Yankees' All-Prospect Team -- Second Team
Catcher, Luis Torrens: While there is certainly a strong argument to be made regarding who should be the third team catcher, there is no debate as to whom are among the top two. And while we're putting the 18-year old Venezuelan native here on the second team, it isn't a slam dunk that he shouldn't be considered for first team honors. He is already way ahead defensively of where Gary Sanchez [spoiler alert: he made first team honors at this position] was at a similar age and while the numbers might not support it just yet [a career average of .249 thus far], the offensive approach is more consistent too. There is also some untapped power potential as well but Sanchez is clearly swinging a more powerful bat and that has Torrens landing on the second team for now. Torrens though is oh-so close to breaking out so it would not be surprising for him to slide up as soon as 2015.
First Base, Kyle Roller: We mentioned already that first base is not the deepest of positions for the Yankees down on the farm but that should not detract from what this former 7th round pick has been able to accomplish over the years. Long lauded as a 'sleeper' prospect given his power potential, he began tapping that potential this past season, hitting a combined .300 with 30 doubles and 26 home runs between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. He's not strictly designated hitter material either, he can play more than an adequate defensive first base, and his power to the pull-side is tremendous and tailor-made for Yankee Stadium. At 26 years old [he will turn 27 in Spring Training next year] he gets wildly overlooked but he could provide some much needed punch to the big league lineup if given the opportunity.
Second Base, Jose Pirela: We tabbed this Venezuelan native entering the season as one of the top 'untapped' talents despite the fact that he had previously accumulated parts of three seasons at the Double-A level and all he did was respond with a career-high .305 average for Triple-A Scranton in 2014. Long overlooked by many due to his lack of plus power or speed, the fact remains that he consistently gives good at-bats [he has never struck out more than 100 times in a season], he plays average or better defense [especially at second base where it is clearly above average] at a couple of different positions, and he has just enough power and speed to be a mainstay contributor. He has now elevated the consistency in his game too, no longer just the second-half spark he used to be. A mid-season Triple-A All Star and a post-season All Star, he seems poised to be a season-long force if given the opportunity.
Shortstop, Abiatal Avelino: The inclusion of this 19-year old Dominican native on the second team might come as a surprise to some given the fact that he amassed just 61 games this past season and hit just a combined .247 on the year, and pundits might suggest his placement here is more of a referendum on the state of the shortstop position for the Yankees down on the farm [which in part is somewhat true], but the fact is his game, despite his youth and experience, is that solid already. He is a steady defensive force, he has a knack for putting the ball in play and barreling the baseball, burgeoning average big league power for a middle infielder, and the right blend of speed and aggressiveness on the base paths. He shouldn't get dinged for being hurt this past season -- he still has the kind of mature overall game that could allow him to be a quick riser through the minor leagues.
Third Base, Eric Jagielo: Like Avelino, last year's first overall pick by the Yankees had his first full season marred by injury. In his case it was an oblique strain that kept him out of action for nearly seven weeks. Yet he still managed to club 18 home runs in just 332 at-bats after skipping a minor league level. The power potential is very legit, borderline plus, and even though he hit just .256 this past season there have been signs that there is a lot more batting potential too. Defensively is where the concerns are more warranted. He doesn't project to be more than an average defensive third baseman at the big league level and that could be problematic long-term as he gets older, and it may prompt a position change to left field or first base down the road, but for now he is a potential impact hitter at a position of little depth across all of professional baseball.
Outfielders; Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott, and Mason Williams: Here is where critics of the farm system naturally and rightfully get a lot of ammunition in their pessimistic view of the Yankee minor league system. All three outfielders had disappointing 2014 campaigns; Flores hit just .247 with seven home runs for Triple-A Scranton, Williams hit just .223 with five home runs for Double-A Trenton, and Heathcott managed just nine games for Trenton before a third knee surgery ended his season really before it began. While baseball is almost entirely viewed from a statistical point of view, grading burgeoning big league prospects in a vacuum like that numbers-wise can be problematic as these players are not fully developed. All three have had significant injuries over the past two years that have hampered their time on the field and the development on it, but it shouldn't detract from the natural talent they possess. All three have the requisite skills to be big league reserve outfielders at minimum, all three are still young for their levels [only Heathcott is 24 years old and he just turned 24 this offseason], and all three still have significant ceilings that would make it foolish for anyone to write any three of them off just yet.
Starting Pitchers; Domingo Acevedo, Jose Campos, Simon De La Rosa, Ty Hensley, and Caleb Smith: There is such a mixed bag when viewing all five pitchers as a group. A combination of health issues, inexperience, and inconsistency are littered among them, but yet what all five have in common is the ability to flat-out dominate a game when things are clicking for them. Campos and Hensley haven't exactly been the bastions of health over the past two years. Campos had an elbow issue that limited him to strict pitch counts in 2013 that ultimately ended in Tommy John surgery this past season and Hensley, who has had abnormalities in both his shoulder and hips corrected, has been limited to a grand total of 42-plus innings since his first round selection in 2012. Still, both are on the mend, both have above average to plus big league fastballs, both have above average to plus secondary offerings, and both have a high level of pitch-ability, giving each of them long-term potential as front-half of the rotation big league starting pitchers someday. Acevedo and De La Rosa have similar ceilings too, but both haven't been pitching all that long yet. Both Dominican natives, Acevedo is an absolute horse, standing 6-foot-7 and firing 95-99 mph fastballs with relative ease, and the kind of plus changeup and innate striking-throwing abilities that puts him ahead of schedule in comparison to Dellin Betances at similar stages in their careers. De La Rosa, a "smurf" in comparison to Acevedo, possesses a Luis Severino-like arm and body type, and just needs a similar changeup to potentially move as fast as Severino. Smith, a left-hander with a sneaky-quick fastball that will sit 91-94 mph but plays at a higher level and a changeup that is a plus big league pitch, just needs to step up the consistency from start to start before tapping his potential as a middle of the rotation type starting pitcher.
Relievers; James Pazos and Tyler Webb: While inconsistencies and high-ceilings abound among the aforementioned starting pitching prospects, that is not nearly the case with these two left-handed relievers. Pazos, a 13th round pick in 2012, has been mowing down batters for over a year now. He finished his first taste of Double-A this year posting a scintillating 1.50 ERA and holding batters to a paltry .190 average. While it's easy to see how he could be so effective against left-handed batters with his 91-97 mph fastball and killer slider, the fact is he's nearly as effective against right-handers too, holding them to a .205 average in the Eastern League this year. While Webb, a tenth round pick a year ago, isn't nearly as powerful, sitting mostly in the 90-94 mph range, he can be nearly as effective too. All he did in 2014 was post a combined 3.80 ERA over three minor league levels, ascend all the way to Triple-A, and strike out 94 batters in just 68.2 innings. And like Pazos, he's not just a left-handed specialist. In fact, Webb, who gets so much tailing action on his fastball, actually limited right-handed batters to just a .176 batting average in Triple-A this year. Both productive hurlers are on the cusp of helping out the big league bullpen soon.
Yankees' All Prospect Team -- Second Team
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