It did not take long for Major League Baseball to recognize just how much the Yankees’ farm system improved following the past two months of activity. MLB.com has updated its top 100 prospects list, and five young Yankees made the cut. In comparison, they had just three on the preseason list.
The newest Yankee, Gleyber Torres, immediately took his spot at the top of the organization, ranking 26th overall. Having been at the top of the Cubs’ list prior to his trade, it’s not a surprise to see the 19-year-old shortstop ascend to the forefront here. Just behind him though is Tampa Yankees teammate Jorge Mateo at number 27. They are neck-and-neck, but Torres just narrowly gets the edge since he is a year and a half younger than Mateo and is a bit more well-rounded. While Mateo will see more time at second base than shortstop with Torres there, they are considered equally capable defenders.
Not far behind the two infielders is the powerful Aaron Judge, who was knocking on the door of the big leagues prior to a knee injury that has kept him out of the Scranton lineup since early July. Ranked 32nd, he had 16 homers and an .825 OPS in 83 games at Triple-A, living up to the high expectations. Hopefully, he returns soon and continues to establish himself as Carlos Beltran’s heir apparent in right field. Mateo and Judge were 30th and 31st respectively prior to the season, so it’s good to see that Jim Callis and company still think highly of them.
Gary Sanchez made a nice jump up from 59th in the preseason to 39th overall, giving the Yankees four prospects in the top 40—not too shabby. He was briefly sidelined with a cracked thumb on a freak catching injury, but otherwise, the 23-year-old has been superb, batting .286/.333/.478 with 10 homers in 68 games while growing even more comfortable behind the plate. Jonathan Mayo later said that he thought both Judge and Sanchez could have an impact on the majors very soon.
The other newcomer to the Yankees’ portion of the top 100 prospects list is their top draft pick of 2016, Blake Rutherford, who slid in at number 64. The outfielder is five months younger than even Torres, and it was providence that he fell into the Yankees’ lap at 18th overall due in part to signability concerns. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer got his man though, and Rutherford’s tremendous raw talent has already earned him a spot (lighting up Rookie Ball and the Appy League doesn’t hurt either). He might end up in a corner outfield spot, but his smooth lefty swing could make him a Yankee Stadium staple for years to come.
Even more remarkable is the fact that if 2015’s top pick, James Kaprielian, had stayed healthy, Callis said that he would have been the sixth Yankee in the top 100. Alas, he has been sidelined since late April with a flexor strain, so with a return unlikely this year, they are crossing his fingers that he comes back strong in 2017. Callis also noted that Double-A third baseman Miguel Andujar and Kaprielian’s rotationmate in Tampa, Domingo Acevedo, both have the potential to crack a top 100 in the future as well. Andujar surged up the Yankees’ rankings to number six, so he is definitely someone to watch going forward.
Regardless of how these prospects eventually shake up, it’s great to see the farm system in a much better place than it was just a few years ago, when Sanchez was basically the only representative. These players in addition to the ineligible-but-young Luis Severino and Greg Bird inspire plenty of hope for the future. Let’s hope that some of them can pan out.