2015 Statistics: 58 games, .284/.347/.495, 9 HR, 141 wRC+
2015 Level/Roster Status: Double-A/Non-40
Back in 2013, the Yankees made Notre Dame third baseman Eric Jagielo the top choice in a solid draft class that also saw them net slugger Aaron Judge and prep lefty Ian Clarkin with two other first round compensation picks. At the time, scouts felt that Jagielo's polished bat could make him a quick riser to the major leagues, but while his bat has been steady, injuries and questions about his defense have made his ascent a little slower. That does not mean that the 23-year-old is doomed though--far from it.
In fact, if these report cards were done midseason, Jagielo would have earned an easy A. Promoted to Double-A Trenton at the start of the season after a strong showing in 85 games with the High-A Tampa Yankees last year (.259/.354/.460, 16 homers, and a 132 wRC+), Jagielo was hitting even better at the higher level. All of this came after learning that he had diabetes, making his accomplishments look even more impressive. The transition from A-ball pitching Double-A pitching can be very difficult for position players, as many arms seen in Double-A are borderline major league caliber, a big jump from the likes of the Florida State League. Nonetheless, Jagielo thrived from Day One, tearing apart Eastern League pitching with 27 extra base hits in just 222 plate appearances. He hit so well that he was named to the league's All-Star team.
Then suddenly, it was all over. On June 16th, Jagielo tripled, and on his way home, he hurt his knee. It didn't seem like much at the time, but Jagielo never played another game in 2015. An MRI revealed "loose bodies" in his knee, and he eventually underwent a lateral meniscus scope at the end of July to repair the damage. The Yankees felt good enough about his recovery that he was set to play in the Arizona Fall League this year, but they changed their minds in late September after a medical checkup. The team preferred that Jagielo rest his knee and get ready for 2016 rather than putting him in more games.
The lingering questions Jagielo's game are certainly still there. Despite working with fielding whiz Scott Rolen in spring training, he made nine errors in only 39 games at third base, and scouts remain skeptical of his ability to last at the hot corner. He just isn't a passable defender at the position, and it's going to either take remarkable strides or swallowing a lot of errors for a team (be it the Yankees or anyone else) to put him at third in the majors. Jagielo's future probably lies across the diamond at first base, where he already made a few appearances this year. Of course, the Yankees have Greg Bird on the depth chart above Jagielo, so while that doesn't 100 percent mean that Jagielo has no future on the team, it certainly complicates matters.
Jagielo is a fine hitter despite holes in his swing, and both his bat and plus makeup will carry him to the majors at some point. However, for him to last, he's going to need to improve his defense and find a way to stay healthy. It would not be surprising to see him begin the 2016 season with Triple-A Scranton after the damage he inflicted on the Eastern League, but the Yankees will certainly take their time with him to refine his game. There's no denying that he is definitely a talented prospect, and it's good to see a first round pick gradually improve.