Earlier this week, Fangraphs released their list of the top 38 Yankee prospects. Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen have published this type of list every year for the last few seasons, but this year’s list seemed to me the most unpredictable. Obviously, Estevan Florial and Jonathan Loaisiga were going to top the rankings, but the rest of the list wasn’t as clear. After reading through the list, here are some takeaway thoughts I had about the 2019 farm system:
It’s a young system
Just 15 of the 38 players on this list could legally buy a beer in the United States today. There’s an undoubted amount of potential on this list, but an overwhelming amount of players still aren’t close to sniffing the big leagues. Just five of the top-15 have spent an inning at Double-A or above.
It’s been a few years since we’ve seen this kind of youth in the system. There are almost no players on this year’s list ready to graduate to the big leagues. For example, ten players from last season’s list spent time in the MLB, but only Loaisiga, Mike King, and maybe Thairo Estrada seem likely to spend some time in the Bronx this year.
With such a young system, it’s safe to say that we’ve entered a new age in Yankee-land. The time of prospects coming up and being impact players right away has likely ended for at least a couple years. The guys who are close to debuting are more role players than stars.
It would seem the Yankees have made a concerted effort to bring more youth into this system. From player graduations to trades to the Rule 5 Draft, the upper levels of the farm have been gutted the last few years, but the Yankees have replaced those departed players with high-ceiling lottery tickets in lower levels, which bring us to my next point.
It’s a volatile system
There’s more than a few boom-or-bust prospects on the farm now. It seems with every 70-grade tool there’s a 70-grade red flag to make Yankee fans worry. Some combination of age/experience, inconsistent skills, and durability concerns makes each one of these prospects as scary as they are exciting.
Estevan Florial is the unquestioned top hitting prospect, and is perhaps the poster-child for the boom-or-bust kind of player so commonly found in the system right now. Florial has real, star-level upside, but there are still serious concerns about his pitch recognition skills, and his ability to make contact could also make him a bench piece at best.
As for pitchers, there are quite a few with great stuff but little control or command to make it play in the big leagues. Luis Gil and Luis Medina stand out as perfect examples of this. Both have incredible fastballs with superior spin and velocity, but neither has an easy time finding the plate.
It would also seem if a pitcher on this list doesn’t have command issues, they will have durability concerns. Clarke Schmidt, Albert Abreu, and Loaisiga all rank in the top-10 here, but all have missed significant time due to injury since becoming professionals.
Given the volatility here, this list is undoubtedly going to change significantly, and soon. More than a handful of players on this list could crack a midseason top-100 ranking this year, but right now, some combination of age/inexperience, inconsistent tools, and durability hold them. Some players will rise up, and some will fall.
Formerly hyped prospects have really fallen from grace
Speaking of guys not living up to the hype, there are some notable absences on this list. Domingo Acevedo and Chance Adams Ranked in the top-10 in last year’s list but failed to make the top-38 this year. That’s perhaps not a great surprise. Acevedo missed considerable time with injuries, and Chance Adams just wasn’t the same after an offseason elbow surgery. The Fangraphs’ staff has seemingly given up on their futures as starting pitchers.
It’s been clear for a little while now, but that hyped 2014 international signing class has really flopped. During that summer, the Yankees signed Juan De Leon, Nelson Gomez, Wilkerman Garcia, Dermis Garcia, Miguel Flames, Hoy Jun Park, Jonathan Amundaray, Bryan Emery, Diego Castillo, and Antonio Arias. Only Dermis Garcia made the list but was ranked last.
The Yankees’ farm system has been influx the last few seasons. At the top of the system, guys were consistently graduating to the big leagues or they were being moved to other teams. Now that the dust has settled, the philosophy has become more clear. Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel do a good job of summarizing it:
Perfectly fine big leaguers are hard for the Yankees to roster right now. They have stars, who will need to be usurped by other players of similar caliber. 25-year-old relievers and utility infielders may be viable big leaguers, but they don’t often suddenly turn into stars. Some of these teenagers might.
There are some exciting tools in the Yankee system right now, but we’re still a long ways away from most of them being ready to contribute to the big league club any time soon. By the time the bulk of these players are ready, they might be replacing some of your favorite Yankee players today.