Yankees vs. Red Sox: Second Base Prospects

Comparing what the Yankees and Red Sox have at each position in the minor leagues, we take a look at the crop of second base prospects in each system. Which system is deeper? Which prospects have the most power? The highest ceilings? Take a look at this comparison between the two rival AL East farm systems.

The Two Farm Systems: Both organizations took a hit depth-wise at the position at the upper levels, especially after Boston's Mookie Betts, arguably the top second base prospect in either farm system entering the season, burned through his big league rookie eligibility in 2014. The Yankees lost some depth at the position too after Corban Joseph was released from the organization back in August [and is now part of the Atlanta Braves organization]. While the loss of Betts' prospect status stings a bit at the upper minor league levels for the Red Sox, it's not as if they still don't have a quality upper-level second base prospect coming up right behind him.

Sean Coyle, Boston's third round pick out of high school back in 2010, enjoyed a solid bounce-back season of sorts in 2014, hitting .295 with 16 home runs for Double-A Portland in just 336 at-bats. He currently ranks as Boston's top second base prospect and, creeping up closer to being big league ready, he is in line to be their Triple-A second baseman in 2015. An all-out hustle style of play has left him enduring a series of nagging injuries over the past two years [he amassed just 240 at-bats in 2013], however, and it's brought some long-term concerns with his durability. Standing just 5-foot-8, he often gets compared to current Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia for his gritty style of play, his surprising power-speed combination, and his high makeup. The talent has been and remains obvious, now the question is can he stay on the field consistently.

The Yankees have a pair of big league ready second baseman of their own right now, highlighted by Rob Refsnyder, New York's fifth round pick in 2012. He led the entire Yankee farm system with a combined .318 batting average [a career high] between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, and also set career-high marks with 38 doubles and 14 home runs. He has great plate discipline, average power power potential, and despite media reports to the contrary the former outfielder has turned himself into more than a serviceable defensive player at second. He will be battling for the starting second base job with the big league club in Spring Training in 2015.

He'll be battling Jose Pirela for the job. Pirela had a mini-breakout season of his own in 2015, hitting a career-high .305 for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this past season. The recently turned 25-year old Venezuelan native was the model of consistency too. In fact, he was the only mid-season and post-season International League All Star in 2014. The tools are merely average so the upside is somewhat limited; the power is more of the gap variety and his speed rates as perhaps a tick above average, but he shows good plate discipline, uses the whole field when he hits, and even though he is an above average defensive player at second, he shows some positional versatility too by being able to play some left field, third base, and some shortstop as well.

Boston has a pair of talented second baseman that are starting to filter up into the middle minor league levels in the form of Wendell Rijo and Carlos Asuaje. Rijo, an International free agent signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, is built like a younger version of Pirela. He hit a respectable .254 with 27 doubles and nine home runs this past season for low-A Greenville in his first taste of the long-season leagues as a 19-year old. A former shortstop, he shows the requisite physical skills to be a plus defender at second but the Dominican native can have some Eduardo Nunez-like moments where he'll boot routine plays. Still, the upside is pretty significant for a middle infielder but it's more in lines of a Refsnyder-like ceiling.

All Asuaje has done since his 13th round selection out of college a year ago is hit a combined .300 with 50 doubles, 13 triples, 16 home runs, and draw 86 walks in just 181 career games thus far. A jack of all trades, he plays pretty much every position except catcher and pitcher but second base is clearly his best profile position both offensively and defensively. At 5-foot-9, there isn't much ceiling in this left-handed bat and his numbers are a little misleading. His power is average at best -- he's more of a gap hitter -- and despite stealing just eight bases so far his speed is actually above average. He could be pigeon-holed into a utility role long-term given his versatility but there could be some 'sleeper'-like potential as a starting second baseman should the Red Sox ever give him that opportunity.

The Yankees have a pair of high-ceiling prospects of their own at the A-ball levels. In fact, Angelo Gumbs has had and potentially still has one of the higher ceilings of any second base prospect in either organization. However, dealing with an array of injuries over the past two years has not only kept him off of the field for significant chunks of time but it's left him trying to force the issue when he has been healthy enough to play. Tools-wise, everything is there; above average speed, average or better power potential, plus bat speed, and the above average or better defensive abilities. And makeup-wise, he is a tireless worker. His biggest problems are staying healthy and allowing the game to come to him more, and now he needs an immediatley productive season to stay in prospect discussions.

Gosuke Katoh, New York's second round pick in the 2013 MLB draft, had a bit of a disappointing first full season this year. He hit just .222 for low-A Charleston after hitting a robust .310 in his debut season in the Gulf Coast League a year ago. Like Gumbs there are some tangible physical tools that scream upside; above average speed, average or better power potential, and average or better defensive abilities. The recently turned 20 year old also shows advanced patience at the plate too. Like Gumbs though, he could stand to be shorter to the ball when he hits and make using the whole field more of a consistent priority. There's potential to be a difference-maker on both sides of the ball, he just has to physically get stronger and be more consistent in his approach.

Outside of Coyle, Rijo, and Asuaje, Boston doesn't have a whole lot of legitimate in-house starting second base prospects. Their better depth at the position is more of the organizational variety, headlined by Reed Gragnani. The former University of Virginia standout can hit and has off the charts plate discipline. However, more average than anything defensively, he doesn't run particularly well and he has little to no home run power so his ceiling is more of a potential utility player long-term.

Behind Gragnani is a litany of solid organizational types for Boston, including, but not limited to Deiner Lopez, Hector Lorenzana, and Jeremy Rivera, none of whom project to have even average power potential and fall more in the lines of organizational type bats going forward.

The Yankees on the other hand have considerably more ceiling among their short-season league second baseman, highlighted by 2014 tenth round pick Ty McFarland. McFarland falls more in the Gragnani camp as a plus plate discipline, line-drive type hitter who also offers some positional flexibility. The former college third baseman has begun transitioning to second base and has shown some signs of potentially turning himself into an adequate defender. At 6-foot-3, however, there is some adequate long-term power potential that could prove to have a Daniel Murphy-like ceiling if he can continue to make strides defensively.

Junior Valera, a Dominican native, fits into the McFarland category as an offensive-minded second baseman whose defensive abilities lag behind the bat right now. The 22-year old is a plus runner all the way and has spent his first three professional seasons learning how to switch-hit, and has turned himself into a solid hitter with good plate discipline. He hit .316 in the Gulf Coast League this past year, walked nearly as much as he struck out, and is even starting to show adequate power potential too. The glove needs some work but there's a Luis Castillo-like ceiling here.

Even behind McFarland and Valera the Yankees still have quite a stable of potential starting second base candidates, including Bryan Cuevas who led the Gulf Coast League in hitting, newly signed Griffin Garrabito who has immediately drawn some Jose Pirela comparisons, Welfrin Mateo who batted .290 in the Dominican Summer League and also draws some Pirela comps, and Jose Rosario. All are much further down on the depth chart for the Yankees and still have to play their way into higher prospect discussions, but all of them have that potential.

If you're looking for deep 'REM sleepers' the Yankees have a pair of candidates in Anderson Feliz and Claudio Custodio. Both are wildly talented and yet both have been injured so often that they've both begun playing some outfield in an effort to keep them fresher and on the field longer. Neither are legit second base candidates right now [and thus neither are considered for the categories below] but they shouldn't be completely forgotten either.

Both farm systems could have some potential game-changers should certain prospects change positions to full-time second baseman down the road, including Boston's Michael Chavis and Mauricio Dubon, and New York's Angel Aguilar and Thairo Estrada. Chavis, Aguilar, and Estrada in particular, all shortstops right now, have plus offensive potential as second basemen so watch their positional growth intently in the coming years. Each one could pole-vault their way to the top of these discussions someday if they move across the bag.

How Do They Compare In...

Power: It's a bit more of a wash in the long-season leagues between the two organizations, especially since Angelo Gumbs hasn't come close to becoming the player he can be, but collectively the Yankees have a bit more up and down their minor league system power-wise at second base, especially at the lower minor league levels. Advantage: Yankees

Hitting For Average: This is an area where the Red Sox can make up some ground. Both Gumbs and Katoh have struggled to find their stroke recently, leaving Refsnyder and Pirela to fend off the likes of Coyle, Rijo, and Asuaje. And while the Yankees have some plus plate discipline guys like McFarland and Valera, the Red Sox can counter with Gragnani and others who, while they might not have much power, can hit. Advantage: Even

Defense: This is another area where the Red Sox have an advantage. Coyle, Rijo, and Asuaje, all project to be above average defenders down the road and the Yankees have more offensive-minded second baseman littering the position at the minor league level. Advantage: Red Sox

Speed: The Yankees really have two above average runners at the position in the long-season leagues -- Gumbs and Katoh -- and a third one overall in Junior Valera. While Coyle and Rijo are more average than anything in natural running speed, both can have their speed play up a level. This one of more of true wash. Advantage: Even

Overall Potential: The Yankees collectively have a lot more depth at the position from top to bottom so Boston can't really compare in that regard. Should either Gosuke Katoh or Angelo Gumbs break out in 2015 it would only further widen New York's advantage in this positional debate. Throw in the considerable ceilings of McFarland and Valera at the lower levels and it's a bit of a no-contest situation. Advantage: Yankees

Highest Ceilings: Angelo Gumbs (Yankees), Wendell Rijo (Red Sox), Gosuke Katoh (Yankees), Rob Refsnyder (Yankees), Sean Coyle (Red Sox)

Best Power: Angelo Gumbs (Yankees), Sean Coyle (Red Sox), Wendell Rijo [Red Sox], Gosuke Katoh (Yankees), Carlos Asuaje (Red Sox)

Best Average: Rob Refsnyder (Yankees), Jose Pirela (Yankees), Ty McFarland (Yankees), Reed Gragnani (Red Sox), Junior Valera (Yankees)

Best Defense: Wendell Rijo (Red Sox), Sean Coyle (Red Sox), Carlos Asuaje (Red Sox), Angelo Gumbs (Yankees), Rob Refsnyder (Yankees)

Best Speed: Angelo Gumbs (Yankees), Carlos Asuaje (Red Sox), Wendell Rijo (Red Sox), Gosuke Katoh (Yankees), Sean Coyle (Red Sox)


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