Making The Case For Number One Next Year

It seems most national prospect analysts are finally wising up to what our PinstripesPlus.com subscribers have gradually seen develop over the last few seasons – the Yankee farm system is now not only among the best in baseball, it still has room to grow. Here are some things that could happen in 2011 that could garner them consideration for the top spot next offseason.

The national analysts have already considered the likes of catchers Jesus Montero and Gary Sanchez, and pitchers Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Brackman among the Top 100 prospects in the game. That kind of designation is usually what gets farm systems the needed notoriety to garner attention for the top spot.

Steady performances by these five prospects would make the case for the top spot next year a lot stronger. Conventional wisdom says, however, that there's a good chance that Montero, widely considered a top ten prospect in the game right now, will graduate to the big league level in 2011.

Should he use up his rookie eligibility this coming year, the Yankees still have the kind of depth to move up in the rankings a year from now. We'll go on the premise that Montero will NOT be eligible next year.

Here's how the Yankees get there:

1. Slade Heathcott breaks out. Tools-wise, Heathcott is a no-doubt, Top 100 prospect in the game right now but the production in what was essentially his debut season last year lagged behind his sky-high potential. Should he put together a representative season that comes close to matching his tools, hitting somewhere in the .280 range with 30-40 stolen bases, which is more than possible, he should garner more national attention. His production would be needed to offset the potential loss of Montero's prospect status.

2. Austin Romine finishes what he started. A disappointing .249 average in the second-half highlighted a swoon that took him out of Top 100 prospect consideration, a category he had firmly entrenched himself in a year ago when he won the Florida State League Hitter of the Year honors. Should he go back to that offensive level, or come close to mirroring his .313 average on the road last season [he had great difficulty hitting at home in Waterfronnt Park] this coming year, doesn't seem to far-fetched.

3. David Adams stays healthy and productive. Breaking up a double-play towards the end of May last year ruined what seemed to be the continuation of his coming out party as a national prospect. His game is above average in nearly every way with his plate discipline, swing, and approach on the plus side. If he can continue to hit like he did in 2009 and at the beginning of 2010 before he got hurt, he too will garner some serious consideration for the back-end of the Top 100 prospects in the game.

4. Bradley Suttle OR Melky Mesa keeps progressing. Both had very strong seasons in 2010. Mesa, who won the 2010 Florida State League Hitter of the Year award, finally started figuring out how to hit breaking pitches and going to the opposite field more, and Suttle found his game again with a very strong second-half in the pitching-friendly Florida State League last year. It stands to reason that both could have similar type success in the Eastern League in 2011, but if only one were to accomplish that feat, it would only add to the perceived depth of impact bats in the Yankee farm system at the upper levels and such a performance could put either of them in that Top 100 consideration.

5. Adam Warren, Brett Marshall, Graham Stoneburner, OR Jose Ramirez develops that consistent plus breaking pitch. All four throw consistently in the low to mid-90's already, all four are mechanically sound, all four have above average to plus big league changeups, and all four throw strikes. All four, however, have sliders or curveballs with plus potential but are missing that consistent command right now. Should one of them develop that slider or curveball into the consistent plus range, the Yankees could have another Top 100 pitching prospect on their hands.

6. Abraham Almonte OR Kyle Higashioka becomes productive. Both are elite defensive players and both have so much offensive upside, but neither has put together the type of offensive season a lot of insiders believe they are capable of producing. If one of them could become a consistent .280 or .290 hitter in 2011 [both have done it for half of a season in their careers], they both have the kind of power and patience at the plate that their other numbers would surely follow. It might not be enough for either of them to land in the Top 100 prospects because of the lack of history, but the total packages would put them in the discussion.

7. A 2010 draftee bursts on to the scene. The Yankees are not short on potential candidates here, highlighted by the likes of Mason Williams, Cito Culver, and Angelo Gumbs. All three have the outstanding tools and play such exceptional defense in the middle infield that should one of them have a representational strong offensive season, any of the three would jump into the national discussion. Throw in an unheralded Gabe Encinas on the mound, the Yankees have some serious candidates.

8. One current States-side International prospect keeps progressing. Whether it is Anderson Feliz, Eduardo Sosa, Kelvin De Leon, Ramon Flores, Fu-Lin Kuo, or Reymond Nunez, should one of them take that next step in their development and break out offensively, they all have the sky-high ceilings that would enamor them to scouts.

9. One new Dominican Summer League import or International signing has a great States-side debut. Again, the Yankees have incredible depth here. Pick your poison - Ravel Santana, Chris Cabrera, Claudio Custodio, Rafael DePaula, and Wilmer Romero - they all have the tools and potential to be eventual Top 100 prospects someday and neither of them have made it to the United States. As Jesus Montero and Gary Sanchez before them have proven, becoming one of the top producers in the Gulf Coast League, with those kinds of tools, will garner you Top 100 prospect status consideration.

10. Another strong draft and/or International signing period. Hardly anyone available to the Yankees where they draft in the order would get instant Top 100 prospect attention in 2011, but another strong 2010-like draft of high upside bats and arms, or one or two more high-impact players signed Internationally, would only increase the already strong system's depth at the lower levels.

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\r\n \r\n\r\nThe national analysts have already considered the likes of catchers Jesus Montero and Gary Sanchez, and pitchers Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Brackman among the Top 100 prospects in the game. That kind of designation is usually what gets farm systems the needed notoriety to garner attention for the top spot.
\r\n
\r\nSteady performances by these five prospects would make the case for the top spot next year a lot stronger. Conventional wisdom says, however, that there's a good chance that Montero, widely considered a top ten prospect in the game right now, will graduate to the big league level in 2011.
\r\n
\r\nShould he use up his rookie eligibility this coming year, the Yankees still have the kind of depth to move up in the rankings a year from now. We'll go on the premise that Montero will NOT be eligible next year.
\r\n
\r\nHere's how the Yankees get there:
\r\n
\r\n1. Slade Heathcott breaks out. Tools-wise, Heathcott is a no-doubt, Top 100 prospect in the game right now but the production in what was essentially his debut season last year lagged behind his sky-high potential. Should he put together a representative season that comes close to matching his tools, hitting somewhere in the .280 range with 30-40 stolen bases, which is more than possible, he should garner more national attention. His production would be needed to offset the potential loss of Montero's prospect status.
\r\n
\r\n2. Austin Romine finishes what he started. A disappointing .249 average in the second-half highlighted a swoon that took him out of Top 100 prospect consideration, a category he had firmly entrenched himself in a year ago when he won the Florida State League Hitter of the Year honors. Should he go back to that offensive level, or come close to mirroring his .313 average on the road last season [he had great difficulty hitting at home in Waterfronnt Park] this coming year, doesn't seem to far-fetched.
\r\n
\r\n3. David Adams stays healthy and productive. Breaking up a double-play towards the end of May last year ruined what seemed to be the continuation of his coming out party as a national prospect. His game is above average in nearly every way with his plate discipline, swing, and approach on the plus side. If he can continue to hit like he did in 2009 and at the beginning of 2010 before he got hurt, he too will garner some serious consideration for the back-end of the Top 100 prospects in the game.
\r\n
\r\n4. Bradley Suttle OR Melky Mesa keeps progressing. Both had very strong seasons in 2010. Mesa, who won the 2010 Florida State League Hitter of the Year award, finally started figuring out how to hit breaking pitches and going to the opposite field more, and Suttle found his game again with a very strong second-half in the pitching-friendly Florida State League last year. It stands to reason that both could have similar type success in the Eastern League in 2011, but if only one were to accomplish that feat, it would only add to the perceived depth of impact bats in the Yankee farm system at the upper levels and such a performance could put either of them in that Top 100 consideration.
\r\n
\r\n5. Adam Warren, Brett Marshall, Graham Stoneburner, OR Jose Ramirez develops that consistent plus breaking pitch. All four throw consistently in the low to mid-90's already, all four are mechanically sound, all four have above average to plus big league changeups, and all four throw strikes. All four, however, have sliders or curveballs with plus potential but are missing that consistent command right now. Should one of them develop that slider or curveball into the consistent plus range, the Yankees could have another Top 100 pitching prospect on their hands.
\r\n
\r\n6. Abraham Almonte OR Kyle Higashioka becomes productive. Both are elite defensive players and both have so much offensive upside, but neither has put together the type of offensive season a lot of insiders believe they are capable of producing. If one of them could become a consistent .280 or .290 hitter in 2011 [both have done it for half of a season in their careers], they both have the kind of power and patience at the plate that their other numbers would surely follow. It might not be enough for either of them to land in the Top 100 prospects because of the lack of history, but the total packages would put them in the discussion.
\r\n
\r\n7. A 2010 draftee bursts on to the scene. The Yankees are not short on potential candidates here, highlighted by the likes of Mason Williams, Cito Culver, and Angelo Gumbs. All three have the outstanding tools and play such exceptional defense in the middle infield that should one of them have a representational strong offensive season, any of the three would jump into the national discussion. Throw in an unheralded Gabe Encinas on the mound, the Yankees have some serious candidates.
\r\n
\r\n8. One current States-side International prospect keeps progressing. Whether it is Anderson Feliz, Eduardo Sosa, Kelvin De Leon, Ramon Flores, Fu-Lin Kuo, or Reymond Nunez, should one of them take that next step in their development and break out offensively, they all have the sky-high ceilings that would enamor them to scouts.
\r\n
\r\n9. One new Dominican Summer League import or International signing has a great States-side debut. Again, the Yankees have incredible depth here. Pick your poison - Ravel Santana, Chris Cabrera, Claudio Custodio, Rafael DePaula, and Wilmer Romero - they all have the tools and potential to be eventual Top 100 prospects someday and neither of them have made it to the United States. As Jesus Montero and Gary Sanchez before them have proven, becoming one of the top producers in the Gulf Coast League, with those kinds of tools, will garner you Top 100 prospect status consideration.
\r\n
\r\n10. Another strong draft and/or International signing period. Hardly anyone available to the Yankees where they draft in the order would get instant Top 100 prospect attention in 2011, but another strong 2010-like draft of high upside bats and arms, or one or two more high-impact players signed Internationally, would only increase the already strong system's depth at the lower levels.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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\r\n

\r\n

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