Friday, January 14, 2011

Better Know a Prospect Countdown: 5 - 1

You can find the first two installments of this series here and 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.

Gary Sanchez, C, 18
Rk/A - .329/.393/.543, 8 HR, 2 SB, 14 BB, 44 K

This is a very ambitious ranking, though you'll find that most publications are similarly optimistic. Sanchez displayed an incredibly advanced approach at the plate in his professional debut, and simply clobbered the competition in Rookie Ball. From there, he earned an aggressive push to Single-A and held his own against much older competition - all at age-17. Several scouts have labeled his potential ceiling as "Montero with a better glove," and he does appear at least as developed as Montero at a similar age, and his glove is certainly better. That being said, I don't quite see the same power potential, nor do I think such grand opinions can be drawn from such a small sample. I'm incredibly bullish with Sanchez, as one can glean from this ranking, but I cannot push him much higher than this, nor would I deal Montero due to his presence as some fans and analysts have suggested. I liken Sanchez to Geovany Soto, and I would be extremely happy with such a development.

Andrew Brackman, RHP, 25
A+/AA - 140.2 IP, 144 H, 39 BB, 126 K, 3.90 ERA

I've said it before and I'll say it again (and again, and possibly again) - Andrew Brackman is the definitive high-risk, high-reward pick. The 6'10" righty was drafted with the knowledge that TJS was necessary, as the Yankees looked past that towards the overwhelming potential. Armed with a mid-to-high 90s fastball, a knee-buckling curveball, and the length to deceive hitters, Brackman was simply too good to pass up. He struggled in his professional debut, as most post-TJS pitchers do, raising plenty of doubts and concerns. This past season silenced many of the naysayers, and returned Brackman to the forefront of the Yankees system. He demonstrated excellent control, kept the ball on the ground (over 50% of balls in play were grounders), limited home runs, and remained healthy, which may be the most important factor of all. In just one year, Brackman went from a tremendous question mark to a solid year away from the Majors - more than anyone could have ever hoped for. Here's hoping the trend continues.

Dellin Betances, RHP, 22
A+/AA - 85.1 IP, 53 H, 22 BB, 108 K, 2.11 ERA

In terms of past, present, and future, the best comparison for Betances is likely Andrew Brackman. Both were drafted with an eye to the future, with an awareness of injury issues and the likelihood of slow-and-steady development. Like Brackman, Betances works with a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a big breaking ball, though Brackman's change-up is a bit more advanced. What distinguishes Betances is his age (he's three years younger) and his more extensive resume. Betances did quite well in 2007 and 2008, with his injury-marred 2009 being his first real roadblock - I'm simply not sure what to expect from Brackman, whereas Betances showed flashes prior to this season. In the end, I'm quite happy to have both pitchers in the system - both remind me of Josh Johnson, in terms of size and stuff.

Manny Banuelos, LHP, 19
Rk/A+/AA - 64.2 IP, 54 H, 25 BB, 85 K, 2.51 ERA

Perhaps this is some sort of Yankees prospect persecution complex, but I cannot help but feel that Banuelos would be at the top of many lists were he 6'3" instead of 5'10". While it is true that smaller pitchers have struggled to maintain their stuff and stay healthy, it's far from a rule, or even a minor commonality. Banuelos features a 91 to 94 MPH fastball that tops out around 96 MPH, a low-80s circle-change, and a mid-80s curve - all of which he commands wonderfully. His mechanics are clean and repeatable, his delivery deceptive, and his resume to-date is fantastic (particularly when you consider that he's been among the youngest pitchers at every level thus far). Like Johan Santana, Banuelos' change-up dives down and in towards righties, which should allow him to maintain an insignificant platoon split. In fact, Banuelos' stuff and poise on the mound are reminiscent of Santana, and I do think that Banuelos' best seasons could be Cy Young-worthy.

Jesus Montero, C, 21
AAA - .289/.353/.517, 21 HR, 0 SB, 46 BB, 91 K

What can I say about Montero that hasn't been said already? Not much. Montero has power to all fields and somehow manages to spray line drive after line drive, despite swinging at some fairly questionable pitches. That isn't to say that he's undisciplined at the plate - rather, that he has confidence in his ability to hit anything and everything, and the results seem to dignify that mindset (not unlike Miguel Cabrera). In my mind, Montero's early struggles at Triple-A don't mean much of anything, as he was young for the level and adapting to the rigors of catching everyday; that he held in there and absolutely dominated the International League from June forward tells us much more about his potential. To many, the glaring issue is whether or not Montero will stick at catcher, and that may not be without merit. To me, however, few will care where he stands in the field once he steps into the batter's box.

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