Monday, January 10, 2011

Better Know a Prospect Countdown: 25 - 16

Over the coming week, I will be posting my top-twenty-five Yankees prospects. The rankings are based on an inexact blend of the prospect's ceiling, floor, ETA, and their likelihood of reaching their ceiling. I tried to avoid the pitfalls of group think and the current roster construction of the Yankees, but a consensus is usually arrived at for good reason. There are certainly a few surprises and sleepers here, and I do think the upper reaches of the list are different from several other analysts - but the best way to learn about the Yankees prospects is to devour as many of these lists as possible.

Today we begin with the bottom portion of the countdown. The next block will be posted on Wednesday, and the top-five will come on Friday. For the most part, each tier is fairly fluid, with each prospect having a fair amount of wiggle room in terms of the actual number.

We will keep these on top for the day with new posts showing up just below, so keep an eye open for that.

Without further ado...

Dan Burawa, RHP, 22
A - 7 IP, 8 H, 7 BB, 10, 7.71 ERA

While it may be difficult to be enthusiastic about Burawa's numbers at face value, there is a great deal of intrigue here. A power reliever, Burawa throws a mid-90s fastball with good sink (racking up a ton of grounders), an average curveball, and the makings of a fringe-y change-up - all of which point to him rocketing through the system.

Eduardo Sosa, CF, 19
A - .256/.353/.394, 2 HR, 15 SB, 24 BB, 48 K

Would it be too much of a cop-out to say that Sosa is Brett Gardner 2.0? Fantastic speed, terrific glovework, fine plate discipline, and not much in the power department. The key difference may lie in Sosa's pull-happy approach, which could end up hindering his progress if his power doesn't develop as expected.

Tommy Kahnle, RHP, 21
A - 16 IP, 3 H, 5 BB, 25 K, 0.56 ERA

Kahnle simply outclassed Single-A hitters in his professional debut, and he seems poised to move quickly through the system. The burly righty features a mid-90s fastball and a fine change-up, and his curveball remains a work in progress (which may be a bit optimistic, as he simply cannot control the pitch). Both Kahnle and Burawa profile as top-notch relievers.

Shaeffer Hall, LHP, 23
A/A+ - 137 IP, 133 H, 21 BB, 103 K, 2.89 ERA

I'm not quite sure why Hall has flown so far under the radar, but I cannot help but think that that won't continue for much longer. A true workhorse, Hall works with a high-80s two-seamer, a high-70s curve, and a mid-70s change-up. He keeps the ball on the ground, walks very few batters, and has garnered more swings and misses as he's progressed. Mark Buehrle is a fine comparison.

D.J. Mitchell, RHP, 23
AA/AAA - 150.2 IP, 147 H, 64 BB, 112 K, 4.00 ERA

Mitchell may be the most difficult prospect to rank. His overall numbers are solid, yet he has struggled a great deal against left-handed batters leading many to doubt his future as a starter. Mitchell's bread and butter is his low-90s sinker, but his curveball has improved dramatically over the past two seasons. More importantly, he has become more comfortable with his change-up, which is the key to his ability to handle lefties.

Melky Mesa, CF, 23
A+ - .260/.338/.475, 19 HR, 31 SB, 44 BB, 129 K

I struggled a great deal with this ranking, as Mesa may very well have the best all-around skillset in the system. He's capable of consistently knocking twenty to twenty-five home runs and stealing twenty to twenty-five bases, while playing fine defense in center. At the same time, he's also capable of batting .220 and striking out 160-plus times. In the end, I think he could be another Mike Cameron, but he's still a bit far away for a 23-year old.

Brandon Laird, 3B, 23
AA/AAA - .281/.336/.482, 25 HR, 2 SB, 42 BB, 111 K

I'm very bearish with Laird. On one hand, Laird has a great deal of power, a very strong arm, and could stick at third base if he maintains his conditioning. On the other hand, he struggles to make contact at times, doesn't work the count, and seems to have lost a bit of agility with each passing season. Laird reminds me a bit of Xavier Nady, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him develop into a similar player.

Cito Culver, SS, 18
Rk/A - .251/.325/.330, 2 HR, 7 SB, 21 BB, 51 K

The ranking may not bear this out, but I'm very bullish on Culver. He has the arm and athleticism to stick at short long-term, and I do think that he's capable of hitting well for the position. His walk rate against much older competition is impressive, as is his ability to hit to all fields. In short, there really isn't much to dislike. The primary reasoning for his placement is that he's several years away, and that is the greatest obstacle for all prospects to overcome.

Brett Marshall, RHP, 20
Rk/A/A+ - 84 IP, 63 H, 26 BB, 70 K, 2.57 ERA

Marshall thrived in 2010, less than a year removed from Tommy John Surgery. His stuff appeared to be all the way back, to boot - low-to-mid-90s four-seamer, low-90s two-seamer, and a knee-buckling low-80s slider. His change-up remains a work in progress, but he's still very young and relatively inexperienced, having been primarily a shortstop in high school. Marshall's mechanics and injury history are responsible for this low-ish ranking, but with a healthy 2011 I'd expect him to jump ten-plus spots on this list.

J.R. Murphy, C, 19
A - .255/.327/.376, 7 HR, 4 SB, 36 BB, 64 K

Murphy may very well be the most intriguing catching prospect that the Yankees have. I would argue that he's the most athletic of the group and that he boasts the strongest, most accurate arm. As a result, he's the likeliest to stick behind the plate (though many believe he could shift to third if necessary). Murphy has only been catching for about three years now, but he's improved drastically from year to year, maintaining a reputation as a very devoted student of the game. His offense improved as 2010 progressed, with his walk rate and power increasing from month to month. He's more of a line-drive hitter than a true home run threat, but his flyball rate could be a sign of things to come. I may be overly optimistic, but everything I've seen and read about Murphy reminds me of Edgar Martinez.

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