New York Yankees

Original Published Date: December 1, 2015

Depending on your perspective, Brian Cashman has the best job in baseball or the most frustrating job.  On the one hand, he’s the General Manager of the New York Yankees, still the premier franchise in the league.  On the other hand, he’s expected to win every year and with that, he’s expected to sign aging free agents that in the end, limit his options.  I’m sure some of you are reading that statement and screaming at your devices.  But unless you live in the market and talk to Yankees fans on a frequent basis, it’s hard to totally understand the expectations.

Cashman is trying to navigate the waters as he knows he needs to get younger and for the first time that I can remember, didn’t trade away his top prospects.  The world saw the potential of Luis Severino and Greg Bird and even that Rob Refsnyder could be an everyday player.  The question is will he be able to find the right balance.

He’s got assets at his disposal in Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, and Gary Sanchez in the minor leagues.  All three are elite prospect and will make our Top 100 list.  Judge has a chance to be a prototypical power hitting right fielder.  Sanchez can really hit and while he’s not a plus defender, he should be serviceable as a part-time catcher in the mode of Kyle Schwarber.  Jorge Mateo could be the best of the bunch. He’s still very young but has star potential.

There’s also depth in the system with Eric Jagielo, Ian Clarkin, and Rookie Davis.  All should see the major leagues in the next year or two.

It’s going to be a fascinating off season.  If the Yankees hold onto Severino, Bird, and Judge, Brian Cashman might be able to find the balance he needs.  If not, the Yankees will probably continue as a good team, but not a great team.

1. Aaron Judge (OF)

2016 Age: 24 Ceiling: 1st Div
Ht: 6-7 Weight: 275 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
2015 AA,AAA 478 63 20 72 7 .255 .330 69.9 9.8 .319

The Yankees received a lot of interest at the trading deadline for the services of Aaron Judge but wisely elected not to move their 2013 first round pick (pick 32).  Their restraint was impressive and definitely unlike the Yankees of the George Steinbrenner era.  Those teams would have likely traded Judge, Severino, and anybody else that could have brought in talent to try and win a championship, but not this Yankees team.  Will it work long-term?  Time will tell.

Judge had an inconsistent year in 2015, posting a slash line of .255/.330/.448 in 124 games across Double and Triple-A.  He was very good in Double-A but found the sledding more difficult in Scranton; although most of the difference can be explained from his Batting Average of Balls in Play.  What he did show in both levels was his plus raw power, slugging .448 while hitting 20 home runs.

With Carlos Beltran likely retiring at the end of 2016, the Yankees have the perfect in house solution in Judge.  Now, will they keep to the plan or sign, fill-in-the-blank to play right-field?

Scouting Report:  I’ve had the chance to scout Aaron Judge multiple times in the last year and I’m left with two very distinctive impressions.  One, he’s a very big dude.  He’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds, but it’s more tight-end size than offensive lineman.  In other words, he’s extremely muscular and athletic.  He’s got more speed than you would think and is definitely a guy you want on your side in case trouble arises.

The second thing is the swing.  Most batters will release their top hand when they swing, but Judge does not.  He holds both hands on the bat, giving the impression that he is swatting at the ball.  It’s visually strange, but he likely does it to try and shorten his swing.  It somewhat works as Judge has posted a low 70’s contact rate in 225 games in the minor league.

While there will likely always be swing and miss in his game, Judge does have an excellent understanding of the strike zone, which should help to neutralize his strikeouts.

Fantasy Impact:  With power scarce in the fantasy game, Judge has the ceiling to hit 25 to 30 home runs annually.  It could come with a .240 batting average, but in on-base percentage leagues it will be serviceable as his OBP will likely be 80 to 100 points higher.  He also has enough speed to add seven to ten stolen bases annually.  If he reaches his ceiling, he has a chance to be a Top 50 player in fantasy baseball.

2. Jorge Mateo (SS)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: All Star
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
2015 A,A+ 449 66 2 40 82 .278 .345 78.2 8.6 .351

Jorge Mateo graduates from our Emerging Prospect to number two on the Yankees Top 10 list.  While there have been some big league promotions that have elevated Mateo, he got to his status primarily on his merits.

The Yankees started him out in Charleston and the 20-year-old shortstop played very well, showing off his 80-grade speed to the tune of 71 stolen bases in 86 attempts while batting .268 in 409 plate appearances.  In early August, he was promoted to the Florida State League and continued to steal bases at will while making great contact.  While he’s two to three years away, the Yankees have something in Mateo and he could become an elite shortstop at the highest level.

Scouting Report:  I rarely throw comps on players but I’ve heard more than one scout threw a Jose Reyes comp on Mateo.  Sometimes I shake my head when I hear impressive comparisons like that because it’s really unfair to the player.  However, in seeing Mateo play live, I get it.  He’s athletic with game-changing speed and with more power than he’s shown to-date.  Plus, he has the intangible…he’s just exciting to watch.  He makes things happen when he gets on base.  That was Jose Reyes in his prime.

Mateo’s carrying tool is 80-grade speed.  He also has plus bat speed and with some adjustments to his swing, he could eventually hit 8 to 10 home runs annually.  Currently, he’s a slappy hitter and is just trying to make contact and use his wheels to get on base.  While that’ll play to a certain extent, he has the size and strength for more.  He just needs to change his approach and that will be the Yankees job over the next two years.

Defensively, Mateo has the chops to stay at short and actually excel.  I saw a plus arm as well as the quickness and the footwork to put a plus future defensive grade on him.  He’s far from Anderlton Simmons, but not from Jose Reyes.

Fantasy Impact:  While he’s young, Mateo is likely going to be in the front half of our Top 100 list.  With a ceiling of 50 plus stolen bases, a .270 to .280 batting average, and hitting at the top of a Yankees lineup, he could be an impact fantasy player.

3. Gary Sanchez (C)

2016 Age: 23 Ceiling: 1st Div
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 230 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2015 AA,AAA 365 50 18 62 7 .274 .330 78.6 7.3 .301

I recently re-watched the great documentary, Peloteros, which highlight the signing of Miguel Sano.  I was reminded when his name came up in the film, that Gary Sanchez was signed for nearly the same signing bonus that same year.  Even missing an entire season due to injury, Sano is in the big leagues now and is considered one of the young rising stars.  While we still regard Sanchez as an elite prospect, he just got a September cup-of-coffee (2 at-bats) and is still a long way off from establishing himself as a major leaguer.

While comparing Sano to Sanchez can be foolhardy, even dangerous, it does demonstrate that not all elite prospects develop at the same rate.  Part of that can be attributed to Sanchez playing a more demanding position and another could be that Sano is just a better player.  The point I want to leave you with is that while Sanchez might be taking longer to develop, he still has the ceiling of an elite offensive contributor, and in fact, he started to show that this year.

In 93 games across Double and Triple-A, he posted a .815 OPS with 18 home runs and an 82% contact rate.  He also continues to love to swing the pole, walking only 29 times.

Candidly, I’m still surprised that Sanchez is with the Yankees.  With Brian McCann signed to a long-term contract and John Ryan Murphy a capable backup, I don’t see him behind the plate in New York.  Furthermore, with Greg Bird showing he’s ready for full-time major league at-bats, first base appears to be out.  Conclusion: I think he’s moved in the off season.

Scouting Report:  Sanchez has the ceiling of an above-average offensive player with a chance to hit 20 to 25 home runs annually.  He makes very good contact and despite his ultra-aggressive approach, he has enough bat control to hit .260 in the big leagues.  If that production can be behind the plate, the upside is a first division catcher.  However, that’s the big question.  He’s got a great arm with decent athleticism, but his receiving skills are average at-best.  The framing still needs a lot of work as does his footwork.

In the end, I think he’s more likely a first baseman with a chance to move to right field.  That said, I don’t think he’s ever played an inning in the outfield; although, he does have enough athleticism to make it “not a crazy idea”.  Until then, the Yankees will continue to hype him as a major league catcher and some team will fall in love with the arm and believe they can fix the rest.

Fantasy Impact:  I’m still an owner of Sanchez because the bat will play in the major leagues and some team will figure out where to play him.  Here’s a scenario: 40 games behind the plate, 60 games at first and 30-40 games in the outfield.  After seeing him in at least 50 at-bats in his minor leagues, I’m convinced there is 20 plus home run potential, hitting in the middle of a lineup.

4. Rob Refsnyder (2B)

2016 Age: 25 Ceiling: 2nd Div
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 205 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2015 AA,AAA 515 82 14 63 9 .318 .387 79.6 9.5 .377

Rob Refsnyder can really hit.  In 430 minor league games, he posted a .290 batting average with an impressive 1.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  Yankees fans got to see the hit tool this year in New York.  Granted, it was a limited sample size, but in 43 at-bats, he hit .302 while striking out only seven times.  He even got the start in the AL play-in game.

The question is will the Yankees give the second base job to Refsnyder to begin the 2016 season.  While Cashman seems committed to building more from within, let’s face it, does Refsnyder really have the upside of a typical Yankee?

Scouting Report:  Refsnyder carrying tool is his ability to make hard and consistent contact with a very good approach.  In his minor league career, he’s maintained an 83% contact rate and an 11% walk rate.  His swing is more gap-to-gap, so expecting more than 10 to 12 home runs annually is probably not in the cards.  While he’s an average runner, he has very good instincts on the basepath, so he should be able to steal 10 to 12 bases annually.  The upside therefore is a 12 HR/12 SB, .300 player, hitting in the two hole.

The biggest limiting factor for Refsnyder is his defensive.  He’s played both the outfield and second base in his career and for me, looks better in the outfield than he does at second.  However, the bat plays better at second and ultimately, that’s where I think he winds up.

Fantasy Impact:  I think Refsnyder gets moved this offseason or next and becomes an everyday second baseman.  He’ll be a better baseball player than fantasy player due to his lack of secondary skills.  The upside is a 12 HR/12 SB, .300 player, hitting in the two hole.  If you squint really hard, you might see Matt Carpenter as an extreme comparison.

5. James Kaprielian (RHP)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: #4 starter
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 200 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 R,SS 11.0 10 5 0 3.18 11.12 3.97 1.24

James Kaprielian was a high floor, low-ceiling pick for the Yankees in the first round of the 2015 first year player draft.  He’s good, but doesn’t have the stuff to be considered a top of the rotation starter.

What he can do is pitch and he demonstrated that in his three year career at UCLA.   In 61 games, 31 as a starter, he posted a 2.06 ERA in 253 innings while striking out 275 and walking 92.  His 3.27 walk per nine rate is a little high, but most of the damage was done as a freshman reliever.  In his final two years, he posted a sub-three walk rate.

Mostly due to his college workload, the Yankees limited his innings after he was signed.  In five games, he pitched 11 innings, striking out 11 while walking four.

Scouting Report:  Kaprielian has a solid four pitch mix with a fastball that sits 90 to 92 MPH.  His best secondary pitch is a plus curveball that has good shape and vertical drop, which is enhanced by his ability to throw it for strikes.

At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Kaprielian has the ideal pitching body.  He uses his height well, consistently pitching in the lower part of the zone.  The balance could be better as he does falloff to the first base side.  Part of this is due to the extension he gets on his release and the natural momentum.  All-in-all, it’s a solid delivery and Kaprielian has enough athleticism that he should be able to repeat his delivery.

Fantasy Impact:  Kaprielian will be a solid major league pitcher with a ceiling of a number four starter.  That could rise as there is likely some physical projection remaining and the Yankees should tighten up his delivery during the Fall Instructs.  So, I’m not ruling out a fastball that could sit 92 to 94 MPH.  If that happens, he could be a more interesting fantasy asset.  He should be drafted in all Dynasty Leagues that roster 200 or fewer minor leaguers.

6. Ian Clarkin (LHP)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: #3 starter
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 190 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2017
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 DNP

Ian Clarkin missed the entire season due to an elbow injury.  The Yankees elected the conservative rest and rehabilitation rout and he finally made his 2015 debut in the Arizona Fall League.  Assuming he’s healthy, he has a chance to be a solid mid-rotation starter.

Scouting Report:  Clarkin has a nice three pitch mix that features a fastball that sits 90-91 (T93). While the velocity is nice, particularly for a lefty, he doesn’t get great plane and therefore the pitch can come in a little flat. The six home runs in 70 innings in the Florida State League last year demonstrates the potential concern that is looming. His curve ball is his best pitch and can miss plenty of bats. The change-up also looks promising and should be a nice complement to the curve.

While the arsenal is solid, it does play up because Clarkin can throw strikes. In those same 70 innings in High-A, he walked only 22. Part of the reason he’s able to pound the strike zone is that he can effectively repeat his delivery. That said, the delivery is a little unorthodox as Clarkin uses a high leg kick on both his windup and out of the stretch. While it’s ok on the wind up, he’s very slow to the plate out of the stretch even though he tries to compensate with a strange stiff-leg slide step. It’s odd to say the least.

Fantasy Impact:  Assuming he’s healthy, Ian Clarkin should be owned in all Dynasty Leagues that roster 200 or less minor league players.  The upside is a solid number three starter.

7. Eric Jagielo (3B)

2016 Age: 24 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 215 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2016
2015 R,A+,AA 332 46 18 58 0 .256 .351 71.7 10.6 .300

As he did in 2014, Eric Jagielo was having a very nice season in Double-A, when an injury, this time a MCL tear in his knee, ended his season early.  In 58 games, he hit nine home runs, batting .284 with 58 strikeouts and 18 walks.  The Yankees had planned to send Jagielo to the Arizona Fall League, but decided against it at the last moment as they didn’t want to take any chances with their young third baseman.

Scouting Report:  It was the plus raw power that Jagielo showed in his three year career at Notre Dame that convinced the Yankees to draft him in the first round of the 2013 first year player draft.   He’s done exactly that in his brief professional career.  The swing can get long and Jagielo can get pull happy.  Plus, his approach could use some tweaking as he can get overly aggressive at times.

Defensively, I’m not convinced that Jagielo stays at third.  He has the arm strength, but his footwork needs a lot of work.  He did play one game at first this year and would have likely played there more in the second half if not for his injury.  Ultimately, that is where I think he winds up and while the bat would play better at the hot corner, there should be enough pop to make it work at first.

Fantasy Impact:  Jagielo should be owned in Dynasty Leagues that roster 200 or fewer minor league players.  He has 20 to 25 home run potential but it will likely come with a .250 batting average.  He has no speed so stolen bases will not be part of the profile.

8. Wilkerman Garcia (SS)

2016 Age: 18 Ceiling: All Star
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 175 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2019
2015 DSL,R 127 23 0 19 11 .299 .414 85.0 15.8 .342

The Yankees scattershot approach during the 2014 J2 signing period was wildly applauded for it’s creativity and well, taking advantage of rules that were not well thought through.  Their approach was to spend early and often on a bumper crop of talented Latin players while blowing through the penalty thresholds.  It was only money, and really not that much when you consider the Yankees overall budget.  If you get two to three major league players out of the gamble, you win.

Wilkerman Garcia is the first player to emerge from that class.  He’s an athletic, switch hitting shortstop that posted impressive numbers in his 37 games in the GCL.  He batted .281 while walking more than he struck out.  He’s still very raw and the Yankees will likely hold him back in extended spring training to begin the 2016 season with an assignment to the New York Penn League in June.

Scouting Report:  At 6-foot and 175 pounds, Garcia is tall and lanky but with a body type that should allow him to put on additional weight.  With additional strength and excellent bat speed, he should be able to develop 40 to 50 grade power, or 8 to 10 home runs annually.  Garcia is also a plus runner but clearly has a lot of work to do with his base stealing as he only stole 6 of 14 bases.

Garcia’s tools are still very raw, but what is impressive is his ability to control the strike zone.  In 150 plate appearance, he walked 24 times while striking out only 18 times.   While you never want to make any conclusions on 150 plate appearances in the Complex League, you still have to be impressed by a 17-year-old Dominican doing that in his first exposure to professional baseball in the states.

Fantasy Impact:  Garcia has the chance to be an impact fantasy contributor at shortstop.  The ceiling is a plus hitter with 8 to 10 home runs and 15 to 20 stolen bases.  That said, he’s at least four years away from even being considered for the majors, so Dynasty League owners need to consider that before drafting him on their team.

9. Rookie Davis (RHP)

2016 Age: 23 Ceiling: #4 starter
Ht: 6-5 Weight: 245 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 A+,AA 130.2 132 56 5 1.79 8.88 3.86 1.21

Look, I was going to find a way to get Rookie Davis on this list.  Come on…the name alone has to make you root for the guy.  I’ve had a chance to scout Davis in Trenton and I concluded that while the name is double-plus, he’ll be a big league pitcher one day.

Scouting Report:  Davis has a nice three pitch mix that starts with his fastball that sits 91 to 93 MPH (T94).  While he doesn’t have premium velocity, the pitch has a ton of movement and the night I saw him, batters had a tough time squaring him up.  Despite the movement as well as his length, he pitches more in the top of the zone and is a fly ball pitcher as a result.  That will not play well in Yankees Stadium and is something he needs to work on.  His secondary pitches are good with his curveball ahead of his change-up.

While the stuff is fine and he throws strikes, no scouting capsule would be complete without a comment about Davis presence on the mound.  He’s a big dude.  He’s listed at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, and he’s every bit of that, if not more.  In watching him, you can’t help but think – “What if he moved to the pen”.  He could be an intimidating force with a fastball that would likely play up a grade.

Fantasy Impact:  Davis is an intriguing pitcher that should be monitored in all Dynasty Leagues.  He has the size to log innings or be a force out of the pen.

10. Tyler Wade (OF)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2017
2015 A+,AA 481 57 3 31 33 .262 .321 81.5 7.7 .313

Tyler Wade was an intriguing under-the-radar prospect entering the 2015 season.  After a terrific season that saw the 20-year-old middle infielder play in both High and Double-A, he should be squarely on the radar of all prospect watchers.

In his 98 games in High-A, he batted .280 with an impressive 65K/39BB strikeout-to-walk ratio.  He also added 31 stolen bases.  He ran into more resistance in Trenton where he showed his youth and struck out 24 times in 29 games while only walking twice.  Regardless, he showed the Yankees that he is indeed a prospect and has a bright future.  That said, that future is likely in another uniform.

Scouting Report: Tyler Wade shows the level of depth that the Yankees have developed over the past several years.  He’s a solid up the middle defender with plus speed, a nice approach and the chance to at least be a solid utility infielder.  Wade makes excellent contact (82%) with a very good understanding of the strike zone.  He did struggle a bit upon his promotion to Double-A, but at 20-years-old, he was one of the youngest players in the league.

When you look at Wade’s stat line, you immediately speculate that he’s likely a slappy hitter.  However, he’s not.  He makes solid contact with good hitting mechanics, he just doesn’t have any loft in his swing.  He does have good size, so he could hit a handful of home runs annually.  He does have plus speed but needs to work on his base stealing acumen.  Fortunately, it’s something that can be taught and I expect his stolen base success rate to increase.

Fantasy Impact:  Wade is a player to keep an eye on in your Dynasty League.  He’s only rosterable in leagues that have 300 or less minor leaguers, but anybody that steals 30 plus stolen bases should have your attention.

2016 Emerging Prospect:

Domingo Acevedo (RHP)
Domingo Acevedo is the perfect player to be our emerging prospect.  The upside is tremendous but there’s also an equal chance that he never makes it.  He’s 21-years-old, still in short-season ball, but is a mountain of a man at 6-foot-7 and a listed 190 pounds (but he’s bigger than that) and oh yeah, I got a 101 MPH reading on my gun when I saw him this year.  The secondary pitches are still a work-in-progress and the delivery is funky, but not in a good way.  Ultimately Acevedo might as a reliever but with some more work on his delivery, he could stay a starter, and potentially a very good one.

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