We’ve all made the trip to the MLB Pipeline top 30 prospects list to check up on the Yankees’ high-profile prospects as they make their way through the minor league ranks. It’s fun to track the players that scouts have projected to have the highest ceilings, but there’s a reason they’re called “top prospects” and not “top performers.” Sometimes the best performances down on the farm fly under the radar, so here are a handful of players having strong 2019 seasons, despite their absence from the top 30 prospect list.
Smith isn’t on MLB Pipeline’s list, but he’s certainly trending in that direction. A fourth round pick in 2017, he leads the Class-A Charleston RiverDogs with a .306 batting average and an .886 OPS. He’s nearly doubled his line-drive rate since last season, and his overall triple-slash of .306/.401/.485 is rivaled by few in the Yankees’ system. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the 20-year-old promoted to High-A Tampa later this season if he continues to dominate Class-A pitching.
Yajure, a right-handed pitcher from Venezuela, has been the workhorse for High-A Tampa. In 70 innings (11 starts and two relief appearances), the 21-year-old has posted a 2.44 ERA with 8.61 K/9 and 2.19 BB/9. FanGraphs didn’t list Yajure among the Yankees’ top 38 prospects, but mentioned him as a starter type at the lower levels, adding, “Yajure (pronounced yah-HOOR-ray) has command of above-average offspeed, which gives him a chance to be a backend starter.” He leads the Tarpons in wins, innings pitched, and strikeouts, so keep an eye on his progression as a bit of a sleeper prospect.
At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, Gittens has always had “crazy power.” The problem is, the 25-year-old first baseman has had a hard time making enough contact to reach the upper-levels. Last season at Double-A Trenton, Gittens slashed .197/.300/.339 in 53 games. In 59 games this season, Gittens is slashing .289/.407.515. His 15.7% walk rate is the highest of his minor league career. He is also experiencing a 5.8% spike in line-drive percentage, showing he’s capable of both controlling the zone and hitting for average, not just gaudy home run totals. He might never achieve top prospect status because of his advanced age, but Gittens is having one of the most impressive offensive seasons in the Yankees’ system.
Feyereisen was considered the throw-in of the Andrew Miller deal in 2016, but he’s performed well at every stop of his minor league career. He had elbow surgery to remove a bone chip at the end of last season, and he’s been phenomenal thus far in 2019. The right-hander is 6-0 with a 2.27 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 35.2 IP out of the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen. His 13.37 K/9 is also his highest since Class-A with the Indians in 2015. Feyereisen will find it hard to crack the Yankees’ bullpen, but don’t be surprised if he’s thrown into a deadline deal once again and given an opportunity elsewhere.
Lane, a 10th round pick in 2016, has posted a 1.39 ERA in 32.1 impressive innings of relief at Double-A. The left-hander owns a 10.02 K/9, but he’ll need to lower his 4.45 BB/9 before receiving serious consideration for a call-up. Lane’s bread and butter is a “wipeout” breaking ball that makes him a tough left-on-left matchup. His performance this season hasn’t gone unnoticed, even if he hasn’t cracked any top prospect lists.