MLB New York Yankees

5 New York Yankees Prospects You Must Watch During Spring Training

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5 New York Yankees Prospects You Must Watch During Spring Training

Gary Sanchez
Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

What do the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals have in common?

If you guessed that both teams went to the World Series last year, you’re correct, but that’s not exactly the answer I’m looking for. Though the Sox and Red Birds did face off in the Fall Classic last year, I’m more so referring to how they got there.

Both teams have been shedding high-priced free agents from their rosters to make room for upcoming prospects. Player development is one of the main reasons both organizations were so successful in 2013, and why they're going to remain favorites in their respective divisions in the coming years.

The New York Yankees, however, seem to be heading in the opposite direction. As recently as 2009, they won a World Series with a core of homegrown talent, but as retirement has taken its toll on the Bombers’ roster, the next generation of Yankees have either disappointed (Joba Chamberlain), been traded (Austin Jackson), or both (Ian Kennedy). As a result, the Yankees have been unable to emulate the Red Sox and Cardinals and fill holes in the big league roster from within the organization. Rather, they have had to rely on high-priced free agents.

According to Keith Law, the Yankees had the 10th-best farm system in the majors in 2013. Thanks to injuries and underperformance, he ranks them 20th heading into 2014. It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Though the organization may not be what it once was under Gene Michael, it still possesses some highly-touted prospects that could suit up in pinstripes in a year or two.

The Yankees recently had one of the most successful runs of any team in the history of sports, an era that (I begrudgingly admit) is over. Maybe a new one is beginning in the Bronx.

These are five Yankees prospects to watch in Spring Training.

James O’Hare is a writer for Follow him on Twitter @JimboOHare, like him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Tyler Austin

Tyler Austin
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Austin is ranked 85th in Keith Law’s list of Top 100 Prospects. The 22-year-old outfielder was drafted in the 13th round of the 2010 draft. In 2013, he batted .265/.351/.378 with six home runs and 40 RBIs. That’s not the most impressive batting line, but Austin was limited due to a wrist injury. He played 83 of his 85 games in double-A.

The Yankees have excess outfielders in 2014 and might even trade Brett Gardner. Nevertheless, the team has high hopes for Austin in the future, along with another young outfielder.

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4. Mason Williams

Mason Williams
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mason Williams is ranked 87th by Law. At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Williams definitely has the physical tools to make it in the bigs. The 22-year-old has great speed in center field and a solid arm. As he learns to run the bases better, he should become a serious base-stealing threat.

The main problem is his bat. Between high-A ball and double-A, he batted just .245/.304/.337 with four home runs and 28 RBIs. He was also hampered by a shoulder injury, playing in just 117 games.

According to scouts, if Williams improves with the bat, he could become an elite major leaguer.

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3. Jose Ramirez

Jose Ramirez
Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Jose Ramirez has a chance to pitch in the Yankees’ revamped bullpen in 2014. The 24-year-old right-hander dominated in double-A last year, posting a 2.76 ERA and 10.6 K/9, though he didn't do as well in triple-A (4.88 ERA, 8.0 K/9).

Still, with the departure of Mariano Rivera and the promotion of David Robertson, the Yankees could use another power arm in the bullpen. Ramirez could provide it, but has to show he’s up to the task in Spring Training.

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2. Gary Sanchez

Gary Sanchez
Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Gary Sanchez is probably the most well-known prospect in the Yankees’ farm system. He’s also the best. Law ranked him 68th on his list of best prospects in baseball. The biggest problem facing the 21-year-old is who’s in front of him -- namely, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine. Oh yeah, they also signed this guy named Brian McCann too.

Still, Cervelli won’t be around much longer and Romine hasn't shown much of a bat. Mark Teixeira’s contract is up after 2016, which could be the perfect time to move McCann to a first base/DH platoon with Gregory Bird and allow Sanchez to take over full-time catching duties.

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1. Manny Banuelos

Many Banuelos
Getty Images

Of all the guys on this list, Banuelos is the most likely to actually see playing time for the Yankees in 2014. According to Andrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews, he has a chance to make the big league club out of Spring Training as a reliever. If not, he’ll likely be the first call-up in 2014 either as a starter or reliever.

The soon-to-be 23-year-old missed all of 2013 after having Tommy John surgery, so there are questions as to whether he'll be the same promising southpaw that he was when the Yankees acquired him as a 17-year-old from the Mexican League. Rivera once said Banuelos is the best pitching prospect he’d ever seen. The Yankees hope he’s right.