New York Yankees: Top 10 Prospects

General Manager: Brian Cashman
Farm Director: Pat Roessler
Scouting Director: Damon Oppenheimer

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

The Yankees organization has some pretty good depth in the system, but it’s a little shy on impact players (at least compared to years past). The top of the list looks good with a couple of catchers, and then we see some raw, promising arms. Things, though, start to get murky at No. 6 and beyond as we start to rate relievers and very raw players.

*A rumored trade with Atlanta was announced this morning with Javier Vazquez coming back to New York for Melky Cabrera, as well as two Top 10 prospects: Michael Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino. Once it’s 100% confirmed, I’ll update the list with a couple new Top 10 prospects.

1. Jesus Montero, C/DH, Double-A
DOB: November 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 non-drafted international free agent (Venezuela)
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

The cream of the Yankees system, Montero would probably be the top catching prospect in the entire Majors if he didn’t possess the defensive skills of a future designated hitter. His potential at the plate, though, is just massive. At the age of just 19, Montero hit .356/.406/.583 in 180 high-A at-bats in ’09. Moved up to double-A as a teenager, he hit .317/.370/.539 in 167 at-bats. His .200+ ISO at each level suggests massive power. Montero also controls the strike zone very well for such a young hitter and he struck out just 12.6% of the time in double-A. His walk rate was also reasonable at 7.7%, although there is room for improvement as he matures as a hitter. He did miss some time due to injury. The sky is the limit for Montero and his bat would play anywhere on the field.

2. Austin Romine, C, High-A
DOB: November 1988 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 2nd round – California HS
MLB ETA: Late-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

With Montero ticketed for another position, Romine is the club’s catcher of the future. The 21-year-old backstop had an OK offensive season in ’09 by hitting .276/.322/.441 in 442 at-bats. He kept his strikeout rate below 20% at 17.6% and showed improved power with his ISO rising from .138 in ’08 to .165 in ’09. Romine’s walk rate was a little lower than you’d like (6.2 BB%) but he’s still young and has time to improve that area of his game. A good athlete, the right-handed hitter stole 11 bases but was caught five times. After a strong performance in April-July, Romine struggled a bit in August and September but he may have run out of steam. His older brother, Andrew Romine, plays in the Angels system.

3. Zach McAllister, RHP, Double-A
DOB: December 1987 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 3rd round – Illinois HS
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-93 mph fastball, slider, change-up

McAllister just keeps getting better. The 22-year-old reached double-A in ’09 and posted a 3.03 FIP in 22 starts. He allowed 98 hits and just four homers (0.30 HR/9) in 121.0 innings. McAllister typically posts a 50+% ground-ball rate but it slipped to 47.4% in ’09. He handled left-handed and right-handed batters equally well in terms of batting average (.234), but he showed better control against right-handers (1.17 to 3.79 BB/9) and a better strikeout ability against left-handers (8.03 to 5.55 K/9). At worst, he should settle in as a No. 3 starter in the Majors if he can stay healthy.

4. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Short-Season
DOB: November 1990 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Mid-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-95 mph, plus curveball, change-up

Vizcaino had a very impressive season as a teenager in short-season ball. He missed a lot of bats with a strikeout rate of 11.06 K/9 and he kept the walks in check at 3.19 BB/9. In 42.1 innings, Vizcaino allowed just 34 hits and two homers (0.43 HR/9). His ground-ball rate improved 10% over his debut season in ’08 to 48%, which is a positive trend that will hopefully continue in 2010. If he reaches his potential, Vizcaino has the stuff to be a front-line starter… but he’s also a ways away from the Majors.

5. Manny Banuelos, LHP, High-A
DOB: March 1991 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2008 non-drafted international free agent (Mexico)
MLB ETA: Late-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 87-92 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

A young, inexperienced southpaw, Banuelos exceeded expectations in ’09 and even received a one-game taste of life in high-A ball. Spending the majority of the year in low-A, the Mexico native allowed just 88 hits in 108.0 innings of work. He showed solid control with a walk rate of 2.33 BB/9 and a nice strikeout rate at 8.67 K/9. He also allowed just three homers (0.33 HR/9) despite a modest ground-ball rate of 43.4%. Banuelos has had little trouble in pro ball so far, but there are those that doubt his ability to remain a starter because of his small frame. He could reach double-A in 2010 as a 19-year-old.

6. Michael Dunn, LHP, Majors
DOB: May 1985 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2004 33rd round – Austin Peay State University
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-94 mph fastball, plus slider, change-up

The trade of Phil Coke (to the Tigers in the Curtis Granderson deal) suggests that the club is comfortable relying on Dunn in 2010, if a veteran arm cannot be found on the free-agent landscape. A former starter, Dunn found consistency in the bullpen and reached the Majors in ’09 for the first time in his career. The southpaw still needs to work on his control, though, after posting a walk rate of 5.40 (53.1 IP) at double-A, 6.30 BB/9 (20.0 IP) at triple-A, and by allowing five walks in four MLB innings. Aside from his small-sample size in the Majors, Dunn has done a nice job of keeping the ball in the park (0.51 HR/9 in double-A). If he can improve his control and induce even a few more ground-ball (his GB rate sits around 40%) then Dunn’s stuff is good enough to work late in games.

7. Mark Melancon, RHP, Majors
DOB: March 1985 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 9th round – University of Arizona
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2
Repertoire: 88-94 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Melancon was ready for a full-time role in New York in ’09 but the club’s pitching depth kept him as an injury fill-in, so he appeared in just 13 games at the MLB level in ’09. He spent the rest of his time making 32 appearances in triple-A, where he allowed just 37 hits in 53 innings. Melancon also flashed above-average control with a walk rate of 1.87 BB/9. His solid control deserted him in the Majors, though, and he walked 10 batters in 16.1 innings. A regular role in 2010 might help him find his groove in the Majors. He looks like a future set-up man at the MLB level, although he could eventually see some save opportunities, as well.

8. Corban Joseph, 2B, Low-A
DOB: October 1988 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2008 4th round – Tennessee HS
MLB ETA: Mid-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

The biggest knock on Joseph is his defense. It’s not terrible, but he projects better at third base than second, which is not a good thing because his bat profiles better at second base. In other words, if he can stick at second, then he deserves to be on this list; if he ends up moving to third on a full-time basis, then he’ll fall off. In ’09, he hit .300/.381/.418 in 380 at-bats. His ISO of .118 definitely won’t play at third base. He stole eight bases but was caught five times, so he needs to improve his base running a bit if he’s going to have an impact on the base paths. Joseph’s walk rate was solid at 11.4% and it was nice to see him keep the strikeout rate below 20% at 16.1%. His offensive profile is solid, but unspectacular. On a club like the Yankees, he’s probably a future utility player, but if he continues to develop he could end up playing regularly for a second-tier club if he shows enough at second base.

9. Kevin De Leon, OF, Rookie
DOB: October 1990 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Mid-2014 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

This might be a high ranking for some, but let’s dream on De Leon, who was given a $1.1 million contract to sign. His first taste of pro ball came in the Dominican Summer League in ’08 and he moved stateside in ’09. At the rookie ball level, the raw outfielder hit .269/.330/.438 in 201 at-bats. His walk rate was pretty reasonable for a young Latin player at 7.4 BB% but his strikeout rate was a little scary at 30.3%. De Leon does have some power, though, and his ISO of .169 was encouraging. He stole five bases in six tries, so he’ll hopefully run a little more in 2010. No matter how you slice it, a .361 wOBA is nice for a teenager making his North American debut. Defensively, his arm is strong enough to play right field.

10. Andrew Brackman, RHP, Low-A
DOB: December 1985 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 1st round – North Carolina State University
MLB ETA: Mid-2012 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2
Repertoire: 88-95 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Almost against my better judgment, Brackman sneaks onto the back-end of the Top 10 list, mainly due to the fact that the list is somewhat bare with excluding ’09 draft picks (Slade Heathcott) and international signees (catcher Gary Sanchez). You cannot argue with the potential that Brackman has, but the numbers in low-A ball were pretty nasty, especially for a 24-year-old former college hurler. With that said, the right-hander deserves a mulligan due to the Tommy John surgery he had after signing. The positives from ’09: a ground-ball rate just shy of 50%, a strikeout rate of 8.69 K/9, and just eight homers allowed (0.68 HR/9). The negatives to Brackman’s ’09 season: 6.41 BB/9, 4.66 FIP, 26 wild pitches. He needs a good showing in 2010 for people to keep believing in him.

Up Next: The New York Mets

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Christian Seehausen
Christian Seehausen

How about 25-year old IF Kevin Russo? He’s just barely still prospect age, but he’s posted two consecutive good seasons (.353 wOBA in 2008, .371 wOBA in 2009), demonstrating good contact skills and decent patience. He doesn’t have a lot of power, but he’s reportedly pretty good defensively.

With the state of the Yankees infield, he doesn’t have a lot of chance to be an everyday player, though he could feasibly be a starter on another team. He ought to be a useful utility infielder at worst, though.