Evaluating the 2016 Prospects: New York Yankees

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The Yankees have enviable depth at multiple positions, though it’s their bullpen options that seem to continually be a strength for them each year. This particular group is full of many of them, to the point where it seems the Yankees have an affinity for pitchers with unique deliveries and arm actions. Besides Jorge Mateo being the consensus top prospect, there is a bit more risk in their collection of 50+ FV players than most organizations have, but they make up for any uncertainty with quantity of upside prospects from the next tiers. Perhaps the only real surprise ranking here is Domingo Acevedo taking the number two spot, though he seems to sit comfortably in the top 10 by most people’s standards. His combination of velocity, athleticism and control at a young age was too interesting to rank further down the list.

You’ll notice that many of the Yankees’ recent international signings are found in the Quick Hits section, with the exception of Wilkerman Garcia, Leonardo Molina and Hyo Jun Park. These three represent the prospects I feel have the best chance out of the gate to reach the major leagues, though that doesn’t mean they necessarily have the highest ceilings. Others like Dermis Garcia, Miguel Flames, Juan De Leon and Nelson Gomez all have sizable raw potential, but in terms of 50th percentile outcomes, they are a little too far away to count on just yet. Another year of professional competition will give us the information we need about their physical development and translation to skills.

Here’s the primer for the series and my scouting thoughts in general. The grades I put on players heavily weight the functionality of each tool in game situations, rather than just pure tool grades. Here is a table to understand the position player grades:

Scouting Grades in Context: Hitters
Grade Called Batting Average HR ISO Baserunning Runs Fielding Runs
80 80 0.320 40 0.300 12 30
75 0.310 35-40 0.275 10 25
70 Plus Plus 0.300 30-35 0.250 8 20
65 0.290 27-30 0.225 6 15
60 Plus 0.280 23-27 0.200 4 10
55 Above Average 0.270 19-22 0.175 2 5
50 Average 0.260 15-18 0.150 0 0
45 Below Average 0.250 12-15 0.125 -2 -5
40 0.240 8-12 0.100 -4 -10
35 0.230 5-8 0.075 -6 -15
30 0.220 3-5 0.050 -8 -20

As well as one to understand what the overall grades approximate:

Scouting Grades in Context: Overall
Grade Hitter Starting Pitcher Relief Pitcher WAR
80 Top 1-2 #1 Starter —- 7
75 Top 2-3 #1 —- 6
70 Top 5 #1/2 —- 5
65 All-Star #2/3 —- 4
60 Plus #3 High Closer 3
55 Above Avg #3/4 Mid Closer 2.5
50 Avg Regular #4 Low CL/High SU 2
45 Platoon/Util #5 Low Setup 1.5
40 Bench Swing/Spot SP Middle RP 1
35 Emergency Call-Up Emergency Call-Up Emergency Call-Up 0
30 *Organizational *Organizational *Organizational -1

One other difference in the way I communicate scouting grades to you is the presence of three numbers on each tool instead of just two. The first number is the current grade. The second number is the likely future grade; or, if you prefer percentiles, call this the 50th percentile projection. The third number is the ceiling grade, or 90th percentile projection, to help demonstrate the volatility and raw potential of a tool.

I feel this gives readers a better sense of the possible outcomes a player could achieve, and more information to understand my thoughts on the likelihood of reaching those levels. If you prefer the traditional methodologies of other publications, I would suggest averaging the latter two grades together to get a semi-optimistic view of where a player projects.

In the biographical information, level refers to where they finished the year, unless they were sent down for injury rehab or other extraneous reasons. Ages are listed as of April 1, 2016. You can also find each player’s previous rank from Kiley’s list last year. Below, Dave Cameron shares his thoughts on the general state of the organization. Returning for his popular cameo, Carson Cistulli picks his favorite fringe prospect toward the end of the list.

Organizational Overview
The Yankees have pivoted away from being the sport’s financial behemoth, and are now emulating the practices of those franchises who focus on developing their own talent, rather than just buying the second half of elite player’s careers. In the long-term, this is a move in the right direction, but in the short-term, it makes the Yankees just one of many decent-but-not-great teams in the American League. The organizational shift towards youth should help the team avoid the down cycles that can come from having veterans get old fast, but the trade-off is being mortal while they wait for the kids to develop. The team’s patience will likely be rewarded, but 2016 could be one more year where the Yankees have to hope things break their way in order to make the postseason.

50+ FV Prospects

Video courtesy of the New York Yankees
1. Jorge Mateo, SS
Current Level/Age: High-A/20.8, 6’0/188, R/R
Acquired: Signed in 2012 out of Dominican Republic by NYY for $250,000 bonus
Previous Rank: 5

Mateo has the potential to bring together the rare combination of natural lift and big-time bat speed. While his approach is more geared toward making contact right now, he can’t help but drive balls in the gap with his swing, and he is going to be a force at the top of a big league lineup. That’s before even accounting for his game-changing, top-of-the-scale speed and elite baserunning. He led all of the minor leagues last year with 82 stolen bases while getting caught only 17 times.

His speed has made up for some of his technical deficiencies at short in the past. Though it may still be a couple years away, he has the soft hands and athletic moves to be at least an above-average defender. His plus arm is good enough for Mateo to continue profiling at short.

The weakest current tool is his power, but he has shown a lot of promise driving balls in the gaps and over the fence. Flashing a swing plane capable of consistently hitting balls in the air with solid contact ability, the only thing that will prevent him from reaching 45 or 50 power is an intentional decision not to, as he does stifle his power swing in games to put the ball in play. His strike zone judgment needs more time to improve, with his consistent above-average walk rates giving hope that he will figure out an approach that works for him.

Hit: 45/55/60 Power: 40/40+/50 Run: 80/80/80 Field: 50/55/55+ Throw: 60/60/60
Overall: 45-50/65/70

Video courtesy of Eric Longenhagen
2. Domingo Acevedo, RHP
Current Level/Age: Single-A/21.8, 6’7/190, R/R
Acquired: Signed in 2012 out of Dominican Republic by NYY for $278,000 bonus
Previous Rank: Unranked

Acevedo throws gas, sitting in the upper-90s and reportedly touching 102-103 at times. He is still raw — at the age of 22 this spring — though not necessarily in the same way as most hard-throwing prospects. He needs to refine his offspeed stuff, and has a few important mechanical issues that he is working on, but he has a great feel for the strike zone. Even when he gets a little out of whack on the mound, his stuff stays around the plate more often than not.

His fastball makes his arsenal, carrying his developing slider through its early struggles and giving his straight changeup a huge advantage to work off of. His slider has a ways to go, but could end up being an above-average pitch when he’s ready to join the big leagues. His changeup is his best secondary option currently, mostly effective because of the similar arm speed to his fastball with an excellent velocity gap.

Acevedo has only been playing baseball since he was 16 years old, so his mechanical shortcomings can be taken with a big grain of salt for now. Still worth noting, he has some tempo inconsistencies with a big rush toward his glove side when he tries to add velocity. In a related but not completely interdependent move, his arm can swing out pretty wide away from his body, adding some effort to his arm action and making it difficult to release his slider the same way each time. He has been working on keeping his upper body more in line with the plate.

His ceiling could approach ace level if his slider becomes a weapon, but realistically, he is on the path to being a mid-rotation starter or top-tier closer depending on how his health holds up and where his secondary stuff goes. I’m going a little conservative on his ceiling while he hones his delivery, but the fact that he’s athletic enough to still pound the zone with the rawness he has physically is a very encouraging sign.

Fastball: 65/75/80 Slider: 40/50/55 Changeup: 45/50/55+ Command: 45/50/55
Overall: 40+/55/65

3. Gary Sanchez, C
Current Level/Age: Triple-A/23.9, 6’2/230, R/R
Acquired: Signed in 2009 out of Dominican Republic by NYY for $3 million bonus
Previous Rank: 11

When I saw Gary Sanchez was playing in the Arizona Fall League, I fully expected to see an oversized “catcher” who had some power. His reputation of being a future designated hitter and low-average power guy has floated around for a couple years now. What I ended up watching was an average defensive catcher who not only had legitimate power, but also had a good feel for squaring balls up and being a solid hitter all around. Sanchez really broke out in 2015 as key developments on both sides of his game came together all at once.

At the plate, I was very impressed with his swing and ability to generate consistently hard fly ball and high line drive contact. His barrel arc can get a little long to the ball and a few of his swings started with a rushed load, but overall he had a great path, loose hands and good rhythm. The two homers he hit when I was there were telling. He was out in front of both, but was able to hit them hard enough and with enough lift to still get the better of the pitcher. His hit tool looked better than advertised as well, though his walk rate could go up or down at the next level. His power threat gives it upside, but he’s still aggressive enough for good pitchers to take advantage of him.

Defensively was the bigger surprise. Not only were his pop times to second in the 1.9-2.0 range consistently (average to above-average), his receiving behind the plate looked better than most catchers in the league. I still put a 50 grade on his arm, since though he is sure-footed on his throws, he lacks the agility to get rid of the ball quicker than most. His very strong arm makes up the difference. He also isn’t the most agile blocker, but if that’s the lowest-impact skill in a catcher’s defensive contributions.

Sanchez solidified himself this year as a legitimate catcher with enough feel at the plate to unlock his power potential. Expect him to force his way into the Yankees lineup in some way, offering potential as an above-average regular with decent defensive skills and a middle-of-the-order bat.

Hit: 45/50/50 Power: 55/60/65 Run: 30/30/30 Field: 50/50/55 Throw: 50/50/55
Overall: 45-50/55/60+

Video courtesy of the New York Yankees
4. Aaron Judge, RF
Current Level/Age: Triple-A/23.9, 6’7/275, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 32nd overall (1st round) in 2013 out of Fresno State by NYY for $1.8 million bonus
Previous Rank: 2

I have gone back and forth on Judge the last few years, even going as far as to think he won’t hit for more than average power with his swing and inconsistency barreling up the ball. The most pertinent thing in opposition to my earlier projections is that Judge has simplified his swing, and as a result he doesn’t show as much of the choppy path that made me worry about him getting to his power. He used to have a bigger load, wrapping the bat around his head, which forced him to have to rush back to the ball and cut down on the lift in his swing.

Though Judge has a solid approach and should draw more than a fair share of walks, he mishits or whiffs altogether on a lot of pitches in the zone. If his hit tool were to break through past the 50 ceiling I gave him, I imagine it would be due more to his on-base abilities taking a step forward, since it’s unlikely he has room to grow with his contact rate.

The rest of his skills are surprisingly solid for a player his size. He has excellent body control and around average speed, parlaying it into average fielding ability and a high baserunning IQ that might let him stay an average runner even if his speed starts to go. His plus arm isn’t just built on arm strength, with a quick release and good accuracy making him an ideal candidate for right field.

Hit: 40/45/50 Power: 55/60/65+ Run: 50/45/50 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 60/60/60
Overall: 45/55/60+

5. Dustin Fowler, CF
Current Level/Age: High-A/21.3, 6’0/195, L/L
Acquired: Drafted 554th overall (18th round) in 2013 out of Georgia HS by NYY for $278,000 bonus
Previous Rank: Unranked

Fowler remains a bit under the radar despite excellent numbers in his first two seasons and a solid showing the Arizona Fall League. Most of that has to do with his draft pedigree, being an 18th round pick in 2014, though he also has greatly improved his defense and baserunning reads since that time. While he won’t be much of a power threat, his high-contact approach with good bat speed ensures his projected hit tool should be at least average, with some upside if he can continue improving his plate discipline as he faces upper minors pitching this year.

His offensive profile is surprisingly strong for a recent high school pick. He is still learning to use the opposite field, showing a pull approach but maintaining a good line drive rate. Fowler’s quick hands and hand-eye skills make his level to slightly downward swing work very well, particularly on pitches up in the zone or on the inner half. He is at least a 60 runner on the bases, and I had him a shade under 4.0 seconds going home to first in the AFL, giving him some upside there as he improves his reads.

Defensively, I was surprised how good his instincts and reads were on a variety of batted balls in the outfield. Despite his reputation for being more of a corner guy, his skill set fits strongly in center field. Reviews about his arm are higher than what I saw, with two or three throws giving me the impression of a below-average arm, but I split the difference here until I can see him in action some more. Even if his power isn’t close to average, the improved baserunning and defensive projections make him an above-average regular as long as his hit tool holds up.

Hit: 45/50/55 Power: 35/35-40/40 Run: 60/60/65 Field: 55/60/60 Throw: 45/50/50
Overall: 40/55/60+

Video courtesy of The Prospect Pipeline
6. James Kaprielian, RHP
Current Level/Age: Low-A/22.1, 6’4/200, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 16th overall (1st round) in 2015 out of UCLA by NYY for $2.65 million bonus
Previous Rank: NA

Kaprielian didn’t flash any dominant offering in his time at UCLA, but offers a high-floor starting profile to the Yankees system with his overall controll and average arsenal. His command still needs some sharpening, but he should be able to move quickly through the lower minors this year as he pounds the zone with his four-pitch mix.

He has a solid delivery with overall good arm action, though he can sometimes short-arm his release and finish, leading to missed spots up in the zone. Though he sat around 90 miles per hour with his fastball for most of his draft year, his tempo and quick arm made it look much faster, giving him a chance for an above-average to plus fastball even if his late-season velocity gains don’t hold. His curve and changeup both flash above-average, while his slider is more of a slow cutter without a ton of bite at present.

The control Kaprielian possesses will provide a quick path to the upper minors, where he has a good chance of developing at least average command. Smoothing out his delivery a bit and continuing to hone his feel for his curve and change will be the biggest factors in determining where he fits into a big league rotation, though he’s a safe bet to at least be a back-end option. Most likely I see him ending up a mid-rotation starter. Anything more than that will depend on his command jumping into above-average territory.

Fastball: 55/55+/60 Curveball: 45/50/55 Slider: 40/45/50 Changeup: 45/45+/50 Command: 45/50/50+
Overall: 45/50/55

45+ FV Prospects
7. Wilkerman Garcia, SS, VIDEO, Double-A

Garcia acclimated well in his first taste of professional ball stateside, hitting well above-average in the Gulf Coast League last year. He has a loose, easy swing from both sides of the plate and may grow into some power, though presently his approach limits him to low line drives and ground balls. The expectation is he will learn to use his plus speed on the bases, and he has the the range and arm strength to potentially stay at shortstop in the long-term.

A potential plus runner and above-average bat who can play shortstop is a nice package to follow closely. Look for him to challenge for a full-season spot by the end of this year, especially if the hit tool and approach come out as advanced as they looked in 2015.

Hit: 30/50/55 Power: 25/35/45 Run: 50/55/60 Field: 50/55/55 Throw: 60/60/60
Overall: 25/45/60

8. Ben Gamel, OF, VIDEO, Triple-A

Gamel finally got back to what made him an interesting prospect, giving up his attempts to hit for power and focusing on driving the ball around the field. With the changed approach, he put up the best power numbers of his minor league career, and got himself back on the path to the big leagues. At worst, he offers a little of something everywhere, having a chance to bring five legitimate average or better tools into the Yankees lineup. If his approach from last season holds, Gamel may have a real argument for claiming a starting outfield spot in year or two.

Hit: 45/50/55 Power: 45/45/50 Run: 55/55/55 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 50/50/50
Overall: 40/45-50/55+

9. Tyler Wade, SS/2B, VIDEO, Double-A

Wade has smooth, loose hands from the left side with an all-fields, line drive plane. He has some issues controlling his lower half that leave him susceptible to good offspeed, but his hands make up for it most of the time. With plus raw speed, he still has work developing his reads to reach that level in the big leagues. He has great makeup, with many sources repeating his work ethic and effort level makes for good leadership qualities. Defensively he is more than capable to play shortstop, though he has moved around a bit to enhance his versatility.

Hit: 45/50/55 Power: 25/30/35 Run: 55/55/60 Field: 60/60/60 Throw: 55/55/55
Overall: 35-40/45/55+

10. Mason Williams, OF, VIDEO, MLB

Williams was in the middle of a resurgent year when he hurt his right shoulder in June, eventually needing surgery on August 7. He’s slated to start the 2016 season on the disabled list. Before the injury, Williams was showing better patience at the plate and all-around effort, leading many to hope he had turned the corner in his career. Though he hits too many ground balls to be a power threat, he has the potential to be productive in every other category if he can come back with the same desire and ability.

It’s hard to ignore his struggles in 2013 and 2014, so the grades here reflect more where his middle ground could be. He remains a player to watch, since a continuation of last year’s improvements would put him back into the 50+ group easily.

Hit: 45/45+/50 Power: 35/35+/40 Run: 55/55/60 Field: 60/60/60 Throw: 50/50/50
Overall: 40+/45/55

11. Drew Finley, RHP, VIDEO, Rookie

Finley has a fairly advanced skill set on the mound despite being a recent third round high school pick. He has a mature build with at least two future solid-average pitches in his fastball and curveball, though the curve has much more potential if the rest of his kit comes around. His fastball may have a future as a strong two-seamer or sinker, but his command needs work. His changeup has an average ceiling as well, and he pounds the zone well enough to see a back-end starting role in his future. He has limited upside on account of his filled-out body and some effort in his delivery, owing mostly to poor deceleration mechanics at present. If his development goes well, he has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter.

Fastball: 50/50+/55 Curveball: 45/55/60 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 40/50/50+
Overall: 35/45/55

12. Leonardo Molina, OF, VIDEO, Rookie

Molina has a good mixture of hit and power projection, showing a loose swing with quick hands and good use of his full body to eventually be able to drive the ball consistently. His path remains more level than built for long drives, but his athleticism at the plate gives him plenty of upside to figure things out. Also a toolsy defender, Molina is expected to stick in center field, though a move to right wouldn’t be a terrible outcome with his excellent arm strength.

Hit: 25/45/50 Power: 35/45/50+ Run: 55/55/60 Field: 50/55/55+ Throw: 65/65/65
Overall: 25/45/55

13. Rob Refsnyder, 2B, VIDEO, MLB

Refsnyder was expected to be a bigger part of the Yankees infield going into last season, but questions about his defense kept him away from a big league opportunity until September roster expansion. He remains in a similar place this year, though he may be able to work his way onto the roster if he proves capable at third base as well. His bat should end up a tick above-average overall, and his average baserunning gives hope that he can be a starting option for the Yankees when an opportunity arises. However, improved yet still poor footwork and hands at second base leave him a questionable option there, and likely a better bench fit.

Hit: 50/55/55+ Power: 45/45/50 Run: 50/50/50 Field: 40/40+/45 Throw: 50/50/50
Overall: 40/45/50+

14. Jacob Lindgren, LHP, VIDEO, MLB

Lindgren had his big league debut cut short in 2015 when he needed surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow, but he showed enough potential that he will be one of the first options to be called up should the Yankees need arms. Lindgren features a cut-fastball and a very good slider thrown from a high-speed delivery, making his stuff even more uncomfortable to hit.

While the slider may already be close to a plus-plus pitch, his 88-93 mile-per-hour cut-fastball is a little too hittable at times. He needs to improve his command to reach his ceiling as a shutdown reliever, but the slider makes him viable right out of the gate.

Fastball: 50/50+/55 Slider: 65/65/70 Command: 40/40+/45
Overall: 40/45/50+

15. Jordan Montgomery, LHP, VIDEO, High-A

Montgomery tallied excellent numbers split between Single-A and High-A last year, continuing to bring his unique blend of average pitches and deceptive straight overhand arm slot. He commands the ball well and will continue to get opportunities in the rotation, though he is going to need both his curveball and changeup to reach their ceilings to be a solid rotation option.

His arm slot is unique enough to plow through minor league lineups, but at the big league level, hitters will pick him up after a few looks. Assuming his arm tolerates the extreme arm angle, I think he is a good bet to throw meaningful innings, though it’s more likely to be as a back-end starter or swing man. He still has that upside if his secondary stuff continues to progress.

Fastball: 50/55/55 Curveball: 45/50/55 Slider: 40/45/45+ Changeup: 45/50/55 Command: 45/50/55
Overall: 40/45/50+

16. Ian Clarkin, LHP, VIDEO, High-A

Clarkin missed the full regular season in 2015 due to elbow issues before throwing six starts in the Arizona Fall League. His signature command was missing and he had inconsistent looks on the mound, but that was to be expected after losing so much time. He still flashed his above-average stuff even on pitches up in the zone, though the lack of durability and some effort in his arm threaten his future in the rotation.

His chances of finding a way to the big leagues are still solid, but I would have liked to see him come back with better compensation and support for his arm after the injury scare. A move to the bullpen may be warranted this year or next to ensure getting mileage out of his former first-round arm.

Fastball: 50/55/55 Curveball: 50/55/55 Changeup: 45/50/50 Command: 40/45+/50
Overall: 40/45/50

17. Cale Coshow, RHP, VIDEO, Double-A

Coshow is an excellent athlete who likes to carry around some extra weight for strength training purposes. He started off the year in the Single-A Charleston bullpen, dominated and was promoted to High-A, dominated again until dominating some more in the rotation, then made six starts in Double-A. While his long-term future may be in the bullpen, he made quite a case in 2015 to continue getting opportunities as a starter.

His arsenal is highlighted by a great fastball that reaches the upper-90s in short outings, featuring impressive life even at its more sustainable mid-90s velocity out of the rotation. His next best offering is a hard slider with above-average potential. He bookends his pitch selection with a promising but inconsistent split-changeup. He may have to lose some weight to maintain his stuff deep into games and throughout the long season, but he shows enough potential to bear watching closely in 2016, regardless of his future role.

Fastball: 60/65/70 Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 45+/50/55
Overall: 40/45/50

18. Chance Adams, RHP, VIDEO, High-A

Adams came on strong after being drafted in the 5th round last season, pitching at three levels with good success, and ending up in High-A. He has an abrupt, stiff delivery that makes his stuff get on hitters quickly but also limits the likelihood of developing into more than a reliever. He pounds the zone well, but projects for below-average command at best.

Fastball: 55/55+/60 Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 40/45/45
Overall: 40/45/45+

40+ FV Prospects
19. Miguel Andujar, 3B, VIDEO, High-A

Despite his offensive numbers in High-A looking rather meager, it’s important to note they were no less impressive relative to league average than his celebrated 2014 season was. Add in the fact that he was only 20 years old for the entire season, and his prospect status doesn’t seem so tarnished. Andujar has the rawness you would expect from a young player on the skill side, but the tools are just as impressive as they were when Kiley ranked him 13th in the org last year.

His defense at third and his ability to put together consistent swings and at bats are where he shows his age, but his plus bat speed and plus-plus arm strength lend hope on both sides of the ball for his future potential. The game speeds up on him at third base, and he has trouble harnessing his raw athleticism at the plate, leaving him a few years away from making an impact at the big league level.

He shows some great actions at the plate, but he also takes a lot of swings that make him very susceptible to advanced offspeed offerings. Ideally, he spends more time at the same level until he can start showing some mastery of his skill work, but he may be better off in the short-term leaving the Florida State League for more hitter-friendly confines.

With a low floor and a high ceiling, Andujar’s future is a little up in the air until he can settle in and surpass his competition level a bit. I can’t bet against him figuring things out, but Double-A is the next step for him at some point this season if things go according to plan, a level where most prospects need to demonstrate who they really are relative to their peers.

Hit: 30/40/50 Power: 40/55/60 Run: 45/45/50 Field: 40/45/50 Throw: 65/70/70
Overall: 25/40/55+

20. Kyle Holder, SS, VIDEO, Low-A

Holder had a rough debut with the bat after being taken in the first round of last year’s draft, but his defense was as good as advertised. Holder’s combination of hands, range, technique and ability to read the ball rivals any of the best shortstops in the minor leagues. He has decent arm strength that is made exceptional by his quick transfers and ability to throw on the run and at every angle.

His bat isn’t a lost cause, but he does need to turn his above-average contact into more line drives instead of weak ground balls. His swing path steepened in pro ball, sapping the slight doubles power he showed in college. He still has the potential to hit, with athletic hands and good contact being the key skills he needs to maintain and improve. The glove is special enough that he still has a ceiling as an above-average regular, even if his hit tool never approaches average.

Hit: 30/40/45+ Power: 25/30/35 Run: 50/50/50 Field: 65/70/75 Throw: 55/55/55
Overall: 30/40+/55

21. Hyo Jun Park, SS, VIDEO, Rookie

Park is an athletic shortstop the Yankees signed out of a Korean high school in 2014. He is a solid fielder with a strong arm that should have no problem sticking at short, and he projects to be a solid hitter overall. He is a bit lacking in bat speed and general physicality, but an efficient swing with great hands helped him to a solid first year in the Appalachian League. Strength gains could raise his hit and power tools up a notch or two, making him one of the more interesting players to watch in the lower levels.

Hit: 30/40/50 Power: 25/40/45 Run: 55/60/60 Field: 55/55/55 Throw: 60/60/60
Overall: 25/40/55+

22. Slade Heathcott, OF, VIDEO, MLB

Heathcott still has remnants of the tools that made him such an exciting prospect when he was drafted 29th overall in 2009. The issue now is in execution. His plus speed manifests in just above-average baserunning skill, while his raw strength at the plate is muted by a choppy line drive path and contact concerns. Still, if he can stay healthy, there’s enough value in a player with some bat speed who can play center and steal a few bases.

Hit: 40/45/45 Power: 35/35/40 Run: 55/55/60 Field: 60/60/60 Throw: 55/55/60
Overall: 40/40-45/50

23. Luis Torrens, C, VIDEO, Single-A

Torrens is in a holding pattern value-wise until we see how his arm responds coming back from labrum surgery last year. Prior to the injury, he showed a good feel for hitting and some sneaky power. Still relatively new to catching, his skill work needs a couple years to reach its potential behind the plate, but he showed a good knack for receiving and had a plus arm.

Hit: 30/45/50 Power: 30/40/45 Run: 35/35/35 Field: 45/50/55 Throw: 55/60/60
Overall: 25/40/50+

24. Brady Lail, RHP, VIDEO, Triple-A

Lail is a solid bet to be a spot starter or solid bullpen arm, with a chance for more if his hard-nosed pitching style translates into a few more mis-hits with better offspeed consistency. His curve and changeup both have a chance to be above-average offerings, while his fastball sets hitters up well with good movement and location. He has a cutter that warrants its own grade, showing enough potential to be a possible average pitch in the future. There’s nothing exciting about his game, but he has enough ability to turn in some good innings for the Yankees as soon as this year.

Fastball: 50/50+/55 Curveball: 45/50/55 Changeup: 50/50/55 Cutter: 40/40/45 Command: 45/50/50
Overall: 40/40-45/45+

25. Jeff Degano, LHP, VIDEO, Low-A

Degano shot up draft boards after basically being MIA from 2013 to 2014 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. He made eight professional starts after being taken in the second round, continuing his pledge to miss as many bats as possible. His command is lacking, and an abbreviated arm action with a rough deceleration pattern gives him wicked cut on his fastball and an increased risk for re-injury, but the Yankees will ride his tough fastball/curveball combo as long as they can.

His future is in the bullpen for both health and pitch usage purposes, though he does show some potential with his changeup. Look for Degano to make his full-season debut in 2016 with quick movement through the low minors likely, especially if the bullpen move happens soon.

Fastball: 55/55/60 Curveball: 45/50/55 Changeup: 40/40/45 Command: 40/40/45
Overall: 40/40+/45

26. James Pazos, LHP, VIDEO, MLB

Pazos throws a hard and straight fastball, but has a slider that can get righties and lefties swinging through the ball. His command needs to be better to be more than a middle relief option, but the strikeout potential is good enough to eventually get an extended look in the bullpen.

Fastball: 55/55/60 Slider: 60/60/65 Command: 40/40/45
Overall: 40/40+/45

27. Chaz Hebert, LHP, VIDEO, Single-A

Hebert was pretty impressive in the two Arizona Fall League outings I saw, showing impressive feel for his fringy arsenal. His fastball worked 88-90, and he complemented it with a cutter, slider, changeup and curveball that all showed good arm action but mostly average effectiveness. His changeup had the best showing, with its above-average potential giving him a possible future as a crafty back-end starter or mid to late-inning lefty reliever. He still has some work to do making his offspeed options more consistent, but he has some kind of future in a big league pen.

Fastball: 45/50/50+ Curveball: 40/45/45 Slider: 45/50/50 Cutter: 45/45/45 Changeup: 45/50/55 Command: 45/50/55
Overall: 40/40+/45

28. Luis Cessa, RHP, VIDEO, Triple-A

Cessa came from Detroit as part of the Justin Wilson trade after a rough 2015 season where he was hit hard despite posting good component stats. More strike-thrower than command artist, he doesn’t have a ton of upside with his arsenal or his location. However, he does have three average potential pitches to complement his decent fastball, giving him a fairly safe future working out of the bullpen.

Fastball: 45/50/55 Curveball: 40/45/50 Slider: 45/50/50 Changeup: 40/45/45 Command: 45/50/55
Overall: 40/40/45

29. Ronald Torreyes, INF, VIDEO, MLB

Torreyes has been all around the league this year, going from the Astros to the Dodgers to the Yankees to the Angels, before finally being claimed back off waivers by the Yankees. He has a decent skill set as an average defender who can play multiple positions and high-contact swing with good, quick hands. Power isn’t his thing, but everywhere else he can contribute to a big league team.

Hit: 50/50/55 Power: 35/35/35 Run: 50/50/50 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 50/50/50
Overall: 40/40/45

Cistulli’s Guy
Jordan Foley, RHP, Single-A

A couple pitchers were candidates for this spot: both Foley himself and also right-hander Gabe Encinas. Encinas continued his return from Tommy John surgery last year, exhibiting impressive velocity and strikeout numbers. Given the paucity of strikes, however, and his age relative to level — he appears likely to begin his age-24 season at Double-A — there’s a distinct possibility Encinas could head to the bullpen.

Foley, for his part, also features impressive velocity and strikeout numbers — while also having exhibited more success at limiting walks. A product of Central Michigan University, the same school that’s responsible for Josh Collmenter, the right-handed Foley sits at 90-95 mph according to multiple reports and recorded one of the highest strikeout rates among Sally League pitchers in 2015. He’s likely to begin the year at High-A Tampa as just a 22-year-old.

Is there anything to be learned about Foley from regarding an image of him about to answer a postgame question? It seems unlikely — but also so does the entire human race.

Quick Hits
Upper level hitters: OF Tyler Austin (VIDEO) still has some potential to crack the big league roster as a bench bat, but poor in-game power and not enough tools elsewhere in his kit make it unlikely at this point. 2B/SS Abiatal Avelino (VIDEO) had a decent bounce-back year in 2015, and is a plus or better runner that plays great defense. He doesn’t project to hit for power, and his on-base rate will be heavily reliant on ground ball batting average, leaving him an outside chance at finding his way onto a big league roster.

Lower level hitters: 3B Dermis Garcia (VIDEO) showed his rawness at the plate and in the field in 2015, though the dream of his big raw power becoming usable can’t be dismissed until he’s given a few years to develop. A long swing and contact issues stunt his present offensive abilities. 2B/SS Thairo Estrada (VIDEO) has some potential on defense, but he has trouble driving the ball and dealing with spin, owing partly to a steep planed, hands-to-ball swing. 3B Donny Sands (VIDEO) may have enough contact ability to carry him to a big league bench role, but he needs to add some lift to his swing if he’s ever going to use his raw strength at the plate.

OF Juan De Leon (VIDEOis intriguing for his bat speed and raw power, but he doesn’t have enough body control yet to really know where he will end up. 3B Nelson Gomez (VIDEOhas immense hit and power potential, with poor barrel awareness and a large body being the two areas needing addressed over the next couple years. 1B Miguel Flames (VIDEOshowed a surprising amount of feel for hitting in his first taste of the Dominican Summer League, but questions about how his swing and bat speed will translate need to be answered before jumping up the list.

Fringy defense and a dead pull swing limit how much OF Trey Amburgey (VIDEO) will be able to capitalize on his physical tools and good contact skills, but he is still one to watch as he transitions into full-season ball. OF/1B Isiah Gilliam (VIDEO) showed better feel for fitting in Rookie ball than expected, but he still has a lot of ground to make up if he is going to be a big league option with his below-average defense and speed. OF Jhalan Jackson (VIDEO) showed off some good power and speed in Low-A over 198 plate appearances after being taken in the seventh round. He has a surprisingly decent swing for an unheralded power bat, but he needs to make more contact to continue moving up the minor league ladder. OF Carlos Vidal may be the rare underhyped Yankees prospect, having completed a Rookie-ball season with a .300+ average, 9 homers and 16 steals with little fanfare. He could be a fun bat to pay attention to as an undersized outfielder who is figuring some things out.

Upper level pitchers: RHP Bryan Mitchell (VIDEO) has good velocity and a nice breaking ball and cutter, but he just hasn’t proven he can throw with enough command to keep hitters from sitting on the mistake pitch. He may still have a future in the bullpen if his location improves a tick. RHP Nick Goody (VIDEO) has good strikeout numbers across every level of the minor leagues on account of an above-average to plus slider, but his fastball is at best average and his command doesn’t give him enough wiggle room to confidently project against big league hitters. RHP Chad Green (VIDEO) continues to do well in a starting role with his fringy arsenal, and may have enough command to reach the big leagues in a spot starting or bullpen role.

Dan is Fangraphs Lead Prospect Analyst, living in New York City. He played baseball for four years at Franklin & Marshall College before attending medical school. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @DWFarnsworth.

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8 years ago

At 6’7″ and 275lbs, do you think Mateo will be able to stay at SS?

(Looks like you may have Judge’s measurements there)

Dick Monfort
8 years ago
Reply to  Boxkutter

Either that, or Mateo’s got a whole lot of explaining to do.