The overall strength of the Yankees’ farm system has made this rebuild about as smooth a process as possible. In recent seasons, hitters dominated the top prospect lists, but that appears to be changing. The success of the Yankees’ hitting prospects has allowed them to make a more concerted effort to bolster their pitching ranks, and it shows. Even without Jorge Guzman, who is expected to head out in the trade for Giancarlo Stanton, the strength of the team’s farm system is now on the mound, and it could pay dividends for years to come.
The Yankees’ lineup looks pretty set in stone for 2018. They are young and will get younger once Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar take over full-time positions next season. The bat-first farm system of the last few years is largely to thank for this, and since so many hitters have graduated, pitchers have started to take over.
There are currently 18 pitchers listed in MLB’s top 30 Yankees prospects, compared to last year’s 13. Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB did not have a consensus top-five pitcher in the farm system last year. This season, all three sites put both Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams in their end-of-year top five. Plus, Baseball Prospectus ranked Albert Abreu fifth. Domingo Acevedo, Domingo German, Luis Medina, and Frecier Perez each made a top ten list.
The shift towards more pitching is at one level a product of hitters graduating to the big leagues or moving to other teams. Clint Frazier, Jorge Mateo, Aaron Judge, and Blake Rutherford all moved off the Yankees’ top prospect lists in the last year. However, it is also a result of the Yankees making a concerted effort to bring in more pitching. The Andrew Miller and Brian McCann trades both netted the the team top arms. The Yankees also signed 20 players from the 2017 MLB Draft, and 15 were pitchers.
Baseball America says the Yankees’ farm system is trending down. This, however, is as expected with a successful rebuild and so much talent having moved elsewhere. Essentially, every Yankees pitching prospect can dial up their fastballs to triple digits. Sheffield and Adams are both upper-level, legitimate top 100 prospects. Sheffield in particular had a strong stint in the Arizona Fall League, where at least one scout said he “looked like a No. 1.”
Adams finished the year at Triple-A. According to Jared Diamond, “Hal Steinbrenner singled out Chance Adams as one of the young players the Yankees are excited about potentially seeing in the major leagues in 2018.” Albert Abreu and Domingo Acevedo both have the stuff to be successful starters, and all four could become impact bullpen arms if starting doesn’t work. Thus, having a “down” system is of little consequence in this case.
Of course, pitchers are volatile, and not all of these guys are going to make it, but having so many lottery tickets always helps your chance at winning. The Yankees were just one win away from going to the World Series last year, they aren’t losing any impact talent, and they just added Giancarlo Stanton. At this point, the Bombers are back in full-on contention mode, and the fact that their farm system is now heavy on pitchers is a great thing. If the can get one of their lottery tickets to pay off, it could be the difference between Game 7 of the ALCS and Game 1 of the World Series.