Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Better Know a Prospect Countdown: 15 - 6

You can find part one of this series here. This post will remain at the top of the page throughout the day, so scroll down a bit for other news and musings throughout the day.

Jose Ramirez, RHP, 20
A - 115 IP, 106 H, 42 BB, 105 K, 3.60 ERA

I may be a bit optimistic with this projection, as many believe that Ramirez is destined to be a reliever. While that argument is not without merit, I cannot help but feel that he could be a tremendous closer at that, which could justify this ranking as well (think pre-injury Eric Gagne). Ramirez is primarily a fastball and change-up pitcher. His fastball sits around 94 MPH with great movement, and his change-up is even better - it's a high-70s offering with the same arm action as his fastball and cutter-like movement. The issue here is his curveball, which remains a work in progress and is erratic at best. With even an average curve, however, he could be a number two starter - he's certainly young enough to improve.

Corban Joseph, 2B, 22
A+/AA - .283/.362/.415, 6 HR, 6 SB, 58 BB, 107 K

In his time with the Yankees organization, Joseph has garnered a reputation for being a video junkie. He spends hours in the video room, breaking down his at-bats and swing mechanics in working to improve his approach at the plate. This has worked quite well to-date, as Joseph is a tremendous line-drive hitter with fine plate discipline and good bat control. To many, Joseph is quite similar to Michael Young in this regard - and therein lies the rub. Like Young, Joseph may not have a true position. He has the athleticism and arm strength for second or third, but his reaction time and first step have been routinely questioned. Should he move over to the hot corner, his value would assuredly take a hit due to his middling power. I'm confident that his work ethic will aid him in becoming at least a passable second baseman, though not enough so to rank him much higher.

Ivan Nova, RHP, 23
AAA - 145 IP, 135 H, 48 BB, 115 K, 2.86 ERA
MLB - 42 IP, 44 H, 17 BB, 26 K, 4.50 ERA

Nova is something of a known quantity at this point, but I would be doing our readers a disservice by not discussing him a bit. His repertoire includes a solid-average fastball (between 90 and 92 MPH), change-up, and curve, all of which have shown flashes of improvement. The main concern here is that there's simply no deception in Nova's delivery, so when his stuff isn't at its best, hitters will be able to tee-off on his fastball. There's time for him to tinker with his delivery, but I'm not sure that his stuff could take him much higher than a fourth starter - he actually reminds me of Javier Vazquez, but reaching that level would take a bit more than a refashioned delivery.

Eduardo Nunez, SS, 23
AAA - .289/.340/.381, 4 HR, 23 SB, 32 BB, 60 K
MLB - .280/.321/.360, 1 HR, 5 SB, 3 BB, 2 K

This ranking involves my giving Baseball America the benefit of the doubt. Over the fall, BA rated Nunez as the best defensive shortstop in the International League, and credited him with the best infield arm, to boot. They project Nunez as an above-average Major League shortstop, which could make him a fine regular for any team. He's a very good base-runner, makes a great deal of contact, and he's developed more plate discipline as he's progressed through the system - his Triple-A line, I think, could be a reasonable expectation for Nunez. The caveat here is that many scouts and analysts are not as fond of Nunez's defense, rating him anywhere from poor to mediocre to average, and rarely much better. His glove will carry him to whatever heights he may reach, and his legs will keep him on the Yankees roster.

David Adams, 2B, 23
AA - .309/.393/.507, 3 HR, 5 SB, 18 BB, 31 K

It is very difficult to differentiate between Adams and Joseph. Both are underwhelming fielders. Both have a gap-to-gap line-drive stroke. Both have solid walk and strikeout rates. Neither hits for much power. The reason I rank Adams a bit higher is that I believe that he's closer to the Majors (despite his season-ending ankle injury) and have a bit more faith in his glove. Where Joseph will need to work to become a passable second baseman, Adams is already at that undistinguished level - and prior to the injury, many felt that Adams had improved a great deal in 2010. If he's fully recovered from his injury, Adams could move quickly this season.

David Phelps, RHP, 24
AA/AAA - 158.2 IP, 139 H, 36 BB, 141 K, 2.50 ERA

Like Nova, Phelps does not currently have a true swing-and-miss pitch. Unlike Nova, Phelps has terrific mechanics and a power fastball. The Notre Dame product has a fastball that sits around 94 MPH, a low-90s two-seamer, a borderline-plus curve in the upper 70s, and a fledgling change-up and slider. He excellent control of all of his pitches and generates ground balls at a fine rate, as well. I've heard comparisons to Mike Mussina and Roy Oswalt, in terms of delivery and approach, but I'm not sure that his curve has that sort of potential - though, I wouldn't mind seventy-five percent of Mussina.

Austin Romine, C, 22
AA - .268/.324/.402, 10 HR, 2 SB, 37 BB, 94 K

Ranking Romine here may be a bit of an overreaction to his struggles from June through the Arizona Fall League, though I would prefer to say that it's more a reflection of my confidence in the players to follow. Thus far, Romine has shown flashes of the athleticism, agility, and arm strength necessary to be an excellent defensive catcher, yet he has been plagued with bouts of inconsistency behind the plate. Perhaps it is simply a matter of the wear and tear taking its toll, but Romine performed poorly with the bat and the glove for the better part of 2010 - that's difficult to overlook entirely. I believe that his potential has been undersold a bit, likely due to his sharing duties with Montero for a time, and he has all the tools necessary to be a fine everyday catcher with an above-average bat and a bit of pop. Put simply, however, he has some work to do.

Hector Noesi, RHP, 23
A+/AA/AAA - 160.1 IP, 148 H, 28 BB, 153 K, 3.20 ERA

Noesi strikes me as the most Major League ready of the Yankees prospects - and yes, that includes Ivan Nova. Noesi throws a mid-90s fastball with fantastic movement and a low-80s change-up to both sides of the plate. On top of that, he combines a minuscule walk rate with fine ground ball numbers. Further, he profiles as a workhorse and, after throwing so many innings last season, could likely handle a full workload as early as this year. The knock against Noesi is that he doesn't have much beyond his fastball and change-up, as his slider and curve are inconsistent and somewhat wild. I've read a comparison to Ian Kennedy, but that doesn't really make sense - Kennedy is more of a flyball pitcher, and his fastball isn't terribly close in raw power. Dan Haren makes a bit more sense, but Noesi's curve has a great deal of growth to do.

Slade Heathcott, CF, 20
A - .258/.359/.352, 3 HR, 15 SB, 42 BB, 101 K

In addition to having the second coolest name in the system (behind a pitcher yet to come), Heathcott may have the most raw talent of any prospect in the system. A true center fielder, Heathcott has blazing speed and a cannon arm. He has a patient approach at the plate, a line-drove stroke, and the frame that suggests that he'll develop decent power. His strikeouts are a bit of a concern, though he did remove a few wrinkles from his swing as the season progressed, making better contact as the season wore on. To be honest, I had the urge to rank Heathcott within the top-three due to all of those factors - but he's simply too unrefined to do so. This time next year, however...

Graham Stoneburner, RHP, 23
A/A+ - 142 IP, 107 H, 34 BB, 137 K, 2.41 ERA

And we've arrived at the best name in the system. I could have swapped Stoneburner and the following pitcher, as I see both with similar floors and ceilings (though the next pitcher is more advanced), but I couldn't resist the opportunity to have Slade Heathcott and Graham Stoneburner back-to-back. Stoneburner features a running fastball that sits around 94 MPH and an average slider and change-up. He has fine control horizontally, but he does have a tendency to let the ball drift up in the zone which could lead to some longball issues. That could be mitigated, however, if his change continues to show improvement. As it stands, Stoneburner limits walks, strikes out a terrific amount of batters, and keeps the ball on the ground - there's not much else one could ask for.

Adam Warren, RHP, 23
A+/AA - 135.1 IP, 121 H, 33 BB, 126 K, 2.59 ERA

I highly doubt that you'll find another source with Warren rated this highly, but I'm not quite sure why. He may not have the ceiling of an ace, like those to be ranked ahead of him, but he certainly has the highest floor of any pitcher in the system. Warren showcases fantastic command of all of his pitches, an arsenal which includes a mid-90s fastball, a low-90s cutter, a low-90s two-seamer, and a low-80s change. His curve is a substandard pitch at this juncture, but I'm not quite sure that that matters terribly. The most comparable pitcher is Chien-Ming Wang, and I feel that Warren's baseline is somewhere around Wang's career numbers. Warren isn't likely to set the world on fire, but he's equally unlikely to crash and burn.

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