It’s been an incredibly exciting year for Yankees fans, and for good reason. Blossoming stars such as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Jordan Montgomery are already making noise at the big league level. Plus, many more names are on the horizon. It is easy to get excited about the future.
While they’re having solid seasons, it’s easy to see why most fans are anxious for the departures of aging players such as Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley. For imagination’s sake, we’re going to visit the future. In this hypothetical, we’re going to assume that the front office doesn’t take out a mortgage on superstars such as Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. We will assume that Aroldis Chapman opts out of his contract after 2020, and go out on a far limb and say that the Yankees don’t pick up Ellsbury’s option for 2021.
Chances are that Brian Cashman won’t follow this blueprint, but for the time being let’s have some fun and play GM. Here’s how a fully homegrown Yankees lineup could look in 2021, and why it could be awesome.
Jorge Mateo, Second Base
2017 stats: .244/.290/.385 | 15 stolen bases
I know, Mateo hasn’t exactly progressed as many thought that he would. Plus he had some issues that led to a short suspension last season. That said, he is still only 21 years old and MLB.com lists him as the Yankees’ #4 prospect due to his 80-grade speed. Mateo has the chance to be the first Yankee to steal 50-plus bases since Ricky Henderson swiped 93 bags in 1988. Although he might still be best served as trade bait, the thought of him achieving this should be reason alone for fans to want to see him in pinstripes.
Dustin Fowler, Center Field
2017 stats: .293/.338/.549 | 6 triples, 5 home runs
When I look at Dustin Fowler, I see a young Brett Gardner with less defensive upside, but a higher offensive ceiling. Fowler launched 12 home runs last year in Double-A; Gardner never hit more than five in any of his minor league seasons. He still has the chops to play center, as evidence by his career .983 fielding percentage, and he could excel in left field if need be. Scouts have touted Fowler as a future 20-20 player, and that alone is something to be excited about. Plus, he did this.
Gleyber Torres, Third Base
2017 stats: .280/.362/.409 | 2 home runs
By now it should come as no surprise to see Torres projected off his natural position of shortstop. There are better defensive shortstops in the system and Torres will have no problem sliding over to the hot corner. His bat should profile just fine; he’s a hitting-machine. It’s not everyday a 19-year-old wins the Arizona Fall League MVP. No one is saying he’s going to hit .400 in the big leagues, but I don’t think it’s wild to assume he could hit .315-.330 with 20-25 homers and 80-100 RBIs.
Aaron Judge, Right Field/Designated hitter
2017 stats: .316/.420/.744 | 14 home runs
Judge just won the American League Rookie of the Month, and hit enough dingers to put himself in the same company as Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. I don’t think I really have to justify this one.
Greg Bird, First Base
2017 stats: .100/.250./.200 | 1 home run
I’m not giving up on Bird after one bad, injury-plagued month. Bird has hit at every level, including the big leagues in 2015. He was nearly unstoppable in spring training this year, and Girardi has a ton of faith in him. The reality is that Bird is a power-hitting first basemen with a smooth left-handed swing. Sound familiar? That’s because previous World Series winning teams had Mark Teixeira and Tino Martinez. I firmly believe Bird will be the next one on this list.
Gary Sanchez, Catcher
2017 stats: .260/.362/.400 | 2 home runs
This is probably the lowest you’ve ever seen Sanchez in any lineup, but it’s with good reason. This team is incredibly deep and there will come a time when getting the Kraken to the plate with runners on base will take precedent over getting him at-bats. Plus, he would serve as outstanding protection for the likes of Judge and Bird. I don’t think I need to convince anyone of how good a hitter he could end up being, but I do believe his future is not in the two-hole.
Blake Rutherford, Left Field
2017 stats: .293/.382/.422
Maybe it’s too early to pencil-in Rutherford as a part of this future dynasty, but what fun would that be? Considered by many to be a steal at number 18 in last year’s draft, Rutherford flaunts a silky-smooth left-handed swing, with plenty of room for power to grow into his 6’2 frame. A natural center fielder, Rutherford would only get better sliding over to left field, with plenty of room still to cover in death valley. Only time will tell if this California kid can live up to the hype.
Clint Frazier, Right Field/Designated Hitter
2017 stats: .244/.336/.471 | 5 home runs
Acquired last summer in the Andrew Miller deal, Frazier could be the most exciting eight-hitter in baseball. With electric bat speed and a gritty, all-out style of play, it shouldn’t take much for Frazier to become a fan favorite. I listed Frazier and Judge for the same position not because I can’t decide, but because I envision the Yankees using the DH role to keep legs fresh in the future. With a surplus of talent, and no need for an aging slugger to clog up the DH spot, I can see this being a revolving door for the Bombers.
Kyle Holder, Shortstop
2017 stats: .170/.205/.245 | 1 home run
Holder isn’t Derek Jeter with the bat, but the Yankees took him in the first round of the 2015 draft for a reason. MLB.com rates Holder as a 70-grade fielder, and scouts have actually been known to watch him take ground balls with the same enthusiasm as watching Judge take batting practice. Yankees fans have been spoiled at shortstop for the last 20-or-so years. It’s easy to forget that there was a time they won with light-hitting shortstops. Bucky Dent, anyone?
Kyle Higashioka, Catcher
Austin Romine will be a free agent in 2020 and it’s likely he will seek more playing time elsewhere. That said, Higashioka already had a chance to leave New York and he didn’t. He’s a product of the system and he loves it. Known mostly for his defense, Higashioka set career highs in home runs (21), RBI (81), and average (.276) last season. We all know that he struggled during his cup of coffee, but I attribute that more to nerves than lack of ability.
Tyler Austin, First Base/Outfield
I love Tyler Austin. It is easy to forget about him due to his foot injury this year, but there’s a lot to like about him going forward. Austin looks like a Yankee, sounds like a Yankee, and has opposite-field power that is made for Yankee Stadium. Austin would be the perfect right-handed compliment for players like Rutherford or Bird against tough lefties. His defensive versatility makes him even more valuable. Don’t forget about Tyler Austin.
Thairo Estrada, Infield
Even though he’s not listed on the Yankees’ top 30 prospect list, Estrada is a name you should remember. He is batting .311 at Double-A this year and has seen time at second, third, and shortstop. The Venezuela-native is only 21 years old, and by 2021, he could easily develop into our own homegrown Ronald Torreyes.
Tyler Wade, Utilityman
Listed at number 11 on the Yankees top 30 prospects, Wade should be a familiar name at this point. He almost broke camp with the big league club, and he has been pretty good at Triple-A this year (.296/.359/.365). Combine that with his defensive versatility and it’s looking more and more like the Yankees are producing their own version of Brock Holt. Whether he’s filling in at shortstop or centerfield, Wade should be a pleasure to watch in the Bronx.
Odd man out:
Miguel Andujar, 3B
I like Andujar - I really do - but at this point, with all of this infield depth, it’s looking more and more like he’ll end up as trade bait.
The future is bright in the Bronx, and while this is a huge hypothetical scenario, it would be pretty awesome, right? What would your homegrown Yankees lineup look like? Let us know in the comments section.