Team By Team Breakdown

The 2015 minor league season is officially underway and we finally know who is playing where. We break down which players to look out for on each of the Yankee long-season league teams this year, highlighting the top prospects, the breakout player, the 'sleeper' prospect, the 'REM sleeper', and the one[s] on the hot seat from each team.

Triple-A Scranton

Top Prospect -- 2B, Rob Refsnyder: It's definitely a good sign for the big league team when there are many quality candidates to choose from on the Triple-A roster. While seeing Tyler Austin continue his strong second half last season into a productive season this year would come as no surprise all eyes are going to be on Refsnyder. He's led the farm system in hitting the past two seasons and by now his offensive game is a given. How his defensive game continues to progress, however, could be the biggest storyline at the upper minor league levels for the Yankees, especially given the fact that the big league team could really use his offensive consistency in the lineup right now.

Breakout Player -- OF, Slade Heathcott: Once a sure-fire Top Five prospect in the Yankee farm system, this former first round pick had seen his stock slipping over the years mostly due to his inability to stay healthy. And despite showing up in camp this year in great shape and having one of the more productive Spring Training camps out of anyone, whether or not he can stay healthy is still a question that won't be answered for some time. Should he stay healthy though he looks poised for finally having that full, productive breakout season many baseball people have been waiting on.

'Sleeper' Prospect -- OF, Ramon Flores: Not flashy with his tools, Flores has always flown under the radar over the years for that very reason and he's the kind of player that isn't truly appreciated unless you're watching him everyday because it's the consistency in his at-bats day in and day out that perhaps is his greatest attribute on the diamond. Like Heathcott, this recently turned 23-year old is in line for a breakout season too. Left-handed reliever Tyler Webb could easily slide in here too.

'REM Sleeper' -- RHP, Chase Whitley: Perhaps the pitching version of Flores, Whitley is another one who has always flown under the radar simply because he's not a overpowering guy who will consistently hit the mid-90s with his fastball. He's made a rather successful transition to the starting role over the past calendar year and he could wind up being an important piece for the big league team in 2015 despite the fact he's starting back down in Triple-A. Like Flores, you know what you're going to get with Whitley and that has a lot of value. Right-handed pitcher Jaron Long could also easily slide into this group too.

The Hot Seat -- RHP, Bryan Mitchell: Consistently one of the higher ranked prospects in the Yankee farm system over the years [and for good reason], Mitchell's power fastball-plus curveball combination is one of the nastiest around. He has never been able to put his top-shelf stuff together in the form of elite on the field production, however, and time is running out for him to make that leap in his development, at least in a starting capacity. This season is kind of a make or break year for him in that role and all eyes will be on his numbers in 2015. Another one kind of on the hot seat is left-handed starter Matt Tracy; he's got quality stuff but needs better production to match it.

Double-A Trenton

Top Prospect -- RHP, Luis Severino: Picking just one from this prospect-laden team is a difficult task indeed. A lot is expected of first baseman Greg Bird and right fielder Aaron Judge, and those two easily could slot into this category. However, given the Spring Training camps they just had their production in 2015 is nearly a given at this point. Severino, however, has a bit more to prove among the top prospects; not necessarily from a production standpoint or even with his stuff or command, but rather with his workload. He'll need to prove he can increase his innings this year, keep up with the great production, and remain healthy in 2015, and from that standpoint all eyes will be on him.

Breakout Player -- OF, Jake Cave: He, not Refsndyer, actually led the farm system in total hits last season and he saw his power beginning to materialize late last season after getting promoted to Double-A Trenton. His entire game -- defense, running, power, on-base percentage, etc -- has been slowly beginning to peak and he's just now entering his third full professional season. Coming off of an incredibly productive Spring Training camp too, he seems poised for a huge year in 2015 and could be considered one of the top overall prospects by season's end.

'Sleeper' Prospect -- LHP, Caleb Smith: This former 14th round pick has a plus fastball for a southpaw and he's armed with one of the dirtiest changeups around too, and yet he hasn't exactly garnered top prospect status yet. It's mostly due to his breaking ball not yet being a consistent weapon and also because his pitches move so much that his control can evade him at times, and therefore the overall consistency in his game isn't quite up to snuff yet. Still, stuff-wise he's nearly there in regards to being considered one of the top prospects and his control isn't too far off either. A little more development and playing in front of a better defense could allow him to make that next leap in his game.

'REM Sleeper' -- RHP, Cesar Vargas: This Mexican native didn't sign for a whole lot of money as an amateur and he doesn't have the 'wow' factor with his stuff, and that has allowed him to fly under the rdar. He won't hit 95 mph-plus consistently like other relievers and his breaking pitch isn't exactly a plus weapon either, but what he does have is stellar command of one of the nastier two-seam fastballs around from a a movement standpoint, one that has some incredible natural cutting action too. Take away the obvious lunacy in comparing him to a sure-fire Hall of Famer from a production standpoint and what you're left with is a Mariano Rivera-like attribute in that he can get a lot of batters out with one pitch [albeit at the minor league level right now].

The Hot Seat -- RHP, Mark Montgomery: A strong argument could be made to put outfielder Mason Williams here given his lack of production over the past two years and some folks might even have an inclination to place catcher Gary Sanchez here too as they'd like to see more production from him. And shortstop Cito Culver and his lagging offensive production is also a prime candidate here. Montgomery though enters the season clearly having a lot of work to do. Forget for a moment that he opens up the 2015 season a level lower than he started the 2014 campaign [the aforementioned three can't claim that], he now has a plethora of relievers who have sped past him on the depth chart. He has a lot of ground to make up and not a lot of time to do it.

High-A Tampa

Top Prospect -- 3B, Miguel Andujar: This team isn't chock full of top prospects but they do have a few, including left-handed pitcher Ian Clarkin and right-hander Brady Lail. While both are expected to be among some of the most consistent performers not just with the Tampa Yankees but in the entire farm system this season, it's Andujar who all eyes will be on this season. The former top International signing has shown some signs of putting together a productive full season, especially after hitting .319 in the second half last season and having one of the better Spring Training camps this year. He'll be the one to watch in the Florida State League this year.

Breakout Player -- RHP, Gabe Encinas: This former sixth round pick was well on his way to breaking out two years ago in low-A Charleston but succumbed to Tommy John surgery just seven starts into his 2013 campaign. He made a full return to the mound last season from a health standpoint but the command was lacking and his stuff was inconsistent. Now nearly two years past his surgery he has shown a major leap in both his stuff and command, at least in Spring Training. The two-year mark getting passed Tommy John is the magic number -- just ask Mets' act Matt Harvey -- and Encinas seems equipped to make a huge leap in his development now.

'Sleeper' Prospect -- OF, Mark Payton: While the Tampa team isn't stacked with top prospects it sure does have a number of quality 'sleeper' candidates, and last year's seventh round pick seems to be the pick of the litter and it's mostly due to his already stellar big league plate discipline. There wasn't much of a question about whether or not he will hit -- he most certainly will -- the question was how much power could he muster from his 5-foot-7 frame. He'll never be a power hitter given his size but he has shown to have more than adequate gap power and even some occasional home run power to be a bit of an impact player. First baseman Mike Ford absolutely falls into this category too for the very same reasons, okay power but unreal plate discipline, and outfielder Michael O'Neill with is average power and above average speed has the tools to be a 'sleeper' candidate as well. Right-handed pitcher Jonathan Holder is yet another 'sleeper' candidate making the jump from Staten Island.

'REM Sleeper' -- OF, Claudio Custodio: Where the Tampa team is stacked is in 'REM sleepers'. Right-handed reliever Andury Acevedo with his mid-90s submariner arm slot fastball is very intriguing as is right-handed reliever Conor Mullee with his special sinking two-seamer despite three Tommy John surgeries, and both first baseman Matt Snyder and outfielder Ericson Leonora both have the average power, advanced hitting combination to potentially turn some heads in 2015 too if they can stay healthy. Custodio, however, has one plus-plus tool with his speed, he's been much better at laying off of breaking pitches out of the zone, and he offers some defensive versatility [he can play all three outfield spots, shortstop, and second base, and has the arm strength to play third base too in a pinch]. He could get back on the prospect radar with a solid productive season.

The Hot Seat -- RHP, Rookie Davis: This former 14th round pick that signed for seven figures back in 2011 has all of the necessary attributes to be one of the top pitching prospects in the farm system; size [6-foot-5], power [a 93-96 mph fastball], stuff [he has six pitches], control, and great makeup. However, the production was seriously lacking last season [4.93 ERA in low-A Charleston] and he was just okay in Spring Training camp this year. There's a Bryan Mitchell-like quality to him in that the whole package screams there should be much, much better production than there has been and he'll need to improve in that regard in 2015. He has breakout potential, he just needs to do it. Second baseman Angelo Gumbs also fits into this category too; he needs to stay healthy and productive in 2015.

Low-A Charleston

Top Prospect -- SS, Jorge Mateo: For the first time in a long time this Charleston team isn't the team to watch in the Yankee farm system. That's obviously good news for the Yankees as the better prospects have begun moving up the minor league ladder. However, that depth, like it is with the high-A Tamp team, isn't littered with a lot top prospects on this year's Charleston team. Mateo, a Top Five prospect entering the season, is clearly the main guy to track with the RiverDogs in 2015. He has it all; adequate power, great defense, solid hitting ability, and speed to burn. He should be the one of the most dynamic players in the South Atlantic League this season.

Breakout Player -- SS, Abiatal Avelino: Rare is it where you'll find a minor league team that has the top prospect and the top breakout candidate at the shortstop position, and they're not the same player. But Avelino was the lead shortstop prospect entering the 2014 season but a pretty serious quad injury put him on the shelf for the better portion of the season and it limited him to just 251 at-bats last season, and he simply wasn't the same player after the injury. He's got pretty much the same tools at Mateo, however, outside of the plus-plus speed [Avelino's is more above average] and yet many think the gap between the two talent-wise is wider than it actually is. Completely healthy now, Avelino seems poised to have the breakout season he was set to have a year ago. Outfielders Dustin Fowler [back in Charleston for a second time too] and Chris Breen are also strong breakout candidates as well, and so is right-handed pitcher Domingo Acevedo. The Charleston team might not have a lot of top-flight prospects entering the season but more than a few are potential breakout candidates.

'Sleeper' Prospect -- LHP, Jordan Montgomery: Last year's fourth round pick out of the University of South Carolina doesn't quite have the fastball that screams huge upside, averaging mostly 88-92 mph, and neither his slider nor his curveball are what most scouts would tab no-doubt swing and miss pitches yet either. And because of all of that he isn't considered one of the top pitching prospects in the farm system yet. However, the changeup is a plus-plus pitch and he can paint the strike zone with four pitches, and that gives him a chance to be one of the better 'sleeper' prospects not only on the Charleston team but in the entire farm system. He has size too, standing 6-foot-4, and durability to go with it. He could be a quality innings eater who could move pretty quickly. Like Montgomery, second baseman Ty McFarland isn't yet a Top 50 prospect but he has the hitting potential to work his way up the rankings, particularly if his defensive game continues to develop after making the move over from third base.

'REM Sleeper' -- C, Alvaro Noriega: Like the Tampa team, the Charleston squad is stacked with 'REM sleepers'. Right-handed reliever Yoel Espinal, a former Detroit Tigers farmhand who hadn't pitched in three years, highlights an intriguing group of bullpen arms. He has a mid-90s fastball and was throwing a lot of strikes in camp. Right-handers Sean Carley, Andre Del Bosque, and Joe Harvey could also make some noise, and left-hander Caleb Frare brings an intriguing combination of arm strength and moxie. Charleston even has some infielders who could theoretically make a leap in the rankings with some solid seasons, including first baseman Connor Spencer and third baseman Allen Valerio, both of whom show a nice blend of defense and hitting ability but whose power potential is below average for corner infielders right now. However, Noriega is the best equipped to make the biggest leap of all of them given his already plus big league defensive game. His offensive approach suggests there's some long-term hitting potential too.

The Hot Seat -- 2B, Gosuke Katoh: This former second round pick in 2013 certainly has the talent to be a potential breakout candidate this season, especially after making adjustments in the second half last season, re-working his swing in the offseason and putting on nearly 30 pounds of much needed weight. Still, baseball is a game about production and he'll have to prove he is better than his .223, three home run showing last season, and that rings even more true now that he's repeating the same level in 2015. Another sub-par showing could be very detrimental to his stock.

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