The New York Yankees will reportedly send several of their most promising prospects to the 2016 Arizona Fall League to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Most notably, this is confirmation that first baseman Greg Bird, who was expected by many to play a significant role on the Yankees big league club this year, is progressing well in his rehab from the shoulder surgery that has caused him to miss the 2016 campaign.
The 23-year-old hit .261/.343/.529 (137 wRC+) with 11 home runs in 178 plate appearances last season. He’s expected to compete with Tyler Austin for the starting first base job next year following Mark Teixeira‘s retirement. Austin has struggled mightily in his brief MLB debut, making it even more important that Bird comes back strong from surgery.
How Bird performs this fall could even influence the Yankees strategy this offseason. They are expected to rely on several unproven youngsters to fill the middle of their order. As of right now, the majority of the power production would have to come from Bird, Austin, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Judge for the Yankees to compete in 2017.
If Bird doesn’t look ready to hold down a key spot in the lineup, New York might be more inclined to bring in a big bat like Edwin Encarnacion this winter. It’s worth noting that Bird was named the AFL MVP in 2014 during his first go-round in the league.
Aside from Bird, the biggest name to watch might be shortstop Gleyber Torres, the centerpiece of the Aroldis Chapman trade. He’s currently ranked number two in the Yankees system by MLB Pipeline. The 19-year-old Torres is hitting .265/.357/.407 (127 wRC+) in 129 plate appearances for High-A Tampa since the trade.
This assignment might be an indication that New York plans to push Torres up the ladder. He seems like a lock to begin 2017 with Double-A at age 20 and should be ready to compete for a big league job by the following year. The AFL will be the most advanced competition he’s faced to date, so it will be interesting to see how he fares.
Also suiting up for the Scottsdale Scorpions in October will be third baseman Miguel Andujar and Tyler Wade, who rank 8th and 15th respectively on MLB Pipeline’s list. Andujar was having a nice season for High-A Tampa but has struggled since being promoted to Double-A, hitting .262/.323/.342 (85 wRC+) in 297 plate appearances with Trenton.
His Thunder teammate Wade is having a solid but unspectacular year, putting up a .265/.358/.358 (105 wRC+) with five home runs and 26 steals in a full season at Double-A.
Together, the Yankees have provided the Scorpions with a pretty awesome infield. Hopefully we can to see these four as a unit for at least a few games. It’s not crazy to think this could be New York’s 2018-2019 infield arrangement.
Obviously this is just the position player side of things. Nothing has been released as to which pitchers the club will send to the Fall League. Stay tuned.