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Yankees 2017 Preseason Top 10 Prospects
- Updated: February 8, 2017
It’s list season in Major League Baseball. With Spring Training fast approaching, Griffin Fuller and Erik Carlson put their heads together and came up with a top 10 prospect list for the New York Yankees. How they arrived at this list was fairly simple, they each made their own separate list and assigned points for each ranking (10 points for #1, 9 points for #2, etc.) and added them together to get the cumulative list. Writeups for #1, 3, 5, 7, 9 were done by Griffin Fuller, #2, 4, 6, 8, 10 were done by Erik Carlson.
Note: All grades are on a typical 20-80 baseball scale. 20 being poor, 50 being average, and 80 being exceptional.
1. Gleyber Torres, SS (20)
Gleyber Torres ranks the highest among all New York Yankees prospects and #3 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list. Acquired from the Chicago Cubs in a midseason trade for Aroldis Chapman, Torres immediately established himself as the best prospect in the Yankees’ farm system. In High A, Torres slashed .270/.354/.421 with 21 SB and 11 HRs in 547 plate appearances.
While Torres put up a solid 2016 regular season, his Arizona Fall League was impressive. Becoming the youngest player to the win the Arizona Fall League MVP, Torres batted .403 in 62 ABs. On top of the stellar batting average, he had a 1.158 OPS.
Offensively, Gleyber Torres seems to be a huge bright spot for the Yankees. The only downside to his game is that his defense is not as phenomenal as his offense. His fielding percentage last season was .952, which is not terrible but a SS should have a higher percentage than that. As with most SS prospects, there is a chance that Torres could be moved to 2B or CF by the time he is called up to the majors.
2. Clint Frazier, OF (18)
There was a time when Clint Frazier was the Yankees’ #1 prospect. That time is obviously in the past, but that’s no knock on Frazier, more of a testament to Gleyber Torres’ second half of 2016 and stint in the Arizona Fall League.
Frazier was drafted 5th overall by the Indians in 2013, so naturally it took a special circumstance for the Indians to give him up. That circumstance was arguably the best reliever in baseball, Andrew Miller.
Frazier has excelled at every level in the minors, except AAA. In his defense, I’m sure changing teams didn’t help the already difficult transition from AA. During his short stint in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre his K% went up and his BB% went down, he also posted a below average wRC+ for the first time in his minor league career. All that being said, Frazier is still just a strong spring or an injury away from making the big club, expect to see him in some fashion in 2017.
Expected MLB Arrival: 2017
Grades: Hit:50 Power:65 Speed:60 Field:55 Arm:60 Overall:60
3. Blake Rutherford, OF (15)
After being selected by the New York Yankees in the first round of last year’s draft, Blake Rutherford has high expectations. The OF prospect only played in 33 games in the minors last season. In those 33 games, Rutherford slashed .351/.415/.570 with 4 HRs and 12 RBIs.
Rutherford has been compared to former Yankee outfielder David Justice, except scouts claim that he should be more athletic than Justice was. He is projected to be a corner outfielder, though he currently has the capabilities to play CF. Rutherford is only 19 years old, so he has growing left to do.
Rutherford ranks #37 overall on the Top 100 list, trailing Torres and Frazier within the organization. Though he was only drafted last summer, there is a strong belief that Rutherford will be a solid MLB player.
Grades: Hit: 55 Power: 55 Run: 50 Arm: 50 Field: 50 Overall: 55
4. Aaron Judge, OF (12)
I’ve been a big fan of Aaron Judge ever since the Yankees drafted him in the first round of the 2013 draft. Maybe it’s the wrestling fan in me that just loves to watch the 6’7” Judge crush baseballs.
There was also a time when Aaron Judge was the Yankees’ #1 prospect. After a historic debut, crushing a 440ft+ home run to dead center field, Judge cooled off in a major way. Finishing his first Major League stint hitting .179/.263/.345 with 4 home runs in 27 games. His 60% contact rate is also a cause for concern.
It’s worth noting that Judge’s 2017 was cut short due to a grade 2 oblique strain. Overall not a great first impression, but the tools are there. Expect Judge to win the starting right field job out of Spring Training.
Expected MLB Arrival: 2017
Grades: Hit:50 Power:70 Speed:50 Field:50 Arm: 60 Overall:55
5. Jorge Mateo, SS (12)
Though Jorge Mateo tied Aaron Judge between the collaborative total, he ranks below Judge for two reasons on this list. One is because Judge is most likely going to be the starting right fielder for the Yankees this season. Two is the fact that Judge ranks ahead of Mateo by two spots on the top 100 list. Mateo is ranked #47 while Judge is #45.
Before the acquisition of Torres, Mateo was the top rated infield prospect in the Yankees organization. While he is not the hitter that Torres is, Mateo might be the fastest prospect in all of baseball. Scouts rank Mateo’s speed at the highest rating (80). In 2016, Mateo spent his entire season in High A. He slashed .254/.306/.379 while stealing 36 bags in 51 attempts.
Mateo’s stock took a slight bump when Torres was acquired. In addition to that, his two-week suspension at the beginning of 2016 did not help his cause either. The acquisition of Torres also pushed Mateo over to 2B. This might have been a blessing in disguise. At SS, Mateo had a fielding percentage of .937. At 2B, he fielded an impressive .994.
Jorge Mateo could be the prospect that is a part of a mid-season trade if the Yankees find themselves in contention. The simple truth is that every position Mateo could play is log jammed by both current MLB players and other prospects.
6. Justus Sheffield, LHP (11)
The first pitcher to appear on our list, Sheffield barely edges out James Kaprielian. Sheffield was a bit of an afterthought in the Andrew Miller deal. While the trade was headlined (and rightfully so) by Frazier, Justus is no slouch. Sheffield is an undersized lefty with a high upside. His fastball sits at 90-92 mph but can go higher with three great secondary pitches. His delivery is simple and compact, which should help counteract his smaller stature.
Sheffield had a great 2016, starting in A+ Lynchburg, he was then placed in on the A+ Tampa Yankees after the trade, but made the jump to AA after five starts. His 2016 totals were 125.1 IP, a 3.38 ERA, 9.3 K/9, and a 0.4 HR/9. His numbers actually got better as the season went, raising his K/BB ratio for every new team he joined.
If Sheffield continues on this trajectory you might just see him in pinstripes at the end of 2017. Due to the fact that he is still only entering his age 21 season, you might see the front office be more cautious with Sheffield, unless they are really desperate for starting pitching midway through the season.
Expected MLB Arrival: 2018
Grades: Fastball:55 Curveball:55 Changeup:55 Command:50 Overall:50
7. James Kaprielian, RHP (10)
James Kaprielian is a hard throwing right-handed pitcher who has touched 100 MPH with his fastball. He was the Yankees’ 2015 first-round draft pick out of UCLA.
Kaprielian only made three starts last season for High A Tampa last season. In only 18 innings of work, Kaprielian racked up 22 strikeouts while only walking 3 batters. In addition to this, his ERA was 1.50 and his WHIP was .611. His massive success did not carry over in the Arizona Fall League. Kaprielian’s ERA was 4.33 in 7 starts, though his high ERA was the cause of two poor starts. Kaprielian struck out 26 batters in 27 innings while only walking 8 batters.
Kaprielian ranks at #58 on the Top 100 prospect list. When he was first drafted, the scouts predicted his ceiling to be a middle of the rotation starter. With his improved fastball and changeup, Kaprielian could be a frontline starter in a few years.
Grades: Fastball: 60 Curveball: 55 Slider: 55 Changeup: 55 Control: 55 Overall: 55
8. Miguel Andujar, 3B (5)
Miguel Andujar had somewhat of a breakout year in 2016, making the jump from A+ to AA about halfway through the year. He hit a career-high 12 home runs and 26 doubles. Scouts rave about his raw power, if he can translate it into game power you could easily be seeing Andujar hitting 20-25 HR a year.
Miguel played alongside Gleyber Torres in the AFL in 2016, and while he didn’t shine quite as bright as Gleyber he did hold his own against likely the best pitching he’s ever seen. He posted a .284/.364/.373 triple slash in 19 games in Scottsdale, good for a 109 wRC+. All the while keeping his strikeouts down (14.3 K%) and drawing his fair share of walks and then some (11.7 BB%).
His defense is serviceable at 3B so I don’t see a move to 2B or even 1B in his future. Andujar is entering his age 22 season in 2017, and with Chase Headley under contract through the 2018 season there is no reason to rush Andujar to the majors.
Expected MLB Arrival: 2019
Grades Hit:50 Power:55 Speed:45 Field: 50 Arm:50 Overall:50
9. Domingo Acevedo, RHP (3)
Domingo Acevedo started last season as the fifth-ranked Yankees prospect. The hard-throwing right-handed pitcher was destined for being called up to AA Trenton, but three stints on the DL stalled that momentum. Acevedo is 22 years old and has touched 103 MPH with his fastball.
Last season, Acevedo posted a record of 5-4 with a 3.10 ERA and 1.129 WHIP in 18 starts between A and High A. He also racked up 102 strikeouts in only 92 innings of work. Acevedo demonstrated solid control as well, only walking 22 batters.
Acevedo is older than most of the players on this list. Along with his injuries last season, his stock has taken a hit. The bright side to his DL stints was that they were not because of his arm. The downside is that is was his lower body/back. Acevedo could be a starter or a reliever at the MLB level.
10. Chance Adams, RHP (2)
Chance Adams continued to cement his reputation as one of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects by continuing to excel at both levels he pitched at in 2016. 2016 was Adams’ first year starting full time as a pro. He spent half his season in A+ Tampa and the other half in AA Trenton. He posted a 2.65 ERA in Tampa and a 2.07 in Trenton. He’s likely to start 2017 in AA and I am expecting him to regress, his K/9 went down, BB/9 and FIP went up after heading north.
His fastball now sits in between 93-96 and has reportedly touched 99. His cutter has made strides towards becoming a true slider, and his changeup has improved greatly since his pro debut. Chance is listed at 6’0” but has struggled at times getting a downward plane on his fastball which could cause problems for him in New York.
Expected MLB Arrival: 2018
Grades: Fastball:55 Slider:50 Changeup:40 Command:45 Overall:50