In the months leading up to the 2020 MLB Draft we here at Pinstripe Alley reviewed the Yankees minor league system, position by position. Some positions such as centerfield, shortstop and pitching at the middle and upper levels of the system stood out as deep groups of talented players. Other parts of the system were in need of bolstering and the draft gave the Yankees the opportunity to do just that. Lets review the strengths and weaknesses of the Yankees’ system and how their three 2020 draft picks fit into the mix.
Catching does not stand out as a need if you look at the Yankees’ prospects rankings. In 2018 they invested their two top draft picks on solid catching prospects in Anthony Seigler and Josh Breaux. They doubled down by signing one of the best International Free Agent catchers that summer in Antonio Gomez. All three players routinely rank among the Yankees top 30 prospects based on their talent and potential.
Working their way through the minors in 2019, it became abundantly clear that the Yankees can never have enough good catching prospects. Injuries hampered Seigler, Breaux and Gomez through the year and none of the prospects was able to play more than 23 games behind the plate. Showing no hesitation the Yankees pounced on University of Arizona catcher Austin Wells with the 28th overall pick. His college numbers playing in a major conference show that he has an advanced bat that should move him to the front of the pack when it comes to Yankees catching prospects.
Some scouts think that he will have to move from behind the plate eventually, but even if he lands at first base, that is another position where the Yankees do not have much system wide depth. With Luke Voit, DJ LeMahieu and Mike Ford all in the running for major league playing time the Yankees are set at the top level. Behind them is the reigning Double-A Eastern League MVP in Chris Gittens. Past Gittens, the Yankees have no serious prospects rising through the system, so Wells could potentially become the Yankees’ best first base prospect if the organization chooses to utilize him in this role.
With their third round pick the Yankees selected Trevor Hauver, from Arizona State University. Despite playing the outfield for ASU he was a shortstop in high school and the Yankees announced him as a second baseman. Hauver also has a chance to play professionally as a third baseman based on some assessments, and either position on the infield fits another need in the Yankees system.
Ezequiel Duran is coming off a breakout season for Short-Season A Staten Island that saw him lead the league in home runs and make FanGraphs’ top-100 prospects list. Beyond Duran the position does not have a standout performer, and Hauver will likely be considered the second-best Yankees prospect at the position if he can handle the defensive work.
If Hauver ends up at third base, however, he will occupy a position where the Yankees do not have any players ranked among their top-30 prospects. It is considered one of the weakest positions in the Yankees’ system.
The Yankees’ pitching depth is reflected on most prospect rankings as high octane right-handers fill a majority of the Yankees prospect billets. The majority of these arms had reached High-A Tampa and above by the end of 2019. Clarke Schmidt, Deivi Garcia, Nick Nelson, and Mike King all will be in contention for major league playing time when the season starts.
Below the level of High-A there is a lot of potential, but not many arms that have been able to crack the top-30 prospects in the organization. Only 20-year-old Yoendry Gomez makes the Yankees prospects list from the lower levels of the minors.
After rumors that his high signing bonus request and a commitment to national powerhouse Louisiana State University would scare away teams, the Yankees grabbed a high-octane righty in Beck Way. Way fits in the system, as the young pitcher will slot near a player like Gomez as a high-ceiling arm with the potential to leap through the system.
The Yankees did not add to their outfield strengths though the draft. The acquisition of Jasson Dominguez last summer added a top-prospect to a position that was already deep in the system with prospects like Estevan Florial, Everson Pereira, Brandon Lockridge and Kevin Alcantara working their way up the ladder. The corners also proved to have a level of depth, as the Yankees have taken players in the top four rounds of previous drafts like Canaan Smith, Ryder Green, Jake Sanford and Josh Stowers.
There were shortstops available through the draft, and numerous mock drafts had the Yankees taking Baylor Univeristy’s Nick Loftin, but the Yankees passed on this player to address a bigger need. Just last year they used their first and second round pick on shortstops Anthony Volpe and Josh Smith. Alongside them, Oswald Peraza enjoyed a breakout 2019 to become a top-10 Yankees prospect and Alexander Vargas showed the skillset that drew the highest international signing bonus handed out by the Yankees during the 2018-2019 international signing period.
The Yankees used the 2020 draft to address needs inside their minor league system. Austin Wells, Trevor Hauver, and Beck Way all fit into a system that has built layers of depth across the board over the last few year. Despite the short nature of the draft, the team was able to improve the system in key areas as they seek to keep the steady flow of talent rolling into the Bronx.