The State of the System: A year after being deadline sellers, the Yankees thinned out their farm with graduations and a pair of July 31st buys. The system is down a little, but has an elite 1-2 punch at the top and a bonanza of high-upside teenagers further down the organizational totem pole.
The Top Ten:
- Gleyber Torres, IF
- Estevan Florial, OF
- Chance Adams, RHP
- Justus Sheffield, LHP
- Albert Abreu, RHP
- Miguel Andujar, 3B
- Domingo Acevedo, RHP
- Domingo German, RHP
- Matt Sauer, RHP
- Luis Medina, RHP
1. Gleyber Torres, IF
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 175 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed July 2013 by Chicago Cubs out of Venezuela for $1.7 million; acquired via trade from the Chicago Cubs.
Previous Ranking(s): #1 (Org), #15 (Top 101)
2017 Stats: .309/.406/.457, 2 HR, 2 SB in 23 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; .273/.367/.496, 5 HR, 5 SB in 32 games at Double-A Trenton
The Good: Pick any of the five tools, and Torres is already at least major-league average at it, with room to grow everywhere but speed. He combines an advanced feel for hitting with extremely quick hands and wrists. There’s a slight bat wrap, but he’s so quick to the ball that it plays as nearly irrelevant. He was in the process of converting plus raw power into plus game power at the time of his injury, and he’s got the bat speed that you could see a lot more coming. He’s got a good plan at the plate to top it off. He has all the fielding ability necessary to be an above-average MLB shortstop. He’s an average-or slightly better runner down the line with aggressive baserunning instincts. He’s extremely polished and was likely only a couple weeks from a MLB call-up when he suffered a season-ending elbow injury in June.
The Bad: That torn UCL on his non-throwing arm cost him a clear shot at being a second-half Yankees regular somewhere or another and about 400 plate appearances of development. Even if he suffers no permanent injury damage, he’s still going to be catching up for a little bit. His minor-league production has, 2016 AFL notwithstanding, always been just a half-step behind his tools and hype; he’s been consistently good everywhere, but yet to truly dominate. If you want to extend that narrative further, he might not have a 70 tool present unless the hit or power plays up, and that might limit his chances to be a true superstar. His future defensive home is still up in the air and might depend on what the Yankees plan long-term with Didi Gregorius more than his own skill. He’s a little shorter and stockier than you might picture from his listed height/weight, and probably doesn’t have huge physical projection left.
OFP 70—Star somewhere on the infield
Likely 60—First-division starting 2B or 3B
The Risks: Tommy John surgery on the non-throwing arm from a traumatic hit is a complete wildcard; we just don’t know whether it’ll have any effect on his play or not. Because he’s so well-rounded and polished, he’d probably be the top prospect in baseball without that uncertainty. —Jarrett Seidler
Major league ETA: 2018
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Hello! I am here to tell you that a star-level infield talent who’s close to the majors and who would call Yankee Stadium home is a pretty good fantasy asset! Torres might not produce big-time pop right away, but he should have enough batting average and R/RBI opportunities to carry him for a year or two as he settles into being a big league regular. In short, expect a top-15 2B or 3B for the first season or two Torres gets regular MLB time, then expect a whole lot of top-five finishes at whichever position he plays when he’s truly in his prime. Torres is a no-doubt top-10 dynasty prospect, and there’s a pretty good chance he ends up in the top-five.
2. Estevan Florial, OF
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 185 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed March 2015 by the New York Yankees out of Haiti for $200,000.
Previous Ranking(s): N/R
2017 Stats: .303/.368/.461, 2 HR, 6 SB in 19 games at High-A Tampa; .297/.373/.483, 11 HR, 17 SB in 91 games at Low-A Charleston
The Good: Florial was the breakout star of the Yankees system in 2017 and it’s pretty easy to see why when watching him play. At just 19 years old, he is a toolshed who can run, hit, hit for power, and can truly hold his own in all three outfield spots. The teenager completely overwhelmed the South Atlantic League for most of the year with his plus bat speed and the way he attacks the baseball. He didn’t miss a beat in High-A either, finishing with an average over .300 in just about 20 games with Tampa. The raw power should approach elite levels and he’s got the athleticism to be a plus fielder, especially in the corners. Still so young and projectable, Florial will continue to develop his raw and power and bat speed, making him one of the more intriguing prospects in all of major league baseball. There’s nothing he can’t do on the field and with time, the tools give him a chance to be an all-star in the bigs.
The Bad: While Florial is young and intriguing, his hit tool still requires a fair amount of growth. The outfielder struck out a glaring 148 times in 110 games as he gets too aggressive in the box, letting pitchers off easy when they miss their spots. He flashes the ability to use all fields, but he still needs some fine-tuning recognizing the breaking ball and must settle down his approach overall. There is the potential that he could hit a wall versus upper-level arms that can exploit these flaws. The body development has a chance to push him off center field too, where his above-average power plays a bit down.
OFP 70—All-star center fielder
Likely 55—Above-average corner outfielder
The Risks: Florial’s still young and developing his all around game with the bat. I trust the tools will develop as he climbs the ladder, but a full season in High-A could expose the strikeout tendencies. —Greg Goldstein
Major league ETA: 2019
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: I’m going to preach patience when it comes to Florial, because he’s likely to have more ups and downs in 2018 than he did in his breakout campaign. He does not have the profile of a player who’ll enjoy a smooth, linear ascent to the majors, or who will be a star the second he gets there. But what Florial does have is OF1 upside, especially if he remains a Yankee. Don’t cut bait or sell low if he starts striking out a ton in the high minors. Let it ride and watch how Florial adjusts over the next 12-18 months. The upside as a 30-homer/20-steal guy more than justifies his roster spot on your dynasty squad.
3. Chance Adams, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 210 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 5th round of the 2015 draft, Dallas Baptist; signed for $330,000.
Previous Ranking(s): #10 (Org)
2017 Stats: 2.89 ERA, 3.33 DRA, 115 ⅓ IP, 81 H, 43 BB, 103 K in 21 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; 1.03 ERA, 4.54 DRA, 35 IP, 23 H, 15 BB, 32 K in 6 games at Double-A Trenton
The Good: All Chance Adams did (again) this year is get batters out. There’s a plus fastball here. He can dial it up to 97, but tends to work 92-95. His uptempo, compact delivery adds some deception to the heater, and it gets on you in a hurry. He changes eye levels effectively with it, and there’s explosive “rise” when he elevates it. Even when the pitch isn’t lighting up radar guns, it is very tricky to square. The slider is his best secondary, a mid-80s offering with late 12-6 action. It’s a potential plus pitch. The curve doesn’t have as lofty a projection, but it features similar shape from Adams’ high-three-quarters slot, and as it comes in 5-10 mph slower than the slider, it works well in concert to give batters a different look. Adams is a bulldog on the mound who goes right after batters, and there isn’t a ton of mileage on his arm since he didn’t pitch much in high school and only started his last year of college. The whole is better than the sum of the parts. It just works.
The Bad: So he doesn’t exactly look the part of top starting pitching prospect, despite the results. He’s a short, stocky righty. The command can waver. He can be inefficient at times. The changeup is a little firm and a little flat despite good velocity separation. The stuff overall doesn’t jump off the scouting report. Does this sort of sound like a fastball/slider short reliever? Yeah, it’s a possibility.
OFP 60—No. 3 starter
Likely 50—Not enough command or change to be a no. 3 starter
The Risks: Adams may have already been one of the Yankees five best rotation options this summer when they were giving starts to the Luis Cessas and Caleb Smiths of the world.
Major league ETA: 2018, as needed.
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: If you’ve followed this series for a few years you know the drill, but for the newly enlightened—I hate mid-to-backend dynasty starter prospects. A guy like Adams has tremendous value to a big league organization, but substantially less so to dynasty leagues that only roster 100-150 prospects. His closeness to the majors is a big point in his favor, but there just isn’t enough upside here to justify placing Adams as a top-50-or-so guy. Because of SP attrition rate, I’m a big believer in betting on pitching upside and only gobbling up guys like Adams if they’re on waivers or fall to me late in drafts. I suggest you do the same, because even if it all clicks, Adams will only be a fantasy SP5 as a Yankee.
4. Justus Sheffield, LHP
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 200 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 31st overall in the 2014 MLB Draft, Tullahoma HS (Tullahoma, TN); signed for $1.6 million; acquired from the Indians for Andrew Miller.
Previous Ranking(s): #5 (Top 10), #52 (Top 101)
2017 Stats: 3.18 ERA, 3.78 DRA, 93 ⅓ IP, 94 H, 33 BB, 82 K in 17 games at Double-A Trenton
The Good: He’s a lefty that can sit in the mid-90s with explosive movement, and projects for a possible plus slider and change. There are few prospects in baseball where you can write a one sentence summary that impressive.
The Bad: The command comes and goes with an inconsistent release. Between his short stature, a spotty health history (2017’s injury du jour was an oblique that cost him a couple months), and an occasionally violent delivery, it’s safe to say there are some really significant durability issues present. Reports on his velocity vary some depending on when you see him. Lack of plane on his fastball due to height and release may have started to manifest in homer-proneness this year despite a friendly park and league. This might just be a really cool relief profile in the end.
OFP 60—Good starter always flashing more, or high-end reliever
Likely 50—Fourth starter always flashing more, or good reliever
The Risks: Unusually high for a top Double-A pitching prospect. The mercurial command profile would make us mention a reliever risk here even if there weren’t frame and health signs pointing there too. There’s also some positive risk that he puts the injury and command problems behind him, the velocity settles in on the high side, and he dusts the OFP. But it’s hard for us to project Sheffield to put it all together at once at this point, as tantalizing as the upside would be if he did. —Jarrett Seidler
Major league ETA: Late-2018/early-2019
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Read what I said about Adams above, but add more upside and a lower floor. Whether you prefer Sheffield’s profile to Adams’ is entirely up to you, but I imagine they’ll be ranked somewhat closeish to each other when our top-101+ list comes out. I should note that personally I think Sheffield is a reliever long-term, but compared to Jarrett I have no idea what I’m talking about, so…
5. Albert Abreu, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 175 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed August 2013 by the Astros out of the Dominican Republic for $185,000; acquired via trade from the Houston Astros.
Previous Ranking(s): #8 (Org), #82 (Top 101)
2017 Stats: 4.19 ERA, 4.17 DRA, 34 ⅓ IP, 33 H, 15 BB, 31 K in 9 games at High-A Tampa; 1.84 ERA, 2.54 DRA, 14 ⅔ IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 22 K in 3 games at Low-A Charleston
The Good: Abreu doesn’t get talked up as one of the better “stuff” guys in the minors, but catch him on the right day and he looks like a potential top-of-the-rotation arm. The fastball sits mid-90s and can touch triple digits. It has explosive late life out of a short arm action showing both run and cut. He pairs it with a low-80s, power 11-5 curve with plus or better potential. If it all clicks at some point, the below role grades may end up low.
The Bad: Abreu doesn’t get talked up as one of the better “command” guys in the minors no matter what day you catch him. The fastball moves but it isn’t always effective or even intentional movement. Being wild within the zone with this kind of stuff may overwhelm A-ball hitters, but might not work multiple times through the lineup at higher levels. The changeup flashes but lags behind the rest of the arsenal at present. Oh, and you might not have caught Abreu on any day in 2017, as he missed a large chunk of the year with a non-specific “shoulder issue.”
OFP 60—No. 3 starter that you think should be a no. 2
Likely 50— Setup guy that you wish had the durability to start
The Risks: High. As good as the stuff is, he is an A-ball arm with command issues coming off a shoulder injury. That’s a full color guard worth of red flags.
Major league ETA: 2020
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Abreu is my favorite dynasty pitching prospect in the system. Shoulder injuries are scary, yes, and I wish he was a bit closer to the majors, but the upside is here for Abreu to profile as a high-strikeout, high-WHIP SP3/4, and scarily, an ETA of 2020 is no longer indicative of a prohibitive lead time. It might seem strange to prefer Abreu to Adams, but think of it this way; if Adams clicks, you’d be able to trade a decent prospect or two for him. If Abreu clicks, you’d need to fork over a massive haul.
6. Miguel Andujar, 3B
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 215 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed July 2011 by the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic for $750,000.
Previous Ranking(s): Others of Note
2017 Stats: .571/.625/.857, 0 HR, 1 SB in 5 games at major league level; .317/.364/.502, 9 HR, 3 SB in 58 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; .312/.342/.494, 7 HR, 2 SB in 67 games at Double-A Trenton
The Good: A tremendous athlete with lightning in his wrists, Andujar finally figured out some of the finer points of hitting in 2017, succeeding at both levels of the high-minors and even making a cameo in the majors. He’s always had a better feel for hitting than you’d think, and he finally started swinging at more of the right pitches this year. The swing is long and he’s never going to be a high walk player, but he’s got significant bat speed and developing power. A plus runner, Andujar has all of the physical attributes necessary to play third, including a plus arm and solid range. He’s a high-energy player who has continued to improve every year, and he’s really fun to watch play the game.
The Bad: The plus arm strength plays down because it isn’t paired with stellar accuracy. His hands aren’t great, and he doesn’t always make the best of choices on how to play the ball at third, which has led the Yankees to talk about exposing him to other positions, most likely first base. They seemed totally unwilling to play him at third in meaningful games this past year, at least. If the bat doesn’t make it, it’ll probably be because he never fully conquers his overly aggressive plate approach.
OFP 60—Starting third baseman
Likely 50—Platoon/second-division starter at third or first
The Risks: Andujar easily could get caught as a tweener, with defense just not good enough for regular third base duty and offense just not good enough to carry a full-time first base or DH role. He could also end up failing to hit righties enough to be more than a platoon player. This profile has a pretty thin and dangerous line between major-league regular and not being able to justify a long-term roster spot; it’s a testament to our belief in Andujar’s underlying hitting ability, athleticism, and ability to adapt that he ranks this highly in a pretty stacked system. —Jarrett Seidler
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2017
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: It’s a little bizarre to have a Yankees prospect who’s underrated among dynasty leaguers, but Andujar might fit the bill. We don’t need him to play at third base every day, we just need him to play there often enough to retain eligibility, so some of the defensive risk is mitigated. He’s in a bit of a catch-22 as a Yankees prospect in that he’d thrive in that lineup and at that park, but he’s more likely to see playing time in a different organization. Either way, Andujar will flirt with a top-101 ranking as a guy who’d be able to contribute moderately in all five categories even if he’s never going to be a fantasy star.
7. Domingo Acevedo, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’7”, 250 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed October 2012 by the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic for $7,500.
Previous Ranking(s): N/R
2017 Stats: 4.38 ERA, 6.27 DRA, 12 ⅓ IP, 12 H, 8 BB, 8 K in 2 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; 2.38 ERA, 3.05 DRA, 79 ⅓ IP, 65 H, 17 BB, 82 K in 14 games for Double-A Trenton; 4.57 ERA, 1.74 DRA, 41 ⅓ IP, 49 H, 9 BB, 52 K in 7 games for High-A Tampa
The Good: He touches triple-digits and regularly sits in the high-90s from an extremely deceptive and hard-to-see arm slot. That same arm slot contributes to a potentially plus slider with tons of tilt, although he needs to gain greater command and a more consistent shape. Prior to the emergence of his slider in the high-minors, he had relied on a change that played well off his fastball and projects to at least major-league average. Acevedo is a huge human with a no-doubt starter’s frame.
The Bad: Early in the 2017 season when Acevedo had a lot of helium, Jeffrey Paternostro and I got into a discussion about Acevedo’s future potential and role. Jeffrey had read stuff that I and others had filed and thought that on paper, Acevedo seemed like a potential top-of-the-rotation starter. I pulled up some video I had on my cell phone of his delivery and mechanics, and that was the end of the conversation (I appreciate Jarrett not mentioning the agonized noise I made —j.p.). They’re that violent, and while the Yankees have had some success at surprisingly high levels in smoothing out violent mechanics from huge arms just enough to start—Luis Severino being the most recent example—I’m still not going to be on it until I see it happen. And Severino is only two weeks older than Acevedo, who has yet to make his MLB debut. Acevedo also needs to improve the consistency of his secondary offerings, especially the change.
OFP 60—Closer or up-and-down mid-rotation starter
Likely 50—Setup dude that always has you wanting a little more
The Risks: His delivery is violent enough that his arm could just fly off at any time. Although the overall command profile is fine, he’s been pretty inconsistent at times. Of all the high-level Yankee pitching prospects with a reliever risk, he’s the most likely to end up in relief. —Jarrett Seidler
Major league ETA: 2018
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Folks I haven’t seen a delivery get panned like that since James Franco hosted the Oscars. Friends don’t let friends draft reliever prospects. Move along.
8. Domingo German, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’2”/175 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed August 2009 out of the Dominican Republic by the Marlins for $40,000.
Previous Ranking(s): N/R
2017 Stats: 3.14 ERA, 2.87 DRA, 14 ⅓ IP, 11 H, 9 BB, 18 K in 7 games at major league level; 2.83 ERA, 2.95 DRA, 76 ⅓ IP, 59 H, 22 BB, 81 K in 14 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; 3.00 ERA, 3.11 DRA, 33 IP, 32 H, 10 BB, 38 K in 6 games at Double-A Trenton
The Good: German has great stuff. His fastball sat 94-95 (touching 97 on 100th pitch!) in a seven-inning, September outing. The pitch has two-plane movement and is lethal when located, running away from lefties and back over the outer third against righties. His command slips due to mechanical inconsistency (release point) or just struggling to harness all the movement, which lands me at a (high) 6 for the fastball—some would give it a 7 and it could easily play to that out of the pen. His 6 slider has 10-5 shape in the 81-83 velo band, with nasty, hard break when it’s right. It is a swing-and-miss pitch particularly versus righties. His changeup is his third pitch (future 50), but he maintained his arm speed well enough to induce soft contact with the pitch. His feel was inconsistent, and while it is not likely to miss bats, it plays up when mixed with two bat-missers in his fastball and slider. He only needs this pitch to be average to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
The Bad: German’s command hasn’t come all the way back after the TJ surgery that cost him the 2015 season. While German repeated well in this outing, scouts report inconsistency and when his command slipped in my viewing, his release point was dipping and he would get around the ball. In addition, his fastball has enough action that its two-plane movement is difficult to harness. I also see some potential injury risk, as German’s arm action is on the longer end and his overall delivery is stiff—not to mention the prior surgery.
OFP 60—No. 3 starter or high-leverage reliever
Likely 50—Setup man
The Risks: German lost 2015 to Tommy John, and given his historical command profile, he could get pushed to the pen quite soon, but I like him to be a leverage option there. He still has the stuff and enough command to merit MLB rotation opportunities. —John Eshelman
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2017
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: While I appreciate that the first part of German’s scouting report above is a tribute to Joe Kelly, the odds that he’s a reliever are too great for me to tell you to get aggressive here. His ETA and upside make him worth a speculative add in TDGX-sized (200+ prospects owned) leagues, but don’t take the leap if you play in a more conventional setting.
9. Matt Sauer, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 207 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 54th overall in the 2017 MLB Draft, Righetti HS (Santa Maria, CA); signed for $2.4975 million.
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2017 Stats: 5.40 ERA, 6.96 DRA, 11 ⅔ IP, 13 H, 8 BB, 12 K in 6 games at complex-level GCL
The Good: What happens when a projectable young arm hits his projection? Matt Sauer happens. Sauer exploded heading into 2017, with his fastball touching 97 in the spring eventually signing for an overslot bonus in the second round. His fastball could be a monster, potentially becoming a 70 pitch with plus movement that he has an idea of where to spot. Not just a fastball monster, his hard curve has 11-5 shape with power break and bite that can make a lot of people look foolish. While already physical, he looks like he can add 10-15 pounds to help sustain his stuff deeper into games.
The Bad: He doesn’t hold his stuff particularly deep into his outings. His delivery isn’t the best as his tempo was inconsistent and led to some inconsistencies with his arm slot. This could lead to some control problems in the future. His curve was highly inconsistent, as sometimes it would spin to the plate without much life. He rarely located his curve, moreso throwing it and hoping hitters would chase it. Like every other high schooler fresh into pro ball, he doesn’t feature a changeup.
OFP 60—No. 3 Starter
Likely 50—No. 4 Starter, Late-Inning Reliever
The Risks: High-school arm? Control issues? Inconsistent stuff? You get the rest. —Steve Givarz
Major league ETA: 2021
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Read what I said about Adams, but now take away some of the upside and replace it with a longer lead time. No thanks.
10. Luis Medina, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’1”/175 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Signed July 2015 by the Yankees out of Dominican Republic for $280,000.
Previous Ranking(s): N/R
2017 Stats: 5.09 ERA, 4.46 DRA, 23 IP, 14 H, 14 BB, 22 K in 6 games at short-season Pulaski
The Good: Check that biographical info again (and add at least an inch). Now picture a 96-98 mph fastball coming out of his arm with a bit of cut. That’s another big boy fastball in a system teeming with them. Based on his current command, it is a future 70 pitch—and that could bump to 80 if he can improve his command. The cutting action was inconsistent, better early and down in the zone, and at times the pitch was quite straight. He did show ability to change eye-levels and his arm-side command showed flashes. He pairs the fastball with a future 60 swing-and-miss curveball at 80-81 mph. He is confident throwing this pitch and at present it plays well against low-level competition as a chase pitch. His cambio is well behind and used infrequently, but he showed enough feel to land a future 50. The consistency on this pitch will require attention, and reliever risk applies, but you’re buying Medina as a projection play, and he’d be in the top tier of the 2018 draft class if he were a U.S. teen.
The Bad: Along with Medina’s fast and electric arm, physical projection, and awesome stuff is his current difficulty in locating his pitches, as reflected in his five-plus BB/9. Some of this is youth and overthrowing, and there is no need to rush mechanical changes with him still growing. Added strength, particularly in his lower half will improve stability and ideally take stress off of the arm. Despite command and strike-throwing concerns, Medina was more inconsistent than awful in this regard. Patience.
OFP 60—No. 3 starter
Likely 50—No. 4 starter, good middle reliever, he’s 18 this could go a lot of ways
The Risks: Extensive and obvious. Command improvement, age, etc.
Major league ETA: ???
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Add Medina to your watch list, but the lead time and the risk profiles are too great to pick him up as of yet. Pounce quickly if he starts getting some hype, though, because these guys never last as long on waivers as you want them to.
The Next Ten (In Alphabetical Order):
Oswaldo Cabrera, IF, Low-A Charleston
Cabrera was signed the year after the Yanks vaunted 2014 July 2nd class, but despite signing for a modest $100,000, at present he is a more interesting prospect than almost every name from their $30 million bonanza. He’s listed at my height and weight, which is, uh, skinny for a baseball player. But that’s “projection” when you’re 18 (less so when you are 35). The present isn’t bad either. Cabrera has a loose, whippy swing with some bat speed, and I could see him ending up with low-double-digit home run power at maturity. It’s tricky (risky) to throw a future 6 hit on a teenager who scuffled in full-season ball, but it’s a possible outcome here. Defensively the arm is a little stretched at short, but he’s a smooth, instinctual fielder who could fit at multiple spots on the dirt. He’s not as tooled up as the bonus babies he played with at Charleston and Staten Island in 2017, but for now at least, he’s a better prospect.
Roansy Contreras, RHP, complex-level GCL
A fairly projectable frame with some limitation, Contreras stands six-foot and throws from a three-quarters slot with a smooth, quick arm action. It is the kind of arm action—when you consider age (17), velo (low 90s), and a whip-like release—that allows you to project velo to the mid-90s. As for the repertoire, it is presently a fastball, changeup, and curveball mix that project to be average or better with 60 future control. The stuff is inconsistent pitch to pitch but they show nascent bite and swing-and-miss. The consistency will come with added practice. It is a good fastball with plane and swing-and-miss in the low 90s, topping out at 94. The changeup shows fade and bite in the mid 80s, replicating the arm speed well, and an 11-6 curveball in the low 80s. The delivery is repeated well with good direction to the plate, uncommon among international arms. He competes, is poised, and is “mature beyond his years.” There are several seasons, countless innings and obstacles as well as the inherent pitcher injury bugs that need to be overcome before he reaches his mid-rotation potential, but the future is bright. —Javier Barragan
Thairo Estrada, IF, Double-A Trenton
He’ll grow on you the more you see him. Estrada doesn’t have any obvious carrying tools at first glance, but he has sneakily great barrel control that reveals itself over the course of enough looks. That makes his hit tool hard as heck to evaluate; on initial looks it seems difficult to see how a long bat path from an unusually high setup combined with modest gap power can lead to as many hits as Estrada has been producing. But he’s really good at golfing the ball with soft liners in front of or between outfielders, and while he theoretically shouldn’t be able to make that work against major-league pitching, I’d have also thought that against Double-A pitching, and he sure did there. Estrada has played all over the infield in deference to higher-ranked prospects like Torres and Jorge Mateo; I like him most at second, but he might have enough range and arm for short, too. A nifty sleeper who might just keep hitting. —Jarrett Seidler
Ronald Herrera, RHP, New York Yankees
Amidst the torrent of great arms that will probably mostly end up in relief is a polished starter with command and a wide variety of pitches. Herrera still might end up in the pen because the Yankees sure have a surfeit of pitching and are liable to pick up a couple front of the rotation arms in any given offseason regardless, but those are the breaks of the game. Herrera commands both a four-seam and two-seam fastball well from 91-95, and also throws a solid-average change, the en vogue hard slider that borders on a cutter, and a well-shaped curve. None of these pitches present as an obvious plus out pitch, but they’re all more than usable, and Herrera pumps strikes. He battled an injured shoulder for a lot of the year, and health is the only thing currently in the way from him being a fourth starter-type. —Jarrett Seidler
Pablo Olivares, OF, Low-A Charleston
Olivares is the sort of prospect who grows on you across a series and multiple looks. There is not a standout tool here, but I project him to at least average across the board, led by a future 55 hit tool. In July while with Pulaski in the Appalachian League, his aggression could get the best of him—but when patient, he took walks and drove pitches to center and oppo. He’s bigger than his listed 6-foot, 160 pounds (likely closer to 170), and while just an average runner, his reads and instincts in center are good enough to stick with an average arm. With maturity and some added strength, he at least has a chance to see 50 power, albeit optimistically. He’s not flashy and he scuffled as an 18-year-old in Low-A Charleston in the final month, but the combination of tools and polish bodes well for the Venezuelan as he acclimates to full-season ball in an age appropriate context. —John Eshleman
Freicer Perez, RHP, Low-A Charleston
When conjuring a mental image of Perez, “big” is what comes to mind in regards to both his frame and his fastball. Measuring in at a legit 6-foot-8, the 21-year-old dominated the South Atlantic League with a fastball he can easily push to the upper 90s. You would expect the right-hander to have control issues, but he’s an above-average athlete on the mound, using an easy, loose motion to pound the zone at times. The command still needs work, but that’s not the main concern I have with the profile long-term. Where there are questions is the development of his secondary stuff. He throws a slider, curve, and change but all are inconsistent with the break and location. The heater bails him out at the lower levels, but there needs to be a significant jump in his offspeed stuff for him to remain in the rotation in the years to come. I’m still giving him a chance to do so because of his youth, projectability, and the athleticism he shows on the hill. Although, it’s more likely that Perez uses his fastball and the development of one breaking ball to become an above-average reliever when he does reach the majors. —Greg Goldstein
Clarke Schmidt, RHP, Did Not Pitch
When he was throwing strikes, most would argue that Schmidt was the best pitcher in his conference. The problem was he wasn’t always throwing strikes, then he had to get Tommy John surgery in April. When healthy, Schmidt would go after hitters with a heavy, plus fastball that was hard to square up consistently. If that wasn’t enough, he featured both a slider and a curve that could generate swings and misses when working. More often though, they would bleed together and be inconsistent offerings, but ones that could still be effective. His size isn’t the most ideal for a rotation, and with a Tommy John in his portfolio, he might not make it as a starter, but electric arms typically find a way. —Steve Givarz
Nick Solak, 2B, Double-A Trenton
Solak hits baseballs. It’s just easy for him. While not the most physical player, he has good hands and strong wrists that allow him to barrel up everything, including premium velocity. He uses the the whole field with his line-drive stroke, adjusts to pitchers throwing breaking balls, and even has quality plate discipline. He is also a plus runner, so he can even beat out his fair share of infield dribblers when necessary. We just need to find a place for Solak to play. While he wouldn’t be a bad second baseman, you wouldn’t write him up as an average one. His below-average arm limits what he can do in the dirt, with some suggesting he should play some outfield to add some versatility to his resume. —Steve Givarz
Dillon Tate, RHP, Double-A Trenton
There may be no significant prospect in baseball less consistent than Dillon Tate. If you catch him on the right day—or even inning—he can look like a potential top-of-the-rotation arm, getting it up to 97 with a wipeout slider and a useful change. If you get him on the wrong day, or too far into a start, he can show you a straight fastball from 89-92 and have serious command issues with his offspeeds. He spent most of his college career as a reliever, got his pro career back on track late in the 2016 season as a reliever, has battled injuries and ineffectiveness as a starter, and has shown in-game fatigue problems, so suffice it to say there are a lot of signs pointing to a future in short relief here. But the potential is enough for the former fourth overall pick in the nation to try the whole rotation game once or twice more. —Jarrett Seidler
Taylor Widener, RHP, High-A Tampa
Ironically, Widener wasn’t a full-time starter at South Carolina like his teammate Clarke Schmidt, but as with Chance Adams, the tools were there to be a starter. Widener’s fastball is a mid-90s offering with natural cut, but his lack of plane (he might just be six-foot) can leave the pitch flat. His best offering is a low-80s slider that showed sharp action with quality depth at times. I say “at times” because he struggled to control it, but would generally locate it away from trouble spots even if it wouldn’t get swings and misses. The change is just good enough to profile as a fringe-average offering, leaving him passable against lefties multiple times through an order. The lack of size, fringe command, and a long-ish injury history might not let him profile as a starter long-term, but a quality talent in the 12th round is a win no matter how you draw it up. —Steve Givarz
Friends in Low Places
Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP, short-season Staten Island
Loaisiga’s professional career certainly could have started better. The Giants signed him in 2013 out of Nicaragua but eventually released him in 2015 due to injury problems. After signing with the Yankees in February 2016, he didn’t pitch until this season due to Tommy John surgery. He is now a 22-year-old low minors pitcher listed at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds in a deep system. Nonetheless, he features a potentially plus fastball-curveball combination with the ability to throw either pitch for strikes in any count. The fastball consistently hovers around 95 mph (t97) with late movement and should hit the upper 90s more frequently as he continues to get stronger. His curveball flashes plus with hard, tight break and at times can be difficult to distinguish from a slider. His changeup is the clear third pitch yet flashes average with decent fade. Loaisiga’s injury history and height scream reliever, but his arsenal could succeed in a big-league rotation and he repeats his delivery well. With hopefully significantly more innings pitched in 2018, he realistically could at least be in the Next Ten section of next year’s list. —Erich Rothmann
A second opinion: Thairo Estrada is a top ten prospect in the Yankees system
Estrada is a forgotten prospect behind infielders like Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar (and previously Jorge Mateo), and arms like Chance Adams, Domingo Acevedo, and Justus Sheffield. He does not have the ceiling of the aforementioned names, but he does have skills that warrant of attention. A slick-fielding infielder with a dense, medium build, Estrada has the defensive chops to play around the infield comfortably. He is more a second baseman, with more to be desired in regards to his range, but again, he can play around the infield. He has a strong feel for the game, succeeding at every level despite being one of the younger players in each league.
More on his offensive profile: Estrada has plus bat speed, accentuated by how short he is to the ball, which helps him make hard contact. Factoring in his bat speed and contact ability, his hit tool will be well-above-average. Power is not a significant part of his game now, though he has shown pull-power. As for his speed, he showed some 4.2s from home-to-first last season, but has not been able to translate the tool to stolen bases yet—caught 11 times out of 19 attempts this season. Rule-5 Draft eligible this offseason, he might be shopped, he might be protected, he might get plucked or, anti-climatically, he might be left unprotected, unplucked. A 21-year-old in Double-A with bat-to-ball ability and solid infield utility value, teams are reviewing his 2017 performance closely, and are likely keeping an eye on how he looks in the AFL. —Javier Barragan
Top Talents 25 and Under (born 4/1/92 or later):
- Aaron Judge
- Gary Sanchez
- Luis Severino
- Gleyber Torres
- Estevan Florial
- Clint Frazier
- Chance Adams
- Justus Sheffield
- Albert Abreu
- Miguel Andujar
Last year, the Yankees 25U list was anchored by two high-risk prospects in Luis Severino and Aaron Judge. Both players have ascended to stardom this season, while the breakout seasons of Estevan Florial, Chance Adams, and Miguel Andujar alleviate the system’s losses from the mid-season trade deadline.
Gary Sanchez has been historically excellent in two major league seasons. After a ROY-caliber campaign in 2016, where he hit .299/.376/.657 with 20 homers in only 53 games, 2017 cemented his status as one of the top catchers in baseball. The Kraken finished with 5.3 WARP despite missing a month of the season, mashing 33 homers with a .345 on-base percentage. He also improved behind the plate. Although he was benched in August for struggling to block balls in the dirt, Sanchez finished the year with 7.8 FRAA, an improvement over his previous 2.0 FRAA. He gets plenty of attention for mashing baseballs into the stratosphere; more people should take note of his above-average defense.
Speaking of stratospheric home runs, rookie right fielder Aaron Judge makes the leap from no. 9 to no. 1 in the rankings. After striking out 42 times in 95 plate appearances last year, Judge rebounded for a rookie year of nearly unprecedented greatness. The 6-foot-8 youngster hit .284/.422/.627, with his fifty-two home runs surpassing Mark McGwire’s rookie record. Admittedly, his July and August slumps might prevent him from winning the MVP award. Judge remains a lock for the American League ROY, though, and he looks like a fixture in the middle of the Yankees lineup for years to come.
Luis Severino’s no. 10 ranking last year reflected his nightmarish 2016. The former top prospect failed to tame batters with his blazing fastball and inconsistent slider—his 3.93 DRA and 3.2 BB/9 earned him a demotion to Triple-A Scranton. A year later, Sevy is the Yankees’ ace. The 23-year-old harnessed his MLB-best fastball velocity to throw 193 innings with a 3.05 DRA and 230 strikeouts. His vastly improved slider has also been a huge factor. While it used to be inconsistent, occasionally hanging flat in the zone, the new slider yielded an impressive 52.4 percent swing percentage.
- Before Greg Bird’s regular-season was ended by ankle surgery, the 24-year-old was touted as the Yankees’ first baseman of the future. He was coming off a strong 2015, having hit .261/.343/.529 with 11 homers in 46 games. In approximately the same number of games this year, Birdie was worth 0 WAR and -1.2 FRAA. Bird was *not* the word. As per usual, his future outlook depends almost entirely on his health. If a healthy Bird mashes on par with his 2017 postseason, then the Yankees have yet another impact bat.
- Jordan Montgomery entered the year as a question mark and exited as a bona fide fourth starter. His 4.36 DRA may not be flashy, but the 24 year-old struck out 8.3/9 and was worth 2.1 WAR. Not bad for a former fourth round pick with a low-90s fastball.
- Tyler Wade forced the Yankees’ hand after running wild in Triple-A. He excelled in a super-utility role, reaching base at a .382 clip, hitting a career high seven homers and playing serviceable defense. Wade was ineffective after his call-up; nev, his minor league breakout offers a glimpse of his electric potential. —Anna Salvatore