Given both the number of Yankees on Baseball America’s list of top prospects for the Eastern League and the number of Yankees that warranted consideration, it was to be expected that BA.com’s post-list chat would be extremely long and very Trenton “Thunder-centric.”*
*Access to this chat requires a subscription to Baseball America
[Q]: Curious as to why Brackman was # 5 here, yet was dead last at # 20 on FSL’s Top 20?
[John Manuel, Baseball America]: Thanks for coming to the chat. I figured we’d get a lock of Brackman questions today. Since I do our Yankees Top 30, I’ve been asking scouts about Brackman all year, and he was bad early. How bad? I talked to one scout who turned him in as a middle reliever at best. But the managers and scouts who saw him in August saw a different pitcher, and they saw one with two plus pitches, in fact two pitches that were 70s at times. They also saw a guy who threw a lot of strikes, especially compared to what he had done in the past. He’s improved that profile to a No. 2 starter with the fastball and curve. He was consistent down the stretch with good stuff and throwing strikes, so that improvement probably explains why observers in the EL liked him better than those in the FSL. Players improve over the course of a year; he’s one that did.
[Q]: Hi John, thanks again. Again, Banuelos and Betances failed to qualify for this league’s prospects, but what did scouts say about them? I’ve read reports that Banuelos’ stuff now compare very favorably to LHP Martin Perez who was widely regarded as the top LHP prospect in the minors prior to this year. If he and Betances were on this list, where might they have ranked?
[JM, BA]: Both those players received some raves. I didn’t ask anyone to compare Banuelos to Perez so I’ll leave that to others. Again, doing Yankees prospects, it’s going to be fascinating to see how Banuelos, Betances and Brackman lineup. One source recently told me he had them Betances first, Banuelos second, then Brackman; another had Brackman at the top, then Banuelos, then Betances. Not sure what the consensus will wind up being; for me, I like Brackman’s athleticism and give him a slight edge on Betances, but Banuelos might be best of them all for his poise and lefthanded-ness.
[Q]: Hi John.. Did David Phelps and DJ Mitchell receive strong consideration for this list, or are they not very well regarded by scouts who saw them?
[JM, BA]: Steve, Mitchell did not. He had a nice year but scouts view him as a middle reliever at the big league level, and not as a high-leverage guy either, more as a sixth- or seventh-inning type. Phelps had a tremendous year and throws very hard, though at times it’s very straight at 92-94 mph consistently, touching higher. He’s behind Noesi and Adam Warren for this list and on the Yanks’ 30, in my opinion, but again I’m still gathering info for the Yanks list. His secondary stuff gets a lot of fringe-average grades from scouts, whereas some scouts like Warren’s cutter-type of slider as a second average pitch.
[Q]: Is Laird considered trade bait, being as blocked from the Bronx as he is?
[JM, BA]: Lots and lots of Yankees questions as expected, I’ll try to take a break from them in a minute…yes, people outside the Yanks organization definitely like Laird as a guy they would try to get in a potential deal. He’s seen as a solid-average 3B, with below-average range the biggest question mark. He hit good pitching this year; I’ve been a skeptic in the past on Laird but this year definitely has changed my mind.
[Q]: Would David Adams have made the list if he hadn’t gotten injured? What were scouts saying about him? Joseph or Adams longterm?
[JM, BA]: No way to really judge it, because he did get hurt and it’s going to affect what kind of player he is, because his defense and range at 2B is the biggest question with D. Adams. As for him vs. Joseph, that’s a tough one, and Bowie’s Ryan Adams is in the same mix. David and Ryan Adams are pretty similar players. None of them is Robbie Cano on defense or offense, Joseph has the smoothest swing and best chance to be average at 2B defensively, I might take him even though the other two have more impact bats.
[Q]: In his FSL chat, J.J. Cooper said that Brackman and Betances both project to be late inning relievers in the Yankees system because they don’t project as front of the rotation starters and therefore won’t be given a shot to start at the ML level. Do you agree with his take on these two players?
[JM, BA]: Asked and answered on Brackman; he got better in the EL. I have talked to one scout who believes that Betances threw strikes this year but not enough quality strikes and believes he lacks the athleticism to start, and he had him as a reliever. But others have given Betances two 70 grades as well for his fastball and curveball. I believe more in Brackman because he’s the better athlete, but I’m starting to sense the Yankees think more highly of Betances.
[Q]: Better prospect, Noesi or Nova?
[JM, BA]: Asked that question to one scout specifically, and he said Noesi.