Yankees vs. Blue Jays: Outfield Prospects

Ramon Flores flies under the radar

Comparing what the Yankees and Blue Jays have at each position in the minor leagues, we take a look at the crop of outfield prospects in each system. Which system is deeper? Which prospects have the most power? The highest ceilings? Take a look at this comparison between the New York and Toronto farm systems.

The Two Farm Systems: The two organizations are going in completely different directions when it comes to their respective outfield depth. What was once an organizational strength for Toronto has now become somewhat of a question mark depth-wise. In fairness to the Blue Jays, however, they did graduate the likes of Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra to the big leagues last year, and then dealt away top outfield prospect Jake Marisnick to the Miami Marlins in the Jose Reyes-Josh Johnson trade this offseason. Not many farm systems can handle losing three of their better outfield prospects in one calendar year and that's not even including losing huge upside outfielder Wuilmer Becerra to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal.

The Yankees may be on the verge of a similar situation within the next year or two -- losing perhaps as many as four of their top outfield prospects Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin, and Ramon Flores -- either to the big leagues and/or potential trades as their top four should see significant Double-A action by the end of the 2013 season.

Williams and Heathcott are both plus defenders in centerfield, both have plus speed, both project to be high average left-handed hitters, and both have at least average big league power. Heathcott in particular has above average power potential and both have ceilings as potential All Star caliber big league outfielders.

Tyler Austin and Ramon Flores don't have the same type of ceilings because they don't possess the same degree of plus speed [they're more average runners whose running impact could grade higher because of their intellect and aggressiveness] or the same plus defensive abilities, but both are .300 hitters in the making, Flores from the left side and Austin from the right. Flores has average power potential right now with room to grow and Austin has above average power which could grow into the plus range with some more development.

Those four outfielders grab all of the attention for their high ceilings but the fact is New York has two other high-ceiling outfield talents playing a level above them and knocking on the big league door already -- Melky Mesa and Zoilo Almonte, both Dominican natives. They're not the same solid bets to reach their ceilings as the aforementioned four, but neither should be overlooked.

Mesa has plus power from the right side, plus speed, and plus defensive abilities, including one of the game's elite outfield arms, but there is a swing-and-miss factor with him that leaves a significant question mark as to whether or not he can be the consistent enough force to be a big league starting mainstay and make optimal use of his plus tools.

Almonte, a switch-hitter, hit .277 with 21 home runs and 15 stolen bases last year with Double-A Trenton. He has shown to have prodigious pull-side power potential from the left side of the plate, the kind that could be tailor-made for the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, and he has been one of the better clutch hitters in the farm system over the past few years. Despite good patience at the plate, he 23-year old does not draw a lot of walks and along with his average defensive abilities it might keep him on a short leash when it comes to his initial big league opportunities. Still, the bat has the chance to be very, very productive.

It's not as if the Blue Jays don't have anyone at the upper levels. Brad Glenn and John Tolisano both offer some decent short-term impact for the big league club. Glenn has plus power potential but the rest of his game, including an inconsistent bat, could limit his big league opportunities if he gets off to a slow start there. Tolisano is a more consistent hitter with average power potential and better defense, but his ceiling is that of an everyday average outfielder cut in the mold of a David Murphy type, one who is more solid than spectacular.

Toronto's best outfield depth is at A-ball and lower because of the amount of guys they graduated to the big leagues and because of trades. While the talent is farther away, they still have some real potential impact outfielders, highlighted by last year's first round pick D.J. Davis.

A year from now Davis could be lumped into the same discussions as New York's Mason Williams, he's that kind of player, possessing plus speed, plus defense, plus hitting ability from the left side, and the same kind of long-term average power potential or better as a leadoff type hitter. He had 18 extra-base hits and 25 stolen bases in his short-season league debut last year. Further honing his strike zone discipline is really the only glaring weakness in his game right now but he has eventual Top 100 prospect in the game type talent as he continues to mature.

The stats in his debut season last year don't exactly prove it yet but Toronto's Jacob Anderson has an immense ceiling of his own. He hit just .194 with three home runs for short-season Bluefield last year but he has plus power potential, long-term plus hitting ability, and great arm strength for a right fielder. Like Davis he has work to do on seeing more pitches and not trying to do too much at the plate, but he offers a tremendous long-term ceiling.

The Yankees are not without their own set of high-ceiling talents who did not have the most productive seasons last year, highlighted by Staten Island Yankee Ravel Santana. Prior to a gruesome broken ankle injury at the end of the 2011 season, he boasted plus power, plus speed, plus defense, and above average hitting potential, but he hit just .216 with three home runs last year in the short-season leagues. He has an even higher ceiling than Anderson from the Jays but it remains to be seen if the ankle will remain an issue going forward.

New York's Jake Cave is another high-ceiling talent that has yet to prove his worth on the field because of injury. Often times compared to Slade Heathcott as a left-handed batter with an unrivaled intensity and passion for the game, he's not nearly as fast as Heathcott but he has above average tools across the board and possesses plus makeup. He has but just one official at-bat in his two-year career thus far but make no mistake, the kid can flat-out play.

Both organizations have a series of players whose tools do not range into the plus category but still offer long-term 'sleeper' potential worth tracking, including Toronto's Dalton Pompey, Christopher Hawkins, and Dwight Smith Jr., and New York's Ben Gamel, Rob Refsnyder, and Ronnier Mustelier.

Pompey falls into the Jake Cave category as one who has above average tools across the board. The switch-hitter has great bat speed, above average to potentially plus speed, and similar defensive abilities in centerfield. He also has shown a good eye at the plate but missed most of last season with a broken hamate bone in his hand. Hawkins and Smith are similar type players; both have average defensive abilities in the corner outfield spot, average at best run skills, and average at best power potential, but both have the potential to be high average hitters in due time.

Ben Gamel on the other hand grades a level higher than Hawkins and Smith in the running game, and a couple of notches better defensively. However, while he too has the chance to be a high-average hitter someday, the power, which has shown to be above average in batting practice, projects better as average in games right now. Refsnyder, a right-handed batter, falls into the Gamel category as an ultimate gamer whose average speed plays a level higher, has average power potential with room to grow, but one who has the ability to be an impact run producer because of his innate hitting ability. An outfielder by trade, he could move to second base too in 2013.

Mustelier, a 28-year old Cuban defector, has below average speed and below average defensive abilities, but the right-handed batter can flat-out hit. His power is average at best thanks in large part to his generously listed 5-foot-10 stature, but he has the look of a high average hitter who can really deliver in the clutch, one who uses the whole field. Adonis Garcia, another Cuban defector for the Yankees, fits into the Mustelier mold as a good hitter with not so great other tools, but he is a bit better defensively.

One of the bigger wildcards among the outfielders in either organization is Toronto's Kevin Pillar. A right-handed hitting version of Ben Gamel, he is also one of the top gamers. Playing with a high level of intensity and passion, while the tools are not great, his production always plays a level higher than they should. The 32nd round pick in 2011 hit a combined .323 with 40 extra-base hits and 51 stolen bases last year between the two A-ball levels and he owns a career .331 average thus far. The tools say he shouldn't be a top prospect but his production very much says otherwise.

The Blue Jays have a pair of 'what if' outfield candidates in the high-A level in the form of Marcus Knecht and Michael Crouse, the latter of which has significant upside. However, after hitting .210 and .203 respectively, both have a lot of work to do. Crouse has plus speed and above average power potential but guesses too much at the plate, and Knecht, while showing great gap power and potentially above average power overall, has had long stretches of sub-par production. Both need a lot more consistency.

Each organization has a lower level outfield prospect with a ton of long-term offensive potential worth noting -- Toronto's Jesus Gonazalez and New York's Chris Breen. Both players have long-term plus power potential and the chance to be high average hitters, but both have just begun their professional careers and most of their value is tied into their bats as their speed, defense combination don't project to have big impacts down the road.

Beyond that both organizations have a lot of long-term projects who could pay dividends down the road. Toronto's Ian Parmley with his great speed, as well as Kenny Wilson and Jonathan Jones, could fall into that category, as do New York's Yeicok Calderon and Ericson Leonora with their above average to potentially plus power potential. One guy in particular to watch out for is Nathan Mikolas, last year's third round pick by the Yankees. He looked lost at the plate and hit under .200, but most amateur scouts expect a big bounce-back season sometime soon.

How Do They Compare In...

Power: This is a wash of sorts at the higher minor league levels because Brad Glenn and John Tolisano pretty much cancel out Melky Mesa and Zoilo Almonte. However, it's at the A-ball level and soon to be Double-A level where the Yankees have a clear edge because of Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott. Should Ravel Santana bounce back from his ankle injury this could wind up being a bit of a mismatch. For now though, the Yankees have a clear edge. Advantage: Yankees

Hitting For Average: Outside of Pillar the Blue Jays don't really have a high average hitter among their outfielders right now nor do they project to have too many of them someday outside of Chris Hawkins and Dwight Smith Jr. New York on the other hand has viable .300-plus hitters in Tyler Austin, Ramon Flores, Ronnier Mustelier, and Mason Williams. And Slade Heathcott could certainly develop into one. Advantage: Yankees

Defense: D.J. Davis is an elite defender and so is Dalton Pompey, and Michael Crouse is a borderline one too in right field, but it's simply not enough to overcome Williams, Heathcott, Cave, Santana, Gamel, Melky Mesa, and company. Advantage: Yankees

Speed: Pillar and D.J. Davis, as well as Kenny Wilson and others make this a closer race but it's still not enough to combat the likes of Williams, Heathcott, Mesa, Gamel, etc. Even the Yankees sluggers like Zoilo Almonte and Tyler Austin have the potential to steal 20-plus bases and have done so in the past. Advantage: Yankees.

Overall Potential: Losing Gose, Marisnick, and Becerra over the past year has really put Toronto behind in terms of long-term potential impact at the outfield position. While D.J. Davis and Jacob Anderson have enormous ceilings, frankly they're way behind the six high-ceiling outfielders the Yankees have at A-ball and above [Mesa, Almonte, Williams, Heathcott, Austin, and Flores] right now. Advantage: Yankees.

Highest Ceilings: Slade Heathcott (Yankees), Mason Williams (Yankees), D.J. Davis (Blue Jays), Tyler Austin (Yankees), Ravel Santana (Yankees), Ramon Flores (Yankees), Melky Mesa (Yankees), Zoilo Almonte (Yankees), Jacob Anderson (Blue Jays), Dalton Pompey (Blue Jays)

Best Power: Tyler Austin (Yankees), Brad Glenn (Blue Jays), Slade Heathcott (Yankees), Melky Mesa (Yankees), Zoilo Almonte (Yankees), John Tolisano (Blue Jays), Ravel Santana (Yankees), Jacob Anderson (Blue Jays), Jesus Gonazalez (Blue Jays), Chris Breen (Yankees)

Best Average: Mason Williams (Yankees), Ramon Flores (Yankees), Ronnier Mustelier (Yankees), Kevin Pillar (Blue Jays), Tyler Austin (Yankees), Ben Gamel (Yankees), Rob Refsnyder (Yankees), Chris Hawkins (Blue Jays), Dwight Smith Jr. (Blue Jays), Jake Cave (Yankees)

Best Defense: Mason Williams (Yankees), D.J. Davis (Blue Jays), Slade Heathcott (Yankees), Melky Mesa (Yankees), Ben Gamel (Yankees), Jake Cave (Yankees), Michael Crouse (Blue Jays), Kenny Wilson (Blue Jays), Tyler Austin (Yankees), Ramon Flores (Yankees)

Best Speed: D.J. Davis (Blue Jays), Mason Williams (Yankees), Slade Heathcott (Yankees), Dalton Pompey (Blue Jays), Melky Mesa (Yankees), Kenny Wilson (Blue Jays), Ben Gamel (Yankees), Ravel Santana (Yankees), Tyler Austin (Yankees), Michael Crouse (Blue Jays).

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