New York Yankees: Top 10 Prospects Chat With John Manuel

New York Yankees: Chat

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.

John Manuel: Sorry I'm a smidge late; it's a hectic week with the book deadline. Let's get started.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Do the Yanks have any plans to make Heathcott a pitcher if his hitting doesn't materialize in the next year or so?

John Manuel: Ha, no. I supposed that's in their back pocket in case things don't work out, but even the Yankees don't throw $2 million around to a first rounder and bail with a position switch after one year. They believe in the bat, and so do most scouts who have seen him.

    Ben (Leland Grove): I'm assuming Jamie Hoffmann was picked up too late to make your Top 30 list? What are your thoughts on him?

John Manuel: Ben, Hoffmann is in the top 30; we set our transaction deadline for the book after the Rule 5 draft. If you buy the book regularly you'll note that we have moved that deadline up in recent years; in the halcyon days, we sent the book to press in like February. We didn't sell as many but it sure was easier to do. Now we get it done at a time that makes sense. I digress. Hoffmann is in the top 30 but wasn't a factor for the Top 10, most scouts I've talked to over the years don't see him as an everyday guy.

    JAYPERS (IL): How far off the list was Neil Medchill, and what's the scoop on his abilities?

John Manuel: He didn't make the top 30. I think of him more as an organizational player. He does have plus raw power, but he struck out a lot in college and struck out a lot in his pro debut. Worth watching, but not a premium guy for me.

    Harry (Frankfurt, Germany): Did OF Chris Smith make your overall listings? What do scouts say about him? Danke.

John Manuel: He did not; scouts I have talked to think he was an overdraft. It's cool that an RBI kid was a fifth-round pick, but the scouts I have talked to thought his best tool was the bat, and so far he's hit .127 with 48 strikeouts in 150 at-bats. Sometimes the stats tell the story.

    JAYPERS (IL): With four catchers in the Top 10 alone, how many do you speculate are likely to be with other teams in the next few years?

John Manuel: There's a chance the answer is none. Montero doesn't look like he'll catch at the big league level; I see him as a better version of Paul Konerko. Lucky for New York, it has the DH spot. Romine should be a catcher; Sanchez is just 16 and probably at least 4 years away if not more. And Murphy, as I wrote, has the athletic ability to move to a different position if (a) his bat is good enough and (b) he's blocked at C. The guys who should be worried are guys like Kyle Higashioka, who is really blocked, or Mitch Abieta, who's just an org player anyway. That said, depth at catcher usually is useful in trades, as Travis d'Arnaud just showed.

    JAYPERS (IL): Just how interested are the Yanks in Aroldis Chapman? If he does sign, where would he fit in within your Top 10 and why?

John Manuel: I haven't tracked the Yankees' interest, though I wish I had; other priorities with getting the Handbook done, such as writing up the Yankees and Twins! I would have to think Chapman would rank second behind Montero if he becomes a Yankee. It's an 80 fastball. That's enough for me. He will take a while to get acclimated; our scouting reports on Chapman indicate aptitude is not a strength; feel for pitching is not a strength. He, like other Cuban players, will have to get used to the culture and will inevitably get bigger. It's just going to happen. I do not see him helping an MLB championship-caliber team in 2010.

    nick (nyc): What about betances? 10-15?

John Manuel: He had Tommy John surgery at the end of the year and will miss 2010, so no, not 10-15. Barely in the 30. Betances is three years out of high school, has shown limited athleticism and hasn't had any success outside of A-ball. So he did not deserve to be ranked that high. He's starting to look like a Bronx version of Daniel Cabrera, a comp I got inside the Yanks system last year and one that Betances has done little to dispel.

    Maddog (Ashburn, VA): John: Brackman at 10? This has to based purely on potential. If it is based on his performance (or lack of), what does a kid like DJ Mitchell have to do to get the recognition?

John Manuel: Those guys are polar opposites. I think D.J. Mitchell gets recognition, and if he doesn't, he really should give a crap about recognition. He had a great year, but even the guys who like him (scouts, coaches, etc.) are comparing him to middle relievers. Good middle relievers, but middle relievers. Brackman is all about projection. He's the most unique prospect I can think of, with his size, stuff, inconsistency, injury problems, poor performance, ceiling, contract. I mean, there's a lot going on with Andrew Brackman. Stephen Strasburg is the only player in draft history whose contract is bigger than Andrew Brackman's. I just think giving up on him as a prospect and not ranking him isn't realistic. He's clearly one of the 10 most talented Yankees' farmhands. He has a looong way to go to realizing that ceiling, but that's why he's No. 10, and not No. 1 or No. 2.

    Jim (Valley Cottage NY): Where would you rank Mark Melancon and what caused him to not make the Top Ten List this year?

John Manuel: He's in the 11-20 range. I've been a Melancon fan for years, since writing him up for the '06 draft. He just didn't throw strikes in the big leagues; one scout told me it was mechanical, but he's had the same mechanics. More troubling, he didn't seem to want to challenge big league hitters, and he has to trust his stuff to do that. He relies too heavily on getting hitters to chase; he's going to have to amp up his command to succeed in the majors, or else he's an up-and-down guy or a sixth- or seventh-inning option, rather than a true setup guy or possible closer.

    Marcus (Endicott, NY): It seems that with older players manning short, third, and potentially left field, the Yankees may make playing time for a utility player. Which of Reegie Corona, Kevin Russo, or Ramiro Pena has the best potential to be effective in a role like that? Or do any of them project as every-day players?

John Manuel: All three profile better as utility guys; Russo has the best bat of that trio, Pena and Corona are similar defensively but Pena is the better shortstop, so he gets the edge. All are on the 40-man; Pena has major league experience and actually performed better than I thought he would in the majors with the bat. None seems like an everyday guy, though Russo's bat could make him an everyday second baseman on a second-division team. He would have to be more consistent defensively to do that.

    Jed (NY): What's the reasoning of having Joba as the projected 2013 closer?

John Manuel: Did you see him pitch this year? One scout said Joba was flat-out the most disappointing player he saw this year. The guys I talked to who saw him so well in the Eastern League in 2007 as a starter haven't seen that same crispness as a starter since then. For whatever reason, he's been better in the big leagues as a reliever. My prediction is, I think he'll stay a starter until Mariano Rivera is no longer a Yankee, but eventually Rivera has to retire and Joba will take his place.

    Steve (Toronto): Will Mike Dunn get another shot in the big league bullpen out of spring training, or do you see him as a mid season injury replacement?

John Manuel: Right now, Mike Dunn is the No. 2 lefty in the Yankees bullpen. They could go out and sign a veteran I suppose, but Dunn will fill the role that Phil Coke played in '09, the oft-used LHP. He just missed the top 10. Better stuff than Coke, less command.

    Marcus (Endicott, NY): I read that Andrew Brackman looked good enough out of the bullpen at the end of last season that he has an outside shot of breaking camp as a member of the Major League bullpen. That can't be, can it?

John Manuel: Why not? He had 11 scoreless innings to end the season and didn't walk anyone in that stretch, either. However, his velocity still was inconsistent. I talked to two scouts who were at the same game where they saw Brackman sit 88-89 for two-thirds of an inning, then all of a sudden for the last 4 outs he was 92-96 with downhill angle. He just isn't consistent in any aspect yet, except in the first half, when he was consistently bad.

    Jed (NY): Is Montero of the Jake Fox mold, but with a better bat? What are the chances he could ultimately be Posada's replacement instead of Romine?

John Manuel: I like Jake Fox, just met his parents in Indianapolis actually, but Montero and Jake Fox aren't comparable other than they are both RH hitters. His bat isn't better, it's two or maybe three full grades better. The fact that the Yankees no longer talk about Montero as an everyday catcher tells me all I need to know. He won't put away his catcher's mitt in the majors, and I suppose he could be a Piazza-esque defender there, but if Romine keeps hitting, and I think he will, then Romine will be the catcher because he's a lot better at it than Montero is. A lot better.

    Patrick (NYC): Did Pat Venditte make your overall 30? Which arm would you consider to be his better one? Is he merely a novelty, or legit?

John Manuel: No, he did not, and right now he's a novelty. He's better from the right side, 88-90 with a decent slider, but being ambidextrous makes him who he is. He got hit a bit in winter ball, so we'll see how that affects him.

    Marcus (Endicott, NY): In reading about Slade Heathcott, he seems like a kid who beats himself up playing the game hard. Is there a development concern for kids who play too hard?

John Manuel: No. Much easier to tone down than to teach someone to compete.

    Steven (West Orange, NJ): Sean Black would have come in 2nd in ERA and 1st in WHIP in the NY-Penn League had he qualified. Statistically, he had a great 1st season. Where does he rank in the top 30? Is his future as a starter or reliever? It would be nice to have a local product make it to Yankee Stadium in pinstripes.

John Manuel: Black is just on the depth chart but he did have a big debut and was in the mix for the back of the 30. His track record in college was in my head, and he never dominated in the Big East, as compared to Adam Warren, who has just as good stuff as Black and is a year older but had lots of success in the ACC for three seasons. I ranked Warren in the 30, essentially at Black's expense, because Warren has the more swing-and-miss fastball, the better fastball.

    Carl (Buffalo): Will Jimmy Paredes be a major league regular or more of a utility guy in your mind?

John Manuel: It's early to tell but I wound up leaving him out because of all the utility guys at higher levels. Paredes had shoulder surgery previously, and if his arm comes back, he could move to shortstop, and then you could think of him as more of a regular. He's a bit tall and angular to be a second baseman.

    Marcus (Endicott, NY): I've read a lot of positive things about Adam Warren, Caleb Cotham, and Graham Stoneburner. Is there something to be excited about with any of these '09 draft picks?

John Manuel: Yes, the Yanks are excited about all three, especially Stoneburner. I was initially lukewarm on him, he's a 6-footer who has had back and knee issues in the past, but he's explosive and has gotten some Tim Hudson comps in the past for his athletic ability. He'll be a reliever but the Yanks really like him. I discussed Warren; Cotham is a power sinker-slider guy who came on late in the spring for Vanderbilt and in the Cape. His slider has reached 87 mph, according to people outside the organization.

    Marcus (Endicott, NY): Is Corban Joseph starting to climb in the prospect ranks?

John Manuel: Something of a split camp on Joseph. Scouts agree he can hit; how much he'll hit is in question. When Austin Jackson got traded and I needed to move someone into the top 10, he was one of the names I considered, but after making a couple of more calls on it, I was talked out of it. His athleticism is the issue; he may not fit at second base, and he may not have the power for third base, and he doesn't run enough to be a utility guy. There's something there with the bat; the rest of the tools are the issue.

    Marcus (Endicott, NY): How legitimate are the prospects of Eduardo Nunez and Ivan Nova?

John Manuel: I would say fairly legit. Nunez was in the Top 10 a few years back but regressed in terms of performance, and he's always been fairly erratic. He got hot this year, got some confidence and hit. It's hard to ignore a shortstop hitting .322 in the Eastern League. He still has a lot of polish to add, and his inconsistency on defense is a real issue; otherwise, he'd be in the Top 10. Nova had three average to plus pitches two years ago when he was in the top 30, and he's back in it this year. His fastball command improved and that's why he was better. He has deception, good stuff . . . consistency is also his biggest issue. I have always had kind of a soft spot for John NoGo.

    Chris (New York): With Montero bat potential being so big if he can't be a catcher where does he play for the Yanks? Will Zach McAllister be ready to pitch in the majors this year if the Yanks need a starter?

John Manuel: Montero can be a DH; there's some talk he could play LF, but he hasn't played any outfield and I don't see him learning in the Boogie Down. McAllister will be a potential fill-in if he has a good start to the season, and having Ian Kennedy out of the way as competition helps, because those guys are similar in terms of stuff and being command-oriented RHPs.

    Marcus (Endicott, NY): How likely is it that Wilkins DeLaRosa does what Mike Dunn did last year (i.e. make his Major League debut)? Thanks for the chat.

John Manuel: You're welcome. I don't think it's terribly likely. He has good stuff but doesn't throw as hard as Dunn, nor is his slider as good. He's more of a fastball-changeup lefty, not a great profile for a reliever. His breaking ball needs to get better for him to fit into a lefty relief role.

    Warner (New York): Do you think Montero is athletic enough to play left or right field, or is he (if the Yankees are very lucky) destined to become a more powerful Edgar Martinez?

John Manuel: The scouts I have talked to are mixed on the subject. Based on everyone I've talked to, if I had to wager, I'd bet no. It's more likely that he becomes a DH and you hope for Edgar Martinez. That would be a heck of a player.

    Bryan (Chicago): Do you see Mesa ever hitting for enough average to make it as an everyday player? The power, speed, and defense all seem to be there.

John Manuel: Probably not, but that's the kind of guy a Top 30 is made for. His upside is so high because of the other tools. He's probably the most fun player in the system, and I would guess he's alternately the most entertaining or most maddening player to watch as well. He's a player of extremes. The track record of guys with his issues working out is quite small, and the Yankees are aware of it. In fact Mark Newman says they've done some research on it, and they won't give up on Mesa, but the odds of him succeeding enough to become a MLB regular are quite low.

    Chase (Ottawa, Canada): Did Hector Noesi get any consideration for the top 10? What does he throw and is he a starter or reliever as he moves up the ladder?

John Manuel: Not for the top 10, but he is in the top 25 or so; I honestly forget where he finally slotted in. He commands three pitches and has pretty good life. I think he's a back-end starter, but durability is an issue. He's already had TJ, he's got a thin frame and he's never thrown more than 115 or so IP in a season. But it was smart to put him on the 40-man, he would have been one of the better starting pitchers available had New York protected, say, Zack Kroenke instead of Noesi.

    Reese (LA): Big lefty Nik Turly had a solid season. Is he a top 30 guy?

John Manuel: Not for me but he is a lefty with an average fastball, so he's worth monitoring.

    Doug (Brewster, MA): I was wondering how close RHP Adam Warren and 2B David Adams were to making your top ten. Both had excellent seasons, were all stars, and helped their teams win championships.

John Manuel: I've addressed Warren, and if a fourth-round pick makes your Top 10 in his first season, then that's a bad farm system. Adams actually came close; I've talked to scouts who believe in the bat, similar to Joseph, and Adams has some other tools, namely a plus arm. I think Joseph is the safer bet but I could see Adams as a second-division regular, and there's an outside chance that he's good enough defensively at 2b to be more than that. With his arm, he can really turn the DP.

    Jon (Peoria): I know that the 2013 lineup should be taken with a grain of salt, but is the fact that Banuelos is the fifth starter ahead of McAllister because Banuelos has a higher ceiling and would be more likely to be in the rotation?

John Manuel: That's actually a mistake that I need to correct. The last scout I talked to convinced me to switch the order of McAllister and Banuelos, and I failed to make that change in the chart. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Charles (Ohio): I understand the Yankees signed Jose Pirela as a shortstop a couple of years ago. Does he have the tools to be a major league regular some day? Do any other international signings have a chance?

John Manuel: Pirela is more of a 2b than a SS these days, and his bat hasn't delivered as was hoped. He's still a guy to watch but more in a Ramiro Pena utility type role. Jairo Heredia is another guy to watch, same signing class as Pirela, not necessarily a new name but had a down year in '09 and he's still in the 30. Kelvin DeLeon is in the 30; Eduardo Sosa, who some were very excited about, is not.

    Steve (Owltown): What are Lance Pendleton's prospects? He won 12 games last year, made it to AA and seems to be getting traction as he's focused on pitching over the last couple years.

John Manuel: Pendleton is more of an org guy at this point. He did have a good year but he doesn't have a plus pitch. He's also 26. Good story about him coming back from pretty significant arm injuries to have some success but he's not a guy the Yankees are counting on at all.

    Kevin (DC): Do you think the Yanks will at some point decide that Brackman is better served as a closer? If so, when would that decision come?

John Manuel: I used that quote from Mark Newman in the organization overview that the Yankees are in it to develop starters, not closers. That decision wouldn't come in 2010 with Brackman, I can bet it wouldn't come in 2011; I think they are going to really let him exhaust all starting possibilities before shifting him to the bullpen full-time. The scouts I talked to when Brackman was coming out of college wondered if he had closer makeup. I have long wondered if his makeup was suited to that market; he is not a guy who looks for the spotlight.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): You can have one for your team but not both - who do you pick? Corban Joseph or Caleb Joseph?

John Manuel: Ha, good question. I think I'd take the catcher, but I might try Corban behind the plate before I make up my mind.

    Ed (Minneapolis): Observation and Foolow up questions. The Yankees have internally developed a great middle relief corp which they relied upon heavily in the World Series. It appears that they are developing more bullpen/back of rotation starter depth with the likes of Warren, Mitchell, Cothum, Stoneburner, Brooks, Richardson, and Turly. Do you see it the same way? How would you rate the above names. Lastly, can you give me a break out candidate and a sleeper for 2010?

John Manuel: Mostly, I would say don't read too much into Staten Island Yankees pitching stats. I used to get a lot of Josh Schmidt questions; I've gotten a lot of S.I. Yanks pitchers questions over the years. Mitchell has done it at a full-season level; Stoneburner and Cotham stand out from that crowd for their pure stuff. Brooks, I used to love Gavin Brooks as a prospect but I don't see him as a pro prospect. I do believe in Warren because of his quality fastball. I don't believe I'd put Matthew Richardson in this conversation.

    Angelo (Hartford, CT): I've read reports of Jose Ramirez touching 96 and sitting 92-94 at the end of the season and instructional league. Please discuss his stuff and projection. Thanks!

John Manuel: Ramirez is in the 11-15 range and definitely has big-time arm strength. His changeup also is solid. His breaking ball currently is short, but he has the arm speed to throw that hard, plus Nardi Contreras has a good track record of teaching breaking balls. Ramirez definitely has some upside as a starter and didn't miss the Top 10 by much, so he's got a lot of projection left and is a guy the organization is excited about.

    Angelo (Hartford, CT): How close did David Phelps come to making the top 10?

John Manuel: He's more in the 20-30 range. His secondary stuff is a bit pedestrian, as is his feel for changing speeds. But he pitches off the fastball and has plus velocity, those are two fine building blocks. He probably needs to command the fastball better because as I understand it his fastball doesn't have a lot of life.

    Jay (Cleveland): I know very little about Juan Miranda but heard his name is being bantered about as a DH this year with the Yankees. Is he "prospect" material and what are his strengths and weaknesses? Thanks.

John Manuel: Miranda was in the book the last two years. As of right now he's not in the top 30; I have some prospect fatigue with him and I'm tired of seeing him listed with a 1983 birthday when all the info I have from Cuba is that he's actually 28, not 26. He is a productive Triple-A hitter and I do think a Miranda-Shelley Duncan platoon might have worked in 2007 or maybe even last year. But I don't take the idea of Miranda as the DH too seriously. Maybe I should. But I don't think we usually would take a 28-year-old with an .866 OPS in the IL and rank him, so I didn't rank him.

    Phil (il): what is dan brewers future in the organization? is he a legit prospect?

John Manuel: I've always liked Dan Brewer a bit, but it's unfortunate for him that he's not playing any infield anymore. I thought he might be a utility guy but he's been strictly an outfielder for the Yanks. He's an org soldier with New York despite the fact he can run and hit a little.

    Brian (Syracuse): What are the chances that Christian Garcia overcomes the injuries and makes it to the majors?

John Manuel: I would say slim. He's just always hurt. I'm not injury expert, and neither is my dad, but he's had knee, shoulder and two elbow surgeries. It's a shame because he's well-liked in the organization and has both a plus curve and a plus change to go with an average fastball. But those things don't matter when you can't stay on the mound. Prognosis negative.

    Tom (Bristol): Obviously they have different skill sets, but how highly regarded is Sanchez compred to Montero at this point in their respective careers?

John Manuel: In some ways, he's better thought of, because scouts compared Montero to Travis Hafner physically before he signed, and few if any believed he'd reach the majors as a catcher even when he was 16. Sanchez is a catcher first and foremost. He doesn't have Montero's innate feel for hitting, but he does have plus raw power, so he's really a more complete prospect. I would also say that I learned from Montero's situation, in that I put too much emphasis in 2006, when he signed, on his bonus being reduced and on his poor instructional league. Sanchez had a poor instructs as well but I didn't crush him in the rankings this year as I did with Montero, and it helped that I actually talked to a pair of scouts who saw Sanchez in the D.R. instructs who were impressed.

    Brian Daniels (My desk): John, Could Andrew Brackman's recent struggles, Besides TJ Surgery, be blamed on lack of innings in college? Also do you forsee him being a bullpen force? Wasn't he a closer some in college?

John Manuel: He did not close in college, just to clear that up. Thirty appearances, 27 starts. He threw 150 innings in college, which is a decent amount, but yes he's green for a 24-year-old. He's also had a hip injury (sophomore in college), TJ and an appendectomy, plus one awful season. He's just complicated.

    Ben (Philadelphia): Hi John, Jim Callis recently recanted his opinion that there was a 100% certainty that Montero couldn't catch at the MLB level. Has his receiving improved enough to think he might be able to catch at least for a few years? And if not, does he have enough athleticism to play LF? Thanks.

John Manuel: To reiterate here, the Yankees do not talk about Montero as a full-time C anymore. They talk about him catching, DHing and playing first base in Triple-A in 2010. I would add that you should never say never, so I would disagree that there's 100% certainty of him not catching. But if he catches everyday, even for a year or two, that would be a big surprise. Have you seen this guy? People used to write or talk about Joe Mauer being too big to catch, which was ignorant because of Mauer's athleticism. But Montero is bigger than Mauer; almost as tall, much bigger, stockier, and much less athletic. So he's not going to be an MLB everyday catcher.

    Mike R (Lockport, NY): Is DJ Mitchell destined for the bullpen; is there some similarity between Jay Jackson of the Cubs and Mitchell ?

John Manuel: Both are African-American righthanders from schools in South Carolina, so yes, there is some similarity. Jackson is much more effective against LH hitters and is more likely to stay a starter; I think he's a better prospect by a decently wide margin. There are scouts who think Mitchell can start, but they are in the minority.

John Manuel: Well, that's going to do it. Thanks for all the questions and the 100+ that I didn't have time to get to. Other duties call. Take care.