Scouting the Minors

imageWhile the focus remains on winning now, both of New York’s professional baseball teams expect that their farm systems will help them win later, too. Neither is equipped, particularly the Mets, with the depth of talent of the Royals, Rays or Rangers, for example, but New York does have some hot prospects in the minors. Pulse’s New York All-Prospect Team includes seven such players who could be in the majors as early as this season.

C: Austin Romine, Yankees
With Romine in the Yankee system, dealing Jesus Montero, a borderline major league backstop, for potential ace Michael Pineda was an easy move. Romine is an above-average catcher, far better than Gary Sanchez, who had 26 passed balls with Single-A Charleston last year. Romine’s bat won’t make anyone forget Jorge Posada’s, but it’s formidable enough.
Contenders: Sanchez, Yankees

1B: Aderlin Rodriguez, Mets
Rodriguez, 20, has light-tower power that could very well make Citi Field look like a sandlot park, but he’s a major liability at his current position, third base, at which he committed 44 errors last season. A move to first seems imminent although it’s highly unlikely he will displace Ike Davis there. Still, Rodriguez’s pop can’t be ignored.
Contenders: Brandon Laird, Yankees; Ramon Flores, Yankees

2B: Reese Havens, Mets
No one on the big-league roster is a threat to seize the second base job long-term and the Mets hope that either Havens or Jordany Valdespin grab the opportunity, eventually. Havens has battled injuries the last two years, including back trouble last season, but he has shown to have a solid, albeit unspectacular, all-around game. The former first-rounder’s line-drive stroke will be on display in Triple-A Buffalo in 2012. He hit .289 in Binghamton last season.
Contenders: Valdespin, Mets; Angelo Gumbs, Yankees

3B: Dante Bichette Jr., Yankees
Was there any doubt that Bichette Jr., the son of a four-time major league all-star, could hit? He batted .342 en route to a Gulf Coast League batting title and MVP award, and, it must be noted, a GCL championship. Bichette Jr. has shown above-average power as well as a sound approach, using all fields. Between him and Cito Culver, the left side of the infield could be set for the future.
Contenders: J.R. Murphy, Yankees; Laird, Yankees; Flores, Mets

SS: Cito Culver, Yankees
Culver could very well be the long-term successor to Derek Jeter. Granted, at just 19 years old, it’s too early to call, but the 2010 first-rounder has already shown to be an above-average defender. Culver, a switch-hitter, will take time to develop at the plate—he was far stronger from the right side at Single-A Staten Island last year. Nevertheless, the Bombers could have a special talent.
Contenders: Flores, Mets

OF: Mason Williams, Yankees; Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mets; Cesar Puello, Mets
Williams, 21, was named the New York-Penn League’s Player of the Year after hitting .349 in 269 at-bats for Staten Island. He’s also a blur on the base paths—his 28 steals led the NYPL—and in center field. With Curtis Granderson signed long-term, the big-league club won’t rush their prized outfielder though.

Nieuwenhuis, 24, has hit at every level after a standout career at Azusa Pacific. He was batting .298 over a two-month period with Triple-A Buffalo before tearing his labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. Nieuwenhuis ought to contribute in 2012, at the very least in a reserve role. With Andres Torres aging and the Mets outfield thin, he could very well become a regular.

Puello, 21, won’t be in the majors for at least another year, but Mets fans should be excited for his arrival. He lacks polish at the plate, but Puello is a physical specimen who showed pop and a plus arm with Single-A St. Lucie last season, batting .259 with 10 homers and 50 RBIs.
Contenders: Brandon Nimmo, Mets; Ravel Santana, Yankees; Cory Vaughn, Mets

P: Manny Banuelos, Yankees
This designation could go to one of a few arms in either team’s system, but Banuelos gets the nod. Yankees fans clamored for his arrival last season after a lights-out spring, but instead he went 6-7 with a 3.75 ERA at Double- and Triple-A. Banuelos’ modest 5’ 11”, 155-lb frame makes some wonder how well he’ll hold up (and his walk numbers were up last year), but a plus fastball and devastating change-up have drawn comparisons to another diminutive southpaw—Johan Santana. That’s on the high end, but it’s safe to say he’ll be a major contributor soon.
Contenders: Dellin Betances, Yankees; Adam Warren, Yankees; Zack Wheeler, Mets; Matt Harvey, Mets; Jeurys Familia, Mets

brett mauser

Brett Mauser has been a monthly contributor for Long Island Pulse since June 2006. In addition to freelancing for a variety of regional and national publications, he is the executive director of Hamptons Collegiate Baseball.