OF, Jake Cave: The former sixth round pick who missed his first two seasons with knee injuries has really blossomed into one of the better all-around outfield prospects for the Yankees. He hit a combined .294 between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this season and even saw his slugging percentage increase the higher he climbed.
Some of his doubles from 2013 are starting to turn into home runs and he's gone from a little suspect defensively in centerfield to showing the ability to man the position more than admirably on a daily basis as of late. Ranked in the mid-20's entering the 2014 season, he's clearly shown to be one of the better Yankee prospects these days.
OF, Dustin Fowler: Drafted in the 18th round out of high school a year ago, he had an okay showing in his debut season with the GCL Yankees in 2013 [.241, 8 doubles in 30 games] but was buried a little bit among the lower level depth. He turned some heads with a terrific Extended Spring Training, however, and followed it up with a very solid showing in low-A ball, hitting .257 and clubbing nine home runs in just 66 games.
With a real looseness in his swing and a better than average patient approach at the plate, there's some significant upside to his game that has to be tapped. A little quiet and shy too, there's a chance he could be a dynamic offensive player once he comes out of his shell. He wasn't ranked in the Top 50 entering the season and he's clearly proven that was a mistake.
OF, Aaron Judge: Last year's first round pick found residence in the Top 20 merely on his reputation as a high-ceiling player since nobody was able to get a look at him at the professional level last year when he immediately suffered a quad injury that kept him out of action until Spring Training this year.
Forget the fact that this 6-foot-7 behemoth slugged 17 home runs in his debut season -- that was expected -- what wasn't, however, was just how polished a hitter he truly is. He batted a combined .308 over two A-ball levels and led the farm system in walks with 89. Throw in above average defensive potential too, he's quickly become a top three prospect in the farm system and one of the better prospects in all of baseball.
SS, Jorge Mateo: Passive onlookers will look at his mere 15 games played in the Gulf Coast League this year and zero home runs and perhaps come away unimpressed. Don't be fooled, however. He is absolutely one of the most dynamic prospects in the entire Yankee farm system.
With plus speed, above average power potential, and plus arm strength, he is a virtual tool shed that conjures up images of a right-handed hitting version of Jose Reyes at the shortstop position. Like a young Reyes coming up too, while there will most likely be little in the way of walks given his aggressiveness at the plate, he is a pretty polished hitter overall and he is soaring up the Yankee prospect rankings given his rare abilities.
2B, Rob Refsnyder: Arguably nobody's stock has risen as much as this former College World Series MVP. He followed up his tremendous first full season in 2013 that saw him lead the farm system in hitting with a .293 average with an even better year in 2014, leading the farm system once again in hitting but this time with a .318 average.
He also more than doubled his home run production from the previous, saw continued improvement defensively at second base, and did so at the highest minor league levels. There's no arguing it now -- he is one of the top prospects in the farm system.
RHP, Nick Rumbelow: The former LSU closer had about as great a first full season as anyone can possibly have in 2014, advancing four full levels and pretty much dominating every step of the way [2.62 ERA, 81 strikeouts in 58.1 innings], and knock on the big league door by getting to Triple-A so quickly.
He went from a high-ceiling reliever type at the lower levels with some question marks to now sitting on the very short list of potential impact relief pitchers able to be called upon by the big league club if needed next season. Talk about your stock on the rise!
SS, Tyler Wade: Perhaps one of the more unheralded story lines in the 2014 minor league season was the year put together by last year's 4th round pick out of high school. There wasn't anything too eye-popping numbers-wise this season -- he hit .272 with just one home run -- but it's the kind of consistent play he showed as a 19-year old that should not be lost on critics.
He hit .269 in his first 62 games in low-A ball this year and .275 in his final 67 games with nearly identical OPS numbers too. Not a home run hitter, he is going to continue to fly under the radar nationally but, not a Top 50 prospect entering the season, he is quickly proving he belongs with the better prospects and there's still some untapped potential too.
Others Whose Stock Is Rising: Angel Aguilar, Dante Bichette Jr., Chris Breen, Alexander Palma, and Tyler Webb.
SS, Cito Culver: A gifted defensive shortstop, the fact is this former first round pick's offensive game has not developed nearly enough to help offset his sliding prospect status. He doesn't need to be a world-beater at the plate given his plus defensive skills, but the 22-year old is coming off of a career low .601 OPS. His offense is getting worse, not better.
RHP, Rookie Davis: He entered the season in terrific shape and seemed poised to have a breakout year after finishing the 2013 campaign with a significant velocity spike, sitting mostly in the 92-95 mph range. Well, the velocity was there all year for him in Charleston but he still only posted a 4.93 ERA and it's because his secondary pitches not only didn't show any progress but in some ways regressed. He's not a fading prospect necessarily but he does need a turnaround in 2015.
2B, Angelo Gumbs: This former second round pick has surely had a rough go of it the past two years, hitting just .213 and .233 respectively. Tools-wise there aren't too many who can boast better, but the fact is he can't stay healthy [he has yet to amass 400 at-bats in a season] and the constant state of flux of being in and out of the lineup has left him pressing at the plate. There's still a world of talent here but the fact is neither the health nor the production have been there yet.
OF, Slade Heathcott: See Gumbs above.
OF, Mason Williams: Not nearly the inept or sullen prospect some national critics have painted him to be, the fact still remains that this former top prospect has seen a significant dip in production the higher he has climbed through the minor leagues. And once thought of as a potential impact big league player in waiting by nearly everyone, Williams, who hit a career low .223 this season for Double-A Trenton, has now seen his average and OPS decrease significantly each year the past four seasons. He is approaching 'do or die' time in 2015.
Others Whose Stock Is Falling: Jordan Cote, Claudio Custodio, Anderson Feliz, and Fred Lewis.
Stock Rising, Stock Falling
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