As of right now, the Yankees minor league system is very position player heavy. According to MLB.com's top 30 prospects list for the Yankees, 18 of the 30 are position players, while Baseball America's top ten list features seven position players. That's not to say the Yankees don't have fascinating pitching prospects; it's just that they have focused more on position players, particularly in recent international signings periods and in the 2013 Draft.
Most of that position player surplus is focused in the lower levels of the minors in the form of middle infield depth. Players in the lowest rungs of the farm system ladder usually aren't considered "prospects" yet given their age and raw ability. The Yankees, though, have a fair share of very interesting middle infield talent that could start working its way up the system soon. Let's take a look at where the best of the best may begin the 2016 season.
SS/2B Tyler Wade
Wade finished 2015 at the highest level of the system of anyone on this list. A high contact, line-drive type hitter, Wade was promoted for a 29-game stint with the Double-A Trenton Thunder after he slashed .280/.349/.353 with High-A Tampa. Wade did play some second base in the Arizona Fall League this year, as well as with Charleston in 2014, and has shown the ability to handle both positions thanks to his range and quick hands. After hitting just .204 with a .224 OBP in 113 Double-A at-bats, expect the 21-year-old to return to Trenton for the majority of 2016.
SS Jorge Mateo
BA recently ranked Mateo as the top prospect in the Yankees' system. Whether or not you agree with that ranking, there's no denying Mateo has one of the best skill sets in the system. His prolific speed is already well known after leading baseball with 82 steals in 99 attempts last year, but he also rates a solid, perhaps above average hitter. According to MLB.com, Mateo "...is not just a slappy hitter, as he has the wiry strength to drive balls into the gaps. He needs to make more consistent contact but shows a willingness to draw walks."
He hit well in a 21-game stint with the Tampa Yankees at the end of the season, and that is where the 20-year-old will likely begin 2016. He was promoted to Tampa after 96 games with Charleston, so we may seem a similar promotion schedule this year, which would allow him to end the season in Double-A.
SS Hoy Jun Park
Park signed with the Yankees as a part of the team's huge 2014 international free agent spending spree, and he made his pro debut in 2015 with the rookie level Pulaski Yankees. Listed at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, the lefty hitter slashed .239/.351/.383.
Still just 19, Park definitely has room to grow, as this blurb from MLB.com points out:
"The early returns on Park's bat have been encouraging. He has held his own against older and more advanced pitchers in the Appy [Appalachian] League, showing he can catch up to good fastballs. He's not very big or strong, yet displays the ability to drive the ball and should have at least gap power."
Look for Park to spend at least the next couple seasons in the lowest levels of the Yankees' system (perhaps Charleston in 2016) as he further matures physically.
SS Wilkerman Garcia
Garcia is yet another of the Yankees' 2014 international signees. Across two levels in his age-17 season (which was his first as a pro), the switch-hitter out of Venezuela hit .299/.414/.362 with 18 RBI and 24 walks in 39 games. Here is what BA said about Garcia last September:
"He's a switch-hitter with a sound hitting approach from both sides, using all fields and showing good patience and bat-to-ball skills. While scouts from other clubs felt Garcia would fit better at second or third base, the Yankees were convicted he could play shortstop. He's backed up their confidence by showing a plus arm, good hands and footwork along with a knack for slowing the game down."
Garcia only had 150 plate appearances in those 37 games with the Gulf Coast Yankees, and he doesn't turn 18 until April 1, so there's absolutely no need to rush the young shortstop. He likely will start the season with Pulaski or the GCL Yankees, and if he continues to show promise with at the dish, he likely at least reach short-season A Staten Island.
SS/2B Abiatal Avelino
MLB.com lists Avelino as the team's 21st best prospect, saying he "has the upside of a big league regular." The 20-year-old played most of 2015 with the High-A Tampa Yankees, hitting .252/.309/.321 in 405 at-bats with 38 steals. MLB.com's writeup on the right-handed hitter says that at this point, his defense is ahead of his offense, with his arm and fielding skills rated as a 65 and 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale, respectively. Another turn with Tampa to start the season might be in his best interest, especially since he still just 20, with a promotion to Double-A possibly in the cards if his line-drive approach produces better results.
SS Kyle Holder
Holder made his pro debut after being drafted out of the University of San Diego in 2015. Rated as the best defender regardless of position entering the draft, Holder's development at the plate over the next couple seasons will dictate how quickly he moves through the system. The 21-year old hit just .213/.273/.253 in 250 plate appearances with short season Staten Island. Since they'll probably want him in full season ball, expect him to move up to Charleston, but he certainly could be held back in Staten Island as well.
The Yankees have an incredible eight farm teams in the States (they also have two teams in the Dominican Summer League), which gives them options when choosing where to assign players and when to promote them. The potential of each of these names makes them interesting to watch, especially those below High-A, and we should know by the end of this season whether or not players such as Holder, Garcia, and Avelino should be taken seriously as legitimate prospects.