So, what should teams like the Blue Jays, Tigers or any other club rumored to be in talks with the Yankees be looking to get in return? We'll take a look from a scouting perspective at just what potential trade partners should be looking for as they sift through the crop of New York prospects, with a focus on some who may be flying under the radar.
Jesus Montero, C -- Some scouts make the argument that Montero is the best hitting prospect in the minor leagues. That's debatable, but at the catching position, which I believe he can stick at, few players are as valuable. You just don't find too many bats as potent as his behind the dish. He's shown offensive skills reminiscent of Miguel Cabrera on his way up. It would likely take a blockbuster-type deal to pry him away but this is the guy you want for your team if you are dealing a star to New York.
Austin Jackson, OF -- Given his rather quick growth as an all-around star prospect, it's easy to forget that many worried coming out of the draft that Jackson was a raw athlete and wouldn't develop as a complete ballplayer. It's been his ability to hit consistent line drives and keep his swing under control at such an early stage that makes him special. The athletic tools, plus speed and defense in center field were more of a given. The fact that he is still continuing to grow as a hitter is what makes him such an interesting commodity.
Andrew Brackman, RHP -- At this time last year it wouldn't have been unreasonable to believe that Brackman, pictured right, would be among potential untouchables, but as 2009 unfolded it was clear that he would face all the roadblocks that a near 7-foot pitcher coming off arm surgery could. To say he struggled mightily with his command is an understatement as his walk totals were off the charts. What was more concerning, however, was the fluctuation in his raw stuff. While reports were more positive when he worked as a reliever later in the year, there were times when his stuff was close to pedestrian.
Manny Banuelos, LHP -- You could make the argument that Banuelos doesn't completely qualify as a sleeper, but it's about time the baseball world was fully aware just how talented this 18-year-old lefty actually is. He doesn't have the size at 5-foot-10 and he doesn't throw 97 mph, but the total package and maturity is something to behold. Sitting at 90-92 mph, reaching 94 mph at times, Banuelos works through a lineup with very little effort. And, with some further physical maturity, it's not unreasonable to think he could pick up a little more velocity.
Despite his good lively fastball from the left side, that's not what makes him so intriguing. It is his pitching aptitude and uncanny feel for the game. He is the owner of two above-average secondary pitches, the changeup and the curveball. There's a debate among scouts as to which is a better offering. He appeared to be more consistently comfortable with the changeup at 76-80 mph, but he also showed command for the 11-5 breaking ball at 72-74 mph.
The stuff is above average, but when you consider the advanced feel he has for pitching and the often pinpoint command he possesses it's amazing that he's still only 18. He pitches with such ease and attacks hitters with such a calm demeanor, that he can be a front-of-the-rotation pitcher in the majors a few years from now. If you're trading with New York and looking for its most complete pitching prospect, look no further than Banuelos.
Hector Noesi, RHP -- He does not have the gifts or feel for pitching that Banuelos has, but that is certainly no insult. Noesi is the type of prospect that shows up in deals quite frequently. He's a little older than you'd like for a pitcher below Double-A, but has the stuff of a No. 3 big-league starter. Another reason you may not know much about Noesi is because in 2008 he was much shorter in his arsenal than he is today.
When I had the chance to see him then, he was pitcher severely lacking in secondary pitches despite his good velocity and fastball command. This year was a much different story. He displayed downright dominance at times, especially in his stint with at low Single-A Charleston (S.C.). Maybe most impressive of all was his stamina; his stuff would sometimes improve as his pitch count mounted. Although he still likes to mostly to work of his well spotted 90-94 mph fastball, this year there was the curveball as well. With good 12-6 action, the curveball came out whenever Noesi seemed to need it this year. He had a feel for just how much to mix it in and varied the speeds from 72-76 mph. With a second pitch that now shows flashes of being plus, and an occasional changeup mixed in, Noesi showed tremendous growth in 2009 and became a complete pitcher. He could be a guy that continues to emerge in a hurry and may not be far off from the big leagues.
Of course, this is just a glimpse of a number of valuable prospects the Yankees have to offer if they want to net a coveted player in a trade. New York has developed a very deep system, and has situated itself to pull off a blockbuster trade. Whether it's Curtis Granderson or Roy Halladay or someone else, the Yankees can entice the owners of these stars with the strong crop of prospects they have to offer. Whether they do so remains to be seen, but having the ability to pull off such a deal off is clearly not a concern.
Frankie Piliere spent the last three seasons working as a scout, most recently in the professional scouting department for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He now serves as the National Baseball Analyst here at FanHouse.