The New York Yankees farm system is at a near cataclysmic state. The Yankees top prospects are either far from big-league ready or failing to live up to their expectations. The prodigal outfield group of Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, and Ramon Flores have each had their fair share of trouble on the field and have had a tough time staying on it at times. Pitchers like Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, who were once pinned as the future deadly duo of the Yankees’ staff but have now struggled both statistically and medically in recent years. The Yankees catchers have been highly touted but Austin Romine has struggled in the majors and J.R. Murphy still needs a good amount of work. A lot of people are excited about Low-A ball catcher Pete O’Brien who is clobbering the ball in the minors but he is a long time away from being ready and could move to either first base or third base. Their top prospect, catcher Gary Sanchez, is developing nicely but is still a few years away from even being considered for the Major League club and even when he is… One player is not a team.
So where are the reinforcements coming from? Sure the Yankees have been good with opening up the check book and buying a big time player but fewer and fewer stars are available as free agents every year and there’s high competition for those whos are. Some would like to say that the Yankees are out of luck in the future but that may be far from the case.
Last offseason a lot of people were criticizing the Yankees for not being aggressive on the free agent market and even let a few players walk. Well maybe they did know what they were doing because they saved their draft picks from the new compensation pick rule. With their top three picks the Yankees drafted three potential top- level prospects in third baseman Eric Jagielo (26th Overall Pick), outfielder Aaron Judge (32nd Overall Pick) and pitcher Ian Clarkin (33rd Overall Pick). Okay, so you may be thinking “so what?” and that’s understandable. Usually the 30th pick on is a drop in talent but this may be an exception as many people look at these three as huge picks for the Yankees. So what should be expected from them if and when they reach the majors?
Eric Jagielo is a hitter and he does just that. He’s a left-handed power bat who is just itching to take a swing at Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field. In the Cape Cod League, Jagielo showcased his skills and many expected him to go a lot higher than 26th overall. He crushed home run after home run and even put up a great batting average and a very high slugging percentage. But the Cape League is not pro ball. Jagielo moved around Low-A ball in his first year and put up very solid numbers. In 55 games the third baseman hit for a slash line of .266/.376/.451 and hit 6 home runs with 27 RBI and 51 hits overall. While Jagielo began his minor league career with a lot of pop, he struck out 56 times but let’s not get too picky.
What to Expect: The Yankees will be in true need of a third baseman very soon and Jagielo is seen as just that. He’s got a good glove and a big time lefty bat that makes him just perfect for Yankee Stadium. Look for Jagielo to make his debut in a few years. He does not seem like the kind of prospect that will be hanging around the minors for a while. He has all the potential to be among the top prospects in baseball and could make a very big impact for the Yankees when he’s ready. If Jagielo is as good as advertised he may be the ready for the starting third base job when Alex Rodriguez‘s contract is up (If it’s not bought out).
Aaron Judge may remind you of someone… The Colossus! The Yankees drafted a giant, standing at 6’7″ and weighing 250 pounds. Judge shows serious pop from the right side of the plate and put up great numbers at Fresno State (.346/.451/.528) and even showcased his speed stealing a good number of bases (11). While the outfielder has not displayed his raw power consistently, he’s drawn a lot of comparisons to the Marlins superstar slugger, Giancarlo Stanton. When I watch his swing it reminds me a little more of Josh Hamilton, putting everything into a furious swing that can really drive a ball. Either player would be nice though. Judge did not make his pro debut yet for various reasons. One of those was that he waited until very late after being drafted to sign a contract and he suffered a quad injury that sidelined him afterwards. It’s not expected to be a problem in 2014. Like Jagielo, Judge was expected to be selected higher up in the draft.
What to Expect: Judge is expected to start the minor league season at either Low-A Charleston or High-A Tampa and the Yankees would like to see a big debut for the big slugger. He played center field at Fresno State but because of his size he is predicted to move to right field. If he plays like he’s capable, Judge should be able to continue to crush home runs and hit for a relatively good batting average. Let’s say Judge dominates in the minors. In three years the new Yankees right fielder Carlos Beltran will be at the end of what is most likely his final contract. If Judge is the player we know he can be, he WILL be the starting right fielder for the New York Yankees in three years. You heard it here first, folks. I’m calling it now.
Ian Clarkin got a lot of undeserved grief from Yankees fans after he was drafted. Why? Well his draft video included a statement by him saying “…I hate the Yankees”. Relax because Clarkin wasn’t drafted yet and he was just speaking him mind. That’s fair. Now that that’s over let’s get to his stuff. Clarkin is what a pitcher should be… tough! In high school he displayed a lot of that “bull dog attitude” and really worked hard to win. However, Clarkin had a hard time adjusting to pro ball and was beat up in his three starts for the Yankees Low-A affiliate. But, don’t let that stray your interest. Clarkin won’t go down without a fight. He may start out the year in the same place but I expect him to move up a few notches in the minors before the end of the season.
What to Expect: Clarkin has a lot of raw ability. Entering the draft out of high school his draft stock dropped due to worries that he may not sign. The Yankees took him with the 33rd overall pick and was labeled one of the drafts “biggest steals”. Clarkin did sign and decided to trade in college for a career as a professional baseball player. Good for the Yankees. Good for Clarkin. Tough luck for other teams. Clarkin may have been hit hard out of the gate but he’s only 19 and has a lot of time to develop. The lefty hurler has a great chance to be a solid number 2 or 3 starter in the big leagues. It’s just a matter of him putting it all together and the Yankees will give him all the opportunities to do just that.
Conclusion: If I’m the Yankees I’d be absolutely drooling over the idea over the possibility of Eric Jagielo and Aaron Judge forming a deadly 3/4 combo in the lineup in a few years. Judge would be an amazing right-handed compliment to Jagielo and the two boast very similar power number in college and the Cape Cod League. Don’t forget about catcher Gary Sanchez who could find himself in the same lineup with these two wearing pinstripes in the Bronx. Clarkin could be a huge piece in the future as the Yankees pitching staff gets younger and even more so in the future. The Yankees have an older roster right now. But last year’s three draft picks paired with Sanchez could one day be a new Core Four. We’ll just have to wait and see.