After spending a couple of years stuck in Stephen Drew purgatory, the Yankees' middle infield situation has finally transitioned in the aftermath of Robinson Cano's departure and Derek Jeter's decline/retirement. Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro now represent a young, cost-controlled, potentially exciting duo up the middle. Still, even with the major league middle infield solidified for the moment, strong organizational depth could prove vital. Fortunately, unlike the Yankees' corner infield depth, middle infield is one of the organization's stronger areas.
It all starts with Jorge Mateo. Mateo requires little introduction after making his debut across all sorts of top 100 prospect lists this past offseason. The ultra-fast shortstop (and now second baseman) burst onto the scene last year when he stole 82 bases across 117 minor league games. In 2016, Mateo has essentially established himself as an untouchable prospect, batting .309/.372/.521 for High-A Tampa. Even with Aaron Judge still in the minors, at this point, Mateo might just be the Yankees' number one prospect.
The middle infield prospect most major league ready is Rob Refsnyder, though his status as a middle infielder is constantly in question, given the time he has spent in corner infield and outfield spots. Still, Refsnyder is at least nominally referred to as a second baseman, and his bat is probably major league caliber right now. He has a career line of .284/.365/.420 at Triple-A, and has 14 hits in 46 major league at-bats.
If Refsnyder is the all-bat prospect, the Yankees also have a couple of glove-first shortstops. At Double-A Trenton, there is Tyler Wade, who has .688 OPS this season after running .654 OPS across multiple levels last season. There is also Kyle Holder, who has managed a .305/.342/.381 line at Single-A Charleston. Wade is considered a quality fielder at shortstop, while Holder profiles as a potentially elite defensive shortstop. It remains to be seen if either will hit enough to become viable players.
One of the most interesting middle infielders in the system is shortstop Wilkerman Garcia. Garcia ranks as probably the most prescient investment from the Yankees' massive 2014 international spending spree. He is merely 18 years old, with 39 professional games to his name, but he has already impressed scouts with a solid arm and good speed, to go along with a smooth swing from both sides of the plate. Garcia is extremely far from the majors, but is still very much worth watching.
Beyond that, the Yankees have a handful of other intriguing players. Hoy Jun Park, signed out of Korea, is a 20 year old shortstop at Single-A Charleston, and has the arm and glove to stick at the position. Abiatal Avelino is a 21 year old shortstop currently with the Tampa Yankees, and he has flashed impressive run and field tools. Just last year, he stole 54 bases across 123 minor league games. Finally, there is Thairo Estrada, who showed the ability to stick at shortstop with the Staten Island Yankees last season, and has a .285/.322/.424 line with Charleston and Tampa in 2016.
Overall, the Yankees' system has developed enviable depth up the middle. Mateo is clearly among the best prospects in the game, but there is a considerable amount of interesting players elsewhere as well. Ranging from high floor glove-first shortstops like Holder, to tantalizing rookie level players like Garcia, the Yankees have middle infield talent across the minor leagues. Gregorius and Castro are holding down the fort now, and with any luck, the shortstop and second base positions will be well-manned for years to come.