After a lengthy hiatus, Gary Wallace returns with his top prospects to make some noise in 2011.

The rough qualifying conditions for candidates are a young player without a great deal of previous success.

Position Player: JR Murphy, C
2010 Stats: .255 / .327 / .376, 7 HR, 36 BB, 64 K

After being selected in the second round of the 2009 draft, expectations were high for John Ryan Murphy. The triple slash line above would tell us he fell well short of them, but there’s more to the story of JR’s 2010 season.

Murphy’s plate discipline and approach was the story surrounding him at draft time and he certainly showed it his first full season. He was solidly above average in walk rate (9.6 BB%, 7.8% SAL average), strikeout rate (17.1 K%, 20.4% SAL average) as well as, shocker, walk to strikeout ratio (.56 BB/K, .38 SAL average). Given that JR was roughly three years younger than his competition, this represents a very strong foundation for the young backstop.

JR really seemed to turn a corner in the latter half of the season, hitting six of his seven home runs and posting a .760 OPS after the all-star break. If he can carry that momentum with him into 2011, as well as benefit from some improvement on his batted balls, specifically flyballs, we could be looking at another great catching prospect in the Yankee minor league ranks.

Pitcher: Bryan Mitchell, RHP
2010 Stats: 45.2 IP, 3.94 ERA, 7.69 K/9, 4.53 BB/9, 1.77 K/BB, 1.270 WHIP

Bryan Mitchell was taken in the sixteenth round of the same draft that produced the aforementioned Murphy and signed for well above the recommended slot bonus (.8M). Mitchell works in the low 90s with his fastball and backs that up with an absolutely great curveball, one of the best in the entire Yankee system. His changeup is still very much a work in progress, but it’s his good velocity, Mark Newman said he was up to 95 MPH last year, coupled with a knockout secondary pitch that makes him a strong prospect.

Mitchell is positioned to make the jump from the Gulf Coast League to the Sally League, not an easy thing, similar to Jose Ramirez last year. If we’re lucky, Bryan will experience the same success JoRam did with the RiverDogs. There aren’t a ton of pitching prospects in the lower ranks of the minors and Bryan Mitchell is certainly one to watch in 2011.