Last week, ESPN’s Keith Law ranked baseball’s best prospects. The Yankees had four prospects on the list, highlighted by #23 Manny Banuelos and #34 Mason Williams while the Mets had two highlighted by #27 Zach Wheeler. More details from Keith Law’s report will be provided after the jump.

Manny B--AP Photo

Yankees

#23 Manny Banuelos, SP:

Banuelos’ season started out on the wrong foot, as he had to go home to Mexico for a personal matter in April, missing some ramp-up time that set him back in his routine and his pitch counts. He pitched into the seventh inning only twice all year, so he needs to build up more stamina in 2012.

When he’s right, he’ll show an above-average fastball at 90-94 mph (but was a tick below that in 2011), an above-average to plus changeup and a solid-average curveball with good two-plane break. His command and control were off all year, especially to right-handed hitters, and no matter how good your changeup is, you’re not getting opposite-side hitters out if you can’t locate your fastball first.

Everything still points to Banuelos commanding the ball in the long term as he did before 2011, and much of the disappointment in his season is a function of our high expectations for him. He still projects as a solid No. 2, assuming his previous level of command returns.

#34 Mason Williams, OF

Williams, the son of former New England Patriot Derwin Williams, is an outstanding athlete who showed a much better approach and feel for the game in his first full year in pro ball than expected.

He’s an above-average-to-plus runner with a plus arm, but the most impressive part of his game in 2011 was the quality of his at bats, which improved over the course of the summer. He’s listed at 6 feet, 150 pounds, and has barely begun to fill out; much of the ‘power’ you see in his stat line was the product of his speed (six triples in 68 games), but he has the hip rotation and leverage to hit for real power when he’s not quite so skinny. His bat is quick, but his stride is very long and he glides on to his front side, so he doesn’t have as much time as he should to pick up off-speed pitch.

Williams finished second in the New York-Penn League in batting average, 10th in OBP, and 14th in slugging despite being one of the 10 youngest regulars in the league, and he’s barely begun to scratch the surface of his ability.

#55 Gary Sanchez, C

Sanchez’s first full year in pro ball had major positives and negatives — the bat is more advanced than anyone thought, and the glove is less so.

He can really hit with present above-average power and projects to hit 30 to 35 homers a year down the road, having demonstrated a solid approach for an 18-year-old in full-season ball. Sanchez’s priority is working on his bat, and his glove has lagged; he has arm strength, and has a better chance to remain a catcher than former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero, but Sanchez’s receiving was terrible last year and he’ll need to spend more time working on all aspects of his defense besides throwing. Sanchez’s immaturity showed up publicly last year, as he was suspended for attitude issues, and while we can forgive him his youth, if it’s affecting his play on the field, it affects his outlook until he matures.

He could be a star, the worthy successor to Jorge Posada, if he puts the effort into learning his craft behind the plate.

 

#83 Dellin Betances, SP

At 6-foot-8, 260 pounds, Betances is huge, throws hard and has a history of missing bats since coming back from Tommy John surgery. But there’s still a strong sentiment among pro scouts that he ends up in the bullpen long-term because of command questions. He’ll pitch in the low 90s but runs it up to 97 mph and would likely sit 94-97, if not better, in relief. The curveball remains wildly inconsistent, with outings when he doesn’t have it at all and outings when it looks like an above-average pitch.

Betances is not a good athlete and struggles to maintain a consistent delivery. When he’s in sync, he takes a good, long stride to the plate with a mild shoulder tilt but only a little bit of torque from his hips, generating velocity from his stride and arm. He’s also a below-average fielder for a pitcher, not a critical flaw but something you’d rather not see. He’s 23 now, still not very experienced, but he has size and velocity you can’t teach. The lack of progress and athleticism make a bullpen role more likely than a spot in the top half of a rotation.

Mets

#27 Zack Wheeler, SP

Wheeler was stolen from the Giants for two months of Carlos Beltran’s services in a deadline deal that should benefit the Mets for much of this decade.

He will touch 97 mph and sit at least 91-94 with an above-average curveball that has shown it can miss bats. He has a fringy changeup that’s a little too firm, giving up a .283/.375/.452 line to left-handed hitters as a result (although that improved after the trade in a small sample). His control is still below-average, and he’ll have to show durability to match his frame, as he retired more than 18 batters just twice all year.

 

#38 Matt Harvey, SP

Harvey’s strong season in Double-A showed that he’s not that far away from contributing in the big leagues, but also masked some of the ongoing questions about his repertoire and command that probably push him toward a good No. 3 or average No. 2 ceiling.

He will sit 91-97 mph as a starter with good downhill plane, and his changeup is a weapon for him against both left- and right-handed hitters. His curve and slider tend to run together, and he’d probably be better off just picking one or the other and using it exclusively to avoid throwing in-between pitches that will get hammered at higher levels.

The UNC product didn’t dominate Double-A like you’d expect him to based on his velocity, but a sharper breaking ball could produce those results and get him to the big leagues by the middle of this year.

Of note, I like Gary Sanchez and Matt Harvey the most. Manny Banuelos has a world of potential and I can’t wait to see him in 2012. Last year, Russell Martin said that Banuelos was more polished than NL Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw. Huge compliment. 

Sanchez is regarded by many to be a better all-around prospect than Law’s #9 prospect, Jesus Montero. So at 19 years old, Sanchez has a world of potential.

Law ranked Angels’ outfielder, Mike Trout as his top prospect. Number 2 through 5 were as follows: Nationals outfielder, Bryce Harper, Rays pitcher Matt Moore, Orioles shortstop Manny Machado, and Cardinals pitcher, Shelby Miller.