Over the past several years, the Yankees have focused their highest profile amateur acquisitions on players with an up the middle position profile. This has resulted in the prospects rankings for the Yankees system being chalked full of catchers, shortstops, and centerfielders. However, that does not mean that the corners of the system are void of talent or players that could play a contributing role with the Yankees moving forward. Let’s take an in-depth look at the third base position in the Yankees organization and see which players could make an impact moving forward.
The lack of big name third base prospects in the Yankees system is offset by the talent they have at or near the major league level. Gio Urshela’s emergence in 2019 was backed up by another big offensive and highlight filled 2020. Behind him is Miguel Andujár, who almost won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 2018 before suffering a season ending injury and opening the door for Urshela in 2019. Anyone taking a long look at the Yankees roster can see a scenario where Andujár ends up starting the season at the alternate training site and with Triple-A Scranton. Also possibly joining him there could be Thairo Estrada, who has played some third base as part of his utility role. Several other veteran players are at spring training with the Yankees and could provide additional depth on the hot corner.
While the Yankees have a good amount of major league experience at the position, there is more depth coming from within. Joining those players at spring training this year and likely headed for Triple-A is Armando Alvarez, a 17th round pick in 2016 who has worked his way to the top of the Yankees system. A solid glove at third-base, Alvarez had a 114 wRC+ in 58 games for Double-A Trenton during a 2019 season that saw him move up and down between two levels. He also had a brief stint at Scranton previously, producing slightly below league average numbers during his first look at the highest level of the minors. Alvarez has already appeared in several games for the Yankees this spring and should continue to see action as the Yankees bring Gio Urshela along slowly this spring.
Behind Alvarez in the Yankees system is James Nelson, the Yankees acquired him from Miami just over a year ago. Nelson exploded out of the gate in his professional career, posting a 132 wRC+ in Low-A on his way to being named the Marlins minor league player of the year in his first full professional season. He was ranked as high as the eighth best prospect in Miami’s farm system by Baseball America before he was sidetracked by nagging leg injuries during the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Scouting reports credit him with excellent bat speed, and the tools to be an above average defender at third base. He took the time to speak with Pinstripe Alley during the offseason and you can find that interview in two parts. Nelson could return to the High-A level that he finished 2019 at, or he could be with Double-A Somerset this spring.
Oswaldo Cabrera will also in the mix for games at third base. Cabrera led the High-A roster in games played at both third and second base in 2019, and is currently considered the Yankees 16th best prospect by FanGraphs. The switch hitting infielder improved his production over the second half of the season and was among the system leaders in exit velocity. His ability to play three infield positions is a big plus for him, and he is likely ticketed for Double-A Somerset to start the coming season.
After Cabrera, the only Yankees prospect ranked by FanGraphs and listed as a true third baseman is 19-year-old Marcos Cabrera. He posted a 130 wRC+ in the Dominican Summer League during his pro debut in 2019. Scouts see a player with big power projections in his future. He is likely ticketed for the Gulf Coast League this coming year, but could crack Low-A Tampa’s roster if all goes well.
The Yankees’ 2019-2020 signing class does not get talked about much outside of Jasson Dominguez, who dominated the Yankees bonus pool and headlines. The second biggest bonus the Yankees handed out during the signing period went to Enger Castellano. Castellano was signed as a good bat that will have to improve on the defensive side of the ball. He will be looking to make his pro debut in either the Dominican Summer League or the Gulf Coast League this summer.
Other members of the organization who saw lots of action at third base are Max Burt and Chad Bell. Burt impressed his Low-A Charleston teammates with the best at-bats of the night when the team faced former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Kuechel in 2019. He will have to improve his overall numbers, as he peaked with a 75 wRC+ in Low-A Charleston that year. Chad Bell hit nine home runs in 55 games for Rookie-Advanced Pulaski in 2019, but also struck out 34 percent of the time.
Roberto Chirinos is another player that found time at third base while in Pulaski in 2019. One of the top players in the 2017 international signing class, he signed as a shortstop but moved around the diamond when Anthony Volpe arrived at Pulaski. Chirinos finished the season strong in 2019, and his best path to regular playing time may be at third base as he competes with players like Volpe and Alexander Vargas for shortstop reps.
The Yankees’ minor league system does not boast many highly ranked prospects at third base. Some of the players have talent and have produced in the past, but need a big season at the higher level to once again elevate their stock in the organization. Luckily for the Yankees, there is not an urgent need due to the young and now established players at the major league level.