One of the best things about the end of offseason/beginning of Spring Training period in baseball is the annual release of everyone's top prospects lists. Whether you're Keith Law and your list is highly anticipated or you're just Joe Schmo who follows the goings on of the farm system closely, it's always nice to forget the perils of prospect hugging for a few minutes and take stock of the best the farm system has to offer. Everybody evaluates players differently, everybody values certain prospect traits more than others, and everybody has a couple of guys that they inexplicably like or dislike more than others, so it's always fun to see how all those differences add up.
To extend the fun a little longer, I wanted to come up with a way to take all the various lists that are out there right now and create one standardized top 10 for the current crop of Yankees prospects. The pool of lists being used for this standardization is made up of Keith Law's from ESPN, John Sickels' from Minor League Ball, Jonathan Mayo's from MLB.com, John Manuel's from Baseball America**, Mike Axisa's from RAB, TYA's own EJ Fagan, and my own personal list from AB4AR. If you're not already familiar with these lists, a simple internet search of any of the names above and "top Yankee prospects 2012" should bring you to them. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I am the only one who ranked Austin Romine third and didn't include Dante Bichette, Jr. in my top 10 at all. I will now pause to allow you a quick moment to make a sarcastic comment or joke at my expense.
(**- John Manuel released Baseball America's list on January 4th, prior to the Montero-Pineda trade, and has not updated it to include Jose Campos. For the purposes of this exercise I penciled Campos into the 5th spot on what would be the updated BA list behind Banuelos, Betances, Sanchez, and Williams.)
In the interest of simplicity, I used a ten-point system for the rankings, assigning a point value to each spot in the top 10 in reverse order: 10 points for being #1, 9 points for #2, 8 for 3, and so on. Then I simply added up the total points for each player who appeared on at least one of the seven prospect lists and ranked them highest point total to lowest. This is not an attempt to say that all prospect lists are created equal, or that mine is just as good as Keith Law's, but with prospects being such tricky things to evaluate and predict, it's difficult to say that one person's list is "better" than the others. It's also just for fun. Using that ten-point scale to rate all the players included on each individual list, here's how everything adds up to form the standardized top 10:
1) Manny Banuelos- 69 out of possible 70 points
2) Dellin Betances- 58 points
3) Gary Sanchez- 57 Points
4) Mason Williams- 51 Points
5) Jose Campos- 38 Points
6) Dante Bichette, Jr.- 28 Points
7) Austin Romine- 27 Points
8) J.R. Murphy- 12 Points
9) Adam Warren- 10 Points
10) Slade Heathcott- 9 Points
In the "also receiving votes" category we have Ravel Santana and Tyler Austin each with 8 points, David Phelps with 7, and Cito Culver with 2. Not as much variance in player selection towards the bottom half as I would have expected, but this version of the top 10 still gives a pretty good general description of the Yankee system. Manny Banuelos is the clear cut best prospect in the organization, but behind him it's not so easy to define who is #2, with both Betances and Sanchez making a strong case. The core of high-ceiling A-ball talent makes up the next group of big-time prospects, with a handful of Major League-ready Triple-A guys who could probably make many other teams' 25-man rosters sprinkled in. And Slade Heathcott, shoulder and personal problems aside, is still just too damn talented to ignore.