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Most Intriguing Yankees Prospects in 2012

By Joseph Delgrippo ~ January 7th, 2012. Filed under: Digest Contributors, Yanks Minors.

In the past we have done a Top 50 Prospect list for the Mets and Yankees. With the explosion of online content, everyone seems to have a “list” and ranking to the point where it all blends together. After all, what’s the difference between prospect number 38 and 45? Does it matter who #1 really is? In most cases it’s fairly obvious. Maybe the best debate is who makes the Top 10.

That’s why I am taking a new twist here at the site. Instead of a Top 10, 25 or 50, I asked my contributors to suggest the most intriguing prospects going into the year. They don’t have to include any of the top names, but the top players aren’t disqualified either.

Both Joseph Delgrippo and Chuck Johnson wanted to give their perspective since they have extensive time covering, watching, and discussing the Yankees farm system.

Joe is frequently down in Trenton watching the Eastern League, as well as watching South Atlantic League play in Lakewood, New Jersey. Chuck is a long-time scout who covers the Arizona Fall League and has connections throughout baseball.

The purpose of this exercise is to generate debate and discussion. As always, I am looking forward to your feedback.

I hope you enjoy!

- Mike Silva 1/7/2012

Most Intriguing Yankees Prospects in 2012 – Joseph Delgrippo

One of the first things Brian Cashman changed when he gained control of the entire New York Yankees baseball organization in 2005 was to improve the draft and development program. While the first draft provided nothing, the second year in 2006 likely is the best draft of any team in recent memory.

No fewer than 10 players from that Yankees draft have reached the majors, and the one I thought would have one of the greatest impacts, Tim Norton, would also have reached the majors but has been beset by various injuries.

Norton was a college starter who the Yankees converted to short reliever, then began to dominate even up to his latest injury last season.

The Yankees have been very good in developing relief pitchers during Cashman’s regime. They have produced Joba Chamberlain (insert argument here) and David Robertson, both college pitchers who progressed very quickly through the Yankee system.

With the known uncertainty with relief pitchers year to year, it is imperative for organizations to produce their own homegrown relief talent before the major league team spends $35 million on a reliever the team really does not need.

That is why two of my five most intriguing Yankee prospects for 2012 are current relievers in their system.

With Chamberlain and Phil Hughes (I am not fully convinced Hughes can be a full time starting pitcher) becoming free agents after 2013, it is imperative the Yankees develop a few more major league quality middle relievers to both replace Joba and Phil, who both will leave to become starters elsewhere, and to help keep a lower payroll to add flexibility when the team needs to add salary.

The Yankees also need to find if their recent surge in starting pitching prospects will turn beneficial for the franchise. The Tampa Bay Rays have continuously developed starting pitching which have kept their payroll low and their potential for winning the AL East high.

Here are my five most intriguing Yankees prospects for 2012:

1) Mark Montgomery – RHP

This guy possesses the same type of repertoire as David Robertson, with a big fastball and dynamic breaking ball, although M&Ms out pitch is a wicked slider. With only four appearances, Montgomery blew through the NY-Penn league last year and dominated an overmatched Sally League upon his quick promotion.

Similar to Robertson in 2007, who pitched at three levels his first full year in the system, look for Montgomery to start 2012 in High A Tampa, but don’t be surprised if he ends up in Triple A  or higher.

The Yanks need more strikeout reliever types in the higher levels.

2) Manny Banuelos – LHP

Over the last three seasons, the Yankees system has begun to produce high level starting pitching talent, with the 20-year old Banuelos the cream of the crop. With a very mid-90s fastball and plus changeup, Banuelos reminds me of a young Johan Santana. However, Banuelos has a better delivery which should keep his arm healthy in the future.

Manny dominated the lower levels, but even though he still was only 20 and was in his first full year at the higher levels, he struggled with his control a little during his brief time in Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. While seeing Banuelos in person several times, he tends to nibble, but his stuff is good enough to throw the ball over the plate and get away with minimal contact.

Now that he has a few innings at the higher levels, this season is important for Banuelos and the Yankees, who thus far have resisted the need the trade their prized left handed prospect for a mediocre established starting pitcher.  He needs to improve his control and show the Yankees their patience can be rewarded.

3) Mason Williams – OF

In only his first full (semi-full actually) season in pro ball, Williams dominated the NY-Penn League with a .349/.395/.468 slash line, including 3 HRs. He used his speed to register 11 doubles and 6 triples, with 28 stolen bases. With the dearth of Yankee outfield prospects in the high minors, look for Williams to skip Charleston and mover directly from Staten Island to High-A Tampa, close to his Florida home.

This move is not without precedent as another Yankees speedster, Brett Gardner, skipped Charleston on his run to the majors.

How Williams performs will go a long way as to whether the Yankees need to begin signing free agent outfielders to long term deals (and thus crippling their payroll) or going the year by year route until guys like Williams become major league ready by the 2014 season.

4) Branden Pinder – RHP

SI’s Tom Verducci wrote this piece about the Yankees’ David Robertson which indicated the diminutive reliever gets more “hop” on his fastball because of his long stride and extension to home plate. Well, Branden Pinder, closer for the Staten Island Yankees in 2011 after M&M was promoted, has that same long extension and “hop”. Bringing the heat at 93-95 all year for the Baby Bombers, his fastball was actually registering to hitters at 96-98. Although the pitch was consistently up in the zone, he was able to get away with it at this level. His slider was sharp on occasion, but not consistent and he threw slightly across his body.

I don’t expect the Yankees to put both Pinder and Montgomery at High-A Tampa, so Pinder will likely start in Charleston and move up quickly as his strikeouts progress. The Yankees normally do not work with kids much until they reach High-A Tampa, and this should provide the Yankees with a reason to move Pinder quickly through the system.

As with Montgomery, the Yankees want to continue their development with high impact relief arms and Pinder fits that profile very well.

5) Gary Sanchez – C

I had a few others considered for this spot including J. R. Murphy and David Adams, two kids who are always hurt.

However, depending how he improves, Sanchez gives the Yankees flexibility and options. The Yankees are heavy in catching prospects, and Sanchez, with his power arm and bat is likely the brightest of the bunch.

While hitting .256/.335/.485 as an 18 year old in Low-A Charleston, Sanchez produced 17 home runs in only 343 PA, the same HR total as Jesus Montero at this level, in 220 LESS PAs!

I saw him play several times and he looked lackluster in the field and in the box, almost appearing “entitled” and “bored” at the same time. If Sanchez improves his mental approach to the game, which he should in Tampa with all the brass watching, this talented kid could push the Yankees to move Austin Romine (who I feel is overrated) as part of a package for talent at another position.

Honorable Mentions

J.R. Murphy (great plate discipline), Chase Whitley (rapidly moving reliever), Slade Heathcott (health) and David Adams (health).

Chuck Johnson adds:

Jesus Montero: Obvious reasons; once and for all we should know by Memorial Day whether he’s the next Derek Jeter or the next Drew Henson.

Slade Heathcott: Unfortunately, his shoulder injury appears chronic, but hopefully his head isn’t and the Yanks can get something out of him sooner rather than later.

Austin Romine: At age 23 and slated for full-time Triple-A duty. This is his year; either he’s the heir apparent to Russell Martin in New York or just another son of an ex-player.

The entire Scranton pitching staff: Pitching an entire season with half your games at home gives at least somewhat of a routine to the season. Pitching the entire season without a home will test each guy in ways they never imagined. Pitchers are very routine/habit oriented, and I’m especially concerned about Banuelos and especially Betances taking steps backwards.

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Joseph Delgrippo is an aspiring sportswriter and TV baseball analyst. He played NCAA baseball, at tiny Marietta (OH) College, participating in the Division 3 World Series. In addition, he's coached baseball at the high school level. His knowledge of this game goes far beyond what is shown on television.

2 Responses to Most Intriguing Yankees Prospects in 2012

  1. Daler

    How do u give a platform to a hack like chuck?

  2. Chuck Johnson

    Yankees just traded Montero.

    Hack this.

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