Looking at the corner infield depth within the Yankees organization is a lot like looking into the desert. You can see for miles around, and any scrap you can find looks particularly amazing. Unfortunately, when looking at it from a more comprehensive angle, we can see just how sparse the Yankees are right now.
Any conversation about first base in the Yankees organization starts with Greg Bird. The first baseman has been injured a few times too many, but he’s the best shot they have of nailing down the position for years to come. If he can finally get healthy and return to doing what he does best, this conversation becomes irrelevant. The tough part is he actually has to do it first.
Right behind Bird has been Tyler Austin for the last few years. Though he doesn’t have the All-Star potential, his right-handed bat offers the Yankees an interesting option off the bench. Thanks to his performance this year, it doesn’t seem like Austin will be going anywhere when Bird comes back. It’s possible the organization will keep him around for the next few years as a trusty backup option for their star player.
Exploring the organization any further just leads to disappointment. After a stint with the Mariners as a Rule 5 pick, Mike Ford came back to the team who signed him as a non-drafted free agent back in 2013. Despite his clear power potential in the minors, it’s evident the Yankees don’t believe he can hack it in the majors. Consider the 25-year-old Triple-A depth and nothing more.
The jury is still out on Chris Gittens in Double-A Trenton. He previously hit 21 home runs as a 22-year-old in Charleston, but hit just half that total the next year. He’s now 24, so time is definitely running out on him. The only other hope the Yankees have of producing a legitimate first base prospect from the players currently in the system right now is to convert one.
Isiah Gilliam was drafted as an outfielder, but scouts are not sold on his ability to offer any kind of value in the field. He’s just 21 and in High-A Tampa, so there’s still time to take the plunge and move him to first base. The problem is that he has a solid bat for a corner outfielder, but there’s no telling if he can up the power to what you would want from a first baseman.
If you thought first base was dismal, take a look at whatever it is the Yankees consider to be their depth at third base. The Yankees are determined to turn Brandon Drury into a third baseman, even if he’s below average in the field no matter where he plays. Miguel Andujar was really the only prospect at third they had coming through the pipeline, so they better hope he sticks. The only other guys who has any potential is Dermis Garcia, who just hit 14 home runs in a very successful 2017 campaign. He may be about to explode in Charleston this year, so keep an eye on him.
One of the reasons the system is so devoid at the infield corners is that it’s incredible difficult to draft from those positions. No one wants to take a first base prospect too high in the draft, so you’re left with organizational filler in the later rounds. Legitimate third base prospects also go earlier than the Yankees can pick them, or they end up moving to first base. It’s a challenging tightrope act, and as Eric Jagielo proved, you don’t always come out on top.
Heading into the MLB Draft, it’s unlikely the Yankees will put a focus on either position, but if they can grab a few legitimate bats, maybe things will sort themselves out.