Feature Photo: Gleyber Torres, SS, Yankees
By Dave DeFreitas, Nick J. Faleris and Mark Shreve
Operating under a different set of standards from the rest of baseball, the Yankees are in the final stages of one of the more impressive rebuilding processes in recent memory. Long blessed with unmatched financial resources, but often short on controllable, impact, home-grown players, the organization has managed to quickly restock its once-barren minor league shelves with premium talent, while appeasing their fan base and keeping “competitive” at the major league level. The 2017 season, however, should bring a whole new set of expectations, as the ‘Evil Empire’ starts to graduate a number of their impact prospects to the big leagues.
CREAM OF THE CROP
The Tools: 60 hit; 50 power; 55 arm; 55 glove – Torres is close to a legit five-tool prospect, with the potential of the hit tool being at the top the list. Torres has an easy stroke with feel for the barrel, and while he does have a good deal of pre-pitch noise in the hands, he has above-average bat speed and excellent balance that helps him deliver everything on time. He uses the whole field well, and while he doesn’t project to be a big-time power threat, he can do damage, and the power should grow into enough pop to leave the yard to the opposite field. He has more than enough in the hands department to stick at shortstop, but the foot speed, while efficient, doesn’t translate to extended range. The arm is above average, with an easy arm action, and with strength from angles.
The Profile: The Torres hype-train started at the trade deadline last year when the Cubs sent him to the Yanks for Aroldis Chapman (LHP, Yankees), and it then doubled down when he hit .407 with three bombs and was named MVP of the Arizona Fall League. Torres has the tools to be an impact player in the middle of the field, and to be a productive bat towards the top of the lineup. He doesn’t have a ton of physical projection, but he already has significant present strength and he should see some of his doubles start to leave the yard as he matures. It is tough to poke too many holes in what the 20-year-old prospect’s future looks like in pinstripes, but you could point to the 21% strikeout rate that he’s posted the past two seasons and say that is a bit high for a guy who projects to only have an ISO in the .150-to-.160 range. He doesn’t expand the zone too much, but he can get overly aggressive when he gets down in the count early, which leads to the mildly inflated strikeout rates.
He did kick the ball around a bit last year, with 23 errors in 114 games at the six-spot. While his actions are smooth and easy, and he has an excellent game clock, he can get a little bit loose at times, and he doesn’t have that extra gear with his actions that you see from other quick-twitch guys like Andrelton Simmons (SS, Angels). That all said, the ingredients are there for him to adjust as he advances. If Torres can continue to build on his solid approach and make more contact with two strikes, he stands to be an excellent two-hole type hitter with a ceiling comparable to that of Martin Prado (2B/3B, Marlins).
The Tools: 60 power; 50 hit; 55 run; 55 arm; 55 glove – Frazier’s skillset is anchored by elite bat speed that helps to generate his easy double-plus raw, and plus playable, power. Utilizing a swing that has tightened some over his pro development, the former Georgia prep product shows the bat-to-ball ability and potential for damage required to project an average hit tool at maturity, as well. He boasts above-average speed both in the field and on the bases, and he can clock the occasional plus home-to-first times out of the box. Defensively, Frazier shows above-average arm strength that plays up the middle and in right field, and has developed into a solid average defender on the grass.
The Profile: An electric talent out of Loganville High School (Loganville, GA), Frazier earned a $3.5 million signing bonus from the Indians as the fifth overall selection in the 2013 draft. He made his way to the Yankees at the trade deadline last July as part of the prospect haul that delivered Andrew Miller (LHP, Indians) to the Tribe, logging a month’s worth of games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Though Frazier’s production at the end of 2016 left something to be desired – a .228/.278/.396 slash line and a 28% strikeout rate over his 25 games with the club – the then-21-year-old’s impactful tools were apparent.
Frazier’s calling card is his elite bat speed, generated from quick wrists and excellent strength through his core and trunk. He has worked to shorten his path to contact through his three-plus years of pro development, with his elite bat speed serving as a capable bridge between some additional length in his load and the point of impact. His aggressiveness and belief in his ability to hit anything hurled his way can lead him to expand the zone – particularly against quality breaking stuff early in the count. The first half of 2016 saw him rein in some of that aggressiveness at Double-A Akron, with his strikeout rate dropping down to 21%, but he regressed post-trade at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. While he’s unlikely to win any batting titles, Frazier has shown he is capable of putting together quality at-bats and working walks, and the physical tools are certainly there for him to develop into at least an average hitter. He can drive the ball out to all fields with ease and could see a substantial jump in his in-game power production with just moderate improvement in the quality of pitches he hits. His above-average speed should aid him in racking up doubles to help supplement his over-the-fence pop.
Defensively, Frazier has the tools of a center fielder, including above-average speed, above-average arm strength, and athleticism to finish the tough play at the edges of his range. To the eye, his routes aren’t always particularly efficient and he may ultimately fit better in an outfield corner where he could eventually grow into an above-average defender thanks to his physical tools and overall feel. He should start 2017 back in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and will likely spend time in the Bronx before the summer is out. He projects as a future middle-of-the-order bat for the Yankees, and he could be competing for an everyday spot in the lineup by next spring.
The Tools: 60 hit; 55 power; 55 glove; 50 arm – One of the top overall high school bats in the 2016 MLB Draft class, Rutherford shows a clean stroke designed to produce hard line drive contact to all fields. As he continues to add strength and learns to elevate the ball more regularly, his power totals – both over-the-fence and to the gaps – should blossom into above-average production. He’s a good athlete who moves well both in the field and on the bases, and while he’ll probably lose a step or two as the body fills out, he should settle in as a solid fringe-average runner at maturity. He shows good instincts on the grass and should be an above-average defender with solid-average arm strength.
The Profile: The Yankees were thrilled to find Rutherford available in the back half of the first round of last year’s MLB Draft, popping him with the 18th overall selection and signing him to a well over-slot signing bonus of $3.2 million. The Chaminade Prep (West Hills, CA) product broke out quickly in his debut, slashing .382/.440/.618 for the Rookie Pulaski Yankees in the Appalachian League, regularly producing loud contact and standing out for his heady baserunning and advanced approach to the game. His swing is geared to contact, with the barrel sticking in the hit zone for an extended period of time, and his above-average bat speed allows him to do damage at all contact points across the quadrants and at the front and back of the hit zone. Already capable of driving the opposite-field gap with authority, Rutherford should start clearing the fence with regularity as his body matures, and as he learns which pitches he can elevate and drive more easily.
The young outfielder moves well enough and has an advanced enough feel to handle center field at present, showing solid breaks and reads off the bat to go with his good athleticism. As the core and trunk continue to thicken, however, it’s possible the fringy foot speed ultimately lands him in a corner-outfield spot, where the potential plus hit tool and above-average pop should easily play. He’s not much of a basestealer, but is a quality baserunner overall who sees the field well and excels at identifying opportunities to stretch an extra base. He should be an asset on the bases at maturity, allowing him to project towards the top of the order – perhaps in the two-hole – when all is said and done.
Rutherford is ready to make the jump to Class A ball, and he could move quickly up the ranks thanks to his advanced approach and feel for the game. He projects as a potential impact bat who could additionally provide positive value in the field and on the bases, despite lacking impact tools in those facets of his game.
The Tools: 65 power; 60 arm; 50 glove; 50 run – The plus to double-plus power is the obvious carry tool for the big right field prospect. Judge has long levers, but the stroke stays relatively compact for someone as big as he is. The swing works uphill a bit, but he creates tremendous backspin carry and the elite raw power gives Judge the ability to drive the ball out to any part of the ballpark. There is a good deal of swing and miss, and while he should get better as the approach matures, the hit tool will remain below average. In the field, Judge moves extremely well for his size, and while he can’t handle center field, he has the tools and body control to be at least average on the corner. His plus arm strength should make him the idea fit in right field. He’s just an average runner now and will likely lose a step as the body matures.
The Profile: Taken in the first round of the 2013 MLB Draft as compensation for the Yankees losing second baseman Robinson Cano to the Mariners via free agency, Judge’s raw power has always impressed with the main concern being whether or not he would make enough contact for the power to translate. While that remains the case, Judge has shown impressive athleticism as a pro and has seen the hit tool develop quicker than some had predicted. The swing is fairly easy and smooth, and while he looks to get his big arms extended, he is quick enough to pull his hands in and get to the ball on the inner half. That said, he tends to expand the zone with two strikes, and was easy to pitch to in his debut in 2016.
Judge has shown decent ability to take walks at Triple-A, but until he does a better job commanding the strike zone at the big league level, he runs the risk of becoming a more one-dimensional big-power bat, ala Chris Carter (1B/DH, Yankees). However, given how good of an athlete this kid is, Judge should be able to adjust, develop some plate discipline, and make enough contact to eventually see the strength and bat speed translate to plus game power with a batting average in the .240-.250 range. The offensive profile compares to that of Khris Davis (OF, Athletics), but Judge is a superior defender with the tools to be average, maybe even a tick above, in right field.
The Tools: 70 fastball; 60 slider; 55 curveball; 50 changeup; 55 control – Kaprielian’s big fastball not only sits in the mid-to-upper 90s, but it carries with it significant heft that should allow him to consistently show hitters the top half of the baseball. Nothing he throws is straight and the power sink combined with the occasional hard cut give him the makings of a legitimate two-way pitch. He has feel to add and subtract from a plus slider, which gets sharp 3/4 ’s break and sits in the mid-to-upper 80s, touching 91 mph at times. He can use it in the zone, but it is a true out pitch and something that he can use versus both righties and lefties. His curveball – the better of his two breaking balls at UCLA – is still at least an average offering, and will draw above-average to plus grades from evaluators. It serves as a nice change of pace from the hard/hard fastball/slider combo and can be effective both in and out of the zone. The changeup is still a bit inconsistent, but has decent velo separation at 86-to-88 mph and he gets some gradual circle fade. He doesn’t have great feel for the pitch presently, but he has good arm speed with it, and it’s not a stretch to see it eventually getting to average.
The Profile: There has been some debate about whether or not Kaprielian belongs in the rotation, or as a power arm at the back-end of the bullpen. There is no questioning the double-plus stuff and the fact that he has above-average control – he gets excellent late life and the bowling-ball nature of his fastball make him a highly-effective ground ball guy with swing-and miss stuff on the side. He has had limited pro innings to this point after being taken in the first round in the 2015 MLB Draft due to an elbow issue that shut him down early last season – however in the 29 1/3 innings he has thrown since signing, he’s posted a 3.00 GO:AO ratio to go along with 11 and 12 SO/9 in 2015 and 2016 respectively – not to mention 8.67 SO/9 in 18 AFL innings this fall. The rub has more to do with the mechanics and the effort in his delivery, and how he will hold up over 200-plus innings in a major league rotation. In addition, while he doesn’t walk many, the command in the zone can come and go, leading to his share of hard contact.
Kaprielian is a very good athlete, however, so it isn’t unreasonable to think that he will be able to smooth things out as he develops. Should he be able to do that, and develop the changeup to keep hitters off of the hard/hard profile, it becomes easy to see him turning over lineups and impacting the middle of the rotation – much like what we saw from Kevin Brown (RHP, MLB 1986-2005, multiple teams).
The Tools: 80 run; 60 arm; 55 glove; 50 hit – Mateo is an elite runner, showing 80-grade speed down the line, and he leverages it well on the bases – both on balls in play and via stolen bases. He shows solid feel for the barrel and the potential for an average hit tool but is overly aggressive for someone with his speed and lack of impact strength, drawing too few walks and limiting his ability to take advantage of his legs. He has good hands and the arm strength to handle the left side of the infield, but can get lax in his actions at times, and can have trouble slowing the game down at shortstop. He could fit well as an above-average defender at second base where his arm strength and impressive range could be an asset.
The Profile: Mateo had his share of ups and downs in 2016, starting strong with a .299/.364/.485 slash line through his first two months at High A Tampa, before running into issues both on and off the field. In the box, Mateo’s aggressive approach caught up with him against Florida State League arms, as opposing staffs learned they didn’t need to throw strikes in order to draw swings. Mateo failed to adjust, leading to a reduction in walks and an increase in both strikeouts and poor contact. At the same time, ran into disciplinary issues that culminated in a two-week suspension in early July.
Mateo has all of the tools to grow into an impact leadoff hitter, including elite speed and good barrel awareness. In order to reach that upside, however, he’ll need to overhaul his approach. Considering his ability to impact the game on the bases, Mateo places far too little emphasis on working his way on base via walks, and his aggressive approach leads to softer contact than he should be generating considering his wirey strength and bat speed. Still just 21 years old, there is time for Mateo to right the ship, but it will require dedication to a more disciplined approach, and a willingness to play to his strengths. If he can get on base with more regularity, his speed could produce 50-plus stolen bases a year to go with plenty of extra bases, first-to-third sprints, and runs scored from first and second base.
On the dirt, Mateo shows quick-twitch actions, soft hands and plus arm strength, but can often get lackadaisical, leading to unforced missteps. Additionally, he appears to have some difficulty slowing the game down out of the six-spot, with his actions and pacing not always synced-up with the pace of play. He could be a better fit at second base, where there is a little more margin for error, and where his plus arm and impressive range could produce above-average overall defense. He’ll jump up to Double-A Trenton at some point in 2017, where the Yankees will hope to see a more focused approach to the game. He has the upside of a first-division regular who can impact the game in the field and also be a catalyst at the top of the lineup and on the bases.
ON THE HORIZON
Quick Hit: Seen as the number two piece in the Andrew Miller (LHP, Indians) trade last summer, Sheffield projects to have at least two above-average pitches with the 60-grade fastball and 55-grade slider, and he could get to three if the circle changeup comes around. Sheffield sits in the low-to-mid 90s with the heater that, while fairly straight and lacking sink, will get some flat run and ride up in the zone. He has some feel for the slider and likes to use it to the back foot versus righties> He does have the ability to dial-up some bite, but the majority have only average depth. The changeup will show some hard dive, but the execution and feel are inconsistent, and he’ll shy away from using it for stretches.
But all that said, this is still a kid with tremendous upside – the arm works very well and is very quick through a high-3/4’s arm slot, and his athletic, compact delivery suggests that he will find some more consistency with his command in the zone. Expect him to continue to miss bats at around a strikeout-per-inning rate as he advances, but he will have to trim the walks, as his fly ball tendencies make for a bad combination with traffic on the bases. Given the similarities in the repertoire and the number-four starter profile, he compares favorably to fellow lefty, Derek Holland (LHP, White Sox). Sheffield looks primed to return to Double-A out of camp, and with a solid showing there, could find himself in the big league rotation discussion as early as 2018.
Jordan Montgomery, LHP, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/50
Ht/Wt: 6’6”/225 B/T: L/L Age (As Of December 1st): 23 yrs, 11m
Player Stats | 2080 Report | 2080 Spotlight | 2080 Video
Quick Hit: Montgomery’s fastball, and his size, have been underappreciated weapons at this stage of his development. He has some variations on the heater with some arm-side run and some sink from his two-seamer at 88-to-92 mph, while sitting 92-to-94 mph with his four-seamer and mixing in a cut version in the 88-to-90 mph range. Pair the velocity and movement with and the already-imposing steep plane generated from the upright delivery and 6-foot-6 frame, and you’re looking at a true plus offering that sets the table well for his secondaries. Montgomery features an above-average, parachuting changeup with turnover fade, and an average 12-to-6 curveball that has tight spin and depth to it at its best – and the case can be made that it’ll get to above average with increased use. Somewhere between the cutter and the curve also sits a part-time slider that has more of a soft cutter look.
Despite some moderate effort to the delivery, he’s been able to repeat his mechanics exceptionally well for a high-waisted kid with long levers. As a finished product, Montgomery should settle in with above-average control as he learns to work off of his heater and better set up the off-speed stuff. He closed out 2016 with an overall repertoire that is very close to major league ready, and if he shows the same form early in the year- probably starting with some continued polishing of the profile at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre – he should be ready to help out in the Bronx fairly soon. All in, he’s an arm to follow in 2017, with the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter, and a floor of a solid back-end of the rotation piece.
Quick Hit: A medium-sized right-hander, Adams has a thick, powerful build with power stuff and the ingredients to turn over lineups if he can make some strides with his command in the zone. The delivery is relatively simple with compact arm action that hides the ball a bit in back. The arm is quick through a high-3/4’s slot and he gets very good late life on a plus heater. He sits in the middle 90s and gets some flat run with the occasional two-seam sink to the arm side, but for the most part the pitch stays on plane. He isn’t a big guy at only 6-feet tall, but he stays tall for his size, and is capable of creating some angle. That said, he tends to work up in the zone at times, and while he gets good ride up in the zone it can lead to more fly ball contact, which could eventually be an issue as he faces more advanced lineups. He hovered around the 1.00 GO:AO ratio in 2016 (1.03 GO:AO ratio at Double-A and 0.83 at High A Tampa), so seeing him trend towards a higher ground ball rate going forward will a key point in his development a starter from here.
The power curveball and the two-plane slider run together a bit and work more as variations of the same pitch, and he tends to lean on the shorter-breaking slider when ahead in the count. The changeup is the fourth pitch and there’s some potential in the offering. He’ll get some fade to the arm side, but it lacks any real hard bottom. The arm works well with it, so it’s not a stretch to think it could become an above-average pitch for him, but he tends to lean on his hard/hard profile and will need to develop the change to give him a little more ‘backwards and forwards’ against big league hitters.
Adams is a strike thrower with a 3.10 BB/9 rate in his 69 2/3 Double-A innings in 2016, but he can get loose in the zone with the fastball. The quality of the stuff has allowed him to overpower minor league bats (5.4 H/9 in 2016), and if he can get to average command the Yanks could be looking at a very good number four starter. The effort in the delivery is a mild concern at this point and the matchup stuff suggests that he would be effective at the back-end of the pen, but it’s too early at this point to consider a switch. Expect Adams to get significant Triple-A innings in 2017, and with a strong showing could work himself into the equation in the Bronx later this summer.
Quick Hit: A fourth-round pick out of high school in 2013, Wade has done much to establish his stock as a legitimate middle-of-the-field prospect in the Yankees’ organization. Wade isn’t an overly big guy, but is a very good athlete with wirey strength and quickness to his actions. He has above-average bat speed and does a good job keeping the ball on the ground to take advantage of his plus run tool. He has not shown much pop as of yet, but he is just 22 years old and still has some room on his frame to add muscle – and with that strength added to his actions, it would not at all be a stretch to see him show up with some gap-to-gap ability in 2017.
The swing is a little better from the left side, where the majority of whatever power he does have right now is housed. He is a good baserunner and made some strides with his base-stealing ability in 2016, upping his success rate to about 75% from 66% in 2015. Defensively, he is an asset on the dirt and has the tools to stick as shortstop, however a loaded depth chart for the Yankees at that spot have forced Wade to move around and not only spend time at second base, but also in center field during his AFL time late last year. If Wade is able to contribute average to above-average defense at shortstop, second base, and center field, his value skyrockets, and it makes him a perfect fit for that ever so valuable super-utility role on a 25-man roster. That said, he will have to hit and show that he can do some damage for all that to materialize, but the ingredients are there and Wade seems primed for a breakout year offensively.
Quick Hit: A plus athlete overall, Fowler has little pre-pitch movement at the plate, with a simple load and quick hands giving him a short path to the ball and above-average bat speed. The swing plane is level, keeping the barrel in the zone and helping him put up high contact rates. He sees the ball well, but brings an ultra-aggressive approach to his at-bats, causing him to expand the zone with regularity, which resulted in just 22 walks in 574 plate appearances last year.
Fowler unlocked some power in 2016 thanks, in part, to incorporating his lower half more, getting some increased hip rotation, and adding some finish to the swing. He was already a threat to drive the ball to both gaps, but the gap pop developed into over-the-fence juice on the pull side last summer, netting him a career-high 12 home runs at Double-A Trenton – all to right and right-center field.
A burner on the bases, his double-plus speed (3.98-to-4.06 second home-to-first times) is even more evident when underway than it is out of the box. He’s aggressive in looking to swipe a bag (25-for-36 last year, 30-for-43 the year prior), he’ll score from first on a double, and he won’t hesitate to test outfield arms and grab the extra base, as his extra-base hit totals (30 doubles, five triples in 2016) suggest. He’s a plus defender who should have no trouble sticking in center field. He gets quick reads off the bat and can play a few steps in thanks to his speed and jumps. He’s got average arm strength with good accuracy.
There’s a lot to like about Fowler, and at this point his development at the plate will determine how quickly he advances through the system. He’ll need show some patience to work deeper into counts and bring up the on-base percentage for him to have value near the top of a lineup. That’s where he would be able to make best use of his speed, and where he could reach his ceiling as an above-average regular. If the hit tool settles in and the power falls short, his floor is still that of a solid down-order bat that will contribute on both sides of the ball at a premium position. He’ll get his first Triple-A at-bats at Scranton/Wilkers-Barre to start the year.
Quick Hit: After showing off the bat at High A Tampa, and then following that up with continued success at Double-A Trenton and then in the AFL, Andjuar has cemented himself as a legit offensive prospect in the Yankees’ system. He has a smooth right-handed stroke that keeps the barrel in the zone, and his advanced feel for the strike zone suggests that the solid contact rates will continue as he advances (2:1 SO/BB ratio over 319 plate appearances at Double-A). The power numbers fell off a bit after the promotion to Double-A (.191 ISO at High A and .088 ISO at Double-A) and stayed low despite some hard contact in the AFL (0.91 ISO). Right now, the power is mostly to the pull side, but he showed the ability to drive the right-center field gap in Arizona and as the wirey strong frame develops, he should grow into average game power with more than his share of doubles. Defensively, the athleticism plays very well, with strong footwork on the corner and a plus arm that plays well when on the move. He did kick the ball around a bit upon being called up the Double-A (15 errors at third base), but at least some of that is from him trying to be too quick and rushing throws. The actions should smooth out as the body matures and he get stronger, and while he isn’t going to be a big over-the-fence bat at third base, he should play above-average defense there with enough damage to contribute across 350-to-400 at-bats per year.
Quick Hit: Enns presents as a fully-formed prospect at this point, with a smooth, repeatable delivery with a quick arm action from a 3/4s slot, and he hides the ball well to create great deception that plays the arsenal up a half-grade across the board. A former 19th-round pick by the Yankees in 2012, his repertoire is a polished four-pitch mix that includes an above-average to plus fastball that he can vary the action on at 89-to-93 mph, and that he has feel to locate to both sides of the plate. He also features an above-average, sharp-biting slider and an average changeup with late dive that generates swing-and-miss. Enns will also mix in a 1-to-7 curveball that he can drop in for strikes when needed to keep hitters off balance.
He lives around the edges of the plate, so while his control numbers took a step back in 2016 (3.70 BB/9, up from 3.1 BB/9 in 2015), he has grown into an above-average command profile, especially with the slider. He regularly induces soft contact and generates swing and miss (8.3 SO/9), and despite a gaudy 0.71 GO:AO ratio, he has managed to keep the ball in the park, allowing just six home runs last year, showing that he has the ability to miss barrels.
After proving he is healthy (following Tommy John surgery in 2014) with a 135-inning 2016 campaign across Double-A and Triple-A, and proving that he has the stuff to turn over lineups consistently at the upper levels, Enns represents a low-risk, moderate-reward profile, and it is getting close to time for the Yankees to see what they have. He’s got the ceiling of an innings-eating number four starter if the control stabilizes at average. His floor would be as a solid swingman, where the deception would play up, and where an uptick in fastball velocity in shorter stints would also play up the secondary offerings, making for a nice impact piece in a middle-relief role out of the pen.
Quick Hit: Hands down a bullpen arm, Feyereisen sports a plus fastball and plus slider that will miss bats if he can throw enough strikes. He has some effort in the mechanics, but stays fairly compact and has very good arm speed through the high-3/4’s slot. He has some size at 6-foot-2, but he has trouble consistently getting out front, and will work up in the zone a lot, an aspect of his game that limits his ability to get ground balls, and forces him to lean heavily on the strike out. The fastball can get up over 95 mph on occasion, but sits more around 94 mph, and while he has life in the zone, the pitch tends to stay on plane and get hittable when he leaves it out over the plate. The slider has the makings of a true out pitch, with 3/4’s depth and bite, generating significant swing and miss. He struck out 78 hitters over 58 1/3 innings in 2016 between the Indians’ and Yankees’ organizations and even though the command is below average, still only gave up 38 hits over that same stretch. Feyereisen isn’t quite a lock for a back-end of the pen spot, but if he can limit the walks, the swing and miss ability will definitely make him a candidate for leverage spots in the big leagues.
Quick Hit: Coming over from the Cubs as part of the Aroldis Chapman (LHP, Yankees) trade last July, McKinney was still rebounding from a rough 2015 that included a significant knee injury (hairline fracture in his right knee) that caused him to miss half of that the year. You can’t discount the impact that sort of thing has when a player is coming back, even after they have returned to the field, so as a result his prospect stock drop a bit in 2016 and it has raised some serious questions about whether or not he will do enough damage with the bat to really impact a 25-man roster.
McKinney isn’t a small guy, but while he has some present strength, there’s not a ton of physical projection left for a 22-year-old prospect. The swing is smooth, but the bat speed is average at best and doesn’t create a ton of carry. He has never been seen as a big-time power hitter, but the bat is the prominent tool in his bag, and after seeing his damage numbers fall off to the tune of an .070 ISO at Double-A prior to the trade and only a .117 ISO after the deal, it puts a lot of pressure on the hit tool alone to carry the profile
He made a lot more hard contact in the years’ prior to the injury, so provided he is fully healthy, he could return to that level in 2017. However, he still will need to have the hit tool and on-base ability be in top form for him to be seen as a regular major league contributor. He is limited to the corners on defense due to the fringe-average run and below-average arm strength – while position profiles have had less meaning over recent years – with teams mixing and matching more often – McKinney still will have to hit in the .280 range, and do damage to the gaps, to have any sort of chance at regular big league playing time.
Albert Abreu, RHP, High A Tampa | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 60/50
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/175 B/T: R/R Age (As Of December 1st): 21 yrs, 2m
Quick Hit: Abreu’s heater is a fringe-double-plus offering that works easily in the mid-to-upper 90s and comes with boring action that keeps hitters working off of the top half of the ball. There’s enough life and velocity to the pitch that he can get away with loose command in the zone and still draw empty swings even when he’s missing his spots. His best secondary is a hard 11-to-5 curveball that can flash plus, but will more consistently play around average due to inconsistent execution. When on, the pitch shows excellent depth and impressive snap, making it a worthy weapon both in and out of the zone. Abreu’s impressive arm speed helps to produce a deceptive slider/changeup combo, as well, each of which play well off the fastball and could be above-average pitches in time with more consistent execution.
Abreu’s raw stuff is not in question – rather, it’s his below-average control and inconsistent execution that has caused a rift between those evaluators who see the raw materials for a future number three starter and those who view the former Astro as capable late-inning contributor. His 5.1 BB/9 in 2016 belied a manageable set of mechanics and loose arm, leaving some to wonder whether Abreu simply lacks the body control and athleticism to hit his checkpoints with regularity. The Yankees will continue to run him out as a starter for the time being, but he’ll need to show an ability to work deeper into games (he averaged under five innings per appearance last year) and more regular execution across his four-pitch mix.
He has the upside of a number three starter thanks to his swing-and-miss stuff and durable build, but likely fits best as a late-inning power arm, where his fastball and curveball could do significant damage in short bursts, and his ground ball rates could serve as an asset in high-leverage situations.
Quick Hit: After transitioning from the bullpen to the rotation during his junior year at UC Santa Barbara and being selected by the Rangers with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, Tate struggled mightily to adjust to life as a starter at the pro ranks. His stuff regressed, with his fastball losing upwards of five mph and his power slider softening and working with less snap. After coming over to the Yankees as part of the package that sent Carlos Beltran (OF, Astros) to Texas, Tate transitioned back into relief work, where his stuff began to show flashes of its previous self. A spin through the Arizona Fall League saw even greater improvements, and by the end of the fall season the former Goucho was back working in the middle 90s with a heavy heater and drawing regular empty swings and soft contact alike.
At his best, Tate works with a plus fastball and above-average to plus slider, creating solid angles and excelling at keeping the ball on the ground. He also shows some feel for a solid-average changeup, though he relies upon it less out of the pen. While the Yankees could certainly entertain the possibility of returning him to a rotation in 2017, there isn’t much in his track record to indicate his stuff will play well over longer outings and he has a chance to move quickly in relief should New York allow him to continue in that role. He has the upside of a quality setup arm or second-division closer, and with a strong performance this year could be poised to help the Yankees by 2018.
Domingo Acevedo, RHP, High A Tampa | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/50
Ht/Wt: 6’7”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 23y 9m
Quick Hit: The big-bodied Acevedo sports one of the best fastballs in the minors, working regularly from 95-to-100 mph with some giddy-up. The heater comes out of a low-3/4’s slot, which can create a tough angle for righties but limits his downhill plane and can render the pitch easy to lift when batters are able to catch up to it. His mid-80s changeup is a quality second offering that does well to keep hitters off balance and comes with good arm speed and pitch plane deception. His slider is a fringe-average offering that can flash solid bite, but it tends to work horizontally while staying on plane with hitters’ swings, and it often backs up on him. The result is a too-hittable spinner that plays more as a soft fastball with cutting action than a truly effective breaking ball.
Though Acevedo’s mechanics are manageable and he averaged five innings per outing in 2016, he has had a number of injury issues throughout his four-year pro career and has yet to show he can handle a full pro pitcher’s workload. That, coupled with his lack of a consistent and effective breaking ball, could ultimately send him to the pen where he could excel as a late-inning option. His fly ball tendencies limit the upside some, but his bat-missing fastball/changeup combo should be enough firepower to tackle advanced bats. He’ll head to Double-A Trenton in 2017 where he will continue to work on his slider while building up his endurance and durability. He profiles best as a setup arm or potential second-division closer, depending on how well he can limit the damage on fly balls in play.
Quick Hit: A six-figure signee from the Yankees’ impressive 2015 International Class, Florial debuted stateside in 2016, logging 60 games with Rookie Pulaski and a handful of at-bats with each of Class A Charleston and High A Tampa. During his Appalachian League run, Florial slashed a modest .225/.315/.364, though he did so as an 18-year-old who regularly flashed the potential for impact thanks to his raw pop, advanced athleticism and plus speed. Florial boasts a sturdy build with loose, athletic actions that translate both in the box and in the field. He shows good raw power in BP with some natural loft in his swing and solid bat speed. His approach is still raw, as could be expected of a teenager making his U.S. debut, but he tracks well and has a feel for the strike zone. The barrel is in and out of the zone fairly quickly, leading to empty swings in the zone, and contact may always be a bit of an issue for the would-be slugger.
Florial projects as a potential plus defender, possessing the speed for center field, the arm for right field, and impressive reads and routes considering his age and experience. His glove, combined with heady actions and plus speed on the bases, should provide strong foundational value for the profile, and allow for a slightly lower bar on the offensive side of things. His upside is that of an impact defender in center field with above-average power and significant value on the bases. He could see some time in extended spring training before heading to Short-Season A Staten Island in 2017 with an eye towards full season ball next year. Even modest improvements in his contact rates could see his stock rise significantly, and in short order.
Quick Hit: The switch-hitting Gilliam was drafted by the Yankees in the 20th round of the 2015 MLB Draft and signed for an over-slot deal after showing flashes of impact potential with the stick at both Parkview High School (Lilburn, GA) in 2014 and Chipola JC (FL) in 2015. Gilliam has plus raw power that plays to all fields from both sides of the plate along with a solid approach. He tends to expand the zone when behind in the count, and struggles at times to adjust to quality off-speed stuff, though he can punish mistakes and has the bat speed to hang with high-end velocity.
A below-average runner with bad-body potential, Gilliam has done well to keep his weight under control and has held his own in the outfield through his two pro seasons. He has enough arm to handle right field and could be an average defender in time provided he maintains adequate mobility. Should he shift back to the infield he has shown solid hands at first base in the past. Gilliam is still a work in progress and will need to make more regular contact in order for the raw power to play in-game and carry the profile. He has the upside of an everyday right fielder who can hit for some power out of the five or six hole, perhaps in the mold of a poor man’s Bobby Bonilla (RF/3B/1B, Multiple MLB Teams 1986-2001).
Wilkerman Garcia, SS, Rookie Pulaski | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/45
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/176 B/T: S/L Age (As of December 1, 2016): 18 yrs, 8m
Quick Hit: Garcia earned a $1.35 million J2 signing bonus in 2014, signing out of Venezuela, and made his stateside debut this past season with 54 games and 239 plate appearances with Rookie Pulaski. Garcia shows advanced feel for the barrel and above-average bat speed, helping him to consistently put the ball in play across the quadrants. A pre-season shoulder injury limited his offensive impact in 2016, as did his slightly aggressive approach that lead him to make contact on less-than-ideal offerings. Wilkerman will need to tighten his approach and learn to work for better offerings to drive in order to make the most out of his bat-to-ball ability. While not a thumper, he should be able to drive the gaps with consistency at maturity, and will carry enough damage potential to keep arms honest.
WIlkerman projects as a steady defender at shortstop, showing solid actions and above-average arm strength, but his lower half is more steady than explosive, and he may ultimately lack the range and quick-twitch actions to stick at the six-spot, long term. If he does move off of short, he would fit best at second base where his above-average speed and arm strength would each be an asset. He could reach full season ball in 2017 and should profile as a solid everyday contributor at either shortstop or second base once he grows his approach at the plate.
Nolan Martinez, RHP, Rookie GCL Yankees | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 60/45
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/165 B/T: L/L Age (As Of December 1st): 18 yrs, 5m
Quick Hit: A third round selection out of Culver City High School (Culver City, CA) last June, Martinez was one of the younger draft-eligible players in the 2016 class and did not turn 18 years old until midway through the summer. The athletic righty can already reach 94-to-95 mph with his fastball while working regularly in the 88-to-92 mph range with good ride. His curveball is a second quality offering with good snap and projects to at least above average. His changeup was used sparingly in high school, but he shows some feel for the pitch and should be able to develop it into at least an average offering with continued reps considering his loose and easy arm and ability to repeat his release across his offerings.
A former two-way player, Martinez will be focusing on pitching for the first time as a pro and could make significant strides in a short amount of time thanks to his athleticism and arm speed. He won’t turn 19 until mid-summer and should see time with Rookie Pulaski at some point this summer. Because of his age, athleticism and the projectability of his arsenal, Martinez is one of the more intriguing breakout candidates in the system, carrying with him mid-rotation upside if everything comes together.
Nick Solak, 2B, Short-Season A Staten Island | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/45
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/175 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 21y 9m
Player Stats | 2080 Video
Quick Hit: One of the more impressive performance bats from the 2016 draft class, the former Louisville Cardinal tore through the NY-Penn League during his brief pro debut, slashing .321/.412/.421 and drawing 30 walks compared to 39 strikeouts over his 64 Short-Season A games. Solak hits out of a medium-wide stance with a minimalist load and compact barrel delivery that facilitates high contact rates. He maintains good balance throughout and has enough bat speed to handle premium velocity and create loud contact that can drive the gaps. He’s a capable defender at second base who has also spent time in the outfield, and could handle left field without issue. Solak should head to Class A Charleston to start 2017 and could see a quick promotion to High A Tampa if his bat plays as expected against Sally League competition. There isn’t much power to come and the glove is more adequate than asset, but Solak can hit, and he should eventually carve out a big league career as a bat-first second baseman on a second-division club.
Jorge Guzman, RHP, Rookie Pulaski | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/40
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/182 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 20y 10m
Quick Hit: Guzman came across to the Yankees, along with Albert Abreu (RHP), in exchange for Brian McCann (C, Astros) this offseason. The righty has an electric arm that can reach triple-digits with heavy action and the makings of an above-average slider with hard bite and tilted action. He throws with extreme effort, however, and has well-below-average control at present. His slider can come and go, as well, limiting his overall effectiveness. Guzman has true late-inning stuff and the demeanor to fill a late-inning role, but will need to significantly limit his free passes if he’s ultimately to be trusted with high-leverage work at the upper levels. He should get a taste of full season ball in 2017 and could start to move quickly if he can find the zone with more regularity.
Ian Clarkin, LHP, High A Tampa | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1st 2016): 21y 10m
Player Stats | 2080 Report | 2080 Video 1 | 2080 Video 2
Quick Hit: Clarkin put together a solid bounce-back campaign in 2016 after missing the 2015 regular season due to elbow issues. The lefty was able to avoid surgery and, 12 months later, the quality of his stuff has returned, with his fastball back to working consistently in the 89-to-93 mph velocity band, his low-80s changeup coming with good tumble and arm speed deception, and his big-breaking, slow curveball serving as a quality change-of-pace offering that can also keep hitters from sitting on plane. Clarkin’s stuff isn’t overpowering, and he’ll need to rely on sequencing and hitting his spots to thrive at the upper levels. Still, it was a nice bounce-back campaign for the lefty, who will look to continue to build up his profile with a jump to Double-A Trenton in 2017. He projects as a potential back-end arm or swingman.
Donny Sands, C, Rookie Pulaski | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 20y 6m
Quick Hit: Sands, a former third baseman, converted to catcher in 2016, showing soft hands and quality arm strength behind the dish, though he missed significant time due to issues with his throwing arm and a concussion-related symptoms. He’s a high-contact bat fueled by a smooth line-drive stroke that keeps the barrel on plane and allows for a full-field approach. There’s plenty of work still to be done behind the plate as Sands continues to try to learn the craft, but early returns are encouraging and the offensive profile, shy of much in the way of power production, fits much better at catcher than it did at third base. He could stick on the complex during extended spring training before shipping out to Short-Season A Staten Island or Class A Charleston, depending on how much progress he makes.
Freicer Perez, RHP, Short-Season A Staten Island | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’8”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 21y 9m
Quick Hit: Another live arm at the lower levels, Perez works with some funk and deception out of a loose-and limby motion, creating tough angles for same-side bats in particular. His fastball can reach the upper 90s and he’ll mix in a solid-average curveball and changeup to round out the arsenal. Despite the big velo, Perez lacks plane on the heater and can be easy for hitters to lift when he’s out over the plate. Presently being developed as a starter, it remains to be seen whether Perez can rein in his mechanics enough to improve his time in the strike zone and limit his pitch counts. The better fit may ultimately be in relief where he can air it out for one or two innings at a time without worrying about having to turn over lineups. He should see time in Class A Charleston in 2017.
Zack Littel, RHP, Short-Season A Staten Island | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 21y 2m
Quick Hit: Little has made steady developmental progress over his three-plus years of pro ball, reaching High A as a 20-year-old in 2016 and holding his own over 11 starts in the hitter-friendly California League. Little doesn’t possess impact velocity, generally working in the 87-to-91 mph range with some extra giddy-up thanks to his high spin rates. He’s comfortable enough with his upper-70s to low-80s changeup to pitch backwards off it – particularly against lefties – and his curve will flash above average with moderate depth and good shape.
With fringy stuff for a starter, Littel will need to hit his spots at the upper-levels in order to limit damage and will also need to excel at sequencing in order to keep bats off balance – something he’s already shown particular feel for. With a thin margin for error, Littel retains back-end upside, though this profile type tends more often than not to settle into a swingman or up/down role, depending on the needs of the organization. He’ll be challenged by advanced bats in the Double-A Eastern League, which should help bring his future projection more clearly into focus.
|1. Gleyber Torres, SS, High A||6. Jorge Mateo, SS/2B, High A||11. Dillon Tate, RHP, A|
|2. Clint Frazier, OF, AAA||7. Justus Sheffield, LHP, AA||12. Domingo Acevedo, RHP, High A|
|3. Blake Rutherford, OF, Rk.||8. Jordan Montgomery, LHP, AAA||13. Estevan Florial, OF, MLB|
|4. Aaron Judge, OF, MLB||9. Chance Adams, RHP, AA||14. Isiah Gilliam, OF, Rk.|
|5. James Kaprielian, RHP, High A||10. Albert Abreu, RHP, High A||15. Nolan Martinez, RHP, Rk.|
GM Brian Cashman and the Yankees have taken a hard line the past few seasons when it has come to dealing young talent for proven major league pieces. In stark contrast to what the organization has been known for in years past, the Yankees’ inability to compete with younger, more energetic clubs prompted the office to take advantage of a downturn in performance and stockpile prospects while shedding several unwieldy contracts. While it remains tempting to throw some of their newly minted prospects at the big pieces available on the trade block, what the Yankees are getting ready to unveil over the next couple seasons speaks loudly in favor of holding on to their core of young talent.
That said, they could conceivably deal a few names without depleting the system. Clint Frazier (OF), Aaron Judge (OF), Gleyber Torres (SS), Jorge Mateo (SS), and Blake Rutherford (OF) represent a very strong position-player prospect list that would put the Yankees at the forefront of talks involving any available big league arms on the market. Mateo might be the most obvious choice to package, given the emergence of Didi Gregorious and impending promotion of Gleyber Torres. Pitching is the biggest question mark at the big league level, so while Justus Sheffield, James Kaprielian, Chance Adams, Jordan Montgomery, Ian Clarkin, Albert Abreu and others would draw significant interest on the market, the safe money is on them holding on to their top arms. Any way you choose to look at it, the organization is in the catbird seat going into the 2017 season.
Should they decide to pursue a high-end trade, Chris Archer (RHP, Rays) and Jose Quintana come to mind for obvious reasons, and both would be acquirable without the Yankees having to empty the farm. With the impact bats likely to be on the free agent market after 2018 (Bryce Harper (OF, Nationals), Manny Machado (3B, Orioles), and Nolan Arenado (3B, Rockies)), it seems more likely that they would move hitting prospects for rotation help and keep their young pitching.
For an organization that is not accustomed to long down turns, the Yankees have taken advantage of their relative “off” period and done more than just implement a series of temporary fixes. What we are seeing now are the final stages of a plan initiated several seasons ago that has seen them focus on high-upside talent in the draft and international market, while pouring increased focus into a player development department that had been decimated by big-name trades at the major league level.
Going forward, the Yankees will look to continue surrounding their young core with veteran pieces and building out the pitching staff. While they now have significant pieces to deal for proven big league players, they are likely a year or so away from pursuing that sort of situation – if their young players show up early, like what we saw in Houston in 2015, perhaps things could change, but it makes more sense for them to focus on grooming and graduating their young players at this point in time. What that does is it maintains the organization’s financial flexibility to really be major players in a potentially-historic 2018 free agent class, while still giving them a full queue of potential impact developmental pieces.
With Frazier and Judge appearing set to impact the 25-man roster this season, a full season of Gary Sanchez coming along with a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Greg Bird, the Yankees will run out a lineup with a significant mix of power, speed, and run production. They may not have the pitching to compete with a juggernaut Red Sox or a strong Toronto ball club in 2017, but don’t think that the rest of the American League doesn’t notice the stirring giant in the Bronx.