January was a busy month for Brian Cashman and the Yankees. Multiple trades and free agent signings created turnover on the 40-man roster. With the additions to the major league roster, the Yankees have also subtracted from their prospect pool, moving on from four of the organizations top prospects ranked by MLB.com’s. Lets take a look at the new additions to the Yankees’ prospect list, and see where they are on their path to the Bronx.
With the loss of four ranked players, MLB Pipeline had to bump up four other talents. Several of these players have been ranked on the Yankees’ top prospect list in the past. Glenn Otto is one of those who was on the Yankees rankings prior to a blood clot in his pitching shoulder. Otto worked as a closer for Rice University in college, but his 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame had the Yankees envisioning a starter after they took him in the fifth round of the 2017 draft.
Otto comes armed with a plus fastball and a nasty 12-6 curveball. Holding him back is a below average changeup and poor control, as evidenced by his career 4.7 BB/9 rate. Two really good pitches and less than perfect control gives him a reliever profile long term, but it is likely that he gets a chance to start again this year in Double-A Somerset.
Despite losing three right-handed pitching prospects in the last few weeks, the Yankees system still has a number of very good arms. Otto last pitched at the High-A level, and he will likely be pitching alongside highly ranked prospects such as Luis Gil, Luis Medina and Alexander Vizcaino this coming season. He will have to show improved control and durability in order to remain as a starting rotation candidate moving forward.
The Yankees’ new 28th-ranked prospect is Brooks Kriske, who Yankees fans are likely familiar with based on his 2020 time with the big league club. Originally taken in the sixth round of the 2016 draft, Kriske went down with Tommy John Surgery shortly after joining the organization. He worked his way back beginning in 2018 and emerged as an outstanding relief option for Double-A Trenton on their way to the 2019 Eastern League title. Despite strong numbers, it was a surprise to many that he was added to the 40-man roster following the season.
Kriske struggled with his control at the major league level, walking seven in his four relief appearances. He did show an ability to miss bats by striking out 8 in that time frame as well. Despite his struggles at the major league level Kriske was drawing rave reviews from the alternate site where his fastball was touching 98 mph by the end of the season. The spin and riding characteristics of the fastball were compared to Chad Green’s. Kriske pairs his improving fastball with an outstanding splitter and an average slider that gives him three weapons to attack hitters with. He will likely be a regular piece of the Scranton Shuttle again this coming season as he has two minor league option years remaining.
Following Kriske on the MLB.com rankings is outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round draft pick by the Seattle Mariners in 2018 but was traded to the Yankees as part of the Sonny Gray deal. Stowers has slightly above average speed and put up a strong .273/.386/.400 line in Low-A Charleston while playing right field.
He has not shown an ability to consistently hit for power, and five of his seven home runs that season came during a 10-game stretch in May. Stowers’ high on-base rate allowed him to steal 35 bases, but he was also caught 16 times and he will have to improve his efficiency.
After playing in the Arizona Fall League in 2019, Stowers will likely start the 2021 season in High-A Hudson Valley or Double-A Somerset. The upper levels of the Yankees system is not stocked with high-ceiling outfield prospects, but Stowers will have to stay ahead of the pack. Behind him in the system is a strong group of promising outfielders that could be playing alongside of him in the near future.
One of those outfielders, Jake Sanford also joined the Yankees’ list of prospects with the recent moves. Sanford was the Yankees’ third-round draft pick in 2019. Originally from Canada, he could have played college volleyball in his home country but chose to pursue college baseball at McCook Community College in Nebraska. After two outstanding years there he moved to Western Kentucky and promptly won the first triple crown in Conference USA history as he slashed .398/.483/.805 with 22 HR.
Sanford has immense power from the left side of the plate, but is still considered a work in progress by many evaluators. He did not face elite competition or have a long season in high school and will benefit from every rep he gets as a professional. He has shown the ability to make adjustments during his time in college and also during first professional season with Short-Season A Staten Island. After a slow start he hit six home runs and five doubles in his last 23 games while putting up a 143 wRC+ in that stretch. He will have to improve on his 32.5 percent strikeout rate, but he is a very talented athlete who can quickly change a game with one swing while manning a corner outfield position. He will likely start the season in either Low-A or High-A.
The Yankees have seen their roster turn over in the last two weeks. As talented prospects leave, the depth of the system comes into focus with new names emerging. The Yankees’ farm is known for its depth, and these players have the ability to help the big league club if they reach their developmental ceiling.