In George We Trust
A(nother) blog about the most storied franchise in sports
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Top 20 Prospects
Prospect lists are running rampant on the blogosphere this time of year; Mark Healey of Gotham Baseball released his Top 10 Yankee prospect way back in November, and John Sickels released his Top 20 list for the Yanks less than a week ago. Pinstripes Plus wrapped up their marathon Top 100 Yankees prospects list exactly a month ago. The best in the prospect business, Baseball America, released their Top 10 Yankee prospects in January, followed by the release of their annual must-have Prospect Handbook which covers the Top 30 prospects of each team, then topped it all off with the annual Top 100 prospects list.

Forever a fan of prospects and minor league baseball in general, I thought I'd take a shot at ranking who I think the Yankees Top 20 prospects are. I ranked them based on a variety of criteria, including (but not limited to) what I think their long-term potential is, major league readiness, injury history, past performances, and age. Needless to say many of you will disagree with my rankings, so feel free to let me know. This is the first time I've ever tried something like this (it's alot harder than I thought it would be), and I'm far from a prospect guru, so please go easy on me.

1. Jose Tabata, OF: The uber-talented Venezuelan is just oozing potential. His ceiling is in orbit, and although he may not play in the majors at age 19 like Andruw Jones, he could end up twice the player Andruw is. All for the bargain basement price of a $500k signing bonus. Cross your fingers he stays healthy.

2. Phil Hughes, RHP: The stuff and intangibles are all there for Hughes to be a frontline starter, but he's not in my top spot for one reason and one reason only: I have no idea if they kid can hold up physically for a full season (3 trips to the DL in 2 years, and he only averages 4.71 IP per start). He has only 92.1 pro innings on his resume, or 160.2 IP less than my boy Matt Cain had under his belt at the same age.

3. Eric Duncan, 1B: His stock took a hit after a relatively poor Double-A showing, but he rebounded with an exclamation point at the Arizona Fall League (.362-.423-.734-1.157). His prodigious power is on the rise (4 HR in 2003; 16 in 2004; 19 last year), but his batting average is on a serious decline (.301 BA in 2003; .258 in 2004; .235 in 2005). Hopefully the Yanks won't continue to push him so aggressively and the confidence he gained at the AzFL is here to stay.

4. JB Cox, RHP: How can people not like this guy? He's a fearless strikeout pitcher that's near major league ready. He doesn't just shut the door, he slams it. Given the uncertainty surrounding Octavio Dotel's health and Kyle Farnsworth's bust potential, would you be surprised if he was Torre's 8th inning guy come October?

5. CJ Henry, SS: It's something special when he makes contact (one-third of his hits went for extra bases). Make that if he makes contact (.249 BAA in 48 Rookie ball games). He's got quite a ways to go and alot to learn, but his talent is undeniable. A switch to the outfield may be in the cards thanks to Captain October's presence.

6. Austin Jackson, OF: He does it all, or at least he has the potential to. Brief scouting report: great athlete, decent power, good competitor, good contact, good speed, good defense, good eye, good arm, mean jump shot (passed on a basketball scholarship to Georgia Tech). It'll be a neck-and-neck race between Jackson and Tabata to see who gets to the majors first.

7. Tyler Clippard, RHP: I'm very skeptical and I don't know why. Maybe it's because he has grossly overachieved with his average stuff (his 23-23 career record more accurately tells of his ability then his 5.38 K/BB ratio), or it could be that he looks like a decent wind gust would blow him off the mound (6'3", 170 lbs). Either way, I hope he keeps it up.

8. Eduardo Nunez, SS: Tantalizing ability that translating into on-the-field production almost instantly. As an 18-year old he put up a .313-.365-.427-.792 line in the NY-Penn League, and he's only going to get better. He has Derek Jeter ahead of him and CJ Henry behind him on the organizational depth chart, so he may be changing positions in the near future.

9. Marcos Vechionacci, 3B: A Gold Glover waiting to happen, he just needs to get his bat back on track. Even though A-Rod's contract seems to be neverending, Vechionacci will only be 24 when A-Rod's deal is up in 2010, making it possible he takes over long-term. He would be the first homegrown third baseman (that stuck for more than 1 year) for the Yanks since Mike Pagliarulo in 1985.

10. Christian Garcia, RHP: The stuff and potential is there for him to join Hughes at the top of the rotation one day, but he needs time. He took a step back in 2005, but remember, he's only been pitching for 3 years (originally a catcher).

11. Jeff Marquez, RHP: Premier talent, inferior results. His sinkerball can do better than a 13-17 career record.

12. Brett Gardner, OF: He's fast and knows what he's doing on the field thanks to incredible instincts. There's a chance he could have been roaming center at the Stadium in mid-2007 if it wasn't for that long-haired fellow.

13. Matt DeSalvo, RHP: The most underappreciated pitcher in the system. In 323 pro innings, his career stats read like a Hall of Famers: 2.62 ERA; 2.06 BAA; 9.14 Kper9; .39 HRper9; 1.14 WHIP. With the exception of Kper9, those numbers are better across the board than those of Dodgers phenom Chad Billingsley (334 career innings).

14. Garrett Patterson, LHP: Hard throwing lefty with serious control issues. Sounds like a young Randy Johnson. Just don't don't get your hopes up that high.

15. Matt Smith, LHP: Found his niche in the pen after floundering around in the rotation for almost 4 years. But all those walks (4.87 career BBper9; 3.93 in 2005), eek.

16. TJ Beam, RHP: What's not to like (declining Hper9 and BBper9, increasing Kper9) except the fact that he's almost 25 and has yet to throw a Double-A pitch?

17. Alan Horne, RHP: A potential 11th round steal, but he just needs some motivation. OK, alot of motivation.

18. Darrell Rasner, RHP: How could teams like the Padres, Royals and especially the Marlins not pluck him off waivers before the Yanks? (3.20 ERA since Opening Day 2004)

19. Steven White, RHP: Almost 25 years old and he's still unproven above High-A. Is he the same guy that had a 63.6 winning percentage at Baylor?

20. Tim Battle, OF: Makeup questions cloud his tantalizing power-speed potential. Surprising considering his bout with cancer.

Honorable Mention
Sean Henn, LHP: Believe it or not, Henn used to touch 100+ on the gun. Throw away his Bronx cameo, and his 2005 was pretty damn good (2.66 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 95 hits allowed in 111.2 IP), so of course, he'll probably be moved to the bullpen full-time in 2006.
Kevin Howard, 2B: Magic 8-ball says...utility player at best. And that's OK.
Melky Cabrera, OF: His confidence is all but gone after his call-up, and sadly, he may never be the same.
Bronson Sardinha, OF: Well, at least he's better than his brothers (Dane's minor league BA: .234; Duke's: .236; Bronson's: 270).
Rudy Guillen, OF: His plate discipline is almost non-existent (only 107 walks in 1869 pro plate appearances), his OPS has dropped every year since he signed (.748-.725-.660-.656), he's hit into more double plays (48) than homers (25), and yet that sweet swing from the right side keeps bringing us back. You tease. Reality check: Guillen was the Jose Tabata of 2001.
Anonymous baileywalk said...
>>Jose Tabata... he could end up twice the player Andruw (Jones) is...<<

Whoa! I know you love Tabs, but give him a break. He's just a kid and had a spectacular season of rookie ball. Let's let him mature a little before we predict he's going to outshine the best centerfielder of his generation. I love Tabata and his potential is truly exciting, but simmer down. In my dreams, the outfield of the future has Austin Jackson in center and Tabs in a corner.

>>Phil Hughes... I have no idea if they kid can hold up physically for a full season (3 trips to the DL in 2 years, and he only averages 4.71 IP per start)...<<

Don't buy into this nonsense. The Yankees know he is the best shot they have at a home-grown ace pitcher and they baby the hell out of him. They shut him down early only as a precaution and it was only elbow tendinitis. Jaret Wright has an injury history. J.D. Drew is injury-prone. Hughes, on the other hand, has just been swaddled by his organization. I'd guarantee he'd get through the season without injury, but I don't want to jinx him.

>>Kyle Farnsworth's bust potential<<

I have no idea why Farnsworth came here. He could have stayed in Atlanta and been worshipped as the savior of their bullpen. Instead, he comes here, for the bigger challenge, and to set up instead of close, and all he gets is abuse before he's even thrown a pitch in a real game.

>>Tyler Clippard... Maybe it's because he has grossly overachieved with his average stuff (his 23-23 career record more accurately tells of his ability then his 5.38 K/BB ratio), or it could be that he looks like a decent wind gust would blow him off the mound (6'3", 170 lbs).<<

Who says his stuff is average? Clearly, it's above-average. And you should know that a pitcher's win-loss record has nothing to do with him. Results don't lie -- and even if Clip is skinny doesn't mean he can't pitch on the big-league level. Gator, Cone, Pedro, etc., seemed to do just fine.

>>Melky Cabrera, OF: His confidence is all but gone after his call-up, and sadly, he may never be the same.<<

Oh, my God. Talk about a cliche. This is regurgitated garbage. Have you been watching spring training? His confidence is just fine. Melky has looked better this spring than he ever has. Personally, I think the organization overhyped Melky. I don't think he'll ever make this team, but it's obvious from spring training that his brief, disastrous stint in the Bronx is long behind him.

Sorry to pick this apart like that, but you asked for it. It was a good read. Keep up the good work.

Blogger Mike A said...
It's cool, I was hoping to start up some arguments.

As far as Melky - no I haven't seen a Yankee pitch this spring break, I live in California now so the YES network is a thing of the past for me. The only time I get to see the Yanks is an ESPN game, or if they're playing the A's or Giants.

Clippard: Just about every scouting publication lists him as having average stuff. I agree the results are there, but don't mention him in the same sentence as Guidry, Cone, Pedro, et al. Not yet anyway.

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