The beginning of the year is the time for everyone to release their top prospect lists, and Gary Sanchez is sure to be a popular name to lead the crop of Yankee minor leaguers this time around. Sanchez grabbed the top spot in Minor League Ball's Top 20 list, edging out Jorge Mateo at #2. Though the Yankees do not have any Grade A prospects by John Sickels' estimation, a B ranking means that the player should be a successful major league player even if they aren't quite a star.
Now that Greg Bird and Luis Severino have graduated from the prospect ranks, Sanchez is getting quite a bit of love following his strong 2015 season between Double-A, Triple-A, and the Arizona Fall League. He represents, for now, the most major league-ready of any Yankees prospect, and could find himself on the Opening Day roster as the backup catcher with a strong showing at spring training. It wasn't too long ago that Sanchez's prospect status was nearly left for dead with questions about his attitude and ability to stay behind the plate. Improvement defensively and a bounce back season with the bat have turned things around for the 23-year-old.
Mateo will be another popular pick for top Yankees prospect this season after running wild for 82 stolen bases in 2015. The Yankees were unwilling to move Mateo in a possible Craig Kimbrel deal last year, and the team could very well view him as their shortstop of the future. He's only 20 years old, and is expected to be able to stay at shortstop when so many prospects have to find a home elsewhere on the diamond. It's easy to see why the Yankees would be reluctant to part with someone with Mateo's skills, and it's also possible that he is viewed as the best prospect the system has to offer heading into 2016.
It's a little strange to see Aaron Judge outside the top could spots, but he comes in at #3 on Minor League Ball's list. Judge didn't adjust to Triple-A pitching seamlessly, running into real trouble with identifying breaking pitches at the highest level of the minors. Everyone is in love with the potential that Judge has, and he would certainly be a name that other GMs would ask about in any trade proposal, but he didn't have the very strong season that Sanchez or Mateo had which accounts for his comparatively low ranking. The good news is that Judge has time to right the ship in Triple-A to begin the 2016 season, and could still find himself in line to take over the right field job in the Bronx in 2017.
Newcomer James Kaprielian made it to #4 on Sickels' list after just being drafted last June. The UCLA standout was seen as a fast mover in the draft, and could potentially make his MLB debut as early as this season. His fastball seemed to improve over his college velocity once he got to Staten Island, and his polish gives him the ability to jump through levels of the minors with relative ease if everything goes well. The Yankee system is not so great when it comes to pitching, so it's nice that they at least have Kaprielian this high on a prospect list to look forward to.
Rounding out the top five is 21-year-old Domingo Acevedo. Regularly hitting triple digits on the radar gun is going to get you noticed, and Acevedo put up the other statistics in 2015 to really turn heads. He mowed down the New York-Penn League with a sub-2.00 ERA. Sickels notes that there are questions about what his long-term role will be. If his command improves and his breaking ball continues to develop, Acevedo has the stuff to be an ace. Otherwise, he could be ticketed for the bullpen.
You can check out the rest of the list by clicking here. Do you agree with Sickels' rankings of the system?