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Danny Burawa .(Cheryl Pursell)

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Former Yankees Prospects Seek 2016 Success With New MLB Clubs

Players like Austin Jackson, Dioner Navarro, Tyler Clippard and Mark Melancon started their pro baseball career in the Yankees farm system. They, like many prospects, played years under the microscope of Yankee scouts and talent evaluators before becoming trade assets or free agent signings for other teams.

The truth is a lot of former Yankee prospects have earned success in the major leagues, but not many have done so in pinstripes.

[nextpage title=”1″ ]Once in the Yankees’ farm system the past few years, here’s a list of former prospects now with a chance to earn rookie status with their new teams this season.[/nextpage]

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Peter O'Brien (Steven Eggert)

Peter O’Brien (Steven Eggert)

C/OF Peter O’Brien – Arizona Diamondbacks

O’Brien worked his way from 23rd by Baseball America prior to 2014 to a top-10 Yankees prospect by midseason. He had a simple, powerful swing to all fields resulting in big home run and RBI totals. The boom came with the bust at times though. He hit 55 homers with 166 runs driven in with Tampa and Trenton in 2013 and 2014, but he struck out 240 times in the 221-game span. He was dealt to the Diamondbacks at the 2014 deadline for Martin Prado, who played just 37 games with the Yankees.

Four games in, a freak injury shelved O’Brien with the Double-A Mobile BayBears for the remainder of 2014. He continued his offensive production in 2015. He led the Triple-A Reno Aces with 107 RBIs while hitting 26 long balls along with a .284 average. He earned a September call up with the D-backs going 4-for-10.

2016 OUTLOOK: He’s still a defensive mystery, but O’Brien goes into 2016 as the DBacks’ no. 7 prospect (no. 1 OF) according to MLB.com.  He’ll likely end up as the team’s fourth outfielder.

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Manny Banuelos (MLB.com)

Manny Banuelos (MLB.com)

LHP Manny Banuelos – Atlanta Braves

The southpaw Killer B, Banuelos was a top Yankee pitching prospect with future ace potential. A mid-90s fastball with a plus changeup and curveball, the only challenges early in his career were the experience and confidence. Lingering elbow issues forced Banuelos into Tommy John surgery six starts into 2012. That forced him to miss the remainder of 2012 and all of 2013. A rough 2014, He started 25 games posting a 2-3 record and 4.11 ERA among Tampa, Trenton and Scranton.

Banuelos was dealt to the Braves for relievers Chasen Shreve and David Carpenter last offseason. He found his groove in Triple-A Gwinnett going 6-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 16 games. He earned a call up to the Braves in July going 1-2 with a 2.49 ERA in five games before another elbow injury put him on the DL until September. Despite a rough September and still walking too many guys overall (12 BB in 26 innings, 1.59 WHIP), Banuelos flashed potential to be a starter in 2016.

2016 EXPECTATION: Banuelos is expected to be the only left-handed starter in a depthless Braves rotation and pitching staff. He’s the no. 8 Atlanta prospect (no. 3 LHP) according to MLB.com.

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Ramon Flores (Steven Eggert)

Ramon Flores (Steven Eggert)

OF Ramon Flores – Milwaukee Brewers

Flores was a good player in many facets of the game—good enough to earn top-15 Yankee prospect recognition in 2012 and 2013 by Baseball America. A good hitter with great plate approach and discipline, a good fielder and a good runner, but Flores didn’t WOW you with any particular skillset. He was normally a top-three hitter in the order throughout his time in the system. He played 12 games with the Bombers in 2015 hitting just .219 and was traded to the Mariners for Dustin Ackley at the deadline.

Flores played 14 games in Triple-A Tacoma and hit .423 before a broken ankle cut his year short. Flores was dealt to the Brewers in November and joins a crowded outfield with Ryan Braun, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Domingo Santana among others. Therefore, it’ll be tough to get a gauge of his outlook once he fully recovers from his ankle injury.

2016 OUTLOOK: Possible trade bait for the Brewers looking to rebuild. He should be a fourth outfielder once he comes back from injury due to a lack of minor league options.

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Jose Ramirez (Cheryl Pursell)

Jose Ramirez (Cheryl Pursell)

RHP Jose Ramirez – Atlanta Braves

Ramirez attacks the zone with a fastball-changeup-slider arsenal that made him the No. 13 Yankees prospect by Baseball America in 2014. His 2014 and 2015 seasons in Double and Triple A were enough to earn a trip to the Bronx for short stints, but he struggled to a 7.61 ERA in 13 total innings pitched. His aggressive style occasionally led to walks or hitters taking advantage of missing locations, but when on point, his swing-and-miss stuff can be electric.

He was the other half of the Dustin Ackley deal that sent Flores to Seattle at the 2015 deadline. Since the trade, he posted a 2.56 WHIP in 17.2 innings pitched with a 9.67 ERA between Tacoma (Triple-A) and Seattle. He was traded to the Braves on December 4.  Like Banuelos, the lack of pitching depth with the Braves opens a door for Ramirez to make it.

2016 OUTLOOK: He’s currently on the Braves 40-man roster. Ramirez is out of minor league options hence why he was dealt, but could be DFA’ed at some point if he needs work in Triple A again.

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Danny Burawa (Cheryl Pursell)

Danny Burawa (Cheryl Pursell)

RHP Danny Burawa – Atlanta Braves

When on, Burawa’s fastball-slider combination is tough for any hitter to face. Just ask the 2013 Binghamton Mets who were upset by the Trenton Thunder’s Burawa-Tommy Kahnle one-two punch during the Eastern League Championship Series. Ranked no. 31 by Baseball America prior to last season, he appeared in 32 games for Scranton in 2015. He went 1-3 with a 2.55 ERA and earned a call up to the Yankees for a game. He gave up four earned runs in less than an inning and was DFA’ed shortly after.

The Braves certainly love Yankee pitching prospects. They claimed him off waivers a week after the DFA. Burawa appeared in 12 games pitching to a respectable 3.65 ERA in 12.1 innings pitched. With the pitching staff from top to bottom still suspect, the platform to perform is grand for Burawa to solidify a spot in the Braves pen.

2016 OUTLOOK: Burawa fills role as a viable option in the Braves bullpen for the 2016 season.

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Jose Pirela (Steven Eggert)

Jose Pirela (Steven Eggert)

2B Jose Pirela – San Diego Padres

Pirela was probably one of the most underrated assets in the Yankees system ranking no. 28 by Baseball America in 2014. He played mostly second base, but filled roles at first base and outfield occasionally. He hit over .290 in three of his last four seasons across Double and Triple-A batting everywhere possible in the order. His aggressiveness at the plate and assertiveness on the bases helped him progress, but subpar defense has led to constant indecision on where he fits in the big leagues. He appeared in 44 games the past two years with the Yankees hitting .255 with eight RBIs.

Pirela was traded to the San Diego Padres in November and will be competitive with Alexi Amarista and Cory Spangenberg for middle infield spots. Pirela is more capable of providing energy and a spark on offense the other two can’t bring.

2016 OUTLOOK: Pirela has role off the bench for the Padres at either second base or a corner outfield position.

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Nik Turley (Steven Eggert)

LHP Nik Turley – Chicago White Sox

Once the no. 14 Yankees prospect by Baseball America, Turley drew comparisons to Andy Pettitte for his size (about 6’5, 205) and stuff. The southpaw threw a low 90s fastball, along with a cutter, a curveball and changeup. His style relied on locating rather than overpowering, but his command was inconsistent. He went 5-3 with Scranton in 2014, but walked 43 batters in 60.1 innings. He was signed by the San Francisco Giants through minor league free agency last offseason.

Turley started 19 games in 2015 for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats going 7-8 with a 4.56 ERA. A minor league free agent again this offseason, Turley signed with the White Sox and was invited to Spring Training. The 26-year-old is now on the older end of the spectrum without major league experience and likely going into a make-or-break year.

2016 OUTLOOK: Turley likely starts in Triple-A Charlotte as a mid-rotation guy. He can make the White Sox as an innings-eating reliever or a spot starter, but could be just a minor-league filler if he struggles.

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Jake Cave (Rand Greenblatt)

Jake Cave (Rand Greenblatt)

OF Jake Cave – Cincinnati Reds

Jake Cave’s was a Double-A outfielder among the deepest position in the Yankees system. He was a top-20 Yankee prospect by Baseball America heading into last season and minus plus speed, Cave drew comparisons to Brett Gardner. His aggressive style led to success at the plate hitting a combined .270 the last couple seasons atop the Trenton order. There wasn’t a clear weakness in his game other than experience. He’s played just seven Triple-A games—all in 2015.

Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Ben Gamel and Aaron Judge were all ahead of Cave in development. The Reds picked Cave in this offseason’s Rule 5 draft as a result. With the Reds shopping Jay Bruce and Billy Hamilton being the solidified centerfielder, Cave can cement a spot on the 40-man roster and possibly be the Reds’ fourth outfielder.

2016 OUTLOOK:  The no. 19 Reds prospect per MLB.com (no. 5 OF), Cave is more of a Triple-A talent due to lack of experience in the bigs, but will spend his season on the Reds’ 25-man roster due to Rule 5 draft requirements. If Hamilton (.226 average in 2015) and other outfielders continue struggling offensively, Cave could have a shot at making an impact.

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JR Murphy

Honorable Mention
C John Ryan Murphy – Minnesota Twins

Murphy isn’t considered a prospect anymore, but he’s worth a mention because he’s a young player who polished his catching skills to stand out among the talented plethora of backstops in the Yankees system. The former top-five (2014) Yankee prospect according to Baseball America was dealt to the Twins for outfielder Aaron Hicks after backing up Brian McCann last year. In 115 games in two pinstriped years, Murphy hit .277 with four home runs and 24 RBIs.

He joins a youthful organization headlined by the top prospect in all of baseball, Byron Buxton, and young slugger Miguel Sano. Murphy will have another (formerly) elite catcher in Joe Mauer to learn from and will compete with veteran Kurt Suzuki for the starting position.

2016 OUTLOOK:  He’ll compete with Suzuki for the starting catcher job and, win or lose, should appear in many games this season. Of all the former prospects listed, he’s most likely to play a full season in the majors due to experience and the situation.

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