Hot off the presses this morning is Keith Law’s list of the top 100 prospects in baseball (subscription required).
The highest ranking awarded to a member of the Yankee organization goes, predictably, to C Jesus Montero, who comes in at #4. Also ranked among the top 100 were LHP Manny Banuelos (#12), C Gary Sanchez (#68), RHP Dellin Betances (#73) and RHP Andrew Brackman (#88). Along with the rankings came the following comments (excerpted):
We can all agree on one thing about Montero: He’s going to hit. And by that, I mean he’s going to hit for average, get on base and have huge power — the type of offensive profile that plays anywhere on the field and in the lineup. Montero is a physical beast, the rare front-foot hitter who can generate big-time power, reminiscent of Frank Thomas who was, himself, also a patient and disciplined hitter.
With a bat this potentially strong, why risk injury or give up the 20-25 games a year when your catcher has to rest? Montero could solve the Yankees’ DH problem for the next 10 years if they commit to it, a move they are unlikely to ever regret.
Banuelos was on the prospect radar last year as a competitive, strike-throwing lefthander with a good changeup and a chance to add velocity. Now he’s a 19-year-old on the cusp of the majors with a three-pitch mix where all three pitches will at least flash above-average.
He’ll start 2011 in Double-A, but even though he’s 19 he’s close to maxed out physically now, so he’s just a few refinements away from being able to help the big league club.
The Yankees are loaded with prospects who currently catch, and while they probably won’t all pan out at the position, it’s a good area in which to have a surplus. Sanchez is the furthest away, and has a chance to replace Jesus Montero at the top of the Yankees’ prospect rankings soon. The two are similar overall; Sanchez has a better chance to catch with a slightly lower ceiling at the plate. He’s going to be very physical, but has plenty of agility behind the plate with an above-average arm and quick release.
There’s still a lot of projection involved in that evaluation, and he’s barely 18 years old at the moment, but his youth and distance from the majors are the only things keeping him out of the top echelon of this list.
Fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, he’ll hit 96-97 and pitch in the low 90s, and has a solid-average changeup with both good arm speed and fade.He’s not a great athlete or fielder. He is also only 22 with just shy of 300 innings total in three-plus years in pro ball, so time is on his side for him to improve his feel or his body control or for the Yankees to continue refining his delivery. There’s No. 1 starter potential here, but the probability isn’t there yet.
Brackman started out slow in 2010, but it was a steady build over the course of the year, with improvement each month, even with a midyear promotion to Double-A. His velocity and command steadily increased, and by the second half he was pretty close to where he was before originally hurting his elbow.
He may be a bullpen guy, but at least now that’s his floor. A year ago the floor was more of a crawl space. And now the ceiling of an above-average starter is back in play.
2010 was as good a year for the Yankee farm system as 2009 was rotten. It will be interesting to see how these five players, along with the handful of others (Culver, Gumbs, Williams, Warren, Noesi, Romine, Heathcott, among others) fare in 2011. Another year like 2010 and the Yankees could legitimately stake a claim to having one of the deepest systems in baseball.