KATOH Projects: New York Yankees Prospects

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This afternoon, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the New York Yankees. In this companion piece, I look at that same New York farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. The Yankees have the 5th-best farm system in baseball according to KATOH, due in no small part to the system’s depth. As you can see below, the Yankees have a lot of prospects projected for one or two WAR.

There’s way more to prospect evaluation than just the stats, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read Dan’s piece in addition to this one. KATOH has no idea how hard a pitcher throws, how good a hitter’s bat speed is, or what a player’s makeup is like. So it’s liable to miss big on players whose tools don’t line up with their performances. However, when paired with more scouting-based analyses, KATOH’s objectivity can be useful in identifying talented players who might be overlooked by the industry consensus or highly-touted prospects who might be over-hyped.

Below, I’ve grouped prospects into three groups: those who are forecast for two or more wins through their first six major-league seasons, those who receive a projection between 1.0 and 2.0 WAR though their first six seasons, and then any residual players who received Future Value (FV) grades of 45 or higher from Dan. Note that I generated forecasts only for players who accrued at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last season. Also note that the projections for players over a relatively small sample are less reliable, especially when those samples came in the low minors.

1. Gary Sanchez, C (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 7.6 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55 FV

Sanchez turned in an impressive .274/.330/.485 performance between Double-A and Triple-A last year, and capped things off with a couple of token big league at bats in September. That’s very good for a 22-year-old, and it’s unequivocally great for a 22-year-old catcher. Most exciting of all, Sanchez finally started to get his plus power into games by belting a career high 18 homers. His contact skills aren’t great, and his mediocre 2014 is a blotch on his record, but there’s still a ton to like about Sanchez’s bat. How good he’ll be behind the plate is still an open question, but his offensive showing at Triple-A has won over KATOH.

Gary Sanchez’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Josh Phelps 7.3 3.5
2 Javier Cardona 6.0 0.4
3 Humberto Cota 6.5 0.9
4 Chris Widger 5.3 2.0
5 John Roskos 5.7 0.0
6 Eli Marrero 5.3 5.6
7 Victor Martinez 8.3 17.0
8 Jeff Mathis 5.8 0.8
9 Todd Hundley 6.2 13.3
10 Bobby Estalella 6.9 3.3

2. Jorge Mateo, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 6.9 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 65 FV

Mateo’s calling card is his speed. He stole an absurd 82 bases in A-Ball last year, which was more than any player in affiliated baseball. Aside from his speed, though, Mateo’s offensive profile isn’t particularly encouraging. He hit a perfectly fine .278/.345/.392 last year, but did so with little power and a mildly concerning 20% strikeout rate. Of course, one needn’t hit a ton to be a useful shortstop, especially when 80-grade speed is part of the package, but the data suggest he still has some work to do offensively. Mateo’s quite far from the big leagues, but given his speed, KATOH figures he’ll make an impact one way or another. Finding comps for Mateo wasn’t particularly easy since good-hitting shortstops who steal 80+ bases don’t exactly grow on trees.

Jorge Mateo’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Hiram Bocachica 10.0 0.5
2 Hanley Frias 3.8 0.2
3 Gookie Dawkins 7.4 0.0
4 Aaron Holbert 3.9 0.0
5 Jay Woolf 5.7 0.0
6 Freddie Bynum 1.9 0.5
7 Anderson Machado 3.5 0.1
8 Royce Clayton 5.0 13.6
9 Ray Olmedo 1.8 0.1
10 Manny Alexander 6.0 0.9

3. Tyler Wade, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 5.2 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Statistically speaking, Wade doesn’t look all that different than Mateo, only with 33 steals last year instead of 82. Wade hit .280/.349/.353 in 98 games in High-A last year, and as he did in Low-A the year before, relied mostly on speed and on-base ability rather than power. Wade’s performance cratered following a late-season promotion to Double-A, but KATOH doesn’t ding him too hard in light of his A-Ball success.

Tyler Wade’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Royce Clayton 5.0 13.6
2 Jose Castillo 5.3 0.1
3 Aaron Ledesma 3.6 2.5
4 Tilson Brito 4.1 0.0
5 Aaron Capista 6.0 0.0
6 Jason Romano 4.3 0.0
7 Hanley Frias 3.8 0.2
8 Tomas de la Rosa 3.7 0.3
9 Manny Alexander 6.0 0.9
10 Gookie Dawkins 5.3 0.0

4. Ronald Torreyes, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 5.1 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 40 FV

Although he’s only 23, Torreyes is on his 7th organization as a pro, and is on his second tour of duty with the Yankees. It’s a bit hard to make out by looking at his player page, but Torreyes hit fairly well last year: .263/.321/.403 overall, with most of that coming at Triple-A. This included a solid .296/.348/.408 showing after he joined the Dodgers organization in June. There’s nothing sexy about Torreyes, but he makes a ton of contact, runs well and can play shortstop. However, Torreyes feels like the type of player who might break KATOH due to his lack of physicality relative to his performance. Although he’s listed at 5-foot-9, Kiley McDaniel speculated he’s actually 5-foot-7. He’ll probably fall short of his KATOH forecast, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a big league contributor.

Ronald Torreyes’ Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Liu Rodriguez 3.6 0.0
2 Jorge Velandia 4.3 0.0
3 Luis Rodriguez 4.7 1.3
4 Aaron Hill 6.1 13.1
5 Neifi Perez 4.9 2.0
6 Jason Bates 3.6 0.0
7 Rey Sanchez 2.6 3.6
8 Chuck Knoblauch 7.0 33.6
9 Tomas de la Rosa 3.2 0.0
10 Wes Weger 4.0 0.0

5. Wilkerman Garcia, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 4.1 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Garcia was one of the Yankees’ big July 2nd signings a couple of years ago, and he made a decent-sized splash with his debut in Rookie Ball. He hit .299/.414/.362 as a 17-year-old and nabbed 11 steals in 39 games. Although the power wasn’t there, his excellent strikeout and walk numbers are points in his favor. With a 17-year-old shortstop, any sign of offensive life is encouraging. Garcia didn’t have the 200 PA’s that I usually require for a KATOH forecast, but I bent the rules a bit because I can.

6. Trey Amburgey, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 3.3 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 35+ FV

The Yankees took Amburgey in the 13th round last year, and he kicked off his pro career by hitting an excellent .335/.388/.502 with 21 steals in Short-season ball. Amburgey’s early statistical returns have been excellent, but have also relied heavily on a .380 BABIP. Given his lack of a track record, the onus will be on Amburgey to keep it up in full-season ball.

7. Rob Refsnyder, 2B (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 3.3 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Outside of 16 games with the Yankees, Refsnyder spent most of last season in Triple-A for most of the season, where he hit a solid .271/.359/.402. He doesn’t offer much in the power or speed departments, but controls the strike zone well: He walked in 10% of plate appearances last year, while striking out in just 14%. KATOH doesn’t see star potential, but thinks Refsnyder’s up for the challenge of facing big league pitching.

Rob Refsnyder’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Eric Patterson 4.2 0.3
2 Callix Crabbe 4.5 0.0
3 Chris Getz 2.7 1.8
4 Eric Young Jr. 4.3 4.0
5 Ralph Milliard 3.1 0.0
6 Chris Burke 3.5 2.2
7 Amaury Garcia 5.0 0.0
8 Marco Scutaro 2.5 2.3
9 Chone Figgins 3.6 15.7
10 Luis Rodriguez 2.7 1.3

8. Aaron Judge, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 3.0 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55 FV

Judge hit very well in the lower levels of the minors, but his performance tailed off substantially last June once he reached the Triple-A level. He hit just .224/.308/.373 at the level, due in no small part to his 28% strikeout rate. Many look at Judge and see 30+ homer potential, but his minor league track record hasn’t yet ratified that upside. He’s struggled to keep his strikeouts under control, and his 70-grade raw power has yet to really show up in games. Although he turns 24 next month, Judge is still mostly a tools play at this point, as his statistical track record hasn’t been great. Though, KATOH doesn’t know that he oozes tools.

Joe Borchard — whose name appears in the table below — is a living, breathing example of why KATOH’s down on Judge. High strikeout hitters with merely good power numbers don’t generally have thrive in the big leagues. Like Judge, Borchard was a physical specimen who made scouts drool, but he never learned how to hit big league pitching. Judge very well might piece it all together, but my fancy computer math reminds us that the Joe Borchard or Michael Restovich are also possibilities.

Aaron Judge’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Kevin Roberson 2.2 0.4
2 Ryan Ludwick 3.2 3.4
3 Brooks Kieschnick 3.3 0.1
4 Joe Borchard 4.1 0.4
5 Mike Restovich 4.0 0.3
6 David Kelton 0.6 0.0
7 Kevin Belcher 3.9 0.0
8 Brian Lesher 1.5 0.4
9 Juan LeBron 0.1 0.0
10 Brandon Jones 3.1 0.1

9. Abiatal Avelino, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.8 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 35+ FV

Avelino hit .260/.314/.334 in A-Ball last year and stole 54 bases in 72 attempts. As good as his 2015 performance was, though, it came on the heels of an underwhelming 2014 campaign, where he his .232/.296/.323 in Low-A. His Double-A performance will give us a better idea of wether his 2015 breakout is for real. Avelino has very little power potential, but his speed, defense and contact skills suggest he’s a future big leaguer.

10. Luis Cessa, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.6 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 40 FV

Cessa split last season between Double-A and Triple-A and turned in a solid 3.08 FIP over 25 starts — even though his ERA was a much less impressive 4.52. Cessa’s stuff may be underwhelming, but he still managed to strike out a respectable 20% of opposing hitters last year. Now that he’s proven himself in the high minors, he’s a relatively low risk prospect.

11. Miguel Andujar, 3B (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.4 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 40 FV

Andujar underwhelmed each of the past two seasons in A-Ball, slashing .255/.303/.380. However, don’t write him off before glancing at the age column. A third basemen who doesn’t embarrass himself as a 20-year-old in High-A is absolutely a prospect. Not a great prospect, but a prospect nonetheless.

12. Ben Gamel, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.2 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45+ FV

Gamel thrived in his first taste of Triple-A last year by hitting .300/.358/.472. Gamel’s a 23-year-old who’s already succeed in Triple-A by posting double digit homers and steals. He’ll be a big leaguer at least, but his 20% strikeout rate and unimpressive 2014 campaign avert KATOH from projecting much upside.

*****

1-2 WAR Prospects
Rank Name Position KATOH WAR Dan’s FV
13 Leonardo Molina OF 1.9 45
14 Carlos Vidal OF 1.7 35+
15 Brady Lail RHP 1.6 40+
16 Hoy Jun Park SS 1.6 40
17 Ronald Herrera RHP 1.5 Unranked
18 Dustin Fowler OF 1.4 55
19 Bryan Mitchell RHP 1.4 35+
20 Lane Adams OF 1.4 35+
21 Jordan Montgomery LHP 1.4 45
22 Thairo Estrada 2B 1.2 35+
23 Miguel Sulbaran LHP 1.2 Unranked
24 Jordan Foley RHP 1.1 Cistulli’s Guy
25 Mason Williams OF 1.1 45
26 Alex Palma OF 1.1 Unranked
27 Chad Green RHP 1.1 35+
28 Nick Goody RHP 1.0 35+
29 Nick Rumbelow RHP 1.0 Unranked

Ronald Herrera stands at just 5-foot-10, but is still just 20 and finished last season at Double-A. Miguel Sulbaran is like a left-handed version of Herrera: Just 5-foot-10, yet held his own as a 21-year-old in Double-A. KATOH loved Alex Palma after his 2014 campaign in Rookie Ball, which made him a late add to Kiley’s list last year. Palma rewarded KATOH’s confidence with a .202/.248/.256 performance last year, yet KATOH hasn’t completely forgotten about 2014. Nick Rumbelow pitched well in Triple-A last year with good strikeout numbers, which suggests he’s ready contribute in the show.

Going by Dan’s grades, Dustin Fowler is easily the most promising player in this tier. Fowler hit a solid .298/.334/.394 with 30 steals in A-Ball last year. That’s a fine performance, but not the type of performance that hints at a future as an above-average regular. However, Fowler was a multi-sport athlete in high school who only recently began focusing on baseball. Therefore, he might be earlier on the development curve than your typical 21-year-old. One way or another, his 2016 performance should begin to reconcile the gap between Fowler’s statistical projections and his scouting-based projections.

Dustin Fowler’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Ray Sadler 1.0 0.1
2 Darren Burton 1.5 0.0
3 Rudy Pemberton 0.9 0.7
4 Anthony Collier 0.9 0.0
5 Jorge Piedra 1.2 0.9
6 Alejandro Giron 1.8 0.0
7 Troy O’Leary 0.6 5.3
8 Ardley Jansen 0.4 0.0
9 Jose Herrera 2.4 0.0
10 Buck McNabb 1.4 0.0

*****

Remaining 45+ FV Players
Name Position KATOH WAR Dan’s FV
Domingo Acevedo RHP 0.7 55
Cale Coshow RHP 0.7 45

Domingo Acevedo pitched exceptionally well in Short-Season A-Ball last year, but KATOH doesn’t like that he did so as a 21-year-old. Since he’s still new to baseball, I’ll concede that Acevedo’s KATOH projection is probably almost useless. Though, it does remind us that Acevedo’s extremely unproven for a pitcher entering his age-22 season. As with Fowler, Acevedo’s 2016 should give us a better sense of what the future holds. Cale Coshow pitched well last season, but primarily worked as a 22-year-old reliever in A-Ball and posted an unremarkable 22% strikeout rate.

I’ll also mention that Gosuke Katoh, who happens to be KATOH’s namesake, checks in at 0.6 WAR due to his atrocious strikeout rates.

We hoped you liked reading KATOH Projects: New York Yankees Prospects by Chris Mitchell!

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Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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Chris,

Having first read Dan’s (really great) column as you suggested on the Yankees’ prospects, I wonder of the changes in approach and mechanics highlighted by Dan on Judge and Gamel (Judge with fewer moving parts and Gamel on no longer trying for home runs) would have the future of these prospects exceed what Katoh forecasts?