New York Yankees Top 20 Prospects for 2017
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Gleyber Torres, SS, Grade A/A-: Age 19, acquired from Cubs in Aroldis Chapman deal, hit .270/.354/.421 with 29 doubles, 11 homers, 21 steals, 58 walks, 110 strikeouts in 478 at-bats in High-A between the two organizations; unanimously excellent in the Arizona Fall League against older competition; above-average defensive shortstop with arm strength, range, instincts according to many sources, although some fear he may lose range as he matures; at second base he would be excellent if necessary; tapping into his potential offensively, shows feel for the strike zone and power is developing; could end up as .280+ hitter with high OBP and at least moderate power. ETA 2018.
2) Clint Frazier, OF, Grade B+: Age 22, acquired from Indians in Andrew Miller trade, hit .263/.335/.447 between Double-A and Triple-A with 16 homers, 13 steals, 48 walks, 122 strikeouts in 463 at-bats; had some contact problems at the higher level; renowned since high school for incredible bat speed and fast-twitch muscular build; a beast when his hitting mechanics are working well but batting eye is erratic and he can be streaky; runs and throws well enough to be an average center fielder but would be above-average if used at a corner; upside is .280, 20+ homer hitter but for that to happen he’ll need to make more progress against breaking stuff: ETA late 2017.
3) Blake Rutherford, OF, Grade B+: Age 19, first round pick in 2016; hit .351/.415/.570 in 114 at-bats in rookie ball, 13 walks, 30 strikeouts; was rumored as high as first-overall but dropped to 18th due to bonus demands and being a bit older than typical high schooler, plus there was some prospect fatigue since he had been on the radar for so long; pure hitter with a good eye, above-average power, polished for his age; arm grades vary between 45 and 55 depending on source, should be solid defensively due to instincts but hitting is the main draw; ETA: 2020.
4) Jorge Mateo, INF, Grade B+: Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2012; hit .254/.306/.379 with eight homers, 36 steals, 33 walks, 108 strikeouts in 464 at-bats in High-A; outstanding 80-grade speed is best tool; can also flash power but strike zone judgment is erratic, as is his defense; made summer headlines for wrong reasons due to two-week suspension for insubordinate behavior towards team officials; young enough to overcome makeup concerns; not a bad infielder but may wind up in outfield or in super-utility role; ETA. 2019.
5) Justus Sheffield, LHP, Grade B+: Age 20, acquired from Indians in Andrew Miller trade; posted 3.09 ERA with 129/53 K/BB in 125 innings between High-A and Double-A, just 107 hits; despite 5-10 height he throws hard, 93-96 MPH with higher peaks; both breaking ball and change-up have above-average potential; breaking ball varies in velocity and has been described as both a slider and a curve; command needs further tightening but overall he’s met expectations and could develop into a number three starter. ETA 2019.
6) James Kaprielian, RHP, Grade B+: Age 22, first round pick in 2015 from UCLA; limited to 18 innings in High-A by strained flexor; recovered to pitch well in Arizona Fall League; in college had reputation as a polished arm; he still shows the polish with his curve, slider, and change-up but his velocity has spiked, up to 94-96, giving him a complete arsenal; will have to prove his durability but he has the stuff and command to be a number two or three starter if his arm holds up. ETA 2018.
7) Chance Adams, RHP, Grade B+: Age 22, fifth round pick out of Dallas Baptist in 2015; posted 2.33 ERA with 144/39 K/BB in 127 innings in High-A and Double-A, allowing a mere 76 hits while posting a 13-1 record; bullpen guy in college but had no problem with starter workload in ’16; nasty fastball in mid/upper-90s, also a plus slider, has made progress with softer curveball and change-up; command has been solid thus far; some question his 6-0, 215 pound build as a starting pitcher but I think too much is made of that as long as his command holds up; could always move back to pen if needed and would be a force; ETA: 2018.
8) Domingo Acevedo, RHP, Grade B+/B: Age 22; posted 2.61 ERA with 102/22 K/BB in 93 innings between Low-A and High-A; huge body at 6-7, 245; has the fastball to go with it, 95-100 MPH with peaks at 102 in the past; has a very good change-up but slider is inconsistent, though he usually throws strikes and is often overpowering; despite premium arm strength and good performance numbers, not everyone is all-in on him as a top prospect, due to questions about his role and durability problems including shoulder issues in ’16; ETA late 2018 if healthy.
9) Albert Abreu, RHP, Grade B: Age 21, acquired from Astros in Brian McCann deal; posted 3.72 ERA with 115/58 K/BB in 102 innings between Low-A and High-A; signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013; fastball up there with Acevedo at 94-98 MPH; plus slider, solid-average curveball and change-up as well; command needs more work but Yankees have the luxury of not rushing him; ETA late 2019.
10) Aaron Judge, OF, Grade B/B-: Age 24, first-round pick in 2013 out of Fresno State University; hit .270/.366/.489 with 19 homers, 47 walks, 98 strikeouts in 352 at-bats in Triple-A, then .179/.263/.345 with four homers and 42 strikeouts in 84 at-bats in the majors until going down with oblique injury; massive power (at least a 60, some say 70) in 6-7, 275 pound frame, but strikeout problems are equally massive; had made progress with his swing in Triple-A but major league hitters exposed more holes; may struggle to hit .230 but will crush mistakes; ETA 2017.
11) Miguel Andujar, 3B, Grade B-: Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2011; hit .273/.332/.410 with 12 homers, 39 walks, 72 strikeouts in 512 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; polarizing prospect; tools are obvious including 70-grade arm and 60-grade raw power but hitting approach is inconsistent, as is his fielding; on the right day he plays like a star but has trouble maintaining consistency with his approach; has been on prospect lists for several years but is still young; upside .280 hitter with power; downside doesn’t get out of Triple-A; ETA 2019.
12) Dillon Tate, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, first round pick out of UC Santa Barbara by the Rangers in 2015; came to New York in Carlos Beltran trade; posted 4.70 ERA in 82 innings in Low-A with 70/33 K/BB, 99 hits; disappointing season although he looked better in bullpen after the trade; fastball into mid-90s with plus slider (that wasn’t as good in pro ball as it was in college) but change-up remains problematic; did not dominate to the extent expected but still has a shot at being a fine pitcher, most likely in bullpen in my opinion. ETA 2019.
13) Dustin Fowler, OF, Grade B-: Age 21, 18th round pick in 2013, hit .281/.311/.458 with 30 doubles, 15 triples, 12 homers, 25 steals, 22 walks, 86 strikeouts in 541 at-bats in Double-A; rather under-the-radar nationally in a deep system but has intriguing tools including 60-grade speed and 50/55 power, 55 throwing arm; can handle center field; main concern is an aggressive hitting approach that may hamper his OBP, but he’s still young enough to improve that. ETA 2018.
14) Ian Clarkin, LHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 21, posted 3.31 ERA in 98 innings in High-A with 72/30 K/BB; missed last six weeks of the season with torn knee meniscus; missed all of 2015 with elbow problems; when healthy shows low-90s fastball, above-average change-up and two different breaking pitches; can dominate when his command is on but injury time has slowed his development to some extent; could get buried in this system if health problems continue. ETA 2019.
15) Jordan Montgomery, LHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, fourth round pick in 2014 from University of South Carolina; posted 2.13 ERA in 139 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 134/45 K/BB; big 6-6, 225 pound southpaw; finesse pitcher in college but fastball has bumped up as a pro, now at 90-93; also has change-up, curveball, cutter, plus a deceptive arm angle helps his pitches play up; sharp control, potential fourth starter and ready for a trial soon. ETA 2017.
ANALYST NOTE: Spots 16-20 are interchangeable with the "other Grade C+" guys. I wrote up the players closest to the majors. Feel free to ask about the other guys in the comments section.
16) Tyler Wade, INF, Grade C+: Age 22, fourth round pick in 2013, hit .259/.352/.349 with 66 walks, 27 steals in 505 at-bats in Double-A; left-handed hitter with 60/65 speed and a good batting eye; not much distance power but may develop a bit more pop eventually; on-base skills and speed his best attributes at present; reliable at shortstop but range is mediocre, more likely to fit best at second base or in super-utility role. ETA 2018.
17) Mason Williams, OF, Grade C+: Age 25, hit .298/.315/.380 between low-level rehab work and Triple-A (171 at-bats), then hit .296/.321/.333 in 27 major league at-bats; long history of injuries and inconsistency but has been effective when healthy the last two seasons; above-average defensive player who could slot nicely as a fourth outfielder with occasional offensive contributions when he’s keeping the zone under control. ETA 2017.
18) Tyler Austin, OF-1B, Grade C+: Age 25, older prospect, was a hot property four years ago but stock dropped due to injuries and adaption problems against advanced pitching; made some changes in ’16 and hit .323/.415/.637 in Triple-A then .241/.300/.458 in 83 at-bat major league trial; will have to continue proving himself but can still be a useful Scott Van Slyke-like role player due to his pop. ETA 2017.
19) Giovanny Gallegos, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, from Mexico; Yankees have many bullpen options ready for the majors and Gallegos has received less attention than most, however that should change this spring; added to 40-man roster after posting 1.27 ERA in 78 innings in Double-A/Triple-A with 106/17 K/BB, just 48 hits allowed; Tommy John survivor, fastball has crept up to 94, already has good mixture of off-speed pitches, throws strikes; while some of the "other Grade C+ guys" listed below have higher ultimate ceilings, Gallegos is ready now and I wanted to highlight him. ETA 2017.
20) Dietrich Enns, LHP, Grade C+: Age 25, 19th round pick in 2012 from Central Michigan; added to 40-man roster after going 14-4, 1.73 in 135 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 124/56 K/BB, 102 hits; like Gallegos, there are guys with higher ceilings below but Enns will be ready for a trial this year and would get more attention in other farm systems; fastball in 88-90 range might play up in bullpen, has a very good change and workable curve and slider, throws strikes. ETA 2017.
OTHER GRADE C+ (could fit in spots 16-20): Johnny Barbato, RHP; Oswaldo Cabrera, 2B; Nestor Cortes, LHP; Juan De Paula, RHP; J.P. Feyereisen, RHP; Drew Finley, RHP; Chad Green, RHP; Jonathan Holder, RHP; Kyle Holder, INF; Zack Littell, RHP; Billy McKinney, OF; Hoy Jun Park, INF; Freicer Perez, RHP; Tito Polo, OF, Yefrey Ramirez, RHP; Josh Rogers, LHP; Donny Sands, C; Nick Solak, INF; Luis Torrens, C
GRADE C (some of these guys have high ceilings): Diego Castillo, SS; Jake Cave, OF; Estevan Florial, OF; Dermis Garcia, OF; Wilkerman Garcia, SS; Domingo German, RHP; Isiah Gilliam, OF; Nick Goody, RHP; Nick Green, RHP; Jorge Guzman, RHP; Ben Heller, RHP; Ronald Herrera, RHP; Kyle Higasshioka, C; Nolan Martinez, RHP; Jio Orozco, RHP; Erik Swanson, RHP; Stephen Tarpley, LHP; Taylor Widener, RHP
This is obviously a very deep system thanks to good drafting and recent trades. Interestingly enough, the huge pile of money dumped into the international market in 2014 is not bearing much fruit yet, though it is not too late for "Grade C with higher potential" guys like Wilkerman Garcia and Dermis Garcia to pan out.
It feels like there is some grade inflation with the early prospect lists this year, but let’s see how subsequent lists look. We’ve examined some deep systems so far.
I will be around in the comments thread to answer any questions and give opinions on the guys I did not write up. The entire "Other Grade C+" group is very interesting and there is a lot to discuss.