The 2017 first-year player draft is right around the corner, and that means we get to take a look at the Yankees system and determine where they need to improve and where they are the deepest. This will be a two-part draft preview, and we begin by examining the biggest strengths of the New York Yankees farm system heading into the draft.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody, but the Yankees have an incredible wealth of talent in the middle infield department. Eight of their top 30 prospects are middle infielders and two of those players are included in the MLB.com top 100.
This list is of course headlined by MLB.com’s #2 overall prospect, Gleyber Torres. While it is still uncertain whether Torres’ future is in the middle of the diamond or at the hot corner, he is considered a shortstop for now. The other player in the top 100 is #41 overall, Jorge Mateo. Mateo has always been regarded for his blazing speed and incredible athleticism, and criticized for his inconsistency at the plate. In his last 10 games Mateo is batting .302. The Yankees would love him to keep up that type of production. Outside of the top 100, the Yankees still have plenty of middle infield prospects with solid upside.
Fans should be familiar with Tyler Wade, as he almost broke camp with the Yanks as Didi’s replacement at shortstop. He is currently batting .301 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and is being groomed to be the Yankees’ super-utility man of the future.
Another shortstop in the Yankees system is former 2015 first round pick, Kyle Holder. Holder is a player whose glove has been major league ready since the day he was drafted, but his bat still has a ways to catch up.
One of the more unknown infielders in the system is shortstop Wilkerman Garcia. He was signed out of Venezuela in the 2014-2015 offseason and is still only 19 years old. Garcia struggled in his first taste of rookie ball, batting only .198, but the Yankees seem to have a lot of faith in this young switch-hitter.
Other names to remember: Nick Solak (2B), Hoy Jun Park (SS), Thairo Estrada (SS/2B)
One of the only short comings of the 2017 season has been the consistency of the starting rotation. Thankfully, the Yankees have more starting pitching depth in their system than they have in well, maybe ever. Their top 30 prospect list features 13 starting pitchers, with three of them (James Kaprielian, Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams) making the MLB.com top 100 prospect list.
Kaprielian is recovering from Tommy John surgery this season, but the upside is too large to ignore and that is why he is still the #70 prospect in baseball. Sheffield, who was acquired in the Andrew Miller trade last year, is right behind Kaprielian at #71 and the young southpaw is putting together a solid season at Double-A Trenton, winning his last three starts. Adams is new to the top 100 as he checks in at #99, but he is dominating Triple-A batters and it is likely that we will see him in the Bronx sometime this summer.
The Yankees really did a good job beefing up their system with pitching at the trade deadline last summer when they acquired the likes of Dillon Tate, Albert Abreu, and Jorge Guzman. These are all guys with tremendous potential. However, they have yet to prove themselves and could wind up more successful in the bullpen one day.
Other names to remember: Domingo Acevedo (RHP), Ian Clarkin (LHP), Zack Littel (RHP)
The Yankees just had an outfielder graduate from their top 30 prospects list. His name is Aaron Judge, ever heard of him? Judge is the first outfielder to make this leap and make an impact, but many others are on the way.
Probably the most notable outfielder in the system is #19 overall prospect Clint Frazier. Acquired in the Andrew Miller trade, Frazier initially struggled at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He has now homered in four of his last eight games. His bat speed is described by Brian Cashman as “legendary” and he grades out as an above average outfielder. Don’t be surprised if we get a glimpse of Frazier this season.
Another MLB.com top 100 prospect is last year’s first round selection, Blake Rutherford. The #33 prospect in baseball was considered by many to be the most advanced high school hitter in last year’s draft. Rutherford dominated short season ball last summer, batting .351 in 33 games. He has since been tasked with his first year of full season ball at Low-A Charleston and has responded by putting up a solid slash line of .277/.358/.400. Many believe that Rutherford’s smooth left-handed swing will one day develop into that of a prototypical #3 hitter.
Maybe the closest to the Bronx however is Dustin Fowler. Drafted back in 2013 in the 18th round, it was unclear whether Fowler would develop enough pop to succeed in professional baseball. Those doubts are all but long gone now. Last season, Fowler finished second in the minor leagues with 15 triples and belted a career-high 12 home runs. This season in his first taste of Triple-A, Fowler has a slash line of .306/.345/.574 and is second on the team with eight home runs. If the Yankees decide to shop Brett Gardner at the trade deadline, don’t be surprised if this is who fills that hole.
Other names to remember: Estevan Florial (CF), Tito Polo (CF), Billy McKinney (RF)
There is a reason MLB.com ranked the Yankees farm system #2 in all of baseball. The talent is incredible and the system is deeper than it has been in a very long time. With the draft just over two weeks away, it will be interesting to see who the Yankees zone in on. Will they avoid players who fall into these categories since they are already so deep? Or will they load up on their strengths even more? Let us know how you think the Yankees should approach the draft in the comments.