Heading into the 2017 MLB regular season, the New York Yankees were hoping to get major contributions from their younger players. That list of players includes last year’s runner-up for Rookie of the Year Gary Sanchez, first baseman Greg Bird, and this season’s rookie sensation Aaron Judge who had a brief stint with the team to end the 2016 season.
Along with other Yankee prospects who rose through their farm system, which include setup man Dellin Betances and starting pitchers Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery, the Yankees find themselves in first place in the AL East with a record of 27-18 heading into June. Their current performance, along with the plethora of talent that the Yankees possess in their minor league system, indicates this could be the beginning of another dynasty like the one New York enjoyed in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Below is a list of the top ten prospects from New York’s farm system, some of whom will make their major league debut later this season. But what has the Yankees organization so excited, as well as their fans, is what their top prospects could be capable of once they reach the majors.
New York Yankees Top Ten Prospects
10. SS/2B – Tyler Wade
Wade, 22, was drafted 134th overall by the New York Yankees in the 2013 MLB Draft, and he currently plays for the Yankees Triple-A affiliate. During spring training, the young infielder hit .357 in 25 games. With Didi Gregorius on the disabled list, Wade competed with Ronald Torreyes and Pete Kozma for a spot on the major league roster. Ultimately Joe Girardi went with the veterans Torreyes and Kozma and reassigned Wade to Scranton/Wilkes Barre (Triple-A).
Through 40 games at Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Wade is hitting .310 with three home runs and 15 RBI in 168 at-bats. However, with Starlin Castro manning second base and Gregorius at shortstop for the foreseeable future, the Yankees had Wade play in the outfield during the Arizona Fall League. The Yankees envision Wade as an ultra utility-player, similar to the way the Chicago Cubs use Ben Zobrist.
9. RHP – Albert Abreu
The Yankees acquired Abreu from the Houston Astros in the Brian McCann trade. The 21-year-old right hander was the Astros number seven prospect, and he is currently the Yankees ninth ranked prospect. Abreu has a fastball that tops out at 99 MPH to go along with a pair of strong breaking balls and a change-up with movement. Most of his coaches feel his slider is his second best pitch, but many scouts prefer his change-up.
Many within the Yankees organization feel Abreu has the potential to become a front line starter. However, he’s a long way away at this point. The young right-hander is currently in Single-A, and his control and command still need a lot of work. With that being said, the Yankees love his upside and expect him to rise quickly through their minor league system.
8. RHP – James Kaprielian
James Kaprielian, 23, was drafted 16th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft out of UCLA. Kaprielian was the Yankees highest draft pick in more than two decades, and New York was hoping to have him on their major league roster as early as 2016. But after just three games for Single-A Tampa, the Yankees were forced to shut Kaprielian down with a right flexor strain.
Kaprielian did return later that season for the Instructional League in the fall, and he pitched in seven games in the Arizona Fall League and reported no ill effects with his elbow. Nevertheless, the Yankees proceeded very carefully in their handling of Kaprielian during spring training. Despite having zero issues with his elbow for the majority of spring training, Kaprielian began to experience pain in his right elbow during the final week of spring training. An MRI would reveal a UCL tear, requiring Tommy John surgery and effectively ending his season.
Despite missing his first two professional seasons with injuries, the Yankees still have extremely high hopes that Kaprielian will make his major league debut sooner rather than later. When healthy, Kaprielian has front line starter stuff with all four of his pitches receiving plus grades.
7. OF – Dustin Fowler
Dustin Fowler, 22, was drafted by the Yankees in the 18th round of the 2013 MLB Draft right out of West Laurens High School. Since being drafted, Fowler has quickly moved through the Yankees minor league system, and is currently thriving at Triple-A atop of the lineup. Fowler is a left-handed hitter who can play all three outfield positions, and last season at Double-A Trenton, Fowler slashed .281/.311/.458 with 12 home runs, 88 RBI, 67 runs, and 25 stolen bases. Through the first 40 games at Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Fowler is batting .293 with eight home runs and 26 RBI in 174 at-bats. He also has nine doubles and seven triples. Fowler will definitely be among the next wave of baby bombers to arrive in the Bronx.
6. RHP – Chance Adams
Adams, 22, was drafted 153 overall in the 2015 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees. The young right-hander started the season with Double-A Trenton and was promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre after six starts. With Trenton, Adams went 4-0 with a 1.03 ERA and was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week after starting the season 2-0 with an ERA of 0.79 in 11 2/3 innings. Adams was a reliever in college, but the Yankees converted him to a starter shortly after drafting him. Last season, the converted reliever led the minors in winning percentage (.929) and batting average against (.169) and finished second in WHIP (0.90) while splitting his season with Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Adams throws four pitches with plus grades on both his fastball and slider, and his command is highly touted among scouts. The Yankees expect to see Adams in Pinstripes as early as next year.
5. LHP – Justus Sheffield
Sheffield is a 21-year-old left-handed pitcher who the Yankees acquired from the Cleveland Indians in the Andrew Miller trade. The Indians drafted Sheffield 31st overall in the 2014 MLB Draft and was a big acquisition for New York. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman speaks very highly of the young left-hander who possesses three above average pitches that include a fastball, slider, and a change-up.
Sheffield is currently pitching for Double-A Trenton, and the Yankees see no need to fast track him to the majors.
4. SS/2B – Jorge Mateo
Mateo is a 21-year-old infielder with tremendous speed who the Yankees signed in 2012. Mateo only batted .136 in 22 at-bats during spring training, but in 2015 the young Dominican had 11 triples and 82 stolen bases. The Yankees think with a few minor tweaks to his swing that he could become a more consistent hitter with a little more pop as well.
With other prospects like Gleyber Torres and Tyler Wade ahead of him, along with Castro and Gregorius manning the infield for the Yankees, many believe Mateo could be used as a trading chip. With that in mind, the Yankees have been giving him playing time at both second base and center field.
3. OF – Clint Frazier
Frazier, 22, was the prized jewel of the Andrew Miller trade. The Indians drafted Frazier fifth overall in the 2013 MLB Draft, and his talent is undeniable. After acquiring Frazier from Cleveland, the Yankees assigned him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre where he finished the season batting .263 with 16 home runs and 55 RBI. Through the first 42 games of this season at Triple-A, Frazier is hitting .261 with nine home runs, 29 RBI, and 30 runs scored.
Frazier can play all three outfield positions but is seen more as a corner outfielder. The Yankees envision the young outfielder as someone who can hit 25 home runs while stealing a few bases. General manager Brian Cashman already talks about Frazier’s “legendary bat speed.” It should not be long before we see Frazier and his already famous red hair donning the Pinstripes. Whether it is a prolonged injury by an outfielder, or a trade that brings him up, it is only a matter of time for Frazier’s debut.
2. OF – Blake Rutherford
Rutherford, 20, was drafted 18th overall by the Yankees in the 2016 MLB Draft. Before a hamstring injury cut his season short last year, Rutherford slashed .351/.415/.570 in only 33 games. The young prospect is currently playing for the Charleston RiverDogs (Low-A), and has plus grades in both average and power. He is currently playing center field, but the Yankees envision Rutherford as an athletic corner outfielder in the future.
1. SS/3B – Gleyber Torres
Torres, 20, was the major acquisition in the Aroldis Chapman trade with the Chicago Cubs at last year’s trade deadline. Torres started the season with Double-A Trenton where he slashed .273/.367/.496 with five home runs and 18 RBI in 32 games before being promoted to Triple-A where he’s gone 3-for-9 with one RBI, one run, and three walks. Torres has played third base in all his starts at Triple-A so far and that is likely not to change.
One of things that has that has the Yankees so excited is what he accomplished in the Arizona Fall League this past off-season. At just 19-years-old, Torres hit .403 and became the youngest player to ever win the MVP in the Arizona Fall League. The Yankees do not want to rush MLB’s third ranked prospect, but it might hard to keep Torres out of New York if he continues to progress and impress. If Torres does not debut this season, he will next season.