2013 New York Yankees Top 10 Prospects Chat With John Manuel

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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.

John Manuel: Hey everybody. I'm sorry we missed last Friday but with the storm and big BA meetings, we decided to rescheduled. Glad you're all here. Let's get started.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Last year Charleston SC was a super prospect team, with true prospects at almost every position. Is there a super prospect team in the organization this year?

John Manuel: I can see something similar happening at Trenton this year. At some point, the Thunder will (hopefully) have a Williams, Austin & Heathcott outfield, with Ramon Flores squeezing in there and either Flores or Austin playing some first base. JR Murphy should be behind the plate and Jose Ramirez, Matt Tracy and Nik Turley in the rotation. This year's Thunder lacked much of a prospect punch; the 2013 edition will not.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Of the Statin Island hurlers progressing to low A Charleston, which is your favorite?

John Manuel: I'm most intrigued by Gabe Encinas, who's in the Top 30. His velocity has come on quite a bit since signing. Evan Rutckyj, beyond having a fun name to type, also has some upside, and then I'd expect Eric Erickson out of Miami to dominate the Sally League. He's not a prospect per se, having had two Tommy John surgeries and will be 25 next year, but he knows how to pitch, commands his secondary stuff and should toy with low A hitters if he can stay healthy.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Hi, John. Thanks for the chat. As someone who is worried about the state of the Yanks' pitching down on the farm, what's the latest on Jose Campos' elbow? I didn't like the use of the word "hopefully" that your source in the organization used when asked if he'll be ready for spring training. Is there any inkling he may follow Banuelos as the latest to require TJ surgery?

John Manuel: I was trying to convey the worry in the Yankees' organization. The hard information that I have on Campos is in the report—scouts from other teams didn't get to see him pitch in instructional league because he didn't pitch in instructs. To my knowledge (i.e., I asked about it and got this as a response), he also didn't pitch in Dominican instructs either. If rest and rehabilitation do not get Campos pain-free by spring training, then he'll likely have some kind of surgery. Whether or not it's Tommy John would be pure speculation; the Yankees don't even like to say their pitchers have Tommy John, they like to talk about it in different terms for some reason. But yeah, I'd be worried. He'll get the Extreme tag in the Handbook when we do BA Grades for sure.

    Ben (Leland Grove): What led you to rank Heathcott above Sanchez and Austin? Is it purely a matter of ceiling, or something more?

John Manuel: There's very little separation among the Yankees' top four prospects. Several factors that came into play in ranking them the way I did: 1) Heathcott's tools are very similar to Williams'. He doesn't have the pure hitting ability, his swing is a bit choppy as I wrote, but if he adjusts his swing path and improves his contact ability, he could be a monster. It's more a reflection of how high Heathcott's ceiling is than a negative on anyone else. 2) I had two sources indicate they thought Austin's best position is 1B in the future, which was why I dropped him to 4. One thought that was a compliment, he'd seen Austin at first in the past and thought he was very good there and would prefer the plus 1B to the average RF. I still think that would make him a bit less valuable as a prospect. They all will have very similar BA Grades in the book.

    Frank (Chicago): How far away from the top 10 was Mark Montgomery, and is he a relatively safe bet to reach the Bronx next season?

John Manuel: He was in the top 10 in certain iterations. He is among the safest best in the entire farm system to get to the big leagues in 2013. Really like @SnapDragonMonty, ranked him 23rd in last year's book; most 11th-round picks don't make the book. There's funk in the delivery, he throws strikes and he's got an out pitch. Lots to like there.

    Grant (NYC): How far down your top 30 list did Dellin Betances fall? He's had some encouraging results in the AFL - what's he doing differently? Is his future role likely to be a reliever?

John Manuel: Pretty far. I've been high on Betances for several years, but the Daniel Cabrera comparisons are coming true. He's just not athletic enough to repeat the delivery for strikes. The other problem was the changeup, which developed well for him in 2010, just has regressed the last two years. He's behind some others in the Yankees' relief pecking order, so he's going to have to stand out in that role or get passed by, you know, guys that throw strikes.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): What was the word on Ravel Santana this year? Is his ceiling still "considerable" as you labeled it last year?

John Manuel: Sadly for him, no. I had several reports that essentially said, "This is not the same guy." His power and athleticism were his calling cards; while he still was athletic enough to play center field this year, I was told he'd lost at least one step if not more, and his power was nonexistent. The Yankees clearly expected more; he played CF and hit 4th or 5th most every day for Staten Island. Debating hard whether or not to rank him in the Top 30, frankly. As JJ Cooper and I talked about on the podcast the other day, he's one of the guys where scouts who had New York-Penn coverage said, "I thought he was supposed to be a guy but I didn't see anything like what you guys wrote." So that ankle injury obviously set him back a ways.

    Morrie (NJ): Besides power, what else does Pete O'Brien bring to the table? How are his catching skills?

John Manuel: O'Brien has power and a power arm; those are his best tools. He's huge for a catcher at around 6-4, 225, and he doesn't have Matt Wieters' or Joe Mauer's athleticism. He's just not flexible or agile back there. It's all about how he hits, and he didn't hit in his debut, and the bat looked slow. He had a wrist issue in the spring as well; maybe that was an issue. We'll see but he didn't do enough for me to put him in the Top 30. If you want to see for himself, Conor Glassey had this draft report and video on our Draft Blog in the spring: http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/draft/2012/03/game-report-miami-c-peter-obrien-with-video/#more-4486

    Johnny Mo (Tampa, FL): How close to the top 10 was Tampa's Jose Ramirez? What did evaluators have to say about his pitches?

John Manuel: Ramirez had been ranked in previous Handbooks but fell out last year when he flopped at Tampa. As you can see from the Best Tools chart, he had a better year because he's listed, for the first time, with Best Fastball in the organization. Previously he has won Best Changeup. Those are the good news. The bad news is the breaking ball remains inconsistent, and he still hasn't gotten out of A-ball. I found a real mixed bag with him, and some Yanks officials seem to consider him Top 10 material; I had another scout compare him to Deolis Guerra. I ranked Deolis with both the Mets and Twins and that comp didn't endear Ramirez. He's back in the book this year, though, and will be a key prospect to watch in 2013.

    Manny (Baltimore MD): Between Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy, who ranked higher on your top 30 and why? Thanks.

John Manuel: Murphy, because it's about the bat, and he's a better hitter. Romine's offseason conditioning was called into question, and for a guy in his fifth or sixth year in pro ball, that doesn't seem to be a professional thing to do. He paid for it by missing most of the season, and he's trying to make up for lost time in the AFL. So far, even though he's tempered his leg kick a bit in his swing, he's been the same streaky kind of guy. A healthy 2012 might have given Romine a shot at being the regular or semi-regular catcher in New York in 2013; now I don't see it. I have to think the Yanks want to see him do it in Scranton first and stay healthy for a year.

    Ben (Leland Grove): What shortcomings does Dante Bichette need to work on? How much did his stock drop this past year?

John Manuel: His stock dropped, not quite as much as Santana but close. Talked to one scout who saw him last year and this year and couldn't believe it was the same guy. If you believe in Bichette, you chalk this year up to (a) seeing more breaking balls in low A than he did in the GCL, (b) the size of the Charleston ballpark swallowing up some of his power, and (c) his confidence plummeting as a result. If you don't buy him, you just think he lacks the power to be an impact player. I actually received positive reports on his defense; he didn't let his hitting woes carry over to his glove, to his credit.

    Carlos (Bronx): What can you tell us about LHP Nik Turley? Future SP or RP?

John Manuel: Certainly more of a starter profile, back-of-the-rotation guy, but he needs to pitch more off his fastball. At times he's pretty cutter-happy. We liked Turley last year and he moved up quite a bit from 27, and his grade is better (he was a 45-High last year). No one ever uses the word "loose" to describe him; he kind of reminds me of Noah Lowry, who had a short-lived career with the Giants. I like Turley but obviously not enough to rank him in the top 10.

    Mike (Utica, NY): Would a perfect world comparison of Mason Williams be a left handed Andrew McCutchen? Also what were the reviews on Raval Santana this year as he was a top 10 guy last year?

John Manuel: Answered the Santana part. I wouldn't throw that on Williams because McCutchen is so dynamic and more physical than Williams. That said, I do believe in Williams' power. His immaturity seems to be his biggest shortcoming; scouts and managers in the SAL were quite down on his demeanor. Eventually, if he hits and stays healthy, that won't matter.

    Brad (Trenton): What does the 2013 outfield look likein Trenton? With Heathcott, Austin, Flores, and Segedin all slated to be in Trenton and Williams not far behind, who do you think the Yankees will push quick to AAA by midseason?

John Manuel: Segedin is the odd-man out there in terms of if he's still at Trenton, he's going to lose playing time and play DH or first base. I know he was a third-round pick but he is more in the Kyle Roller style of org player who will help make the other prospects look better. I heard good things about Roller, by the way; I've never been a big believer in him as a pro, but he apparently has as good a BP as anyone in the system. Always knew he had raw power but I'm impressed at how he's translated his strike-zone judgement more into hitting his pitches rather than just taking walks. Always will swing & miss but he's got a chance. Segedin did stay healthy all year and that's a plus. Roller & Segedin will get squeezed a bit; I also could see Flores pushed because the bat is polished.

    richard (spokane): How do you think Austin's bat will profile in the majors? Do you think the high averages and obp will translate? What's your take on how his power will progress?

John Manuel: That's part of the question, he's the righthanded-hitting corner bat, and the guys who do that in the majors are either real mashers like Konerko or Pujols or are quite athletic like the Brauns or Ryan Zimmermans or David Wrights. He's not at third anymore obviously; will he mash? Is he a bit of a tweener? It's a bit of a tough profile, that's another reason why he's at No. 4. But he has no major flaws either. The guys in front of him each as a 70 on the scouting report and Austin does not. so ceiling-wise, he's a bit behind them. But he's more of a sure bet than Williams, Sanchez or certainly Heathcott, who has been so injury prone. Very nice season for Tyler Austin, best in the Yanks system easily.

    stubbs (trenton): Do you think Brett Gardner is a good comp for Heathcott? (on a side note, who do you think plays with more intensity and reckless abandon, Heathcott or Lawrie?)

John Manuel: I used to but it sounds like Heathcott has much more raw power than Gardner, power he has started to tap into as he improves his swing. He's gotten some Pete Reiser comparisons for his playing style, but that's an old comp. I compared him to Chris Snelling, who Jim Callis used to call the "Australian Pete Reiser." But as for contemporary guys, yeah, similar playing style to Lawrie or even Bryce Harper in terms of playing hard all the time. He doesn't have Harper's tools, not trying to say that, just saying he runs that hard and plays with that intensity.

    Terry (Atlanta, GA): Two questions, John - how many of the top 10 do you believe will make the BA top 100, and if you stacked this list against last year's, which one has the higher ceiling? Thanks.

John Manuel: Pretty cut and dried that the top 4 guys make the Top 100, perhaps all four in the top 50 or 60 prospects, but then there's a dropoff. Last year's list had a bit more upside because it had Montero, and I really believe that guy will hit and hit for a lot of power when it's all said and done. Pretty sure I've written it before but to me Montero will have a Konerko type of career. Also, last year's top 10 had a healthy Banuelos and higher hopes for Betances ... the healthy Banuelos is a big difference. I would give last year the edge on Montero & Banuelos alone.

    Mike (Utica, NY): Call me crazy but could Heathcott's upside be Paul Oneil with a touch less of a hit tool but more speed?

John Manuel: O'Neill won a batting title and was a three-hole hitter. Heathcott is a completely different kind of player, where his pure hitting ability is the biggest question, so I wouldn't make that comparison.

    Steven Alengakis (NYC): How far was Nik Turley from being in the top 10 and is he someone the Yankees have high hopes for? Though the Yankees do have some guys with high ceilings, has their system finally fallen to the lower 1/3 of ML teams at this point?

John Manuel: No, I don't think it's a bottom-third farm system, more middle of the pack. I just finished the Twins system and see them as similar in that the Yankees have a lot of hitters they like, like Minnesota, but not as much pitching. I'd take the Twins' hitters over the Yankees and I'd take Kyle Gibson and J.O. Berrios over Brett Marshall and Jose Campos, so I'd give the Twins an edge. The Yanks have more depth, though, still think it's a middle-of-the-pack system.

    Darryl (Toronto): You list David Robertson as the closer in your projected 2016 line-up. How realistic is this? When do you see him assuming the ninth inning duties? Not that you wish injury on any player, but when Mo went down, I was excited to see what Robertson would do with the potential opportunity - only to be disappointed due to his own injury issues, and Soriano.

John Manuel: Robertson certainly struggled a bit in that role this year, but with Rivera's age and Soriano's contract situation, he was the natural guy to list there. The lineup is merely intended to show readers, "Hey, if your team had to fill out a future lineup entirely from within, here's how it would look." It gives you an idea of where the system is strong and where it's weak. To me, Robertson is still the best young reliever in the organization either in the majors or the minors, hence he's designated the future closer.

    Steve (Trenton): Was Zoilo Almonte in consideration? Do you see him as an everyday player or a 4th outfielder??

John Manuel: Extra guy, and he's not defensive enough to be a fourth outfielder. Borderline top 30 guy, not a real consideration for the top 10.

    Marcus (Endicott, NY): Is Nick Turley the Yankees' best healthy left-handed pitching prospect?

John Manuel: Time for some lightning-round answers late on a Friday afternoon ... Yes, Turley is the top LHP who is healthy. Not much competition there. Keep an eye out deep in the system for 6-foot-8 LHP Rony Bautista, who had a good instructional league and should see time in Staten Island's rotation in 2013.

    Marcus (Endicott): Did the outlook on Cito Culver or Dante Bichette change after their first experience in a long-season league?

John Manuel: Yes, for the worse. Both are very young, still teenagers, but they didn't show much with the bat. As one of my favorite scouts once told me, no one gets promoted for making spectacular defensive plays. You get promoted when you hit. They need to hit.

    Marcus (Endicott): The Yankees have a lot of interesting bullpen arms beyond Montgomery. Who do you see as the most likely Major Leaguers?

John Manuel: One more from Marcus ... they do have a lot of bullpen arms. Betances, Tommy Kahnle, Nick Goody and Chase Whitley are all guys that have a chance to contribute in New York, sooner than later. I'm not as high on guys like Zach Nuding, Branden Pinder or Daniel Burawa long-term, but they all throw hard and could catch lightning in a bottle. Whitley's more of a personal cheeseball than anything else, always liked his feel for pitching and slider.

    Francisco Done (Atlanta, GA): Hi! Do you see Gary Sanchez reaching AAA in 2013?

John Manuel: Not really; I think if he reaches Double-A it will be a good year. He's likely to start in Tampa and earn a promotion. Dude is still really young, and catching is hard.

    Al (NYC): How close was it for the top spot? I imagine the top 4 were all in consideration? In the end what seperated Williams from the rest? Thanks!

John Manuel: Definitely very close. In the end, Williams just has more plus tools; he's the fastest runner, he's as good a hitter for average as Austin, his power's as good or better than Austin's (though behind Sanchez), and he's got a chance to be an Austin Jackson-caliber CF. Nothing below a 60 on one scout's report that I talked to, including the power. He has a real chance to be a special player if he grows up a bit.

    Jim H. (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada): Last year's top two pitching prospects, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, took big steps backwards, one with Tommy John surgery, and the other with poor performance. Are there any other prospects with the kind of stuff to project as possible front-of-the-rotation-type starters somewhere down the road ?

John Manuel: Banuelos, Campos, Hensley and DePaula all made the top 10 based on possibly being future 1, 2 or 3 starters. DePaula is the biggest x-factor obviously. If there's a deep sleeper frontline starter in teh system, I'd say it's Corey Black, who has a quick, special arm and big-time fastball. Almost gave him best FB over Ramirez, it was very close.

    JR (Gilgo Beach, Long Island): Suprised not to see Pineda on your rotation of the future. Why is that?

John Manuel: He didn't pitch all year and he is not projected to be ready even by spring training, according to Brian Cashman, so I thought it best to be cautious with him. That said, it does look odd to have Campos in and not Pineda, but that's a function of how we do the lineups; I couldn't list Marshall without listing Campos, so I listed both.

    Mike (Baltimore): Hey John, thanks for the chat. How close was Austin Aune to the top 10? Do people still think he lacks the hands for SS?

John Manuel: Not too close because he's pretty raw, but he's in the 11-20 range. Sounds like a guy with a real chance to make an impact offensively with a lean, athletic body. I do not think anyone in Texas who saw him as an amateur saw him as a shortstop. The Yankees have the luxury of letting Aune prove himself as a SS to them in the low levels of the minors and can always move him later.

    John (Baltimore): Hey John, is it time to write-off Cito Culver? He hit .215/.321/.283 this year at Low-A with nearly a K a game and seemingly his lone bright spot, 22 SBs, is countered by 11 caught stealings. Thanks

John Manuel: His other bright spot is his walks; he does know the strike zone. He's got to get stronger; that's part one. I would not write him off because he can defend at short but he's a project offensively, particularly from the left side, even though his numbers are better from that side. Our reports are that the lefthanded swing is not a good one.

    Jimmy (White Plains): Do the Yankees have any sleepers in the farm system

John Manuel: Sure. I already gave you one in Bautista. I like Rob Refsnyder, the College World Series MOP; not sure if he should play 2b or stay in the outfield or what, but the guy can hit. I also have to give it up to Addison Maruszak, whom Damon Oppenheimer always has liked. He had a nice season, might get there as a Brandon Laird type of utility guy. Not as much thump as Laird but a better athlete and defender. And Abe Almonte is still kicking around, always thought he could hit a bit and steal a base, and he still can. Not sure he's a regular but could see him as a second-division regular in another organization.

    Sean (NJ): Have you ever heard Mikeson Oliberto's name come up from anyone inside or outside the organization as a potential sleeper prospect down the road?

John Manuel: Yes, another potential sleeper, maybe a 70 runner, wiry strength and decent swing mechanics. He may have been the best prospect after Aune on the GCL team, at least in the lineup. 3B Miguel Andujar also gets some support in that regard after really turning the corner in instructs, but after going ga-ga over Santana and Bichette last year, I tempered my enthusiasm for the GCL guys this year.

    Nate (Oberlin, OH): Any reports on Matt Bashoure being a real prospect again?

John Manuel: Yeah, he's probably not. Never say never but the velocity has not returned to the 90 mph level. Still has a good changeup and is still lefthanded so you never know.

    Merv (NJ): Will Luis Torrens and/or Alexander Palma make the top 30? Any word on how they looked at the Dominican instructional camp?

John Manuel: I did not rank them in the top 30, and when I made my calls and did the writeup, Dominican instructs had just started. I like Torrens and wrote about him last winter when he was in the Panamanian winter league; he can really hit, mature body, we'll see where he winds up defensively. Palma sounds intriguing as well, but the only guys that age I can recall running way up a list were guys like Montero, Sanchez, Sano ... doesn't sound like Palma or Torrens are of that caliber.

    Fred (New York): Is Williams' immaturity getting the way of his development? he not listening to coaching? Or is this more like, it's annoying but not an onfield issue?

John Manuel: At times it's both. Annoying to teammates and opponents, inconsistent effort ... those are trouble signs. Easier to make a care tone it down than to make him care more. Yankees insist it was a matter of being too hard on himself. I gave a 20-year-old the benefit of the doubt.

    jbo29j (Brooklyn, NY): Does Stoneburner deserve a spot on the 40 man roster, or is it safe to assume he wont stick with a club even if he's taken in the rule 5 draft?

John Manuel: Never been a huge Stoneburner guy, I would not spend a 40-man spot on him.

    Marcus (Endicott): Is David Adams a big-league regular?

John Manuel: He could be, as a kind of place-holder, which isn't the Yankees' style. I see him as a second-division regular, but he is a righthanded bat, which the Yankees could use. If they don't protect him I could definitely see him getting Rule 5'd. He is kind of a righthanded Ryan Flaherty, though a bit less athletic. Similar in that the bat profiles better at 2B but the defense fits better at third or LF or 1B. Problem for Adams is he doesn't run well at all, so LF may not even be an option.

    Marcus (Endicott): Nathan Mikolas' numbers indicate that he may have been overmatched in his debut. What is your opinion on him?

John Manuel: He was quite overmatched. The Yankees tried to salvage his season by sending him to Dominican instructs, but he and Matt Duran are a pair of power-hitting 1Bs the Yankees have signed and will have to be patient on. Neither has shown much of late. Greg Bird is their top 1B prospect by a large margin, they really like Bird's feel for hitting.

    Marcus (Endicott): What keeps Ramon Flores out of the top ten?

John Manuel: More of a lot of 50 grades with no true plus tool. Even guys who like him give him 55 grades for the bat. Last player I ran into like that was Jason Pridie, one of my more infamous misses as a prospect ranking person. I can't quit you Jason Pridie!!

John Manuel: Judging by that last answer, it's time for me to go. Thanks, lots of Yankees questions today as usual. Hope you all have power soon if you don't already up in New York & New Jersey, thanks for being patient with the top 10 and check out the podcasts we did on the AL East on our iTunes page: https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/baseball-america/id201539011