The publication also ranked the Yankees farm system fifth of 30 teams, advancing from 22nd place a year ago. BaseLines takes a look at that Top 30, giving Thunder fans an idea of which of the elite they could see at Waterfront Park in 2011:
- 1. Jesus Montero, Catcher – His 44-game stint in a Thunder uniform is all that will be – unless he comes back for a rehab assignment. Likely to start at Triple-A Scranton, with a promotion to The Bronx in order this summer.
- 2. Gary Sanchez, Catcher – Will play 2011 season at the tender age of 19. Rated by some as best of the catching prospects. Set to begin 2011 at Class-A Charleston, he could arrive in Trenton sometime in 2012.
- 3. Dellin Betances, RHP – Will start 2011 with Thunder after comeback season in 2010. Needs to improve his change and stay healthy.
- 4. Manny Banuelos, LHP – Could be Thunder’s Opening Night starter April 7 at New Hampshire. Could move quickly if fastball, which hit 95 mph in Arizona Fall League, clicks with curve and change.
- 5. Andrew Brackman, RHP – Put together 5-7, 3.01 record in 15 appearances (14 starts) with the Thunder. Improved as the season went along. Must improve consistency. Could be ticketed by Scranton bullpen, or could start year with Thunder. Spring training will tell.
- 6. Austin Romine, C – Has stated his goal is to make Yankees out of spring training after batting .268 (122-for-455) with Thunder in 2010. Competing with Montero for that spot. If Montero is at Scranton, look for Romine to start with Thunder in 2011, then move to Triple-A in conjunction with a Montero promotion.
- 7. Hector Noesi, RHP – After 8-4, 3.10 effort in 17 appearances with Thunder in 2010, made three starts for Scranton. Could be trade bait. Otherwise, will be a key member of Scranton rotation.
- 8. Eduardo Nunez – His Thunder year was 2009, when he batted .322 160-for-497). Will be an infield reserve with Yankees in 2011.
- 9. Slade Heathcott, OF – Likely to return to Class-A Charleston after labrum surgery on (left)n throwing shoulder. Look for this blazer to patrol center field for Thunder in 2012.
- 10. Brandon Laird, IF-OF – Yankees like new versatility after Eastern League MVP and 102-RBI season. Hot spring could earn him bench spot in The Bronx, but likely will further tune his game in Scranton.
- 11. Brett Marshall, RHP – Power pitcher who was 4-2, 2.50 for Charleston last season after 2009 Tommy John surgery. Fastball has hit 97 mph and slider is a plus pitch. Could make his way to Thunder at some point in 2011.
- 12. Adam Warren, RHP – Was 11-7 between Tampa and Thunder in 2011 and stock has risen with 15-strikeout, seven-inning effort last August. Could be early “veteran’’ of Thunder staff, then move to Triple-A quickly.
- 13. Ivan Nova, RHP – Twelve-game 2009 stint with Thunder, in which he went 5-4, 2.36, was it with Thunder. Either back-of-the-rotation starter or bullpen bulwark for Yankees in 2011.
- 14. J.R. Murphy, C-IF –OF – Yankees like his bat, and with Sanchez at Charleston, may return there and play some backstop, some corner outfield and some third base and see where he settles. Thunder arrival looks like 2012.
- 15. Mason Williams, OF – Has tremendous speed and solid tools. Yankees’ fourth-round pick in 2010. Might see Charleston this season. Likely will play at Staten Island. Thunder arrival looks like 2013.
- 16. David Phelps, RHP – Most underrated hurler in Yankees system. Was 10-2 overall with Thunder and Scranton in 2011 and is 31-8, 2,50 in three Minor League seasons. Good fastball-curve combo. Change could improve. Key member of Scranton rotation in 2011.
- 17. Graham Stoneburner, RHP – Was 9-8 between Tampa and Charleston in 2010 with little run support. Throws fastball, slider and change. Has legitimate shot at starting 2011 with Thunder. Is a battler.
- 18. D.J. Mitchell – Thunder skipper Tony Franklin noted his “stuff was filthy’’ last season, when he was 11-4, 4.06 for Thunder and 2-0, 3,57 in three starts at Scranton. Has four pitchers. Will be part of Scranton rotation, but could be groomed for Yankees bullpen role.
- 19. Melky Mesa, OF – Speedy, tool-laden outfielder with power. Earned Florida State League MVP honors in 2010. Hit .260 (116-for-446) with 19 homers, 74 RBIs and 31 stolen bases for Tampa. If plate management improves, could be a Thunder star in 2011. Tony Franklin sings his praises.
- 20. Corban Joseph, IF – Bat has always been calling card, but hit just .216 (24-for-111) in 31 games with Thunder in 2010. Will take a walk. Will be a regular with Thunder in 2011, perhaps playing both second base and third base.
- 21. Cito Culver, SS – Impressive defensively at Staten Island in 2010, but hit just .186 (8-for-43) in 15 games. Yankees’ top draft pick in 2010. Should start at Charleston.
- 22. David Adams, 2B – Was off to a great start with Thunder in 2010, batting .309 (47-for-152) in 39 starts without an error before broken bone in ankle took him out for season in May. Likely will return to Thunder, with another fast start earning him a trip up the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Scranton.
- 23. Bryan Mitchell, RHP – Like Adam Warren, a North Carolina product. Command was issue ion Gulf Coast League and Staten Island last season. Will start in Charleston, but, if he pulls it all together, move quickly.
- 24. Jose Ramirez, RHP – Just 20, he was6-05, 3.60 in 22 appearances at Charleston in 2010. Command needs to be tightened up. Likely to spend most of 2011 at Tampa.
- 25. Angelo Gumbs, SS – Yankees’ second-round pick in 2010 and played just seven games in Gulf Coast League. Just 18, he may get to Staten Island this season.
- 26. Jeremy Bleich, LHP – Elbow and shoulder issues have haunted former supplemental first-round pick. Is 6-8 in 2009-10 appearances with Thunder and underwent surgery for torn labrum in pitching shoulder last summer. Could return to Trenton late in the 2011 season.
- 27. Dan Brewer, OF – Finally got some recognition by hitting .320 the second half of last season. Can play all outfield positions. Made good adjustments last year and hit 10 homers and drove in 84 runs for Thunder. Could return as “veteran’’ outfielder, but will play at Scranton for much of 2011.
- 28. Tommy Kahnle, RHP – A fifth-round pick in 2010 out of Southern Arkansas, he displayed a 98 mph fastball and was virtually unhittable at Staten island (0-0, 0.56 in 16 innings with 25 strikeouts). Could be a darkhorse candidate to get to Waterfront Park in 2011.
- 29. Chase Whitley, RHP – Was a solid 4-2, 1.31 with 15 saves as Staten Island’s closer in 2010. Has solid fastball and good slider. Another darkhorse Thunder candidate for 2011.
- 30. Pat Venditte – SWP – The switch-pitcher from Creighton faces a key season in 2011. Might be eighth-inning guy for Tony Franklin, might close. Stuff is more formidable from right side.
Baseball America also includes a benefit 31st prospect. For the Yankees, this is slugging outfielder Kelvin DeLeon, who didn’t slug that much at Staten Island last year. Can’t hit off-speed stuff. Ticketed for Charleston in 2011.
PIRELA APPARENTLY THE MAN: Over the past few weeks, Yankees Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations Mark Newman, has sung the praises of shortstop Jose Pirela, telling colleagues George King (New York Post/Baseball America) and Josh Norris (Trentonian/Minor Matters) that the 21-year-old will likely be the Thunder shortstop in 2011.
That may be so – and we are not all that familiar with Pirela – but the player committed 50 errors at shortstop for Tampa in 2010. He batted .252 (125-for-497) and stole 30 bases. Bear in mind, early in his career, Derek Jeter committed 56 at Class-A Greensboro of the Southern League and he turned out just fine.
Pirela struggled at the plate in the Arizona Fall League, but hit well in the Venezuelan Winter League. Spring training will tell where Pirela is assigned, but he does have a big booster in the office that counts.
FROM MAINE TO OHIO AND VIRGINIA: New Hampshire’s ballpark is now called Delta Dental Stadium after the Fisher Cats signed a new naming-rights deal … The Bowie Baysox announced Prince George’s Stadium will host an exhibition involving the Women’s National Softball team and the Junior National team July 1 at Prince George’s Stadium … Baselines will be reporting from the Thunder spring training camp in Tampa March 16-20.