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, 2008.

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New York Yankees

For all the back-page news the Yankees made in 2007, the biggest story was the cold, hard fact that they no longer are the preeminent franchise in baseball.

The Red Sox passed them in 2007, winning the American League East—the first time New York hadn't won the division since 1997—and then winning their second World Series of the decade. It's a decade in which the Yankees have yet to win a championship despite consistently maintaining the game's largest payroll.

The Yankees' 2007 season included 94 victories and rallying from a 21-29 start to make the playoffs. It also included superlative individual performances by the likes of BA Player of the Year and AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, a career year from 35-year-old catcher Jorge Posada and the dynamic major league debut of Joba Chamberlain, the organization's No. 1 prospect.

But 2007 also included a 4.49 team ERA for New York, a figure that ranked just eighth in the AL. The team had to turn to 44-year-old Roger Clemens when injuries and a slow start jeopardized the season, and Clemens proved to be no savior. A four-game defeat to the Indians in the Division Series marked the third straight first-round playoff exit for the Yankees, who have gone 4-13 in the playoffs since taking a 3-0 lead on Boston in the 2004 AL Championship Series.

The string of playoff disappointments, plus the ascendancy of brothers Hank and Hal Steinbrenner to prominent roles in the ownership group as their father George continued to fade into the background, helped shape the franchise's immediate future. Club officials insisted the younger Steinbrenners already had become more involved in recent years, and one went so far as to say it was "business as usual around here," but events say otherwise. Manager Joe Torre was ousted after 12 seasons when he rejected a one-year extension, and the Yankees turned to Joe Girardi, their former catcher and color analyst on the YES Network, and the 2006 National League manager of the year with the Marlins.

Girardi's Florida team was built around young pitchers such as Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen and Dontrelle Willis, and he'll have more young talent to work with in New York. Staff ace Chien-Ming Wang is coming off consecutive 19-victories seasons and is still just 27. Also, the Yankees are counting on Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy to claim rotation spots. That trio has undeniable talent, but also just 16 starts and 116 innings in the big leagues between them.

The farm system has made significant strides in the last four years, with improved talent allowing the system's domestic affiliates to combine for four first-place finishes, two league championships and a collective .597 winning percentage, the best mark in baseball. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, who started running New York's drafts in 2005, has the budget to pick aggressively, and the Yankees regularly pay draft picks more than MLB's bonus recommendations.

That was true more than ever in 2007, when they went over slot for five picks in the first 10 rounds and spent $8.03 million on the draft, more than any other team. They also were as active as any organization internationally, adding high-priced, high-ceiling talents led by Dominican outfielder Kevin DeLeon, who signed for $1.1 million.

1.  Joba Chamberlain, rhp   Born: September 23, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 230
 Drafted: Nebraska, 2006 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Steve Lemke/Tim Kelly
Joba ChamberlainBackground: As a 272-pound freshman, Chamberlain went 3-6. 5.23 for Division II Nebraska-Kearney. However, he started to emerge as a player there, improving his body and reaching the low 90s with his fastball. After one season, he transferred to Nebraska, where he starred for his hometown Cornhuskers. While his talent made him a consensus top prospect for the 2006 draft, his stock fell because of concerns about a knee injury that required surgery in the fall of 2004. He fell to the Yankees with the 41st overall pick and signed for $1.15 million. A member of the Winnebago tribe, he became the second-highest Native American ever drafted, behind only Jacoby Ellsbury. After signing, Chamberlain reported to Hawaii Winter Baseball, where he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in his first pro action. Chamberlain had a mild hamstring pull last spring and didn't make his pro debut until May, then made the minor leagues look easy. After breezing through high Class A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, Chamberlain moved to the bullpen to help the Yankees fill a big league need. He made the majors look easy too, giving up just one earned run in 19 outings. Only Mother Nature could stop him. He coughed up a 2-1 lead against the Indians in Game Three of the Division Series after he was swarmed by midges and lost his focus.

Strengths: Scouts chuckle with delight discussing Chamberlain's raw stuff, and several give him 70 or 80 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale for three different pitches. He reached 100 mph with his fastball as a reliever, and more impressively can sit at 96-97 mph when he starts. His fastball command grades at least major league average, if not higher. He also commands two breaking balls—a mid-80s slider with depth and a nasty power curveball in the low 80s. Both are strikeout pitches, and he's adept at keeping his hand on top of the curve and behind the slider. He even has shown a solid-average changeup. His arm action is clean, and his fierce competitive streak helps give him something extra when he needs it.

Weaknesses: Chamberlain will need to keep his weight in check, which would help him avoid any recurrence of his past knee, hamstring or triceps tendinitis issues. He needs to maintain the mechanical improvements he has made as a pro, which keep him more balanced and direct his energy toward the plate, rather than side-to-side. He must prove he can maintain his stuff through a full season. His career high for innings remains the 119 he threw for Nebraska as a sophomore.

The Future: While his big league debut hinted that he could be an elite closer almost immediately, Chamberlain fits the No. 1 starter profile in nearly every way except for the workhorse part of the equation. If they were only thinking of his development, the Yankees would limit him to 170 innings or so. He's likely to pitch so well as to tempt new manager Joe Girardi to use him more than that, however. If he remains healthy, Chamberlain has multiple all-star appearances in his future.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Tampa (Hi A) 4 0 2.03 7 7 0 0 40 25 0 11 51 .181
Trenton (AA) 4 2 3.35
8 7 0 0 40 32 4 15 66 .218
Scranton/W-B (AAA) 1 0 0.00 3 0 0 0 8 5 0 1 18 .179
New York (AL) 2 0 0.38 19 0 0 1 24 12 1 6 34 .145
2.  Austin Jackson, of   Born: Feb. 1, 1987. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185.
 Drafted: HS—Denton, Texas, 2005 (8th round). Signed by: Mark Batchko.
Austin JacksonBackground: Since he bypassed a Georgia Tech basketball scholarship to sign for $800,000, Jackson had made slow progress. He began 2007 by returning to low Class A Charleston but took off when pushed to high Class A. He also ranked as the No. 2 prospect in Hawaii Winter Baseball.

Strengths: The best athlete in the system, Jackson stopped fighting himself and let the game and his talent flow last season. He takes a big, aggressive swing, and his quick bat and strength give him solid-average raw power. He uses the whole field and feasts on pitches on the inner half. He has developed above-average range in center field as his instincts and reactions have improved, and has a plus arm.

Weaknesses: Jackson takes a healthy cut and doesn't have great times to first base out of the batter's box, but he has average speed and has improved his first step considerably. He's still gaining baseball experience, which shows in his pitch recognition and baserunning acumen.

The Future: The Yankees consider Jackson a future all-star candidate. He'll try to continue his progress in Double-A in 2008 and could challenge for a big league job as soon as 2009.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Charleston (Lo A) .260 .336 .374 235 33 61 16 1 3 25 24 59 19
Tampa (Hi A) .345 .398 .566 258 53 89 15 6 10 34 22 48 13
Scranton/W-B (AAA) .333 .600 .667 3 2 1 1 0 0 0 2 2 1
3.  Jose Tabata, of   Born: Aug. 12, 1988. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 160.
 Signed: Venezuela, 2005. Signed by: Ricardo Finol.
Jose TabataBackground: Tabata was rolling along as one of the minors' brightest prospects until being hit on the right wrist by a pitch in July 2006. While he played some late that season and again in winter ball in Venezuela, he was never quite right and saw five different hand specialists to find a solution. He finally had surgery last August to remove the hamate bone in his right wrist.

Strengths: Despite his injury, Tabata was one of the high Class A Florida State League's top hitters, and he has a natural knack for making consistent hard contact. His wrist problem sapped some of his power, but scouts still project Tabata to have at least average pop, and some even see him more as a slugger than hitter. While he flashes plus speed, he projects as an average runner and right fielder with a solid average arm.

Weaknesses: Tabata's offensive future still involves some projection, and there's some concern his thickening body could lose some athleticism, rendering him more one-dimensional. Scouts outside the organization chide him for failing to give a consistent effort.

The Future: While he has flaws, Tabata also has upside and will play in Double-A as a teenager this year. Ideally, he'd be ready to replace Bob Abreu in right field in 2009, but that might be too ambitious a timetable if his power doesn't develop.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Tampa (Hi A) .307 .371 .392 411 56 126 16 2 5 54 33 70 15
4.  Ian Kennedy, rhp   Born: Dec. 19, 1984. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190.
 Drafted: Southern California, 2006 (1st round). Signed by: Bill Mele/Jeff Patterson.
Ian KennedyBackground: A high school teammate of Rockies third-base prospect Ian Stewart, Kennedy went to Southern California while Stewart signed out of high school. They both made their big league debuts in 2007 after Kennedy ranked third in the minors in ERA (1.91) in his pro debut. Though he pitched well in three starts with the Yankees, they left him off their postseason roster because he had a minor back injury.

Strengths: Kennedy has mound presence and moxie to go with above-average major league command, and that helps all his pitches play up. His 88-92 mph fastball, his curveball and his slider all are average pitches. His plus changeup is his best offering, featuring late fade. He repeats his compact delivery.

Weaknesses: With only one above-average pitch, Kennedy has to hit his spots, but he usually does. At times his curve is too slow, dipping to 69-72 mph, and lacks sharpness.

The Future: Compared to Mike Mussina because of his similar stretch delivery, Kennedy has less pure stuff than Mussina once did. Kennedy fits a No. 3 or No. 4 starter profile and should fulfill such a role in 2008.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Tampa (Hi A) 6 1 1.29 11 10 1 0 63 39 2 22 72 .183
Trenton (AA) 5 1 2.59 9 9 0 0 49 27 2 17 57 .163
Scranton/W-B (AAA) 1 1 2.08 6 6 0 0 35 25 2 11 34 .205
New York (AL) 1 0 1.89 3 3 0 0 19 13 1 9 15 .191
5.  Alan Horne, rhp   Born: Jan. 5, 1983. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195.
 Drafted: Florida, 2005 (11th round). Signed by: Brian Barber.
AlanBackground: Horne was a first-round pick out of Marianna (Fla.) High in 2001, when he was a teammate of Angels catcher Jeff Mathis. He turned down the Indians and embarked on a three-stop college career, pitching for Mississippi, Chipola (Fla.) Junior College (where his dad played) and Florida, which he helped lead to the 2005 College World Series finals. He had Tommy John surgery along the way but has stayed healthy as a pro, leading the EL in ERA (3.11) and strikeouts (165 in 153 innings) in 2007.

Strengths: At times, Horne shows four above-average pitches, starting with a fastball that usually sits at 92-93 mph but also can park at 94-95. He flashes a power slider and curveball, and he throws his changeup with good arm speed.

Weaknesses: Horne's arm action is long, leading to inconsistent release points and below-average command, and it likely contributed to his past elbow injury. The Yankees have shortened his delivery in other ways to compensate, but it's not a correctable flaw and limits Horne's ceiling. He doesn't field his position or hold runners particularly well.

The Future: While he has frontline stuff, Horne's command relegates him to a No. 3 or 4 starter profile. Set to report to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for 2008, he gives New York more homegrown pitching depth.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Trenton (AA) 12 4 3.11 27 27 0 0 153 149 10 57 165 .256
6.  Jesus Montero, c   Born: Nov. 28, 1989. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 225.
 Signed: Venezuela, 2006. Signed by: Carlos Rios/Ricardo Finol.
Jesus MonteroBackground: Montero signed for $2 million, the highest bonus of any international free agent in the summer of 2006. He had a difficult fall, however, struggling in instructional league and having his signing bonus reduced to $1.6 million. Industry chatter about the reasons for the reduction hasn't been officially confirmed.

Strengths: Montero has exceptional raw power to all fields, coupling a discerning eye for a young player with brute strength and bat speed. He has plenty of arm strength for his position and natural leadership ability, with an effusive personality and improving knowledge of English.

Weaknesses: At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Montero already has grown very large for an 18-year-old. The Yankees say he has lower-body flexibility, necessary for blocking balls in the dirt, and he has worked hard to become a solid receiver. There are mixed opinions about his ability to stay at catcher, and he'll have to keep working on his body and catch-and-throw skills to stay behind the plate. He threw out just three of 32 basestealers (9 percent) in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in his pro debut.

The Future: If Montero can remain a catcher, he profiles as a future all-star. His strong performance in Venezuela's parallel (minor) winter league gives him a chance to play full-season ball at Charleston in 2008.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
GCL Yankees (R) .280 .366 .421 107 13 30 6 0 3 19 12 18 0
7.  Jeff Marquez, rhp   Born: Aug. 10, 1984. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175.
 Drafted: Sacramento CC, 2004 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Jeff Patterson.
Jeff MarquezBackground: Drafted with the compensation pick the Yankees received when David Wells left as a free agent after the 2003 season, Marquez has progressed steadily and was a workhorse for Trenton in 2007. He led the Eastern League with 15 wins and ranked second with 155 innings.

Strengths: Known as a groundball guy, Marquez works off his power 89-93 mph sinker. His fastball has as much life as any in the system, with excellent run to go with its sink. His changeup and curveball have improved to be solid-average pitches. He commands his changeup better, making it his preferred secondary pitch. He has the best pickoff move of any righthander in the system.

Weaknesses: Marquez doesn't have enough power or bite to his curveball for it to be a strikeout pitch, and he's dependent on his defense because he doesn't miss a lot of bats. He'll have to continue to refine his fastball command and have that pitch play up if his curve doesn't improve.

The Future: Marquez has the chance to become a workhorse groundball machine who fills the No. 3 or 4 slot in a rotation. Because of New York's pitching depth, he'll start 2008 in Triple-A and won't challenge for a big league job until the following year.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Trenton (AA) 15 9 3.65 27 27 2 0 155 166 11 44 94 .270
8.  Brett Gardner, of   Born: Aug. 24, 1983. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 180.
 Drafted: Charleston, 2005 (3rd round). Signed by: Steve Swail.
Brett GardnerBackground: Gardner reached Triple-A in his second full pro season. After missing a month when an errant pitch broke his right hand, he finished 2007 by hitting .343 in the Arizona Fall League, leading the league with 16 steals.

Strengths: The fastest prospect in the system, Gardner rates as a 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale and is an adept basestealer, succeeding on 84 percent of his 116 attempts the last two seasons. He uses his speed well defensively with above-average range in center field. Offensively, he evokes Brett Butler by bunting, slashing line drives and taking walks.

Weaknesses: Gardner has hit one homer the last two years and doesn't have the swing path or strength to hit for much more. He'll have to prove he won't be overpowered in the majors, and he needs to hang in better against lefthanders to avoid becoming a platoon player. His arm is below average yet playable in center.

The Future: The Yankees believe Gardner will hit enough to be a regular and some club officials compare him to Jacoby Ellsbury, which is a stretch. Unlike Ellsbury, Gardner needs to start 2008 in Triple-A and hone his offensive game. Then he can challenge Melky Cabrera for the center-field job in the Bronx—with Austin Jackson gaining ground from behind.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Trenton (AA) .300 .392 .419 203 43 61 14 5 0 17 33 32 18
Scranton/W-B (AAA) .260 343 .331 181 37 47 4 3 1 9 21 43 21
9.  Ross Ohlendorf, rhp   Born: Aug. 8, 1982. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 235.
 Drafted: Princeton, 2004 (4th round). Signed by: Greg Lonigro.
Ross OhlendorfBackground: The key prospect in the trade that sent Randy Johnson to Arizona, Ohlendorf began his Yankees career by getting hammered as a Triple-A starter. He missed two months with back problems, but thrived once he was moved to the bullpen after returning and finished the year on the New York's playoff roster.

Strengths: A sinker-slider pitcher who relied on groundouts as a starter, Ohlendorf became a power pitcher as a reliever. His fastball jumped at least a grade, sitting at 94 mph and topping out at 97 with excellent sink. His slider also jumped a grade, adding velocity and depth when thrown in the mid-80s. He seemed to think less and just let his pitches go more coming out of the bullpen, and that approach suits him.

Weaknesses: Lefthanders owned Ohlendorf when he was a starter because his changeup was fringy. He's added a splitter to see if that will help. His command slipped at the outset of 2007 but improved dramatically once he moved to the bullpen.

The Future: Ohlendorf could be the sinkerballing setup man the Yankees haven't had since Jeff Nelson's departure as a free agent in 2000. A big league relief job is his to lose come spring training.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Scranton/W-B (AAA) 3 3 5.02 21 9 0 0 66 86 7 24 48 .320
GCL Yankees (R) 1 1 3.94 4 4 0 0 16 13 2 1 17 .206
New York (AL) 0 0 2.84 6 0 0 0 6 5 1 2 9 .208
10.  Andrew Brackman, rhp   Born: Dec. 4, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-10. Wt.: 240.
 Drafted: North Carolina State, 2007 (1st round). Signed by: Steve Swail.
Andrew BrackmanBackground: Brackman played both basketball and baseball at North Carolina State, but a hip injury helped convince him to focus on baseball as a junior. After ranking as the top pitching prospect in the Cape Cod League in 2006, he gave up basketball to focus on baseball, but his junior season ended in May with an elbow injury. New York drafted him 30th overall anyway and signed him to a major league contract with a $3.35 million bonus—the biggest in franchise history for a draftee—and $4.55 million in total guarantees. With incentives, he could earn as much as $13 million.

Strengths: A premium athlete, Brackman has as high an upside as any player in the '07 draft class. He has reached 99 mph with his fastball, which generally sits at 94, and uses his size to drive it downhill. His filthy spike curveball can be a strikeout pitch and has the potential to be an 80 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale.

Weaknesses: Brackman's elbow injury turned out to be a torn ligament; he had Tommy John surgery immediately after signing in mid-August. He won't pitch in his first pro game until 2009, which is even more of a setback because he worked just 149 innings in three years at N.C. State.

The Future: The Yankees are willing to wait on Brackman's upside. They believe he could become a No. 1 starter.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Injured

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