Re-Ranking the Yankees' Top 10 Prospects After Day 1 of the MLB Draft
The Major League Baseball Draft. A span of days where lifelong dreams come true. Kids, whether they be in high school or college, are taking the first steps to hopefully becoming a big league ballplayer. Once your name is called, you are no longer just a kid on a field. You are about to become a professional being paid to play the game you love for a living.
Additionally, you become a prospect, someone your respective organization believes can develop into a fine big league ball player. That is exactly what the New York Yankees thought when they selected Jacob Lindgren with the 55th overall pick in the second round on Day 1 of the 2014 MLB Draft.
Lindgren, 21, is a product of Mississippi State University. A left-handed pitcher, he worked mainly as a reliever for the Bulldogs. Ranked as the 41st best prospect by MLB.com, Lindgren features a fastball with natural sinking action that can top out at 95 mph. He also has a slider at his disposal. Lindgren's stuff can be seen in action here.
And so, Lindgren becomes another prospect in the Yankees' system now working his way to the big leagues. Speaking of prospects, who exactly ranks among the Yankees' best?
10. Ian Clarkin P
A native of San Diego, California, Clarkin was drafted in the first round of the 2013 MLB Draft. The Yankees took him with the 33rd overall pick, signing him to a deal worth over $1 million.
After a sprained ankle limited him to just three games in the Gulf Coast League in 2013, Clarkin is now with the Single-A Charleston River Dogs of the South Atlantic League. He is 1-3 with a 4.23 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 6 starts. So far, Clarkin has not provided much of a sample size to judge.
At 6' 2", 186 lbs., Clarkin, a southpaw, has established himself as a young power pitcher. With a fastball that sits in the mid 90s, a 12-6 curveball and a changeup, Clarkin has three reliable pitches in his arsenal. The breaking ball was deemed one of the best amongst high school pitchers in the 2013 draft class.
A highlight of his young career, Clarkin helped lead Team USA to a gold medal at the 2012 18-and-under baseball world championships. It was his performance for Team USA, along with a strong senior year for James Madison High School, that caught the Yankees' eye. Clarkin had committed to pitch at San Diego State University before being drafted by the Yankees.
New York views him as a future No. 2 or 3 starter. His big league estimated time of arrival is 2017.
9. Peter O'Brien C/3B/OF
A second-round pick in the 2012 draft by the Yankees, O'Brien has gotten off to a sizzling hot start this season.
A product of the University of Miami, the Florida local is batting .292 with 13 doubles, 21 home runs and 46 RBI in 53 games between Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. An impressive start to say the least.
In three minor league seasons, O'Brien has exhibited excellent power at the plate. In 224 career games he now has 53 homers. In 2013, he hit .291 with 22 homers, 39 doubles and 96 RBI for the Charleston RiverDogs and Tampa Yankees. Now, in 2014, O'Brien has already nearly matched that home run total.
As with any prospect, O'Brien has several flaws. His biggest obstacle will be finding a true position. A catcher at Miami, having O'Brien behind the plate did not fit the Yankees' plans. With Brian McCann, Francisco Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez, the team has a surplus of catching depth. O'Brien would just create a logjam. He spent some time at third base last year, but made 18 errors in 38 games. This year O'Brien has spent most of his time in the outfield, but has gotten some action at catcher as well.
Another problem with O'Brien is that he strikes out far more than he walks. This year the slugger has struck out 51 times while drawing only 10 free passes.
These of course are things that can be fixed and solved with time. Meanwhile, O'Brien is one of the top power hitters in the Yankees' organization.
8. Luis Severino P
Hailing from the Dominican Republic, Severino signed with the Yankees in July of 2012 at just 18 years of age.
Now 20 years old, Severino has turned heads in the minors, quickly becoming one of the Yankees' top pitching prospects. In his first season of pro ball Severino went 4-2 with a 1.68 ERA in 14 starts for the Dominican Summer League Yankees team. In 2013 he split time between the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Yankees and Single-A Charleston RiverDogs. In 10 games, Severino went 4-2 with a 2.45 ERA while striking out 53 batters in 44 innings.
In the early going of his first full season, Severino has a 2.88 ERA with 56 strikeouts and only 11 walks in 12 starts for Charleston.
As he heads into his first full season, the Yankees regard Severino as the top righty in their system. Despite a slender 6' 0", 195 lb. frame, Severino can light up the radar gun. His fastball, which normally sits between 94 and 95 miles per hour and has nice sinking action, can top out at 98. Add a hard slider and a decent changeup, and Severino has a repertoire designed to power past opposing hitters.
Having already reached Class A ahead of schedule, the Yankees will look to accelerate Severino's timetable in the coming years.
7. Aaron Judge OF
After he passed up the Oakland Athletics in the 2010 draft in favor of California State University Fresno, the Yankees scooped Judge up in the first round (32nd overall) of the 2013 draft.
This year Judge's professional career is off to a nice start with the Single-A Charleston RiverDogs. In his first 57 games, Judge is batting .315 with 11 doubles, eight home runs and 37 RBI. He has played predominantly in right field.
A high school football player, Judge's massive build (6' 7", 230 lbs.) earned him several scholarship offers as a tight end. Now that he is on the diamond, that build, along with his power at the plate, are being compared to the likes of Dave Winfield and Giancarlo Stanton.
Of course, that power and size can come at a price. A frame like that has provided Judge with a long swing, so when he is not tearing the cover off the ball, he is often whiffing. Judge has 49 strikeouts on the year. Yet, surprisingly, Judge has decent speed in the field and on the base paths. On top of all that, his strong arm in right makes him one of the more well-rounded outfield prospects in the Yankees' system.
Judge, 22, still has to work his way through the minor league ranks. Look for him to first don pinstripes sometime between 2016 and 2017.
6. Gregory Bird 1B
A fifth-round pick (179th overall) by the Yankees in 2011, Bird was the battery mate to now-Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman in high school. Scouts who came to see the pitcher left Grandview High School (Aurora, Colorado) games taking note of Bird as well.
Obviously, the Yankees were one of the teams to take note. Since being drafted by the Yankees, Bird has made the transition from catcher to first baseman. Past back issues were one reason for the change. His skill at the position is average for now.
Bird's biggest upside is at the plate. At just 21 years old, his approach in the batter's box is well beyond his years. In 2013, Bird's first full season, he led the minors in walks with 107 free passes, demonstrating a sharp eye and discipline at the plate. Additionally, Bird hit .288 while showing power at the plate, belting 36 doubles, 20 homers and driving in 84 runs. All in all, he has a very even technique at the plate.
Like Judge, Bird tends to have a lengthy swing at times. Still, his patience and ability to hit for contact, along with a strong situational understanding of the game, have made Bird one of the more noteworthy Yankees farmhands. As long as he continues his balanced style of hitting, Bird should find himself in a big league uniform sometime in the next few years.
Bird is currently batting .258 with three home runs and eight RBI in 26 games for the Tampa Yankees, New York's high Class A team in the Florida State League.
5. Tyler Austin 1B/3B/OF
The Yankees took Austin fresh out of high school with their 13th-round pick in the 2010 draft.
An outfielder by nature, Austin has begun to see time in the infield these past few years since joining the Yankees' organization. In 38 games this year, he has spent time at first and third base, as well as right field.
Austin burst on to the scene in 2012, having his best pro season while spending time at three levels, including a promotion to the Double-A Trenton Thunder. In 110 games, he hit 35 doubles and 17 home runs while driving in 80 runs and boasting a .322 average. That fine campaign earned Austin Yankees' Minor League Player of the Year honors.
Looking to follow up with another impressive season in 2013, a lingering sprained right thumb limited Austin's performance. In 85 games, he hit six home runs with 40 RBI and a .265 AVG. This season Austin is off to a slow start, batting just .250 with 2 home runs.
Still, Austin has proven to be a threat at the plate. With a short, sweet stroke and the patience to wait back on off-speed pitches, his skill set at the plate has the makings of a hitter balanced between contact and power.
Another interesting note on Austin is his base-stealing ability. While not incredibly fast or a huge threat to steal, Austin has shown great timing on the base paths. He has swiped 47 bags in 50 attempts as a pro, giving him a success rate of 94%.
At 22 years old, Austin is one of the Yankees' more developed prospects and could see time in the majors as soon as next year.
4. Eric Jagielo 3B
A third baseman out of Notre Dame, Jagielo went to the Yankees with the 26th overall pick in the 2013 draft, making him the the first position player to be drafted by New York in the first round since 2001.
He signed for $1,839,400.
A left-handed hitter, Jagielo's power bat is what piqued the Yankees' interest in the young slugger. With Yankee Stadium's short right field porch, Jagielo has the potential to thrive with the Bombers down the road, as his swing is a perfect match. Make no mistake, he can drive the ball in each and every direction, something he showed in the Cape Cod League in 2012. That summer Jagielo finished second in the league with 13 dingers.
Since then Jagielo has continued his maturation at the plate, displaying more self-restraint at the plate. He is off to a hot start with the Tampa Yankees this season, as he has hit 10 home runs and knocked in 31 runs. He still has to work on hitting for contact, but Jagielo has the potential to be a middle of the order bat.
Jagielo has also made great strides defensively. He most likely will not be a future Gold Glove winner, but the Yankees believe him to be strong enough at third to remain at the position. With a strong arm, there is no reason for him not to.
Just a year removed from rookie ball, it will be a few years before we see Jagielo in the Bronx.
3. Mason Williams OF
Drafted by the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft, Williams is now in his fifth year of professional baseball.
After being drafted fresh out of high school, Williams went straight to rookie ball. Now, at 22 years of age, Williams is playing for the Double-A Trenton Thunder where he remains one of the top prospects in the Yankees' farm system.
Williams' athletic ability may just come from his lineage. His father, Derwin Williams, was a wide receiver for the New England Patriots and his grandfather, Walt Williams, was a long-time big league outfielder playing for several teams, including the Yankees.
A center fielder by trade, Williams has above-average speed, allowing him to cover plenty of ground in the outfield. He has developed into a solid defender throughout his minor league career.
Williams biggest improvements will have to come at the plate. With a choppy swing, Williams often takes his potential power out of the equation. With his speed he can make things happen so long as he puts the ball in play, but Williams has more pop that he has yet to harness. On the plus side, Williams has shown a good eye at the plate. If Williams works on a more level swing, he will have the tools to become a successful leadoff hitter in the majors.
Still at a young age, Williams has time to work on this. If he develops a smoother swing, he could be in the big leagues sometime in 2015.
Williams is off to a poor start this year, as he is batting just .214 in 51 games.
2. Slade Heathcott OF
A first-round pick by the Yankees in 2009, Heathcott, a Texas native, has quietly distinguished himself as one of the Yankees' better farmhands.
In 2013 he was promoted to Double-A Trenton where he spent the entire season with the Thunder, putting up impressive numbers in a 103-game campaign. Heathcott hit .261 with 22 doubles, seven triples, eight home runs, 49 RBI and 15 stolen bases, displaying a versatile offensive game. Heathcott's tools have drawn comparisons to the Yankees' Brett Gardner, but with a little more power and a little less speed.
What Heathcott lacks offensively at the plate is patience, as can be a tad overzealous in the box. Last year he walked just 36 times while striking out 107. That, along with Heathcott's lengthy swing, has kept him off the bases and hitting for less contact. Still, he has some pop at the plate and could become a threat in the middle of the lineup.
With above-average range, a strong arm and quick speed, the 23-year-old has the makings of a fine center fielder. Of course, with Jacoby Ellsbury in town, Heathcott will be changing positions if he remains with the Yankees, presumably to right field.
The biggest question mark with Heathcott is his ability to stay healthy. Shoulder and knee injuries have plagued him since high school. Heathcott is currently on the disabled list.
If he can get healthy, Heathcott could be in the majors by 2015. He may even see the majors come September call-ups this year.
1. Gary Sanchez C
Without a doubt the top prospect in the organization, Sanchez agreed to a $3 million deal with the Yankees when he was just 16 years old out of the Dominican Republic.
Now 21, Sanchez was ranked as the 35th-best prospect in the game by Baseball America heading into the 2014 season. After spending some time with the team last year, Sanchez began the 2014 season at Double-A with the Trenton Thunder. In 49 games, he is batting .259 with 12 doubles, seven home runs and 35 RBI.
Sanchez is hoping to put together a third-straight solid season this year. In 2012, he hit .290 with 18 homers and 85 RBI while 2013 saw him hit 15 dingers while driving in 71. He has hit at least 15 home runs in each of his three full minor league seasons.
Obviously, Sanchez has a lot of power and can easily drive the ball. Hitting for contact is a different story, something that Sanchez will want to work on with time. Defensively, Sanchez is not as developed. He is not the most reliable of catchers and needs work on calling games and blocking balls. He has a strong arm, as shown by his minors career 31% caught stealing rate.
With a few adjustments and some more work, Sanchez should have no problem sticking behind the plate in the big leagues.
The timetable on Sanchez depends on who you ask. Some think he will be major league-ready by next year, but with a few aspects of his game needing fine-tuning, 2016 seems more likely.
All stats were obtained via Baseball-Reference and are accurate as of the end of play on June 4, 2014.
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