|Original Published Date: December 7, 2018|
The Yankees are a year or two behind the Red Sox on the development curve, but oddly, both teams rebuilt their major league teams with very little downtime. Both opted not to do an Astros/Cubs gut job but instead sold players smartly to build their farm system and worked the Latin market very well. In fact, no team has worked the Latin market as well as the Yankees. The system is full of high-risk/high-reward young prospects that may never see the Pinstripes, but as trade currency, they are going to help.
Leading the list is a surprising name – Jonathan Loaisiga. While I’m a big fan, given the strength of the Yankees farm system, it’s definitely a step down from previous years. Of course, Justus Sheffield was the player on the top but he’s now at the top or near the top of the Mariners list. If Loaisiga can stay healthy, he has a chance to be a number three starter or a very useful bullpen arm. There are a number of other arms that are ready to help as back-of-the-rotation starters including Chance Adams, Mike King, and Trevor Stephans.
The young Latin players though is where the excitement in the system exist. Everson Pereira is an intriguing outfielder with a ton of upside as is Antonio Cabello. Both are years away. Deep in the development process is the controversial Estevan Florial. While he’s a top prospect, I worry about his inability to recognize spin and have started to downshift. Domingo Acevedo looks a lot like Dellin Betances and could one day be a closer.
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1. Jonathan Loaisiga (RHP)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
I wanted to include Jonathan Loaisiga as my emerging prospect last year after I caught him in a game in Staten Island. I thought he had an electric arm, but in the end, I just didn’t have the courage. After all, he was a total unknown 5-foot-11 pitcher who spent two years recovering from Tommy John surgery and just hadn’t pitched enough. But, he tore through the minor leagues in 2018 and pitched meaningful innings in New York over the summer.
The stuff is indeed electric with a fastball that sits 96 to 97 MPH with two quality secondary pitches. He also repeats his delivery very well that enables him to throw strikes. The results speak for themselves. In 14 starts in the minor leagues last season, he pitched to a 2.89 ERA striking out nearly 11 per nine while walking less than two per nine. But he wasn’t able to stay healthy and that has been the problem throughout his career.
While there’s no telling what the Yankees will do over the winter in free agency, I believe Loaisiga can be an effective starting pitcher in the Major Leagues. With the Yankees, he might be bound for the bullpen but he could also get moved sometime next year as the Yankees compete for a playoff spot.
2. Everson Pereira (OF)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF with risk
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. At 17, he was the second youngest player in the league behind uber-prospect Wander Franco.
Pereira is 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. He also could develop into a gold-glove level centerfielder. In his 41 games in the Appy League, he more than held his own by hitting .263/.322 with three home runs and three stolen bases. He struck out too much but did manage to walk 8% of the time.
You’re betting on the come with Pereira, but the tools are very enticing.
3. Estevan Florial (OF)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
Estevan Florial was on one of the significant pop-up prospects in 2017 after showing an intriguing combination of power and speed. However, a .404 BABIP helped disguise a 28% strikeout rate and enabled the outfielder to hit an impressive .297 in Charleston and .303 in Tampa. The poor contact rate caught up to him in 2018 as he hit .245 in April and May before requiring hamate surgery that caused him to miss six weeks of action.
Once he returned, he caught fire hitting .347 in July and .309 in August. The power has been slow to return, slugging only .372 with three home runs. But once fully healthy, there is definitely plus power in the bat with a chance to hit 25 to 30 home runs while adding a handful of stolen bases. However, his inability to hit off-speed pitches is a problem. I was reminded of that again in the Fall League. Until he does, I’m downshifting and no longer view him among the elite prospects in the minor leagues. Will he be on our Top 100 list? Maybe…
4. Albert Abreu (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
Albert Abreu got a late start to the season recovering from appendicitis (he had to get his appendix removed) and then missed time in July with a sore arm. In between, he once again showed flashes by striking out over a batter an inning but also walking four per nine.
Abreu still throws easy gas and can light up a radar gun. His secondary pitches still haven’t taken a step-up yet, nor has his control moved up a grade. So, he’s still very much a work-in-progress. The biggest problem though is staying healthy and if you’re constantly on the Disabled List, you can’t get the necessary reps to get better.
The dream is still alive though with a ceiling of a Top 45 starting pitcher. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees move him to the bullpen to extract some value. That could happen as soon as next season.
5. Anthony Seigler (C)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 C
The Yankees drafted Anthony Seigler in the first round last June as a catcher and baseball fans let out a collective sigh. You see, Seigler is not only a talented catcher with a chance to become a starting backstop at the highest level, but in high school, he was also a pitcher, a switch pitcher. While he looks more natural as a lefty pitcher, he would switch mid-game depending on the situation. It was cool…really cool.
So I went online to find out if there had ever been a switch pitcher in the majors and found out that Greg Harris, a Montreal Expo pitcher was the first to accomplish the feat in 1995. Of course, there years ago, Pat Venditte did it with both the A’s and the Dodgers. I found the information on the blog: switchpitching.blogspot.com. Yes, the Internet has everything.
Back to Seigler. His catching is ahead of his hitting, showing good athleticism behind the plate with an obvious strong arm (he throws from the right). In his first professional game action, he’s shown an ability to control the strike zone, walking more than he struck out. His swing is compact and he has enough bat speed to project average power. The upside is a starting catcher in the big leagues.
6. Domingo Acevedo (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
At 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds, Domingo Acevedo reminds me of another big Yankees pitcher Delin Betances. While there’s a chance he remains a starter, I think the Yankees move him to the pen to start extracting value. This would allow his fastball to play up even more and hide his fringy slider until it develops better.
The lack of secondary pitches can be seen in his strikeout rate. Last year in 64.2 innings, he struck out 7.2 per nine. With his big fastball, there should be more swing and miss. The good news is that he’s been able to harness his fastball and is now throwing consistent strikes.
Acevedo will be 25 when the 2019 season begins and assuming health, I believe he makes his big league debut sometime during the year. He’s on the 40-man, so it’s time for the Yankees to start extracting some value.
7. Clarke Schmidt (RHP)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
The Yankees selected Clarke Schmidt in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft even though he was recovering from Tommy John reconstructive surgery. He finally got back on the mound in 2018 and while it was inconsistent, the stuff was mostly back.
When on, his arsenal consists of a fastball that sits 92 to 95 MPH with a plus slider, showing a feel for a change-up. He’ll likely start 2019 in Charleston of the Sally League but could easily finish in Tampa (FSL). Assuming health, his upside is a mid-rotation starter.
8. Luis Medina (RHP)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP with extreme risk
When I talk with people in baseball about the Yankees system, Luis Medina’s name always comes up. He has the big fastball that can touch the upper-90s, a plus curveball that is unhittable at times, and a change-up that people think will also be a plus pitch. That’s three plus pitches…ace, right? Well, in 12 starts in the Appy League, he walked 46. That’s a walk rate of 11.5 per nine. To show the potential, he struck out 11.75 per nine.
The good news is that Medina will just turn 20 in May but learning to repeat his mechanics is the key to success. The further good news is that the delivery is simple and while he lands a little off-balance, it’s not awful. His arm slot is not consistent and that should be solved through repetition. If you believe in the scouting report, Medina is a guy in which to invest.
9. Antonio Cabello (OF)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with extreme risk
The Yankees signed Antonio Cabello in December of 2017 to a $1.35 million signing bonus shortly after he turned 17. He played six games in the DSL before heading north to Florida and the GCL. In 40 games, he opened eyes by slashing .321/.426/.555 with five home runs and five stolen bases.
While he’s very athletic with plus bat speed, his carrying tool is his speed. With his five stolen bases, he was also caught five times so there is a lot of work left to do on the bases. What impressed me the most was his approach at the plate. He posted a decent 20% strikeout rate to go along with a 20% walk rate. At 17, that’s impressive.
10. Michael King (RHP)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
Drafted by the Miami Marlins, Mike King was once again dominant last season. He pitched across three levels, starting in Low-A and ending in Triple-A pitching to a 1.79 ERA, striking out 8.5 per nine while walking under two per nine.
He doesn’t have an elite arsenal with his fastball sitting in the Low-90s but he throws strikes and can command the pitch. His secondary pitches are also solid-average pitches that play up because he is able to throw each for strikes. It’s a profile that is a touch above a command-and-control pitcher which means that he could have some early success in the big leagues. However, once hitters figure him out, he’ll likely be a number five/six-pitcher on a big league roster.
11. Deivi Garcia (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
Deivi Garcia had one of the best years of any pitcher in the Yankees organization. In 15 starts across Low, High, and Double-A, he pitched to a 2.55 ERA striking out nearly 13 per nine while walking less than three per nine. The stuff matched the performance as well as he has a fastball that he can run up to 95 MPH with what evaluators indicated was the best curveball in the organization, if not one of the best in the lower minor leagues.
The knock against him is he’s listed at 5-foot-10 and weighing only 163 pounds. There’s just not a lot of history of pitchers that size being established starters and why I have his ceiling as a closer. The Yankees will likely keep him starting and he might actually continue to be successful, but playing the odds, I think he moves to the bullpen.
12. Trevor Stephans (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
Trevor Stephans is another in a long list of Yankees upper-level prospects who will be a big league pitcher. Drafted in 2017 in the third round, Stephans had no problem with the Florida State League. In seven starts he pitched to a 1.98 ERA striking out well over 10 per nine and walking less than two per nine. He was rewarded with a promotion to Double-A where the sledding got more difficult, but nonetheless, he still pitched well.
He’s got good size at 6-foot-5 and 225 with a solid arsenal that consists of a fastball that sits in the low-90s with a slider and change-up. The change-up is ahead of the slider but did get better as the year progressed. While the arsenal is solid, he doesn’t have a true outpitch nor a premium fastball. Therefore, I’ve put a number four starter profile on him.
13. Chance Adams (RHP)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP or Middle Reliever
A lot of fantasy owners were bullish on Chance Adams after an impressive 2017 campaign. However, I had seen him a number of times and saw a pitcher without a lot of plane with average stuff. I put a Top 50 starting pitcher ceiling or a middle reliever and suggested owners move him. Based on the comments I received, many people disagreed.
After his 2018 season where things normalized and hitters started to take his stuff deep, Adams stock has fallen. He did get to the majors but didn’t pitch well in his brief tenure giving up three home runs in 7.2 innings. Look, he’s a good pitcher and should have some success in the Major Leagues. However, as a fantasy asset, owners need to set their expectations to more of a bullpen arm or a number four starter.
14. Thairo Estrada (SS/2B)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Waiver Wire pickup
Thairo Estrada made our list last year as a potential middle infielder who could really hit with a bit of pop and speed. I’ve moved his ceiling to a waiver wire pickup as the upside is likely a utility player in the big leagues. After seeing him in the fall league, he can still hit with a little bit of pop and speed, but, he makes our list this year for another reason.
Estrada was shot in the off-season while living in his home country of Venezuela. While the country is flush with oil, a corrupt government has led to horrific living conditions with kidnapping, shootings and other crimes all too frequent. Major League baseball has already shut down the Venezuela Summer League but the Winter League is still operational. But, for how long? Non-Venezuelan players don’t want to play there and even major leaguers who make Venezuela their home during the off-season are moving their families out. In the whole scheme of things, baseball is a small component of the economy and there are clearly bigger problems there. However, given the popularity of the sport, maybe if situations like Estrada can become better known, change can occur.
15. Osiel Rodriguez (RHP)
Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP with extreme risk
The Yankees signed 16-year-old Osiel Rodriguez to a million dollar signing bonus last July 2nd. The Cuban was well known in Latin circles with reports of him hitting 90 MPH when he was only 14 years old. He has good size with an electric arm. But, he’s a pitcher who is only 16-years-old so almost anything can happen at this junction. But, if you are looking to speculate on uber-young players for your Dynasty League, Rodriguez is a kid in which I would be investing.