Get to Know ‘Em: Yankees Prospects

1 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

In early February, the Star Tribune’s Joe Christensen reported that the Twins may not see Francisco Liriano in their long-term future, and that they would consider trading him in the right deal. The article prompted a lot of discussion about whether the Twins would actually consider trading the talented left-hander. Would a team that claims to want to win now really trade one of the top dozen pitchers in baseball? How good is Liriano? Is he a big-time pitcher? How much money does he expect to make? 

Once spring training started, we learned that Liriano had a sore shoulder and wasn’t able to throw the first few days. Then Rick Anderson called him out by saying he didn’t put in the work in the offseason by doing his arm exercises. It was not the first time that Liriano has not put in his work, or that the Twins have called it out. So I think we all better understand why they don’t want to just give him a long-term contract. At the same time, he is an ace-like pitcher who will make “just” $4.3 million in 2011, and even if he wins a Cy Young Award this year, he would likely make no more than $10 million in 2012.

Things were quiet on the Liriano front the last couple of weeks, but then yesterday, Bob Nightengale from USA Today tweeted, “The Yankees are keeping a close eye on #Twins starter Francisco Liriano, while Twins are keeping tabs on Yanks prospects.” 

Soon after, he responded to a question by tweeting, “Yes, there is definitely a chance Liriano could be dealt this spring, particularly if Twins get key prospects back in return.”

Do any of us know with certainty if Bill Smith and Brian Cashman are talking? Of course not, and for his part, Brian Cashman is trying to fan the flames. The Yankees GM said, “I’m not talking to anyone about anything right now. Nobody’s available. Nobody of value, anyway.

What that quote tells me is that Cashman and the Yankees are talking to teams right now. Someone is available. Someone of value.

Where there is smoke, there is fire. Sometimes.

So, as a Twins fan, I want to know what prospects the Yankees have. To be honest, the Yankees have a handful of prospects that, put together in a package of three players, could be a terrific return for the Twins. Rumors on Monday indicated that Joba Chamberlain or Ivan Nova might be available in a deal. If those two are the big names in a Liriano trade, it will be quite disappointing.

Here is a look at some of the top prospects in the Yankees farm system:

JESUS MONTERO - C – The Crown Jewel of the Yankees minor league system, Montero is the consensus #1 prospect. There is some debate about whether the 6-4, 220 pounder will be able to play catcher in the big leagues or not due to lack of speed and mobility. Many think he will be a DH or 1B at some point. However, there is no questioning his right-handed bat which has been compared to the likes of Mike Piazza, Manny Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera. He will be 21 throughout the 2011 season. Last year at Triple-A, he hit .289/.353/.517 with 34 doubles and 21 home runs in 123 games. The past three years, I dreamed of a scenario in which Joe Mauer would catch 110 games and DH 40-45 games a year with Wilson Ramos catching those games and DHing 100 games or so. Well, Montero is a much better prospect than WIlson Ramos. MILB Prospects named Montero baseball’s top prospect. Baseball America, Project Prospect and Prospect Junkies all rank Montero as the #3 prospect in all of baseball.

GARY SANCHEZ - C – When Baseball America announced its league top prospects, Sanchez was named the top prospect in the Gulf Coast League. The Twins Miguel Sano was #2. Sanchez got a $3 million bonus in 2009 to sign. He is called a Montero-like hitter who is actually a very good catcher. He will be just 18 throughout the 2011 season, and he is likely at least 3-5 years from the big leagues. In 31 GCL games last year, he hit .354/.419/.597 with 11 doubles and six home runs. Baseball America ranked him as the #30 prospect in baseball.

MANNY BANUELOS - LHP – The Yankees signed the little lefty (5-10, 155) from Mexico in 2008 for $450,000. As an 18 year old in 2009, he pitched in Low A and in 25 games (19 starts), he went 9-5 with a 2.67 ERA with 104 strikeouts in 108 innings. He missed most of the first half of the 2010 season because of an appendicitus, but he made ten starts in Tampa (Florida State League) where he went 0-3, but in 44 innings, he posted a 2.23 ERA and struck out 62 batters. Late in the year, he made three starts in Double-A Trenton and in 15.1 innings, struck out 18 and posted a 3.52 ERA. He made up some innings by being the youngest player in the Arizona Fall League. Despite his small stature, he is able to hit 94 mph with his fastball and has an above-average changeup, curveball and very good control. He will turn 20 years old in the next two weeks. Baseball America ranked him as baseball’s 41st best prospect. The now-defunct AOL Fanhouse ranked him as baseball’s #13 prospect.

DELLIN BETANCES - RHP – Late in March, Betances will turn 23 years old. He and Banuelos are complete opposites physically. Betances is 6-8 and 245 pounds. The Yankees drafted him in the 8th round of the 2006 draft and gave him a $1 million bonus to keep the New York native from Vanderbilt. In 2009, he had surgery to ‘reinforce” his elbow. He came back in 2010 and was again throwing 92-96 mph. He also has a tremendous curveball. His changeup is average-at-best now. If he is able to develop it, he could be a top-of-the-rotation starter. If not, he could be a good starting pitcher or he could be a dominant closer. In 14 Florida State League starts in 2010, he went 8-1 with a 1.77 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 77 innings. Like Banuelos, he made three starts in Double-A, and in 14 innings, he walked three and struck out 20 while posting a 3.77 ERA. 

ANDREW BRACKMAN - RHP – As we’ve noticed, the Twins like tall pitchers. The 6-11 Brackman played baseball and basketball at North Carolina State. The Yankees drafted him late in the first round in 2007, and soon after they signed him to a $3.35 million bonus and $4.55 million in guaranteed money (and $13 million in potential value), he had Tommy John surgery, so his progress has been a little slow. He will be 25 throughout the 2011 season. He returned in 2009 and in Low A ball, he went 2-12 witha  5.91 ERA. He began 2010 in High-A and was 5-4 with a 5.10 ERA in 12 starts and 60 innings. He made 14 Double-A starts where he went 5-7 with a much-improved 3.01 ERA in 81 innings. By season’s end, his fastball was hitting 95 mph, and his best pitch is a well-above-average curveball. He is working on a slider and needs to improve his changeup, but don’t forget that pitchers this tall often take a little longer to find their release point. If he continues to progress and finds consistent mechanics, he could be a very good starter. If not, he could be a very good reliever.

Those are the five Yankees prospects that are consistently in mentioned as top prospects, but they are not it. The Yankees have several other intriguing prospects.

Austin Romine - C – Another top catching prospect, Baseball America ranked him in their Top 100 prospects. His brother, Andrew, debuted with the Angels in 2010, and their father, Kevin, played in 331 games for the Red Sox between 1985 and 1991. Austin will be 22 throughout the 2011 season. Nothing about his game jumps out, but he is a good defensive catcher and has shown some power.

Hector Noesi - RHP – He just turned 24 years old. After missing most of 2007 and 2008 because of Tommy John, he returned in 2009 and went 6-4 with a 2.92 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP between Low-A and High-A. He was added to the 40 man roster, and in 2010, he pitched in Hi-A, Double-A and ended the season with three starts in Triple-A. Combined, he was 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. In 160.1 innings, he struck out 153 and walked just 28. He profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation because of his control and a terrific changeup. He kind of looks like a typical Twins prospect.

Adam Warren - RHP – He was the Yankees fourth-round pick in 2009 out of North Carolina. In 2010, he went 7-5 with a 2.22 ERA in 15 starts in High-A, before he was promoted and went 4-2 with a 3.15 ERA in Double-A. Combined, he walked just 33 and struck out 126 in 135.1 innings. He is 23 years old and throws his fastball between 90 and 94 mph.

Slade Heathcott - OF – Another high-ceiling, toolsy outfield prospect, he hasn’t put up numbers yet, but many believe that he will develop a great speed-power combination with a good outfield arm (although his season ended early due to shoulder surgery). He will be 20 throughout 2011.  

Eduardo Nunez - SS – OK hitting, solid defending shortstop who profiles as a utility infielder who could be an adequate starter down the road. The 23 year old will be a utility player for the Yankees in 2011 (he got 50 at bats in 30 games in 2010) and could play some in the outfield too.

Brett Marshall - RHP – He was a 6th round pick in 2008 out of his Texas high school, and after 17 starts in 2009, he had Tommy John surgery. Pre-surgery, he was touching 96 mph. He returned in 2010 and made 15 starts. He has a very good slider.

Ivan Nova went 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA for the Yankees in 2010 The 24 year old made 23 AAA starts last year and went 12-3 with a 2.86 ERA. His fastball touches 95 mph with sink, and he has a curveball, a slider and a changeup. He could be a solid fourth starter for a big league team. However, if the Twins are going to consider trading a pitcher of the caliber and age of Francisco Liriano, then the Twins need to get at least two of those top five prospects and someone like Joba Chamberlain who could help in 2011.

If the Twins could get Jesus Montero, either Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos, Hector Noesi, and someone like Chamberlain or David Robertson, it would be a good trade for the Twins. In the long term. But it would not be good for the 2011 Twins, and fans would likely not respond well. Maybe at the end of the day, Twins fans won’t need to know these names afterall, but it doesn’t hurt to get to know them.

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17 Responses to “Get to Know ‘Em: Yankees Prospects”

  1. DB March 1, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    Great post Seth!

    I still find it a little hard to understand why people are so against the idea trading Liriano. Obviously he is one of the most talented pitchers in baseball, and he will definitely help the Twins this year, but he does have a down side.

    It’s become apparent that he’s not a hard worker all the time, which has to make you wonder if he’ll ever reach his full potential. He’s never been a beacon of health. He has a history of arm problems going all the way back to his days with the Giants organization.

    The biggest concern in my mind, though, is his big game track record. When the pressure is turned up, he typically doesn’t turn up his performance. He did give us five good innings against the Yanks in the playoffs last year, but when the Bombers pushed back in the 6th, he slumped his shoulders and appeared to give up a bit. Then the wheels came off.

    If he wants $40 mil from a major league team, he first has to prove that he can perform when the lights are up. To me, the Twins are smart to keep their ears open. Imagine what Joba could do for our bullpen in the post-season, and how a couple of those prospects would look in a year or two.

    • mike wants wins March 1, 2011 at 9:00 am #

      Because fans want to win now, while Mauer and Morneau are in their prime. If you are not trying to win this year, what year are you ever going to try to win. You don’t think there would be a MASSIVE drop off from Liriano to Blackburn/Slowey/Gibson?

      Hunter and Santana ripped this team for always playing for the future, a future that never came (because when it did, they still played for the next future). Trading Liriano for prospects would make anyone question how hard they were trying to win now. I don’t know how anyone can not understand that part of the argument.

      • DB March 1, 2011 at 9:11 am #

        Mike, I do think there would be a drop off from Liriano to Blackburn/Slowey/Gibson. I don’t think it would be enough to keep us out of the playoffs. Blackburn has pitched way better than Liriano in big games. Nobody’s saying to trade him for just prospects. You definitely need someone who can help you this year. If the right combination of current major leaguer + prospects comes along, you have to have an open mind.

      • Josh March 1, 2011 at 11:55 am #

        I would like to point out that Hunter signed for way more money than the Twins could have ever dreamed of giving him, and when they could have resigned Santana it probably would have meant no extensions for Mauer or Morneau.

        Blame the Twins all you want for playing for the future, but retaining either of those guys wasn’t really a realistic option.

        Liriano is in a completely different boat than either of those guys, in terms of contract and in terms of age.

    • mike wants wins March 1, 2011 at 9:16 am #

      I would keep an open mind. If the Cardinals offer Pujols, I’d do that. If the Nationals offer Harper and Strasburg, I’d do that. In other words, if someone offers me an obscene deal, I’d say yes.

      • DB March 1, 2011 at 10:19 am #

        Wow. I guess I just don’t think he’s as good as everyone else does. To me, 14-10, 3.62 doesn’t even put Liriano in the same ballpark as Pujols. If he wins 20 games this season, plus 2 or 3 wins in the playoffs, I will definitely join you in that opinion. Until then, he just hasn’t done enough for me to think that highly of him.

  2. AW March 1, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    Great post, Seth. Mike Wants Wins, I think you hit the nail on the head. We have a window where certain players like Mauer and Morneau are in their prime, certain players like Young and Liriano are still affordable, and certain players like Valencia are downright cheap. Sure, there is always going to be a financial mix like that, but there is no guarantee the talent level will be as high as it is (or expected to be) right now. To trade Liriano for anything other than a literal #1 prospect makes no sense to me. And even that, I’m not sure about.

    • nick5253 March 1, 2011 at 10:30 am #

      I think that logic is flawed. The Mariners lost AROD in 2000 for nothing and went on to win 116 games in 2001. Without Liriano, the Twins still have a good, deep team that will compete for the central. And many will argue you need Liriano in the playoffs because he’s your only “ace” – well how’d that work out for us last year? I’m a HUGE Liriano fan and would like to see him take another big step forward and become that dominant pitcher we all think he can be, but I also don’t think he’s soooo valuable that losing him tanks the season and the Twins CAN’T win.

      • Josh March 1, 2011 at 10:42 am #

        You are comparing Liriano to Arod? The M’s had some guy that came in from Japan and won the ROY and MVP that season, I don’t remember his name…..

        The M’s also lost in the first round of the playoffs. The Yankees have said in the past and it’s almost common knowledge that Montero won’t be involved in the trade. I’m not sold on Nova, it seemed like another young Yankee pitcher that has been in the spotlight because well….he’s on the Yankees. Nova, Joba (who isn’t the dominant releiver he once was, and a prospect)? How do the Twins win there?

        I remember Liriano leaving in a tie game and watching the Yankees beat the bullpen, followed by the team scoring 3 runs in the next 2 games, you aren’t going to win a playoff series scoring 7 runs in the games. Liriano is under team contract for the next 2 years and consider trading him at this point, you need to get back more than what he’s worth, and that simply won’t happen in this deal.

      • mike wants wins March 1, 2011 at 10:56 am #

        I agree, we don’t know for sure that they can’t win w/o him. We also don’t know they can’t win w/o Mauer. I do think that trading either for prospects decreases the likelihood they win it all next year. There is no certainty about the future, there is only likelihood. Having Slowey start 30 games vs having Liriano start 30 games, I’m thinking it is more likely they win the Liriano starts.

  3. Seth March 1, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    Oh no, now I can see a big argument on the value of the “win” stat. I do think 14-10, 3.62 is pretty good, and when you factor in the K/9, BB/9, K/BB, FIP, and all the other pitching stats that show how well someone pitches. Nick Nelson wrote a tremendous blog on this topic (Success vs Perception of Success). I was frustrated with Liriano’s 1st inning against Ubaldo. I was at the game in Detroit when he was too hyped against Verlander. I watched him dominate the Yankees for 5 innings in Game 1. The numbers are there. No question, he’s a top pitcher.

    • Josh March 1, 2011 at 10:46 am #

      Until his stretch of rough starts towards the end of the season he had best xFIP in the AL, and his BABIP was ridiculous for a starting pitcher. Despite his W/L and ERA, he was pretty spectacular last year and yes would be a huge blow to the rotation.

  4. nick5253 March 1, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    Josh – can’t reply directly to your comment for some reason?

    I’m not comparing Arod and Liriano as players. Totally differnt ballgame there. Arod had more value (9.6 WAR in 2000) than Liriano (6.0 WAR in 2010). So that alone should have sunk the Mariners. You are correct about Ichiro in 2001, he came in and gave them 6.1 WAR.

    So, to your point, the Mariners lost their best player, and “replaced” him with Ichiro and took a net loss of 3.5 WAR and yet somehow they still won a lot more games.

    My point was that losing 1 player, no matter how good he is/was for you, does not destroy your season. Not for the Twins at least, they have a very good core of young players that can fill in and replace that lost value.

    I do agree 100% with your comment that you shouldn’t trade Liriano unless you get more value back. The Twins have no NEED to trade Liriano, so they are in the power position here. If he’s traded to the Yankess I would want to see 2-3 top 5 prospects coming back as well as someone that will help us in ’11.

    • Josh March 1, 2011 at 11:10 am #

      I still think comparing the two are two completely different entities. I think it’s a lot easier to find offense than it is to find quality starting pitching. The M’s had a veteran laden lineup which including a deadly 3-4-5 punch of Olerud, Edgar and Boone with Ichiro and his .420 OBP leading off. They also had a very over achieving staff with a spectacular bullpen, especially the back end. With that said, they ran into a very good pitching team in the New York Yankees, who won games 4-2, 3-1 and 3-2. That’s how the Yankees beat the Twins as well.

      Liriano has the talent to be one of those guys who we need to dominate a playoff game against a good offense. You are very right the Twins have no NEED to trade Liriano, and in all the rumors I haven’t even see Montero’s name come up, and this is what scares me about the trade speculation. I’m afraid they are going to get fleeced again by taking over-hyped prospects and take some package that doesn’t include Montero, Sanchez or Baneulos. They would be worse in 2011, and quite likely worse going forward as well. They should have to be blown away to make any deal for him at this point.

      • nick5253 March 1, 2011 at 11:39 am #

        Good point. The Twins would need an emergence from the Baker/Slowey/Blackburn trio as well as Pavano/Duensing repeats of 2010 to recover Liriano’s lost value. It wouldn’t be impossible, but as mike wants wins pointed out, it’s better to deal with likelyhoods and it isn’t very likely that those 3 guys will finally put it together.

        Let’s just trade Slowey for Montero and call it a day.

  5. Steve L. March 1, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    The package you mention: Montero, Banuelos, and Joba is the one I’ve come up with that I’d listen too, though I’d still hate it. If a trade is to the Yankees, nothing short of fleecing their farm system would be unacceptable. Also heard on the radio this morning that Cashman called and offered Brett Gardener and a PTBNL for liriano, and I literally bursted out laughing. I hope Bill Smith’s reaction was the same.

    As for the Cardinals (and just to be clear, I am NOT at all for trading Liriano), they actually have a pitching prospect I’d be much more interested in than anything the Yankees have, and that’s Shelby Miller.

    With all this trade speculation, even though it centers around Liriano, I’m getting the impression one of the starters is dealt before the season starts, just hoping its not Liriano.

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