Saturday, January 30, 2010

Yankees' Top Prospects: 6-10

*Click on the pictures to get the full-sized image.

6.) Corban Joseph,
2B/3B, B/T: L/R, 6’0” 188lbs, drafted 28th in the 4th round of the 2008 draft, signed for $207K

Strengths: Joseph’s short, powerful swing enables him to make consistent, hard contact. In 2009, over 25% of his BIP were linedrives, and he put up a 140 OPS+ in the pitcher friendly SAL. He backs up his bat with above average plate discipline, and his BB/K ratio was over twice as high as the league average. Joseph hit much better away from Charleston, and could see his power numbers jump with the move to Tampa as Montero, Romine, and David Adams did.

Weaknesses: Despite a strong bat, Joseph does not hit for much power, hitting only 4 HR last year compared to a league average of 5 (for his PA). Drafted as a SS, the Yankees immediately moved him to 2B, and he has played 3B as well. Scouts question whether or not he can play 2B in the majors, or if his power would play at 3B. His speed is only average, so a move to CF is unlikely.

Path to The Big Leagues: Joseph’s linedrive swing and excellent strikezone control has made me a huge fan. His context-neutral stats peg him at 83 BB and 81 SO in 650 PA last year along with 40 2B/3B, and I could see him developing into an everyday player.

There’s not a huge difference between 2B and 3B offensively in the majors, so I don’t worry too much about whether he’s a 3B or 2B so long as he can play one of those positions well.

Total zone seems to agree with scouts on his defense, as it had him -6 at 2B and +6 at 3B. His skill-set may be atypical for a major league 3B, but that doesn’t matter so long as he produces. If he reaches his potential, I see him as a high average, high OBP hitter with 10-15 HR power, but he’s still young enough and talented enough to develop more power. Like Mike Newman at Scouting the Sally, Bill Mueller was the name that came to mind when I was trying to think of a comp for Joseph.

It’s hard to see a spot for Joseph on the Yankees. Cano has a guaranteed contract for the next two years, and the Yankees have club options on him for two years after that. A-Rod is signed for eternity, without the option of shifting to 1B. Most likely Joseph ends up as trade-bait, but that could change if A-Rod has to move off of 3B sooner rather than later or if Cano struggles like he did in 2008.

Grade: B-

7.) Mark Melancon, RP, B/T: R/R, 6’2” 210lbs, drafted 28th in the 9th round of the 2006 draft, signed for $600K

Strengths: Melancon has a low to mid 90’s fastball (averaged 93.0 MPH in the majors) with movement. His power curveball is an out pitch when he commands it, and his changeup is good enough to get out LHB. Melancon excels at the three areas pitchers have the most control over: strikeouts (24.6% of BF) walks (5.5 % of BF), and GB (57.6% of BIP).

Weaknesses: His delivery is high-effort, which has caused elbow problems in the past and still affects his command, especially his curveball – despite a stellar walk rate, he hit a lot of batters and threw too many wild pitches. He’s given up nearly twice as many unearned runs as you’d expect with his ERA, but with as many GB as he gets, that could simply be due to poor playing surfaces and error-prone minor league infielders.

Melancon’s command problems were evident in the majors, walking 5.51 batters per nine while nearly 75% of his pitches were fastballs. It’s a miniscule sample size and was his first taste of the big leagues, but both numbers will have to come down if he is to succeed.

Path to The Big Leagues: Mark should compete for a job in the bullpen out of spring training, and would be first in line to get called up if he doesn’t win a spot. He has the stuff and mentality to be an advantage in late innings, and his performance in the minors suggests the same. CAIRO projects him to be about 0.37 R/9 better than Boone Logan (likely his main competition for the final bullpen spot), and I think Melancon has the much greater chance at surpassing his projection.

Grade: C+. This was a hard decision. I really like Melancon, but I don’t think his stuff or command is good enough to be a closer/bullpen Ace. Furthermore, relievers simply aren’t that valuable compared to starters or position players, and the highest grade I could ever see giving any relief prospect would be a B+ (Neftali Feliz as a reliever, for example).

8.) David Adams, 2B, B/T: R/R, 6’2”, 190lbs, drafted 29th in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft, signed for $333K

Strengths: Adams once looked destined for the 1st round, but a poor junior year caused him to slip to the 4th round, where the Yankees were happy to pick another college player who’s draft status was recently much higher. He has shown above average contact skills, good plate discipline, and gap power. His arm is well above average for a 2B, and Total Zone has him at +6 at 2B for his career. After not hitting any HR in 304 PA in Charleston, he hit 7 in 265 in Tampa; even more impressive, he still hit for 2B and 3B at a higher rate in Tampa.

Weaknesses: While he should stick at 2B, most scouts doubt his defense or power will be good enough for him to be an everyday player on a good team. Adams is said to be a smart player, but his speed is average at best.

Path to The Big Leagues: Adams was excellent in high A last year, and looks ready to start 2010 in AA Trenton. He has an unorthodox swing, and a good performance in the high minors would assuage many of the doubts surrounding him. Since he’s not on the 40-man roster and doesn’t have the range to play SS, even a September call-up seems unlikely no matter how well he plays. Like Joseph, a spot for Adams on the Yankees is hard to see, but the Yankees can always use another trade chip.

Grade: C+

9.) J.R. Murphy, C, B/T: B/R, 5’10” 170lbs, drafted 27th in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft, signed for $1.25M

Strengths: Murphy has a quick, linedrive swing, good athleticism, a strong arm, and an advanced approach at the plate. His pro debut went as well as could be expected.

Weaknesses: Scouts project Murphy to hit for average power, but it grades out below average now. He has the ability to stick at catcher, but is so raw back there it’s far from a certainty (he’s athletic enough to play LF, RF, or maybe even 3B, though).

Path to The Big Leagues: After his strong debut and advanced approach at the plate, Murphy should start 2010 in Charleston, likely splitting time between catcher and designated hitter. His status improved significantly just before last year’s draft, and hopefully he can show his improvements were real. Murphy is too far away to worry about how he might fit into the Yankees’ plans, especially until we know what position Montero plays, whether Romine is an everyday catcher, and if Murphy can even handle the position.

Grade: C+

10.) Gary Sanchez, C, B/T: R/R, 6’2” 190lbs, signed in 2009 for $3M

Strengths: Sanchez has plus arm strength, plus power, and showed the ability to hit breaking pitches and use all fields.

Weaknesses: He has no experience and almost no 17-year old can be considered a lock to stick at catcher.

Path to The Big Leagues: Sanchez is working out in Tampa right now, and already looks better than he did in the summer, according to Mark Newman. He’ll play in the GCL in 2010, and if everything goes well could be in full-season ball by 18. That the Yankees were willing to give him a $3M signing bonus shows they believe he can be an impact player, but like Murphy, he’s too far away to pencil into any future plans.

Grade: C+

Notes: I should have specified last time, but I’m using John Sickel’s grading scale. If there are any players you want a writeup of, just let me know and I’ll be happy to oblige. There are some others I plan on doing already, but I don’t think I’ll be ranking them 11-whatever I go to.

The system doesn’t look that good after trading our only advanced OF prospect and our best pitching prospect, but Cashman did the right thing to help the Yankees maximize their chances for winning it all again over the next couple seasons.

There’s some potential impact talent in the lower levels too (most teams can say the same, though), and I’ll be watching Heatchott, Murphy, Jose Ramirez, and Sanchez closely. We’ve kept all of our draft picks for 2010 (and will go overslot again), and I’m sure we’ll sign some of the top international free agents as well.

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