By Chad Jennings
Ranking prospects league-by-league is an annual thing over at Baseball America, and it’s always interesting and worthwhile to look back. Here’s a link to a blog post about last year’s rankings, and here are a few observations.
1. It’s entirely possible to overlook even the most advanced prospects
Last year, the Yankees didn’t have a single prospect make the International League’s Top 20 list. That wasn’t remotely surprising at the time, and it’s easy to understand even in retrospect. But there is one glaring omission: Dellin Betances would have qualified for last year’s IL prospects list, but a half season of true dominance out of the bullpen wasn’t enough to erase all the concerns about past struggles. Again, can’t blame Baseball America for keeping him off the list, but if they’d known that a year later Betances would be one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, I’m betting they would have found a spot for him.
2. Extremely young players can rise and fall quickly
At this time last year, Luis Severino came in 17th on the Gulf Coast League rankings. Not only were 16 GCL players ahead of him, four Yankees GCL players were ahead of him! Baseball American had nothing but praise for his raw stuff — “reached 98 (mph),” “easy delivery,” “plenty of strikes,” “a lot of ground balls” but he’d made just six appearances in rookie ball, four more in Low-A, and there was a sense of still needing to prove himself. Safe to say Severino did exactly that this season, which pushed him all the way to No. 4 on this year’s South Atlantic League rankings. One of the Yankees ahead of him in 2013, catcher Luis Torrens, sits at No. 4 on this year’s New York-Penn League rankings. The three other Yankees who ranked ahead of Severino last season — Miguel Andujar, Abiatal Avelino and Gosuke Katoh — did not make any of this year’s Top 20 league rankings. Some of that’s the unpredictable nature of those extremely low-level prospects.
3. Some of this is pretty fickle
Last year’s Eastern League list had John Ryan Murphy at No. 18. Granted, that’s just barely on the list, but it’s certainly enough to put him well in the conversation for a spot on this year’s International League list. And, of course, he’s not there. How much could his prospect stock have fallen in a year when he at least held his own as a big league backup and hit for pretty good power — especially in the second half — down in Triple-A? Fact is, not a lot has changed about him. He’s just not on a list this year, and he was on one last year. These lists are more interesting than definitive. Looking for a similar but far more meaningful change? Mason Williams was No. 19 on last year’s Florida State League list, but he didn’t make the cut — and I can’t imagine he came particularly close — for this year’s Eastern League rankings.
4. It’s inevitable that players are going to come and go
The Yankees have only three players who appeared in last year’s league-by-league rankings and showed up again this season: C Gary Sanchez (7th in the Florida State League, now 11th in the Eastern League), RHP Severino (17th in the GCL, now 4th in the South Atlantic) and C Torrens (10th in the GCL, now 4th in the New York-Penn).
Four Yankees showed up this year after no appearing last year: 2B Rob Refsnyder made both the International League and Eastern League rankings after proving he could still hit and play a passable second base in the upper levels; RF Aaron Judge made both the Florida State League and South Atlantic League lists after putting up big numbers in his first pro season; LHP Ian Clarkin jumped onto the South Atlantic League list after getting healthy; international shortstops Jorge Mateo and Angel Aguilar made the GCL list after strong U.S. debuts.
Five Yankees fell off the league rankings altogether: C Murphy didn’t make the International League cut, CF Williams didn’t perform nearly well enough in the Eastern League, RHP Rafael DePaula couldn’t repeat last year South Atlantic League results (especially not after being traded, when his numbers really dipped), 3B Eric Jagielo was sixth in the New York-Penn League last year but seems to have just missed the cut in his first full-season, and for various reasons young guys Andujar, Avelino, Katoh and Thairo Estradawent from making last year’s GCL cut to missing this year’s rankings. Each of those extremely young guys could very well play his way into the league rankings again next season (same for Jagielo if he stays healthy and keeps hitting for power).