Pinstripe Alley has already ranked our Top 20 Prospects for 2016 with Aaron Judge leading all Baby Bombers when it comes to hype. This time, Jason, Andrew, and I decided to look at a couple of guys who are flying a bit under the radar. These prospects have something that makes us think they could be looking at a big season in 2016.
There are always guys who don't quite have what it takes to land themselves on all of the prospect lists that are released ahead of spring training, but some of them seem poised for a real breakout season. We have tried to identify six of them below.
Kolton Mahoney, SP: The former BYU star dominated short season competition while working primarily as a starter in his first professional season. He throws four pitches, can reach into the mid-90s, and has been able to throw strikes so far. Short Season numbers can obviously only be taken with a grain of salt, but he could show up on prospect radars if he continues to excel in full-season.
Thairo Estrada, 2B/SS: MLB.com ranks him 28th in the organization, but that's really more of a formality after Rookie Davis and Eric Jagielo were traded. Estrada spent his first full year at Staten Island last year, improving his power and learning to play second base to give way to Kyle Holder. He's buried behind more prominent prospects, but he should gain more power as he matures, and the versatility can only help.
Isiah Gilliam, OF: The Yankees weren't expected to sign the 20th round pick out of JuCo powerhouse Chipola College. Fortunately, Gilliam agreed to a deal and promptly hit .296/.359/.415 in 42 GCL games. A 19-year-old switch-hitter who impressed scouts with his power, Gilliam seems poised to begin the year in Charleston. Don't be surprised if he feasts on low-minors pitching.
Giovanny Gallegos, RP: Signed out of Mexico in November 2010, Gallegos needed to fully recover from a knee injury and find his niche as a reliever before making an impact. At age 23 in 2015, the righty finally did that, pitching to a 1.71 ERA with a 0.794 WHIP and 9.1 K/9 over 35 games, mostly in High-A Tampa. There are certainly several relievers ahead of him on the depth chart, but if his 92-94 mph fastball helps keep his strikeouts up and walks down, then he can remain in the picture.
Donny Sands, 3B: The Yankees have nothing in the way of exciting third base prospects in the upper levels of the minor leagues, but Sands, an 8th round draft pick from last summer, could be the answer. He has hit well in his short time since the Yankees selected him out of Salpointe Catholic with a .309/.395/.361 line in 55 games. He made it up to Charleston last season despite being a high school draft pick, bypassing Staten Island entirely. Even better, Sands managed to hold his own at a more advanced level. The power isn't there yet, but Sands is worth keeping an eye on as he begins his first full season as a professional.
Jhalan Jackson, OF: Jackson had a huge season at Florida Southern before the Yankees grabbed him with their seventh round pick last season. It's not difficult to see what they saw in him after he batted .417 with 20 home runs in just 45 games. The power is for real, but he isn't a guy who can only bring dingers to the table. He has the ability to be a fast mover when it comes to advancing through the system and he's a very good outfielder to support his strong bat. The numbers from his first half-season as a pro may not jump off the page, but the potential is there for Jackson to really break out in 2016.
Which underrated players in the Yankee system do you believe are on the verge of breaking out?