Update: Minutes after this post was published, Law also released his top-100 prospect rankings. Angels’ outfield prospect Mike Trout topped the list, just ahead of 2010 draft wunderkind Bryce Harper and the Phillies’ Domonic Brown.
As for the Yankees, Jesus Montero ranked highest on the list at number four. According to Law, Montero’s ability to hit is without question (he invoked Frank Thomas as a comparison), but concerns about his defense as well as the durability of catchers his size remain. Also appearing in the top-100 were four other Yankees, most notably Manny Banuelos, who not only ranked 12th overall, but also fourth among pitchers. Despite his young age, Law stated that his advanced physical development means Banuelos isn’t far from helping the big league club. Perhaps, he will be the Yankees mystery fifth starter by midseason?
Also ranked in the top 100 were Gary Sanchez (68), Dellin Betances (73) and Andrew Brackman (88), while Austin Romine just missed the cut. Rounding out Law’s list of the Yankees’ top-10 prospects were Graham Stoneburner, Slade Heathcott, Hector Noesi and Adam Warren.
Keith Law’s latest MLB organization rankings have been posted at ESPN.com, and the Yankees find themselves inside the top-10. Law singled out the team’s catching depth, which includes Jesus Montero, Gary Sanchez and Austine Romine. Law was also impressed with the development of Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman, both of whom made significant strides in their recovery from injury. Also mentioned were Manny Banuelos as well as a mystery player selected toward the end of last year’s draft. On Friday, Law intends to publish a profile on that player, so all readers with an ESPN insider account should mark it on their calendars.
Law’s high opinion of the Yankees’ farm system echoed Jonathan Mayo’s prospect rankings, which were unveiled at MLB.com on Tuesday. The Yankees placed three prospects –Montero (9), Sanchez (32) and Banuelos (35) – on Mayo’s list of the game’s top-50 prospects, while Betances just missed the cut at 53. Like Law, Mayo also rated the Royals (six prospects) and Rays (four prospects) highly. On the other end of the spectrum, the Mets, Marlins, Brewers and A’s were the only four teams not represented.
Law’s and Mayo’s findings validate Brian Cashman’s strategy of paying almost as much attention to the minors as the major league roster. Even as the Yankees have been able to maintain a championship caliber team, Cashman has simultaneously gone about rebuilding and then fortifying the team’s farm system, which is why the general manager was so reticent to surrender a first round draft pick with the signing of Rafael Soriano. The strength of the farm also provides insight into why Cashman has been so patient this offseason. As Steve S. at TYU noted in his excellent recap of Cashman’s WFAN breakfast chat, the Yankees’ general manager believes Banuelos and Betances both have “Phil Hughes or better ceilings”, and all levels of the minors will feature legitimate prospects in their respective rotations. Cashman even relayed Gene Michael’s belief that David Phelps and Adam Warren could be better than Ivan Nova.
Although Mayo’s list is available in its entirety at MLB, Law’s work (which is probably the most exhaustive and informative in the field) remains behind ESPN’s pay wall. So, listed below is a brief and select summary of his conclusions.
- The Royals not only have the most prospects, but also have a good balance between pitchers and hitters. However, according to Law, what sets the Royals apart is a bevy of left handed starters with significant upside potential.
- The A.L. East is loaded with prospects. Not only did the Rays rank second on Law’s list (and with nine first round selections in 2011, their system should only get stronger), but the Blue Jays checked in at fourth, while the Yankees ranked ninth and the Red Sox placed 11th. That news is unfortunate for Baltimore, which placed 24th on the list. According to Law, part of the reason for the Orioles’ low ranking was depletion due to recent promotions (e.g., Matt Wieters, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman), but also the team’s neglect of the international amateur market.
- The Mets may be rebuilding, but according to Law, they won’t be getting much help from the farm. Thanks in large part to the team’s adherence to slot recommendations, the Mets’ farm system has become one of the most barren in the sport. Undoubtedly, under Sandy Alderson, the team will adopt a more aggressive draft strategy, but if Law’s ranking at 26th is any indication, Mets’ fans shouldn’t expect a quick turnaround.
- Offseason trades of Adrian Gonzalez, Zack Greinke, and Matt Garza all had a sizeable influence on the rankings. The Padres were perhaps the biggest beneficiaries, but the Royals and Rays also further strengthened their prospect depth as a result of these trades. On the other end, although the Cubs and Red Sox both maintained healthy systems after their respective blockbuster deals, the Brewers’ acquisition of Greinke sent an already dwindling system to the bottom of Law’s list.