Grading Our Preseason Top 50 Prospects

Hindsight is 20/20. We take a look back at our Top 50 Yankees' Prospects rankings from last November to see how we did in our assessments now that the 2005 minor league season is almost over. See where we were correct. See where we were totally off-base. In this prelude to our 2005 Top Yankees' Prospects rankings, coming later this fall, we'll go pick by pick to see how we did.

1. Eric Duncan - Yeah the low batting average and uncharacteristically high strikeout totals are somewhat concerning. But don't let the fact that he's a 20-year old power hitter already playing with the big boys at AA after just one full season in the professional ranks. While his defense at third base may leave little to be desired, he has already proven that his power is legit. Even if he has to repeat the AA level in 2006, he's one of the elite power hitting prospects. Grade: A-

2. Melky Cabrera - Like Duncan, Cabrera was immediately challenged by the Yankees after playing just a half season at each level in A-ball. He recently just turned 21-years old in August and he has done an admirable job in 2005, even earning a promotion to the Yankees. Cabrera still has work to do, but his talent is unquestioned. Grade: A-

3. Steven White - An abdominal strain caused him to miss the majority of the 2005 season after being challenged in AA-Trenton after just a half of a season with Tampa and a half of a season with Battle Creek in 2004. When he has pitched, he hasn't been nearly as effective as he was last year. Even though we deserve a mulligan due to his injury, White was clearly not the third best prospect in the Yankees system. Grade: C+

4. Robinson Cano - "He could be competing for a spot, or even a starting role for the Yankees next year at second base at the age of 22 years old." That was what we said on November 14th of 2004. We couldn't have been more correct in our assessment. Grade: A+

5. Marcos Vechionacci - The 19-year old switch hitter from the Charleston Riverdogs has struggled in his first full year of professional baseball in the Yankees system. His batting average is considerably lower than what was expected. However, the fact that ranks as high as he does in runs scored, which in essence is the core philosophy of baseball, should not be understated. His is a prime example where the numbers do not tell the whole story. He still is a top talent. However, we should be penalized somewhat for his sub-par overall numbers. Grade: B-

6. Phil Hughes - Ranking a player so high with just five professional innings to his credit is not only not easy, but it is pretty much unheard of. Still, Hughes has propelled himself into one of the game's elite pitching prospects with his tremendous 2005 campaign. Grade: A
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7. Tyler Clippard - Not even ranked among the top ten prospects by Baseball America last season, Clippard arguably has been the system's best pitcher in 2005. The 20-year old hurler still is young enough to develop more speed with his pitches and his control is as impeccable as it gets at the minor league level. Grade: A+

8. Dioner Navarro - Navarro was dealt away in the offseason and has even seen time with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005. In hindsight however, we were pretty accurate in our assessment of his ability. Grade: A

9. Christian Garcia - Garcia arguably has the best raw stuff of any pitching prospect in the Yankees' organization. Like Hughes, Garcia has been handled with kid gloves by the Yankees in 2005. His talent is unquestioned. If he could develop the work ethic of a Roger Clemens or Tony Gwynn to go along with his high-ceiling talent, there's no reason why he can't rank atop the prospect list someday. Grade: A

10. Jesse Hoover - Out all year with a back injury, Hoover won't see the mound in a competitive situation until 2006 most likely. We get a pass on his ranking due to the injury. Grade: N/A
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11. Chien-Ming Wang - We ranked him a little lower than some due to his checkered injury history, and despite his success with the Yankees in '05, we were proven correct. The talent is certainly there to be a mainstay in the Yankees' rotation but he has continually shown an inability to remain healthy each year. Grade: A

12. Eric Abreu - You've heard of the phrase "saved by the bell", but our ranking of Abreu was saved by injury. Like Hoover, Abreu has missed the entire 2005 season with an injury. Still, even with the injury, our exuberance from Abreu's debut in 2004 might have gotten the best of us. If he had pitched in '05, chances are our grade on his ranking would not have been so good. But the fact that he didn't pitch at all this season means we get a pass. Grade: N/A

13. Rudy Guillen - Guillen has all the tools in his bag to be a top talent in the Yankees' farm system. However, he has failed to prove it on the field in two straight seasons. He got called up to AA-Trenton late in the season, which perhaps could have been a move to prevent him from going "stale" in Tampa after two seasons in the Florida State League. Until he proves it on the field, we're going to have give ourselves a low grade on his offseason ranking last winter. Grade: C

14. Abel Gomez - Gomez, like Guillen, has a lot more talent than his numbers have shown. Despite another year of high walk totals when he pitched with Tampa earlier this season, Gomez still put up solid numbers until a surprising demotion to Charleston seemingly unraveled his 2005 season. We're not going to kill our ranking of him as badly as we have with Guillen, but he'll be watched closely next season. Grade: B-

15. Jonathan Poterson - Our ranking of Poterson at #15 this past offseason was perhaps one of our more accurate assessments. His power is undeniable and he has shown a good arm out in right field despite playing the position for the first time in his life in 2005. Despite his less than stellar performance in Charleston to begin the year, Poterson's ticket to Staten Island was seemingly already punched in Spring Training. He still has a ways to go in his development, but he has the talent to be a force at the Major League level someday. Grade: A+

16. Jason Jones - If you go strictly by the numbers, our ranking of Jones arguably deserves a failing grade based on his 2005 performance with the Tampa Yankees. But like Vechionacci, Jones is much better than his numbers indicate. However, due to the fact we rated him higher than Marquez and DeSalvo, we can't give ourselves a good grade here. Grade: D

17. Jeff Marquez - His record in 2005 is not indicative of the type of success he has had with the Riverdogs this year. A disastrous month of June, where he posted a 6.44 ERA in six starts, further skews his overall numbers. Our ranking of Marquez last offseason was perhaps a little too low in hindsight. Switching spots with Abreu would have made more sense. Grade: C+
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18. Erold Andrus - Andrus hasn't had the type of season we expected from him. His average and his power production are considerably lower than the type of talent he possesses. His 2005 numbers could be more of a product of the Florida State League, a notorious pitcher friendly environment. While his ranking at #18 seems to be right on the money, we can't give ourselves too good a grade on this one because of the players we ranked behind Andrus, namely DeSalvo. Grade: B-

19. Bronson Sardinha - The transition to the outfield has gone over a lot smoother in 2005. In fact, his error total has dipped down from 43 in 2004 to single digits this season. He's still just 21 years old playing at the AA level and there are some things to like about his offensive output in '05, including 30 doubles. He'll be going to the Arizona Fall League to play against the top competition this year. If not for the fact we rated him higher than DeSalvo, our grade would have been better. Grade: B

20. Matt DeSalvo - "If not for his back injury in the later months of the season, Matt DeSalvo may have crowned himself a top three pitching prospect in the system." That's how we started off his #20 ranking last offseason. DeSalvo proved to everyone that his back was a lot better and his results showed no ill effects from the injury this season. We won't kill our grade for downgrading him due to the injury, but we can't get a good grade either. Grade: B-

21. Estee Harris - The guy has a lot of tools. Over 45% of his hits this season have gone for extra bases, a stat which ranks him among the minor league leaders in that category. However, his .216 batting average in 2005 is considerably lower than his already low career average of .233 heading into this season. The mere fact we ranked him higher than Tim Battle speaks volumes of our bad judgment on this one. Grade: D

22. Jason Stephens - Considered a lock for the Charleston rotation last offseason, Stephens didn't make his regular season debut until the short-season leagues opened up where he began the year as one of the top pitchers with Staten Island. His breaking stuff is fantastic and he's even better than his solid numbers. But still, he didn't deserve to be ranked higher than Battle. Grade: B-

23. Tim Battle - "Battle still has all the tools but he has mastered only four of them. The only problem with his game is making contact." Our assessment of Battle last offseason was right on the money, however our ranking was not. He was on pace at one point to break the all-time South Atlantic League record in strikeouts for a season this year, but his positives should have outweighed the one negative in our ranking. Grade: C+

24. Hector Made - Sometimes people underestimate the big jump from low-A ball to high-A ball, and you can throw us into that category, at least in Made's case. The right-handed hitting batter struggled to hit .167 against lefties while with Tampa, bringing his overall average to down to .218 in the Florida State League. Our only saving grace with Made is that there was only a handful of players that should have been ranked higher than him. Still, we can't give ourselves a good grade for Made's ranking. Grade: D

25. Jeff Karstens - Karstens has had what many would consider a very inconsistent season with the Trenton Thunder. When he's been bad, he has been awful. He has allowed six earned runs in 4 of his 27 starts in 2005. If you throw just those four starts out the window, his ERA in 2005 would be under 3.00 as a 22-year old pitching his first year in AA. So his numbers are not as bad as they may appear. However, you could make the argument that Beam and Henn should have been ranked higher. Grade: B-

26. Mike Martinez - He does not possess overpowering stuff, but the guy simply gets the job done. His less than 2 to 1 strikeout-to-walk ratio does not spell out a future closer down the road, but he's a legit pitching prospect nevertheless. Grade: B

27. Mario Holmann - Some pundits would consider our ranking Holmann at #27 to be quite high, given his numbers in 2005. Don't be fooled by the stats. His defense is superb and he is blazing fast. They say power is the last tool to develop and right now, it is the only thing keeping him away from a Major League career. If anything, he deserved to be ranked even slightly higher last offseason. Grade: B+

28. Sean Henn - The adage "hindsight is 20/20" was never more evident than our ranking of Henn last offseason. A sub-par 2004, combined with rumors prior to the 2005 season that he would be moved to the bullpen, clouded our judgement on Henn's ranking in the Yankees' farm system. While very few, if anyone, could have expected the breakout campaign in 2005, we still can't give ourselves a passing grade on his #28 ranking. Grade: F

29. John Urick - His tremendous start to the 2005 season [.299-5-16 in his first 20 games] had us quickly reevaluating his #29 ranking offseason. A nagging injury that kept him out of the lineup for six weeks and a .203 average over the final three months of the season made his hot start a distant memory. There weren't too many guys ranked higher on our preseason list that you could make an argument for that Urick should have been ranked higher. Grade: B

30. Brandon Harmsen - Despite a 10-3 mark with Battle Creek in 2004, the writing was on the wall that Harmsen could struggle in the Florida State League, considering his opponents' batting average in the Midwest League a year ago. A 1-8 record and a 6.26 ERA later with the Tampa Yankees, we should have paid more attention to the signs. Even with players a lot older than he, a lot of them still should have been ranked higher. Grade: D

31. Andy Phillips - "Here is the player that is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most major league ready in the Yankee Farm System. He now has nothing left to prove after having a monstrous season with AAA Columbus in 2004." That was our quote when we ranked Phillips #31 last offseason. It wasn't a slight on his overall ability, but more of a case of his advanced age and ability for the minor leagues. He just doesn't seem to figure in the Yankees' plans. Grade: B

32. Mitch Jones - Like Phillips, our rather low ranking of Jones was more due to the Yankees' plans for him more so than his ability as a player. He has put up a Jones-like year once again in 2005 and he'll turn 28 years old in October and he still doesn't seemingly figure into the Yankees' long term plans in the future. Grade: B

33. Ben Jones - Despite an All-Star year with the Charleston Riverdogs in 2005 and consistently being one of the clutch guys in the lineup, Jones is still a 24-year old player playing against much younger competition in the South Atlantic League. Not many players debut as high as Ben did in a top prospect ranking after just one year in a short-season league, so we were fully aware of his ability. Until he is challenged at the higher levels and he duplicates the same success, Jones is ranked right where he belongs. Grade: A
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34. Rafael Rodriguez - While we were right on the money with Ben Jones, we couldn't have been more wrong with Rodriguez. He was released by the Yankees before the start of the 2005 season. Enough said! Grade: F

35. Maximo Nelson - Nelson was going to be one of the more intriguing prospects heading into the 2005 season, but visa problems kept him out of the United States. Unfortunately, we weren't able to see what he could do at the higher minor league levels. Grade: N/A

36. Jon Skaggs - The former first round pick posted a 6.00+ ERA in 22 games with the AA-Trenton Thunder this year before getting demoted to high-A Tampa. And after posting a 6.00+ ERA in his first five starts in the Florida State League, one thing is certain: our #36 ranking of Skaggs last offseason was overly optimistic. Grade: F

37. Ben Julianel - "Ben Julianel makes the cut for this list just because of his organizational value. He is a left handed, hard throwing reliever with a nasty slider and a superb changeup. Julianel is equally nasty against lefties and righties." Our assessment and our ranking of Julianel was right on target. Grade: A

38. Juan De Leon - Like Maximo Nelson, De Leon had visa problems prior to Spring Training and still hasn't made it back to U.S. soil. So like Nelson, we get an incomplete grade for his ranking. Grade: N/A

39. T.J. Beam - Usually when we're wrong it is because we were overvaluing a player, not underestimating. Such was the case with Beam. While some people may say we vastly underestimated Beam, especially considering his fantastic numbers with Charleston this year, don't let the fact that he's a 25-year old hurler pitching against much younger competition in the South Atlantic League cloud your judgement. He's going to have to show the same success against competition closer to his age to rapidly climb the charts. Grade: B-
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40. Shelley Duncan - One of the nicest guys in the Yankees' organization, Shelley is the epitome of a power hitter. He already has more home runs in 2005 than he had in his previous two seasons. However, his .241 overall average in 2005, and more the point, his .208 average over the final two months of the season, downplays his tremendous power output. Throw in the fact that he turns 26 years old in September and our ranking of Shelley was pretty accurate. Like Phillips and Mitch Jones, Duncan doesn't appear to figure in the Yankees' long term plans. Grade: B

41. Kevin Reese - Reese had one of the better seasons among the Yankees' prospects in 2004 and he has followed it up with another solid year in 2005, including a cup of coffee with the Yankees. Like Shelley Duncan, Mitch Jones, and Andy Phillips, there aren't many questions about his ability. His low ranking was more due to his age [he'll be 28 years old next season] and the fact that he doesn't appear to be in the Yankees' outfield plans anytime soon. Grade: B

42. Kevin Thompson - Thompson, despite turning in a fantastic season in 2005, will turn 26 years old in September and he's rapidly falling into the Shelley Duncan -Mitch Jones-Andy Phillipes-Kevin Reese group of talented ballplayers, but losing a fading prospect status because of his age. Thompson, along with the others, could find his way on to the Yankees' roster at some point to serve a reserve role with the Bombers at some point. Grade: B-

43. Justin Christian - Arguably, nobody has turned in a better season among the positional prospects in the Yankees' farm system in 2005 more so than Justin Christian. But as fantastic a year has he has had, the bottom line is he is way too old for the levels he had played this year. He's going to have to prove his mettle at the higher levels in a hurry just to get lumped into the same group of players as the aforementioned Kevin Thompson, Shelley Duncan, Mitch Jones, Andy Phillips, and Kevin Reese. The one thing that Christian and Thompson have that gives them a better shot is plus speed, a tool any Major League team could utilize. Grade: B
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44. Edwardo Sierra - Continued control problems had Sierra's stock falling before the start of the 2005 season. And after walking 38 batters in his first 33 appearances with the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees parlayed his fantastic stuff and combined it with Ramon Ramirez to net them Shawn Chacon. Grade: A

45. Grant Plumley - Plumley earned a spot in the preseason top 50 for his wonderful defensive play at shortstop. He was tested in a move to third base in order to keep Marcos Vechionacci at shortstop, but the Yankees wisely decided to keep Nacci at third base and keep Plumley at his natural shortstop position by mid-season. He's not known as an offensive force so his preseason ranking was pretty accurate. Grade: B+

46. Evan Tierce - A numbers crunch forced the 2004 Gulf Coast League batting champion to begin the 2005 season in Extended Spring Training before breaking with the Charleston Riverdogs once the short-season leagues began play in June. He provided some offensive punch for a struggling Riverdogs' offense late in the season and he too has some good talent but will need to show success at the higher levels in order to garner a higher ranking. Grade: B+
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47. Jose Valdez - Rehabbing an injury in the Dominican Republic all year long, Valdez didn't take the mound for the Yankees at any point this season. As a result, we get a pass on his ranking. Grade: N/A

48. Javier Ortiz - No longer in the Yankees' organization and pitching in the White Sox farm system, Ortiz hasn't shown much success even for them in 2005. The fact he's no longer with the Yankees and not having success means we can't give ourselves a passing grade. Grade: F

49. Nathan Phillips - The experiment at catcher did not pan out, but he did have a hot start once the Gulf Coast League season started up in June. Still, the mere fact we mentioned his name as one of the promising power prospects [in another article] shows just how wrong we were in our analysis of Phillips. Until he shows the power numbers in his stats, we won't make the same mistake twice. Grade: F

50. Drew Edwards - Edwards, after receiving a ranking in our Top 50 Yankees' prospects last offseason, was promptly released by the Yankees months later. To this point, he hasn't caught on with anyone else either. Grade: F

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\n1. Eric Duncan - Yeah the low batting average and uncharacteristically high strikeout totals are somewhat concerning. But don't let the fact that he's a 20-year old power hitter already playing with the big boys at AA after just one full season in the professional ranks. While his defense at third base may leave little to be desired, he has already proven that his power is legit. Even if he has to repeat the AA level in 2006, he's one of the elite power hitting prospects. Grade: A-
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\r\n2. Melky Cabrera - Like Duncan, Cabrera was immediately challenged by the Yankees after playing just a half season at each level in A-ball. He recently just turned 21-years old in August and he has done an admirable job in 2005, even earning a promotion to the Yankees. Cabrera still has work to do, but his talent is unquestioned. Grade: A-
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\r\n3. Steven White - An abdominal strain caused him to miss the majority of the 2005 season after being challenged in AA-Trenton after just a half of a season with Tampa and a half of a season with Battle Creek in 2004. When he has pitched, he hasn't been nearly as effective as he was last year. Even though we deserve a mulligan due to his injury, White was clearly not the third best prospect in the Yankees system. Grade: C+
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\r\n4. Robinson Cano - \"He could be competing for a spot, or even a starting role for the Yankees next year at second base at the age of 22 years old.\" That was what we said on November 14th of 2004. We couldn't have been more correct in our assessment. Grade: A+
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\r\n5. Marcos Vechionacci - The 19-year old switch hitter from the Charleston Riverdogs has struggled in his first full year of professional baseball in the Yankees system. His batting average is considerably lower than what was expected. However, the fact that ranks as high as he does in runs scored, which in essence is the core philosophy of baseball, should not be understated. His is a prime example where the numbers do not tell the whole story. He still is a top talent. However, we should be penalized somewhat for his sub-par overall numbers. Grade: B-
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\r\n6. Phil Hughes - Ranking a player so high with just five professional innings to his credit is not only not easy, but it is pretty much unheard of. Still, Hughes has propelled himself into one of the game's elite pitching prospects with his tremendous 2005 campaign. Grade: A
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\r\n7. Tyler Clippard - Not even ranked among the top ten prospects by Baseball America last season, Clippard arguably has been the system's best pitcher in 2005. The 20-year old hurler still is young enough to develop more speed with his pitches and his control is as impeccable as it gets at the minor league level. Grade: A+
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\r\n8. Dioner Navarro - Navarro was dealt away in the offseason and has even seen time with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005. In hindsight however, we were pretty accurate in our assessment of his ability. Grade: A
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\r\n9. Christian Garcia - Garcia arguably has the best raw stuff of any pitching prospect in the Yankees' organization. Like Hughes, Garcia has been handled with kid gloves by the Yankees in 2005. His talent is unquestioned. If he could develop the work ethic of a Roger Clemens or Tony Gwynn to go along with his high-ceiling talent, there's no reason why he can't rank atop the prospect list someday. Grade: A
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\r\n10. Jesse Hoover - Out all year with a back injury, Hoover won't see the mound in a competitive situation until 2006 most likely. We get a pass on his ranking due to the injury. Grade: N/A
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\r\n11. Chien-Ming Wang - We ranked him a little lower than some due to his checkered injury history, and despite his success with the Yankees in '05, we were proven correct. The talent is certainly there to be a mainstay in the Yankees' rotation but he has continually shown an inability to remain healthy each year. Grade: A
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\r\n12. Eric Abreu - You've heard of the phrase \"saved by the bell\", but our ranking of Abreu was saved by injury. Like Hoover, Abreu has missed the entire 2005 season with an injury. Still, even with the injury, our exuberance from Abreu's debut in 2004 might have gotten the best of us. If he had pitched in '05, chances are our grade on his ranking would not have been so good. But the fact that he didn't pitch at all this season means we get a pass. Grade: N/A
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\r\n13. Rudy Guillen - Guillen has all the tools in his bag to be a top talent in the Yankees' farm system. However, he has failed to prove it on the field in two straight seasons. He got called up to AA-Trenton late in the season, which perhaps could have been a move to prevent him from going \"stale\" in Tampa after two seasons in the Florida State League. Until he proves it on the field, we're going to have give ourselves a low grade on his offseason ranking last winter. Grade: C
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\r\n14. Abel Gomez - Gomez, like Guillen, has a lot more talent than his numbers have shown. Despite another year of high walk totals when he pitched with Tampa earlier this season, Gomez still put up solid numbers until a surprising demotion to Charleston seemingly unraveled his 2005 season. We're not going to kill our ranking of him as badly as we have with Guillen, but he'll be watched closely next season. Grade: B-
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\r\n15. Jonathan Poterson - Our ranking of Poterson at #15 this past offseason was perhaps one of our more accurate assessments. His power is undeniable and he has shown a good arm out in right field despite playing the position for the first time in his life in 2005. Despite his less than stellar performance in Charleston to begin the year, Poterson's ticket to Staten Island was seemingly already punched in Spring Training. He still has a ways to go in his development, but he has the talent to be a force at the Major League level someday. Grade: A+
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\r\n16. Jason Jones - If you go strictly by the numbers, our ranking of Jones arguably deserves a failing grade based on his 2005 performance with the Tampa Yankees. But like Vechionacci, Jones is much better than his numbers indicate. However, due to the fact we rated him higher than Marquez and DeSalvo, we can't give ourselves a good grade here. Grade: D
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\r\n17. Jeff Marquez - His record in 2005 is not indicative of the type of success he has had with the Riverdogs this year. A disastrous month of June, where he posted a 6.44 ERA in six starts, further skews his overall numbers. Our ranking of Marquez last offseason was perhaps a little too low in hindsight. Switching spots with Abreu would have made more sense. Grade: C+
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\r\n18. Erold Andrus - Andrus hasn't had the type of season we expected from him. His average and his power production are considerably lower than the type of talent he possesses. His 2005 numbers could be more of a product of the Florida State League, a notorious pitcher friendly environment. While his ranking at #18 seems to be right on the money, we can't give ourselves too good a grade on this one because of the players we ranked behind Andrus, namely DeSalvo. Grade: B-
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\r\n19. Bronson Sardinha - The transition to the outfield has gone over a lot smoother in 2005. In fact, his error total has dipped down from 43 in 2004 to single digits this season. He's still just 21 years old playing at the AA level and there are some things to like about his offensive output in '05, including 30 doubles. He'll be going to the Arizona Fall League to play against the top competition this year. If not for the fact we rated him higher than DeSalvo, our grade would have been better. Grade: B
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\r\n20. Matt DeSalvo - \"If not for his back injury in the later months of the season, Matt DeSalvo may have crowned himself a top three pitching prospect in the system.\" That's how we started off his #20 ranking last offseason. DeSalvo proved to everyone that his back was a lot better and his results showed no ill effects from the injury this season. We won't kill our grade for downgrading him due to the injury, but we can't get a good grade either. Grade: B-
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\r\n21. Estee Harris - The guy has a lot of tools. Over 45% of his hits this season have gone for extra bases, a stat which ranks him among the minor league leaders in that category. However, his .216 batting average in 2005 is considerably lower than his already low career average of .233 heading into this season. The mere fact we ranked him higher than Tim Battle speaks volumes of our bad judgment on this one. Grade: D
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\r\n22. Jason Stephens - Considered a lock for the Charleston rotation last offseason, Stephens didn't make his regular season debut until the short-season leagues opened up where he began the year as one of the top pitchers with Staten Island. His breaking stuff is fantastic and he's even better than his solid numbers. But still, he didn't deserve to be ranked higher than Battle. Grade: B-
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\r\n23. Tim Battle - \"Battle still has all the tools but he has mastered only four of them. The only problem with his game is making contact.\" Our assessment of Battle last offseason was right on the money, however our ranking was not. He was on pace at one point to break the all-time South Atlantic League record in strikeouts for a season this year, but his positives should have outweighed the one negative in our ranking. Grade: C+
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\r\n24. Hector Made - Sometimes people underestimate the big jump from low-A ball to high-A ball, and you can throw us into that category, at least in Made's case. The right-handed hitting batter struggled to hit .167 against lefties while with Tampa, bringing his overall average to down to .218 in the Florida State League. Our only saving grace with Made is that there was only a handful of players that should have been ranked higher than him. Still, we can't give ourselves a good grade for Made's ranking. Grade: D
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\r\n25. Jeff Karstens - Karstens has had what many would consider a very inconsistent season with the Trenton Thunder. When he's been bad, he has been awful. He has allowed six earned runs in 4 of his 27 starts in 2005. If you throw just those four starts out the window, his ERA in 2005 would be under 3.00 as a 22-year old pitching his first year in AA. So his numbers are not as bad as they may appear. However, you could make the argument that Beam and Henn should have been ranked higher. Grade: B-
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\r\n26. Mike Martinez - He does not possess overpowering stuff, but the guy simply gets the job done. His less than 2 to 1 strikeout-to-walk ratio does not spell out a future closer down the road, but he's a legit pitching prospect nevertheless. Grade: B
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\r\n27. Mario Holmann - Some pundits would consider our ranking Holmann at #27 to be quite high, given his numbers in 2005. Don't be fooled by the stats. His defense is superb and he is blazing fast. They say power is the last tool to develop and right now, it is the only thing keeping him away from a Major League career. If anything, he deserved to be ranked even slightly higher last offseason. Grade: B+
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\r\n28. Sean Henn - The adage \"hindsight is 20/20\" was never more evident than our ranking of Henn last offseason. A sub-par 2004, combined with rumors prior to the 2005 season that he would be moved to the bullpen, clouded our judgement on Henn's ranking in the Yankees' farm system. While very few, if anyone, could have expected the breakout campaign in 2005, we still can't give ourselves a passing grade on his #28 ranking. Grade: F
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\r\n29. John Urick - His tremendous start to the 2005 season [.299-5-16 in his first 20 games] had us quickly reevaluating his #29 ranking offseason. A nagging injury that kept him out of the lineup for six weeks and a .203 average over the final three months of the season made his hot start a distant memory. There weren't too many guys ranked higher on our preseason list that you could make an argument for that Urick should have been ranked higher. Grade: B
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\r\n30. Brandon Harmsen - Despite a 10-3 mark with Battle Creek in 2004, the writing was on the wall that Harmsen could struggle in the Florida State League, considering his opponents' batting average in the Midwest League a year ago. A 1-8 record and a 6.26 ERA later with the Tampa Yankees, we should have paid more attention to the signs. Even with players a lot older than he, a lot of them still should have been ranked higher. Grade: D
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\r\n31. Andy Phillips - \"Here is the player that is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most major league ready in the Yankee Farm System. He now has nothing left to prove after having a monstrous season with AAA Columbus in 2004.\" That was our quote when we ranked Phillips #31 last offseason. It wasn't a slight on his overall ability, but more of a case of his advanced age and ability for the minor leagues. He just doesn't seem to figure in the Yankees' plans. Grade: B
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\r\n32. Mitch Jones - Like Phillips, our rather low ranking of Jones was more due to the Yankees' plans for him more so than his ability as a player. He has put up a Jones-like year once again in 2005 and he'll turn 28 years old in October and he still doesn't seemingly figure into the Yankees' long term plans in the future. Grade: B
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\r\n33. Ben Jones - Despite an All-Star year with the Charleston Riverdogs in 2005 and consistently being one of the clutch guys in the lineup, Jones is still a 24-year old player playing against much younger competition in the South Atlantic League. Not many players debut as high as Ben did in a top prospect ranking after just one year in a short-season league, so we were fully aware of his ability. Until he is challenged at the higher levels and he duplicates the same success, Jones is ranked right where he belongs. Grade: A
.\r\n
\r\n34. Rafael Rodriguez - While we were right on the money with Ben Jones, we couldn't have been more wrong with Rodriguez. He was released by the Yankees before the start of the 2005 season. Enough said! Grade: F
\r\n
\r\n35. Maximo Nelson - Nelson was going to be one of the more intriguing prospects heading into the 2005 season, but visa problems kept him out of the United States. Unfortunately, we weren't able to see what he could do at the higher minor league levels. Grade: N/A
\r\n
\r\n36. Jon Skaggs - The former first round pick posted a 6.00+ ERA in 22 games with the AA-Trenton Thunder this year before getting demoted to high-A Tampa. And after posting a 6.00+ ERA in his first five starts in the Florida State League, one thing is certain: our #36 ranking of Skaggs last offseason was overly optimistic. Grade: F
\r\n
\r\n37. Ben Julianel - \"Ben Julianel makes the cut for this list just because of his organizational value. He is a left handed, hard throwing reliever with a nasty slider and a superb changeup. Julianel is equally nasty against lefties and righties.\" Our assessment and our ranking of Julianel was right on target. Grade: A
\r\n
\r\n38. Juan De Leon - Like Maximo Nelson, De Leon had visa problems prior to Spring Training and still hasn't made it back to U.S. soil. So like Nelson, we get an incomplete grade for his ranking. Grade: N/A
\r\n
\r\n39. T.J. Beam - Usually when we're wrong it is because we were overvaluing a player, not underestimating. Such was the case with Beam. While some people may say we vastly underestimated Beam, especially considering his fantastic numbers with Charleston this year, don't let the fact that he's a 25-year old hurler pitching against much younger competition in the South Atlantic League cloud your judgement. He's going to have to show the same success against competition closer to his age to rapidly climb the charts. Grade: B-
.\r\n
\r\n40. Shelley Duncan - One of the nicest guys in the Yankees' organization, Shelley is the epitome of a power hitter. He already has more home runs in 2005 than he had in his previous two seasons. However, his .241 overall average in 2005, and more the point, his .208 average over the final two months of the season, downplays his tremendous power output. Throw in the fact that he turns 26 years old in September and our ranking of Shelley was pretty accurate. Like Phillips and Mitch Jones, Duncan doesn't appear to figure in the Yankees' long term plans. Grade: B
\r\n
\r\n41. Kevin Reese - Reese had one of the better seasons among the Yankees' prospects in 2004 and he has followed it up with another solid year in 2005, including a cup of coffee with the Yankees. Like Shelley Duncan, Mitch Jones, and Andy Phillips, there aren't many questions about his ability. His low ranking was more due to his age [he'll be 28 years old next season] and the fact that he doesn't appear to be in the Yankees' outfield plans anytime soon. Grade: B
\r\n
\r\n42. Kevin Thompson - Thompson, despite turning in a fantastic season in 2005, will turn 26 years old in September and he's rapidly falling into the Shelley Duncan -Mitch Jones-Andy Phillipes-Kevin Reese group of talented ballplayers, but losing a fading prospect status because of his age. Thompson, along with the others, could find his way on to the Yankees' roster at some point to serve a reserve role with the Bombers at some point. Grade: B-
\r\n
\r\n43. Justin Christian - Arguably, nobody has turned in a better season among the positional prospects in the Yankees' farm system in 2005 more so than Justin Christian. But as fantastic a year has he has had, the bottom line is he is way too old for the levels he had played this year. He's going to have to prove his mettle at the higher levels in a hurry just to get lumped into the same group of players as the aforementioned Kevin Thompson, Shelley Duncan, Mitch Jones, Andy Phillips, and Kevin Reese. The one thing that Christian and Thompson have that gives them a better shot is plus speed, a tool any Major League team could utilize. Grade: B
.\r\n
\r\n44. Edwardo Sierra - Continued control problems had Sierra's stock falling before the start of the 2005 season. And after walking 38 batters in his first 33 appearances with the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees parlayed his fantastic stuff and combined it with Ramon Ramirez to net them Shawn Chacon. Grade: A
\r\n
\r\n45. Grant Plumley - Plumley earned a spot in the preseason top 50 for his wonderful defensive play at shortstop. He was tested in a move to third base in order to keep Marcos Vechionacci at shortstop, but the Yankees wisely decided to keep Nacci at third base and keep Plumley at his natural shortstop position by mid-season. He's not known as an offensive force so his preseason ranking was pretty accurate. Grade: B+
\r\n
\r\n46. Evan Tierce - A numbers crunch forced the 2004 Gulf Coast League batting champion to begin the 2005 season in Extended Spring Training before breaking with the Charleston Riverdogs once the short-season leagues began play in June. He provided some offensive punch for a struggling Riverdogs' offense late in the season and he too has some good talent but will need to show success at the higher levels in order to garner a higher ranking. Grade: B+
.\r\n
\r\n47. Jose Valdez - Rehabbing an injury in the Dominican Republic all year long, Valdez didn't take the mound for the Yankees at any point this season. As a result, we get a pass on his ranking. Grade: N/A
\r\n
\r\n48. Javier Ortiz - No longer in the Yankees' organization and pitching in the White Sox farm system, Ortiz hasn't shown much success even for them in 2005. The fact he's no longer with the Yankees and not having success means we can't give ourselves a passing grade. Grade: F
\r\n
\r\n49. Nathan Phillips - The experiment at catcher did not pan out, but he did have a hot start once the Gulf Coast League season started up in June. Still, the mere fact we mentioned his name as one of the promising power prospects [in another article] shows just how wrong we were in our analysis of Phillips. Until he shows the power numbers in his stats, we won't make the same mistake twice. Grade: F
\r\n
\r\n50. Drew Edwards - Edwards, after receiving a ranking in our Top 50 Yankees' prospects last offseason, was promptly released by the Yankees months later. To this point, he hasn't caught on with anyone else either. Grade: F
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