The All-Star break typically offers a good opportunity for prospect evaluators to take stock of the first half and update their rankings accordingly. Matt Provenzano wrote a post last week about the Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus updates, and now ESPN’s Keith Law has released his own midseason Top 50. The most positive news is that every Yankee included moved up from his preseason rankings.
Law’s article is subscription-only, so I won’t spoil everything that he said, but we can safely say that he included four Yankees in the group. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Jorge Mateo all made the cut, but perhaps the most surprising inclusion is Blake Rutherford, who was the Yankees’ top pick in the 2016 Draft. Law is typically quicker to rank recent draftees, and Rutherford was placed 43rd among the top 50. Despite being the 18th overall pick (perhaps due to signability questions), he was the third-highest ranked player from this year’s draft. Law called the 19-year-old “an advanced enough hitter with above-average present power” to likely reach full-season ball next year. He’s well on his way, as just today, Rutherford was promoted from the GCL to short-season Pulaski.
Judge received the top marks among the Yankees’ quartet, as he was the 23rd-ranked player. Although on the minor league DL right now due to a PCL sprain, he has been tremendous in Triple-A this year, particularly in June. Judge won the International League Player of the Month in June and as Law noted, he cut down on his strikeouts to improve his stock during that time. He has 16 homers and a .469 slugging percentage in 83 games this year; expect him to take over right field from Carlos Beltran very soon.
Sanchez was 36th and Mateo finished off the list at number 50. Law thinks that Sanchez has the potential to regularly top 25 homers as a major leaguer once he adjusts to the pitching up there, and he has become adequate enough behind the plate to stick there. It will be interesting to see how the Yankees approach Sanchez’s future with Brian McCann entrenched as a productive regular and Austin Romine capably handling the backup role.
Mateo’s two-week suspension was mentioned in Law’s write-up, and Law admitted to his disappointment in the shortstop not living up to his 80 grade speed in addition to striking out too often. During his post-article chat, Law pointed out that he really hasn’t made a lot of hard contact and that he very nearly missed the cut entirely. Hopefully when Mateo returns from suspension, he will recapture the form that earned him his High-A assignment in the first place. He is still just 21 years old, after all.