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Friday, February 1, 2013
Countdown: 11 days to spring training

By Andrew Marchand

We are now in February, just 11 days until Feb. 12, the day pitchers and catchers report to spring training -- and each day between now and then, Wallace Matthews, Mark Simon and I will present a list dealing with a specific issue facing the Yankees this season. Today, we look at the four guys who are the most exciting in the Yankees' system.

THE FOUR MOST EXCITING MINOR LEAGUERS IN THE YANKEES SYSTEM

To pick our four most exciting prospects in the Yankee system we enlisted Yankees VP of Player Development, Mark Newman, who was kind enough to give us his rave reviews. With Manny Banuelos out for the year with Tommy John surgery and Dellin Betances having regressed, the Yankees top prospects are in the lower levels of the minors, but Newman brings up names like Mike Piazza and Bernie Williams when discussing them.

In each description, we have the 2013 level that Newman expects them to begin the year.


1) MASON WILLIAMS
Position: CF
Age: 21
Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 155
Throws: Right
Bat: Left
2012 A-Ball Stats: .298 average, .820 OPS
2013 Level: Single-A Tampa


Newman's Take: "Bernie Williams-type He is an excellent defender. He is not a switch-hitter. He is a left-handed hitter. He can run and he can hit. He has hit well early in his career. We are going to try and have some patience with him."

2) GARY SANCHEZ
Position: C
Age: 20
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 220
Throws: Right
Bat: Right
2012 A-Ball Stats: .290 average, .829 OPS
2013 Level: Single-A Tampa


Newman's Take: "We've got Austin Romine slated to start in Triple-A. We've got J.R. Murphy who caught in Double-A. Most likely Sanchez will start the season in Tampa. He has big power. He can really throw. I don't think there is a real easy comp on him. He is young. He can hit the ball a long way and he can hit the ball a long way to right field. Some of that stuff is similar to a [Mike] Piazza, but he's got big time arm strength. He's got a chance to be really special because of a couple of really significant tools and because of his age. He has performed well in leagues where he was two years, sometimes three years, younger than everybody else in the league."

3) SLADE HEATHCOTT
Position: OF
Age: 22
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 190
Throws: Left
Bat: Left
2012 Rookie/A-Ball Stats: .302 average, .841 OPS
2013 Level: Double-A Trenton


Newman's Take: "He's in that A, Double-A. There is probably a better chance that he is going to start in Double-A. He's got power, great speed and is hyper aggressive. He plays as hard as you can play the game. He has to refine his skills, control his aggressiveness. He is a fun guy to watch. You don't find tools like this. He can fly. He can hit it up in the lights. He plays hard. He works hard. [Because of time missed due to injury,] I would not say that he is going to have any type of accelerated pace."

4) TYLER AUSTIN
Position: OF
Age: 22
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 200
Throws: Right
Bat: Right
2012 Rookie/A-Ball Stats: .320 average, .960 OPS
2013 Level: Double-A Trenton


Newman's Take: "Austin was a third baseman, but now is an outfielder. The move was a combination of Austin's skills and where potentially we thought we could have a need on the major league level one day."

EXTRA POINT: Coming Sunday, who are the minor leaguers who could help in the majors this year? Righty Mark Montgomery, who could have been on this list, leads the charge as a "David Robertson-type" reliever, to use Newman's words.

QUESTION: WHICH OF THESE PROSEPCTS EXCITE YOU THE MOST?