|Original Published Date: December 6, 2019|
When the Yankees went all in several years ago in the International Free Agent market, I was pretty sure that a list like the one we’ve produced would result. 12 of the 15 players are of Latin descent and only two out of the 15 are of legal drinking age. While I haven’t audited the rest of the MLB systems, it must be the youngest Top 15 in the game. With an organization full of talented, but very young players, the risk of players not meeting their ceiling is very high. But, if even two or three of them hit their potential, the Yankees will have several stars.
Jasson Dominquez leads the list. He’s only 16 but was by all accounts, the number one international free agent signed in 2019. He’s tooled up and everyone who has seen him, says positive things. Deivi Garcia is the top pitcher in the system and even with the success he had in 2020, I’ve put a Closer ceiling on him. I’ve seen him pitch live and it was indeed impressive, but at 5-foot-9, I just don’t see how he can be a starter long-term.
Prospect Quick Shot
- Top Prospect: Jasson Dominquez
- Biggest Mover: Clarke Schmidt
- Emerging Prospect: Canaan Smith
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1. Jasson Dominguez(OF)
- Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: First-round draft pick
- Tools Summary: Tool-box with a swing that looks like it will work. The hype is definitely 80-grade, let’s hope the player can match it.
I’m not sure I’ve ever written about a 16-year old where people have used so many “plus” adjectives to describe his tools. One text I received from an evaluator said, “+++ fut pow.” I’m assuming the evaluator was either over-excited or just hit too many plus signs. Regardless, I’m left with the impression that next to the word toolsy in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Jasson Dominguez.
It’s double-plus speed, plus bat speed with a chance for plus, if not double-plus in-game power. He also has a plus arm. Some reports have even suggested he could be a plus hitter. But at 16, I’m not ready to put that expectation on him. All the tools are there for him to be a monster performer with the kind of upside that we are placing on Luis Robert and Jo Adell. While not necessarily a negative, I did hear that there was little physical projection remaining. In other words, at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, he’ll likely only get heavier and not taller
Where do you draft him in a rookie draft if he’s available? It’s gotta be in the Top 5. Sure, there is a lot of risk, and why he only made our mid-season Top 100 list a number 92, but the upside is a Top 10 prospect and a first-round fantasy pick. I’m not sure there are many players that you can put that type of ceiling on.
2. Deivi Garcia (RHP)
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
- Tools Summary: Severely undersized at 5-foot-9 but with great stuff. The Yankees are still developing him as a starter, I see him as a bullpen arm.
I had a chance to see Deivi Garcia pitch his no-hitter this year and was clearly giddy after seeing the game. This is what I wrote at the time…
Deivi Garcia is only 5-foot-9, but after seeing him pitch this week, I’m almost willing to look past the obvious. On June 18th, he struck out 15 in six no-hit innings and then followed that up with five no-hit innings and nine strikeouts. How is he doing it? His fastball sits 92 to 94 MPH with some 95s mixed in, but his out pitch is a double-plus curveball that he can throw for strikes. The change-up also got plenty of swing and miss when I saw him. However, it’s hard not to be skeptical when you see him. He’s short and home runs will likely be a problem (although they haven’t been so far). For me, I’d bring him up. I think he’s ready and he sure isn’t going to get any taller. Let’s see how it plays.
The Yankees never did bring him up but did promote him to Triple-A where things did not go as well. He pitched to a 5.59 ERA, gave up eight home runs in 10 appearances but also struck out nearly 10 per nine. Clearly, at 5-foot-9, he’s in a very small sample size of pitchers. Can he have success at the highest level? I’ve seen the stuff and it’s plenty good to get batters out, but home runs are going to be a problem and he’s never been a model of control. Plus, he has a max-effort delivery and that coupled with some nice hiding of the ball makes it hard to pick him up.
I honestly think the best shot for success is in a bullpen role. Given his stuff, it could be in the back-end of the bullpen, but at this point, I just don’t see a starter.
3. Clarke Schmidt (RHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP
- Tools Summary: Solid arsenal with the ability to throw strikes.
After Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt was the best pitcher in the minor leagues for the Yankees. He started the year in Tampa and pitched to a 3.91 ERA striking out over a batter an inning and walking 3.6 per nine. In August, the Yankees promoted him to Double-A and he pitched even better. He struck out a batter an inning but in 19 innings, he walked only one.
Drafted in the first round, Schmidt is now fully recovered from TJ surgery and is developing in the mid-rotation starter the Yankees thought he might become. The arsenal is solid with a fastball that sits 92 to 95 MPH, a solid slurvy slider and an average change-up that still needs some work. There’s some funk in his delivery and when he controls the arsenal, everything plays up.
4. Roansy Contreras (RHP)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
- Tools Summary: Undersized, fastball/change-up pitcher that is moving up lists quickly.
Over the past five years, few teams have done a better job in mining the Latin market than the Yankees. They have signed the famous players like Jasson Dominquez as well as the lesser-known talents in right-handed pitcher Roansy Contreras.
While undersized at 6-feet, Contreras has the makings of a solid arsenal that begins with a fastball that sits 93 to 94 MPH with a high spin rate. His best secondary pitch is his change-up that in Low-A is just not a fair pitch. Players in the lower levels of the minor leagues rarely see a pitch that good and consequently, he’s missing plenty of bats. His curveball was ok for me when I saw him, but it’s not as far along as his change-up.
As a fastball/change-up pitcher, Contreras should continue to put up solid numbers in the minor leagues and will likely have early success in the Majors. Whether his ceiling is a number 2/3 starter or 3/4 will depend on the development of his curveball. For now, we will split the difference and put his ceiling as a number three.
To put an exclamation on his season, Contreras pitched six shutout innings, striking out eight, walking one with one hit allowed in his final outing. He should start the 2020 season in High-A.
5. Luis Gil (RHP)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP or closer
- Tools Summary: Undersized pitcher who can hit triple-digits. His arsenal and delivery might point to a bullpen role, but regardless, the arm is special.
It’s was hit or miss in 2019 for Luis Gil. When he can control his arsenal, he’s unhittable. When he doesn’t, well, he’s still unhittable but will rack up the walks.
At an athletic 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, there is a lot to work with Gil. He’s has a simple delivery that when combined with his athleticism should allow him to eventually control his arsenal. It’s the bet I usually make on young pitchers and if you have the patience, they can turn into stars. It’s a big fastball with a big spin rate that can touch triple-digits. His secondary pitches are still a work in progress but assuming they develop, Gil has significant upside. The floor is a bullpen arm but I believe with some work, he can be a mid-rotation starter, perhaps a little more.
6. Canaan Smith (OF)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
- Tools Summary: Intriguing power-speed profile that is starting to open eyes.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Canaan Smith has really come into his own in Low-A. Since July 1st, he hit over .400 with a .520 on-base percentage and more walks than strikeouts. While he only hit 11 home runs, he has plus bat speed and therefore projects to hit for plus power.
He’s also a solid runner and stole 16 of 20 bases. However, he’s already 215 pounds, so as he continues to fill out, the speed will likely regress. Overall the profile is very exciting with a chance to be a full-time regular as a corner outfielder with 20 plus home run potential and a high on-base percentage.
7. Oswald Peraza (SS)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 SS
- Tools Summary: A chance for a plus hit tool with above-average speed. There is utility role risk but if he continues to hit, he could get full-time at-bats at the highest level.
Oswald Peraza split time between the New York Penn League and the Sally League and more than held his own as a teenager. He controlled the strike zone very well striking out only 12% of the time while walking 7% of the time. He also showed good speed by stealing 23 bases.
While he has solid bat speed, his swing is more geared towards contact, so it’s currently more doubles than home run power. However, as he matures and adds loft to the swing, low double-digit home runs are possible. He’s also projected to remain at shortstop.
He has the tools to be a full-time regular in the big leagues, but his offensive game isn’t strong enough, he will fall back into a utility role.
8. Luis Medina (RHP)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP or Closer with risk
- Tools Summary: Big-time arsenal with a 100 MPH fastball. The problem is he doesn’t always know where it’s going.
Luis Medina showed dominate stuff as he split time between Low and High-A in 2019. Across both levels, he showed swing-and-miss stuff striking over 11 per nine. In Low-A, he was wild, walking 6.5 per nine. However, in his brief stint in High-A, he found more of the plate. In two starts, he’s pitched to 0.84 ERA with 11 strikeouts per nine and only 2.5 walks per nine.
Medina has big-time stuff with a fastball that sits in the upper-nineties and a curveball and change-up that both look like they will get hitters out. He’s not a big kid at 6-foot-1 but his strong lower-half should allow him to stay a starter. But, it’s about control. Clearly walking six per nine is not going to work, but the delivery is ok, so in time, he should be ok. That could come in the bullpen, but the arm is special.
9. Estevan Florial (OF)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Power and speed but his approach and the ability to make contact are a problem. Being in High-A for the past three years is telling.
We’ve been downshifting on Estevan Florial since I first saw him the Fall League in 2017. I saw a tooled up player who had a long swing that expanded the strike zone. Two years later, he’s still in High-A. Granted, he’s had some injuries but his ability to make consistent content is lacking. Last season, he posted a 32.6% K/9 rate although he did walk 8% of the time.
Surely the Yankees will promote him to Double-A to begin the 2020 campaign but I’m not sure he will be successful. It’s a shame because he’s athletic, a good runner, and has excellent bat speed. If it all comes together, I could see a B.J. Upton type of career with not as much speed. Upton had some monster years, particularly when he posted a high BABIP.
If I’m an owner, I would not be giving up on Florial as the tools are so alluring. But, I would not be trying to acquire him either.
10. Everson Pereira (OF)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with risk
- Tools Summary: Was not able to build on his nice debut season in 2018. Still a potential five-tool talent. Needs time and also needs to stay healthy.
The Yankees signed Everson Pereira in July of 2017 for a $1.5 million dollar signing bonus. They aggressively assigned him to the college-heavy Appy League, and he performed quite well as a 17-year-old. They held him back in extended spring training to begin 2019 and then assigned him to the New York Penn League where things did not go well. He only played in 17 games, hit .169 striking out 26 times, walking only four times in 95 plate appearances.
While it wasn’t a good year, you might even call it a lost year, Pereira just turns 19 in April and still could see Charleston at some point next season.
Pereira is still a five-tool talent with plus speed, plus bat speed that could point to future above-average power, and an idea of what he’s doing at the plate. Evaluators still believe he could develop into a gold-glove level centerfielder. He just needs some maturation and also needs to stay on the field. Health to-date has also been a problem.
11. Antonio Cabello (OF)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Was not able to build on his nice debut season in 2018. Still has plus speed with good bat speed. Now is not the time to give up on him.
Antonio Cabello couldn’t build on his debut in 2018 and consequently, struggled in 57 games in the Appy League. He showed excellent pop in the GCL and the ability the control the strike zone but on his promotion to the Appy League, he slugged .326 with a 31% strikeout rate. Despite having plus speed, he only stole five bases, getting thrown out four times. Yeah, nothing went well.
Despite the bad year, Cabello still has a ton of tools. He’s got great bat speed, is a plus runner but it looks like some significant work is required on his hit tool. From those who saw him play, the swing is still good, but he expanded the strike zone too often and went chasing balls out of the strike zone. That could be a factor of youth that will correct over time or just a flaw in his game that will make it hard for him to progress past Double-A. But the Yankees have a good development process and you can’t give up on his tools at 18.
12. Albert Abreu (RHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Bullpen arm, maybe a Closer
- Tools Summary: Power arsenal with below-average control.
In a system full of teenagers, there must be someone of legal age and that would be Albert Abreu. Acquired from Houston in 2016, Abreu brings a power arsenal to the mound with below-average control. His fastball routinely hits the upper nineties but in 105 games across his minor league career, he’s walked over four per nine. In 23 games in Double-A, he walked nearly five.
Now 24, the Yankees will likely move him to the bullpen to get him to the Major Leagues. Given more experience, he could profile as a back of the bullpen arm.
13. Anthony Volpe (SS)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
- Tools Summary: Light on tools but should be able to hit.
The Yankees selected Anthony Volpe in the first round last June from the great state of New Jersey and Delbarton Prep in Morristown.
In talking with evaluators, he’s not the most toolsy of players but has a mature approach and makes solid contact. He struggled in his debut hitting only .215 but he walked a ton, posting a .349 OBP. He also hit two home runs and stole six bases.
I’m not sure I would be targeting him in a Dynasty League rookie draft, but if his hit tool pans out as advertised, he might be able to profile as a middle infielder in a fantasy league.
14. Josh Smith (SS)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS/2B
- Tools Summary: Solid tools across the board but doesn’t have a true standout tool.
Drafted in the second round last June, Josh Smith has gotten off to a fast start to his professional career. He hit .324 in 33 games in the New York Penn League with three home runs and six stolen bases. The LSU product also walked 25 times while only striking out 17 times.
Smith has always demonstrated an ability to make good contact and control the strike zone. In his junior year at LSU, he posted a 15% strikeout rate and a 10% walk rate. He has a compact swing but his swing lacks loft, so the power will likely be more doubles than over-the-fence. He’s also a solid runner and should be able to steal 15+ bases annually. The ceiling is a full-time regular with solid across the board skills but without a standout tool. If you’re looking for a comp, I’m thinking of Kevin Newman, the young shortstop with Pittsburgh.
15. Ezequiel Duran (2B)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 2B
- Tools Summary: Solid tools across the board but needs to cut down on his strikeouts.
Ezequiel Duran opened eyes by slugging nearly .500 in the New York Penn League including leading the league with 13 bombs. Strong, athletic with great bat speed, Duran was also able to steal 11 out of 14 bases. Unfortunately, he struck out 28% of the time and that is the area of focus for the 20-year-old as he enters the Sally League next season.