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Prospects vs. Suspects – Pt. II

Over the last several years, the Yankee minor league system has been feeding the big league team quite well. Developed in the system were players such as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Miguel Andújar, Jordan Montgomery, Domingo German (acquired at 21 from the Marlins, but developed in the Yankee system), and others.

Some have become All-Stars in their short tenures at the big league level.

All of them turned out to be real Prospects and developed into established major leaguer players. The jury is still out on Montgomery and German to some degree, but both showed major league ability during their first 2 -3 seasons.

Montgomery going 11-7 with a 3.91 ERA, before injury cost him most of 2018 and 2019. German was 20-11 with a 4.52 ERA in his first 3 seasons. He is currently suspended for the first half of this season under the MLB domestic violence policy.

FYI- Gleyber Torres is not included in the above because he was a fully developed, 20 year old top Prospect in the Chicago Cubs system when the Yankees acquired him. Thank you Theo Epstein!

As we discussed earlier this winter in Prospects vs. Suspects Pt I scouting, drafting, and developing players is not an exact science, and in many cases is nothing more than a gamble.

To that end, I thought I would do a retrospective analysis of the top 10 prospects from 2009 & 2015, and then look at the 2020 top 10 (according to the YES network) to try and put some of these sky high projections and/or expectations into reasonable perspective, and to see how the 2009 and 2015 groups lived up to the hype that surrounded several of them.

The top 10 Prospects in 2009 were reported as follows:

2009 top 10.JPG

From this group, there are really only four players that had any quantifiable level of impact at the major league level; Austin Jackson, Austin Romine, Ivan Nova and Zach McAllister.

Injuries definitely played a role in some of these less than spectacular results, especially with Manny Banuelos.

Austin Jackson along with Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke were all part of that December 2009 three way trade involving the Yankees, Tigers and Diamondbacks. The trade ended up with the Yanks acquiring Curtis Granderson from the Tigers.

Granderson was an excellent player/person and I’d trade for him all over again.

Jackson had a decent career but never lived up to the level of expectation that was levied upon him, and bounced around the league a bit. He retired after the 2018 season, as a Met.

Of note in that trade, the Tigers landed Max Scherzer.

How different would the last several years have turned out if the Yankees were on the receiving end of the Max Scherzer deal?

Austin Romine became an excellent backup catcher and fan favorite that played a key role for the Yankees the last four or so years. I’m sorry to see him leave, but happy for him if he becomes the starting catcher in Detroit.

Ivan Nova was the key piece in the 2016 deadline trade with the Pirates. The Yankees acquired Outfielder Tito Polo and Pitcher Stephan Tarpley.

Polo was then part of the trade with the White Sox that landed Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle a year later.

Another trade I’d make again.

Nova spent 5 ½ years with the Yankees and is a competent middle of the rotation starting pitcher. He is currently a Detroit Tiger.

Zach McAllister was traded to the Indians in the 2010 trade that brought Austin Kearns to the Yankees for the stretch run.

McAllister pitched for 8 years and eventually settled into a middle relief role with Terry Francona’s Indians. He is currently a non-roster invitee of the Dodgers.

Of the remaining players on the 2009 top 10 list; Jesus Montero was traded to the Mariners for Michael Pineda in 2011. Since then he has been traded several times and was ultimately released by the Orioles in April of 2018. He played for two teams in the Venezuelan Winter League 2018-2019 season.

Vizcaíno was traded from the Yankees to the Braves with Melky Cabrera and Mike Dunn for Javier Vazquez (part II) and Boone Logan in 2009. In his 7 years in the majors he’s been a middle reliever and is currently a Mariner.

Jairo Heredia never got to the show.

Jeremy Bleich suffered some shoulder injuries while in the Yankee system. He became a minor league free agent in 2015. He bounced around other minor league systems and did make it to the major leagues in 2018 with the Oakland A’s. He is currently a free agent.

The one that personally surprised me the most was Slade Heathcott. I was intrigued by his abilities and followed his minor league career, and thought he had a chance to be something special. When the Yankees called him up to the majors in 2015 he had 30 plate appearances and hit .400 with 2 home runs and 8 RBI. Including a game-winning home run against the Tampa Bay Rays’ closer Brian Boxberger. I thought my optimism for him was right on note; he was the real deal.

Slade battled some injuries and personal demons, and it just didn’t happen. He retired from baseball on January 15, 2019, in order to become a commercial pilot.

Not a terrible outcome as 4 of the 10 had decent major league careers, albeit not star players. I would expect 1 or 2 from the top 10 to have more impact at the major league level. So I would say 2009 had more Suspects than Prospects.

The top 10 Prospects in 2015 were reported as follows:

2015 top 10.JPG

OK. That’s more like it.

Four on this list (Severino, Judge, Sanchez, and Andújar) have definitely made an impact at the major league level, and are clearly part of the foundation of a potential championship Yankee team, Severino’s injury notwithstanding. Greg Bird has made an impact as well (some may disagree) and I believe will resurrect his career, if he can stay healthy. He is currently in the Texas Rangers camp.

Additionally, Refsnyder is also playing for the Texas Rangers, and has a chance to break camp with the big team this spring as a utility player,

Jorge Mateo, was part of the Sonny Gray trade. He had a very solid 2019 in the Pacific Coast League (AAA) and has an excellent shot at making the Oakland A’s this spring. He is only 24 years old.

As far as the remainder of the list is concerned; Jacob Lindgren has been a career minor leaguer who had to have Tommy John surgery in 2015. He is currently in the White Sox system.

Ian Clarkin was part of the Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle trade with the White Sox. He was a career minor leaguer who was released by the Cubs last season.

Luis Torrens had serious shoulder injuries, was selected in the rule 5 draft in 2016 by the Reds and then traded to the Padres. He is still in the Padre system.

Clearly, injuries played a role in the 2015 group as well, but that is just a part of the whole challenge of developing players.

The 2015 Top 10 definitely had more Prospects then Suspects.

The top 10 Prospects in 2020 were reported as follows:

2020 top 10.JPG

Realistically knocking on the door this season from the 2020 top 10 list are; Albert Abreu, Clark Schmidt and possibly Deivi Garcia (I believe he needs more time) & Estevan Florial, see my analysis of them in Prospects vs. Suspects Pt I .

Further down the road is the obvious five tool stud—Jasson Dominguez (16), along with last year’s first round pick Anthony Volpe (18).

Pitchers Abreu, Medina, and Gil are getting closer and we may possibly see one or more of them this year if the injury bug continues its rampage through the major league level, as we just saw this week with Severino needing Tommy John surgery.

Ezequiel Duran is a 20 year old second baseman who had a rebound season in 2019 with Staten Island by hitting .256 with 13 home runs.

Kevin Alcantara, only 17, is still a work in progress. At 6’ 6’’ and 188 lbs. he features two above-average tools; defense and speed. He has a good approach at the plate and bat control, along with plus bat speed. He may be one to watch.

Not on the 2020 top 10 list are some interesting players as well, such as pitchers Michael King, Miguel Yajure, T.J. Sikkema, Catcher Josh Breaux, and outfielder Canaan Smith.

Michael King is actually in the discussion for the fifth starter job this spring and OF Canaan Smith looks like he is going to be moving up the ladder very soon. Ditto for Josh Breaux.

It’s no secret that the Yankees are very high on Miguel Yajure; a very interesting strike throwing machine with 4 pitches in his repertoire.

T.J. Sikkema, only 21 years old, is a lefty pitcher with four high-quality pitches, hitting 95 mph on his fastball, a sinker between 89-91 mph, a high-spin rate slider between 78-83 mph and a sinking change up.

If the 2020 group turns out more like the 2015 group (Prospects) and not like the 2009 group (Suspects), the next wave of foundational players will be in place.

We won’t know for several more years in some cases (Dominguez, Volpe, Alcantara are still teenagers), and we may find out very soon in other cases.

Who in the 2020 group become real Prospects that develop into impact major league players?

Is it one or two, or is it four or five, or even more?

Will injuries play a huge role in determining their fate?

Only time will tell.

It will be interesting to to see how it unfolds..


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