Now that the minor league season is a week old I thought it would be a good time to look at how everyone was doing. Sure it’s a tiny sample size of games, but after a terrible 2013 I feel fans probably want to see the system get off to a hot start. This will hopefully be a season of redemption for the system.
If the Yankees farm system wants to redeem themselves they will have to rely on a couple of former top prospects to return to form.
The first prospect that I will be mentioning is Mason Williams. Williams was considered the Yankees best or second-best prospect a year ago. But he struggled greatly in A+ and AA. He was recovering from an offseason shoulder surgery, but we still expected a lot more from him.
And it wasn’t just that he posted bad numbers, it was his overall attitude that diminished his stock. According to scouts he wasn’t running down the line, and just seemed to not be trying as hard as he could. A lot of people gave up on him because of his “poor attitude”, but sometimes a poor season can humble a player.
When I saw Mason in spring training, it was clear that he was trying. He was hustling down the line, and making very difficult plays in the outfield. He looked like he was in very good shape, and if he gained weight last season it was clearly gone now. He may have struggled at the plate, but he was making contact, and overall I thought he looked good.
Apparently I was right, as Matt Kardos has tweeted that Williams looks very different this year. Matt covered the Thunder last season, so he got to see Williams in 17 games. Apparently Williams is the guy that’s impressing him the most. Considering that Gary Sanchez is on the team, that’s a big deal.
William’s stats don’t look so great after a 0-4 game, but at this point of the year that’s to be expected. He still hasn’t shown much power this season, but fans should be happy that he looks a lot better. Hopefully continues getting on-base, and the power shows up soon.
William’s fellow teammate Tyler Austin also has a lot to prove this year. He has battled a wrist injury for about a year now, and it has really hurt his prospect status. He’s still considered a top-100 prospect by Keith Law, but there’s no denying his prospect status has slipped.
He simply couldn’t hit while his wrist was bothering him. And unlike Mason, he needs to hit to be a major leaguer. He doesn’t have plus speed or defense. Austin has shown a good hit tool and decent power tool when healthy, but it just seems that wrist surgery is on the horizon for him. He keeps resting it and coming back, but the problem never goes away. So fans should be watching his health this season.
Another interesting Austin tidbit is that he is getting reps at first and third, two positions he has some experience at. If he is able to show good versatility and stay healthy he might have a role on the team this season. He has a good enough bat for right field, which means his bat would be pretty good at third. He might be their best third base prospect if he sticks at the position.
Another player looking for redemption is Dante Bichette Jr. He has been awful for two years now. Before this season some fans were wondering where he’d even get playing time. The Yankees made a somewhat surprising move and sent him to High-A ball, to begin this season. At this level he has mostly played as the designated hitter-- due to Eric Jagielo playing third.
So far the young third baseman has done an adequate job in Tampa. He has an OPS of .811, and has shown a knack for getting on base. We would still like to see more power, but let’s not forget the Florida State League isn’t very kind to hitters.
I would still like to see him play a few more games at third, as he has a lot to improve on defensively. Overall I’m happy to see him start the year off well, but he has a lot more to prove. He was never the prospect that Williams and Austin were, so he’d have to really perform well to change his prospect stock.
So far the only top prospect that hasn’t started to redeem himself is Bryan Mitchell. Of course he only has two starts, but those two starts demonstrated a problem he has had for years. He just loses the zone sometimes. He has good stuff, and is working on a new cutter, but we would still want better early results. I would be more worried about him if he didn’t have a good spring and a good fall back option as a reliever, but I am still a bit worried. He has to lower his walk total, there’s no other way to put it. If he doesn’t show improvement the team will eventually have no choice but to make him a reliever.
In total l I would say that most of the Yankees pitching prospects had up and down performances. Starters that have done well so far include: Manny Banuelos, Caleb Smith, Rookie Davis, Dietrich Enns, and Brady Lail. Lail and Manny have been the most impressive. Manny is currently regaining his feel for pitching in Tampa, and is doing very well. The fact that he has zero walks is very encouraging.
Lail is a major sleeper in this system, and was pretty impressive in his debut, especially since he hasn't pitched at this level before. He only has one start so far, and the most any of these guys have is 2, so it’s hard to get too excited, but it’s nice to see him responding to his promotion.
In my opinion Caleb Smith should be at a higher level, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets called up soon. He has earned the promotion with his performance last season. He even pitched well in his short stay at AA. I didn’t expect them to push him to AA again, but I would thought he’d be in Tampa already.
Lastly Severino and De Paula, both had shaky debuts. De Paula is still walking batters, though his overall performance was an improvement. Severino had 1 bad start and the only reason I’m mentioning it, is because he is one the team’s best prospects. I wouldn’t be too overly concerned with anyone’s performance, but especially not Severino’s.
Week 1 MVP
The system’s best week one performer is also the system’s best prospect. Gary Sanchez has really had himself quite the week. His OPS is currently over a 1.000, and he is really starting to get extra-base hits. People were a bit down on his offense game last season so it’s nice to see him show his true potential early.
Runner up: Mike Ford, Peter O’Brien, Eric Jagielo. Ford and O’Brien both have an OPS of 1.000 or above. Jagielo “only” has an OPS of .940, but he has really turned it on after going 0-10. This article was primarily focused on players that need to redeem themselves, but Jagielo is a reminder that this system added a lot more talent last season.
Week 1 CY Young
The organizations best pitcher so far has to be Manny Banuelos. He has done very well in his two starts. I understand that he’s advanced for this system, but he is that old for high-A. He was the younger pitcher in his first game, and was pretty much the same age as his opposing starter in his second game. He has yet to walk someone, and has shown that he has very little rust. He’ll slowly make his way back to AAA. His return is a big boost to the system.
Runner up: Eric Wooten, Rookie Davis, and Caleb Smith. Wooten has really pitched well for the team the past couple of seasons. The Yankees signed him out of Independent ball, and he has shown the ability to command the strike zone. He walked one batter in his debut and struck out 5. He only pitched 5 innings, but he is quickly making a name for himself. His k/BB rate as a Yankee is very good. There’s no telling how this signing will work out, but the early signs are encouraging.