For each of the last three seasons, a member of the New York Yankees finished among the top two vote-getters in the Rookie of the Year Award balloting. That’s a franchise first. It’s also shocking, considering the long list of talented players who have emerged from the club’s farm system over the decades.
The closest the team has ever come to boasting either a winner or runner-up for three straight years happened nearly 70 years ago. Jerry Coleman placed third in the 1949 ROY voting, Whitey Ford was runner-up the following year, and Gil McDougald took home the award in 1951.
Many felt that Miguel Andujar should have won this year. He would have, if not for the history-making performance of two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani. Yankees fans have plenty to be grateful for though, having witnessed Aaron Judge’s historic rookie campaign last year, which followed on the heels of Gary Sanchez’s late-season explosion in 2016.
Factor in Gleyber Torres’ tremendous breakout, which netted him third place this year, along with Jordan Montgomery’s rookie effort that garnered him a sixth-place finish in 2017, and it boggles the mind how many outstanding young players have graduated from the Yankees’ system in such a short period of time. It got me wondering: Is there anyone left who could possibly run the Yankees’ streak to four years?
The answer is (a very tentative) yes. While familiar names like Domingo German, Luke Voit, Tyler Wade, Clint Frazier, and Kyle Higashioka have already exceeded their rookie eligibility, there are currently nine players on the Yankees’ 40-man roster whose rookie status remains intact for 2019. Although it’s way too early to predict who among them might compete to take home end-of-the-year hardware, we can at least explore who is best positioned to contribute next season.
Stephen Tarpley gave up three runs in his major-league debut on September 2nd. He then proceeded to throw eight scoreless frames across nine games to close out the year, while holding opponents hitless over his final six appearances. Most impressively, the 25-year-old southpaw recorded 13 of his 27 outs via strikeouts.
The Yankees were impressed enough with the small sample size to add Tarpley to their Division Series roster, so it stands to reason that he has an excellent chance of making the team out of spring training. He’d have to have a huge year to win the award out of the bullpen, but stranger things have happened.
Jonathan Loaisiga made four starts for the Yankees this season before getting hurt. After returning from the disabled list in September, he made five more appearances out of the bullpen. The right-hander pitched to a 3.52 FIP and notched 33 strikeouts in 24.2 innings, but walked 12 batters. Ranked 66th in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospect list, Loaisiga could be a bullpen weapon and rotation depth next season. He unquestionably has the raw stuff to make an impact, and if he harnesses his talent, he could be a contributor.
A recent addition to the 40-man roster, Joe Harvey pitched to a 1.82 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 54.1 innings at Triple-A this year. The 26-year-old right-hander struck out 61, walked 21, and allowed only one home run. That’s right in line with his microscopic 0.3 home runs per nine through 144 minor-league innings pitched. Now you know why Harvey was added to the roster, and why he might be called on to make an impact in 2019.
Others on the Yankees 40-man roster with rookie status
Ben Heller appeared in 19 games for the Yankees in 2016-17. The 27-year-old right-hander pitched to a 3.00 ERA over 18 innings, walked 10, and struck out 15 batters. Heller missed all of 2018, and is expected to be sidelined until mid-season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. He could be a bullpen arm for the Yankees in the second half.
Chance Adams put up great numbers in Triple-A in 2017, leading many to eagerly anticipate his big-league arrival. Despite a poor showing in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year, the right-hander was called up anyway due to need. He gave up seven runs, three homers, and four walks in 7.2 innings. If the Yankees held high hopes for Adams in 2019, then they wouldn’t have prioritized acquiring three (or more) starters via trade and free agency.
Domingo Acevedo made 10 starts for Double-A Trenton this year, while MLB Pipeline’s 85th-ranked prospect Albert Abreu made only one. Both right-handers will likely spend most or all of 2019 in the high minors.
Spring training is still nearly three months away, and the hot stove is barely warm, so plenty can happen before pitchers and catchers report. Some of these players could be used as trade chips, while the Yankees could acquire others with rookie eligibility who might be poised to contribute to the team next year.
Even though it’s early, which of the rookies listed here do you think are most likely to make an impact with the Yankees in 2019? Let us know in the comments section below.