Sunday, February 1, 2015

My Favorite Prospects/Youngsters

Well, it's Prospects Month here at The Greedy Pinstripes, a time when I'm usually pretty quiet as I have little to nothing to contribute to the topic. However, seeing as how I've already been pretty quiet around here, why not really mix things up by actually posting something on prospects/youngsters?

"What has happened to the guy that didn't care about prospects? Also, why am I still using a CRT computer monitor?"

For those of you new to TGP, while I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a prospect hater, I'm certainly not somebody that loves to gush over minor leaguers (or, as I call them... prospect humpers). When the Yankees traded top prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle for Michael Pineda, one of my big arguments in favor of the deal was the fact that while Montero had very little MLB-experience (69 plate appearances), Pineda had been an All Star and finished fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

Frankly, I was more interested in what was going on with the Yankees at that moment, and not so much with what the future may hold. But that was then, and this is now. You see, "then" the Yankees were legit contenders year in and year out, whereas "now" many around baseball see a Wild Card berth as a reach for the 2015 Yanks. Furthermore, the retirement of Derek Jeter... the last of the Core Four (or Five)... has driven home the point that we're about to embark on a new Yankees franchise.

That means the future means more now than it has nearly twenty years, meaning it's time for me to take notice. So here are five young current Yankees, and five future Yankees, that I'm the most excited about seeing in 2015.

5. Dellin Betances

While Dellin isn't that young (he'll turn 27 in March), he'll be under team control for the next five years. That's a great thing for two reasons... 1) he'll be relatively cheap during what is normally a player's most productive years, and 2) when he starts to decline the Yankees can just let him sail into free agency and another team's arms. Although, I could easily see him being a Yankee for life, a la Mariano Rivera. Then again, I thought the same thing about David Robertson, and he'll be wearing a different set of pinstripes next season.

Now, I didn't mean to imply that he'll be as good as Mo was, but you can't deny the fact that Dellin could very well be the league's next great closer. He's been able to mix a great fastball with a killer breaking ball, leading to a swinging strike percentage that ranked 3rd in the American League last season (by the way, Masahiro Tanaka topped that list). Add a good ground ball rate to that combo of pitches, and Betances could make teams have to win the game in 8 innings instead of 9.

4. Didi Gregorius

Didi isn't a top prospect by any means, but you have to remember that he's only 24 (25 in a couple of weeks), and probably has yet to reach his full potential. He hit .287/.350/.452 in 112 games in AAA, which includes a batting line of .310/.389/.447 in 57 games for the Diamondbacks AAA affiliate last year. So there's reason to believe he's better hitter than the guy that hit .226/.290/.363 in 80 games for Arizona in 2014.

As for his defense, Gregorius is probably not going to win any Gold Gloves, but he's not "bad" either. And in comparison to the defense the Yankees got out of Jeter for the past decade, we could be in for a real treat.

This may just be another case of "shiny new toy" syndrome, but it's nice knowing that the Yankees could be set at the shortstop position for the next five years (or more thanks to Jorge Mateo).

3. Nathan Eovladi

Like Didi Gregorius, Eovaldi will turn 25 in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, he got the ball rolling in MLB a year earlier than Didi, meaning he can be a free agent in 2018 instead of 2019. Some Yankees fans couldn't care less about Nathan's service time, as they can't help but dwell on the fact that he led the National League in hits against last season. Not to mention having a high hit rate in 2012 too. But there are a couple of reasons why neither they nor you should dismiss him.

Did you know that while he gave up the most hits in the NL last season, Eovaldi also had the highest batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in the league too? Even in 2012, his BABIP was the 6th highest in the NL. While in 2013, when that BABIP was closer to league average, Nathan was a very effective starter (3.39 ERA).

Another that went against Eovaldi last season was the Marlins defense, which was ranked 21st in Major League Baseball. For the record, the Yankees were ranked 9th. With Gregorius taking over for Jeter, and having a full year of Chase Headley over 800+ innings of Yangervis Solarte and Kelly Johnson (two poor fielders), there's a pretty good chance the Yankees got themselves a very effective weapon for the rotation.

2. Michael Pineda

This entry onto my list is a bit different than the others, as I can't say I'm excited in a good way to see what Pineda can do next season. Instead, my interest revolves around concern for how far he could fall.

You see, while people have huge smiles on their faces thanks to his ERA of 1.89 in 13 starts last year, I worry about the combination of a mediocre 7.0 K/9, along with an incredibly low BABIP of .235. And that doesn't even factor in the health of his shoulder. Frankly, I'm just hoping his ERA doesn't balloon to 5-something, and he ends up being put back on the 60-day Disabled List.

Thankfully he's not under a large contract like CC Sabathia, so the team could really dodge a bullet here. But I will end this entry by saying that if Pineda does stay healthy, then his few seasons with the team could be awesome. Especially if he can keep his walk rate down, and keep his swinging strike percentage up.

1. Masahiro Tanaka

In researching this article I was hit again by Tanaka's opt-out clause, which means he could become a free agent after the 2017 season. I understand why a player would love such a clause, but it makes zero sense to me from a team standpoint. If he's great he can opt-out, meaning the Yankees will have to shell out a huge contract to keep him (Sabathia). If he stinks, then the Yankees will pay him a boatload of money for little to nothing in return (Rodriguez). But I may as well stop whining, because what's done is done.

As for 2015, my only concern is for his elbow. If Masahiro is able to avoid Tommy John Surgery, then I see no reason why he can't be the team's ace once again. I've already covered his league leading swinging strike percentage, but I'd like to add that he had the third lowest contact rate in the league too. And like Pineda, he rarely walks hitters, as evidenced by his #10 ranking among pitchers with the lowest walk percentages last season.

Just imagine if he'd been able to start at least 30 games instead of 20 last year. That could have easily given the team another five wins, meaning they would have been in the playoffs.

"We probably would have lost, anyway."

Here are the five players in the minor leagues that really interest me. By the way, I'm not going to go into much detail as to why they've caught my eye. I may not look down upon prospects like I used to, but that doesn't mean I'm going to fawn all over them either.

5. Ian Clarkin

I don't believe he has as high a ceiling as other pitching prospects, but being a left-hander could make him a great asset to have in the middle of the rotation. He also has some nice raw material to work with, like good velocity, a great curveball, and a nice change-up.

4. Greg Bird

Greg Bird made Keith Law's Top 100 Prospects list, due in part to a great hitting approach. Law points out that that approach could lead to a high-OBP/low-BA type of hitter. His defense needs work though, which could very well be the only thing keeping him from being the heir to Mark Teixeira.

3. Rob Refsnyder

Refsnyder had a great 2014, hitting .318 between AA and AAA. He also had an OBP of .387, and has the ability to hit quite a few doubles. His defense is still a little rough at second base, but that has a lot to do with getting more reps at the position, as opposed to him simply not having what it takes to succeed there.

2. Luis Severino

Luis may be the next young, cost-controlled, pitcher that anchors the Yankees' starting rotation. He has a fastball that can get into the high 90s, has developed a really good changeup, and his slider could also be a very effective weapon.

1. Aaron Judge 

The 2014 Yankees only had 34 home runs from their regular outfielders (Gardner - 17, Ellsbury - 18, and Suzuki - 1), which is really sad for any team... let alone one nicknamed the Bronx Bombers. However, Judge could help turn that around soon. It's currently said that he has 20-25 HR power, but has yet to actually tap into his power potential.

"Just bring me my whoopin' stick."
"You're what?"
"My bat... just give me my bat."

I've said it before, and I'll say it again... I have a strange, but great, feeling going into the 2015 Yankees' season. The season could be awesome thanks to guys like Gregorius and Eovaldi really stepping up, or it could be a disaster due to Tanaka's elbow and Pineda's shoulder failing them.  All that uncertainty has taken the pressure off of them having to make the postseason, and we can just enjoy Yankee baseball again.


  1. FYI, in case you didn't know or even care Bryan, Bird only needs defense help and work because he was drafted as a catcher and hasn't been playing first base for long.


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