New York Yankees: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

New York Yankees: Scouting Reports




Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2009.

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New York Yankees

The last season of Yankee Stadium II figured to end in October. After all, since Major League Baseball added wild cards, there never had been a postseason party that didn't include the Yankees.

Yet when New York played host to the Orioles on Sept. 21, that was it for The House That Ruth Built. In their first season under manager Joe Girardi, the Yankees got within three games of first place in late July, just as they bolstered their roster by acquiring Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from the Pirates. But New York never got any closer and finished in third place at 89-73, eight games back.

Nothing went as planned, starting with a shoulder injury that limited Jorge Posada to just 51 games. Righthander Chien-Ming Wang went down with a season-ending foot injury in mid-June, Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano regressed (with Cabrera sent down to the minors), Joba Chamberlain broke down after moving into the rotation, and young pitchers Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy flopped.

The failure of the Yankees' top young players was especially galling as the Rays and Red Sox rode theirs to the postseason. That subject was a focus of the organization's postseason meetings—trying to figure out why New York's young players haven't translated minor league success to the majors while those on rival teams have.

New York nevertheless re-signed general manager Brian Cashman to a three-year contract shortly after the season ended. Cashman has several significant decisions to make, such as what to do with Chamberlain. The contracts of veterans Bob Abreu, Jason Giambi and Mike Mussina come off the books—they made a combined $48 million in 2008—and the Yankees had more resources than any organization to begin with. That will be even more true with the opening of a new $1.3 billion Yankee Stadium, and they can outspend any club for the services of top free agents such as C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, both of whom would be ideal fits.

The Yankees haven't leveraged their financial advantages well this decade, however. They have spent more than $1.3 billion on player salaries since winning the 2000 World Series, and have seen Boston and now Tampa Bay surpass them. New York's only titles this year came at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Double-A Trenton.

Despite their willingness to spend on draft and international talent, the Yankees have not developed any recent impact players beyond Chamberlain. (Cano would have counted before he regressed offensively and defensively in 2008.) They failed to sign two of their top three picks in the 2008 draft, including first-rounder Gerrit Cole—considered the most electric arm in the class of prep pitchers.

The Yankees did see significant progress from high-dollar investments such as Austin Jackson, who could claim their center-field job at some point in 2009, and catcher Jesus Montero, a $1.65 million bonus baby who had an all-star season in low Class A. Righthander Andrew Brackman, who got the largest draft bonus in club history ($3.35 million) as part of a big league contract that could reach $13 million with incentives, finally got on the mound in Hawaii Winter Baseball. He had Tommy John surgery shortly after signing in 2007 and an appendectomy this July.

1.  Austin Jackson, of   Born: Feb. 1, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 185
 Drafted: HS—Denton, Texas, 2005 (8th round)Signed by: Mark Batchko
Austin JacksonBackground: Jackson has spent the better part of his career proving he's a baseball player, not just an athlete playing baseball. He had a full ride to play basketball at Georgia Tech when he came out of Ryan High in Denton, Texas, in 2005. The Yankees swayed him to baseball with an $800,000 bonus, an eighth-round record at the time (broken a year later by New York's Dellin Betances). Jackson had halting progress early, striking out too often and seeming a half-step behind in his first full season at low Class A Charleston in 2006. A year later, he broke out at midseason while repeating the level and finished the year with an impressive turn in the Double-A Eastern League playoffs. He returned to Trenton this season and was the Thunder's best player as it repeated as EL champion.

Strengths: Jackson is a premium athlete who can do a little of everything on the diamond. One EL manager used a football term, calling him a "playmaker." The Yankees' most advanced batting prospect, he's a rhythm hitter who thrives when he's in a groove. He had three hitting streaks of at least 10 games in 2008. He has the bat speed to catch up to the best fastballs, as he showed by crushing a key homer off Clay Buchholz in the EL playoffs, and league managers praised his situational hitting. While Jackson's power comes mostly to the gaps now, scouts and managers agree he'll have average power as he continues to gain experience and strength. He's a smart baserunner with maybe a tick above-average speed, though he's not likely to be a big basestealer in the majors. Defensively, Jackson can glide to balls in the gaps with plus range and has a strong, accurate arm that could allow him to move to right field. His strong personality and leadership skills make him a good fit in the clubhouse and for New York.

Weaknesses: Reports on Jackson's running ability are mixed. Some scouts say his big hack in the batter's box leads to below-average times from home to first. He may slow down as he matures physically and have to move to an outfield corner, which would be a problem if his power fails to develop. He employs a leg kick and when his timing is off, the rest of his swing falters, leaving him late on good fastballs.

The Future: Jackson's greatest weakness may be what he's not: a classic Yankees center fielder. He's no DiMaggio or Mantle, or even Bernie Williams. Jackson lacks a standout tool but earns future grades of solid-average to plus across the board. His all-around ability fits the profile of a center fielder on a championship team, similar to Williams but with less power and better defense. Melky Cabrera's regression and Brett Gardner's lack of power make Jackson New York's best bet for an in-house center fielder, and he began his campaign for the job with a strong stint in the Arizona Fall League. A robust start, either in spring training or at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, could propel Jackson past Cabrera and Gardner for the starting job in New York in 2009.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Trenton (AA)
.285
.354
.419
520
75
148
33
5
9
69
56
113
19
 
2.  Jesus Montero, c   Born: Nov. 28, 1989 B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 225
Signed: Venezuela, 2006. Signed by: Carlos Rios/Ricardo Finol
Jesus MonteroBackground: Two years after signing for $1.65 million, Montero broke out, finishing second in the low Class A South Atlantic League in batting (.326) and total bases (258) while leading the league in hits (171). He was an SAL all-star and played at Yankee Stadium in the Futures Game, with his parents flying up from Venezuela to watch him.

Strengths: One club official said Montero has the system's best bat since Derek Jeter, only with much more power. Montero has tremendous strength and generates well-above-average bat speed. He has excellent hands and a feel for hitting balls squarely, and isn't afraid to use the whole field. He also has above-average arm strength and has made significant strides defensively.

Weaknesses: Offensively, Montero is learning to balance patience with aggressiveness. Defensively, he's so big and inflexible that he has trouble receiving balls down and to his right. His arm strength plays down because he has a slow transfer, and he threw out just 25 percent of basestealers in 2008.

The Future: Montero has the bat and athleticism to profile as a first baseman or perhaps even a left fielder, but the Yankees see him as another Mike Piazza if he can remain behind the plate. He'll start 2009 at high Class A as a 19-year-old and could jump on an even faster track.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Charleston, SC (LoA)
.326
.376
.491
525
86
171
34
1
17
87
37
83
2
 
3.  Andrew Brackman, rhp   Born:Dec. 4, 1985 B-T: R-RHt: 6-10Wt: 270
 Drafted: North Carolina State, 2007 (1st round). Signed by: Steve Swail
Andrew BrackmanBackground: Brackman was a two-sport athlete at North Carolina State for two seasons but dropped basketball to concentrate on baseball as a junior. His 2007 season ended with elbow trouble in May, but the Yankees drafted him in the first round anyway. He had Tommy John surgery shortly after signing a guaranteed $4.55 million major league contract that could pay out as much as $13 million with incentives.

Strengths: Despite not having pitched in a competitive game since May 2007, Brackman opened the 2008 Hawaii Winter Baseball season with a 97 mph fastball. When he's right mechanically, he has two plus pitches—a 91-97 mph heater that has reached 100 in the past and a curveball. He throws two variations of his breaking ball, a conventional curve and a knuckle-curve. His athletic ability separates him from other tall pitchers in terms of aptitude and the ability to repeat his delivery.

Weaknesses: Brackman remains raw for his age, which wasn't helped by Tommy John surgery or an appendectomy that cost him any chance to pitch in the 2008 regular season. His mechanics can get out of sync easily. He's also just learning a changeup.

The Future: Brackman has rust to shake off and hasn't really dominated since the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2006. Still, he has more upside than any Yankees farmhand and looks primed to break out when he makes his official pro debut in high Class A.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Injured
 
4.  Austin Romine, c   Born: Nov. 22, 1988B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2Wt: 210
Drafted: HS—Lake Forest, Calif., 2007 (2nd round). Signed by: David Keith.
Austin RomineBackground: Romine's older brother Andrew, a shortstop in the Angels system, led the Midwest League in steals in 2008, and their father Kevin played seven seasons with the Red Sox as an outfielder. Austin reported to big league camp in spring training, then missed a month with a groin injury before finishing strong in his first full pro season. He hit .359 with four of his 10 home runs in August.

Strengths: Romine combines athletic ability and baseball savvy with impressive raw power and improved hitting ability. He makes consistent hard contact with a simple swing he repeats regularly and projects to hit 20-25 homers annually if it all comes together. As a catcher, he has plus arm strength and made huge strides handling pitchers and calling games.

Weaknesses: Footwork issues keep Romine from receiving as efficiently as he should or from making quick transfers, and he threw out just 20 percent of basestealers in 2008 despite his arm strength. He was too deferential early in the season but learned how and when to assert himself with teammates.

The Future: Jesus Montero's bat puts him on a faster track, but Romine looks like the Yankees' catcher of the future. He's expected to move to high Class A, where he'll share catching duties with Montero. Romine should be ready for New York by 2011, the final year of Jorge Posada's contract.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Charleston, SC (LoA)
.300
.344
.437
407
66
122
24
1
10
49
25
56
3
 
5.  Dellin Betances, rhp   Born: March 23, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-8 Wt: 245
 Drafted: HS—New York, 2006 (8th round). Signed by: Cesar Presbott/Brian Barber
Dellin BertancesBackground: A $1 million bonus, a record for the eighth round, prompted Betances to spurn Vanderbilt and sign out of high school. He logged just 25 innings in 2007 because he was raw and came down with forearm tightness, but in 2008 he led South Atlantic League starters by averaging 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

Strengths: Betances has two plus pitches when he's at his best. His four-seam fastball sits at 94 mph and touches 97, and he uses his height to throw it on a steep downhill plane. His curveball can be a well above-average hammer. He has improved markedly at quickening his feet, holding runners and fielding his position.

Weaknesses: Lacking Andrew Brackman's athleticism, Betances loses balance in his delivery and tends to fly open, costing him command and leaving him injury-prone. He missed much of June with a tired shoulder. The Yankees want to smooth out his mechanics before introducing a two-seam sinker to his repertoire, and his changeup remains in its nascent stages. He needs to keep improving his fielding and ability to hold runners.

The Future: Though he has yet to prove he can stay healthy, Betances has front-of-the-rotation potential. New York would like him to reach 150-160 innings in high Class A in 2009, which would put him on course to pitch in his hometown at some point in 2011.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Charleston, SC (LoA)
9
4
3.67
22
22
0
0
115.1
87
9
59
135
.208
Yankees (R)
0
1
8.53
3
2
0
0
6.1
13
0
3
6
.406
 
6.  Zach McAllister, rhp   Born:Dec. 8, 1987 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-6 Wt: 230
Drafted: HS—Chillicothe, Ill., 2006 (3rd round). Signed by: Steve Lemke.
Zach McAllisterBackground: The Yankees spent two years remaking McAllister, raising his arm slot and having him work with a curveball instead of his natural slider. After struggling with the changes at short-season Staten Island in 2007, McAllister regained his slider in a fall 2007 trip to New York's Dominican Republic instructional league camp. He broke out in 2008, ranking seventh in the minors with a 2.08 ERA, and didn't allow a run in five of his last six outings.

Strengths: Now employing a traditional three-quarters delivery, McAllister works with a 93-94 mph four-seam fastball with modest tail and an 89-91 mph two-seamer with nasty sink and armside run. Command of both pitches stems from his sound mechanics. His slider and changeup are solid offerings that he throws for strikes.

Weaknesses: A groundball pitcher, McAllister lacks a true strikeout pitch. His command of his secondary stuff is far less consistent than his command of his fastball. He sometimes leaves flat four-seamers up in the strike zone.

The Future: McAllister has the body, mechanics and repertoire to be a mid-rotation workhorse. After making terrific progress in 2008, he figures to spend most of 2009 in Double-A.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Charleston, SC (LoA)
6
3
2.45
10
10
0
0
62.1
59
3
8
53
.245
Tampa (HiA)
8
6
1.83
15
14
1
1
88.2
74
6
13
62
.225
 
7.  Alfredo Aceves, rhp   Born: Dec. 8, 1982B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 220
Signed: Mexico, 2001. Signed by: Lee Sigmon.
Alfredo AcevesBackground: Aceves signed with the Blue Jays in 2001, and they sold his contract to Yucatan of the Mexican League the following April. He pitched six seasons in his native country, posting a 36-24, 4.01 record before the Yankees signed him for $450,000 in January 2008. He rose three levels to the majors in his first season in the United States

Strengths: Aceves throws a variety of average pitches, starting with an 89-91 mph fastball, a curveball and a slider. His changeup creeps into plus territory and rates as the best in the system. He also attacks lefthanded hitters with a split-finger fastball and cutter.  He avoids pitch patterns, stays around the plate and misses down when he misses at all.

Weaknesses: None of Aceves' pitches grades as plus, limiting his ceiling, and he lacks any future projection. He doesn't have one pitch he can go to for a strikeout and needs a quality defense behind him.

The Future: Aceves resembles Yankees 2006 first-rounder Ian Kennedy but features more command, pitchability and experience. He has a leg up on Kennedy and Phil Hughes for a rotation spot in New York in 2009.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Tampa (HiA)
4
1
2.11
8
8
0
0
47
32
1
8
37
.188
Trenton (AA)
2
2
1.80
7
7
1
0
50
37
3
6
35
.213
Scranton/W-B (AAA)
2
3
4.12
10
8
0
0
43.2
42
6
13
42
.250
New York (AL)
1
0
2.40
6
4
0
0
30
25
4
10
16
.227
 
8.  Phil Coke, lhp   Born: July 19, 1982B-T: L-LHt: 6-1Wt: 210
Drafted: Delta (Calif.) JC, D/F 2002 (26th round). Signed by: Tim McIntosh.
Phil CokeBackground: Coke failed to rise above high Class A in his first five seasons. He embraced the organization's offseason conditioning program, lost 18 pounds and improved his stuff across the board in 2008. He pitched well as a starter and shined as a reliever, including in September during his first big league callup.

Strengths: As a starter, Coke threw three pitches for strikes, including an 88-92 mph fastball. His slider found the zone much more than his curveball ever had, and his changeup was average. Out of the bullpen, Coke was a different animal. He ran his up to 96 mph and his slider showed signs of becoming a plus pitch with improved tilt.

Weaknesses: At age 26, Coke most likely is a finished product. His slider remains inconsistent, and as a result, he's often less effective against lefthanded hitters than against righthanded hitters.

The Future: Coke has earned a spot in the Yankees' plans, probably as a reliever in the short term. He's better in that role anyway but could get a look in the rotation if New York doesn't sign a big-ticket free agent.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Trenton (AA)
9
4
2.51
23
20
1
0
118.1
105
7
39
115
.239
Scranton/W-B (AAA)
2
2
4.67
14
1
0
0
17.1
19
0
5
22
.271
New York (AL)
1
0
0.61
12
0
0
0
14.2
8
0
2
14
.160
 
9.  Mark Melancon, rhp   Born: March 28, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 215
 Drafted: Arizona, 2006 (9th round). Signed by: Andy Stankiewicz.
Mark MelanconBackground: The Yankees drafted Melancon despite an elbow strain that short-circuited his 2006 college season, and signed him for $600,000. He promptly reinjured his elbow and required Tommy John surgery. After pitching just seven pro innings entering 2008, he stayed healthy and helped Scranton win the Triple-A International League.

Strengths: Roundly praised for his  makeup and work ethic, Melancon responded well to his surgery and rehabilitation, regaining most of his power stuff. His fastball sits at 91-94 mph and touches 95, and he can throw his power curveball for strikes or bury it as a chase pitch. He added a changeup that helped him limit lefties to a .162 average in 2008.

Weaknesses: Melancon still has just 103 pro innings to his credit and is seeking more consistency with his curveball. He must continue to smooth out his delivery, which had so much effort that it led to his injury. He doesn't hold runners well.

The Future: The best in-house candidate to eventually replace Mariano Rivera as the Yankees' closer, Melancon has the temperament to handle the role and his stuff is nearly  closer-worthy as well. He'll compete for a setup role in New York in 2009.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Tampa (HiA)
1
0
2.84
13
0
0
0
25.1
26
2
6
20
.265
Trenton (AA)
6
0
1.81
19
0
0
2
49.2
32
3
12
47
.183
Scranton/W-B (AAA)
1
1
2.70
12
0
0
1
20
11
1
4
22
.162
 
10.  Bradley Suttle, 3b   Born: Jan. 24, 1986 B-T: B-RHt: 6-2Wt: 215
 Drafted: Texas, 2007 (4th round). Signed by: Steve Boros
Bradley SuttleBackground: One of the better pure hitters in the 2007 draft, Suttle batted .359/.450/.603 as a draft-eligible sophomore at Texas. After the Yankees signed him for $1.3 million, he looked lost in Hawaii Winter Baseball that fall, striking out 30 times in 85 at-bats. Undaunted, he made several adjustments at the plate in 2008 and had a successful pro debut despite two stints on the disabled list with hip problems.

Strengths: Suttle has a feel for hitting from both sides of the plate and confidence that leads to excellent strike-zone awareness. He has the strength and enough bat speed to maximize his discipline. After showing an inability to make consistent contact in Hawaii, he was shorter to the ball in 2008. He also improved significantly on defense, showing better range to both sides and coming in on slow rollers. He has good arm strength.

Weaknesses: Suttle's power may not fit the third-base profile, as his swing from both sides is geared more toward line drives. The Yankees would like him to be more aggressive to exploit pitches he can drive. He's fairly slow and has modest athleticism.

The Future: Reversing a poor start has Suttle back on track, but with Alex Rodriguez signed through 2017, he's in no rush. He'll start next season in high Class A and could push Rodriguez to a different position in 2011.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Charleston, SC (LoA)
.271
.348
.456
377
63
102
23
7
11
44
45
93
2

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Pre-Order the 2009 Prospect Handbook
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Photo Credits: David Schofield (Jackson, Coke, Melancon)
Brian Bissell (Montero, Romine, Suttle)
Steve Moore (Brackman)
Mike Janes (Betances, Aceves)