Nine Teams, Nine Sleepers

The Yankees have nine minor league teams from the Dominican Summer League all the way up to Triple-A. Each teams has its fair share of top prospects, but each team also has some 'sleeper' prospects the pundits choose to overlook so we point out which ones to keep an eye on.

Triple-A Scranton: OF, Taylor Dugas: Being drafted in the eighth round as a college senior like Dugas was back in 2012 almost immediately relegates one to 'sleeper' status but throw in limited power potential in a 5-foot-9 frame and rather average speed, and that pretty much caps out his ceiling too. However, with strike zone discipline second to none, including an ability to walk more than he strikes out [he has 29 more walks than strikeouts in his minor league career], an ability to hit consistently [he owns a career .295 batting average], and the ability to play all three outfield positions in more than serviceable fashion, now that he has ascended all the way to Triple-A that 'sleeper' status ceiling looks pretty close to being fulfilled someday soon.

Double-A Trenton: 2B, Jaron Long: Whether it's Ali Catillo's plus defensive abilities at shortstop and knack for putting the ball in play consistently or former third round pick Rob Segedin and his recently surgically repaired hips finally getting healthy, the Yankees have more than a handful of potential 'sleeper' candidates at the Double-A level. However, Long, an undrafted free agent signing out of Ohio State, has all of the earmarks of a potential big league contributor despite not having top prospect stuff. He'll only average 88-91 mph on the radar gun but with three big league average secondary pitches and plus command of four pitches overall he could prove to be valuable as a potential long reliever, spot starter, and/or middle reliever for the Yankees. Those kind of pitchers are important too.

High-A Tampa: 1B, Mike Ford: Oft-injured players coming up through the minor leagues usually help provide the biggest pool of 'sleeper' candidates because a return to full health can help one get squarely back on the prospect map. This year's high-A Tampa squad has a laundry list of potential candidates that fit that bill; first baseman Matt Snyder, former shortstops turned outfielders Anderson Feliz and Claudio Custodio, and even catcher Kyle Higashioka in his recent comeback bid from Tommy John surgery. However, Ford is another undrafted free agent signing who has the requisite plus-plus plate discipline [he walks more than he strikes out], the kind of left-handed pull power that could be tailor-made for Yankee Stadium, and just enough positional versatility [he's an okay defensive third baseman in emergency situations] that could allow him to sneak up on folks in the coming years. And unlike some of the other 'sleeper' candidates from this squad, he's proven to be relatively healthy thus far.

Low-A Charleston: OF, Michael O'Neill: Just like the Tampa team, there's no shortage of potential 'sleeper' candidates who could help contribute at the big league level someday. Whether it's left-handed pitcher Chaz Hebert and his solid mix of three big league pitches, right-handed pitcher Andy Beresford and his plus sinker, 26-year old right-handed reliever Conor Mullee making his way back from his third Tommy John surgery, or even backup catcher Eduardo De Oleo with his nice blend of power and solid defensive abilities, the RiverDogs boast some potential long-term help. However, O'Neill, another college senior draftee, might have the best chance of all them given his solid combination of power, speed, and defensive versatility. He has a little too much swing and miss to ever be a top prospect but he might have just enough elsewhere to force his way into big league reserve outfielder discussions if he keeps putting up numbers.

Short-Season Staten Island: RHP, Sean Carley: The majority of 'sleeper' candidates from this year's Staten Island team all toe the rubber. Left-handers Jordan Montgomery and Rony Bautista, and right-handers Jordan Foley, Jonathan Holder, and Joe Harvey each have at least one plus pitch that give them a chance long-term with the Yankees, but all of them put up respectable or better numbers in 2014. Carley, however, posted a 5.48 ERA and the rather pedestrian numbers actually belie his natural talent. He was putting it all together by season's end this year, including sitting 93-96 mph with his fastball and had a late-developing plus slider. Throw in better than average command and he's a guy who could not only surprise some folks but do it in extremely quick fashion. He's a potential impact reliever

Gulf Coast League Yankees2: 2B, Junior Valera: Undrafted free agent signing Tyler Palmer absolutely fits the 'sleeper' mold, especially given his average or better tools across the board. A little more use of the entire field when he hits could help begin to tap some of his considerable potential. However, Valera is actually a bit more of a 'sleeper' given his below average power potential and considering he just turned 22 years old, and has yet to make it out of the rookie leagues. The Dominican native has worked tirelessly on becoming a switch-hitter though to make better use of his plus speed and things are beginning to come together for him. He now has great plate discipline and his power is beginning to emerge into the useful realm. His leash is getting short age-wise but he could be ready to surprise some folks here soon.

Gulf Coast League Yankees1: C, Alavaro Noriega: On the subject of beginning to emerge, this Colombian native seems oh-so close to becoming a complete player. Already a plus catch and throw guy behind the plate, one who tangibly makes his pitchers better with his ability to frame pitches and shut down the running game, the recently turned 20-year old has a bit more offensive potential than his numbers [.252, no home runs] suggest. He lacks the power to ever be considered a top prospect but there could be just enough hitting ability and plus defensive abilities to forge himself a Francisco Cervelli-like career going forward.

Dominican Summer League Yankees2: SS, Ricardo Ferreira: Not a high-dollar signing, this Dominican native is the newest version of Junior Valera in that he brings plus to potentially plus-plus speed and is only now learning how to switch-hit. A better defensive shortstop than Valera, however, the soon to be 20-year old does lack power but he has great patience at the plate, a good idea of the strike zone, and enough hitting ability to potentially force his way into long-term prospect discussions. Think a switch-hitting version of Tyler Wade for his upside. If you're looking for a deeper REM 'sleeper' be sure to pay attention to catcher Eduardo Navas. The 18-year old Venezuelan backstop has already been compared to a left-handed hitting version of Francisco Cervelli as an advanced catch and throw guy.

Dominican Summer League Yankees1: SS/2B, Griffin Garrabito: In almost any other year he might not be considered a true 'sleeper' given the fact that this Dominican native signed for $225,000. However, signed just this year, he pales in comparison to the numerous 7-figure bonus guys the Yankees collected in 2014. He played in just ten DSL games this year and is already getting a lot of Jose Pirela comps for his solid tool set. And like Pirela, second base probably will wind up being his best defensive position, especially given the stable of shortstop prospects the Yankees just signed and already have in the system. If you're looking for another REM 'sleeper' keep an eye on catcher David Vergel, yet another advanced catch and throw guy who has Francisco Cervelli-like upside.


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