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Yankees: Projecting MLB Arrival Dates for Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects

Peter RichmanCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2013

Yankees: Projecting MLB Arrival Dates for Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects

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    The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

    A week ago, Baseball America released its annual "Top 10 Prospects" lists for each organization of Major League Baseball, and on Dec. 9, fans got their first glimpse at the 2014 rankings for the New York Yankees.

    It is perfect timing that the releases coincide with the busiest month of baseball's offseason.

    With various teams' first free-agent and trade operations, we are granted a feel for the impending season, and now with these lists, we are reminded of what's stirring in the lower rungs of the organizations for future campaigns.

    We can begin to postulate when the top-10 Yankees prospects might take their first strides toward the MLB dish, as well as which are poised to be nothing more than trade bait for the big-spending, win-now Bombers.

    Last week, we looked at some predictions during the winter meetings that forecasted the next three years in the Bronx. Now it is time to examine some names who may—or may not—factor into these upcoming seasons and who must each first rise through the ranks.

    Who made the list of the 10 hottest Yanks prospects? What do you need to know about this young talent? And when can you expect to see them arrive in the big leagues?

    Read on to find out the projected arrival dates—and to get a youthful refresher from the slate of mid- to late-30s players who have just locked themselves in to New York. 

     

    Rankings courtesy of Baseball America's public Top 10 Prospects Lists; references and quotes from Baseball America's scouting notes courtesy of their expanded lists with reports (subscription required); MLB.com's scaled "tools" and scouting notes courtesy of their public Prospect Watch; statistics provided by Baseball-Reference and advanced statistics/metrics obtained from FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.

No. 1: Gary Sanchez

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    Profile

    Position: Catcher

    Born/Hometown: Dec. 2, 1992 (21)/Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

    Height/Weight: 6'2"/220 lbs.

    Bats-Throws: R-R

    Signed: 2009

    Baseball America Pre-2013 MLB Rank: No. 57

     

    MLB.com 2013 Grades (2-8 Scale; Present/Future)

    Hit: 3/5; Power: 5/7; Run: 2/2; Arm: 7/7; Field: 3/5

    Overall: 4/6

     

    What You Need to Know

    There are only two real downsides with Gary Sanchez. First, his well-below-average defense—and that's excluding his cannon of an arm—and second, the Brian McCann signing. The first is a fixable obstacle; the second is a virtual obstruction.

    Sanchez possesses the system's best raw power, shows projected above-average hitting and is considered the hottest offensive prospect in the Yankees organization. Baseball America refers to his pop as "effortless" and mentions his ability to "shoot line drives to all fields," as well as his "sock to the opposite field."

    Between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton in 2013, Sanchez compiled a .253/.324/./412 line with .636 OPS, 15 homers and excellent 108 and 113 wRC+, respectively.

    On the defensive side of the ball, Sanchez shows well-above-average throwing ability—graded as high as 80 (or 8) by some—and, as graded above, a plus arm according to MLB.com.

    While throwing out base-stealers is not an issue (44 percent caught stealing in 2013), the problem lies in his below-average blocking ability and problems with passed balls (relies on hands instead of moving body, per Baseball America), though he is showing improvement with both.

    With McCann on a five-year deal, and Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy currently ahead of him, it is difficult to imagine Sanchez making an arrival in 2014. Figure his ceiling to be Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this upcoming year and to hear his name in the Bronx in one of the following two seasons.  

     

    Final Thought

    The Yankees have an extremely hot bat in the young Sanchez, and his raw power and arm appear to be generating the most chatter. But the Yankees have only produced a series of trade chips and/or busts since Jorge Posada: Jesus Montero, Romine and Cervelli.

    Don't be surprised if Sanchez's MLB arrival comes for another team after a big—even if disappointing—trade involving the No. 1 prospect. But should he remain, the main question for Yankee fans: Can he even come close to filling the shoes of Jorge?

     

    Projected MLB Arrival: 2015

No. 2: Slade Heathcott

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    Profile

    Position: Outfield

    Born/Hometown: Sept. 28, 1990 (23)/Texarkana, Texas

    Height/Weight: 6'0"/195 lbs.

    Bats-Throws: L-L

    Drafted: 2009, 1st Round

    Baseball America Pre-2013 MLB Rank: No. 63

     

    MLB.com 2013 Grades (2-8 Scale; Present/Future)

    Hit: 3/6; Power: 4/5; Run: 7/7; Arm: 6/6; Field: 6/6

    Overall: 5/6

     

    What You Need to Know

    With plus speed, an extremely quick bat and well-above-average defensive skills, Heathcott is an enticing prospect. He is his own worst enemy, though, as his main drawback has been remaining on the field—whether due to injury (knee, both shoulders) or because of off-the-field issues (family, guns and alcohol are part of his past, according to Baseball America).

    But the explosive, dynamic Yankees outfield talent has drawn comparisons to Bryce Harper for his "max-effort playing style." MLB.com described it as "an all-out style that's infectious."

    He possesses an above-average arm and glove and has shown promise of a future that could be ripe with power. In 2013 in Double-A Trenton, he compiled a .261/.327/.411 line with 104 hits in 399 at-bats, 15 stolen bags, .336 BABIP and respectable 104 wRC+.

    It is not just his discipline away from the field, however, that haunts him, since he has also shown issues with breaking balls and pitches off the plate, as well as imprudence in choosing when to steal. But should he improve his plate awareness and stay healthy, there isn't much ceiling for this guy.

     

    Final Thought

    The main roadblock for Heathcott is a man by the name of Jacoby Ellsbury, who is locked down for seven years (if healthy). With Brett Gardner in left (potentially) and Carlos Beltran currently in right with backups like Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki and Zoilo Almonte, you'd imagine Heathcott being held up for the most part in Scranton, where he is scheduled to debut in 2014.

    With a present and projected average bat, he doesn't seem to be a likely trade option unless a team is eager for depth at the position or prioritizes a ground-covering glove over offensive production. If both Vernon Wells and Suzuki somehow exit the picture, though, there shouldn't be much preventing a player as athletic and hard-nosed as Slade from a late-season call-up.

     

    Projected MLB Arrival: Late-2014

No. 3: Mason Williams

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    Profile

    Position: Outfield

    Born/Hometown: Aug. 21, 1991 (22)/Winter Garden, Fla.

    Height/Weight: 6'1"/180 lbs.

    Bats-Throws: L-R

    Drafted: 2010, 4th Round

    Baseball America Pre-2013 MLB Rank: No. 32

     

    MLB.com 2013 Grades (2-8 Scale; Present/Future)

    Hit: 3/5; Power: 3/4; Run: 7/7; Arm: 5/5; Field: 5/6

    Overall: 5/6

     

    What You Need to Know

    In a trend that hopefully doesn't continue through the remainder of this list (involving off-the-field/alcohol-related incidents), Williams began the 2013 season with a DUI arrest despite being the No. 1 prospect, per Baseball America. What's worse, his 2013 campaign was an obvious decline offensively from his 2012 season, which ended with surgery for a torn labrum. 

    Scouts say that his lack of effort was compounded with weight gain, which resulted in diminished speed and what Baseball America says was "most evident in his inability to catch up to quality fastballs." In a solid 2012 season between Single-A and High-A, Williams posted a line of .298/.346/.474 with 20 stolen bases and 47 strikeouts in 91 games.

    In 2013, however, playing most of the year in High-A (.261/.327/.350, 95 wRC+) and finishing with a spell in Double-A (.153/.164/.264, .189 BABIP in 17 games), he struck out a combined 79 times and stole only 15 bases in 117 total games.

    To further muddle the offensive picture, Williams developed an Ichiro-slap-style approach in the batter's box in 2013 that rarely produced solid contact, according to Baseball America.

    Per the same report, though, scouts still praised his "range, instincts and routes" on the other side of the ball, and MLB.com notes his outstanding center field ability, going so far as to call him a projected "elite-level player" if his bat comes around.

     

    Final Thought

    Just like Heathcott, Mason Williams' arrival in the Bronx has been immediately slowed due to the Ellsbury signing. It's tough to buy what MLB.com optimistically calls a "handsy" approach when you can picture a much less successful version of Ichiro in reality.

    He grades out, overall, similarly to Heathcott, but you like the latter of the two to appear first with better-overall arm strength and fielding. But definitely don't count out the value of Williams' range should health become a principal concern for the Yankees outfield.

    In terms of trade value, you don't like his injuries or DUI, and you especially don't like his weight gain, altered hitting approach (at age 21) or decline in numbers if you are a buyer. Then again, the Yankees probably don't, either. He should start 2014 in Trenton and will likely see Scranton as his ceiling.

     

    Projected MLB Arrival: Late-2015

No. 4: J.R. Murphy

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    Profile

    Position: Catcher

    Born/Hometown: May 13, 1991 (22)/Bradenton, Fla.

    Height/Weight: 5'11"/195 lbs.

    Bats-Throws: R-R

    Drafted: 2009, 2nd Round

    Baseball America Pre-2013 MLB Rank: N/A

     

    MLB.com 2013 Grades (2-8 Scale; Present/Future)

    Hit: 4/5; Power: 3/4; Run: 4/4; Arm: 5/5; Field: 4/5

    Overall: 3/6

     

    What You Need to Know

    You may remember—amidst the proliferation of new players in 2013—that J.R. Murphy made his MLB debut for the Yanks in September. Nothing stands out with respect to his tools—below-average speed and well-below-average power—and he was incredibly poor in his 26 big league at-bats (.154/.185/.192, 9 SO, 4 hits, .171 wOBA). He has proven his worth as a solid backstop commodity, however.

    Although he threw out just 30 percent of baserunners in Triple-A Scranton, he caught an impressive 48 percent of stealers in Double-A in 2013. Baseball America highlights his improvement on defense, particularly in his footwork, as he has transformed into "a much better, quieter receiver," yet also qualifies that "he can get a little bit stabby behind the plate." 

    Scouts, especially of MLB.com, emphasize the consistency of his approach at the dish and glimpses of power, meaning there is room for him to continue to adjust and improve his bat at the MLB level. In 2011, between Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, he posted a line of .287/.325/.434, and in 2012, between High-A and Double-A, he put up .248/.316/.386. 

    He also put together a respectable run in Triple-A in 2013 before his call-up, with a .270/.342/.430 line, .304 BABIP and excellent 117 wRC+ in 230 at-bats. If his bat turns around at the big league level, there is no reason why he can't blossom into McCann's backup at some point in the 2014 season. It's been there in the past; it was hiding during his call-up. The other possibility, of course, is a Quad-A conundrum for Murphy, but it is still too early to be certain. 

     

    Final Thought

    For a team that wants to take a shot at developing Murphy's offense, he actually represents a pretty potent piece of trade value. He is more than reliable behind the plate, trustworthy as a line-drive hitter in the minors and, according to Baseball America's report, could turn into a 10-12 homer guy.

    McCann is obviously the Opening Day starter, and Cervelli has proven more valuable at the MLB level, but if Murphy remains in pinstripes, don't underestimate his ability to win the backup role out of spring training. And if not, he will be poised to return to the Bronx after starting 2014 in Triple-A. But in terms of the long-term outlook? A guy named Gary Sanchez is in the driver's seat.

     

    Projected MLB Arrival: Return in 2014

No. 5: Eric Jagielo

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    Profile

    Position: 3B

    Born/Hometown: May 17, 1992 (21)/Downers Grove, Ill.

    Height/Weight: 6'2"/195 lbs.

    Bats-Throws: L-R

    Drafted: 2013, 1st Round

    Baseball America Pre-2013 MLB Rank: N/A

     

    MLB.com 2013 Grades (2-8 Scale; Present/Future)

    Hit: 4/6; Power: 4/6; Run: 3/3; Arm: 5/5; Field: 4/5

    Overall: 4/6

     

    What You Need to Know

    The Yanks selected Eric Jagielo, a big lefty power hitter out of Notre Dame, with their first pick in the 2013 draft. Since the brass fails to sign complete two-way packages, and the farm system falls short of developing talent on both sides of the ball, we will continue the trend with the No. 5 prospect.

    Jagielo's got the bat and the projections to excel offensively in the bigs. The glove needs to improve, on the other hand.

    As you can see in the video above, he is quiet and calm in the box with explosive hands and a quick bat. Baseball America emphasizes his plate vision, his hands capable of turning on the fastball, his balance to sit back on off-speed and his "ability to make hard contact to all fields" with power "that projects to 20-25 home runs at his peak." 

    In his sophomore season in the Big East, he cranked 13 homers. Then, he played in the Cape Cod League and came back for his junior year, where his OBP ranked sixth in the country. In 184 at-bats with Staten Island in the shortened season, he put up a .266/.376/.451 line, .827 OPS, 54 strikeouts and 26 walks, as well as tremendous .390 wOBA and 153 wRC+.

    Despite being a slow runner and possessing an average arm and fielding ability, MLB.com credits his 2013 improvement at the hot corner and his above-average footwork. His defense isn't necessarily a worry, though it is not flashy either.

     

    Final Thought

    You can't overlook a 6'2" lefty that should be able to hit for power and average and play third for the Yanks. That short porch is practically calling his name, and you should be picturing the "314 FT." sign as you watch his prospect videos. 

    As of the third week of December, there is still a fair amount of uncertainty at third base at the big league level—that is, it should be shared by a few short-term contract players.

    Even if A-Rod returns, he is no longer an everyday third baseman. In other words, the Yanks would be utterly foolish to trade him without any depth at third. This is good news for the 21-year-old in the long term with the Yanks. Jagielo's 2014 ceiling—a very optimistic one—is probably Double-A, though, realistically, he will be in A-ball for the year. 

     

    Projected MLB Arrival: 2016

No. 6: Aaron Judge

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    Profile

    Position: Outfield

    Born/Hometown: April 26, 1992 (21)/Linden, Calif.

    Height/Weight: 6'7"/255 lbs.

    Bats-Throws: R-R

    Drafted: 2013, 1st Round

    Baseball America Pre-2013 MLB Rank: N/A

     

    MLB.com 2013 Grades (2-8 Scale; Present/Future)

    Hit: 3/5; Power: 4/7; Run: 5/5; Arm: 6/6; Field: 5/6

    Overall: 4/5

     

    What You Need to Know

    Those physical attributes are off the charts.

    At 6'7" and 255 pounds, Aaron Judge is a monster and, as the video above expresses, he has been compared physically to Blake Griffin and LeBron James and to the Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton on a baseball level. The Yanks selected him, another college prospect, just six picks after Jagielo in the 2013 draft.

    He has decent speed (top base stealer at Fresno State), an above-average arm, solid fielding potential and, you guessed it, extremely raw power. The only drawback appears to be the length of his arms and corresponding swing, making it difficult to imagine him tightening up the swing and hitting for as much average as pop down the road.

    Not surprisingly, Baseball America alludes to the awesome experience of watching Judge take batting practice. Finally, despite his plus arm, scouting reports from both Baseball America and MLB.com project his place in a corner outfield position.

     

    Final Thought

    What's not to like about having both Jagielo and Judge developing simultaneously in the system?

    One is a 6'2" power-hitting lefty, the other is a 6'7" power-hitting righty. Figure the larger, rawer Judge shows more upside, but Jagielo proves to be more MLB-ready.

    Judge, given his size and mutli-tool projections, is undoubtedly one of the more exciting prospects, though. If he can prove the ability to hit for average, the AL East could have a scary future if he plays in the Bronx. Great trade value, but could the Yankees really let him go?

    He should start in low-A Charleston and polish that bat while shortening his swing and should earn at least one promotion in 2014. File this under another question mark because of Ellsbury and Beltran, in the meantime. 

     

    Projected MLB Arrival: 2016

No. 7: Ian Clarkin

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    Profile

    Position: LHP

    Born/Hometown: Feb. 14, 1995 (18)/San Diego, Calif.

    Height/Weight: 6'2"/186 lbs.

    Bats-Throws: L-L

    Drafted: 2013, 1st Round

    Baseball America Pre-2013 MLB Rank: N/A

     

    MLB.com 2013 Grades (2-8 Scale; Present/Future)

    Fastball: 5/6; Curve: 4/5; Changeup: 4/5; Control: 5/6

    Overall: 4/6

     

    What You Need to Know

    There isn't a plethora of statistical background on the talented left-handed prospect, though the Yanks obviously weren't messing around selecting such a young arm. The top-tier high school standout was selected with the pick directly after Aaron Judge in 2013 at 33rd overall. 

    The takeaways from MLB.com's grades are his three average to above-average pitches, with his fastball as his most promising weapon and his command projected to be plenty good enough to be MLB-caliber. Baseball America's report lists Clarkin's 90-92 mph heater that maxes out at 94, a "sharp" and "downward" power curve with good bite and a steadily developing changeup.

    He is noted, per Baseball America, to show deceptive arm speed that makes it hard to pick out the three pitches, which could really prove a boon for that changeup in the near future.

    He only pitched five innings in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2013 (because of injury) and surrendered five hits, two homers, four walks and four strikeouts. Expect one of his priorities, besides ensuring his health, to be gaining experiences before a trip to the Bronx anytime soon.

     

    Final Thought 

    Two C-words stand out from the above video for the soon-to-be 19-year old: control and competitiveness.

    He has appeared at the international level for USA Baseball's under-18 team and looks to possess the mettle to be able to handle the rise in pressure as he advances through the Yanks system.

    And to already showcase above-average command at his age and with a changeup that could be featured down the lines, you have to like his long-term potential for the back end of either the Yanks' big league rotation or bullpen which could both perpetually be on the thinner, more questions than answers side of the equation for the next few years. 

    A trade wouldn't be shocking for another (probably weaker) organization looking to add arms to its farm system. But you'd hope the Yanks remain patient.

     

    Projected MLB Arrival: 2017

No. 8: Greg Bird

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    Profile

    Position: 1B

    Born/Hometown: Nov. 9, 1992 (21)/Aurora, Colo.

    Height/Weight: 6'3"/215 lbs.

    Bats-Throws: L-R

    Drafted: 2011, 5th Round

    Baseball America Pre-2013 MLB Rank: N/A

     

    MLB.com 2013 Grades (2-8 Scale; Present/Future)

    N/A

     

    What You Need to Know

    The second high school pick in a row from the Top 10 list, Greg Bird has been in the organization since 2011. Originally a catcher, the Yanks converted him to first base last season. Because of the recent switch, don't expect his defense to be a plus just yet, but he is a highly touted offensive prospect.

    In 2012, splitting 28 games between rookie ball and low-A Staten Island, he put up .337/450/.494, nine extra-base hits, 17 walks and 23 strikeouts. 

    He put together a tremendous 2013 in Single-A Charleston where, in 130 games and 458 at-bats, he posted a .288/.428/.511 line, .938 OPS, 20 homers, 84 RBI, minor league-best 107 walks and outstanding 170 wRC+.

    There are several question marks and drawbacks for Bird, as noted by Baseball America: his future power tool (including his lack of "premium bat speed"), his past back problems (which encouraged the move to first base) and his limited athleticism and range.

    The same report draws his MLB comparison to another non-athletic, long-swinging first baseman who played for the Yanks: Lyle Overbay.

     

    Final Thought

    His defensive and health liabilities appear to be prominent but not more so than his above-average hit projections, his tremendous ability to get on base and his flashes of power.

    A promotion out of High-A Tampa would be the best-case scenario for Bird in 2014, though he should remain in single-A for the year in order to work out the hitches in his swing (Baseball America mentions a lack of "loft," additionally) and his fielding.

    No reason we won't see him by 2017—or a little sooner—when Mark Teixeira becomes a free agent. First base definitely represents a long-term point of insufficiency for the Yankees.

    The Bombers would be remiss to offer him up before a stint in the big leagues.

     

    Projected MLB Arrival: Late-2016

No. 9: Luis Severino

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    Profile

    Position: RHP

    Born/Hometown: Feb. 20, 1994 (19)/Sabana Del Mar, Dominican Republic

    Height/Weight: 6'0"/195 lbs.

    Bats-Throws: R-R

    Signed: 2011

    Baseball America Pre-2013 MLB Rank: N/A

     

    MLB.com 2013 Grades (2-8 Scale; Present/Future)

    N/A

     

    What You Need to Know

    Have you been feeling a little uneasy that there has been only one pitching prospect thus far? You're not alone.

    But Luis Severino, the 2011 Dominican signee, has been a Yankee since he was 17, and entering his age-20 year in the system, he is proving to be a projected starter.

    Baseball America highlights his low-ball, grounder-inducing action with a three-pitch arsenal consisting of a plus fastball (93-95 mph, touching upper-90s), "solid" changeup (developed while in system) and "inconsistent" slider (mid-80s, used to be his secondary pitch).

    In addition to the positives afforded by his propensity to pitch low in the zone, Baseball America praises his "loose arm" style, his "raw" power that lights up the speed gun and his consistent strike-throwing. The drawback seems to come with his corresponding penchant to overthrow his heater, however.

    In 2012, his age-18 season, he pitched 64.1 innings with a 1.68 ERA, 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings, 2.4 walks per nine, .247 BABIP and 3.14 FIP. Last season, in 44 innings between rookie ball and Charleston, he compiled a .245 ERA, 10.8 strikeouts per nine and 2.0 walks per nine (with a 1.68 FIP in rookie ball and 2.24 in Low-A).

     

    Final Thought

    Severino is another pitcher who is very early in his path through the system.

    He'll spend most of his time in A-ball in 2014, but he is a premier flame-throwing farmhand who could, in the best-case scenario, fill in the back end of the rotation in a few years if free agency and the trade market don't create sustainability for the Bombers.

     

    Projected MLB Arrival: Late-2016

No. 10: Gosuke Katoh

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    Profile

    Position: 2B

    Born/Hometown: Oct. 8, 1994 (19)/Poway, Calif.

    Height/Weight: 6'2"/180 lbs.

    Bats-Throws: L-R

    Drafted: 2013, 2nd Round

    Baseball America Pre-2013 MLB Rank: N/A

     

    MLB.com 2013 Grades (2-8 Scale; Present/Future)

    N/A

     

    What You Need to Know

    Another San Diego high school talent, Gosuke Katoh is noted by Baseball America to show great forearm strength in spite of being very lean (see above video). He even has projected average power despite often choking up on his bat, per the same scouting report.

    His main pros appear to be his ability to hit for average (.451 his senior year of high school, .310 average and .378 BABIP in rookie ball in 2013), his speed and, as Baseball America points out, his promise as a "slick, graceful defender."

    His main cons are his below-average arm (which could prevent a move to the left side of the infield) and that "he was vulnerable to chasing the high fastball now and again," as profiled by the same report.

    After having played 50 games in the Gulf Coast League, he is scheduled for a full season of A-ball in 2014. 

     

    Final Thought

    Overall, Katoh is a promising prospect for the middle infield where, for 2014, the Yanks have turned to a slate of short-term, high-risk, low-offensive reward options.

    We won't see Katoh very soon, but if he sticks around in the organization and improves his plate discipline, you can imagine him progressing toward a September call-up "trial" of sorts in a few years, with some starts plugged into manning second.

    It absolutely does not hurt the Bombers to have a utility or middle infielder developing in the minors, and he looks really sound and solid at the plate, judging from the high school clips above.

     

    Projected MLB Arrival: Late-2017

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