The Yankees swung a big trade for starting pitcher Jameson Taillon on Sunday, bolstering their rotation. In addition to adding an arm, the Yankees were also seeking to balance out their 40-man roster to make space for recent free agent signings DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber. The Yankees traded four players, including two that were on the 40-man roster, in Miguel Yajure, Canaan Smith, Roansy Contreras and Maikol Escotto. Lets take a look at the players that the Yankees gave up in the deal and how they impact the Yankees minor league system.
Miguel Yajure is the prospect in this deal most familiar to Yankees fans after he made his major league debut in 2020. Prior to that, he was the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2019, when he posted a 2.14 ERA with a 1.9 BB/9 rate while pitching for High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Scouts noticed a significant improvement in his stuff as the year went on, and his efficient pitching allowed him to rack up 138.2 IP.
Following that campaign, he was added to the 40-man roster and invited to the alternate site last summer. As the Yankees pitching depth was tested due to injury and inconsistent performances, Yajure received his call to the majors and proved to be a pleasant surprise for many fans.
Entering in the seventh inning down 5-0 against the Tampa Bay Rays, Yajure tossed three no-hit innings to finish out the game. A Yankees comeback fell short as they lost 5-3, but he was able to save the bullpen from further usage and fulfilled his role. A few trips on the Scranton Shuttle followed and Yajure ended his season with seven innings pitched and a 1.29 ERA.
Where Yajure would have fit in with the Yankees this coming season is uncertain. He came through the minors as a starter and likely would have been behind Deivi García and Clarke Schmidt on the depth chart for a starting role this season. Other players such as Luis Gil and Luis Medina also would have been challenging him for major league playing time this coming year. Yajure has just 18 innings at Double-A and above, so it is likely that he would have been working in Triple-A for most of the season.
The Yankees parted with another arm from their 40-man roster in Roansy Contreras. Originally signed by the Yankees as an International Free Agent in 2016, Contreras has steadily risen through the system, pitching the full season for Low-A Charleston as a 19-year-old in 2019. He really turned it on halfway through the season and became the ace of the staff after several other high powered arms were promoted. In his last 11 starts as a Yankees prospect Contreras pitched to a 1.80 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP. Following that season Baseball America ranked him as the 12th best prospect in the South Atlantic League.
Contreras was not invited to the alternate training site last season, making it questionable if he would be able to bridge the gap from Low-A to contributing in the major leagues any time soon. While considered by many to be a future major league arm, he is not generally considered to have the same ceiling as fellow Yankees pitchers like Luis Gil, Luis Medina and Alexander Vizcaino.
Playing alongside Contreras with Low-A Charleston in 2019 was outfielder Canaan Smith. Smith was the lone position player taken by the Yankees in their first 11 picks of the 2017 draft. The Yankees grabbed Smith in the fourth round and signed him away from his commitment to the University of Arkansas. He made headlines during his senior year of high school, as he at one point was on pace to break the national record for walks in a season.
Once he joined the organization, he excelled during his first season playing in the Gulf Coast League, but then equally struggled the next season with Short-Season A Staten Island. Entering 2019 Smith had fallen off the prospect radar for many but his bat showed up in a big way for Low-A Charleston. Smith hit .307/.405/.465 with 11 homers and 16 stolen bases, finishing third in the South Atlantic League in total bases. He was one of 15 players in the entire minors with 15 homers, 30 doubles and 15 stolen bases. Baseball America recently ranked him as the best hitter for average and strike zone discipline in the Yankees system.
Smith is not considered a plus defender, and he played alongside two outstanding defenders in Brandon Lockridge and Josh Stowers during his time in Charleston. Beyond that, players such as Everson Pereira, Kevin Alcantara, Ryder Green and Jake Sanford are considered solid outfield prospects, and of course Jasson Dominguez will be playing stateside this summer. The Yankees have invested in outfield depth and can absorb the loss of a quality prospect.
Maikol Escotto exploded on the Dominican Summer League in 2019, hitting .315/.429/.552 and finishing eighth in the league in OPS. There were some concerns about his strikeout rate, as he whiffed 26% of the time against DSL pitching. Those concerns were countered with exit velocity readings around 106 mph as a teenager.
The Yankees have a number of middle infield prospects in their system, so Escotto was traded from a position of strength by the Yankees. Oswald Peraza, Ezequiel Duran, Josh Smith, Anthony Volpe, Alexander Vargas and Trevor Hauver are just some of the names that the Yankees have in the system and slated to play up the middle.
The Yankees moved four players to bring in a needed piece for their rotation. All were solid prospects with a chance to contribute at the major leagues. Crucially, however, none of the players the Yankees traded away are considered back-breakers for an organization looking to win in 2021.