the way he finished the 2009 campaign [.305 in the second half] and the blistering Spring Training camp he had until torn labrum shoulder surgery on his throwing arm in the first month of the season ended his year prematurely. His switch-hitting abilities, plus speed, and plus defensive abilities make him a good bet to be a big league reserve outfielder at minimum someday, but he also has the kind of five-tool talent to be a game-changing starting outfielder too if he continues to develop.

26. Kyle Higashioka - Like Almonte, 'Higgy' has the kind of plus defensive game to safely project him as a big league reserve [catcher] player someday while he awaits the turning point in his development that could help him develop into a potential top prospect. He hit just .225 for the Charleston RiverDogs this past season but a lot of that was bad luck as he hit the ball hard right at guys. His plus approach, pitch recognition, and patience suggest his numbers should turn around in a big way rather soon. He's a big-time 'sleeper' prospect.

27. Anderson Feliz - The converted shortstop turned second baseman is quickly becoming an organizational prospect favorite among team insiders because of his switch-hitting abilities and overall tools. He has spent the last couple of years getting stronger and now his power has started to show in games enough to now have a ceiling of a plus offensive player in the middle infield. He has a ton more speed than his meager stolen base numbers suggest, he just needs to become less gun-shy. The ceiling is significant here.

28. Angelo Gumbs - The Yankees have prioritized getting stronger up the middle and Gumbs' selection in the second round is further proof of that. He's a bit of a right-handed hitting version of Feliz; plus speed, good contact hitting, above average power potential for a second baseman, athletic defensive abilities, etc, and he too can play shortstop if needed. He gives the Yankees yet another high upside middle infield prospect.

29. Rob Segedin - There's mixed feelings among baseball people as to how Segedin, drafted as a third baseman in college, fits inside the organization. The prevailing thought is he projects as a Brandon Laird type [with a better arm] as a future corner outfielder who has the hitting ability and plus power potential to fit in nicely there. He hasn't shown those kind of abilities at the professional ranks just yet, but with his tremendous makeup it seems like a good possibility. Like Laird, he's going to have to put up the numbers to warrant the ranking going forward.

30. Conor Mullee - Sleeper alert! The Yankees found a gem in the 24th round of the draft this year when they plucked Mullee, a college shortstop, among the masses. Despite pitching just a few innings in his career prior to the professional ranks, Mullee has already shown advanced baseball acumen. He picked up the delivery quickly, so much so that his effortless delivery disguises his fastball that routinely hits 95-98 mph with sink and they'll focus on a slider/cutter next year. He also shows great control for a pitcher so new to the mound. The kid screams upside.

31. Eduardo Sosa - The emergence of Heathcott as a prospect and the drafting of Williams could be exactly what the doctor ordered competition-wise to kick the ultra-talented Sosa into gear. He had a much better showing this past season [.254, second on the team in doubles and stolen bases] after hitting just .200 in the Gulf Coast League a year ago. He is as talented as Mason Williams, if not more, and he has more natural power, but his shy demeanor has forced his game to take a little more time to become unshackled in the States. Should he ever get extremely comfortable here, watch out because the talent is there.

32. Gabe Encinas - At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, this year's sixth round pick out of high school has good size to go with his potentially plus stuff. He has already shown a plus fastball-plus breaking ball combination and he has yet to make his professional debut, but he needs work on his changeup and pitching out of the stretch in general. He's got a huge ceiling but he also has enough stuff to work on to keep him grounded and humble going forward. Think Bryan Mitchell at a similar stage in their careers.

33. Kelvin De Leon - De Leon has some of the best power in the Yankees farm system and he has transformed his once lackadaisical attitude into all-out hustle on the field over the past two years, but his development has been more slow than steady up to this point. He is still a bit of an adventure defensively in the outfield and the better breaking pitches do give him fits offensively, but there's no denying the ceiling is significant here. He's a little bit of a sink-or-swim prospect at this point.

34. Nik Turley - Radar gun junkies aren't going to buy into Turley just yet because his fastball is merely big league average, but his curveball can be devastating as can his changeup. His delivery is smooth, he has a great pickoff move, and he has great size on the mound, the kind of size that should allow him to get stronger and possibly add some velocity down the road. But for now, as long as he keeps his emotions in-check and his resulting command is fine, he has enough to get hitters out routinely. He has a nice combination of safe projection and upside.

35. Taylor Morton - Like Turley, Morton has some significant upside [albeit from the right side] coming out of high school. He sits mostly around the average range with his fastball as a starter, but he reportedly hit 95-96 mph as a reliever in his amateur days. His secondary pitches and delivery all need some work, but the size and looseness of his arm suggest some potential here.

36. Shane Greene - Like Mullee, Greene falls into the 'sleeper' category. He has true plus stuff across the board - a 92-94 mph fastball with great sink, a plus slider that he commands a bit too inconsistently, and a plus changeup that also gets a ton of movement. In fact all of his pitches move. If he could get his delivery nailed down to where it's no longer an issue, he could skyrocket up the rankings. He projects best as a reliever but there's some potential here as a starter too if everything falls into place.

37. Jairo Heredia - Heredia's career is at a crossroads. His plus curveball-plus changeup combination is among the best in the organization, but his once big league fastball has slipped down to the below average range velocity-wise and that has caused him to pitch backwards. The viscous cycle, however, is he can't get the power back until he starts using the fastball more. The 21-year old still has a ton going for him, including his stellar command to go with his plus secondary offerings, but his ranking in the Top 50 is very precarious for now until he gets some zip back with his fastball.

38. Thomas Kahnle - Kahnle headlines a list of powerful reliever type prospects in the organization who are max effort hurlers and lack the requisite plus breaking pitch to be considered a top prospect just yet. He does have a nasty changeup though so he does have an edge on some of his competition down on the farm. The arm is a plus big league tool but there's a lot of work to do to get the most potential out of him.

39. Jose Pirela - There's nothing flashy about Pirela's game with the exception of his all-out hustle. In fact, he's right up there with the likes of Brett Marshall among elite work ethics and he's the kind of winning player every organization needs. His tools are average across the board but he can play both shortstop and second base [his best position] if called upon, and he can do a few things offensively. He has the look of a big league bench player for now, but the kind that can be a huge positive.

40. Evan Rutckyj - At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, and left-handed, Rutckyj has the look of a Turley type. With a fastball that sits 90-93 mph, a strong argument could be made that he has some better 'now' stuff. His secondary offerings are a bit further behind, however, but his hockey background in Canada does give him some great competitive drive. Like Turley, there's significant upside here.

41. Shaeffer Hall - Seemingly coming out of nowhere to go a combined 11-7 with a 2.89 ERA between two A-ball levels, Hall was arguably one of the better stories in the Yankees farm system this year. The left-hander throws three pitches for strikes with ease and he knows how to pitch, so even though his fastball might not break 90 mph too often, he has now proven he has the stuff to get batters out. He's not a 'sexy' prospect because of the gun readings, but that doesn't detract from his value as a left-handed pitcher.

42. Fu-Lin Kuo - Kuo is another 'sleeper' prospect, especially for those who only judge prospects by following stats online. He hit just .243 with four home runs for the Gulf Coast League Yankees in his debut season. He dominated Spring Training and Extended Spring Training, however, showing good speed and even better opposite field power, before tiring under the constraints of a long year away from his native land. He could have a Flores-like bounceback season next year.

43. George Kontos - Like Heredia, Kontos' inclusion in these rankings is based more on reputation and history than on the 'now' stuff he has shown recently. Once able to sit 92-95 mph with a plus slider, his best projected role even a few years ago was that of a late-inning reliever. But even now when he has started that kind of role coming off of Tommy John surgery, the zip hasn't come back on the fastball yet. He can still get batters out but he needs that extra giddy-up to move back up in the rankings.

44. Zoilo Almonte - Zoilo had his second straight solid season, hitting a combined .269 with 13 home runs and 15 home runs between low-A Charleston [he hit 10 home runs at that level] and high-A Tampa. He still strikes out a bit too much and he has a lot more potential he has yet to tap, but time is starting to run out for him to make strides in both areas in order to become that top prospect some team insiders believed he would be someday.

45. Josh Romanski - Romanski is Shaeffer Hall-like in that he has a great ability to mix up all of his pitches for strikes at any point and in any count, and he knows how to attack batters. He does have a cutter, however, to give opposing hitters a different wrinkle. He doesn't have the best command of his cutter, but he can be extremely effective when he's locating it. Lefties who have a quality changeup-breaking ball combination, even ones like Romanski who sit 88-90 mph with the fastball, are valuable commodities.

46. Evan DeLuca - With a 9.35 ERA and 24 walks in 26 innings in his debut season, DeLuca's inclusion in these rankings might come as a surprise. While there's no denying the fact that control is an issue that needs to be ironed out, the fact is that stuff-wise DeLuca is actually pretty advanced. With his a fastball in the 91-94 mph range from the left side, a curveball that can be a plus pitch when he pitches downhill, and a plus changeup, he's a lot better than the stats reveal. He also is a high makeup guy, has a good pickoff move, fields his position, etc. Getting a more consistent arm slot and release point are the only two things holding back from being a real quality prospect.

47. Preston Claiborne - Claiborne is a bit of a reliever 'sleeper' for a few reasons. One, his fastball averages 90-94 mph with good movement. Second, he has a pretty good slider for a reliever drafted out of college. Third, his changeup is an out-pitch already. And fourth, his ultra-aggressive approach is what you want from a reliever. He still has some mechanical issues and the slider could be better, but the foundation is in place to be an intriguing potential big league reliever.

48. Mikey O'Brien - O'Brien has some arm strength to him, able to hit 95-96 mph with his fastball when he's used in shorter stints. He also has a curveball that is rapidly getting more consistent and has plus potential to it to become a viable strikeout weapon. His smaller size does project him better as a reliever and his innate ability to keep the ball down and in the ball park suggests that could be a good role for him down the road.

49. Zachary Varce - Tabbed a potentially David Robertson-like relief prospect by Yankee scouts when he was drafted, Varce put up some numbers as a starting pitcher in Staten Island this year, including 74 strikeouts in 71 innings. His fastball sat around 90 mph in that role, however, so it remains to be seen if he can get it back up to the 92-93 mph range he had in college. Conventional wisdom suggests he can and with his curveball-slider combination, he could be an impact reliever should the fastball velocity bump back up again.

50. Reymond Nunez - A strained hamstring limited Nunez to just 27 games with the Gulf Coast League Yankees and he hit just .222 with three home runs. His swing can still get a little long at times, but even though he plays a power-hitting position like first base, Nunez, whose power grades only below that of Jesus Montero, still has the juice to become a top prospect someday if everything falls into place.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nIMPORTANT NOTES about the Top 50 - Any player with any big league service time, no matter how little, was excluded from our rankings.
\r\n
\r\nALSO, DO NOT reveal the rankings, either partially or in full, on other message boards, blogs, sites, etc. Remember this is copyrighted material and we'd hope everybody would respect the other paying subscribers by not divulging any of the information in the rankings...
\r\n
\r\n...including just a listing of the names of the players in the rankings! Basically read the rankings, talk about them on our subscribers forum here, and don't share any of the information anywhere else please.

\r\n
\r\n1. Jesus Montero - The offensive-minded catcher didn't have his best statistical season, hitting just .289 for Triple-A Scranton after leading the organization in hitting the two seasons prior, but he did arguably have his best season from an adjustment standpoint. He struggled mightily in the first half by his own standards, hitting just .252 with seven home runs before the All Star break. He hit nearly 100 points higher in the second half [.351], however, and clubbed fourteen home runs in 100 less at-bats. He's ready to contribute to the big league team.
\r\n
\r\n2. Manny Banuelos - There wasn't a better winless pitcher in 2010. He went just 0-4 between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton after missing the first two months of the season with an appendectomy, but he posted a combined 2.51 ERA upon his return, held batters to a .229 average, and struck out nearly twelve batters per nine innings as a starting pitcher. He also saw a significant uptick in his stuff when his 90-92 mph fastball jumped up the 92-95 mph range and topped out at 97 mph. If he can harness his normal superb command to go with his higher heater, he could be an elite big league pitcher.
\r\n
\r\n3. Gary Sanchez - Last year's $3 million bonus baby out of the Dominican Republic made his much anticipated professional debut in 2010 and absolutely didn't disappoint. Forgetting for a moment that the 17-year old hit a combined .329 and posted a .936 OPS in his first year in the United States, the fact that he has shown great athleticism behind the plate already and an advanced offensive approach means he is already one of the elite two-way catching prospects in the game.
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\r\n4. Dellin Betances - In perhaps the strongest year for the Yankees farm system in quite some time, Betances turned in arguably one of the most impressive seasons. He not only went a combined 8-1 between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, posted a 2.11 ERA, and struck out better than eleven batters per nine innings, but he did so while coming back from Tommy John surgery in less than a year. He smoothed out his mechanics, improved his command, and developed his changeup into a reliable plus pitch. Mechanics will always be something that needs fine-tuning, but he has now proven he knows how to get them back on track when they get out of whack. His ceiling is immense and he's no longer that risky a prospect now that he's completely healthy.
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\r\n5. Andrew Brackman - Brackman rounds out the \"Killer B's\" and is a bit of a Betances carbon copy; he's tall, has a plus fastball that reaches the high-90's, owns a plus curveball, has worked out his mechanical issues, and developed his changeup into a more reliable pitch. He spent most of his season being very deliberate in his pitching mechanics in an effort to build up the requisite muscle memory for his delivery and he was more natural by season's end, following up his nightmarish 5.91 ERA in 2009 the the low-A level for Charleston with a 3.90 ERA between high-A and Double-A in 2010 as a result. Like Betances, he's not as raw as he was two years ago and his ceiling is also huge.
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\r\n6. Slade Heathcott - Some pundits might get too swayed by his first-year numbers [.258, 2 home runs, 15 stolen bases] and come away unimpressed. That would be a mistake of biblical proportions. The fact is the recently turned 20-year old has four plus tools - hitting, defense, arm, and speed [which is plus-plus], and he has above average power potential for a centerfielder too. He still has a lot of learning to do with the nuances of the game, but his combination of tools and intensity is extremely rare. Think Brett Gardner with Johnny Damon-like power potential and a Jeff Francoeur-like arm for his ceiling.
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\r\n7. Austin Romine - Some have gotten down on the 2009 Florida State League Hitter of the Year after he hit just .268 with ten home runs for the Trenton Thunder this past season. His slippage in these rankings is only due to the influx of high-ceiling talent at the lower levels recently because he is still as valuable a two-way catching prospect in the game as there is. Keep in mind that his .249 average in the second half of the season is indicative of a catcher who was learning to be the primary catcher for an entire season for the first time in his career. He still has big league All Star potential.
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\r\n8. Corban Joseph - Joseph's 2010 season was marred by a relatively unsuccessful Double-A debut that saw him hit just .216 for the Trenton Thunder after hitting .302 for the Tampa Yankees and leading the Florida State League in doubles before his promotion. His season ended prematurely due to a broken hand, however, and that could have been the reason for his lackluster Eastern League numbers. The fact is he is one of the better pure hitters around and he made marked improvements defensively at second base, a position in which he has the chance to man at the big league as an above average offensive player someday.
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\r\n9. Adam Warren - Last year's fourth round pick is one of the biggest 'sleeper' prospects in the game. He brings everything to the mound; size, stuff, athleticism, intelligence, pitch-ability, command, and perhaps most importantly...consistency! He allowed one earned run or less in 15 of his 25 starts between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, and his stuff [93-96 mph fastball, three average to above average secondary pitches] is underrated more than his fantastic control [a little more than two walks per nine innings].
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\r\n10. David Adams - A broken ankle in mid-May helped disguise the continuation of Adams' coming out party as a top prospect that began with his breakout season last year [.286, 40 doubles, seven home runs] at the A-ball levels. People forget that he was among the league leaders in every offensive category in the Eastern League prior to going down with the injury and he has average to above average defensive abilities at a middle infield position. That rare two-way combination makes him a very valuable prospect.
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\r\n11. Brandon Laird - All Laird did was win the 2010 Eastern League MVP by hitting .291 and finishing in the top five with 23 home runs and 90 RBI despite spending the last month of the season in Triple-A. He hit just .246 with a pair of home runs in 31 games for Scranton-Wilkes Barre and he needs to show he can make that higher level adjustment, but he has proven he can produce like a corner guy and now he's learning the outfield position. He gives the Yankees a few different options.
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\r\n12. David Phelps - Like Warren, Phelps has shot up the rankings because there's no denying his combination of stuff and results. He followed up his 13-4, 2.38 ERA season a year ago by going a combined 10-2 with a 2.50 ERA between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. He added a curveball to his repertoire too, an above average pitch that has plus potential, and now he has four pitches [including a low-to-mid-90's fastball] that he can throw for strikes with command. People should not be overlooking Phelps!
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\r\n13. Bradley Suttle - A great defensive third baseman with power as a switch-hitter offensively, Suttle missed all of the 2009 season with two shoulder labrum surgeries. Once a top ten prospect two years ago, he hit just .245 with one home run prior to the All Star break this season but then rediscovered his game in the second half, hitting .293 with nine home runs before hitting .304 with more three home runs and nine RBI in the postseason. He's completely back as a prospect and don't be surprised if breaks out in a big way in 2011.
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\r\n14. Melky Mesa - Widely regarded as arguably the toolsiest player in the organization for the last few years, Mesa started turning those tools into viable production en route to winning the 2010 Florida State League Hitter of the Year award by hitting a career high .260 with 19 home runs, nine triples, and stealing 31 bases. He made huge progress learning how to lay off of and even hit good breaking pitches, bringing the 'bust factor' down just enough to make him one of the most intriguing prospects around. He still has to continue to show more consistency going forward, but he at least he has now proven he has it in him to make some adjustments.
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\r\n15. Brett Marshall - The incredible return of Betances from Tommy John surgery was actually rivaled by that of Marshall. He too returned quicker than most and he also responded with a career year, going 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA and holding opposing batters to a .204 average. Beyond the numbers though was a better approach on the mound, one that went right after batters, and his stuff [plus fastball, plus changeup, slider with plus potential] got better along with his command. And if there were a ranking of top work ethics, Marshall would probably lead the rankings of an impressive group.
\r\n
\r\n16. J.R. Murphy - Like Heathcott, Murphy's first-year numbers belie his true abilities. He hit just .255 with seven home runs for Charleston this past season, but he did so while enduring not only his first full season but his first year behind the dish. He made marked improvements defensively and his six home runs in the second half prove he learned how to handle both duties. He still has areas to improve upon defensively and now he's learning to play some third base and right field as well, but it's his bat that has the chance to be special.
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\r\n17. Mason Williams - This year's fourth round pick has a world of talent. His diminutive size [6-foot, 150 pounds] would suggest small-ball only skills but that's simply not true. Yes he's a great bunter already and his speed is top-notch as are his defensive abilities, but he also has some impressive opposite field power. Hitting the gym hard and adding some useful muscle mass could turn him into an elite prospect someday and considering his father was an NFL player with some size, family history suggests that's likely.
\r\n
\r\n18. Bryan Mitchell - Mitchell put up some solid first season numbers this year, going 2-2 with a 3.94 ERA and holding opposing batters to a .211 average, but those numbers don't do his raw talent any justice. The 19-year old already has a plus fastball that sits 92-94 mph and one of the better curveballs around. Should he develop the changeup into a similarly effective pitch, his upside is as good as anyone's in the organization and that's really saying something.
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\r\n19. Cito Culver - Culver's selection in the first round of the draft this year had its fair share of criticism among the pundits, mostly because he wasn't a high profile name among the national publications. The fact is, however, that tools-wise he has some real abilities. None of them are of the plus variety with the exception of his arm, but all of them are average to above average and perhaps more importantly he looks like he will stick at the shortstop position. Finding a switch-hitter with his kind of solid tools at that position isn't easy and he has the youth and size to have significant upside too.
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\r\n20. Graham Stoneburner - At 9-8 with a combined 2.41 ERA between two A-ball levels and holding opposing batters to a .207 average while striking out 137 batters in 142 innings, Stoneburner couldn't have had a better year statistically. However, while the plus fastball-plus changeup combination are in place, his slider wasn't the consistent weapon needed to be to be considered one of the elite prospects. He has shown flashes of it though so don't be surprised if he shoots up the rankings at some point. His aggressive approach on the mound with an improved slider could turn him into a great relief prospect.
\r\n
\r\n21. D.J. Mitchell - The fact that Mitchell ranks this low is a credit to the ever-increasing depth of the Yankees farm system. While his combined 4.00 ERA isn't spectacular, there's a reason why he went 13-4 this past season. His stuff is very much underrated. He doesn't throw particularly hard, 88-93 mph, but all of his pitches have plus movement and he has great swing-and-miss stuff on any given night. He is also arguably the best fielding pitcher, he has a good pickoff move, and great makeup. He is a complete pitcher who can help the club in a few different roles.
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\r\n22. Hector Noesi - Sometimes in life things are so underrated that they have the tables turned and eventually become somewhat overrated, and Noesi is arguably the Yankee prospect version of that. He is still a quality prospect mind you, showing three above average pitches with unreal control, and that ability to not beat himself on the mound is a great trait to have, but he did have more than a few starts where he gave up five earned runs or more and he has shown he can be hittable at times. His superb strike-throwing abilities though would make him a very intriguing relief option for the Yankees.
\r\n
\r\n23. Ramon Flores - Flores bounced back from a disappointing 2009 season that saw him hit just .196 in the Gulf Coast League to hit .329 for them this past season, which ranked second in the league. Like Joseph and Murphy, the 18-year old Flores doesn't have great overall tools but he does possess elite hitting ability. Unlike those two, however, Flores, who doesn't seem likely to get the necessary reps in centerfield, will be playing a corner position where his power will be a bigger question mark. He does have good power but it remains to be seen how much it will develop further given his average size. Until that gets figured out though, he has the kind of bat that can carry him.
\r\n
\r\n24. Jose Ramirez - Like Stoneburner, statistically there's nothing not to like about Ramirez's season [6-5, 3.60 ERA] in his first taste of the long-season leagues, but yet the inconsistent breaking ball prevented him from securing one of the upper-echelon pitching prospect spots. And like Stoneburner, he has that kind of talent; big league power arm, big league plus changeup, aggressive approach to batters. He's the kind of guy who could become one of those top pitching prospects real soon.
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\r\n25. Abraham Almonte - Almonte seemed poised for a breakout season with the way he finished the 2009 campaign [.305 in the second half] and the blistering Spring Training camp he had until torn labrum shoulder surgery on his throwing arm in the first month of the season ended his year prematurely. His switch-hitting abilities, plus speed, and plus defensive abilities make him a good bet to be a big league reserve outfielder at minimum someday, but he also has the kind of five-tool talent to be a game-changing starting outfielder too if he continues to develop.
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\r\n26. Kyle Higashioka - Like Almonte, 'Higgy' has the kind of plus defensive game to safely project him as a big league reserve [catcher] player someday while he awaits the turning point in his development that could help him develop into a potential top prospect. He hit just .225 for the Charleston RiverDogs this past season but a lot of that was bad luck as he hit the ball hard right at guys. His plus approach, pitch recognition, and patience suggest his numbers should turn around in a big way rather soon. He's a big-time 'sleeper' prospect.
\r\n
\r\n27. Anderson Feliz - The converted shortstop turned second baseman is quickly becoming an organizational prospect favorite among team insiders because of his switch-hitting abilities and overall tools. He has spent the last couple of years getting stronger and now his power has started to show in games enough to now have a ceiling of a plus offensive player in the middle infield. He has a ton more speed than his meager stolen base numbers suggest, he just needs to become less gun-shy. The ceiling is significant here.
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\r\n28. Angelo Gumbs - The Yankees have prioritized getting stronger up the middle and Gumbs' selection in the second round is further proof of that. He's a bit of a right-handed hitting version of Feliz; plus speed, good contact hitting, above average power potential for a second baseman, athletic defensive abilities, etc, and he too can play shortstop if needed. He gives the Yankees yet another high upside middle infield prospect.
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\r\n29. Rob Segedin - There's mixed feelings among baseball people as to how Segedin, drafted as a third baseman in college, fits inside the organization. The prevailing thought is he projects as a Brandon Laird type [with a better arm] as a future corner outfielder who has the hitting ability and plus power potential to fit in nicely there. He hasn't shown those kind of abilities at the professional ranks just yet, but with his tremendous makeup it seems like a good possibility. Like Laird, he's going to have to put up the numbers to warrant the ranking going forward.
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\r\n30. Conor Mullee - Sleeper alert! The Yankees found a gem in the 24th round of the draft this year when they plucked Mullee, a college shortstop, among the masses. Despite pitching just a few innings in his career prior to the professional ranks, Mullee has already shown advanced baseball acumen. He picked up the delivery quickly, so much so that his effortless delivery disguises his fastball that routinely hits 95-98 mph with sink and they'll focus on a slider/cutter next year. He also shows great control for a pitcher so new to the mound. The kid screams upside.
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\r\n31. Eduardo Sosa - The emergence of Heathcott as a prospect and the drafting of Williams could be exactly what the doctor ordered competition-wise to kick the ultra-talented Sosa into gear. He had a much better showing this past season [.254, second on the team in doubles and stolen bases] after hitting just .200 in the Gulf Coast League a year ago. He is as talented as Mason Williams, if not more, and he has more natural power, but his shy demeanor has forced his game to take a little more time to become unshackled in the States. Should he ever get extremely comfortable here, watch out because the talent is there.
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\r\n32. Gabe Encinas - At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, this year's sixth round pick out of high school has good size to go with his potentially plus stuff. He has already shown a plus fastball-plus breaking ball combination and he has yet to make his professional debut, but he needs work on his changeup and pitching out of the stretch in general. He's got a huge ceiling but he also has enough stuff to work on to keep him grounded and humble going forward. Think Bryan Mitchell at a similar stage in their careers.
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\r\n33. Kelvin De Leon - De Leon has some of the best power in the Yankees farm system and he has transformed his once lackadaisical attitude into all-out hustle on the field over the past two years, but his development has been more slow than steady up to this point. He is still a bit of an adventure defensively in the outfield and the better breaking pitches do give him fits offensively, but there's no denying the ceiling is significant here. He's a little bit of a sink-or-swim prospect at this point.
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\r\n34. Nik Turley - Radar gun junkies aren't going to buy into Turley just yet because his fastball is merely big league average, but his curveball can be devastating as can his changeup. His delivery is smooth, he has a great pickoff move, and he has great size on the mound, the kind of size that should allow him to get stronger and possibly add some velocity down the road. But for now, as long as he keeps his emotions in-check and his resulting command is fine, he has enough to get hitters out routinely. He has a nice combination of safe projection and upside.
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\r\n35. Taylor Morton - Like Turley, Morton has some significant upside [albeit from the right side] coming out of high school. He sits mostly around the average range with his fastball as a starter, but he reportedly hit 95-96 mph as a reliever in his amateur days. His secondary pitches and delivery all need some work, but the size and looseness of his arm suggest some potential here.
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\r\n36. Shane Greene - Like Mullee, Greene falls into the 'sleeper' category. He has true plus stuff across the board - a 92-94 mph fastball with great sink, a plus slider that he commands a bit too inconsistently, and a plus changeup that also gets a ton of movement. In fact all of his pitches move. If he could get his delivery nailed down to where it's no longer an issue, he could skyrocket up the rankings. He projects best as a reliever but there's some potential here as a starter too if everything falls into place.
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\r\n37. Jairo Heredia - Heredia's career is at a crossroads. His plus curveball-plus changeup combination is among the best in the organization, but his once big league fastball has slipped down to the below average range velocity-wise and that has caused him to pitch backwards. The viscous cycle, however, is he can't get the power back until he starts using the fastball more. The 21-year old still has a ton going for him, including his stellar command to go with his plus secondary offerings, but his ranking in the Top 50 is very precarious for now until he gets some zip back with his fastball.
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\r\n38. Thomas Kahnle - Kahnle headlines a list of powerful reliever type prospects in the organization who are max effort hurlers and lack the requisite plus breaking pitch to be considered a top prospect just yet. He does have a nasty changeup though so he does have an edge on some of his competition down on the farm. The arm is a plus big league tool but there's a lot of work to do to get the most potential out of him.
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\r\n39. Jose Pirela - There's nothing flashy about Pirela's game with the exception of his all-out hustle. In fact, he's right up there with the likes of Brett Marshall among elite work ethics and he's the kind of winning player every organization needs. His tools are average across the board but he can play both shortstop and second base [his best position] if called upon, and he can do a few things offensively. He has the look of a big league bench player for now, but the kind that can be a huge positive.
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\r\n40. Evan Rutckyj - At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, and left-handed, Rutckyj has the look of a Turley type. With a fastball that sits 90-93 mph, a strong argument could be made that he has some better 'now' stuff. His secondary offerings are a bit further behind, however, but his hockey background in Canada does give him some great competitive drive. Like Turley, there's significant upside here.
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\r\n41. Shaeffer Hall - Seemingly coming out of nowhere to go a combined 11-7 with a 2.89 ERA between two A-ball levels, Hall was arguably one of the better stories in the Yankees farm system this year. The left-hander throws three pitches for strikes with ease and he knows how to pitch, so even though his fastball might not break 90 mph too often, he has now proven he has the stuff to get batters out. He's not a 'sexy' prospect because of the gun readings, but that doesn't detract from his value as a left-handed pitcher.
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\r\n42. Fu-Lin Kuo - Kuo is another 'sleeper' prospect, especially for those who only judge prospects by following stats online. He hit just .243 with four home runs for the Gulf Coast League Yankees in his debut season. He dominated Spring Training and Extended Spring Training, however, showing good speed and even better opposite field power, before tiring under the constraints of a long year away from his native land. He could have a Flores-like bounceback season next year.
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\r\n43. George Kontos - Like Heredia, Kontos' inclusion in these rankings is based more on reputation and history than on the 'now' stuff he has shown recently. Once able to sit 92-95 mph with a plus slider, his best projected role even a few years ago was that of a late-inning reliever. But even now when he has started that kind of role coming off of Tommy John surgery, the zip hasn't come back on the fastball yet. He can still get batters out but he needs that extra giddy-up to move back up in the rankings.
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\r\n44. Zoilo Almonte - Zoilo had his second straight solid season, hitting a combined .269 with 13 home runs and 15 home runs between low-A Charleston [he hit 10 home runs at that level] and high-A Tampa. He still strikes out a bit too much and he has a lot more potential he has yet to tap, but time is starting to run out for him to make strides in both areas in order to become that top prospect some team insiders believed he would be someday.
\r\n
\r\n45. Josh Romanski - Romanski is Shaeffer Hall-like in that he has a great ability to mix up all of his pitches for strikes at any point and in any count, and he knows how to attack batters. He does have a cutter, however, to give opposing hitters a different wrinkle. He doesn't have the best command of his cutter, but he can be extremely effective when he's locating it. Lefties who have a quality changeup-breaking ball combination, even ones like Romanski who sit 88-90 mph with the fastball, are valuable commodities.
\r\n
\r\n46. Evan DeLuca - With a 9.35 ERA and 24 walks in 26 innings in his debut season, DeLuca's inclusion in these rankings might come as a surprise. While there's no denying the fact that control is an issue that needs to be ironed out, the fact is that stuff-wise DeLuca is actually pretty advanced. With his a fastball in the 91-94 mph range from the left side, a curveball that can be a plus pitch when he pitches downhill, and a plus changeup, he's a lot better than the stats reveal. He also is a high makeup guy, has a good pickoff move, fields his position, etc. Getting a more consistent arm slot and release point are the only two things holding back from being a real quality prospect.
\r\n
\r\n47. Preston Claiborne - Claiborne is a bit of a reliever 'sleeper' for a few reasons. One, his fastball averages 90-94 mph with good movement. Second, he has a pretty good slider for a reliever drafted out of college. Third, his changeup is an out-pitch already. And fourth, his ultra-aggressive approach is what you want from a reliever. He still has some mechanical issues and the slider could be better, but the foundation is in place to be an intriguing potential big league reliever.
\r\n
\r\n48. Mikey O'Brien - O'Brien has some arm strength to him, able to hit 95-96 mph with his fastball when he's used in shorter stints. He also has a curveball that is rapidly getting more consistent and has plus potential to it to become a viable strikeout weapon. His smaller size does project him better as a reliever and his innate ability to keep the ball down and in the ball park suggests that could be a good role for him down the road.
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\r\n49. Zachary Varce - Tabbed a potentially David Robertson-like relief prospect by Yankee scouts when he was drafted, Varce put up some numbers as a starting pitcher in Staten Island this year, including 74 strikeouts in 71 innings. His fastball sat around 90 mph in that role, however, so it remains to be seen if he can get it back up to the 92-93 mph range he had in college. Conventional wisdom suggests he can and with his curveball-slider combination, he could be an impact reliever should the fastball velocity bump back up again.
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\r\n50. Reymond Nunez - A strained hamstring limited Nunez to just 27 games with the Gulf Coast League Yankees and he hit just .222 with three home runs. His swing can still get a little long at times, but even though he plays a power-hitting position like first base, Nunez, whose power grades only below that of Jesus Montero, still has the juice to become a top prospect someday if everything falls into place.
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