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Class A holds gems of Yankees' system

NEW YORK -- There remains depth behind the plate throughout every level of the Yankees' Minor League system, even after the club traded Jesus Montero to the Mariners this past offseason, but New York's top two prospects make their home 60 feet, six inches away.

Pitching prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances do not have their batterymate Austin Romine, who is on the 60-day disabled list, with them at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but Romine remains one of three catchers ranked among New York's top 20 prospects, according to

But despite Romine's big league experience, he is not the best.

That title belongs to Class A Charleston's Gary Sanchez, one of five players at that level ranked among the club's top 10 prospects. The 19-year-old fits the mold of a typical offensive-minded Yankees backstop, as he hit .302 with 17 doubles, eight homers and 41 RBIs while stealing 10 bases through his first 49 games this season.

Teammates Mason Williams and Jose Campos follow Sanchez in the system's top five, but Banuelos and Betances claim the top two spots. While they could be on the big league roster in September, neither started his first full season at Triple-A strong.

The Yankees signed Banuelos, a 21-year-old Mexican, in 2008, and he dazzled in his first three professional seasons with ERAs of 2.57, 2.64 and 2.51. But in 13 starts at Triple-A the past two years, he is 2-4 with a 4.32 ERA. He has 10 walks and 22 strikeouts in 24 innings this season, with opponents hitting .299.

Betances has fared worse.

The 24-year-old right-hander, the Yankees' eighth-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, has made 12 starts this season and issued 52 walks while striking out 51 through 58 innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was dominant in years past; Betances recorded 108 K's and 22 walks in 2010 between the Florida State League and Double-A Trenton, then 115 strikeouts and 55 walks through 21 starts in Trenton last season. He has yet to adjust to Triple-A hitters, however.

While teammate Adam Warren lacks the upside of the Yankees' premier prospects, the 24-year-old University of North Carolina product has proved reliable in his second full season at Triple-A. What he lacks in overpowering pitches he makes up for in durability.

The trio of top arms makes its home at Triple-A, but the bulk of the organization's talent resides at Class A.

Sanchez headlines the group, but he is surrounded by quality bats in the Charleston lineup. Dante Bichette Jr. has impressed since the Yankees took him in the first round last year, hitting .255 with nine extra-base hits and 20 RBIs. Shortstop Cito Culver, New York's first-round pick from 2010, is hitting .229.

Williams, a fourth-round pick in 2010, and Tyler Austin, a 13th-round selection from the same Draft, are having the most success at the plate. Williams, considered a five-tool center fielder, hit .291 with 19 extra-base hits, 19 RBIs and 14 stolen bases through 47 games. Austin provides pop, with a .335 average, 14 homers and 48 RBIs, but he also has 13 stolen bases through 54 games.

There are also talented arms, most notably Campos, whom the Yankees acquired along with Michael Pineda in the Montero deal. Campos, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, is 3-0 with a 4.01 ERA, eight walks and 26 strikeouts through 24 2/3 innings spanning five starts. Left-hander Bryan Mitchell has already made 11 starts, posting a 3.26 ERA and striking out 53 while walking 29 through 49 2/3 innings.

Charleston lost one of its top players since the start of the season, as 2009 first-round Draft pick Slade Heathcott was the first marquee prospect to receive a promotion. The outfielder played 52 games with Charleston, then moved a step closer to the Major Leagues with a move to Class A Advanced Tampa.

New York Yankees