While young studs such as Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin gear up for their first full season in the big leagues, many faces of the New York Yankees future won’t be MLB-ready by opening day. According to Keith Law of ESPN, the Pinstripers boast the second best farm system in baseball heading into the 2017 season, but can we expect to see any of the organization’s top minor league talent in the Bronx this season?
In a previous post, I pointed out a few of the burning questions facing the team heading into 2017. In the third installment of this weekly series, let’s take a lot at what Yankees fans can expect from the team’s top three prospects (in my opinion) this season. MLB.com ranked seven Yankees prospects in their top 100 around the league, and 2017 will be a pivotal season for the organization’s development.
1. Gleyber Torres– Yankees shortstop prospect
At just 20 years of age, MLB.com ranks Torres the third best prospect in all of baseball. Torres will most likely not see any major league action until 2018, but Yankees fans should enjoy following the Venezuelan native’s 2017 campaign. Torres tore it up in the Arizona Fall League (AFL) en route to being named the AFL MVP.
Torres lead the AFL with a .403 AVG, .513 OBP and 1.158 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 62 at-bats to go along with three home runs, four doubles, and 25 hits. His .645 SLG was good for second best in the league, and at just 19-years-old at the time, Torres became the youngest AFL MVP in the league’s history.
Offensively, scouts have praised his quick hands at the plate, and ability to drive the ball to both gaps. I see Torres profiling as a 20 homer threat in the big leagues if he continues to progress at his current rate.
In 2016, the shortstop hit .270 AVG/.354 OBP/.421 SLG with 29 doubles, 11 home runs and 21 stolen bases in 125 games for the High-A Tampa Yankees, despite being nearly four years younger than the average Florida State League player.
Aside from his strong offensive prowess, one of the right hander’s most potent tools is his cannon from short. Some scouts have questioned his range at the position, but his powerful arm and quick instincts compensate.
On the 20-80 scouting grade scale, MLB.com ranks Torres: Hit: 65 | Power: 55 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 65, an incredibly high rating for a 20-year old. While I don’t expect to see him in the Bronx until next year, don’t be surprised if he forces himself into the Yankees clubhouse late this season.
2. Clint Frazier– Yankees outfield prospect
While Frazier only hit .228 AVG/.278 OBP/.396 SLG in a small sample size of 25 games (101 at-bats) after being acquired by New York last summer, Yankees fans have a ton to be excited about as Frazier nears his first full season in the organization. MLB.com ranks Frazier as the 24th best prospect in the MLB heading into spring training, and he will look to graduate off the list in 2017.
“Frazier has an electric bat,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. “His bat speed is already legendary. He can hit with power and play all three outfield positions. He’s a high-energy guy who shows up for the national anthem in a dirty uniform.”
The 22-year old possesses an innate ability to hit for power and steal bases and will have a chance to prove himself in camp next month after being extended an invitation on Tuesday. While his path to the major leagues ultimately depends on his performance in spring training, and most likely in the minor leagues to start the season, Frazier profiles as a middle of the order bat who could become the first Yankees player since Alfonso Soriano (2002, 2003) to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season.
Frazier has primarily played center field during his time in the minors, but given his strong throwing arm and frequent difficulty taking the correct route to the ball, I feel he could profile best as a right fielder in the major leagues. Of course, Aaron Judge is widely-assumed to man the position heading into spring training, and with center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury under contract through at least 2020, Frasier and Judge could compete for a time until Brett Gardner becomes a free agent after the 2018 season.
On the 20-80 scouting grade scale, MLB.com ranks Frazier: Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 55 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55.
One reservation Yankees fans may have toward Frazier is that he struck out 122 times in 436 minor league at-bats in 2016. He may need to solidify his plate discipline before being promoted, but if he can continue to develop into the player he is expected to be, we could very well see Frazier making major contributions for the Yankees down the stretch.
3. Jorge Mateo– Yankees middle infield prospect
After leading the minor leagues with 82 steals in 2015, Mateo entered his 2016 campaign as the Yankees top prospect. After a rough season in which he stole just 36 bags, hit .254 AVG/.306 OBP/.379 SLG with eight home runs and 47 RBI and even missed out on the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game due to a two-week suspension for insubordination, many Yankees fans seem ready to jump ship on Mateo’s potential.
Mateo fell from MLB.com’s 18th best prospect in baseball heading into 2016 to the 47th best heading into 2017. I for one feel that Mateo’s elite speed and serviceable bat is a rare combination, and should not be overlooked.
The 21-year-old has drawn comparisons to players such as Jose Reyes, but he clearly has a long way to go before he is MLB-ready. I think it’s safe to assume we won’t see Mateo in the Bronx until at least mid-late 2018, if not 2019. However, Yankees fans should closely follow his progress this season, as he could be a fixture of the team’s success in years to come.
If you’re wondering why Mateo stole less than half as many bases in 2016 as he did the prior year, look no further than his plate discipline. His 108:33 K/BB ratio frequently kept him off the base paths, and his tendency to chase breaking balls out of the zone took away several hits.
Despite his lackluster 2016 season, MLB.com still ranks Mateo at an impressive Hit: 50 | Power: 40 | Run: 80 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55 on the 20-80 scouting grade scale. While his range and strong arm are massive positives, he committed 17 errors in 62 games at shortstop last season, as opposed to just one error in 40 games at second base. Few players in professional baseball can match his combination of speed and arm strength, and if he can buff out his flaws, Mateo has a very high ceiling at the major league level.
What do you expect from these three prospects in 2017? Do you believe Mateo still deserves a top three spot in the organization, or has he been surpassed by another prospect? Leaves us a comment or tweet us your thoughts.