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2016 Yankees Roster Report Card: The vaunted 2014 IFA class

There was a ton of talent in the haul the Yankees brought in two years ago.

Miguel Flames, naturally

Back in 2014, the Yankees decided to go all-out on the international free agent market. They exceeded the cap and pretty much just signed as many talented teenagers as they could and accepted the penalty, which limited their IFA spending in 2015 and 2016. It was a sensible strategy previously used by the Cubs and Rangers; Gleyber Torres was brought into the Cubs’ organization during their efforts.

So it’s time to check in on that 2014 class after the end-of-2015 update. Most of the players the Yankees signed are still in the low minors and developmentally have a long way to go. Keep in mind that the stat lines do not even come close to telling the whole story about where these players are in terms of progress, particularly down in Rookie ball and the Dominican Summer League.

There is too much noise outside the numbers, so I’m abandoning the letter grade approach for these players and simply going with a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” rating. Also note that Wilkerman Garcia was evaluated separately because he was already on several organizational top tens before the season.

To keep this post from being too long, it was mostly to those who signed bonuses of at least $1 million during the signing period. There were some other big names in there, like Brayan Emery and Antonio Arias, as well as some under-the-radar ones like Jason Lopez and Freicer Perez, who garnered more attention from analysts like Jim Callis and Keith Law at a later time. (Check out MLB.com’s write-up on Perez too, since he’s a top 30 prospect).

Without further ado:

Miguel Flames

DOB: September 14, 1997 (19)

2016 Statistics: 47 G, .263/.310/.338, 7 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 97 wRC+ (GCL)

Thumbs down

This was Miggy Flames’ first exposure to stateside ball after hitting .317/.398/.454 in the Dominican Summer League (DSL) in 2015. There was some hope that he could catch when the Yankees signed him, but most of his time in the field has come at first base since then. While Rookie league fielding stats carry even less weight than hitting, for what it’s worth, Flames did only commit one error at first in 297 chances. A better triple slash would have been nice, and since power is likely going to have to be a major part of his game if he makes it, he gets a thumbs down for now.

Jonathan Amundaray

DOB: May 11, 1998 (18)

2016 Statistics: 29 G, .269/.321/.394, 7 2B, 2 HR, 112 wRC+ (DSL)

Thumbs up

An injury-shortened 2015 meant that the youngest member of the 2014 IFA class would return to the DSL in 2016. Amundaray had a good showing though, demonstrating all-around talent with a nice skillset that should translate well when he makes his stateside debut next year. He missed another month of play in 2016 though, so his health will have to be closely watched, too.

Estevan Florial

DOB: November 25, 1997 (18)

2016 Statistics: 60 G, .225/.315/.364, 10 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 92 wRC+ (APP)

Thumbs up

Florial was not originally included in the rest of the 2014 IFA class’s pantheon. He was a much later signing, not joining the Yankees until March 2015 (still in the 2014-15 window) due to complications regarding his birth certificate. The Yankees have said that otherwise they would have given him a comparable bonus, and analysts would have included him with the other elite names. Once he did sign though, it became evident that the kid was something special, so much so that one baseball executive made the nearly unprecedented move to ask for Florial in a trade before he had even played an inning of Rookie ball.

Most of Florial’s time in 2016 was spent in the slightly more advanced Appalachian League with Pulaski, though he did make cameos in Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa—not bad for an 18-year-old. The center fielder showed some nice pop, even homering in Charleston, which is no easy feat. Once a forgotten man, Florial could very well turn out to be the hidden gem of this class.

Nelson Gomez

DOB: October 8, 1997 (19)

2016 Statistics: 54 G, .194/.249/.403, 11 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 92 wRC+ (GCL)

Thumbs up

Gomez was just about as close to a thumbs down as one could imagine because if it wasn’t for one major factor, it would have been a step down. The third baseman had a .785 OPS in the DSL in 2015 and even displayed a good eye at the plate. In 2016 though, his batting average sunk below .200 and he walked in just 3.8% of his appearances. However, after leading the DSL in homers last year with 11, he was second in the GCL with nine. Gomez managed to slug over .400 despite his other stats. Higher levels will be tougher to handle and it’s unclear if he’ll stay at third, but at least the power carried over stateside. He’s working on improving his game in the instructional league anyway.

Juan De Leon

DOB: September 13, 1997 (19)

2016 Statistics: 12 G, .212/.308/.364, 2 2B, 1 HR, 103 wRC+ (GCL)

Thumbs down

De Leon had a lot of buzz when he was signed, and when he was still at FanGraphs before joining the Braves, Kiley McDaniel called him his “favorite prospect” of the Yankees’ 2014 additions. He seemed okay last year, but then in his first taste of Rookie ball this year, he was limited to just 12 games. The outfielder played for about two weeks before an unknown injury knocked him out for a little over a month and a half, sending his 2016 into disarray, though he did return at the end of August. So the Yankees will have to effectively hit the refresh button on De Leon and hope he stays healthy in 2017 back in the GCL, or perhaps the Appy League.

Dermis Garcia

DOB: January 7, 1998 (18)

2016 Statistics: 57 G, .206/.326/.454, 9 2B, 13 HR, 114 wRC+ (APP)

Thumbs up

Garcia’s case is somewhat like the one of Gomez, except at a higher level and a slightly younger age. Already in Pulaski, the third baseman was terrific, finishing second in the Appy League in homers with 13, albeit while also not producing a ton of contact. He struck out in a little over a third of his plate appearances, though unlike Gomez he had the plate discipline to walk 13.9% of the time and keep his OBP respectable. Garcia’s on the right track anyway, so in the meantime until his likely move up to Charleston or Staten Island, enjoy footage of him literally displaying “light tower power.”

Hoy Jun Park

DOB: April 7, 1996 (20)

2016 Statistics: 116 G, .225/.336/.329, 15 2B, 12 3B, 2 HR, 97 wRC+ (Low-A)

Thumbs down

A native of South Korea, Park was the oldest member of the 2014 class and thus moved at a quicker pace than the rest of his fellow international signings. He debuted in Pulaski, hit .239/.351/.383 with 109 wRC+, and was profiled by Baseball America. After all that, his 2016 fell a little flat up in Charleston. He did lead the Sally League with 12 triples and stole 32 bases as well, but the rest of his offensive output was only adequate, even at shortstop.

Park’s shakiness wasn’t a result of the home park either, as he struggled on the road and also didn’t improve much in the second half. The up-the-middle positions in the Yankees’ system is pretty crowded right now, and while Park was fine, he didn’t do much to stand out. Since he saw some time at second too, perhaps he makes it to The Show one day, but it might just be in a bench role. Triple are cool at least!

Diego Castillo

DOB: October 28, 1997 (19)

2016 Statistics: 44 G, .267/.332/.327, 7 2B, 1 HR, 102 wRC+ (GCL)

Thumbs up

Add another shortstop prospect to the mix, though one who signed for a little below $1 million. The birthday boy’s 130 wRC+ in the DSL did not quite translate in Rookie ball, but it was fine overall. He is a strong defender up the middle anyway, so like Kyle Holder a couple rungs above him, that will be his calling card if he makes it to the majors. That makes up for a so-so bat this year to receive a passing grade.