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The Yankees prospects poised for breakout seasons

Antonio Cabello and Clarke Schmidt are just two of many Yankee prospects on the cusp of breakout seasons

MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The amount of talent the Yankees’ farm system has produced in recent seasons is nothing short of remarkable. The Yankees likely won’t graduate too many prospects this year, but it appears the pipeline of talent has slowed, not stopped. The next wave of Yankee prospects is most definitely on its way.

Every year it seems a handful of prospects have breakout seasons and not every breakout season ends in a big league promotion. Last season, we saw Deivi Garcia and Jonathan Loaisiga emerge from relative obscurity to top Yankee prospects. Only Loaisiga got the call to the bigs, but I think it’s safe to classify their respective 2018 seasons as breakout years.

A handful of players in the Yankees’ lower levels seem poised to take similar steps in 2019. Clarke Schmidt, Antonio Cabello, and most of the Charleston RiverDogs’ pitching staff are my picks for breakout candidates. Here’s why:

Clarke Schmidt probably has the most name recognition as the Yankees’ first round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, but since draft day, Yankee fans have been waiting on Schmidt. Prior to the draft, Schmidt had Tommy John surgery, and rehabbing the injury prevented him from making his professional debut until last June.

Schmidt threw a handful of promising innings this year, showing all four of his pitches and hitting 96 mph. FanGraphs noted his stuff lacked the consistency it once did. However, that’s not atypical of a pitcher returning from surgery. Schmidt will begin his first full professional season at High-A, and a big year wouldn’t be altogether surprising to see.

Tommy John recovery timelines are never certain, but now more than 18 months removed from surgery, Schmidt’s stuff ought to be back or very close to it. Schmidt’s previous experience at a premier college baseball program coupled with a four-pitch arsenal should be a recipe for success against High-A hitters. As a former first-rounder, a strong season will most certainly turn some heads, and 2019 could be the year Yankee fans to stop waiting on Schmidt.

The Yankees hoarded international bonus pool money in 2017 in hopes of landing Shohei Ohtani. When that didn’t work out, some of that money went to Antonio Cabello, and right now, it looks like a great investment. In a limited debut, the outfielder proved to be quite the jack of all trades.

Cabello doesn’t rate as below average in any aspect of the game, and he put that on display in the Gulf Coast League last year. In just 40 games, Cabello collected 44 hits, and 18 went for extra bases. He walked nearly as a much as he struck out and showed some speed. It’s a small sample, but Cabello did all this at just 17 years old, nearly three years younger than the average Gulf Coast League player.

An offseason shoulder surgery might slow Cabello down a bit, but he’ll no doubt be on the rise this season. The Yankees did not assign him to an affiliate for Opening Day, so it figures he’ll be in extended spring training for the next few months. A future assignment to Short Season-A Staten Island seems like a safe bet, and if all goes well, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to see Cabello with Low-A Charleston by the end of the year.

The conversation around Cabello is just beginning. Even at 18, he’s on the cusp of some top-100 prospect lists. FanGraphs expects him to be on their 2020 top-100 but didn’t rule out a mid-2019 top-100 spot. Cabello’s age means we’re still a few years away from seeing him push for a big league spot, but 2019 might end up a vital year in his development.

Okay, so picking the most of the Charleston RiverDogs’ pitching staff is probably cheating, but their staff is too exciting to narrow down to one player. Roansy Contreras, Luis Gil, and Luis Medina stick out as the biggest names that will begin the year at the level, but Tanner Myatt and Matt Sauer are exciting too. One of the Yankees’ next big arms is likely in this group of players.

Contreras, Medina, and Gil have the loudest tools and for that reason, are the most notable names in this list. Contreras is the furthest along in his development and already had something of a breakout at this level last season. Another step forward with his command could make for a really big year.

On the other hand, Medina and Gil are new to the level and both own fastballs that are simply unreal. Both sit in the upper-90’s and possess spin rates around 2550. In the big leagues, those kind of numbers would land them near the top of the statcast leaderboard.

Unfortunately, neither owns even average command right now, but both are reportedly making strides. Still, they’re far from MLB-ready. Gil had a few innings at Charleston last year, but this is the first time both pitchers will begin the season at the level. With some continued improvements, these guys have the tools to start putting up big time numbers.

The Yankees’ system is chock-full of high-ceiling, low-floor prospects. The players on this list are no exception. Schmidt has the ceiling of a 3rd or 4th starter, but he hasn’t thrown many innings as a professional. Likewise, Cabello is still just 18 years old. The Charleston pitchers all need much better command. These players might not end up having breakout years, but these guys are far from last chance prospects. With some improvement, the prospect spotlight might soon shine on any one of these players.