Over the weekend, I took a look at the Yankees prospects that boosted their stock in 2018. The Yankees’ farm boasts a number of young right-handed pitching prospects that raised their profile last year, helping to keep the system afloat even as the Yankees have graduated or traded a number of young players.
Now, let’s flip the script and examine which Yankees prospects lost the most stock last year. Whose performance did the most to dampen their prospect sheen in 2018?
The answer might unfortunately be Chance Adams. Once considered the top starting pitching prospect in the system, an inconsistent 2018 has forced Adams down the ranks. Before 2018, MLB Pipeline actually ranked Adams as the Yankees’ number-two prospect, only to see him fall all the way to 12th now.
There truly was ample reason to be excited about Adams entering the year, as the right-hander had boosted his velocity since being drafted by the Yankees, and had spent 2017 breezing through both Double and Triple-A. Regression came hard in 2018 for Adams, though, as an offseason elbow operation appeared to sap a bit of his velocity. He spent most of the year at Triple-A, running a 4.78 ERA with 58 walks in 113 innings.
Adams did manage to make his major-league debut, tossing five respectable innings in a spot start in August, though he ultimately allowed seven runs in 7.2 innings in the bigs in 2018. All is not lost for Adams, as perhaps he can boost his velocity back up into the mid-90s now that he is a year removed from surgery. He’s clearly no longer among the Yankees’ premier prospects, however.
The good news is that Adams might be the Yankees’ only high-profile prospect to really drop off. The rest of their top prospects have mostly either been traded (like Justus Sheffield and Dillon Tate), promoted (Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar), or have held steady.
Among the steady group are hard-throwing right-handers like Domingo Acevedo, Matt Sauer, Luis Medina, and Albert Abreu. Acevedo had a good year at Double-A, while Sauer pitched well in Low-A. Medina and Abreu both posted unimpressive numbers, but missed enough bats to still impress scouts, with Abreu moving into MLB Pipeline’s Top-100.
To find prospects who lost some shine last year, we have to move a bit deeper into the Yankees’ farm. There, we can find players such as Freicer Perez. Perez, an international signing four years ago, wowed in 2017 when he showed up with huge velocity gains, pushing his fastball into the upper-90s. He subsequently raced through Single-A at age-21.
Upon promotion to High-A Tampa in 2018, Perez struggled. He posted a 7.20 ERA in 25 innings and reportedly dealt with right shoulder inflammation. MLB Pipeline now pegs him as the Yankees’ 18th-best prospect. The Yankees have so many young hard-throwers that inevitably some of them will take steps back with injuries and ineffectiveness, and that was the case for Perez in 2018.
The Yankees’ system really is heavy with right-handed pitching prospects, but there are a few position players here and there. One such hitter that took a step back in 2018 is Dermis Garcia. The third baseman posted a sterling .899 OPS in rookie ball and Single-A in 2017 at age-19, but couldn’t carry that performance over to a full season in Single-A, falling back to a .764 OPS in 2018. MLB Pipeline ranks Garcia 27th in the system now, and indicates that Garcia may have trouble sticking at the hot corner with an inconsistent arm and error problems.
Hoy Jun Park is another such hitter. Park ranked 16th on MLB Pipeline’s list entering the year, as he boasted the chance to play solid shortstop defense while also providing near-average offense. He fell of the Yankees’ top-30 entirely after a shaky 2018 saw Park unable to generate power as a 22-year-old at Double-A.
One last name I will mention is Thairo Estrada, but he certainly shouldn’t be criticized or held to account for his struggles in 2018. Estrada suffered a gunshot wound during an attempted robbery prior to the season, and spent the year alternately injured or struggling to hit. Hopefully, some distance from that awful event will prove beneficial for Estrada and he’ll be able to find his feet again.
On the whole, the Yankees didn’t see too many premium talents lose stock in 2018. Adams is the only name that jumps out as a former top prospect that fell of last year. The team did see some talent at the lower levels lose some sheen, but that’s the nature of the business; not every kid in rookie ball can pan out. Hopefully, the Yankees can find a way to get as many of these prospects back on track as we turn over a new leaf in 2019.