John Sickels Releases His 2016 Top 20 Yankees Prospects List

We haven't had a good prospect ranking list in a while.  Luckily for us John Sickels came through and dropped his top 20 Yankees prospects for 2016 late on Sunday night.  I always appreciate Sickels' rankings because he does the extra 10 and he always has a few selections that are off the beaten path, so it's a good read.  This year is no exception. For starters, Sickels doesn't have Aaron Judge as his number one.  That spot went to Gary Sanchez, with Jorge Mateo coming in at 2 and Judge at 3.  I can't argue with the decision to put Sanchez over Judge, especially with the way each of them performed upon their promotions to Triple-A.  But I'm not willing to say Mateo is a better prospect than Judge right now even with Judge's struggles in Triple-A.  That's just me.

Other highlights include Wilkerman Garcia at 7, Kyle Holder at 9, Ben Gamel at 15, and Hoy Jun Park at 17.  That's the highest I've seen any of those guys ranked, and I can get on board with Garcia and Gamel, but Holder in the top 10 is crazy to me.  The dude can't hit at all, and even if he has been making changes and improvements in workouts and winter ball, until it translates into on-field performance there's no reason to rank him anywhere near the top 10 in the Yankee system.  Maybe not even the top 20.

Sickels' rankings come with individual player grades and small capsules on each player, and all of it is free, which is nice.  Definitely worth a few minutes of your time if you have a prospect itch that needs scratching.  Speaking of which, I think it's about time we get on with the 2016 IIATMS Top 30, no?  There's only a few weeks left before ST starts and by then it'll be too late to worry about who's the 23rd best prospect in the organization.  We'll talk amongst ourselves and come up with a game plan, so be on the lookout for an announcement soon.

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Quick Hit: Yankees Sign Donovan Solano To MiL Deal

Well it ain't Juan Uribe, but the Yankees did do something to address their lack of upper level infield depth by signing Donovan Solano to a Minor League deal yesterday.  Solano, 28, is a long-time MiL player in the Cardinals and Marlins systems and has seen small chunks of time at the MLB level over the last 3 seasons. A right-handed hitter, Solano has a .257/.307/.328 tripleslash in 1,145 career MLB plate appearances and a .263/.314/.323 tripleslash in over 3,000 career MiL plate appearances.  If nothing else, he's been freaky consistent as he's worked his way up the ladder to the show.  As a whole, he's not much offensively.  He can put the bat on the ball, but that's about it.  Doesn't draw walks and doesn't hit for any power.  Defensively he's much more useful, spending time at second base, third base, and in the outfield corners in his MLB career and some at shortstop back in his MiL days.

We'll likely see Solano in camp when Spring Training starts, but I don't see him as a serious candidate for the final big league bench spot.  He's purely an org depth guy brought in to soak up some of the innings that have been lost by trading the Jose Pirelas and Tony Rendas of the world away this offseason.  He'll probably float around the infield for SWB as needed.

Quick follow-up on the final bench spot discussion from yesterday.  I saw somebody mention Chris Johnson as another good FA target in the comments and I could get on board with that idea too.  He hasn't been great offensively the last few years but he is a .314 career hitter against left-handed pitching and he could be used at both infield corners, which is a plus for the Yankees.  I don't think he's a better option than Uribe, but Johnson wouldn't be a bad Plan B or C to Uribe's A.

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Quick Hit: Yankees Lose 2, Select None In The Rule 5 Draft

The Rule 5 Draft just wrapped up a little while ago, and as expected the Yankees lost Double-A outfielder Jake Cave. He was taken with the 2nd pick of the draft by the Reds. What was extremely unexpected was the Braves taking right-hander Evan Rutckyj with the next pick, although maybe that should be expected given the number of former Yankee prospects and MiLers that the Braves have stockpiled over the last few years. The Yankees did not select anybody in the 3 rounds of the Major League draft, but did add 3 players in the Triple-A portion. They also lost 4 more players in that portion of the draft, so it certainly seems as though the Yankee farm system has improved as far as their competitors are concerned.

Cave was expendable thanks to the team's upper-level OF depth and I don't expect Rutckyj to stick on the Atlanta roster all year, so no big loss for the Yanks. The full draft results can be found here.

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2015 Arizona Fall League Wrap-Up

arizona-fall-league-logo-e1446911448562 The Arizona Fall League championship game was played on Saturday, with the Scottsdale Scorpions defeating the Surprise Sagueros 6-4.  The Yankees were well represented in the Surprise lineup, with Gary Sanchez starting at catcher and hitting cleanup, Tyler Austin starting in left field and hitting 6th, and Dustin Fowler starting in center and hitting 8th.  They all performed well too, each recording at least 1 hit in the game and Fowler hitting a home run.

With the AZFL season officially over, here's a final tally for the Yankee representatives:

Sanchez: .295/.357/.625, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 16 R in 88 AB Austin: .272/.344/.444, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 13 R, 7 SB in 81 AB Fowler: .279/.313/.410, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 14 R, 7 SB in 61 AB Tyler Wade: .220/.313/.268, 2 2B, 6 RBI, 6 R in 41 AB

Ian Clarkin: 24.2 IP, 34 H, 16 ER, 14 BB, 17 K, 5.84 ERA in 6 App Chaz Hebert: 14.1 IP, 13 H, 7 ER, 10 BB, 12 K, 4.40 ERA in 7 App Tyler Webb: 12.1 IP, 13 H, 8 ER, 3 BB, 12 K, 5.84 ERA in 9 App Domingo Acevedo: 12.0 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 11 K, 2.25 ERA in 7 App

The standout numbers still belong to Sanchez, who fell short in his bid to win league MVP despite leading in homers and ribbies.  But Fowler also had a nice showing for himself and Acevedo flashed the plus stuff that got people buzzing in Staten Island this season.  I would keep trying to develop him as a starter for the time being, but he showed that the framework for a fallback plan to high-velocity reliever is also in place.

A few guys performed well and hopefully made bigger names for themselves heading into 2016, a blue chip prospect continued to shine on his way to breaking into the big leagues for good, and everybody stayed healthy.  All in all, I think you have to call that a successful showing for the organization in this year's AZFL.

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Reviewing The Rule 5 Draft Roster Situation

Tomorrow is the deadline for teams to set the 40-man Major League, Triple-A, and Double-A rosters in preparation for next month's Rule 5 draft.  The Yankees always seem to be under a 40-man roster crunch and never seem to have enough spots for protection-worthy players who are Rule 5 eligible, and this season is no different.  Here's a quick breakdown of where the roster stands, what other moves might be made to clear space, and my thoughts on what players the Yankees will, won't, should, and should not protect. The Roster: Currently stands at 38 players.  21 pitchers, 3 catchers, 6 infielders (not including Ackley), 7 outfielders (including Ackley), and 1 Alex Rodriguez.

The Potential Casualties: Caleb Cotham, Domingo German

Cotham is a 28-year-old MiL lifer who just made his MLB debut in 2015.  He pitched to a 6.52/6.55 ERA/FIP split in 9.2 innings and gave up 14 hits and 4 homers.  He's most likely a Quad-A player at best, and the Yankees have enough to righty relief depth to make up for his loss.

German will be working his way back from TJS this year, and because of that he's a prime candidate to get the "release/re-sign to a MiL deal" treatment that Slade Heathcott and Vicente Campos got last year.  As a 23-year-old who's never pitched above Low-A, German could also be another player the Yankees are willing to lose if it comes to that.

The Protected: Rookie Davis, Jake Cave, Chaz Hebert (only if roster spots are available)

Davis is the most obvious Rule 5 protection candidate to me.  He took a big step forward in 2015 and even though his experience at Double-A was limited, I think there's a team out there that might try to snatch him up and hide him in their bullpen next season.  He and Cave are also top 20 organizational prospects and the I feel like the Yankees have done what they can to keep guys like that around for as long as possible the last few years.

If they open up any more roster spots, they could use one to protect Hebert.  He had a quiet breakout season as a lefty starter at 3 levels and he reached Triple-A before the end of the season.  The Yankees obviously like him in some capacity because they sent him to the AZFL.  He's been holding his own there as a reliever despite some command problems, and at 23 there is still time to see if he can develop as a starter.  The Yankees love their lefties and he's put himself on the map as a potential starter or reliever.

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Ian Clarkin Throws 4 Innings In His 2015 Debut

Guess these fall league updates will be more frequent than I thought.  That's with good reason this morning, as Ian Clarkin finally made his 2015 in-game debut yesterday in the AZFL.  He missed the entire MiL season due to a still undisclosed elbow injury, but started throwing bullpens and BP again in August and September and took the hill in his first real game of the year yesterday for the Surprise Saguaros. By all accounts, I'd say it was a pretty solid debut.  Clarkin went 4 innings, gave up an earned run on 4 hits and 3 walks, and struck out 2.  He threw 64 pitches, 37 strikes, 1 wild pitch, and got 6 outs on the ground.  The command wasn't there, as one would expect from a 20-year-old pitcher who didn't pitch all season, but it sounds like the stuff was.  Keith Law was at the game and tweeted this about Clarkin:

Throwing with good velocity, throwing plus offspeed pitches, and coming through the outing with no physical problems.  That's about as good as you could ask for.  If Clarkin can stay healthy, he could get 25ish innings this fall as early prep work for a full return in 2016 and that would be nice.  Even with the year missed, Clarkin is still an easy top 10 organizational prospect and maybe top 5 when you consider that Bird and Severino aren't on the list anymore.  The Yankees would surely like to see a healthy, productive year from him next year and this start was a good first step towards that goal.

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Arizona Fall League Starts Off With A Bang For Yankee Prospects

AZFL The Cubs advancing to the NLCS and the Dodgers forcing a Game 5 last night was cute, but the real highlight was the 2015 Arizona Fall League getting started with its first games.  The Yankees are well represented on the Surprise Saguaros roster, with 8 players on the team, and they had more than a few stars in last night's 6-5 loss.

The biggest and brightest was Gary Sanchez, who popped a 3-run home run in the top of the 1st to get the Saguaros on the board early.  He finished the night 2-4 hitting from the cleanup spot, and he was matched in that feat by fellow Yankee farmhands Tyler Austin and Tyler Wade.  Both guys doubled as one of their hits and Wade drove in 2 runs batting from the 9-spot and playing second base.  Austin hit 7th and played first.

There were no Yankee pitchers involved in last night's game, but that's where there figures to be the biggest focus once the season gets going.  Ian Clarkin was announced on the initial roster a while back, and this will be big for him to finally get into some games and get some work after missing all of 2015 with elbow problems.  A name that wasn't included then but is now is Domingo Acevedo, the big fireballer righty from SS Staten Island.  He pitched to a 1.69 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 48.0 IP for Staten Island this past season and hit 100+ on the radar gun on more than occasion.  At 21, he's a little old for short season ball, so this will be a good test for him against better hitting competition and a good way for the Yankees to start preparing him for A-ball next year.

With the inclusion of Acevedo, the Yankees' 8-man squad on Surprise is now he, Clarkin, Sanchez, Austin, Wade, Dustin Fowler, Chaz Hebert, and Tyler Webb.  We'll be checking in on their progress from time to time as the AZFL season rolls along.  Here's hoping Clarkin's elbow holds up, Acevedo's stuff impresses, and Sanchez mashes enough to overcome his unfair prospect fatigue and get back into the top 100.

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The 2015 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

The RailRiders' 2015 season ended on Friday night, a week earlier than they would have liked, as they lost three straight games to the Indianapolis Indians in the semifinals on the International League playoffs. Despite the disappointing ending, it was a strong year for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, who ended up with a 81-63 record (breaking their two year streak of going 68-76). For the tenth time in history (sixth as a Yankee affiliate), the RailRiders won the IL North Division title. Scranton was a solid team on both sides the of the diamond, in large part to an array of top prospects put on their uniform at some point in 2015, but also thanks to some lesser known players. As a team, Scranton hit .271/.339/.389, giving them the highest average and on base percentage in the IL, and the fourth best slugging percentage. They did better than average when it came to pitch selection, striking out 979 times as a team, which was the fifth lowest total in the IL, while taking 480 walks - the fifth highest in the IL. Their 32 triples and 247 doubles gave them the fourth most, but their main shortcoming on offense was their ability to steal bases, as they only managed eighty.

The RailRiders had help offensively by many players this year, but Ben Gamel ended the season with some extra hardware. The outfielder has put together some good seasons in the minors, but has always been a bit under the radar. This year he went .300/.358/.472 over 129 games in 2015 with 64 RBIs, ten homers, fourteen triples and 28 doubles. He was the lone Scranton player who was given a postseason All-Star nod, along with being named the IL Rookie of the Year. Cole Figueroa was also a key offensive player for the RailRiders, and more recognizable names like Gary Sanchez, Ramon Flores, Rob Refsnyder and Slade Heathcott did their part to contribute to a successful season for Scranton. Ali Castillo ended the season as the fourth Scranton player to pick up Batter of the Week honors, going .484 with a .529 on base percentage in the first week of September.

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Checking in on the Staten Island Yankees

Staten_Island_YankeesThe Staten Island Yankees are hosting a lot of the Yankees top draft picks of this year, so I thought this week we would check in on the Yankees' New York-Penn League team. The short-season team is actually leading the McNamara division with a 28-26 record, despite the team having no clear strength. They lead both Aberdeen and Hudson Valley by a game and half. The Staten Island hitters are putting up a combined slashline of .249/.327/.348. All of those put them squarely in the middle of the NYPL, yet they hold the third most runs (257), doubles (94) and RBIs (220). The Baby Bombers have shown that they can get on base and make it count, drawing 186 walks and stealing 46 bags. While the number of steals isn't that impressive, they have only been caught 13 times, the lowest in the NYPL. For comparison, Williamsport has stolen the second most bases (67) but has been caught the most (44).

Jhalan Jackson, this years's seventh round pick, has put together a strong start to his professional career, hitting .264/.346/.471. he leads the team in homers with five and is second in doubles with twelve. Jeff Hendrix, who the Yankees took in the fourth round, is hitting .234/.348/.269. He is second on the team with 21 walks and leads the Baby Bombers in steals with nine. The Yankees took Kyle Holder with their second pick of the first round, and he is off to a slow start with a line of .194/.263/.217.

The Yankees have put together decent numbers from the mound, but once again they are not blowing away the competition. Their 3.61 team ERA is sixth overall in the NYPL. The Baby Bombers have given up 24 homers, one more than their hitters have managed and fifth most in the league. On the positive side, they are in the bottom half of the league in walks with 166 and have struck out an impressive 429. Chance Adams, the Yankees fifth round pick, started with Staten Island. He threw four games and had a 0.93 ERA with just three walks and thirteen strikeouts. He has since been promoted to Charleston and now Tampa.

The Yankees are headed into the All-Star break, with the game slated for tomorrow. The Baby Bombers have four players representing them, including Jackson. Luis Cedeno, who signed out of the Dominican Republic, has given the Yankees great numbers off the mound after starting the year in Charleston. Infielder Thairo Estrada and outfielder Junior Valera rounded out the Yankees representation. Estrada is hitting .307 with fourteen doubles, two homers and six stolen bases. Valera has a .333 average and a .373 OBP. He has some speed with nine doubles, four triples and eight stolen bases, only getting caught twice.

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Tuesday Morning News And Notes: 7/21/15

Yesterday was an off-day and I'm staring down the barrel of another long day of professional development training today, so the creative juices aren't exactly flowing.  Here are some updates on the goings on around Yankeeland instead. - The early trade deadline target rumors are in, courtesy of Jon Heyman, and they're what you would expect them to be for the Yankees: a starting pitcher, a righty bat, and a righty reliever.  I have to imagine reliever is lowest down on the priority list with the return of Adam Warren to the 'pen, but the Yanks have been good at finding and acquiring undervalued relief talent over the years.

- Via Chad Jennings, top prospect Aaron Judge has missed the last few Triple-A games with what Cash called "some minor stuff".  Take that news however you want.

- On the positive side, Mason Williams has started playing catch again and it sounds like his shoulder has finally started getting better.  Slade Heathcott is also better and reportedly close to playing in some rehab games.

- Keeping on the prospect topic, Gary Sanchez was promoted to Triple-A over the weekend.  He went 2-4 with a homer and 3 RBI in his first game on Saturday.  The Yankees now have arguably their top 4 prospects playing together at Triple-A, top 5 depending on how highly you regard Refsnyder, and could have their top 6 if Eric Jagielo hadn't gotten hurt.

- As first reported by Brendan Kuty, the Yankees released Triple-A SS Nick Noonan yesterday after activating him from the DL.  In a way, this was the organizational depth result of Refs going down and Brendan Ryan staying on the 25-man.  With Refs, Figueroa, Petit, and Pirela all still around, there was no space for Noonan anymore.  Tough break.  Hate to lose assets like this before the deadline.

- Pitching matchups for this 3-game set against the Orioles: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Wei-Yen Chen tonight, Ivan Nova vs. Kevin Gausman tomorrow night, Masahiro Tanaka vs. Ubaldo Jimenez on Wednesday.  That one will be worth watching.

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