When it comes to shortstop and second base prospects, they can easily meld into one and take on the simple title of middle infielder. Shortstops can also play second base, usually, but second basemen can’t always play short. It’s why organizations rush to acquire as many shortstops as possible. It’s why the Yankees have gathered several players who can play either position. If we want to look at this organization before the 2017 MLB Draft, the one area they are doing well is in collecting promising middle infielders.
The team’s strength starts all the way at the top. Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro are not perfect, but they have done well as this team’s double play combination. Both have seen their power numbers increase and they have each proven to be an asset in the field. The Yankees even have a decent bench player in Ronald Torreyes, who has proven to be effective in short bursts of play.
Best of all is the fact that they aren’t blocking anyone below them. While they are all under control for multiple years, none of them are eating up payroll to the point where the Yankees won’t be able to get rid of them if they eventually do get in the way. Didi is an affordable Super Two and Torreyes is making the league minimum. Sure, Castro has $22 million owed to him over the next two seasons, but he’s not so bad that a team won’t take him if the Yankees eat some of the money.
Triple-A is typically filled with veteran players who are waiting for a chance to contribute at the major league level. The Yankees, however, have a plethora of youth over in Scranton. Perhaps the prospect most likely to see time in the majors this year is shortstop Tyler Wade. The 22-year-old is currently hitting .319/.394/.447 in 160 plate appearances, making him the perfect option if an infielder gets hurt.
The Yankees still have Rob Refsnyder, but it’s hard to get a sense about what the team really thinks of him. Clearly, they don’t want to use him at the big league level and his status as a second baseman has been called into question, considering his continued woes in the field. Still, he’s hitting .313/.404/.475 in Triple-A this year, but he’s unlikely to turn any heads again.
The team’s top prospect, Gleyber Torres, is hitting well in his first trip to Double-A. The 20-year-old is hitting .286/.370/.476 while still missing some time to injury. Torres is the type of guy who could be banging at the door before too long. Given the success of the major league infield, he could end up at shortstop or second, depending on need. Thairo Estrada has really been on a tear since breaking out in 2016. He’s now hitting .333/.418/.447 in Trenton and has pushed himself into the prospect conversation. He’s no Gleyber Torres, but Estrada could be a useful asset.
Jorge Mateo, the organization’s former top shortstop prospect, has fallen a few pegs in the last year. His performance at the plate has dropped off, he’s not stealing as many bases as he used to, and he’s had attitude problems. That combination has allowed several players to leapfrog him in promotions. There has even been talk about him moving to center field full time. Mateo is off to a fine start in his second go-around in High-A Tampa, but he’ll need to show more if he wants to finally break free.
Nick Solak, meanwhile, has gotten off to an impressive start as a professional. The 22-year-old was drafted in the second round last year and he’s hit well at second base so far. His on-base acumen has helped him reach Tampa in record time because the Yankees must clearly see something they like.
Then there’s Kyle Holder, who has been just miserable at the plate since he was drafted in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft. His bat is just not showing up, but his glove is allowing him to stick around as the organization continues to promote him. Charleston shortstop Hoy Jon Park has turned it on this year and is finding success in his age-21 season, though.
Not all these players will have a future with the Yankees, but it’s important to have this kind of depth. When the Yankees approach the 2017 MLB Draft, they should obviously go after the best players available, regardless of position, but if all things are equal, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go after some pitching instead.