This is the time of year when various media outlets release their lists of top prospects from each organization in Major League Baseball. For the most part, the names on those lists will largely be the same regardless of who chooses them. The players who reach top-prospect status mostly have done so because of a combination of performance and potential, but next year the names will change. Here are the players in the minor league system of the New York Yankees who have a great chance to jump into the lists of top prospects next year.
Domingo Acevedo RHP
The Yankees would have loved for Acevedo to throw more than 15 innings this year, but a tired arm limited his mainland debut. At full strength for 2015, it would be great to see Acevedo challenged with a spot on the Charleston pitching staff at age 21. He is a 6’7″ monster whose fastball reportedly touched 100 miles per hour this past season, and yet he doesn’t throw the ball all over the place. If he takes his turns, sees development in his secondary stuff, and throws strikes, there is no reason Acevedo shouldn’t have a stand-out full season next year and jump into the conversation of the Yankees’ best pitching prospects.
When compared to Jorge Mateo, Avelino doesn’t generate the same amount of excitement because of a lack of dynamic physical tools. He is the type of player where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, but that’s not to say he is physically limited. Avelino plays with maturity and calm beyond his years, and his range, arm, and hands at short leave no doubt of his ability to stay at the position as he develops. If not for a quad injury that robbed him of almost three months of the season, Avelino likely would have played himself into consideration for the top ten prospects in the organization. Considering he played in a long-season league at age 19 and has no obvious weakness in his game, he still may be the best shortstop prospect the Yankees have.
Simon De La Rosa RHP
With a plus big-league fastball and breaking ball combination and looking the part at 6’3″ and 195 pounds, De la Rosa is the type of tantalizing pitching prospect fans love to see in an organization. However, in his first 88 professional innings, De la Rosa has walked 58 batters, and that has to change before he comes up in top-prospect discussions. Like running backs who fumble, pitchers who give free passes have trouble staying on the field. He will pitch most of next season at 22 years of age and doesn’t have a lot of innings under his belt, but even if De la Rosa gets moved to the bullpen he projects as a weapon. His strikeouts per nine innings in professional baseball are just under 12, and he has the potential to maintain that as he climbs the ladder.
Ty Hensley RHP
To say Hensley’s had some health issues since entering professional baseball would be an understatement, but the surgeries he’s undergone should serve to improve him long-term rather than indicate someone who is breaking down. Problems in his hips have cost him the most time, but correcting that issue should only add to his physical ability. If Hensley can stay healthy, he has a chance to show why he was drafted in the first round out of high school in 2012. He should begin next season in Charleston at age 21, and a strong first half could catapult him to Tampa. The end of the 2014 season was an indication that Hensley’s fastball and curveball were almost all the way back, and an added changeup would make him a top starting prospect.
Brady Lail RHP
Like Hensley, Lail was drafted out of high school in 2012, only he was chosen 17 rounds later. Lail, though, has experienced a full season of success already and finished the 2014 season in Tampa. Lail may be the Abiatal Avelino of pitching prospects in that he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. His pitches grade out above average, he throws strikes, he pitches to contact but also strikes out batters, and he displays maturity and competitiveness. A strong first half in 2015 will likely see Lail reach AA before he turns 22, and while his ceiling is that of a mid-rotation starter, he is not a lottery ticket and has shown the aptitude to reach that ceiling. Who wouldn’t take a number three or four starter?
Someone with a .193/.267/.260 slash line doesn’t look like a top prospect on paper, but considering Molina didn’t turn 17 until August and was more than three years younger than the average player of the league in which he played, you have to look deeper to understand what kind of player this is. Molina has all of the physical tools you’d want a centerfield prospect to have to go with the maturity to handle the struggles he faced in his debut season. All he’s going to do is get better, and although he may repeat the Gulf Coast League in 2015, his performance could make enough of an impression to include him in top-prospect discussions.
Tyler Wade SS
Wade just turned 20, but he already has a successful season at Charleston under his belt. One of the hardest things for young players to do is be consistent, but Wade steadily produced throughout his first full season. At a lean 6’1″ and 190 pounds, Wade is an above-average, athletic defender, he can run, and he has a loose, whip-like swing that produces line drives from a mature approach at the plate. He shouldn’t be expected to hit for power, but he’s going to get stronger and see some of his doubles and triples turn into home runs. There is a lot to like about Wade, and he will continue to develop as a shortstop while seeing some time at second base as well.