It’s well known that the Yankees have failed to produce position players in recent years. Over the past couple of seasons the team has added Mike Quade, James Rowson, Jody Reed, and Trey Hillman to spur improved hitting, fielding, and base running fundamentals. Hal Steinbrenner further invested in fixing the issue by going on a spending spree in the 2014 international free agency period, signing 12 of the top 30 players. This could all begin to pay off, with the continued development of players such as Aaron Judge and Robert Refsnyder. Let’s take a look at 10 position prospects to watch in 2015.
Keith Law of ESPN Insider ranked Judge #45 on his midseason top 50 prospects list, saying that Judge, "Could be the middle-of-the-order bat the Yankees have tried to develop for years."
At 6’7" tall, he is an imposing figure on the baseball field with massive power potential. He finished the season with High-A Tampa where he batted .308, clubbed 17 home runs and had an OPS of .905. Judge should start next year with the Double-A Trenton Thunder, where he could put himself into the Yankees outfield mix in 2016.
Sanchez’s stock has taken a hit in 2014. Makeup concerns reared their ugly head again, as Sanchez was benched for almost a week for an unknown reason. His bat also showed little improvement while repeating Double-A, putting up similar numbers with a slightly higher batting average. After two stagnant seasons in Trenton, I still expect the Yankees to promote him to Triple-A, or possibly deal him this offseason.
The converted outfielder forced the front office to take notice this season. Arguably the farm system’s best all around hitter, he has forced his way into the second base discussion for next season. Refsnyder doesn’t profile well elsewhere on the field, so he’ll have to show improvement on defense. At the very least, he will start next season in Triple-A Scranton, with an outside shot at making the team in spring training.
The 2013 first rounder spent over a month sidelined due to an oblique injury. While he won’t win any Gold Gloves, his defense should be serviceable. Jagielo showed big power at Tampa with 16 homers and a batting line of.259/.354/460. He should begin next season at Double-A Trenton.
Torrens was aggressively pushed to Low-A, where he struggled to begin the season. He then suffered a shoulder injury which cost him two months of development time. Upon returning, he was assigned to Short-Season-A Staten Island, where he put up a line of .270/.327/.405. Praised for his game awareness and solid all-around game, he very well could become the best catcher in the system. Torrens should start next year with Low-A Charleston.
With Mark Teixeira struggling and often injured, Bird, now at Double-A Trenton, is moving into the Yankees' first base picture. For the year, Bird hit .271/.376/.472 with 14 homers. Defensively, he will be adequate at best, due to a lack of instincts and athleticism. He missed a month due to a back injury, which is worth keeping an eye on in the future as they usually don’t go away. A repeat of last season should put him at Triple-A Scranton by the end of 2015, with a shot at the Bronx in 2016.
Jim Callis of mlb.com had this to say about Mateo in the 2014 Prospect Watch:
"In addition to his speed and defense, Mateo has more upside at the plate than most shortstops. He's wiry strong, and he already shows signs of being able to hit for average and provide double-digit home run totals down the line. Mateo is still just 19 and is six levels removed from the big leagues, but one club official said the organization hasn't had a middle infielder with a ceiling higher than his since Derek Jeter."
The future looks bright for Mateo, but he still has a long way to go to make it. He’ll probably be assigned to Pulaski or Staten Island to begin 2015.
After being hampered by a wrist injury last year, Austin started hitting like he did in 2012 late in the season. Austin is a right fielder who can hit for average and has a little pop. With a strong start in 2015, he could become the right-handed outfield option that the Yankees sorely need.
Avelino is the top shortstop prospect in the organization. He suffered a quad injury that caused him to miss nearly two months and struggled mightily upon returning. Considered a gifted player, he has speed, plus defensive ability, and a solid offensive game. I believe he will return to Charleston because of lost time, but a move to Tampa could be possible.
A sleeper prospect in the system, Andujar had a solid season for Low-A Charleston. He doesn’t have the hype surrounding him, but he put up a nice batting line of .267/.318/.397, with 10 homers. Defensively, there’s still worked to be done as he committed 26 errors in 120 games. When Jagielo heads to Trenton, I would expect him to be promoted to High-A Tampa.
The Yankees have solid talent in their system. The front office needs to use their financial power to surround these players with the best instructors, evaluators and coaches. I fully expect that 2015 will be the year that the minor league system makes their mark.