Prospect Stock Watch: August/September 2014

Jaron Long 2014 It's a bit belated, but I couldn't let the Minor League seasons end without getting a final monthly stock watch post up.  The second half of the season felt much better than the first, with guys like Aaron Judge and Rob Refsnyder continuing their hot hitting from early and guys like ManBan, Tyler Austin, Greg Bird, and Gary Sanchez stepping up in the second half.  For the final time in 2014, here are the prospects who did the most to help and hurt themselves in the final month plus of the season.

Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre:

Stock Up- Tyler Webb

Webb capped off a very good year that saw him pitch at 3 different levels by settling into the SWB bullpen after being promoted in mid-August and being one of the first names off Brian Cashman's lips when discussing possible lefty replacements for the departed Matt Thornton.  Webb's August performance in Triple-A was uneven, with a few clunkers thrown in to juice his ERA up to 4.85.  But he continued to show big time strikeout stuff (15 K in 13.0 IP) and finished the year with 94 strikeouts in 68.2 total IP.  He'll come to ST next year with an outside chance of winning a Major League bullpen job.

Stock Down- Zoilo Almonte

When you're getting designated for assignment on roster expansion day to clear 40-man room for Antoan Richardson, that tells you everything you need to know about what your organization thinks of you.  Even if Zoilo ends up back on the Yankees, his window of opportunity is basically shut.  He didn't have as good a year with the bat in his repeat Triple-A season this year as he did in 2013, even though he did maintain a decent power output.  He also didn't do much when he got another Major League call-up, and he hit .207/.262/.288 with 31 K in 122 August plate appearances.  That's not the way to build confidence when you're already a fringe guy.

Double-A Trenton:

Stock Up- Jaron Long/Greg Bird

Long might have been the best pitcher in the system not named Severino this year.  An undrafted free agent in 2013, he pitched to a 2.18 ERA with 122 K/22 BB in 144.1 IP spread across 3 levels this season, the last stint coming for the Thunder.  In 6 August starts, that ERA was 2.06 and that included an 8-shutout inning gem on 8/21.  Safe to say Long has bypassed his daddy as the most valuable member of that family in the organization.

Bird got bumped to Trenton on 8/2 and didn't miss a beat from what he was doing at Tampa before the promotion.  He hit .253/.379/.558 in 116 PA with 8 2B, 7 HR, 11 RBI, and 16 R scored, continuing to show the plus combination of power and patience that he displayed last year.  For the year, Bird finished with a .271/.376/.472 slash line and 14 HR in 102 games.  11 of those 14 came in his final 54 games.

Stock Down- Mason Williams

It's never good when you show up on a negative prospect report multiple times, but that's what Williams did here as his star continues to plummet.  In a full season at the Double-A level, Williams was actually worse in 2014 than he was last year.  Batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging were all down, his BB and K rates were about the same, and a season-best .770 OPS in August did little to save his numbers.  Factor in the multiple benchings and continued attitude problems, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Williams tumble off a lot of top prospect lists entirely in 2015.

High-A Tampa:

Stock Up- Mark Payton

One of the earliest to sign and start his pro career from the 2014 draft class, Payton came in with a reputation as a batting average/speed/defense guy who was not expected to be too much of a threat with the bat at the pro level.  All he did in his first year was put up a .943 OPS in Low-A ball and earn himself a quick promotion to Tampa to finish the season, where he hit .286/.396/.495 in 111 PA.  He hit 11 doubles, smacked 2 home runs, scored 14 runs, and stole 3 bases in 26 games at this level, potentially raising his ceiling and prospect stock heading into 2015.

Stock Down- Caleb Smith

A 22-year-old left-hander doing well in Low-A ball is no surprise and that's what Smith did in the first half of this year.  3.10 ERA, 80 K in 78.1 IP.  Then he got bumped to High-A and didn't experience the same success.  He was more hittable, he wasn't striking as many guys out, and he was very inconsistent with his command.  Smith had a 6.45 ERA in 6 August starts, which were bookended by 2 brutal outings that saw him surrender 13 ER in 6.1 innings.  He also tossed back-to-back scoreless outings before his disastrous last start of the season, so the talent is there.  Now it's a matter of seeing if he can make the adjustments and tighten up his game to compete with better hitters.

Low-A Charleston:

Stock Up- Justin Kamplain

If you didn't know about him before now, don't feel bad.  Kamplain was the Yankees' 18th round pick in this year's draft, not exactly a headline-grabbing selection.  With what he did in his first year of pro ball, he's someone to keep an eye on next year.  The 21-year-old lefty was working as a short-inning starter for Staten Island when he got bumped up to Charleston in early August.  He pitched to a 2.78 ERA over 22.2 innings in 6 starts for the RiverDogs, giving him a 1.65 ERA in 43.2 IP with 46 K across 2 levels.

Stock Down- Gosuke Katoh

I'm in the camp that thought Katoh was over-assigned to a full-season league this year, so I feel like I'm being a little bit harsh putting him here.  That said, Katoh never showed much sign of improvement over the 5 months.  He looked like he was starting to get the hang of things with a solid June (.732 OPS) and better July (.792), but he finished with a .181/.373/.221 slash line in August and 32 strikeouts in 110 PA.  The BB rate is encouraging at 15.3%.  The K rate is disconcerting at 30.5%.  After 1 season in which he was much better than people anticipated and another in which he was much worse, we still don't really know what kind of offensive player Katoh is capable of being.

Short Season Leagues: Staten Island & GCL Yanks

Stock Up- Alexander Palma & Orby Tavares (GCL)

Palma had a good start to his first season of American pro ball in June (.763 OPS), a tough July (.571), and then he really turned it on in August.  The 18-year-old hit .389/.398/.567 in 93 August PA with 5 2B, 3 HR, 11 R scored, 23 RBI, and 9 SB, giving him a final season slash line of .305/.318/.451.  He was the second-biggest signing of the Yankees' 2012 international FA class after Luis Torrens and he's already flashing some good tools.

An under-heralded signing in 2013, Tavares came stateside and looked pretty good in his American pro debut.  In 13 appearances for the GCL team, Tavares pitched to a 2.68 ERA with 30 K in 40.1 IP.  He has good size at 6'4"/225 and a good 3-pitch mix of fastball-changeup-curve.  At 19 years old, he's got plenty of time to polish those tools into something.

Stock Down- Jordan Cote & Austin Aune (SS Staten Island)

It's been tough sledding for these 2, who started to look more like high-risk picks that aren't going to pan out this year.  Cote started the year in Charleston and was so bad that he got bumped down to SS Staten Island in June.  For the year he pitched to a 6.14 ERA in 73.1 IP on 123 combined hits and walks.  Closing in on age 22 with no solid footing as a starter or a reliever.  That ain't good.

Aune wasn't as bad as he was in 2013, and he was really bad in 2013.  He also wasn't very good, hitting .218/.278/.373 with a 39.6% K rate in 245 PA for Staten Island this year.  Aune has struck out in an astounding 41.2% of his 410 PA over the last 2 seasons.  He was a project as a 19-year-old in 2012 when he was hitting.  At 21, he's practically a lost cause now.

That'll wrap it up for the 2014 edition of "Prospect Stock Watch".  Be on the lookout for the 2014-2015 IIATMS Top 30 Prospects list sometime early next year.