Yankees state of the system: First Base

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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The Yankees lost Mike Ford to Seattle in the Rule 5 Draft last December. There’s a good chance he doesn’t stick, but let’s assume he does.

Ford’s departure means more playing time for Ryan McBroom, who should open the season as Scranton’s starting first baseman.

The 25-year-old McBroom was acquired from Toronto last summer in the Rob Refsnyder trade. He spent all of 2017 at the Double-A level, first in New Hampshire and then with Trenton.

McBroom is a righty thumper with legitimate pop. He’s launched 38 home runs over the last two years — 16 in 2017 and 22 in 2016.

The power plays. But McBroom strikes out a lot and isn’t a great on-base guy.

2018 will be a big test for McBroom. It’s his first chance to prove himself against Triple-A pitching. With the brittle pair of Bird and Austin ahead of him on the depth chart, it’s not impossible to imagine McBroom getting a shot with the big club in 2018.

If McBroom can close the holes in his swing, he could be dangerous. But if his game doesn’t coalesce, he might just be another run-of-the-mill power-hitting first baseman who can’t do anything else. The upper minors are teeming with those.

While McBroom will likely be Scranton’s primary first baseman, he won’t play there every day. The RailRiders should receive contributions from both Billy Fleming and their No. 22 prospect Billy McKinney.

Fleming, a 25-year-old infielder, split time between first base, second base and third base last season.

2017 was a bit of a down year for Fleming offensively, although his versatility makes him a sneaky candidate for a midseason call-up.

McKinney, meanwhile, is an outfielder by trade. The Yanks acquired him as part of the Aroldis Chapman deal back in 2016. Formerly one of the Cubs’ top prospects, McKinney’s stock has cooled a bit in recent years. But a strong 2017, in which he batted .277 with 16 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A put him back in the mix.

Although he hadn’t played the infield since high school, the Yankees stuck McKinney at first in the Arizona Fall League. They hope that McKinney can master first base quickly enough to become a viable major league option by early 2018.

McKinney is still just 23-years-old and, unlike McBroom and Fleming, he’s currently on the 40-man roster. The Yankees outfield is already jam-packed, so if McKinney shows he can handle first, he’ll likely be the team’s third option if and when Bird and Austin inevitably go down injured.