Yankees fans have developed a sense of foreboding when it comes to the health of their players over the last couple of seasons. As the major league club has seen top talents like Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar, and Luis Severino miss extended stretches of action, a similar wave of injuries has hit many of the Yankees best young prospects. The injuries notably have not discriminated, as numerous players taken near the top of the amateur draft or signed as international free agents have all seen their progress slowed due to time on the sidelines.
It is no surprise that Clarke Schmidt had a slow start to his professional career. The right-hander was taken 16th overall by the Yankees despite the fact that he had Tommy John surgery roughly a month before the draft. Since coming back from his Tommy John, Schmidt has been on the injured list several times.
As he began working his way back from Tommy John surgery in 2018, Schmidt was shut down in early August after just eight games and 23.1 innings pitched with Short-Season A Staten Island. Heading to High-A Tampa in 2019, Schmidt hit the IL for a quick stint with what was described as an illness in late April. While that was a minor concern, he was then shut down from late-May until early-July after experiencing soreness in his forearm. At any given moment Schmidt looks like a major league pitcher, but he has to prove he can log a starter’s workload.
With money the Yankees saved in their bonus pool by signing an injured Schmidt, the Yankees were able to sign pitcher Matt Sauer to an over-slot bonus. Sauer, a 6-foot-4 righty out of high school, was making progress through the Yankees’ system and generally regarded as a top-20 prospect in the system when Tommy John surgery befell him early last season while pitching for Class-A Charleston. This setback in Sauer’s career has caused him to fall of many top prospect rankings.
The Yankees were also very aggressive in the 2017 international signing period. They brought in six talents typically ranked among the top 30 international free agents. Unfortunately for this vaunted group, the injury bug has stricken numerous members. Raimfer Salinas, an elite center field talent, earned the largest bonus from the Yankees that year, but was limited to just 11 games in his debut season. He rebounded with a solid 2019 campaign in the Gulf Coast League, but has not regained his top prospect status after losing a year.
Signing with the Yankees on the same day as Salinas was another highly-rated young prospect, Antonio Cabello. Cabello burst out of the gate with an amazing debut, leading the Gulf Coast League in OPS as a 17-year-old. Cabello’s season was cut short when he dislocated his shoulder diving for a ball late in the season. He returned this past season playing for Rookie-Advanced Pulaski, but the results and reviews have not been as promising. Cabello struggled through a season and scouts do not see the same player or future talent that they were seeing the year before.
Anthony Garcia signed in the same class as Cabello and Salinas, and stood out by leading the GCL in home runs in 2018. His follow up campaign ended with a quadriceps injury just six games into his 2019 season shut Garcia.
Garcia’s 2018 season had ended with a short audition for the Pulaski Yankees. He was filling the void for another member of his international signing class in Everson Pereira. Promoted ahead of his peers to the advanced level of rookie ball the, Yankees loved what they were seeing with Pereira. His season ended with an undisclosed injury that season. Beginning the next season with Short-Season A Staten Island, Pereira played just 18 games before spraining his ankle and missing the remainder of the season. He has returned this spring playing late in a bunch of spring training games for the Yankees.
In 2018 the Yankees drafted catchers in back-to-back rounds. Expectations were high for 23rd overall pick Anthony Seigler heading into 2019, but he got a late start on the season after battling a leg injury out of spring training. He played just 30 games this year as he broke his kneecap and missed the remainder of the season.
The Yankees’ second-round pick in 2018 was Josh Breaux, known for throwing nearly 100 mph in college as a short reliever. Despite that that tremendous arm strength, he is a work in progress behind the plate. By mid-season, Breaux found himself struggling to throw the ball back to the mound as he battled an arm injury. After a stint on the injured list, he played a lot of designated hitter, and finished the game with just 22 games behind the plate.
The Yankees also went big in the international market in 2018, and part of that haul was Cuban pitcher Osiel Rodriguez. Known for hitting the mid-90’s as an amateur, scouts saw a pitcher throwing only 86-90 mph this past season as he battled a shoulder injury that limited him to just 9.2 innings in the Dominican Summer League.
This past year’s top draft pick for the Yankees, Anthony Volpe started slow in the minor leagues. He had picked up his production with a 144 wRC+ over his last 18 games. When it looked like Vople was hitting his stride he was diagnosed with mononucleosis, ending his season.
The Yankees farm system provided the team with everything they needed through numerous injuries in 2019. Unfortunately, the injury bug has stretched down to the minors and hampered the progression of many of the best young prospects in the system. While several of the players are now viewed as having diminished tools, the vast majority still have exciting potential and youth on their side as they look to take the next step towards the majors.