With players like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier on the Yankees 40-man roster, the Yankees appear to have the corner outfield positions well-manned over the next several years. Even so, as the 2019 season proved, a rash of injuries can test even the deepest spots on the roster. Beyond the 40-man roster, the Yankees do not have one can’t miss prospect on the outfield corners, but they do have a number of players with major league potential.
Discussion of the Yankees corner outfielder prospects in the minors needs to start with Canaan Smith. Smith came out of the gate fast in 2017 after the Yankees used a fourth round pick on him, putting up impressive numbers in the Gulf Coast League. Promoted to Short-Season A Staten Island in 2018 he struggled mightily, causing him to drop off of most prospect rankings. Smith rebounded this past year, becoming one of the best players in the South Atlantic League. His final line of .307/.405/.465 was good for a 154 wRC+, and he was in the top six of the league in walks (1st), hits (2nd), on-base percentage (2nd), batting average (3rd), total bases (3rd), and slugging (6th).
A year behind Smith in the Yankees system is Ryder Green, the team’s third round pick from the 2018 draft. Green was signed away from his commitment to national powerhouse Vanderbilt University. After struggling during his pro debut, Green put together a solid season for Rookie-Advanced Pulaski in 2019, producing a 117 wRC+. Green also played all three outfield positions on a regular basis, but his long term projections are on one of the corner positions.
Joining Green in Pulaski to start last season was Anthony Garcia, who was coming off a promising start to his career in 2018 when he led the Gulf Coast League in home runs as a 17-year-old. Standing 6-foot-6, the switch-hitting Garcia has elite power, but will have to make much more contact if he is going to overcome a 40% strikeout rate in the early stages of his career.
After drafting Smith and Green with early round picks over the last several seasons, the Yankees went back to the well again with their third round pick in 2019, drafting Jake Sanford out of Western Kentucky University. The young Canadian rose from being a walk-on player in junior college to winning the Conference USA triple crown in his draft year. Rated as having plus raw power, Sanford struggled early on in his professional debut for Short-Season A Staten Island. He found his stroke late in the season, as he hit six home runs in his last 23 games.
When the Yankees decided it was time to trade Sonny Gray, part of the return was Josh Stowers, who came to the Yankees from Seattle in what was essentially a three-team trade. Stowers was the Mariners second round pick out of the University of Louisville in 2018. Fast enough to play center field, Stowers saw more action in right field this past season while playing for the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs.
After posting a .449 on-base percentage in college, Stowers has continued to get on base at an impressive .384 clip as a professional. He has also stolen 55 bases in two seasons as a pro, but will have to improve his efficiency on the bases. Stowers was selected by the Yankees to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League after this past season. Stowers struggled with the step up in competition, but he was ticketed start with High-A Tampa this season.
Closer to the major leagues is Trey Amburgey, who has risen through the Yankees system and is coming off a solid season with Triple-A Scranton. In 2019, Amburgey hit .274/.329/.494, but in the offense-friendly Triple-A International League that was only good for 106 wRC+. Amburgey is the Yankees’ closest corner depth beyond the 40-man roster.
Pablo Olivares has flown under the radar for much of his Yankees career. He was not one of the more hyped members of his 2014 international signing class, and has only recently received a little prospect buzz. After struggling early in 2019, he turned it on over his last 55 games, hitting .280/.375/.337. He just turned 22-years-old and should see time with Double-A Trenton this year, but will need to add power if he is going to emerge as a more exciting prospect.
One more player who has reached the upper levels of the minors is Isiah Gilliam, who put up good numbers at High-A Tampa last season, but has struggled with a strikeout rate above 30% since reaching that level. It was particularly alarming when he was promoted to Double-A Trenton in the second half of 2019 and struck out 34% of the time while hitting just .180. Gilliam is not considered a plus defender, so his bat will have to pick up if he is going to continue to climb the ladder.
The Yankees have solid corner outfield depth coming through the system, but as is the story with most of their prospects, the best guys are a few years away. It would not be surprising to see one of these players emerge into the top 10 of Yankees prospects this season, but they also have to continue performing against a higher level of competition.