QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS (From John Sickels):1. Jesus Montero, C – Outside of Bryce Harper he has the best bat of any prospect. Has produced at every level and posted a monstrous .328/.406/.590 line in 18 games with the Yankees in 2011. His bat is definitely ready. Grade A.
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
2. Gary Sanchez, C – Good defense and great power already from an 18 year old catcher. Not much more you could want. His average wasn’t spectacular last year, but that's not overly concerning right now. Grade B+.
3. Manny Banuelos, LHP – Banuelos is one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, but something has me holding him back from being No. 2 on this list. He has great stuff, but my gut tells me to even knock him down below Betances. Still, the age and numbers can’t be ignored. Grade: B+.
4. Dellin Betances, RHP – Has the kind of size, power, and stuff that dreams are made of. If he can get his control to even an okay level he will be a top-of-the-rotation arm. But that's a big if. Grade B+.
5. Mason Williams, OF – I LOVE him. It was a joy to watch almost all of his games last year in Staten Island. Managed to find a way to make an impact in just about every game, whether it was with his speed, power, or glove. Still has A LOT of room to fill out. True ball player. Grade: B+.
6. Austin Romine, C – The best defensive catcher in the Yankees system gets no love because he is “only” an average hitter to go along with his glove skills. Grade: B.
7. Dante Bichette, Jr., 3B – Bichette had a monster half season after getting drafted, showing both polish and tools. Maybe a little bit of an aggressive ranking, but I expect big things from the kid with great bloodlines. Grade: B.
8. David Phelps, RHP – Not overpowering, but he’s no chump either and matches it with great command. Is big league ready. Grade: B-.
9. Adam Warren, RHP – Big righty with multiple pitches that he can throw for strikes. The groundballs disappeared last year and he is going to need to go back to being a groundball machine to succeed in the MLB. Grade: B-.
10. J.R. Murphy, C – Love his swing and the results were pretty good in a pair of pitcher’s leagues. A lot of the rank is on the reported improvements in his defense. Drops down the list if he has to move to 3B. Grade: B-.
11. Brett Marshall, RHP – I feel like I am undervaluing Marshall this low on the list. I like him that much. He is one of my favorite pitching prospects on the team, but for various reasons comes in behind pitchers am not as high on over the long term. Could “breakout” this year. Grade: B-.
12. Jairo Heredia, RHP – The Yankees have taken it slow with him, but he has had great results. Will need to learn how to last deeper in games if he wants to remain a starter. This season will be a pretty crucial year for his development. Grade: C+.
13. Slade Heathcott, OF – I am going to be straightforward and say I am most likely Heathcott’s least favorite fan. I don’t expect him to ever live up to the 1st round hype that surrounds him, but with his defense and an improved season with the bat deserves some watching. Grade: C+.
14. Angelo Gumbs, 2B - Still very raw and very young. Has good speed, but still needs to work on his base running skills. Made more consistent, hard contact than Culver last season. Grade: C+.
15. Cito Culver, SS – There is obviously value in the defense, but his bat did not impress me at all. Had trouble squaring up any type of pitch he saw. His K:BB was pretty solid though. Grade: C+.
16. Ravel Santana, OF – Good chance I’d have him higher if not for the injury. He should recover fine and on time at his age, but you just never know. Was having a monster season in the GCL. Grade: C+.
17. Greg Bird, C – Because the Yankees needed another big time catching prospect so they spent $1.1 million dollars on this 5th round pick out of Colorado. With that being said he will most likely move to 1st base eventually, but his power potential is too legit not to get a mention on this list. Grade: C.
18. Jordan Cote, RHP – The big 2011 3rd draft pick has drawn some big time comparisons so it will be nice to finally get to see him perform in 2012. Grade: C.
19. David Adams, 2B – Has hit when healthy. He just needs to stay healthy. Time is running out on his prospect clock. Grade: C.
20. D.J. Mitchell, RHP – Pro-ready. Never expecting him amount to anything spectacular, but I think he could settle in the back end of the Yankees rotation right now if asked. Grade: C.