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Three Yankees prospects with a lot to prove in 2019

These prospects need to have big seasons in 2019.

Arizona Fall League All Star Game Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Yankees’ farm system unsurprisingly dropped in rankings over the last few years, but for all the right reasons. The team graduated a number of top prospects who found success at the big league level. Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres all come to mind. Others were traded away to help the big league team. That’s exactly how a minor league system should operate.

Now, after some turnover at the various levels, it makes sense to check in on a few prospects. A number of outlets will soon share prospect rankings, and there are some minor leaguers that have a lot to prove in the 2019 season. Three names stand out the most.

Estevan Florial

After the Justus Sheffield trade, Florial took over as the Yankees’ top prospect. MLB Pipeline ranked him as the number 45 prospect in baseball. The outfielder had an injury-shortened season in 2018, one that saw him hit .255/.354/.361 with three home runs for High-A Tampa.

Florial had an even worse showing in the Arizona Fall League. The 21-year-old hit .178/.294/.260 for the Glendale Desert Dogs. He made an appearance in the AFL Fall Stars Game, but that was the only noteworthy part of his run.

The good news is that Florial got to shake the rust off from his hamate bone injury. He will also spend all of next season at age-21. If all goes well, he could spend a good chunk of the year at Double-A Trenton. He needs to show he can put this season behind him, though. Prospect fatigue is setting in, and the team needs to see that he can take the next step like they believe he can.

Albert Abreu

The Yankees have a knack for developing pitchers who throw extremely hard. Abreu, the main piece in the Brian McCann trade, happens to throw extremely hard. Unfortunately, the right-hander cannot stay on the mound.

The 23-year-old made just 17 starts in 2018, pitching mostly for High-A Tampa. He had a 4.16 ERA with a 4.99 FIP over 62.2 innings with the Tarpons. Abreu struggled mightily with command (4.16 BB/9) and gave up a few too many home runs (1.29 HR/9). When he was healthy, the results just weren’t there.

Why does Abreu still grade out as the team’s number three prospect? Consider this scouting report from MLB Pipeline:

When Abreu is at his best, he exhibits command of three pitches that all grade as plus or better. His fastball usually runs from 93-98 mph, tops out in the triple digits and features sink and run that generate both swings and misses as well as weak ground-ball contact. His power breaking ball looks like a curveball at times and a slider at others, more often the former, and he also can miss bats with his fading changeup.

Pitching a full season should be the goal for Abreu in 2019. Taking a step forward with the results follows shortly thereafter. If he can’t do either, he will probably be more of an interesting wild card arm instead of a can’t-miss prospect.

Clarke Schmidt

The Yankees surprised nearly everyone when they drafted Clarke Schmidt with their first-round selection in 2017. The right-hander impressed while pitching for the University of South Carolina, but he blew out his elbow and required Tommy John surgery before the draft. The Bombers picked him anyway, albeit for a below-slot signing bonus.

After a lengthy rehab, Schmidt returned to the mound in 2018. He made seven starts, pitching to a 3.09 ERA with a 2.61 FIP. Most of those games took place at the rookie-ball level, but he got in two starts with Low-A Charleston.

For Schmidt, the Yankees need to see a strong, full season in 2019. It would be nice to have a first-round pick pitch well. A solid campaign next year would go a long way to making a questionable selection seem more palatable.