8. Jorge Mateo
Mateo took a big step back offensively in 2016. His strikeout rate jumped from 15.1% the previous year to 20.1%, his OBP sunk 39 points, and he was hitting the ball in the air way too much for a player with his wheels.
Because there are few players in baseball that can match his raw speed, Mateo’s floor is pretty high. Like Billy Hamilton, it’s going to be hard for him to be bad. The plan to stick him in centerfield to take advantage of his range a la Hamilton seems like a good one. Still, I don’t see a star here like I do with some of the guys who rank above him.
The 22-year-old righty was again plagued by nagging injuries in 2016, but was overpowering when healthy, putting up a 2.61 ERA in 93 IP between Charleston and Tampa, striking out 27.4% of opposing batters (9.9 K/9) and walking just 5.9% (2.1 BB/9). As a 6’7 behemoth with a 100 mph heater, it’s really easy to dream on Acevedo.
He’s no longer just a “thrower,” having made great strides with his control and changeup. His breaking ball is still a work in progress, but could be the missing piece that makes him a legit ace when he gains some consistency with it. He feels like a guy who could either need another few seasons to work things out, or could be in the Bronx by August if everything clicks.
6. Chance Adams
Easily the best pitcher in the minor leagues in 2016, Adams put up a 2.33 ERA in 127.1 IP split between High-A and Double-A, striking out 29.1% of the batters he faced (10.2 K/9) and walked 7.9% (2.8 BB/9). He led all qualified MiLB pitchers in opponents’ batting average with a .169 mark.
Converting the college closer to the rotation in 2016 may have been the most important move the Yankees made in 2016, as Adams now looks like a potential front of the rotation option who could be big league ready at some point in 2017. He commands all four of his pitches well, relying primarily on an upper-90’s heater and a hard slider, while also mixing in a change and curve.
Although he slipped all the way to the Yankees at number 18 overall, the 19-year-old Rutherford is now seen by many evaluators as the best pure hitter from the 2016 draft class. He certainly didn’t hurt his case during his first taste of pro ball, hitting .382/.440/.618 in 100 plate appearances for Pulaski before hitting the shelf with a hamstring injury.
Rutherford has the makings of an all-around superstar who could shoot to the top of these rankings by next winter. He’s got a sweet left-handed swing, plenty of pop, and above average speed that lets him play center field capably, although most scouts think he’ll end up as an excellent defensive corner outfielder by the time he makes it to the big leagues.