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Yankees 2018 Draft Profile: What does the farm system need?

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The Yankees still have a deep system, but recent graduations have left the organization a little thinner on the position player side.

Alex Rodriguez News Conference Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In recent years, looking at the Yankees’ farm system needs was like gift shopping for someone who already has it all. The Yankees had quality starting pitching prospects and potential power relief arms dotting the minors. They had ample depth in the outfield and star infield prospects like Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. It was hard to find an area that was wanting.

The system is still among the game’s deepest, but it’s starting to look a little more one-sided. Over the past two seasons, position players like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Clint Frazier, Torres, and Andujar have graduated, leaving the hitting side of the Yankees’ farm a little thinner than before. They’re far from bereft of position players, and the pitching staffs across the minors are still brimming with hard throwers. The top-level hitting talent is just less abundant after recent promotions.

At middle infield, installing Torres in the majors at second base leaves Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada as the primary middle infielders in the upper minors. At corner infield, the team doesn’t really have much in the upper minors outside of first baseman Mike Ford, who couldn’t stick with the Mariners after being chosen in the Rule 5 draft.

In the lower minors, Dermis Garcia profiles as a possibly decent third base prospect. Shortstops Wilkerman Garcia and Hoy Jun Park once had some prospect sheen but have since stalled. At this point, the Yankees could probably use some infield prospects to restock the system after graduating their biggest names.

It’s a similar story in the outfield. The Yankees still have Estevan Florial, a tantalizing prospect, albeit one who is currently injured. Players like Billy McKinney provide some solid depth, but again, with Florial injured and Frazier competing for playing time in the majors, the outfield is looking shallower.

The organization also has little in the way of catching prospects. Sanchez and Austin Romine are in the bigs, but Kyle Higashioka floundered during his brief cup of coffee in the majors last year. Luis Torrens was lost to the Padres in the Rule 5 draft, and Single-A catcher Donny Sands injured his forearm in spring.

That’s not to say that the Yankees are barren in terms of position player talent. It’s possible they still have potential starters or even stars in the pipeline, and some of their current prospects will surely some day turn out to be cogent utility infielders and fourth outfielders. If the system has needs, though, it’s on the position player side. Fortunately, those needs mostly stem from the fact that the major league roster has siphoned some talent from the farm.

What the Yankees don’t particularly need is more power arms on the farm. The list of potential major league hard throwers, from Albert Abreu to Domingo Acevedo to Dillon Tate to Justus Sheffield, goes on and on. The Yankees have turned into a player development powerhouse when it comes to churning out flame-throwing pitching prospects.

Accordingly, the consensus appears to be that the Yankees are honing in on position players leading up to next week’s MLB Draft. MLB.com had the Yankees spending their first round pick on high school shortstop Brice Turang, and mentioned that the Yankees had been linked to several other prep position players. FanGraphs mocked second baseman Xavier Edwards and noted that the Yankees likely won’t reach for a prep arm unless one of the draft’s top talents falls to them.

That being said, right around this time last year, it was reasonable to speculate that the Yankees were zeroing in on prep bats. Instead, they popped a collegiate arm, University of South Carolina’s Clarke Schmidt, who is still progressing back from Tommy John surgery.

The Yankees seem to be in need of position players more than arms right now, and the industry seems to think that’s where they’re leaning with their first pick. That doesn’t mean anything is certain, though. The team could decide it should try to restock its coffers after graduating some top infield prospects, or it could decide a polished college arm is the best value at their pick. Regardless, even if the Yankees’ position player prospect depth is thinner these days, the system is still deep, and they’ll have a chance to add more when the draft rolls around.