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Center field is fertile soil on the Yankees farm

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The Yankees center field prospects include a familiar face who has stalled, a phenom set for a meteoric rise, and a concentration of young talent at the rookie levels

New York Yankees v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

On the surface, the fabric of the Yankees center field appears well-sewn. Old Reliable Brett Gardner can still glove it with the best of them, Mike Tauchman has emerged as an elite fielder, and every day brings us a day closer to Aaron Hicks’ return. However, the closer one looks, the more the worn threads and frayed edges begin to appear.

Gardner turns 37 this year, which could be his last with the Yankees. Tauchman’s glove can only carry him so far, as questions persist as to the reliability of his bat. The oft-injured Hicks has yet to prove he can consistently stay on the field for more than 100 games per season. Luckily for the Yankees, there is some tremendous talent moving up through the ranks of the minor league system.

The first name is also probably the most recognizable. Estevan Florial has been an enigma ever since he signed with the Yankees in 2015. In years past, he was graded as a true five-tool player at the top of the Yankees’ prospect list and among the top 100 in baseball. However, struggles at the plate and with injury have slowed his progression such that he is now the sixth-ranked prospect in the Yankees system and has fallen out of the top 100 MLB prospect lists.

Florial’s biggest flaw is his strike zone recognition, which contributed to a 36 percent strikeout rate in 2018 Arizona Fall League. His development has certainly been hampered by his ill-fortune with injuries. He underwent surgery in 2018 on his right hamate bone and missed significant time. His spring training got off to a scorching start in 2019 before being cruelly cut short when he broke his right wrist colliding with a wall. Florial made significant progress in plate discipline in High-A Tampa after returning, but still has a ways to go before breaking into the majors.

The next player has rocketed up the prospect lists and could very well leapfrog Florial in the minors. Jasson Dominguez is rapidly becoming a household name among Yankees fans. Known as The Martian because of the otherworldly abilities for someone of his age, Dominguez has already elicited comparisons to Mike Trout and Mickey Mantle. The Yankees realized they had an uncommon talent on their hands, and spent $5.1 million of their $5.4 million bonus pool allotment in 2019 to land him.

With the physique more akin to an NFL strong safety, it is hard to believe that this kid is still only 17 years old. A switch hitter with eyebrow-raising power, some scouts grade him as above average in all five categories . While most sources have him pegged for a 2024 or 2023 MLB ETA, it will still be exciting to watch his progression in the Yankees system. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at Tampa in his first full year as an 18 year-old.

Another slightly less spectacular, yet still intriguing 17 year-old is Kevin Alcantara. Signed as a 16 year-old for $1 million in 2018, Alcantara has been likened to Dexter Fowler. Last season Alcantara played 32 games in the Gulf Coast League as one of the youngest players in the minors. He already boasts impressive exit velocity numbers, and his raw batting tools will only become more polished as he ages.

Just below Alcantara in the organizational rankings is another youngster playing ahead of his age. Everson Pereira was signed in 2017 and became the youngest player in the the Appalachian League playing for Rookie-Advanced Pulaski. He hit a bit of a snag last season at Short-Season A Staten Island after struggling with foot and hamstring issues, but I still could see him breaking into Low-A Charleston.

2017 also yielded the Yankees two other top center field prospects. Antonio Cabello was originally signed as a catcher, but converted to the outfield after joining the Yankees organization. He struggled a bit in 56 games last season in Pulaski, but at 19 there is still plenty of room for growth. Raimfer Salinas was the other touted prospect signed alongside Cabello. He played 42 games in the Gulf Coast League Last season, posting a respectable .270/.329/.415 and 114 wRC+, and could join Cabello at Pulaski when play resumes.

Also in the system are less-shiny prospects who are nonetheless closer to the major league doorstep. I’m sure many recognize spring training darling Trey Amburgey. Last season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Amburgey mashed 22 home runs to accompany an impressive .822 OPS and 106 wRC+. The 25 year-old seems poised for his first cup of coffee in the majors. Just below Amburgey is Ben Ruta, who spent 2019 playing for double-A Trenton. His .726 OPS and 113 wRC+ could earn him a promotion to triple-A in 2020.

The Yankees have arguably the most exciting center field prospect in all of MLB in Jasson Dominguez. Besides The Martian, familiar names like Estevan Florial are supplemented with young up-and-comers in the rookie and low-A levels. With the right conditioning, the Yankees are set for a bumper crop of center fielders in the coming years.