Yankees have depth, talent in Minors system
Recent Draft picks add to stable of prospects moving through organization
The Yankees' work in their organizational war room is complete, as scouting director Damon Oppenheimer and his staff identified 42 choices to make up their newest installment of talent from the First-Year Player Draft.
Over the next few months, many of those choices will assimilate into the lower levels of the Yanks' farm system, beginning their respective journeys in the hopes that a path of long bus rides and fast food can eventually lead to Yankee Stadium.
"Every year, it's an important lifeblood thing," general manager Brian Cashman said. "We have the ability to use every tool in the toolbox because of our ability to spend on free agents and stuff. But the amateur Draft is vitally important for us to do well in."
In total, the Yankees made 42 selections: 21 pitchers, 10 infielders, 10 outfielders and one catcher. Of those picks, 27 were from the collegiate level and 15 from the high school ranks.
Many will join a chain that boasts the products from Drafts past, including a promising collection of talent that Oppenheimer said has the Yanks believing they are blessed with some depth in several areas.
"With your young outfielders, you think you have some outfield depth," Oppenheimer said. "We've got catching, so you think you have some catching. You can always use pitching. You can always use some starters; power starters. We can always use help in the middle infield."
MLB.com ranks 21-year-old outfielder Mason Williams as New York's No. 2 overall prospect. Williams is currently at Class A Tampa and has had a rough start to the 2013 campaign after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury last year.
The Yankees are still high on Williams, but they also project a future as a big league regular for outfielder Tyler Austin, who has been promoted to Double-A Trenton and is ranked third on MLB.com's organizational list.
Slade Heathcott, the Yanks' first-round selection in 2009, is also at Trenton and has a chance to be an impact player in the big leagues by next season if he is able to remain healthy. The 22-year-old is known in the organization for his all-out style of play, which tends to raise injury concerns but isn't something Heathcott apologizes for.
"We're all out in the outfield. Our pitchers are out there throwing," Heathcott said. "It's our job to put everything out there on the line to catch the ball for them."
The Yankees like outfielder Zoilo Almonte, who is at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and received some consideration this spring in big league camp. Robert Refsnyder, drafted last year in the fifth round, has been converted from an outfielder to a second baseman and is hitting well at Tampa.
Evaluators continue to see strength in the catching department, which elevated Austin Romine to the big leagues after an injury to Francisco Cervelli.
No. 1 prospect Gary Sanchez, an International signing, is currently at Tampa, while slugger J.R. Murphy is working on his game-calling at the Double-A level. Peter O'Brien, 22, a 2012 Draft pick, is also showcasing a loud bat at Class A Charleston.
The Yanks' top two ranked pitching prospects -- left-hander Manny Banuelos and right-hander Ty Hensley, the club's first-round pick in 2012 -- will miss all of this season due to injuries.
In fact, the Yankees' last top three picks have all had some issues; infielder Dante Bichette Jr. has struggled at Charleston after being selected in 2011, and infielder Cito Culver is also still in Charleston after being picked in 2010.
But there's an arm to be excited about on that Charleston staff, where 22-year-old Rafael DePaula has been topping out in the high 90s with his fastball while striking out more than one batter per inning.
Additionally, the Yanks still love right-hander Mark Montgomery's power slider, despite some struggles at Triple-A this year, and were wowed this spring by right-hander Jose Ramirez's changeup. Righty Jose Campos is also high on the club's prospect list.
The hope is that some of those names will soon follow the lead of Preston Claiborne, who was promoted to the big league squad this season and has strongly stated a case to slide in alongside other farm-system products like David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain.
"Guys who throw strikes, they get results and they move up," Claiborne said. "I was always a guy [that] they pounded that into my head, as they do all the guys in the organization and farm system. It's true testament, because if you walk guys, you won't have success."