Before we get to the individual performers that stood out in camp it should be noted that the real winners this Spring Training were the Yankees themselves. Considering how well many of their top prospects performed in big league camp, whether it was Jose Pirela, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Rob Refnsyder, Jake Cave, Ramon Flores, Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, Luis Severino, Nick Rumbelow or others, the whole group of prospects did extremely well and acquitted the Yankee farm system in more than admirable fashion, so much so that the organization could find themselves in a philosophical dilemma come the All Star break should the big league team not fare as well as hoped. For the first time in a long time the Yankees could find themselves equipped to organizationally go younger across the board sooner rather than later, and quicker than many pundits realize.
There are other players besides the ones listed below who had good camps. Jorge Mateo had a huge Spring Training camp for low-A Charleston this spring but isn't listed below because he is already a Top Five prospect and therefore doesn't have much more room to improve his already high stock. Still, he fortified his stronghold on a Top Five ranking with his showing both offensively and defensively in camp, and seems poised to make a charge at the number one spot with a strong showing in 2015.
The same can be said of Gary Sanchez too; he did extremely well but doesn't have much room to improve his already top stock. While he wasn't one of the standouts offensively in camp -- which considering how well many of the prospects did made it a difficult chore anyway -- it was his defensive progression behind the plate that really turned heads. He was blocking balls in the dirt better than ever [seemingly none got by him], he was totally engaged with his pitchers, and he was even heard behind the scenes exclaiming to coaches how he was the best catcher around and he was taking pride in it. There was a mental maturity with Sanchez defensively this camp that had not shown up in previous years. He looked every part of being a big league defensive stalwart behind the plate.
Dominican academy honorable mention -- SS, Diego Castillo -- Word around Spring Training camp is that several of last year's top International signings and Dominican Summer League prospects were doing some incredible things at the Yankee Dominican minor league camp in their own version of Spring Training camp. Whether it was Juan De Leon bulking up and subsequent power surge or his reported quicker speed times, Nelson Gomez or Dermis Garcia putting on impressive power displays, or outfielder Bryan Emery doing the same, it was Castillo's name that was bandied about more than anyone else's for his quickly advancing bat. 'Hitter-ish' isn't even the term being used, it was 'special' consistently being tossed about with Castillo. He seems poised to make his way States-side later this year.
5. RHP, Jaron Long - Much has been made of his rather average big league fastball velocity, perhaps too much, and conversely not nearly enough has been made of his stellar command. He was once again throwing quality strikes on the corners, mixing speeds and changing eye levels, and his changeup is a plus weapon against both left-handed and right-handed batters. A non-Top 50 prospect entering this season [which is more a byproduct of the Yankee depth than anything] he pitched like a top prospect in camp and seems poised for another great season in 2015. He might not be long for the minor leagues.
4. RHP, Jonathan Holder - Another non-Top 50 prospect entering the season, like Long Holder pitched like one of the better hurlers this Spring Training. He throws a bit harder than Long, however, as he was sitting mostly 90-92 mph, but like Long he was mixing in all of his pitches for quality strikes and opposing batters never got comfortable against him. The former college closer appears equipped to make a successful transition to the starting role and he could be poised for a Long-like first full season in 2015, one that sees him make a jump or two up the minor league ladder.
3. OF, Mark Payton - Last year's seventh round pick out of the University of Texas immediately showed off his superb plate discipline and overall knack for hitting his in his debut season last year, and displayed enough defensive versatility and solid enough speed to promptly and accurately receive big league reserve outfielder projections from most scouts. However, he also hit for some power last year, collecting 38 percent of his hits for extra-bases. He was once again swinging some heavy lumber in Spring Training, so much so that most scouts believe last year's power display was not a fluke. His stock is clearly on the rise and there seems to be a bit more ceiling than initially thought when he was drafted last season.
2. RHP, Gabe Encinas - Arguably nobody improved their stock more this Spring Training camp than this former 2010 sixth round draft pick. To be fair he was once a rising star prospect in the farm system but had his progress derailed by Tommy John surgery in 2013. He showed flashes of his three plus pitches in his return season late last year but the command was spotty at best, enough to at least warrant a back-half Top 50 ranking this offseason. However, not only were all three plus pitches back in camp but he had both the command and a pitch-ability of a Top Ten type prospect. He seems poised for a huge [and much needed] breakout season in 2015.
1. 3B, Miguel Andujar - Andujar taking home the top honors here shouldn't be all too surprising considering he finished the season hitting .319 in his last 64 games last season but the fact is he was even more impressive in camp than he was after the All Star break last season, and not just offensively. He was lacing missile shots all over the field and even his outs were loud ones, and defensively he made every play possible. Our choice for breakout candidate of the year entering camp, that selection seems like a no-brainer after it. Considering former top 'Spring Training Winners' have included the likes of Luis Severino and Greg Bird, both of whom went on to become the top overall prospect in the farm system, that bodes well for Andujar's quickly rising stock. He appears poised to become a cornerstone type prospect for the Yankees.
Spring Training Winners
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