In the past few days, both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus released their respective midseason prospect rankings. It’s a yearly tradition for people who care deeply about prospects. Even people who aren’t huge prospect-lovers take a peek, and this edition is of particular interest to Yankees fans.
Let’s start with Baseball Prospectus. Their list is 50 players, and two Yankees players made the cut—Aaron Judge (25th) and Jorge Mateo (29th). At first glance, that isn’t bad. Having two top 30 prospects, especially when a number of top prospects graduated last season, means that the overall outlook of the system is likely in the middle of the pack in respect to other clubs.
As far as the actual evaluations, these weren’t rave reviews. Judge was given credit, as he usually is, for his size and raw power, but there are still lingering concerns about his control of the strike zone; without plate discipline, his power is essentially neutralized. For Mateo, the complaint was that he could be a one-trick pony with his speed, and not to mention concerns over his makeup.
Baseball America offered a bit more optimistic a view of the system. They listed four Yankees in their top 100—Mateo (19th), Gary Sanchez (36th), Judge (42nd), and James Kaprielian (99th). There are a couple of interesting things to unpack here. Firstly, Sanchez appears on their list, but not on Baseball Prospectus’. There are a few reasons for this: there’s the thumb injury which may have sapped a bit of his ability in the short-term, and there are also more long-term questions about his ability to stick behind the plate. I wouldn’t really worry about those, though. It seems the only thing holding him back at this point is Austin Romine, who is playing very well while there really isn’t a need for Sanchez. There’s no reason to waste his service time in this case. When the time comes, Sanchez will at least get a shot at the big league level.
Kaprielian is also an interesting addition. Even though many thought he was a fast-riser this spring, lingering elbow problems have sidelined him for much of the season. There were some who even thought he could be in the rotation by the end of the year before those developments. I think it’s a testament to Yankees amateur scouting that they drafted yet another top 100 prospect, but pitchers, as they are wont to do, break.
What do we take from all of this? No matter what these prospect rankings may say, they're not absolute predictors of future success. You certainly can't draw the conclusion that a team is doomed or that hope will spring eternal. At face value, these are just weak correlative indicators as to the quality of talent coming through the pipeline. For the Yankees, that talent is, as I said, in the middle of the pack, but that's not bad at all.
With an already-decent under-30 core of Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, Masahiro Tanaka, Greg Bird, Luis Severino, and Dellin Betances, the additions of Mateo, Judge, Sanchez, and Kaprielian to the mix certainly can't hurt. For an organization trying to move into another era, it's nothing to sneeze at. At worst it's merely prospect-hugging as per usual. At best, it's a harbinger of good things to come.