The Major League Baseball Draft is quickly approaching, as June 5th is right around the corner. The New York Yankees, with their big offseason in the free agency market, sacrificed their first round pick. So, without a pick until the second round, 55th overall to be exact, what do the Yankees need to target? What are the Yankees current strengths and weaknesses throughout the organization that they need to focus on? We here at Yanks Go Yard have researched the organizational depth on the Yankees position-by-position. Today, we look around the farm at the current outfield situation.
Currently, there is no room for a young outfielder in the Bronx. The one major league-ready outfielder in the Yankees system, Zolio Almonte, got the call to the big show when Carlos Beltran went down. The Yankees do have time to develop their outfield prospects with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran amid long-term deals. Will they develop, however, is what Yankees fans want to know.
There are essentially two ways to look at the Yankees’ future outfield situation. You can take the positive approach and think that the Bombers are deep in outfield talent. Some of the top prospects on paper throughout the entire system are in the outfield. There is the other end of the spectrum, however. That is the realization that perhaps these one-time A-list prospects like Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and Tyler Austin are looking less like big league talent and more like big time busts.
Adonis Garcia and Anton Richardson are nice players, but they are simply organization depth as both are well past their prime. Russ Canzler has been seeing some time in the outfield, but at 28, he is looking more and more like a Quad-A hitter and his bat speed is simply not made for major league pitching. Ramon Flores is the only current RailRider worth keeping an eye on for the future. The 22-year-old Venezuelan signed with the Yankees when he was 17. This year, his first season above Double-A, he is already on pace to set career highs across the board. Flores has some experience at first base as well, so that could help his chances on a big league roster. The question is: will it be as a Yankee? With so much of the system’s hyped talent below Flores, he may be more well-served as a trade chip than a future outfielder.
Trenton is where the cream of the crop of the Yankees’ future outfield is currently playing. Ben Gamel and Taylor Dugas are nice players, but they seem more suited to be in the Yankees farm system than on the big league roster.
Slade Heathcott was the Yankees’ 2009 first round draft pick and was once their top prospect in the whole organization. He hasn’t lived up to anywhere near that hype. He has a .268 career batting average, has never hit more than 10 home runs in a season, nor has he swiped more than 20 stolen bases. His defense is superb, but injuries derail him annually.
Mason Williams, the top prospect in the system last year, has shown nothing that would translate to having the ability to handle major league pitching. Last season he hit a career low .245 between two levels and this year has not started out much better as he sits at .202.
Tyler Austin is also having a hard time adjusting to advanced pitching as he currently has no home runs on the 2014 season. With the outfield overcrowded already, Austin has been being auditioned in the infield where perhaps he will find his calling.
The most intriguing prospect came into the season as the fourth or fifth rated catching prospect. If Peter O’Brien can transition from catcher to outfield, his bat appears ready to handle big league pitching. If not, he may be a viable trade chip for teams looking for catching depth.
Jake Cave is the only T-Yank that has shown the possibility of breaking through to the bigs one day. He is only 21 years of age, so he has a lot of work to do, however, he is proving that he can hit for average, has speed, and is starting to show some pop.
-CHARLESTON RIVER DOGS:
I don’t care that we have a small sample size, the future is here. Aaron Judge is proving he is the real deal, and worth the Yankees’ first round draft pick in the 2013 draft. Judge is proving he can do it all: .320 batting average, .418 on-base percentage, five home runs, 24 RBI, and 26 runs scored. He will be in Tampa sooner than later and if he can handle High-A, he could very well finish the year in Trenton the way Williams and Heathcott are performing.
Michael O’Neill is interesting as well. He will continue to get chances based on his last name and uncle alone, but he will need to continue to improve. He struggles with consistency, but is beginning to show he can do a little bit of everything with five home runs and 15 stolen bases on the season. If he can put it together and become a .260/.270 hitter, he can make his case for big league ability.
-STATEN ISLAND YANKEES:
There are no Mike Trouts in waiting down here. Mikeson Oliberto couldn’t hit when promoted to Charleston this year, hitting .169. Yeral Sanchez bombed last season at Trenton, hitting .182 and started this season off even worse at .163 before his demotion. Daniel Lopez is five years into his career, and although he is only 21, he hasn’t been able to hack it even at Low-A.
The Yankees’ have a little more than a week to decide which direction to go. As I mentioned earlier, they have the luxury of a big league outfield rotation locked down for several years. This gives them the time to develop their underperforming youngsters or even trade them for more picks to teams that believe they could help sooner. It will certainly be interesting to se how the draft unfolds.