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Yankees Prospects: High-A Tampa shows promise

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After a slow start, the Tampa Tarpons put together a strong second half behind improved performances from numerous young prospects.

MiLB: MAY 23 Florida State League - Stone Crabs at Tarpons Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The High-A Tampa Tarpons struggled out of the gate this season, finishing the first half of the season 10 games below .500, and second from the bottom in their Florida State League division. Following a disappointing beginning, multiple players put together strong second halves and the team finished 36-33, missing the playoffs by 2.5 games. They had not been eliminated when the threat of Hurricane Dorian ended the Florida State League season early. Let’s take a look at the key players from this years High-A Tampa Tarpons as we continue our review of the Yankees’ minor league affiliates.

Miguel Yajure: 21-years-old, right-handed pitcher

In a system that saw some outstanding pitching performances this season, Yajure stood out among the crowd putting up great outings nearly every time out. Scouts also saw a player whose velocity ticked up, peaking at 97 mph along with an improved curveball after he reportedly changed his grip early in the season. Yajure posted a 2.14 ERA and 1.07 WHIP over 138.2 IP, that included two starts with Double-A Trenton. While in High-A, he generated a 54.6% groundball rate, while recording an 8.6 K/9.

Clarke Schmidt: 23-years-old, right-handed pitcher

Clarke Schmidt has battled through injuries since the Yankees drafted him with the 16th overall pick in 2017. This season he flashed the talent that made him a first-rounder by establishing a new career high with nine strikeouts on Opening Day, and then matching that total three more times during the season. Consistency eluded Schmidt, and he had two trips to the injured list during the season. It wasn’t until he joined Double-A Trenton late in the season that he put together his best sustained run by finishing the season allowing 1 ER over his last 24.1 IP to go with 27 K, including two playoff appearances. Schmidt has positioned himself well to start with Double-A Trenton and if all goes well be in position to see the majors in 2020.

Glenn Otto: 23-years-old, right-handed pitcher

Armed with a plus fastball, and curveball Otto has battled injuries since being drafted in 2017. Otto lost a couple months of playing time this season as he was on the injured list twice. When he pitched, he struck out 68 batters in 56.1 innings with Tampa. Unfortunately he has also struggled with his control, walking 33 in those innings. Otto has been sent to the Arizona Fall League, and has pitched well there so far.

Frank German: 22-years-old, right-handed pitcher

The Yankees’ fourth-round pick in 2018, German is another strong armed righty with the ability to miss bats. German recording 82 strikeouts in 76 innings pitched for Tampa this season. He had five outings of seven or more strikeouts, but struggled with consistency.

Estevan Florial: 21-years-old, center fielder

After providing some electrifying glimpses of his talent in spring training, Florial was forced to the sidelines with a broken wrist that occurred during the final week of major league camp. Once he returned to the field in early June, Florial struggled posting a 32.6% strikeout rate, and a career low 8.0% walk rate in 74 games. Scouts still rave about the ceiling of Floria, but there is very legitimate concern about his ability to make enough contact to progress to the higher levels.

Dermis Garcia: 21-years-old, first base

Garcia’s power will continue to intrigue the Yankees, but he must make more consistent contact if he is going to earn a promotion to the upper levels of the Yankees’ system. Garcia struck out a career high 35%, while walking a career low 6% of the time in 2018. Around those stats, he did hit 17 HRs in 271 ABs, before his season ended in early July with a trip to the injured list. Garcia’s power was also on display during the Florida State League All-Star game, where he won the Home Run Derby. He signed as a shortstop in 2014, moved to third base for a few seasons, and is now exclusively a first baseman so as he has moved down the defensive spectrum, his bat must deliver at a higher rate for the Yankees to get value out of Garcia’s potential.

Oswaldo Cabrera: 20-years-old, second base, third base, shortstop

Cabrera burst onto the radar with a tremendous 2016 debut season posting a combined .919 OPS across three levels of rookie ball. Cabrera hit a bit of a wall the last couple of seasons playing with the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs, and struggling to put up big offensive numbers. This season Cabrera put together a sustained run to finish the season that saw him hit .283/.341/.434, good for a 130 wRC+ over his last 77 games of the season. The switch hitter played all over the infield, and perhaps the constant movement around the diamond hurt his defensive game as he committed 25 errors on the season.

Diego Castillo: 21-years-old, second base, shortstop

Castillo got off to a brutal start to the season recording one hit in his first 34 at-bats. He is another player who finished strong, hitting .299/.358/.379, 123 wRC+ over his last 49 games. Castillo makes a ton of contact, with a very low 10.7% K rate, even with a solid 41% fly ball rate that could pay dividends as he physically matures. He was called up to Double-A Trenton during the playoffs, and was able to register his first hit at that level during their championship run.

The strong second half of the season gives numerous players on this roster optimism and positive results to build on heading into 2020. The jump between High-A and Double-A is considered the biggest jump in the minor leagues by most evaluators, but a handful of players likely earned their way to the upper levels of the minor leagues with their improved play down the stretch this season. Next week we’ll finish reviewing the farm system with the Charleston RiverDogs.