Thursday, February 9, 2012

Keith Law's Top 100 Prospects

Following up on his organizational farm system rankings yesterday, Keith Law was kind enough to unveil his Top 100 players list for the world today, as well as his Top 10 for each team.

The articles are Insider Only again, but the top 3 were Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Matt Moore.  The Yankees were well-represented by prospects present and past, placing 4 of their own in the top 100 (ManBan 23rd, Williams 34th, Sanchez 55th, and Betances 83rd) and also having former Yankee farmhands Jesus Montero (9th) and Arodys Vizcaino (14th) place in the top 15.

I was a little surprised to see Williams ranked so highly and ranked above Sanchez, but that's pretty typical for Law's style of valuing tools and high upside more.  He went upside-heavy with his Yankee top 10 as well:

1) Manny Banuelos- LHP
2) Mason Williams- CF
3) Gary Sanchez- C
4) Dellin Betances- RHP
5) Tyler Austin- IF
6) Jose Campos- RHP
7) Dante Bichette, Jr.- 3B
8) Austin Romine- C
9) J.R. Murphy- C
10) Slade Heathcott- OF

P.S.- It's still weird to think about The Jesus not being a Yankee anymore.  Every time I see his name I feel like Lloyd Christmas.

"Goodbye, my LOOOOOOOVE!!!"

Ninja Cash Having A Monster Offseason

(Ninja Cash moves in silence.)

Say what you will about how he handles his marital business, but there's no denying that Brian Cashman has been on a real hot streak over the last couple years as GM.  He has made moves that have made the Yankees better, younger, and deeper as a Major League team and an organization, and has kept them consistently balanced for the present and the future through a combination of aggressive big-dollar signings, smart low-dollar signings, and wise decision making in the trade market, for trades both made and not made.  He's continued that hot streak this offseason, pulling of a collection of smart moves that few saw coming, and doing it under the first semblance of a real payroll budget.

It seems like it was ages ago now, but Cash's best move this offseason might very well have been the his first one, the re-upping of CC Sabathia before he opted out and became a free agent.  It looked like a done deal that CC was heading for the opt out when the Yankees swooped in on Halloween night and swiftly announced the signing before he could officially hit the market.  Cash was able to orchestrate a deal that was both fair and attractive to CC and in line with the team's desire to not get locked into another super-long contract.  Cash took the biggest free agent pitcher off the market before he could even reach it, forcing any teams that were focusing on offering CC a deal to rethink their strategy, guaranteeing that the Yankees would be winners in their search to upgrade their rotation, and starting the wheels turning on the rest of his plan to complete that upgrade.

The quick and painless process with which the Yankees and CC made their deal gave the impression to everybody out there that Cash was fully intending on being aggressively active at the Winter Meetings to try to lock up another big name to go with CC.  Cash played to this expectation perfectly, meeting with enough agents and having enough involvement with all the big pitching targets that the teams who were really interested in them had to make serious offers, perhaps more serious than they were intending based on the Yankees' perceived interest and big-money reputation.  And while all the focus was on the free agents, Cash was busy laying the groundwork for his deal with the Mariners.  He used the team's perceived interest in guys like C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson, and Yu Darvish as a smoke screen to throw everybody off the path he really wanted to take to improve the rotation.

When Cash finally revealed that path to the world, we got the Pineda-Montero trade.  It was a move that nobody saw coming, and it was a move that was beneficial to the Yankees in many ways.  It allowed them to address their biggest area of weakness both for the present and for the future, and while it cost them their top prospect, it allowed them to deal from their deepest deck of prospect cards and not sacrifice any of the young pitching depth they've built.  It also allowed the Yankees to improve that area of weakness without taking on significant salary, thus fitting in with their potential long-term goal of cutting payroll.  It's that kind of forward thinking and big picture consideration that made this a no-doubt winning move, and it was all Cash.  I mean, come on.  You think Randy Levine could have pulled the Pineda trade off without giving up ManBan or Betances?

The way Cash has handled the follow-up to the big trade was brilliant as well, immediately announcing the Hiroki Kuroda signing.  Kuroda was arguably the best free agent starter still available, and the Yankees got him for less than his asking price.  He provides increased depth and stability to the rotation, should provide above-average production, and on a one-year deal, also fits right in with the long-term payroll flexibility plans.  Cash could have gone after Kuroda aggressively during the Winter Meetings but was smart to not jump all over him then, instead choosing to give it some time until the FA pitching herd had thinned out and prices started to come down.  This was a patient, calculated, well thought out plan to address the rotation and it was pulled off without anybody being tipped of to what the Yankees were doing.  That's Ninja Style 101.

Keith Law Ranks Yankee MiL System In His Top 10

Keith Law of ESPN released his organizational MiL system rankings today, and the Yankees had a good showing, placing 10th overall.  The entire article is Insider Only, but Law had this to say about the Yankee system:

"I might be jumping the gun here, but I see a lot of star potential on their bottom few affiliates, including new acquisition Jose Campos from Seattle, to go with the two power arms from their Scranton club (Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances). The flaw in the system is the lack of near-in talent, especially position players, who could either help the big club soon or provide more fodder for trades."

I think that's the most accurate description of the Yankee farm system anyone could make in so few words, and it will be important for guys like Zoilo Almonte and Ramon Flores to have success this year to try to move closer to providing some of that "near-in" depth that Law talks about.  But what I think is most important to take from this is the fact that the Yankees dropped only one spot in the rankings, from 9th last year to 10th this year, despite trading away their #1 prospect.  To maintain their status in the eyes of someone like Keith Law speaks volumes about both the talent level and depth in the Yankee farm right now.

For more prospect talk, check out the AB4AR Top 30.