Although the Yankees of recent years don’t yet have the championships to show for it, one thing they have excelled at is developing their young players. Gary Sanchez was a Rookie of the Year finalist, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are likely to be, and Aaron Judge actually won the award. That’s not even mentioning the contributions of Luis Severino and occasional flashes from Greg Bird and Clint Frazier. Some like to say that the Yankees buy their rings, but that won’t be the case the next time the Bombers take home the big one.
But who will be next season’s surprise rookie contributor? The Yankees have a handful of young pitchers and hitters chomping at the bit in the minors ready for their call-up. Let’s take a look at the kids who could find their way into the Bronx next year.
The list of past Yankees rookie contributors mostly consists of hitters. However, that could change in 2019. Most of the Yankees’ top prospects are pitchers, and several are close to big league ready.
First and foremost comes Justus Sheffield. It seems as if we’ve been waiting on Sheffield forever, but he’s still only 22 years old and coming off of his first season of Triple-A action. The Yankees’ rotation now is in flux: only Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka are under contract. While the Yankees will undoubtedly re-sign or add some veterans to the mix, there could be an opportunity for Sheffield to snag a rotation spot in spring training.
Sheffield started 20 minor league games this year, going 7-6 with a 2.48 ERA. In addition, his strikeouts were high, his WHIP was low and he gave up all of four home runs over 116 innings. Sheffield is too good to stay at Triple-A, and he has a couple of innings of MLB bullpen experience. Expect to see Sheffield in the Bronx by May.
Another couple of young starters we saw make their MLB debuts this year are Jonathan Loaisiga and Chance Adams. Loaisiga made four solid starts before succumbing to shoulder inflammation. He had his ups and downs in a bullpen role in September, but looks poised to contribute in some way in 2019. Out of all of the guys on this list, Loaisiga may have the best stuff. His fastball can reach 98 mph and his changeup and power curveball helped him notch 33 strikeouts in 24.2 MLB innings. There is definitely a future for Loaisiga in New York. He could become the Yankees’ number one Scranton Shuttle guy to help the rotation or bullpen as needed.
As for Adams, his MLB debut was a little underwhelming. He pitched in three games, starting one, and allowed three home runs and accumulated a 7.04 ERA. He struggled with his control and his ability to finish hitters off, but he was better in the minors. Adams has been in Triple-A for parts of two seasons and is 24, so he will have to take a step forward next year.
The Yankees have two more young starters that could help them next season. One of them, Domingo Acevedo, is already on the 40-man roster, while the other, Michael King, will be before long. Acevedo profiles like Michael Pineda – he has an overhead windup and a large, intimidating frame, a really good fastball that can reach the triple digits with regularity, developing secondary pitches, and injury concerns. If Acevedo can stay healthy in 2019, he could spend much of it in Triple-A with potential to jump to the Bronx out of the bullpen.
Finally, there’s Michael King. Acquired for Garrett Cooper in a minor league depth trade, King became the Yankees’ best minor league pitcher this year. King went 11-5 with a 1.79 ERA split over Single-, Double- and Triple-A. King has excellent control and a penchant for ground balls, thanks to his bowling ball sinker. The big worry with King is whether his secondary pitches will be good enough, but his sinker and command are legit. He went from a non-factor to an intriguing prospect, and he’s worth keeping an eye on next year.
The Yankees are mostly set on offense, and there isn’t a whole lot of room for prospects to contribute. The biggest help will probably come from minor league veterans Clint Frazier and Tyler Wade, who will look to become full-time big leaguers in their age-24 seasons. As for prospect help, shortstop Thairo Estrada is on the 40-man roster, but his status is unknown after he played just 18 games this year. He suffered a gunshot wound in an attempted robbery last year and has also had back issues that led to a lost year of development.
One name to keep in mind as a sleeper pick? Ryan McBroom. The first baseman/corner outfielder got promoted from Double-A Trenton and continued to hit at Triple-A Scranton. He has power, a good eye and plays a position of need for the Yankees. It’s a dark horse pick, but McBroom could find his way to New York if things go wrong at first base or injuries strike in the outfield.