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The top international talent in the summer of 2006, Montero has lived up to the hype and his $1.65 million bonus. He played in the 2008 and 2009 Futures Games but didn't earn a spot in the 2010 contest because of a poor first half. In his first shot at Triple-A, he batted just .214 through June 6, but rallied to hit .351 with 14 homers in 44 second-half games and ranked in the top five in the International League in doubles (34), extra-base hits (58) and total bases (234). Montero nearly became a Mariner in July, when the Yankees thought they had worked out a deal in which he'd be the centerpiece of a package for Cliff Lee. But Seattle wound up opting for Justin Smoak and three prospects from the Rangers when New York wouldn't include infielder Eduardo Nunez or righthander Ivan Nova. Montero may be the best all-around hitter in the minors, capable of hitting .300 with 30-plus homers annually. He doesn't have typical hitting mechanics, as he doesn't always have a smooth swing and can be a bit of a front-foot hitter, but his strength and handeye coordination help him overcome that. He has well above-average power, particularly to the opposite field, making him well-suited for Yankee Stadium. Some club officials compare him to their greatest recent development success story, Robinson Cano, for his handsy swing and natural feel for hitting. Cano became an MVP-caliber hitter when he improved his game preparation and batting-practice routine, and Montero could use more discipline in those areas as well. He tinkers with his stance, and could use a more professional approach to BP. Scouts rarely criticize his hitting tools, though, focusing more on his work as a catcher. Montero has worked hard to become a passable defender, improving his fitness and flexibility, but will have to keep working to remain behind the plate. He generally earns below-average grades for his catch-and-throw skills, and he led the IL with 15 passed balls while throwing out just 23 percent of basestealers. He has above-average arm strength but a slow transfer and inconsistent accuracy on his throws, which tend to sink. He's a well belowaverage runner and needs to keep up his conditioning to avoid being a baseclogger. The Yankees' willingness to trade Montero was more a reflection of their desire to obtain Lee and the catching depth in the system than any reflection on him. He doesn't have anything left to prove in the minors as a hitter, and his defense doesn't look so bad when coupled with his offense or when compared to that of 39-year-old Jorge Posada. GM Brian Cashman has said Montero will get the chance to earn a spot on New York's 2011 roster. Now that he has experienced failure and learned how to respond to it, he should be able to earn a job as at least a part-timer at catcher and DH in 2011. The best-case scenario is that he develops into the second coming of Mike Piazza, and Montero has enough bat for first base (where he'd be blocked by Mark Teixeira) or DH if he can't stick at catcher.
The Yankees gave Sanchez the largest bonus they've ever given to a teenager, $3 million at the start of international signing period in July 2009. He backed up his scouting reports in his 2010 pro debut, homering three times in his first seven games and ranking as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Sanchez has a higher ceiling than anyone in the organization, including Jesus Montero. Outside of his below-average speed, he has above-average tools across the board. He already has plus raw power and should add more as he adds mature strength to his youthful but solid frame. He has a good swing path and the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs, as well as a sound approach for a teenager. His offensive game requires polish that will come with at-bats, but he has no significant holes. He flashes the lateral movement, soft hands and strong arm to be a plus defender, though he's not consistent yet. He threw out 26 percent of basestealers in his debut. Sanchez's biggest issue is maintaining his motivation in the midst of $3 million and plenty of accolades. He'll have to keep working hard to reach his potential, and he'll move up to low Class A Charleston in 2011.
The Yankees signed Betances, a New Yorker, away from Vanderbilt for a $1 million bonus in 2006. He developed slower than hoped, then had surgery to reinforce an elbow ligament in 2009. He returned to the mound last June, throwing 96-97 in his first start and wrapping up the season in the Double-A Eastern League playoffs. Ther performance earned him a 40-man roster spot. Betances' fastball usually sits at 92-96, and he uses his size to throw it downhill. He throws strikes with his heater, but fastball command remains his biggest issue to work on. His curveball is a sharp, power downer that some scouts rate as a 70 on the 20-80 scale, giving him two plus-plus pitches. His changeup draws mixed reviews but is at least fringe average, and some club officials predict it will become a plus pitch. Betances' delivery tends to get out of line to the plate, wasting energy and costing him command, but his stuff is good enough that he can thrive with just solid control. He's not a great athlete and doesn't excel at fielding his position or holding runners. If Betances can build on the progress he made last season, he'll be a frontline starter for New York, possibly as soon as 2012. If he regresses a bit, he still could wind up in the mix to eventually replace Mariano Rivera as the Yankees' closer.
Part of a quartet of Mexican players the Yankees signed as a group for $450,000 in 2008, Banuelos excelled in Class A as an 18-year-old in 2009. His 2010 season was delayed when he needed an appendectomy during spring training, but he pitched well after returning in June and made up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League, where he was the circuit's youngest pitcher. Banuelos has a quick arm, natural arm strength and sound mechanics. The ball comes out of his hand easy and he has surprising velocity for a little lefthander, sitting at 90-94 mph with his fastball and touching 95. He has excellent fastball control, even with his improved velocity, and projects to have true big league command. His changeup and curveball can be plus pitches, though they often aren't working at the same time. His changeup is more consistent and has better action, with late fade and sink at its best. Banuelos has the poise and composure to move quickly, and now he has frontline stuff. He's the best lefthander in the system by a mile. He'll spend 2011 at Double-A Trenton and must prove he can hold up after never throwing more than seven innings in a game or 108 in a season.
A basketball and baseball player at North Carolina State, Brackman signed a stunning major league contract in 2007 that included a $3.35 million bonus, $4.55 million in guaranteed money and $13 million in potential total value. His development has been slowed by Tommy John surgery shortly after he signed, an appendectomy in 2008 and wildness in 2009. He got off to a poor start in 2010 as well before his delivery clicked after a promotion to Double-A. Brackman has good athleticism to go with his size, and he started to coordinate the moving parts of his delivery in 2010. When he did, he found the bottom of the strike zone more with his fastball, which jumped from 88-92 mph to 93-95 mph. His best pitch is a well above-average curveball with which he can vary the size, shape and velocity (72-81 mph). Brackman has added a nascent slider that shows potential and scrapes the upper 80s. He lacks confidence in his changeup and needs to pitch with more aggressiveness, considering his power stuff. For some scouts, Brackman's whole is less than the sum of his parts, earning comparisons to A.J. Burnett and Kyle Farnsworth. He just completed his second full pro season as a pitcher, however, and tantalized with his rapid improvement in 2010 and likely will get his first big league callup in 2011, probably as a reliever.
Romine has two big leaguers in his family--father Kevin and brother Andrew, a shortstop who went 1-for-11 for the Angels in 2010--and more upside than either of them. Austin played in the Futures Game and caught a career-high 106 games (counting playoffs) last season, appearing to wear down in the second half. While Jesus Montero has more star potential with his bat, Romine is a more well-rounded player. He employs a high leg kick, and when he gets his timing right, he has solid power to the opposite field. He's still learning to pull the ball with more authority, but he should have average power to go with fringe-average hitting ability. He's a bit undisciplined at the plate. Romine has solid athleticism and runs well for a catcher. He still has some rough edges to polish up as a receiver but has good hands. He has plus arm strength but isn't consistently accurate, and threw out just 23 percent of basestealers in 2010. He needs to get stronger to handle the rigors of catching over a full season. After playing in the Arizona Fall League, Romine is headed to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2011. He may become trade bait if Montero establishes himself as Jorge Posada's successor in New York.
Noesi had a solid 2009 season, earning a spot on New York's 40-man roster after missing parts of the previous two years following Tommy John surgery. He was even better last season, appearing in the Futures Game and leading Yankees farmhands with 153 strikeouts while reaching Triple-A for the first time. Noesi has the best command in the system, with just 43 walks in 277 innings over the last two seasons. He has a fluid, easy delivery and gets good extension out front, repeating his release point. He pounds the zone with an 89-93 mph fastball, reaching as high as 96. His maintains his velocity deep into games, and his fastball has some run and tail. Noesi's No. 2 pitch is a changeup with similar action, though he doesn't quite command it like his fastball. His curveball and slider remain below-average offerings, but he flashes the ability to spin the ball. He's athletic and fields his position well. Noesi lacks the breaking ball to pitch near the front of a rotation, but his fastball command should allow him to be a No. 4 or 5 starter for the Yankees if needed. He might help New York more as trade bait. If he's still a Yankee in 2011, he'll return to Scranton.
Nunez went five years between appearances on our Yankees Top 10, ranking No. 6 after his first season in the United States in 2005 before struggling for the next three years. When he began maturing and working harder late in the 2008 season, his tools started to play on the diamond. He got his first big league callup in 2010, including a spot on the postseason roster after Mark Teixeira went down with a hamstring injury. Nunez profiles well at shortstop. His best tool remains his plus-plus arm that allows him to make highlight plays from the hole, though he tends to rely on it too much, which can lead to passivity and errors. He has improved his footwork and plays with more confidence at short, where he's an above-average defender. Nunez's plus speed is his next-best tool, and he should steal 20 bases annually. His speed and ability to make contact should allow him to hit for a solid average, though he lacks selectivity and has fringy power. Nunez also saw time at second and third base in 2010, and he worked out in the outfield in instructional league. The Yankees see him in the Chone Figgins mold as a utility player, though he was in line to take over had Derek Jeter departed as a free agent.
While some clubs had concerns about Heathcott's health and makeup, the Yankees drafted him 29th overall in 2009 and signed him for $2.2 million. He started 2010 in extended spring training before heading in June to Charleston, where he impressed scouts and managers with his high-energy approach. He physically resembles Brett Gardner and has some similarities to New York's left fielder, but Heathcott should develop more power and has a stronger arm. He generates bat speed and has improved his swing path, but he doesn't have a lot of loft in his stroke. Some in the organization believe he injured his left shoulder trying too hard to adjust his swing to hit for power, and he required postseason surgery on the labrum in his left (throwing) shoulder, which the club considers minor. Like many young hitters, he needs to be more selective at the plate. Heathcott has plus speed and excellent range in center field, where he shows off a plus-plus arm. He was clocked at 94 mph as a high school pitcher. He's an aggressive fielder and runner who has decent instincts that should improve with experience. Thanks to his surgery, Heathcott may get a late start in 2011, but it's not a long-term concern. He should push his way to high Class A Tampa at some point during the year.
The younger brother of big league catcher Gerald Laird, Brandon signed for $120,000 as a 27th-round pick out of Cypress (Calif.) JC in 2007. He broke into pro ball as a third baseman, played primarily at first base in 2008, then returned to the hot corner the last two years. He won Eastern League MVP honors in 2010 despite spending August in Triple-A. Laird has a track record of hitting in the minors. He has good pitch recognition and feel for the barrel, which should enable him to produce for average as well as power. He has strong hands, solid bat speed and nice leverage in his swing. His aggressiveness got the best of him at Triple-A, and he needs to prove he can adjust against better pitching. Scouts used to question his glove and athletic ability, but Laird keeps answering their doubts. He has become an average defender at third, with subpar range but good hands and a strong arm. He's a below-average runner. The Yankees worked Laird on the outfield corners in the Arizona Fall League, and increased versatility would help his chances of eventually sticking in New York. He profiles as a third baseman in the Kevin Kouzmanoff mode, and with Alex Rodriguez ahead of him, Laird could become trade fodder. Added to the 40-man roster, he'll return to Scranton in 2011.
As another talented pitcher who bounced back well from elbow surgery, Marshall ranked with Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman among the Yankees' feel-good stories in 2010. Like Brackman, he had full-blown Tommy John surgery, and like Betances, he impressed with his work ethic and competitiveness in returning from his elbow operation. A sixth-round pick, Marshall got the largest signing bonus of the New York's 2008 draft class at $850,000, thanks to his power arm. His fastball reached 96 mph at times before his surgery, and he boasted to club officials he'd throw 100 mph one day. That kind of velocity hasn't materialized yet, but Marshall has regained his mid-90s velocity on his four-seam fastball, touching 97. However, he no longer relies on his fourseamer, instead working off a two-seamer that ranges from 89-94 mph. Yankees senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman compares its life and movement to a hard slider thrown by a lefthander. Marshall gained more confidence in his two-seamer as the season wore on, allowing two earned runs in his final 36 innings in low Class A. He finished the season helping Tampa win the Florida State League championship. Marshall came to the Yankees with a slider and still throws it, though the organization prefers curveballs. He tried throwing a curve in 2009 before he got hurt, but he has gone back to the slider. It flashes above-average potential when he doesn't get around it. His average changeup joins his two-seamer in helping him combat lefthanders, and it's more consistent than his slider. Like Betances and Manny Banuelos, Marshall has significant upside but needs to prove he can pitch a full season. He figures to start 2011 back in high Class A.
North Carolina signed Warren as a fairly high-profile recruit, a surprise considering his father played football as a punter at rival North Carolina State. He went 31-4 in his three seasons with the Tar Heels, getting a bit better each year, and his rate of improvement has accelerated since he signed as a fourth-round pick in 2009. He finished his first full season in Double-A, racking up 18 strikeouts in 11 innings in the Eastern League playoffs. The Yankees saw dividends from small tweaks they made in his delivery, incorporating more of a hip turn, using his legs more and quickening his tempo. Being a bit less robotic helped Warren push his fastball velocity to 90-94 mph with a high of 96, and also gave him more deception. His fastball has late life and he commands it well. It can be a swing-and-miss pitch in the strike zone at its best, as evidenced when he set a Trenton franchise record with 15 strikeouts (11 on fastballs) in seven innings in mid-August. Warren also throws a curveball and a cutter/slider. Scouts prefer the latter, as it helps him get groundballs, but don't love either breaking ball. He also throws a changeup, but it's fringe-average at best. Warren's fastball is his meal ticket, but he'll go as far as his secondary stuff takes him. He's headed back to Double-A to start 2011.
Nova made it to the major leagues in his seventh season as a pro after signing for $80,000 in 2004. In between he slogged his way through the low minors, was lost to the Padres in the 2008 Rule 5 draft, then returned to the Yankees. Since coming back in the spring of 2009, he has taken off and really broke out in 2010, his best minor league season. Nova's fastball once sat at 89-93 mph and now operates at 92-94 mph since he has grown into his body. At times, he reaches 97 mph with his four-seamer, and some club officialis like the idea of putting him in a middle-relief role, where his fastball could sit in the upper 90s more regularly. However, Nova's three-pitch mix gives him a chance to start, and he competed well as New York's fifth starter in August and September. His changeup is his most reliable secondary pitch. His 80 mph curveball still lacks consistency but has upside, as one scout said it can range from a 30 to a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He also has messed around with a slider that lacks depth and is closer to a cutter. Nova's long arm action makes it hard for him to repeat his release point, costing him command and pitch efficiency and leading to inconsistency with his curve. MLB has investigated allegations that Nova and Wilkin de la Rosa injected each other with B-12 shots while teammates at Trenton in 2009, but any findings haven't been made public. Nova is a good trade piece or insurance if the Yankees can't add enough starting pitching in the offseason. Otherwise he could get a shot in a long-relief or swingman role.
The Yankees loved Murphy's bat, so they drafted him in the second round in 2009 and signed him away from a Miami commitment for $1.25 million. He started last season in extended spring training before moving up to low Class A in May. Murphy shared Charleston's catching duties with 2008 draftee Kyle Higashioka, and the two presented a stark contrast. While Higashioka's glove is ahead of his offense, Murphy lags behind defensively, to the point where he may not be a catcher much longer. He worked extensively at third base and the outfield corners in New York's instructional league minicamp in September, and Murphy has the bat to move to less-demanding defensive positions. He has a professional approach and good balance and rhythm. He shows above-average barrel awareness for his age and has above-average pull power potential. He should be able to hit the ball to all fields with authority as he gains experience and work himself into more hitter's counts. Murphy has many issues defensively, starting with slow feet and modest athleticism that led to 11 errors and 13 passed balls in just 53 games behind the plate last year. He has an average arm and threw out just 23 percent of basestealers in 2010. With his arm strength and fringe-average speed, he should be a capable defender in left field if he can't handle third base. Murphy has significant offensive upside, though some scouts question just how much power will develop unless he gets more physical. He may repeat low Class A this year but has the bat to move more quickly.
Williams wasn't the Yankees top pick in 2010, but he did earn the largest bonus of their draft crop, getting $1.45 million in the fourth round. He had a big spring, pitching, hitting and running West Orange High (Winter Garden, Fla.) to a state 6-A finals berth in Florida's largest classification. His athleticism first attracted New York's attention, and his improvement offensively over the summer with the Midland (Ohio) Redskins alos aided his cause. He earned all-tournament honors while helping Midland repeat as Connie Mack World Series champion. One of his teammates was Shane Rowland, the son of Yankees international scouting director Donnie Rowland. Williams' ability to sting the ball to the opposite field convinced New York he has impact offensive potential. He has good swing fundamentals and makes consistent contact. He's a plus-plus runner and has aboveaverage arm strength, so it's easy to project Williams being an asset in center field as well. His thin, wiry frame elicits Doug Glanville comparisons, though club officials see more electricity and athleticism from Williams. He'll likely begin 2011 in extended spring training because he's still a bit raw in all phases of the game.
The Yankees fast-tracked several of their college pitchers in 2010, Phelps among them. While Adam Warren is the better prospect, Phelps had just as strong of a season, if not better, and finished the year in Triple-A. He ranked second in the system in both innings (159) and strikeouts (141). Like Warren, Phelps has taken off while tightening his mechanics, helping him get more extension and better repeat his release point. A 14th-rounder who signed for $150,000, he pitches off his fastball and throws consistent strikes with it. He pitches at 91-92 mph but can reach back and hit 95 when needed. His fastball can flatten out and he doesn't always pitch downhill like he needs to, but he stays away from home runs, giving up just 20 in 382 pro innings. Phelps' best secondary pitch is his solid curveball, which saw its average velocity jump from 74 to 78 mph last season. It's tight and short with 11-to-5 break, though it doesn't quite have the depth to be a plus pitch.His changeup is fringy, and he also throws a slider that lacks depth but arrives at 82-86 mph. Phelps pitches with an arrogance that helps his stuff play up. He's another good trade piece who'll head back to Scranton for 2011. He has put himself in position for a big league callup if he repeats his 2010 success.
Stoneburner, whose older brother Davis reached Triple-A with the Rangers as an infielder last year, pitched at Clemson with fellow Yankees farmhand D.J. Mitchell. After Stoneburner fell to the 14th round in 2009 as a draft-eligible sophomore, New York gave him a $675,000 bonus despite a spotty college track record and a long medical history that included a cracked back vertebra in high school and a torn knee ligament at Clemson. He rewarded the Yankees by leading the system with a 2.41 ERA in his first full pro season. He had more success as a reliever than as a starter in college, and despite his strong debut--when he worked exclusively as a starter--most scouts consider him a better fit in the bullpen down the line. His arm stroke gets long in the back, and while it lends him some deception, it also makes it tough for him to throw more than an average breaking ball consistently as a starter. Stoneburner's athletic ability and quick arm are both assets, and New York senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman compares the sink on his two-seamer to that of big leaguer Jake Westbrook, a former Yankees farmhand. Stoneburner's fastball sits at 90-91 mph and tops out at 94 when he starts. His velocity figures to hover around 94 if he comes out of the bullpen, and one pro scout compared Stoneburner to Yankee reliever David Robertson. He also throws a slider and a changeup that's still in development. If he shows enough aptitude with three pitches in spring training, he'll likely stay in the rotation for another year. He could begin 2011 in Double-A.
Mitchell made the conversion from outfielder to pitcher at Clemson, but pro scouts still liken his thin, wiry frame to that of a position player. While he's long and lean, he has held up well over two pro seasons, throwing 291 innings and finishing last year in the Triple-A rotation. Signed for $450,000 as a 10th-round pick in 2008, Mitchell stands out for his solid command, quick arm and good tempo, all of which help the life on his twoseam fastball play well. He sits at 88-91 mph and touches 93 with his fastball, and he got 2.0 groundouts for every airout last year. As one scout put it, "His fastball moves a ton when he stays on top of it." Mitchell's slider and curveball have occasional bite, but his three-quarters arm slot may not lend itself to a consistent breaker. His sinking changeup might be his best secondary pitch, grading out as average. He's athletic but inexperienced at nuances of pitching such as holding runners and fielding his position. While Mitchell's four-pitch mix helps him profile as a back-end starter, he has more impact potential as a middle reliever for New York. He'll likely be part of a stout Scranton rotation that also should include Hector Noesi, Adam Warren and David Phelps in 2011.
His physical appearance and batting stance resemble Alfonso Soriano's, so Mesa inevitably gets compared to the former Yankees second baseman. Mesa remains one of the organization's top athletes and would be a fivetool player if scouts thought he'd ever be an average hitter. New York is willing to wait to see if his bat develops and added him to the 40-man roster in November. Mesa earned MVP honors in the Florida State League in 2010 as Tampa's everyday center fielder, primarily hitting fourth and fifth in the lineup. A pitch smashed into his wrist on Aug. 28 and forced him to miss the last 10 days of the FSL regular season and the playoffs, but he still finished second in the league in homers (19) and slugging (.475). Mesa has a loose, handsy swing and easy power that comes with a flick of the wrist. His problems stem from being overly aggressive at the plate, though he did cut his strikeout rate from 34 percent of his at-bats in 2009 to 29 percent last year. His speed and arm both grade out as plus tools as well, and he's an above-average right fielder with enough ability to fill in as a center fielder. Mesa's contact issues likely will limit his productivity at upper levels, and 2011 will be a crucial test for him in Double-A.
Joseph's brother Caleb catches in the Orioles system, and while Caleb is two years older, Corban caught up to him, finishing 2010 in the Eastern League with him. Once Jesus Montero graduates to the majors, Joseph could succeed him as the system's best pure hitter, thanks to a smooth, loose swing that's short and quick to the ball. He's one of the more patient hitters in the system, and his 58 walks ranked second among Yankees farmhands in 2010. Joseph's other tools lag behind his hitting, and he'll have to improve his power to become a possible everyday player in New York. He needs to get stronger and he'll need to adjust the load in his swing, which adds some strength to his stroke without providing enough pop. Some scouts question whether he'll be able to fix his load. Defensively, Joseph is just adequate at second base, and his average arm strength is better than his fringy hands and footwork. He could learn from fellow Yankees second-base prospect David Adams on how to turn the double play. Joseph has played some third base, where he might be better defensively but is less of a fit with the bat. He figures to return to Double-A for a full season.
The Yankees surprised many in the industry by taking Culver in the first round of the 2010 draft, as his bat had other clubs considering him more of a third-round talent. He overcame a difficult home life to become a first-rounder. His father Christopher Sr. broke into the family home in March 2008 and set fire to it, and is currently imprisoned after being found guilty of arson and burglary. Before signing him for $954,000, New York saw plenty of Culver as an amateur between showcases, travel ball and the spring, and came away confident in his makeup and defensive tools. He has good hands, range and natural instincts. Thanks to his feel and footwork, he never seems to get a bad hop. His best present tool is his arm, which is at least plus if not a tick better, and he hit 94 mph as a pitcher. One of the 2010 draft's youngest players, Culver also switch-hits, which added to the Yankees' interest. He has some looseness in his hands and feel for the barrel from both sides. Scouts believe he'll have to quiet some pre-swing movement to improve his timing at the plate--he struck out 41 times in 160 pro at-bats--and he doesn't project to have even average power at this stage. Some scouts were concerned by his relatively thick lower half, but Culver lost weight after signing and trimmed up a bit by fall minicamp. He's a slightly above-average runner but not a big basestealing threat. After an encouraging debut, Culver will start 2011 in low Class A.
Adams had an eventful 2010 to say the least. He got off to a fast start in Double-A before injuring his right ankle while sliding into second base in late May. Initially diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, he found out in late July that he had a broken bone at the joint where the foot meets the ankle. A ligament had detached and pulled some bone off with it, and he had to have the foot immobilized, ending his season. In between, Adams was involved in the Yankees' bid to acquire Cliff Lee from the Mariners. Seattle cited his injury as one reason it pulled out of a deal that would have included Jesus Montero in favor of a trade with the Rangers. Adams was an attractive trade piece because he has good power for a middle infielder. He drives the balls to the gaps and could hit 15 homers on an annual basis. He doesn't stride in his swing but has enough strength to stay balanced and drive the ball. Some scouts think his modest bat speed could compromise his power at higher levels. With the exception of his plus arm, Adams' other tools are all average or fringy. His arm helps him excel at turning the double play, but his range is limited at second base, which is why he has played some third base in the past. He does have good hands, which helped him go 36 games without an error last year. Adams has to get healthy and regain the agility he had before he got hurt. His spring performance and Corban Joseph's presence will determine whether Adams starts 2011 in Scranton or back in Trenton.
Mitchell was set to follow in Adam Warren's footsteps and pitch at North Carolina before New York stepped in and signed him in August 2009 for $800,000. Ties between the Yankees and Tar Heels are fairly strong--the team played exhibition games there in the late 1970s, and the entrance to Boshamer Stadium is the Steinbrenner Family Courtyard. When Mitchell had some initial reservations about signing and a bout of homesickness, New York got some help from Warren, who showed him around the team's Tampa complex. Mitchell is raw and needs some maturity, but there's no question about his stuff. His fastball sat at 90-91 mph when he signed, but he has a quick arm and already has hit some 94s and 95s as a pro. His curveball, which features a modified spike grip, at times is a hammer with power and bite, and it potentially could rank among the system's best. Mitchell has to learn to harness his stuff and didn't excel at throwing strikes during his pro debut last summer. He got a late start at short-season Staten Island and may return there in 2011 if he can't earn a spot in Charleston's rotation.
As a Dominican righthander with a slender body and a potential power arm, Ramirez has a lot of similiarities to Hector Noesi. Ramirez opened 2010 in Charleston's rotation and missed only one turn through the middle of August, when the Yankees decided to shut him down. He wore down in the final month, with his fastball dipping to as low as the mid-80s. When he's at his best, his heater sits at 90-92 mph and touches 95. His changeup is an average pitch that could develop into a plus offering in the future. His slider shows proper rotation but lacks depth. Ramirez keeps the ball down and excels at limiting big innings, giving up just three homers in 115 innings last year. He has bouts of wildness (his 20 wild pitches ranked second in the South Atlantic League last year) and may not ever have true command. Scouts like his loose arm and projectable body while lamenting his longer arm action and sloppy delivery, which cause him to waste energy and get offline to the plate. He throws strikes to his arm side but hasn't shown he can command his fastball on the other side of the plate, limiting his options. Ramirez needs innings and experience to improve his feel for pitching, as well as strength to hold up better over the course of a full season. Only 20, he'll advance to high Class A with a good spring training.
New York wanted athletes in the 2010 draft and also focused on younger players. Gumbs didn't turn 18 until mid-October, and he played young after signing for $750,000 as a second-rounder. Scouts who saw the Yankees' fall minicamp thought Gumbs was more raw than Cito Culver even though he was exposed to better competition in southern California compared to what Culver saw in upstate New York. Gumbs has plenty of ability, though, and plays with energy and enthusiasm. His best tool is his bat speed, and he catches up to good fastballs. As he learns to trust his hands, he should be able to make adjustments to offspeed stuff. Gumbs has plus speed, getting down the line from the right side of the plate in less than 4.2 seconds, and above-average arm strength. He played shortstop in high school, for the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., and in his brief six-game pro debut, and the Yankees intend to keep him in the infield. He likely won't stay at shortstop, though, and some scouts doubt that his footwork, long arm stroke and actions are good enough for him to remain in the infield at all. He profiles fine in center field if needed, and he'll get plenty of time to develop. Gumbs likely will start 2011 in extended spring training and could head back to the Gulf Coast League, which would be fine at his age. He's a long-term project, and New York can afford the luxury of patience.
The Yankees are usually aggressive in the draft, but they had trouble getting their top picks under contract in 2008. First-rounder Gerrit Cole opted to attend UCLA and second-rounder Scott Bittle failed his physical, leaving supplemental first-rounder Bleich as the only one of their first three choices to sign. After reaching Double-A in his first full pro season, he was passed by fellow 2008 draftees Brett Marshall, David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell last year. Bleich didn't throw well to start the 2010 season. He had shown a surprising 90-92 mph fastball that peaked at 94 in 2009, but pitched in the upper 80s early last year. He had his usual solid-average curveball and changeup, but his good control was missing. Bleich had elbow issues in his draft year that resulted in him accepting a below-slot $700,000 bonus, and his shoulder was the reason for his troubles in 2010. He had surgery to repair a torn labrum in late May and missed the rest of the season. New York really won't know what it has until spring training, when Bleich starts readying for 2011. He's not expected to pitch meaningful innings until the second half of the season.
Brewer first gained attention in the Central Illinois Collegiate League (now known as the Prospect League) in 2006, when Baseball America ranked him the summer circuit's No. 7 prospect, one behind fellow current Yankees farmhand Pat Venditte. After three all-Missouri Valley Conference selections at three different positions and a strong Cape Cod League showing in 2007, Brewer went in the eighth round of the 2008 draft and started grinding his way through the minors. He has played all three outfield positions and seen brief action at first and third base, getting the most time in right field. He doesn't have typical corner-outfield power and wasn't considered much of a prospect until 2010, when a July injury to Austin Krum gave Brewer a three-week audition in center field in Double-A. He passed the test offensively and defensively. Playing with more confidence and showing the ability to make adjustments, Brewer hit .320 after July 1, including the Eastern League playoffs. Brewer earns solid grades across the board from scouts, with his hitting ability his best attribute. He has big, strong hands and good bat speed. His instincts help him in all phases of the game, enabling him to get the job done in center field and to steal 61 bases in 80 pro attempts despite just average speed. He lacks a carrying tool, but his aggressiveness, instincts and consistent production could get him to the majors. Brewer is a fourth outfielder at best for the Yankees but could be a second-division regular elsewhere. He's headed for Triple-A in 2011.
Kahnle entered 2010 season as the draft's top NCAA Division II prospect. While Southern Arkansas' Hayden Simpson passed him and went in the first round to the Cubs, Kahnle's draft stock held steady despite a 2-7, 5.06 season at Lynn (Fla.). He signed for $150,000 as a fifth-round pick. Kahnle helped pitch Lynn to a 2009 national title, earning MVP honors at the D-II College World Series after saving the championship game and pitching a total of 12 scoreless innings. The Yankees saw him throw well as a reliever in the Cape Cod League that summer and as a starter at Lynn last spring. Working out of the rotation, Kahnle showed a 93-95 mph fastball but lacked the feel for pitching or command needed to get through the order more than twice. He shifted to the bullpen full-time as a pro and pushed his fastball up to 96-98. His slider has its moments, and New York will let him keep it rather than trying to switch him to a curveball. He had a decent changeup as a starter but won't need it nearly as much as a reliever. Kahnle will shoot through the minors if he throws strikes, something that would be easier if he keeps his stocky body in shape. He could open his first full pro season in high Class A.
The 2011 season will be the first time Whitley concentrates solely on pitching. He was a three-sport star in high school before playing only baseball at Southern Union (Ala.) JC and Troy. Hitting was his focus for much of his college career, and he led Troy in both hitting (.364) and saves (seven) as a junior last spring. Signed for $68,000 as a 15th-round pick, Whitley finished his pro debut in high Class A, helping Tampa win the Florida State League championship. He resembles former Yankees farmhand T.J. Beam physically but has better stuff and a better future. His fastball sat at 88-92 mph in college, and New York hopes his velocity will jump now that he's a full-time pitcher. His plus changeup is his best pitch, but the Yankees had him shelve it late in the summer so he could develop his fastball and slider. His slider improved, and he could work as a starter if it continues to get better. Whitley has more upside than the average 15th-round pick and should move quickly if New York keeps him in the bullpen. He could finish his first full pro season in Double-A.
Venditte's ability to pitch effectively with both arms made him an All-American at Creighton and has allowed him to reach Double-A since signing for $10,000 as a 20th-round pick. He has been even more effective in pro ball than he was in college, going 10-4, 1.70 with 51 saves and 218 strikeouts in 175 innings. Venditte erases platoon advantages for hitters. He has more arm strength as a righthander, sitting in the upper 80s and scraping 90 mph with his fastball. He varies his arm angle and challenges hitters with three pitches, throwing strikes with his curveball and changeup. Venditte showed improvement as a lefthander in 2010, improving his fastball and tightening his slider. His velocity as a lefthander still is a concern, as his fastball operates in the lower 80s and his slider sits around 70 mph. The Yankees haven't considered Venditte a priority, but he has proven himself at every level and earned his first promotion to Double-A in 2010. He figures to return there in 2011, his first extended test at higher levels.