You know it’s a slow offseason when the biggest news is a prospect list. Boring offseason aside, this is a pretty interesting list we have this year, mostly because the Yankees look very well-positioned in it, and with some fascinating debates to be had.
Tyler Norton laid out the list yesterday, but the specific rankings bear repeating:
- 6th: Gleyber Torres
- 38th: Estevan Florial
- 41st: Justus Sheffield
- 59th: Miguel Andujar
- 77th: Al Abreu
- 81st: Chance Adams
There were also some notable former Yankees, and I’ll get to them later:
- 64th: Jorge Mateo
- 87th: Jorge Guzman
- 88th: Dustin Fowler
Six Yankees, and nine total organizational players, is really fantastic. Consider the fact that Clint Frazier does not count because he just graduated, combined with the former top prospects Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, and Dellin Betances already on the team.
This goes back to a theme I have talked about in the past, which is extending the life of the rebuild. If the aforementioned crop graduated and they were to ride them, they would probably be fine for a half-decade. They could supplement with trades, a few high profile free agent signings, and some savvy minor league and waiver wire selections, and they could still be a yearly contender.
To compound that rebuild success with even more top 100 talent, though, is to essentially extend that window a bit further, and give even more room for potentially savvy moves and future big signings to have an even bigger effect.
Consider some research from Beyond The Box Score, where Chris St. John wrote about the success of Baseball America top prospects:
It’s incredibly formulaic, which prospects by no means are, but just do some math and plug in the numbers into that equation. This means the top prospects have a total average career WAR of 63.17 (!) wins, which is ludicrous. It also means they will forgo an average of 15.29 wins to acquire two and a half years of Sonny Gray and Giancarlo Stanton. I’ll take that.
Here’s the more subjective take: Brian Cashman’s evaluation of his prospects, in terms of direction of value, is spot-on. Consider who they traded: Blake Rutherford and James Kaprielian, who are no longer on the list, and Mateo, Guzman, and Fowler, who round out the back-half of the list.
Now consider who they kept: Andujar comes from off the list to 59th overall, and Florial skyrockets to between Alex Verdugo and Brendan McKay. Both were floated as possible trade bait, either for Sonny Gray or Gerrit Cole, and Cashman sat on them as they continued to flourish. Direction sometimes matter more than anything, either for trades or just understanding the trajectory of a prospect.
Here’s one more interesting tidbit. Joel Sherman had this to say about the list overall:
what's interesting to me: 1. Acuna #Braves over Ohtani #Angels for No. 1. 2. Jimenez #Whitesox ahead of Torres #Yankees, NYY could have had either for Chapman and took Torres. 3. Despite lots of recent trades NYY still have 6 in top 100, #Mets have 1. https://t.co/oSNfqGyiDR— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) January 22, 2018
Number two on that list is actually a fascinating thought experiment. One could imagine an alternate reality where Eloy Jimenez is the haul for Aroldis Chapman, and the roster could look drastically different. Does that make the infield picture look different knowing there is no high-floor prospect like Torres? Do the Yankees balk at a potential Stanton, or trade Brett Gardner, knowing they would have a power-hitting corner outfielder in the wings?
One of the more interesting aspects of prospect lists is what could have been as well as what is, and the Yankees orienting their farm system with a power-hitter at the top, as opposed to a more well-rounded Torres who had a knock for an injury, is an interesting debate to have.
Overall the lesson from here is that the Yankees are in really, really good shape right now. Farm systems can dry up over night, but the organization has managed to keep the pipeline flowing for another year, and with the team seemingly close to peak performance. With at least Torres and Adams on the horizon, it could be yet another fun year for watching the farm’s contributions to the Bronx.