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The Yankees Prospects Going Into 2013

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Tampa Yankees are the High-A affliate for the Yankees and served as the home for Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, Tyler Austion and Slade Heathcott during the 2012 season.

The Tampa Yankees are the High-A affiliate for the Yankees and served as the home for Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott during the 2012 season.

By Nicholas Rossoletti  (Yankees Correspondent/Trade Correspondent): 

Heading into the 2013 season, few things in the Yankee universe have been more controversial than the organizations goals to get under the $189 million salary mark after the season.  It has been largely debated as to whether such a goal is realistic for an organization known for spending wildly in its never-ending pursuit of championships.  

It is also hotly debated whether the goal will have the desired effect of taking some of the Yankee millions out of the revenue sharing arena and placing them back into the Steinbrenner family pockets.  I won’t spend much time discussing the benefits or negatives of a team sticking to a 189 million payroll, but I will say that it is very possible to build a world champion well within that budget.

The first step to building a future champion regardless of how much money the Yankees spend is to follow the formula that brought the Yankees success over the past two decades: build a base around young talent.  So with this article we will take a look at the prospects that Yankees fans have to hope pan out and begin heading for the Bronx.

Slade Heathcott showing off how to slide in the AFL:

Sanchez is the Yankees' top prospect going into 2013.  He is a rare athlete with a plus power bat, who has committed himself to the craft of being a catcher.  Yankees' fans will hope that Sanchez can one day add his name to a long list of Yankee legends behind the dish which includes Dickey, Berra, Munson and Posada.

Sanchez is the Yankees’ top prospect going into 2013. He is a rare athlete with a plus power bat, who has committed himself to the craft of being a catcher. Yankees’ fans will hope that Sanchez can one day add his name to a long list of Yankee legends behind the dish which includes Dickey, Berra, Munson and Posada.

The first prospect that we will focus on is also the reason that the Yankees have not gone out and tried to find a long term answer at Catcher.  Gary Sanchez is the Yankees top prospect and one of the highest ranked catching prospects in the game.  He is as key to the Yankees future as any prospect in the system, but it is important that Sanchez be allowed time to develop as he just turned 20 in December of last year.  Offensively, Sanchez is still growing as a hitter.

 His 22.5% K in A Ball and 22.2% in High-A are not great indicators of someone ready to take over a Major League position.  Combined with a below average Walk Rate, it is easy to see why the Yankees are interested in having Sanchez spend more time on the farm sharpening his skills.

 With that all being said, it is absolutely critical to remember that Sanchez played the entire 2012 season at age 19.  His once railed upon defense has improved to such an extent that many scouts and experts now believe that he will stick behind the plate.  Patience is key with a player like Sanchez.  

He will not see the Major Leagues in 2013 unless an unexpected September call-up occurs, and he may not even see the bigs in 2014.  The Yankees should stick with their young catcher and watch him develop.  For those wanting to follow Sanchez’s progress, I expect him to start with several other high profile Yankee prospects back at High-A Tampa and then transition to Double-A Trenton during the 2013 season.

Along with Sanchez, fellow prospect Mason Williams is a player to watch.  Those of us who grew up during this Yankee dynasty will remember a Yankee team that built up the middle with Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams provided elite, homegrown talent.  

The Yankees can only hope that this generation can find the same success up the middle with these athletes.  Like Sanchez, Williams has no experience above High-A, and his experience at that level was limited last year due to a shoulder injury to his non-throwing shoulder.  This season Williams should start the year at High-A again where the Yankees will hope to see Williams continue some fairly good habits.  First and foremost, most experts rave about Williams’ defensive capabilities.

 With both Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki on short-term contracts, having an elite defensive outfield prospect will permit the Yankees some comfort in allowing these players to walk away and leave the outfield to Williams and defensive gem, Brett Gardner.

Offensively, Williams has shown promise in limited Plate Appearances.  He has shown an ability to limit his Strike Outs at the lower levels of the Minor Leagues. Obviously, this is something to be happy about.  As with Sanchez and all prospects, it is important to manage our expectations for Williams as he moves forward.  He is only 21 (turning 22 in August) so the sky is the limit for this young man.  

I would expect at least half this season will be spent in High-A where he only has 83 At-Bats during his career. If the organization likes what it sees after that point, Williams should finish the year at Double-A.  This puts him in line for a potential debut in the Bronx sometime in 2014 although it is more likely that he will be an everyday option in 2015.  

Given Ichiro’s new two year pact and that Brett Gardner will still have one more year of Arbitration Eligibility, a potential 2015 arrival time is not necessarily a bad thing for Williams and the Yankees.

Tyler Austin has been invited to Major League Camp this year,  Both he and Mason Williams, made our top 100 Prospects list.  Both are 21 years old and could use another few seasons in the Minor Leagues.  A Trade may aid that thought process.

Tyler Austin was invited to Major League Camp this year, Austin and Mason Williams, both made our top 100 Prospects list andare 21 years old.  They could use another few seasons in the Minor Leagues. Austin went 4 – 7 in Spring Training – with 2 Doubles and a Triple as part of hits.  He was sent down to the Minors on Mar.6/2013.

Coming up along with Williams are two Outfielders who have the makings of potential everyday starters in the Major Leagues. Tyler Austin is slightly younger than Mason Williams, but his bat seems more advanced at this point.  Particularly, Austin’s “hit tool” seems a bit more advanced to Williams’ early on.  Below this article you can watch the interview the MLB Reports did with Austin last year.

During Austin’s stay at A and High-A last year, he managed to bat around .320 while putting up above average to average walk rates of 12.0% in A Ball and 8.1% in High-A.  Obviously, this is a terrific sign for Austin’s offense.  The one caution I would throw out there is his BABIP of .380 and .394 is very high.  

BABIP is a funny stat and can change from player to player so a high BABIP for one player doesn’t necessarily have to regress to the mean, but I would say with a Batting Average On Balls In Play that high it is likely that Austin’s average decreases slightly.  With that being said, there is a lot to be excited about with this youngster.

Austin had a two game call-up in Double-A during the 2012 season and should find himself there fairly quickly (if not to start the season) in 2013.  His performance at that level will be very telling as there is normally a fairly large jump in talent from High-A to Double-A.  Things to look for at Double-A from Austin this year are his ability to continue to successful control the strike zone as well as carrying over an around .500 Slugging Percentage.  

If Austin can carry those offensive traits into Double-A while playing a serviceable Right Field, the Yankees may have found an answer long term to one of their corner outfield spots.  Certainly, such statistics at Double-A may even lead to a September call-up with the Yanks and a potential job in 2014.

Austin is not alone in quest to be a future Yankee corner Outfielder.  Zachary “Slade” Heathcott is another Yankee prospect that fans should keep an eye on.  Heathcott has been around the Yankee system longer than Sanchez, Williams or Austin having started with the Yanks in 2009, however, he is far from an “elder” statesmen as he will play almost all of 2013 at age 22.  

The story on Heathcott is simple.  Injuries have killed him throughout his professional career, but Heathcott strung together some nice At Bats at High-A last year and then absolutely mashed his way through the Arizona Fall League to a slash line of .388/.494/.612. The Yankees will have to decide where to start Heathcott this season.  

He lasted in the Major League camp until March 18, 2012, but the team only gave him very limited opportunity during his time there.  This is not surprising because there was almost no chance he was going to break camp with the big club, but hopefully, it says that the team wanted to work with Heathcott during spring on his approach as they value him as an asset.

This players are the four best prospects in the Yankees’ system right now.  None of them are particularly close to playing with the big club in 2013, but all of them offer great potential value moving forward for the organization.  There is something unique about these prospects that differs from a lot of Yankee top prospects over the last 5 to 7 years.  They are all everyday players. 

After the Yankee string of top-level young pitching included prospects like Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy and even last year’s B&B boys of Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, fans are used to being more excited about the young talent on the bump than the young talent around the diamond. 

Recently, due to injury to Michael Pineda, Banuelos and Jose Campos as well as ineffectiveness from Bentances, the Yankees top level farm hands have moved from pitching to hitting.  This is not a bad thing but a different situation for the Yankees. Obviously this could all change in-season. 

Campos is expected back at full strength and the Yankees are welcoming their 2012 first round pick Ty Hensley into the fold.  Pineda is working his way back towards a mid-season return to the Major Leagues although I always caution patience and to limit expectations when a player is returning from a shoulder injury. 

Banuelos probably will not pitch competitively until very late in the season as he returns from Tommy John Surgery.  There is young talent on the bump, but it is behind these young bats right now (mostly due to health).

Again, none of the players mentioned above (hopefully with the exception of Pineda) will grace the Yankees with their presence for much time at all this season.  However, that does not mean there are not some prospects fighting for time in the Bronx. 

The most popular name this spring has been Ronnier Mustelier, a Cuban born 28 year old.  Mustelier, or Musty as Joe Girardi (and the Yankee twitterverse) has come to call him, spent 2012 between Double-A and Triple-A where he posted fantastic wOBAs of .445 and .367.  Musty can just plain hit.  His slash line of .313/.371/.500 is supported by his sample size in the Minor Leagues. 

In 385 At Bats at Triple-A, Musty posted a slash line of .303/.359/.455, and his Double-A numbers were better.  The problem is finding a place for him to play in the field regularly.  Having come up in Cuba as a 3rd Baseman, the obvious solution for fans was to move Kevin Youkilis to 1st Base while Mark Teixeira‘s wrist heals. 

This idea is still being kicked around and Musty is still fighting for his spot on the 25 man roster, but the Yankees are not known for trusting key At Bats to youngsters.  Hopefully, this changes as Mustelier could be a key to supporting the Yankee line-up while some its stars get healthy.

Of the players on the farm ready to contribute right now, there isn't a more important name to know than Ronnier Mustelier.  Musty has been trying to hit his way into regular At Bats in the Yankees line-up during Spring Training. He might have just done it.

Of the players on the farm ready to contribute right now, there isn’t a more important name to know than Ronnier Mustelier. Musty has been trying to hit his way into regular At Bats in the Yankees line-up during Spring Training. He might have just done it.

Melky Mesa, a 26 year old Outfielder, is also trying to make the team.  Mesa is more of a defensive gem, whose offense will probably keep him from ever being more than a fourth outfielder/rotational player in the big leagues.  His Minor League sample sizes show Strike Out Rates between 20-30% which is very high, and fluctuating power/speed combination that hasn’t stayed steady throughout his time in the minors. 

Mesa has gotten a chance this spring, but his bat has been found wanting with a Slash Line of .196/.255/.333, which is one of the reasons the Yankees decided to bring on Brennan Boesch and Ben Francisco to compete for Outfield At Bats during Curtis Granderson’s absence. 

Other prospects have been given a shot, and throughout the year, we will come back and discuss each of the player’s discussed here as well as others who could affect the Yankees’ present and future.  For now, be at ease Yankee fans, the future is bright. Led by assets like Sanchez, Williams, Austin and Heathcott, the Yankees can remain a power for years to come. Now we just have to hope the boys in the Bronx don’t trade them first. 

Will Mason Williams be the next great home grown centerfielder for the Yankees? Defensively, many experts say he is already there, but the Yankees will need to see more from their young phenom on the farm before they are ready to bring him up to roam the hallowed grass in the Bronx.

Will Mason Williams be the next great home grown Center Fielder for the Yankees? Defensively, many experts say he is already there, but the Yankees will need to see more from their young phenom on the farm before they are ready to bring him up to roam the hallowed grass in the Bronx.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

A big thank-you goes out to Our ‘Trade and Yankees Correspondent’ Nicholas Rossoletti for preparing today’s featured article. Nicholas is a young professional living in downtown Miami. He is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid Yankee supporter. Having grown up during the last two decades, he counts Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as his favorite ball players of all time. He believes in sabermetrics and that new stats have already changed the way the baseball industry sees players.

He was for Trout over Cabrera, he thinks RBIs tell you a lot more about a team than a player and that defense and pitching, ultimately, win championships. Rational thought and introspective analysis over the narrative is how we come to understand the game we love. The narrative is just a way to keep those who don’t really love the game watching. Feel free to follow Nicholas on twitter and talk the game of baseball

“There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem – once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.” ~ Al Gallagher, 1971

a    nicholas rossoletti

Please e-mail me at: mlbreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback. You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook. To subscribe to our website and have the Daily Reports sent directly to your inbox, click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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MLB Reports Senior Reporter Lori Martini interviews Tyler Austin:

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Posted on March 23, 2013, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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