|Original Published Date: December 5, 2017|
The Yankees have one of the best young teams in baseball with a ton of depth in the minor leagues. Maybe even more importantly, they have right-sized their payroll and should have a bucket of money to spend in 2019.
The depth in the minor leagues continues to be impressive with Gleyber Torres, one of the best prospects in the game at the top. He could have been in the majors last season, but season-ending TJ Surgery caused his timetable to be delayed. Right behind him is Estevan Florial, a tooled-up player that if he can cut down on his strikeouts, could be an impact player. Finally, there’s Miguel Andujar, a player I really like and believe he could be the answer at third for the Yankees starting as soon as next season.
They also have pitching depth with Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, and Albert Abreu leading the way. While I have concerns about all of them, they are all major leaguers and should be in New York within the next couple of years.
Everything appears to be set up for the Yankees. So why do I have this unsettled feeling that they will overspend for an over-the-hill Boras client free agent or trade away Torres for a two month rental of a 39-year-old designated hitter. Oh yeah…history….we have history…
Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2018, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 5 SS
Gleyber Torres was number one on our midseason Top 50 list. He looked poised to join the Yankees in the second half to help them make their final push to the playoffs. But that was not meant to be when on June 7th he felt a twinge in his non-throwing elbow and after a couple of trips to the doctor, elected to have Tommy John reconstructive surgery.
Despite the success of TJ surgery, it’s still a major procedure and one that is not 100% guaranteed. The best news for Torres is that it affected his non-throwing elbow and the recovery of the surgery should be shorter and with lower risk. How he hurt his non-throwing arm is unknown.
Before the injury, Torres was building off his impressive 2016 and Arizona Fall League performance. Through 55 games across Double and Triple-A, he slashed .287/.383/.480 with seven home runs and seven stolen bases. If you extend that out to a full season, he was on pace for a 20/20 season; doing it in the upper minors.
Scouting Report: Torres has a very mature approach at the plate, walking nearly as much as he strikes out. In a short sample size in Triple-A though, he struggled early, striking out 27% of the time. As he got more comfortable, the contact improved.
He also has plenty of bat speed to complement his strong hands and while I had him initially projecting average to slightly below average power, I think there’s solid-average power with a chance for a tick more (18 to 22 home runs).
While there was debate entering the season that Torres should be moved off shortstop, I believe he was the skills to stay there long-term. Whether the Yankees want to do that with Didi Gregorius playing so well at short is up for debate. At least short-term, he could be moved to second, or even third.
He also continues to steal a high number of bases but is far from a burner and as he fills out, the speed will drop a grade but the power should also gain a grade. It’s a dynamic profile with an all-star upside.
Fantasy Impact: Torres approach and plus hit-tool will be his greatest asset from a fantasy perspective. With a potential of 18 to 22 home runs and 10 to 15 stolen bases, the upside is a Top five fantasy shortstop.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF
Estevan Florial moves from our 2017 emerging prospect to a seat at the big boy table after a terrific season where he started to translate his tools to performance.
He spent most of his time last season in Charleston slashing .297/.373/.483 in 91 games. He showed good over-the-fence pop by hitting 11 home runs and plenty of speed on the basepath, stealing 17 of 24 attempts. He did strikeout way too much though, posting a 32% strikeout rate. He did show some understanding of the strike zone, walking 10.5% of the time. In August, he was promoted to High-A and posted very similar numbers.
A 32% strikeout rate is scary, particularly when it’s done in Low-A. It wasn’t Lewis Brinson-esque, who struck out 191 times or 38% of the time, but it was close. As Florial moves through the system, his success will be linked to his ability to cut down his strikeouts.
Scouting Report: Florial has alluring tools, highlighted by premium bat speed and double-plus foot speed. He’s also got a plus arm and probably profiles long-term in right-field. The challenge is he’s prone to strike out in bunches. If he can shorten up his swing, he has the upside of an all-star performer.
For me, the Lewis Brinson comparisons are striking. Brinson is a little bigger athlete, but both have power and speed and both need to cut down on their strikeouts. Brinson has improved greatly from his time in Low-A but fell back into old habits in his brief major league debut last season. I see Florial following a similar path. Based on upside, he’s a Top 100 prospect now and will move up quickly. However, that final hurdle to hit consistently in the big leagues will be big, just like it has become for Brinson.
Fantasy Impact: There’s a lot of fantasy goodness sitting with Florial. He has 20/20 potential, maybe more on both sides of the equation, but questions linger on whether he will hit enough. He’s still very young so he has time on his side, but he needs to get shorter to the ball and if he does, he’s a first-round fantasy talent.
Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
One of the more significant 2016 trades brought Andrew Miller to the Indians in exchange for Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and Ben Hiller. While Miller and Corey Kluber together, nearly brought the Indians a World Series ring in 2016, the cost was indeed high. Clint Frazier is already contributing in a meaningful way in the big leagues and Justus Sheffield has established himself as one of the better young pitching prospects in the game.
In 17 starts, Sheffield posted a 3.18 ERA, striking out nearly eight per nine and walking 3.2 per nine. The problem is he also gave up 14 home runs or 1.4 per nine. While analyst who look exclusively at stats will say that this should regress to a more typical, one home run per nine, after seeing him pitch multiple times, I’m less sure.
Scouting Report: At just under 6-feet, Sheffield doesn’t have the classic size you look for in a pitcher. The stuff is very good though with a fastball that sits 90 to 92 MPH and can touch higher with three excellent secondary pitches. The delivery is clean and simple with the ability to stay on top of his pitches. This should help compensate for his small stature. While he does pitch in the lower half of the strike zone, given his size, I’m not surprised to see a home run spike. We didn’t see it in the lower minors, which is understandable as his stuff overwhelmed lesser hitters. But as you move up, the competition increases and a pitcher’s inadequacies get exposed.
We are still placing a mid-rotation ceiling on Sheffield, but he’s very athletic with a quality arsenal, so there is upside in the projection.
Fantasy Impact: There’s a lot to like with Sheffield. The arsenal is very good and he throws strikes. His small stature is a concern but it could be neutralized by the athleticism he brings. He will likely continue to be a Top 100 prospect for us, but further down the list than you might think.
Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
Living in the New York Metro area, I see the Yankees farm systems a lot. I’ve therefore have seen Miguel Andujar play in at least 30 to 40 games. I’m sold. I think he’s going to be a very good major leaguer with a chance to even see an all-star game or two.
While it was only two games, he showed the Yankees what his potential was at the major league level where he went 3 for 5 and even stole a base in a brief call-up over the summer. The rest of the season he split his time between Double and Triple-A, slashing .315/.352/.498 in 125 games. He also hit 16 home runs and stole five bases.
Scouting Report: Andujar is close to being ready for an extended look at the major league level. He could get his chance next season unless the Yankees re-sign Todd Frazier (remember he’s a Jersey kid). If so, he might have to produce quickly as the 2019 free agent class is stocked with high-end players including Mr. Manuel Machado.
Andujar has plus raw power and it has started to emerge to in-game production. I think he could hit 20 to 25 with a ceiling of 30. He is short to the ball and has kept his strikeout rate in check but continues to be very aggressive. Over time, I believe he will demonstrate more plate patience, but currently, his walk rate is below average. He’s also an average runner and should be able to steal low double-digit bases annually.
Fantasy Impact I think Andujar will be an impact fantasy third baseman. He should get a chance to see considerable time in New York next year and has the skill set to contribute. That said, he’s only 22 and still has much to learn before he reaches his ceiling.
Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP or Middle Reliever
Chance Adams had one of the better pitching stat lines in the minor leagues last season. In 27 starts across Double and Triple-A, he won 15 games, posted a 2.45 ERA, struck out eight per nine and walked 3.5 per nine. He was good, very good, and the Yankees have told the world how good he is. However, I have concerns.
Scouting Report: I’ve seen Adams pitch a lot and he has a good fastball that he can run up to 95 but it’s pretty straight and batters are not easily fooled. He does have a good slider that misses bats. His change-up though still needs work and while his splits are not bad, I do think he’ll see a bigger split at the next level.
At 6-feet-1, he gets little plane on his pitches and pitches up in the zone. When he’s revved up and hitting 95 and 96, it works, but with a mile or two regression and you’ve got real problems. I would love to see him develop a two-seamer but without it, I think he’s a mid-rotation, maybe a number four starter or possibly a reliever. I know I said the same thing about Sonny Gray and recognize that I was wrong there.
Fantasy Impact: While I do like Adams, if you have an owner that sees him as a number two starter, I would be moving him. I see something less. But, he’s nearly ready for the show and that does have value.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP or Reliever
Albert Abreu is one of the more intriguing arms in the Yankees organization. Acquired from the Astros as part of the deal that sent Brian McCann to Houston last winter, Abreu continues to tantalize evaluators with his 80-grade fastball.
While he spent part of last season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, he did pitch in 53.1 innings across Low and High-A posting a 3.38 ERA. He struck out 61 while walking only 18. He also posted a 1.1 ground-out-to-air-out ratio.
Scouting Report: I’ve seen Abreu pitch and I have several 100s on my radar guy to prove it. He throws hard but it’s an easy delivery. He mixes in both a four-seamer and a quality sinker that gets a ton of ground balls. He’s still working on his secondary pitches but both his slider and change-up are flashing as quality pitches.
At 6-foot-2, he has good size and pitches down in the zone. Therefore, I don’t think he will be homer prone. His command is still not there but as he pitches more, that will improve as well. While guys who throw as hard as he does, usually wind up in the bullpen, the Yankees will continue to start him. I think he has a better than average chance to stay a starter.
Fantasy Impact: Albert Abreu has one of the better arms in the minor leagues. In fact, it’s so good, he could sneak into the backend of our Top 100 list. He’s still a couple of years away from the big leagues, but he has a chance to be a very good mid-rotation starter with a high strikeout rate. If he does move to the bullpen, it’s closer stuff.
Highest Level: DNP, ETA: 2020-21, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP
The Yankees took a calculated risk when they drafted Clarke Schmidt with the 16th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. Things were going great for the right-hander as he was dominating in the SEC. In nine starts, he posted a 1.34 ERA, striking out 70 and walking 18 in 60.1 innings. However, in late spring he felt a twinge in the elbow and was diagnosed with torn UCL that required Tommy John Surgery.
Assuming he comes back healthy, the Yankees will likely get him into game action in the second half of 2018. The injury does push back his potential arrival to the major leagues until 2020 at the earliest.
Scouting Report: Schmidt has a three-pitch arsenal that consists of a plus fastball, a well above-average change-up and a slider that has cutter action. He also has good control and that allows his arsenal to play-up a grade.
There are two negatives. The first is Schmidt is listed at 6-foot-1 and usually shorter pitchers lack plane which can cause them to be homer-prone. He wasn’t this way in college, but Double-A is a much different beast. Secondly, in reviewing video of his delivery, there are problems. First, there’s a lot of effort in the delivery which causes him significant balance issues. Plus, he throws across his body which could have contributed to his arm injury.
Fantasy Impact: First round picks usually go high in Dynasty League re-drafts. However, I’m not going to take Schmidt early. Given his injury status, delivery and the fact that he will be pitching half his games in New York gives me pause. That said, he has good stuff and assuming he comes back healthy, he still has a ceiling of a mid-rotation starter. Fantasy owners will have to weigh out the risk and determine how early to draft him.
Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP
Selected as the fourth overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, Dillon Tate has had a rocky start to his professional career. He pitched poorly in 2016 in Low-A, which as a 22-year-old and the 4th pick in the draft, should not happen. The Rangers sent him packing to the Yankees in an August 1st trade for Carlos Beltran.
The Yankees decided to hold Tate back in the Complex to begin last season, in part to allow him to rehab a shoulder injury but to also rework his mechanics. This is not a something new for the Yankees and once again, it worked. When Tate was a Ranger, he got hit hard as batters were squaring him up. After the Yankees reworked his mechanics, he was a different pitcher. Across High and Double-A, he posted a 2.81 ERA, striking out nearly seven per nine and walking 2.6 per nine.
Scouting Report: Tate has a nice three-pitch mix with a fastball that sits 93 to 95 MPH (T96), a quality slider that sits 87 to 88 MPH as well as a change-up. While it’s a good three-pitch mix, he doesn’t miss many bats. After seeing him last season, I’m not sure why. The delivery has some funk in it and all three pitches are quality. The command is not great, but that’s true with so many young pitchers.
Tate is clearly on his way back, but the Yankees have more work to do. I think he spends most of the season back in Double-A working on his command and the quality of his secondary pitches. That should put him on track to make his major league debut sometime in 2019.
Fantasy Impact: Tate is no longer a Top 100 prospect but he’s in a better spot than he was this time last year. The upside is a mid-rotation starter with eight strikeouts per nine and low than league average ratios.
Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2018, Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
It’s hard to get your head around Domingo Acevedo. He throws really hard, like Aroldis Chapman hard (I got him at 102 on my gun). He strikes out a ton of guys and has plus control. But, I think he’s a reliever.
The Yankees though continue to start him and he’s responding. In three levels last season, including two starts in Triple-A, he posted a 3.25 ERA striking out 142 batters in 133 innings while walking only 34. That’s one of the best pitching stat lines in all of baseball. But, I still think he’s a reliever.
Scouting Report: The reason I believe he’s a reliever long-term is he has a reliever delivery. It’s got a ton of effort which causes him to have poor balance on his landing. In fact, I’m not sure how he maintains his arm slot to throw strikes but the stats prove he can. The stuff though is elite. A true 80-grade fastball with a slider that is getting better and a feel for a change-up.
There’s no shame in putting a bullpen label on a guy. Most pitchers go to the bullpen. But Acevedo has closer written all over him.
Fantasy Impact: The ceiling for Acevedo is a closer and potentially a dominant one. He needs to stay healthy and given his delivery, there is concern. Assuming he does, he could be a closer in with the next three to five years.
Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 2B
I decided to go a little rogue on the last player in the Yankees system. A name who is unfamiliar to most – Thario Estrada.
Scouting Report: I probably caught 20 Trenton Thunder games this past year and it seemed like in every game, Estrada did something. He’s just a tough out. He can really barrel the ball and rarely strikeouts (10.3 strikeout rate). He has good bat speed but his swing lacks loft, so home runs have not yet been part of his game. As he mature and fills-out, I would not be surprised to see him hit 12 to 15 home runs annually.
He has good speed as I have him down to first anywhere from 4.14 to 4.21. However, he’s not a very good base stealer as he was only successful in 8 of 19 attempts. He’s faster than that and I believe as he learns the fine art of base stealing, the percentage will move up.
He started the year playing second but once the Yankees promoted Gleybar Torres, he was the primary shortstop in Trenton. He played well and has a rifle for an arm. He’s not at the level of Torres or Didi Gregorius and therein lies the problem. He’s blocked at short and second and probably behind Tyler Wade as well.
Fantasy Impact: Long-term, Estrada is likely a utility player, but I like him. Again, he’s a tough out, a grinder, if you will with plus speed. Assuming he gets traded and can become a better base stealer, he could be a sneaky fantasy player who can deliver a high batting average, steals and plenty of runs.
2018 Emerging Prospect
Jonathan Loaisiga is 5-feet-11, turns 23 in November and has only pitched in the New York Penn League. I know…red flags. But, he throws in the mid-90’s, has swing and miss stuff, never walks anyone and can really pitch. I think he moves quickly. In fact, if the Yankees throw him in the bullpen, he could be in New York by 2019.