It's been another non-banner year for the Yankee Minor League system in 2013. Their top hitting prospects didn't have the big take-off years that many were hoping for/predicting, some of their higher-level prospects took a step back rather than forward as they started getting closer to Major League consideration, and injuries continued to affect the top pitching prospects in one way or another. This year's draft class brought some high-ceiling talent, though we'll have until next year to get a real good idea of what we're working with there. It wasn't a great year by any stretch of the imagination, but there were some promising developments from lesser known players lower in the system. As many of the MiL teams wrap up their 2013 seasons, here are a few names to keep an eye on for 2014.
Abi Avelino- SS Short Season Staten Island
Signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Avelino created a little buzz for himself heading into the start of the GCL season this year after hitting .313/.409/.402 in 55 games there in 2012. As an 18-year-old this season, he got off to a really hot start at the plate, displaying plus patience to go along with plus contact skills at the plate. He got off to a scorching start (.345/.424/.491) before cooling down a bit, and showed enough with the bat and the glove to get a promotion to the SS league. Overall he's hitting .302/.383/.402 with 28 SB in 182 ABs spread across both GCL teams and Staten Island and he's going to force his way into the discussion for best SS in the organization next year. He needs to add some pop to his bat, but his approach is advanced for his age and his defensive skills are enough to stick at the position.
Luis Severino- RHP Low-A Charleston
Another 2011 international signing out of the DR, Severino came at a higher price than Avelino (225k compared to 175k for Avi) and showed where that extra money went in 2013 after not doing much to distinguish himself in 14 GCL starts in 2012. In 6 GCL appearances (4 starts) this year, Severino allowed just 4 ER in 26.1 IP, with 32 strikeouts to just 6 walks. That earned him a spot start promotion to Charleston, where he pitched so well that he ended up sticking around. In 4 Low-A starts, Severino pitched to a 4.08 ERA and 2.24 FIP, not bad for a 19-year-old, and he's got 53 K to just 10 BB in 44.0 IP overall. He'll be 20 years old at the start of next season and he already has a very good fastball/slider combo. If he can develop a useful third pitch, he could rocket up prospect lists in the near future.
Greg Bird- 1B Low-A Charleston
When you look at the numbers Bird put up this year, you can't help but wonder why he's still in Low-A ball. Who did he piss off in the organization that he was one of the few hitting prospects to not get promoted this season? A .289/.423/.517 slash line (.429 wOBA), 20 HR, 83 RBI, 81 R, and 100 BB in 555 PA. That's an astounding 18.0% BB rate and that more than anything shows how much better Bird was than his pitching competition at this level. He led the South Atlantic League in multiple categories and was named to the Postseason All-Star Team yesterday. Drafted as a catcher in 2011, Bird has lost a little prospect luster by making the transition to first base. But his bat is very real and he should start getting more attention next year when he's bumped up to High-A.
Ben Gamel- OF Double-A Trenton
It seems like Gamel has been around forever. He's been plugging away in the lower levels, churning out good but not great seasons at each level - .330 wOBA in the GCL in 2010, .379 in Staten Island in '11, .339 in Charleston in '12 - and he's still only 21. He started this season in Tampa and finally showed some signs of improved pitch recognition and power, the 2 things that he's really going to need to stick as an everyday outfielder at the higher levels. Gamel hit .272/.352/.396 (.345 wOBA) with 35 XBH, 21 SB, and an 11.3% BB rate before getting a late-season boost to Double-A Trenton. His learning curve has been predictably tough in 53 PA, but he's set himself up nicely for next year. His athleticism and speed have always made him a good defensive outfielder and now he's starting to improve his offensive game to add to his value. I could see him having a ceiling of a rich man's Brett Gardner, and that kind of player would definitely stick in the show.
(Photo courtesy of MiLB.com)