Yankees prospects to watch

Dellin Betances has transformed into an excellent reliever this season. Cliff Welch/Icon SMI

When discussing big trades for big-name major leaguers, opposing general managers will want minor leaguers who are nearly ready for the majors. The better prospects in the Yankees' system are mostly in the lower levels. So here we are not presenting the best Yankee prospects, but the most intriguing for the second half.

1. J.R. Murphy (Triple-A catcher): Murphy, 22, has put himself in position where he might be in the majors next year, and possibly sooner. Murphy is righty, and after the organization felt he conquered Double-A with .773 OPS in 49 games, they moved him up. After 25 games in Scranton, he had a .309 average and a .856 OPS.

With Austin Romine's offensive struggles in the majors, Murphy could be a Yankee sooner than later. Murphy was drafted in the second round in 2009 but has always been less publicized than Jesus Montero, Romine and Gary Sanchez.

2. Slade Heathcott, (Double-A outfielder): Heathcott, 22, impressed the Yankees so much in the spring there was some talk he might be able to push his way to the majors this season with a strong minor league campaign. Brian Cashman wants to see a better second half from Heatchott, who has a .693 OPS in 81 games. Not good enough if Heathcott is ever going to be a major league starter.

3. Tyler Austin (Double-A outfielder): Austin, 21, was the best minor league story for the Yankees in 2012. He raked for a .960 OPS over three levels, ending in Double-A. This season, only in Double-A, his OPS is just .710.

If the Yankees want to lower payroll and have talented, young players to make their future clubs more dynamic, they need guys such as Heathcott and/or Austin to develop.

4. Dellin Betances (Triple-A reliever): The 6-foot-8 Betances, 25, is putting himself in real position to be on the Yankees in 2013. Out of options, the Yankees have moved Betances to the bullpen and he is excelling.

He was 2-2 with a 6.00 ERA as a starter. He had 25 strikeouts and 16 walks in 24 innings. As a reliever, he is 4-2 with a 2.02 ERA. He has struck out 46 and walked 14 in 35 1/3 innings. The New York kid might still yet have a future in his hometown.

5. Gary Sanchez (Single-A catcher): Sanchez, who is still just 20, is doing a little better than the Yankees' other main hitting prospects. In 79 games for Tampa, he has a .790 OPS. He is batting .267 with 13 homers and 60 RBIs. These are pretty good numbers for a catcher. His defense is a bit of a question mark, but most scouts seem to think he is further along than Montero was at the same juncture.

6. Mason Williams (Single-A outfielder): Williams, 21, has picked it up a little lately, but his progress has been a little slow for Tampa. He has a .716 OPS and has stolen 11 bags in 73 games. He has not quite conquered this level, so he is still a few years away from the bigs.