Last week I took a look at the third base position within the Yankees’ minor league system. The conclusion was that third base was a weakness in the system. This week we will look at shortstop, and it is a very different feel as it is one of the deepest and most talented positions in the Yankees’ system.
Over the last few seasons the Yankees have made significant investments to bring in some highly regarded amateur talent at the shortstop position. In 2018, the Yankees made Alexander Vargas their highest paid international free agent signing since 2014. Scouts were impressed with his potential, landing him on two publications’ top-100 prospects list for all of baseball. For all his potential, Vargas has yet to play above the Gulf Coast League and will likely start next season with Rookie-Advanced Pulaski.
After landing Vargas in 2018, the Yankees made another significant addition to their shortstop depth when they used their number one pick to draft Anthony Volpe 30th overall in the 2019 draft. Playing for Rookie-Advanced Pulaski, Volpe was on a strong run into early August when his season ended early due to illness. Scouts like his all-around game and see him as more than capable of handling the shortstop position all the way to the major league level. Volpe is likely headed to Class-A Charleston, or Short-Season A Staten Island to start the 2020 season.
Following Volpe in the draft was Josh Smith who the Yankees took in the second round of the draft following a standout career for Louisiana State University. Smith rewarded the Yankees with an outstanding debut season hitting .324/.450/.477 while playing for Short-Season A Staten Island. Smith is likely heading for High-A Tampa when the minor league season begins.
The Yankees have seen high value acquisitions fall through in the past, that is why it is a pleasant surprise when a player emerges from the pack and becomes one of the organization’s best prospects. That is exactly what happened with Oswald Peraza over the last season. Not ranked by any prospect rankings heading into the 2019 season, Peraza displayed numerous tools that caught the eyes of scouts and he earned a quick promotion to Class-A Charleston last season. Despite not producing eye-popping numbers, Peraza has jumped all the way to being ranked as the 4th best prospect in the Yankees system by MLB Pipeline, and 5th best by Baseball America. He will likely return to Class-A Charleston, but has a very good chance to finish the season with High-A Tampa.
Two other young players who emerged from the pack to warrant attention are Maikol Escotto, and Jose Colmenares. Escotto posted a .981 OPS in the Dominican Summer League. The Yankees chose to bring Colmenares stateside after just six games in the DSL. While he struggled in the GCL, the Yankees gave him a vote of confidence to promote him above many of his 17-year-old peers last season.
Closer to the major leagues are a couple of players that aren’t generally on the top prospects list, but are coming off strong seasons. In 2015 the Yankees used the 30th overall pick on Kyle Holder, then regarded as the best defensive shortstop in that years draft. Despite his slick glove, Holder’s bat has only shown up in spurts. Last season with Double-A Trenton was his best offensive season, and he finished strong with a 139 wRC+ over his last 67 games. Holder will likely start this season with Triple-A Scranton and look to position himself for a potential call-up if an opening should occur.
Oswaldo Cabrera is another shortstop in the system who finished the season on a strong note. Cabrera, who just turned 21 earlier this month, had a 130 wRC+ over his last 77 games with High-A Tampa. He is likely to start next season with Double-A Trenton, but has also already started to fill a utility role, playing third base and second base on a regular basis.
The Yankees also have once highly regarded prospects like Diego Castillo and Wilkerman Garcia. Both finished last season with High-A Tampa. Castillo has put together some solid runs, and could play for Double-A Trenton this coming season, but neither player has shown the promise recently that once made them high-end international signings.
Shortstop is one of the Yankees’ deepest positions inside their farm system. They have invested heavily to bring in premier prospects over the last few seasons and that, combined with the emergence of several other prospects, has contributed to outstanding depth in the system. The ability of minor league shortstops to flex to other positions based on their athletic ability and physical tools also bodes well for the organization moving forward.