Happy Severino Eve everyone! Tonight is the night that Luis Severino will make his major league debut for the Yankees versus the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium at 7:00 on the YES Network. Expectations will be unreasonably high for Luis in his first start, but I think that the kid will be able to put in at least a quality start. But Severino isn’t the only Yankees prospect worth keeping tabs on, oh no. Don’t look now, but the Yankees have one of the top prospect cores in all of the major leagues rocketing through the system. Let’s take a look at the Yankees’ top 10 prospects as of August 2015 and check in on their progress and stats as we enjoy the dawn of the age of Luis Severino.
Before I get started, I would like to issue a quick primer on what constitutes a “prospect” in my eyes. I’m only considering players for my list that have less than a year of major league service time as prospects. So yes, Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams do qualify as prospects to me despite us seeing them in Yankee pinstripes earlier this year. All credit for stats and other information goes to www.mlb.com. But without further ado, let’s get started!
These two pitching prospects both have extremely bright futures, but miss out on my top 10 list due to the fact that they were either both just drafted or injured. I’m talking about 1st round pick James Kaprielian and lefty Ian Clarkin. Kaprielian still hasn’t pitched for a Yankees affiliate yet, and Clarkin has missed all of this year with a mysterious shoulder injury. Don’t discount these two, but they weren’t able to make the cut as top 10 Yankees prospects. I’d also like to give a shout out to young infielder Tyler Wade (AA), righty starter Bryan Mitchell (MLB), righty starter Rookie Davis (AA), righty starter Brady Lail (AAA), and outfielder Jake Cave (AA). These prospects would make a top 15 list, but didn’t crack my top 10.
10. Mason Williams (Pos: CF, Height: 6’1″, Weight: 185 lbs, Highest Level: MLB)
My top 10 list kicks off with a prospect that was seemingly an outcast at the beginning of the 2015 season in Mason Williams. Williams came into the season with a new attitude and positive outlook that led to a difference in his on-field production. After a very disappointing year split between Tampa and Trenton, Williams took the Thunder by storm in 2015, hitting .317, boasting an OBP of .417, stealing 11 bases in 34 games, and playing fantastic defense. Williams posted similar numbers for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before garnering a promotion to the major leagues when injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran put the Yankees short on outfielders. Williams hit .286 with a homer in the bigs, made a couple of highlight-reel defensive plays, and injured his shoulder on a pickoff attempt. Williams is out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery, but his impact for the 2016 Yankees could be great.
9. Slade Heathcott (CF, 6’1″, 190, MLB)
Slade Heathcott has overcome so many hardships on his road to the MLB. Heathcott has suffered injuries to both of his knees, his shoulder, and his calf over his years in the minors, as well as having an alcohol issue being taken care of. Needless to say, when Slade raked in Scranton and the Yankees needed an outfielder, Slade was the first to be recalled. Heathcott only played in 6 games for the Yankees before injuring his calf, but made a strong impression, hitting .353 with a homer off of All-Star closer Greg Holland. Slade is now an everyday outfielder in AAA Scranton, but is more than likely to receive a September callup with the Bombers.
8. Jacob Lindgren (LHP, 5’11”, 205, MLB)
Jacob Lindgren was the Yankees’ first pick in the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft, and he has proved his worth so far on his minor league journey. The man known as “Strikeout Factory” was dominant in Scranton this year after rocketing up through the system the year prior. Lindgren was a Yankee for just under a month, but struggled due to an elbow injury that required surgery. Lindgren could be back in September, and will likely be a key piece of the Yankees’ 2016 bullpen. He only throws two pitches, a 94 mph fastball and a devastating slider, but that is all he needs to succeed.
7. Eric Jagielo (3B/1B, 6’2″, 215, AA)
Eric Jagielo is a typical power-hitting corner infielder. Jagielo was a first round pick in 2013, and was very good at AA Trenton before a knee injury ended his season prematurely. Jagielo hit .284 with 9 homers and 35 RBI in a pitcher’s park and played a steady third and first base. The knee injury is likely to be a minor setback, but come 2018, Jagielo could be a prominent player on the Yankees. Seeing him firsthand in Trenton a couple of times myself, I can attest that Jagielo’s power is real. If his plate discipline improves a bit (58 strikeouts in 58 games), Jagielo can be a potent bat.
6. Rob Refsnyder (2B, 6’1″, 205, MLB)
The first “big name” on this list, Rob Refsnyder is known by Yankees fans everywhere as the man who should be replacing Stephen Drew at second base. While that may be true, Refsnyder is receiving some valuable tutelage at the AAA level. His bat is not a problem (.281, 7 homers, 10 steals, .369 OBP at AAA), but his defense could use work. A converted right fielder, Refsnyder is improving but is still a bit rough around the edges defensively. He received a cup of coffee with the Yankees versus the Red Sox in July. He only managed one hit in six at-bats, but his one hit was one he’ll never forget: a game-winning dinger over the Green Monster. Expect Refsnyder to be the Yankees’ starting second baseman by next year.
5. Jorge Mateo (SS, 6’0″, 180, A)
Jorge Mateo has gained fame around the Yankees’ organization for his other-worldly speed. Mateo has swiped 80 bags for Low-A Charleston while hitting .268 with a decent .338 OBP. Mateo is a plus fielder, and his contact ability is his best hitting trait. He doesn’t have a lot of power (which middle infielders do?), and strikes out too much (80 times in 96 games), but has drawn comparisons to Jose Reyes. Mateo was deemed “untouchable” by GM Brian Cashman at the trade deadline, a true sign that the Yankees don’t plan on giving up on Mateo any time soon.
4. Gary Sanchez (C, 6’2″, 230, AAA)
Big Gary Sanchez was at one time the Yankees’ top overall prospect. While he has been on the radar for years, he is still only 22, a young player indeed. Sanchez is a fantastic hitter for a catcher. Sanchez batted .262 with 12 homers while playing in a pitcher’s park in Arm and Hammer Park. He was named an Eastern League (AA) All-Star for the second straight year. Sanchez is raking in Scranton now, batting .327 with 4 homers in only 15 games. The biggest concern about Sanchez is his defense. His arm is strong, but his receiving and blocking leave more to be desired. Still only 22, Sanchez has a very bright future as a power-hitting catcher for the Yankees, perhaps as a backup in 2017 and a starter in 2018.
3. Greg Bird (1B, 6’3″, 220, AAA)
Greg Bird has been a premier Yankees prospect for these last two seasons. Bird, an ex-catcher, has a phenomenal eye at the plate. His OBP has been over .350 in all minor league levels, and his strikeout totals are low. Bird has the ability to hit well for both contact and power, and is a good fielding first baseman. While Mark Teixeira has been MVP-worthy in 2015, his contract is up after 2016. Perhaps at that point he could shift into a lesser role, allowing for Bird to play DH and some first base in 2016 and beyond. Bird is another “untouchable”, and he has the tools to be the next great Yankees’ first baseman.
2. Aaron Judge (RF, 6’7″, 275, AAA)
It was a very tough decision to figure out if Aaron Judge or Luis Severino should be ranked number 1, but ultimately I went with Severino due to his big-league readiness. But Judge is more a 1B prospect than a true number 2. Judge is the most physically imposing prospect in all of baseball, and plays just as you would expect a man of his frame to play. His average stands at an acceptable.260, but he has potential 40-homer power in the bigs at Yankee Stadium. His defense is underrated in right field, and his arm is truly a cannon. Judge has 5 steals on the season, a decent amount for a man of his stature. Judge should be tearing up right field in Yankee Stadium by next season, while a starter’s job is his to lose for 2017.
1. Luis Severino (RHP, 6’0″, 195, MLB)
Luis Severino is the Yankees’ top prospect. A smallish righty, he doesn’t let his wry frame get in his way. Severino lights up radar guns, averaging 94 mph on his fastball while topping out at 98. His fastball features a good sinking action, making for lots of ground ball outs. The other impressive thing about Severino is his mastery of the changeup as his secondary offering. The changeup is a tough pitch to learn when and how to use, but Severino uses it constantly as a plus offspeed offering. His slider is an average third offering, but will get better with time. Severino is making his major league debut tonight, and it is unlikely that he will disappoint; he is the real deal and then some.