Top 10 Yankees Prospects Ranked by Big League Club Need
Clint Frazier may be the Yankees’ No. 1 overall prospect, but where does he fall in regards to helping the club at positions of most need?
Though MLB Pipeline.com ranks prospects according to their overall ability, their immediate impact on the big league club holds almost no regard. That’s why this set of rankings will take into account a deficiency at a specific position at the Major League level — and how that corresponding player falls into the Yankees’ future plans as of today.
Just as a quick precursor, you won’t find any prospects listed here that spent 20 or more games at the big league level last season (ie. Aaron Judge).
10. Jorge Mateo (MLB Pipeline No. 3 Yankees prospect):
After being unseated by Gleyber Torres as the next great Yankees SS (arguably), Mateo’s ability to hit to all fields and excellent baserunning skills make him a big-time trade chip. With questions about attitude and dedication to the cause hopefully in check, if Mateo were to stick within the organization, it would certainly help his cause if the Yankees traded Chase Headley, thereby potentially moving Starlin Castro to third base – opening up second base.
Considering Mateo made 30 errors in 99 games last season, a switch of middle infield positions could be in the cards. Batting as a nine-hole hitter, Mateo would theoretically act as a second leadoff hitter if he can improve upon his Single-A slash line of .254/.306/.379 with 108 strikeouts and 33 walks. You can’t steal bases if you can’t get on.
Best value as of today: Trade chip. ETA – 2019
9. Blake Rutherford (MLB Pipeline No. 5 Yankees prospect):
Having only graduated from high school this past summer, Rutherford has shot up the Yankees’ farm system rankings. But with Judge and Frazier already way ahead of him in the pecking order, and the growing possibility of the Yankees making a serious run at Bryce Harper after the 2018 season, Rutherford may be showcasing his skills for another team in search of a player referred to by scouts as a more athletic version of David Justice.
At 6’3” 195lbs, the sweet-swinging left-handed hitter is on the cusp of becoming a legit 5-tool player — though by adding muscle, therefore, translating into better power numbers, he’ll likely cut down on his above average speed. Should this happen, a shift to one of the corner outfield spots seems plausible. A lot can happen between now and when the 19-year-old is big league ready.
Best value as of today: Trade chip. ETA – 2020
8. Jordan Montgomery (MLB Pipeline No. 19 Yankees prospect):
Montgomery’s high standing on this list as compared to Pipeline’s designation is simple – the last time the Yankees had an effective homegrown left-handed starting pitcher was Andy Pettitte. Standing 6’6” 225lbs, Monty’s arsenal of pitches and delivery mechanics are actually pretty reminiscent of ol’ No. 46. Having solid command of a 91-94 mph fastball that runs and sinks away from hitters is one thing, but a game changing fader of a changeup on top of an effective cutter and curveball, separate Montgomery as a polished 4-pitch shooter ready for the next step in his professional development.
Should fellow southpaw CC Sabathia become injured or ineffective in his last contracted season with the Yankees, the club would be wise to inject the 23-year-old into Sabathia’s spot in the rotation.
Best value as of today: Back-of-the-rotation starter. ETA – 2017
7. Domingo Acevedo (MLB Pipeline No. 5 Yankees prospect):
Acevedo would be higher on this list if the Yankees truly had a read on if his stuff was better suited as a starter or a reliever. At 6’7” 240lbs, the 22-year-old fireballer is one of the hardest throwers in the Minors. “Throwers” is the key word here, as his work-in-progress slider is nowhere near the level of his an insanely good changeup.
Acevedo could become a clone of Dellin Betances or a higher up sided version of Michael Pineda — capable of pitching the all-important 7th inning — should the organization feel he has harnessed his at-times worrisome control issues. Reaching the big leagues as a reliever capable of throwing multiple innings at some point during the 2017 season is a real possibility, allowing the Yankees to in-turn use Adam Warren as a spot starter — should the need arise.
Best value as of today: Middle reliever. ETA – 2018
6. Miguel Andujar (MLB Pipeline No. 7 Yankees prospect):
I’ve been banging the drum for Andujar for some time now, but with the revelation that the organization may be looking into potentially trading Chase Headley, Andujar’s growing star needs to burn brighter, sooner rather than later.
A quick stick capable of driving balls to all parts of the gap, the 21-year-old Dominican native took major strides on offense in 2016, becoming a much smarter hitter who is able to make adjustments in the box on the fly. Andujar’s range, hands, and 95 mph throwing arm have drawn comparisons to Manny Machado, though he’ll have to cut down on the 26 errors he’s committed over the past two seasons should we ever see the two square off at Yankee Stadium. Of course, Andujar sticking with the Yankees could be dependent on the organization not pursuing Machado following 2018.
Best value as of today: Starting third baseman. ETA – 2018
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5. Chance Adams (MLB Pipeline No. 14 Yankees prospect):
Drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 draft, Adams exploded upon the Minor Leagues, going a combined 13-1, with a 2.33 ERA, and 144 strikeouts in 127.1 innings pitched. Still only 22, it’s very possible Adams is the first call-up should any of the Yankees’ penciled-in starters struggle or succumb to injury.
Mixing in a high 90s fastball with his most refined out pitch – the slider, Adams has been known to heavily rely on the changeup as a way to counteract fatigue from his slight 6’0 frame. While some scouts feel his aggressive mentality is better suited for a relief role, Adams will likely begin the new campaign at Triple-A Scranton, with a real shot of making an impact at the big league level as a starter very soon.
Best value as of today: Middle-of-the-rotation starter. ETA – 2017
4. Justus Sheffield (MLB Pipeline No. 6 Yankees prospect):
The biggest criticism of Sheffield is the fact that he’s 5’10” 195lbs. Well, so was Johan Santana, and he did alright for himself. Diminutive or not — starter or reliever — Sheffield was a key piece in the frenzied Andrew Miller deal, so the Yankees expect him to one day soon produce at the Major League level.
With three money pitches to rely upon, Sheffield is able to unleash a sinking, late moving mid-90s fastball – a swing and miss curveball – and an ever-developing changeup. A clean repeatable delivery counterbalances Sheff’s lack of consistent quality strikes thrown at this time. Perhaps his greatest attribute though is his propensity for keeping the ball on the ground, which will definitely come in handy in the bandbox known as Yankee Stadium.
Best value as of today: Middle-of-the-rotation starter. ETA – 2018
3. Gleyber Torres (MLB Pipeline No. 2 Yankees prospect):
Is Torres the next coming of Derek Jeter? Well, let’s not put the cart before the horse – a better measuring stick for the reigning Arizona Fall League MVP would be for him to join the young phenom shortstops club. You know, the one that includes Corey Seager, Trea Turner, Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell, and Xander Bogaerts.
With Gregorius having just completed his most accomplished professional season to date, the Yankees are in no rush to bring the 20-year-old Torres up to the Majors just yet. Though a trade of Headley could cause a reconfiguration of the infield – Castro moves to third and Torres gets cozy at second, or Castro stays put and Torres goes to the hot corner (scouts say his range is getting better but still not a plus grade).
I myself would argue to keep Torres at his natural position of shortstop, one that allows him the comforting nature of evolving into a patient line drive hitter capable of popping 20+ home runs per season.
Best value as of today: Starting shortstop. ETA – 2018
2. Clint Frazier (MLB Pipeline No. 1 Yankees prospect):
I very easily could have bumped Frazier up a spot, as the Yankees outfield is one of the core areas of concern headed into ’17. Not because we don’t know who will be in it – rather we have no idea how those players will perform. Each with their own deficiencies, the Yankees are in desperate need of a defining outfield presence.
Frazier and his growing number of followers on social media are starting to make noise that the recently acquired for No. 1 prospect of the Cleveland Indians is up to the task. Whether it’s the type of personality that would make Bryce Harper blush, or the legendary bat speed (as seen on Twitter), Frazier has all the tools to be the face of the next great group of Yankee ballplayers.
As Frazier gets a full season under his belt of Triple-A ball, it won’t be long until fans are desperate for the fiery redhead to make his way to the Bronx. If he can continue his disciplined approach at the plate, steadily improve at going back on balls, and commits to the maturation process, the Yankees could very well be looking at their center fielder for the next 12 years.
Best value as of today: Starting center fielder. ETA – 2018
1. James Kaprielian (MLB Pipeline No. 9 Yankees prospect):
With the very real chance of Masahiro Tanaka opting out of his current contract after ’17, the Yankees may find themselves in dire straights when it comes to assembling a formidable rotation this time next year. Pineda as a No. 2 option is a frightening proposition — and projected starters, Chad Green, Luis Cessa, and Luis Severino are chock full of question marks.
Kaprielian, the 15th overall pick in the ’15 draft comes with his own level of skepticism, having only thrown 18 innings last season due to lingering shoulder issues. When healthy, the 22-year-old one-time UCLA Bruin is as dominating as any blue chip prospect in baseball. With a repertoire that consists of a sinking high 90s fastball, wrapped around excellent control and command, and a 6’4” 200lb frame, it’s easy to see why Kaprielian has the highest ceiling of any Yankees hurler.
For those curious as to how Kap found his way onto the top spot of this list, I implore you to realize just how vital it is that this organization establish an ace (with or without Tanaka) that can rival the Noah Syndergaard’s of the world – the Max Scherzer’s — or the Corey Kluber’s. These pitchers are game changers. Few have one, but everyone wants one.
Sure, Kaprielian will only take the hill once every five days or so, but his effects as the ace of a staff will cause a trickle down effect — directly impacting how each and every other pitcher performs thereafter. From the number of innings the bullpen needs to throw, to the overall psyche of the rest of the starters — the true measurement of a world-class No. 1 is measured by the amount of pressure he takes off his teammates.
Next: Hank Steinbrenner Talks Baby Bombers
Best value as of today: Top-of-the-rotation starter. ETA – 2018