The Yankees have had a strong collection of outfield prospects over the last few seasons. Even when the organization was bereft of top talent, the team had the likes of Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, and Slade Heathcott. Now, as we prepare for the 2017 MLB Draft, it’s time to take stock of the organization’s outfield talent once again.
Though that once promising trio hasn’t produced like we all hoped, the Yankees have moved onto bigger and better things. If you hadn’t noticed by now, Aaron Judge is on his way to being everything the team needed him to be. He’s a likely All-Star and could be the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year honors (it’s still early). More importantly, he’s improving in the categories where he has needed to and could be on his way to greatness.
The Yankees have already found the future piece they were looking for, but there’s still more talent down on the farm. Next in line behind Judge is Clint Frazier, a top prospect the team acquired last season. When people are not making a big deal about the length of his hair, they are making a big deal about hit bat. He truly has the potential to follow in Judge’s footsteps and earn a spot on the big league team if he can get on a hot streak.
The other top outfield prospect at Triple-A is Dustin Fowler, a true center field talent who can do a little bit of everything. He can hit for average, hit for power, steal bases, and field his position. Fowler just needs to work on his on-base skills (which are fine at the moment) and he could become an interesting leadoff hitter.
The Yankees still have the likes of Mason Williams to think about, but when was the last time he was healthy? Mark Payton is also hanging in there and getting the job done, but who knows what to really expect from him.
At Double-A, the Yankees have a few middling prospects who are at a point where they either start performing or they’re gone. Jake Cave has been in the system for a few years now, but he’s been passed over a few times and will be a minor league free agent at the end of the season. Billy McKinney is a former top 100 prospect who has fallen on hard times and needs to show some life after dealing with a broken knee. So far that hasn’t happened.
Rashad Crawford has never produced much, but he’s getting a chance in Trenton. Zack Zehner is off to a good starter, while Devyn Bolasky has struggled to get his bat going. We’ll see if any of these players turn into someone worth following.
The outfielders at High-A Tampa have nothing promised to them. Trey Amburgey and Jhalan Jackson have looked promising before, but this season has not been kind to them. The same goes for Jeff Hendrix. Tito Polo, on the other hand, is off to a great start and could make something of himself yet.
At Low-A Charleston is where the young talent waits to be awoken by time and refinement. Long-term projects like Estevan Florial and Carlos Vidal seem to be working out at the moment. Leonardo Molina, meanwhile, is not. Isiah Gilliam is starting to put everything together and become a promising prospect, while Blake Rutherford continues to show why he came to the organization so highly regarded. If things go well for him, he could be moving through the system quickly.
On top of this talent, the organization has also discussed moving several players to the outfield in order to improve their value and versatility. Jorge Mateo is a shortstop, but given the depth at his position, he could end up in center field if all goes well for him. It also looks like Tyler Wade is being groomed as a super utility player who can play nearly every position on the field. A player like that has his uses and greatly improves the depth chart.
The Yankees might not have the deep breadth of talent in the outfield that they have in the middle infield, but there are still a few players to keep an eye on. Having Frazier and Rutherford would probably be enough for any organization, but then you see Fowler as well and guys like Florial and Vidal down the line. Still, when it comes time to the draft, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add some additional talent at the position if they can.