The 2017 MLB Draft is just one week away. The draft doesn’t bring quite the level of pomp and circumstance of the NBA and NFL iterations, but it’s still exciting to start thinking about the next wave of talent entering the pros. In preparation, we’ve already gone over the Yankees’ organizational depth at each position group, as well as the system’s strengths and weaknesses.
Pinning down exactly what the system needs is difficult. After a virtually unprecedented sell-off at last year’s deadline that brought in a haul of talent, the Yankees’ farm is unquestionably one of the best in the game. Baseball Prospectus ranked the system second in the league, as did ESPN’s Keith Law, prior to the 2017 season.
Searching for a glaring need in the Yankees’ system is a little like going gift-shopping for someone who already has everything. Still, there’s no such thing as too much talent, and even the best farms can find use for more good players.
With the graduation of Gary Sanchez, catching depth in the Yankees’ system has been highlighted as a potential weakness. To be fair, with a player as good as Sanchez at the major league level, a lack of strong catching prospects doesn’t seem to be of grave importance, but more quality options would be of use, either to replace Sanchez in case of injury, or to use as trade chips.
Kyle Higashioka generated some interest after a solid performance in Triple-A last year but has struggled with ineffectiveness and injury in 2017, and at age-27, he’s not exactly a young, intriguing prospect. Luis Torrens, a 20-year-old catcher who played at Low-A Charleston last year, is currently on the Padres’ active roster after being taken in the Rule 5 Draft. Donny Sands, a 21-year-old in A-Ball, is probably the Yankees’ top catching prospect at the moment.
The Yankees pick 16th in the first round, and neither MLB.com nor Baseball America list a catcher in their top 40 draft prospects, so it would be a surprise for New York to pop a backstop with their first pick. The top catcher on MLB.com’s list is Hagen Danner, a live-armed high-schooler whose 95 mph fastball has actually divided scouts on whether he’s better suited as a catcher or pitcher.
Elsewhere on the position player side, you have to squint to see any real needs. The Yankees have exciting outfielders throughout the system, as well as one of the best middle infield groups in the game. With Greg Bird graduated from the system, yet still struggling, first base depth could be a concern. The only first base prospects of note on the farm are the rehabbing Tyler Austin and Mike Ford, a 24-year-old bat who is hitting well at Double-A. Law did peg high school first baseman Nick Pratto as a Yankee target in his latest mock draft, so maybe first base will be a priority for New York on draft night.
On the pitching side, the Yankees’ system is not wanting either. Right-hander Chance Adams has been moving up prospect lists as of late, Justus Sheffield looks solid as ever at Double-A, and the Yankees have interesting live arms elsewhere, like Albert Abreu and Dillon Tate.
However, after Tommy John surgery ended James Kaprelian’s season, one could argue the Yankees now lack any pitching prospects with true high-end potential. Kaprelian had three usable secondary pitches to go along with a heater that was flashing 99 mph on the farm. None of the Yankees’ current pitching prospects can match the kind of potential that Kaprelian’s arsenal entails.
Even so, it’s hard to label “pitching prospect with ace potential” as a major need, given that most farm systems in the league are lacking such a prospect. In his mock, though, Law does link the Yankees to high school lefty DJ Hall, who reportedly has elite stuff but makeup concerns. It does seem plausible the Yankees could find an arm with front-end stuff in the middle of the first round should they be so inclined.
Overall, it’s just not easy to find genuine needs in the system. Eventually, when elite prospects like Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier graduate, the Yankees’ system may look thinner and needs will sprout up. Right now, though, there aren’t clear needs that simply have to be addressed soon.
Baseball teams generally don’t draft for need nearly in the way that teams in other sports do, and the Yankees will be no different. They can draft the best talent available, regardless of position or high-school/college status, as they did last year in taking Blake Rutherford with their first selection. With any luck, what’s already a loaded system devoid of huge holes will appear even deeper a week from now.