|Original Published Date: Nov. 17, 2012|
In the Yankees vs. Red Sox minor league chase, I’m declaring this a Red Sox victory; but not by a landslide. The Yankees have four very good prospects in Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, and Slade Heathcott with Sanchez having the most upside.
While some will compare Sanchez to Jesus Montero, I think Sanchez has more raw power but with more swing and miss in his bat. However, while I never believed Montero would stay behind the plate, I think the chances are good that Sanchez will. Williams and Heathcott have tons of tools and provided they can stay healthy, both could become first division starters. Austin has the highest floor of the four with the chance to be a .300 hitter. While some worry that he will eventually move to first base, I think he has the skills to play a corner outfield.
After the top four, things get dicey. Jose Campos and Manny Banuelos, the Yankees top two pitching prospect are both dealing with elbow injuries. Banuelos has already gone under the knife and will miss the entire 2014 season and Campos missed most of the 2012 season with generic elbow tendonitis. Both have a lot of talent but the injuries add a lot of risk to their upside.
Angelo Gumbs is an interesting talent and could profile as a second division starter at the keystone or in the outfield. Finally, I think we will see Mark Montgomery in the Yankees bullpen next season as a middle reliever who should be able to get a ton of strikeouts.
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|2013 Age: 20||BP: D.R.|
|Ht:6-2 Weight: 220||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
Is Gary Sanchez what we thought Jesus Montero would be? Looking at the surface stats, you’d have to say no as a 75% contact rate and an 8% walk rate doesn’t scream future stud. However, stats can be deceiving and I think Sanchez has a chance to be very special.
Sanchez has a classic right handed home run swing. It’s leveraged with tremendous bat speed while taking advantage of his lower half. While I don’t believe he’ll be a .300 hitter, I’m also convinced that he will not be a .240 hitter either. The reason is great hand-eye coordination that helps compensate for his long swing. He has the ability to alter his swing in mid-flight and still make contact. That’s a very difficult skill to accomplish and from what I can see, he has that ability.
How much power? I think it’s 70 grade raw-power that could translate into 30+ home runs at the highest level. Remember, he was 19 years old in the Florida State League and managed to hit 18 home runs between Low-A and High-A. He could very well join Austin, Heathcott, and Williams (assuming he recovers from Labrum surgery) in Double-A Trenton to start the 2013 season and be one of the youngest players in that league.
The other big question that I get asked about Gary Sanchez is will he remain a catcher? A year ago, I would have said no, but when I saw him play in 2012, there has been improvement. So much improvement that I believe he has good chance to be the catcher of the future for the Yankees. If not, I think he will profile very well at first base; which candidly is the position that I ultimately believe Jesus Montero will eventually play.
Fantasy Impact: I’m all in on Gary Sanchez. Yes, I’m bucking the trend, but I like what I see and believe he’s an elite prospect with tremendous upside. There is risk as he’s still very young and catchers take longer to develop, but after Travis d’Arnaud, he’s the best catching prospect in the minors and a Top 30 overall prospect in my book.
|2013 Age: 21||BP: Florida|
|Ht:6-3 Weight: 175||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
Mason Williams was having a fine season until a torn labrum in his shoulder in early August sent him to the DL for the rest of the season. Fortunately for the Yankees, Williams plays the outfield and should make a full recovery early in the 2013 season.
Williams brings nice, all-around tools to the table with plus speed, above average future power, and the ability to play a plus center field.
When you see Mason Williams, you think of wiry strength – a thin build with the ability to barrel the ball and make loud contact. With age, many times that wiry build turns into a monster like St. Louis Cardinals slugger, Matt Holiday. When Holiday was going through the development process, scouts said he had wiry strength as well. While I’m not comparing Williams to Holliday, I am suggesting that there is definitely future power there.
From a batting mechanics standpoint, I see some issues. First, Williams has quick hands and very good bat speed. However, his load is fairly noisy with a noticeable high leg kick and long stride. High leg kicks can be problematic as it becomes harder for the batter to adjust to breaking pitches. Think about it, if you’re lifting your leg and then you pick up the spin of a breaking pitch, your timing is off as you’re standing on one leg. If you compound that with a long stride, maintaining balance can be difficult. Fortunately, Williams is extremely athletic and is compensating well as is evident by his 87% contact rate, but if I were the Yankees, I would address the situation before he moves into the upper minors. Long-term, simpler batting mechanics are preferred.
I have Williams rated as a four star player as I see a first division talent but not an all-star. I’m not sold on his mechanics and he’s also a very aggressive hitter as is evident by his 7% walk rate. I do think he’ll develop power and could turn into a 20/20 player who will bat .260-270.
Fantasy Impact: While I think the Boston Red Sox Jackie Bradley Jr. will be a slightly better baseball player, I think Mason Williams will be the better fantasy player. Simply put, the tools are louder and in fantasy you’re looking for hybrid players who can bring both power and speed while not killing your batting average. I think that’s what Williams will bring.
|2013 Age: 21||BP: Georgia|
|Ht:6-2 Weight: 200||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014-15|
Tyler Austin was your classic May pop-up guy; defined as “WOW, who the heck is Tyler Austin and why is he leading all of baseball (minors and majors) in OPS on May 1st.
Drafted in 2010 out of Georgia as a catcher, Austin slipped to the 13th round and then promptly broke his wrist after two at-bats. He showed a lot of promise in 2011 in the New York Penn League and then finished his breakout in 2012 with 17 home runs, 23 stolen bases while batting .322 across three levels. With catching firmly in the rear view mirror, Austin primarily played right field but did spend some time at first base as well. He has average to above-average speed and looked pretty good in the field showing the ability to track balls well.
Austin is a solid kid at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds with great bat speed and good hitting mechanics. His load is quiet with some length to his swing while using his lower half well to provide torque and leverage. I believe in the bat and the approach and see 20-25 future home run power at the highest level. Given his current stature and the likelihood of future physical growth, I don’t see speed as a future tool. That said, I think you could see double digit stolen bases for the next few years before he ultimately fills out.
Fantasy Impact: Assuming Austin stays in the outfield, I think he could be a first division fantasy talent that will bring 20-25 or more home run production, a.280+ average and double digit stolen bases (early on).
|2013 Age: 20||BP: Arkansas|
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 190||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2014|
As I write this, Slade Heathcott was just awarded the Player of the Week at the Arizona Fall League. Candidly, many people have never heard of Heathcott and for good reasons, he’s frequently hurt and has never had more that 300 at-bat in a single season.
From a pure talent standpoint, Heathcott has as much if not more than both Williams and Austin. He’s a great athlete with plus-plus speed as is evident by his 17 stolen bases in 215 at-bats. He has a compact swing with nice hip rotation that suggests future power. His main deficiency is his inability to pick-up the spin of a curve resulting in a 69% contact rate. Learning to hit off-speed pitches takes repetition and this has been the problem with Heathcott as he can’t stay healthy.
Heathcott plays with nearly reckless abandonment and his body is starting to show the wear. He’s had multiple shoulder surgeries and has yet to make it through a season unscathed. I’m sure the Yankees are coaching him to take it easy but that’s easier said than done. There is an awful lot to like with Slade Heathcott with an upside as a first division outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: While there is significant risk, Heathcott could be a fantasy monster with 25/25 upside. His batting average is still undetermined as he needs to recognize pitches better. For Dynasty Leagues, I’m drafting him as a high risk/high reward prospect fairly late in a draft.
|2013 Age: 20||BP: California|
|Ht:6-0 Weight: 175||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
Angelo Gumbs has been flying below the radar since he was drafted 82nd overall in the 2010 draft. Very athletic with a strong lower half, Gumbs was off to a nice start in 2012 when an elbow injury cut short his season at the end of June. There has been no word on when Gumbs will return but I’ve also not heard that his injury will require Tommy John Surgery.
Gumbs best tool is speed, both with his bat and his legs. He flashed his speed in Low-A in 2012 by stealing 26 bases in 67 games while only being caught three times. While he doesn’t get a chance to use his speed in the field, he’s an adequate fielder at the keystone but might be served better to move to the outfield.
From a hitting mechanics standpoint, Gumbs has a nice wide stance with good balance. He has a nice compact swing to accompany his excellent bat speed. His setup though if very noisy – almost anxious for the ball to arrive. I know it’s a timing thing but unless you are Gary Sheffield, Gumbs should try and quiet the approach as this will allow him to better use his bat speed. His swing does not make good use of his lower half, so I don’t see above average power developing.
Fantasy Impact: While Angelo Gumbs is an interesting prospect, he is not yet draftable in a fantasy League. However, keep an eye on him as the speed is elite and the bat could profile as above average.
|2013 Age: 22||BP: Mexico|
|Ht: 5-11 Weight: 200||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2014-15|
In 2010, Manny Banuelos and Delin Betantes were the great pitching hope for the Yankees. In 2012, Betantes is destined for life in the bullpen and after only pitching 58.1 innings over the past two years, Banuelos had Tommy John surgery in October and will miss the entire 2013 season.
In looking at the positive side, Banuelos will only turn 22 years old in March and still has a chance to pitch in Yankees stadium before he turns 25. Assuming he comes back healthy, the arsenal has front-of-the-rotation potential with a fastball that sits in 91-93 MPH with good movement and a power curve that has swing and miss potential as well as an above average change-up.
The first time I saw Banuelos pitch I immediately thought of Wandy Rodriguez. The size, the mechanics and even the arsenal are very similar. Banuelos produces a lot of energy and plane despite being only 5-foot-11 because he maintains good posture and great balance through his follow through. He does have a bit of a cross fire delivery which might have contributed to his elbow problems.
Fantasy Impact: Since Tommy John Surgeries have become fairly routine, the hope is that Banuelos will return healthy for the start of the 2014 season. However, that’s a long-time to have a pitcher on your minor league roster, so I’m recommending that Dynasty owners try and sell Banuelos for whatever they can, and move on.
Drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft, Ty Hensley has an electric arm with a fastball that can hit the upper nineties with a nice sweeping 12-6 curve. While he was a good athletic in high-school, his pitching mechanics are very mechanical – almost like he’s aiming the ball. He’s a project for sure but one that could payoff for the Yankees down the road.
Jose Campos was the other pitcher in the Jesus Montero trade and looked like the real deal until elbow tendentious cut his season short in April after only 25 innings. The most frustrating part was the lack of information about the injury; no timetables and virtually no updates. When healthy, Campos has an electric arm with an arsenal that includes two plus pitches; a mid 90’s fastball and a beautiful power curve and a change-up that is not that far behind. However, when will he pitch again? Don’t know…
Mark Montgomery has classic closer stuff. A two-pitch arsenal that consists of a low 90’s fastball and one of the best sliders I’ve ever seen. The slider just disappears and gets a ton of strikeouts. He’s not a big guy at 5-foot-11 and there is some worry that the lack of downward plane will lead to him being a fly ball pitcher. However, the results were outstanding in 2012. In 64.1 innings, he had 99 strikeouts and 22 walks and that pattern continued in the Arizona Fall League where he had 19 strikeouts and five walks in 10.1 innings. Expect to see Montgomery pitch in Yankees stadium sometime in 2013.
After being selected in the supplemental first round in the 2011 draft, Dante Bichette signed quickly and tore up the GCL. However, full season ball proved to be much more difficult as Bichette came back to earth by posting a .248 batting average. The contact was still good at 80%, but he just wasn’t driving the ball and seemed to be slapping at the ball too much and ignoring his lower half. His father, Dante Bichette Sr. was just hired by the Rockies to be their hitting coach, so maybe it’s time for father and son to get together.