Under the Radar Yankees Prospects: Outfielder Mark Payton
Yanks Go Yard is combing through the New York Yankees minor league system in search of hidden gems in this ongoing series. Today, outfielder Mark Payton.
While he is dismissed by some scouts as an “organizational player,” New York Yankees minor league outfielder Mark Payton continues to put up solid numbers during his steady climb up the minor league ladder, and seems likely to begin next year just one step away from the big show with Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.
Selected as a senior out of the University of Texas in the seventh round of the 2014 draft (212th overall), Payton was extremely productive during his NCAA career, hitting a combined .318/.425/.444 in 1083 PA during his four seasons with the Longhorns. Draft reports at the time weren’t thrilled about his limited size and lack of power potential however.
Listed at just 5’7 180lbs, Payton looks like the definition of the scrappy fourth outfielder with no power, although he did hit double-digit home runs for the first time as a professional in 2016. His biggest strength on offense is plus plate discipline. He has a .363 OBP and 10.6% walk rate across his first three minor league seasons.
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Although he hasn’t put up gaudy stolen base totals, Payton does have 60 grade speed and has swiped a respectable 11 bags each of the last two seasons. His plus wheels also help make him a competent defender at all three outfield spots, but he’s not a stand out in the field. His arm strength is also just average.
The 24-year-old began 2016 with High-A Tampa, but spend the majority of the year playing for the Double-A Trenton Thunder, hitting .272/.337.408 with seven home runs in 381 plate appearances during his second go-round in the Eastern League.
Payton made it to the highest level of the Yankees minor league system for the first time this season, and acquitted himself well during a cup of coffee with the Railriders. Notably, he hit leadoff and picked up a hit and a run in Scranton Wilkes-Barre’s 3-1 victory in the Triple-A Championship game.
His continued success gives him a strong case for playing time in the Yankees crowded Triple-A outfield picture next season, but he’ll face stiff competition from top prospects like Mason Williams, Clint Frazier, Jake Cave, and Dustin Fowler.
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Payton still doesn’t look like a future MLB starter, but he is also not far off from a shot at a big league bench job. If he turns in a strong 2017 campaign in the International League, he could be a favorite to be selected in the Rule 5 draft because of New York’s outfield log jam.