The Major League Baseball All-Star break is upon us and the New York Yankees will be deciding soon if they are going to buy, sell, or stand pat. The Yankees will add to an improved farm system or use it to acquire pieces to help them contend. There is also the possibility that the Yankees use the farm system to plug holes in the lineup and pitching staff down the stretch. No matter how you slice it, the Yankees will be using their farm system. Given that this is the unofficial half-way point in the baseball season this is a good time to examine the team’s best prospects.
Greg Bird has been excluded from this list given his MLB experience from last year and the fact that he will miss the entire season. Without further ado, here are the Yankees’ top ten prospects at the All-Star break.
Ian Clarkin, SP – Clarkin was the 33rd pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. He has battled injuries since turning pro but there is still a lot to like from the 21-year-old left-hander. He has three pitches that work right now, a fastball that can top out around 95, a curveball that could become an out pitch for him and a solid changeup that still needs work but has shown improvement. He might not develop into an ace but there is reason to believe Clarkin could help front a Yankees’ rotation for years as long as he stays healthy. Despite just pitching 80 innings in his first three pro seasons, a mark he has already surpassed with 95.1 innings in Tampa, he has shown no ill effects. He reminds me a lot of Ian Kennedy though the Yankees can afford to take it slow with Clarkin for now.
Dustin Fowler, OF – Fowler is one of what seems a million light-hitting, speedy, left-handed hitters in the system. There isn’t much power with Fowler but he does already have seven triples, 18 doubles and 18 stolen bases with the Trenton Thunder while slashing .267/.294/.387. The power might not be there right now but the 21-year-old certainly is developing it. Some believe he might be a 20-20 player but there is a lot of Brett Gardner is Fowler’s game.
Tyler Wade, SS – The 21-year-old shortstop is as steady as they come. He is so steady he might even be a bit boring which is why he doesn’t rank among the Yankees’ top prospects often. In a system with Wilkerman Garcia, Hoy Jun Park, and Jorge Mateo, Wade is often overlooked. He has slashed to a .271/.374./.373 line at Trenton with four home runs, five triples, 10 doubles and 16 steals. He is a cerebral ballplayer and often finds himself in position to make easy plays in the field. He might not ever develop power but he will hit in the Major Leagues while providing steady defense. He might eventually move to second base to make room for one of the more exciting prospects mentioned previously but Wade will be an asset moving forward. He could find himself at AAA this season.
Chance Adams, SP – Yes, I am higher on Adams than most. How could you not be after the season he has put up? In 17 games split between Tampa and Trenton, Adams has held opposing hitters to a .178 average while striking out 98 in 85.2 innings and allowing just 54 hits. He has gone 9-0 in those 17 starts and has emerged as one of the best prospects in the system. He is still just 21 but has seen his fastball jump to 98 at times and sits consistently 94-96. His slider has improved to the point where it is now a legitimate out pitch. He was a reliever in college but the Yankees have turned him into a starter so it is a bit surprising to see the uptick in velocity. Adams also has a changeup that he never had to rely on much in college but he has certainly improved it as the season has gone on. If his body can take the strains of starting the Yankees might have a top-line arm. Worst-case scenario is Adams goes back to relieving where he can potentially be a dominant late-inning arm. He turns 22 this August and could be an option for the Yankees as early as next season.
Miguel Andujar, 3B – Andujar turned 21 in March and was expected to take the next step in his development this season. He certainly has done that, earning a promotion to AA Trenton. He started to flash some power this year with Tampa, hitting 10 home runs in 230 at-bats. This season he has slashed to a .291/.343/.446 line with 16 doubles, two triples, 10 homers, and only 41 strikeouts. He has shown an improved coverage of the strike zone and his defensive game has improved a lot. He is still raw in the field but you can see the flashes with his leather and his strong arm. The power should continue to develop and he should be a 20+ homer guy in the Majors. He has excellent bat speed and can hit to all fields, something that should play nicely in Yankee Stadium. It is hard to find someone Andujar compares to but that isn’t a bad thing. He has the potential to be a cornerstone, middle of the order player.
Domingo Acevedo, SP – Acevedo is one of the more intriguing pitchers in the Yankees’ system and for good reason. His fastball can reach 100 mph and he lit up the gun at 103 mph last season. His fastball is MLB-ready right now. Unfortunately, his other pitches need work, though his changeup has shown a lot of promise and makes his fastball look even faster. He is working on a slider which, at times, looks fantastic but he struggles with it a lot at the moment. He is a big kid, 6-foot-7, who weighs in at under 200 pounds. His delivery, like that of Dellin Betances, has a lot of moving parts. He should develop into a potential closer at the least, barring injury of course, but there is ace ability in his arm.
James Kaprielian, SP – Kaprielian was being mentioned as a possible call-up at some point this year before he got hurt. He is polished for his age and displays excellent command to go with above average velocity. His arsenal consists of a fastball, curveball, changeup, and slider and he is able to throw all for strikes. He regularly hits 94 on the gun now which is more than the 90 he was averaging before being drafted. In his three starts this season he held opponents to a .136 average, walked only three, and struck out 22 in 18 innings. He was 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA. His health issue is a concern right now and could be something that causes to miss significant time. Still, Kaprielian has the potential to be a mid-rotation starter with his upside being a number two guy.
Gary Sanchez, C – Most scouts love Sanchez’s bat but were not in love with his defense. However, Sanchez worked his tail off and has shown vast improvement behind the plate and it looks like he should be able to stick there long-term in the Majors. He has been in the system for years and years and is often overlooked because he has been around so long. He is still only 23 and made his MLB debut last season and should be around for good starting next year. There is reason to believe he will be a 30-homer guy in the Majors and he has some speed for a catcher. Given his improved defense he should be the Yankees’ catcher of the future and should mix in an All-Star appearance here and there along the way. The one knock on Sanchez is it seems he gets bored at times in the minors. Sometimes it looks as if he is just going through the motions but the talent is there for him to be one of the best catchers in baseball.
Jorge Mateo, SS – Mateo consistently ranks at the top of prospect lists and there is good reason for that. He has the speed and ability to hit that could make him an All-Star at the MLB level. However, he was suspended this season for breaking team rules so he needs to mature before he can take the next step. Despite the fact he led the minors in steals with 82 last year he does need to learn more about base stealing before he can be a consistent threat. He has flashed some power this year with five home runs, though one was an inside the park job. He also has nine doubles and eight triples. There is a lot to love with Mateo but there is a lot of work he needs to put in. He needs to cut down on his strikeouts and work on putting the ball in play more often. He has 73 strikeouts in 308 at-bats this season. In the field he has made great improvements with his arm developing into a plus tool. He has the ability to make great plays but can suffer by taking the occasional bad route to a ball. He is more Eduardo Nunez than Didi Gregorius at the moment but he has the ability to be a game changer. He will be in the Majors inside of two years if he keeps developing and matures.
Aaron Judge, OF – When Judge connects with the ball it makes a different sound than your typical hitter. There is that kind of power. He was leading the International League in home runs with 16 before he hurt his knee. He went through a major slump early this year before working with Reggie Jackson on his swing and something clicked. His home runs and contact rate went up and his strikeout rate went down, though just by a little. He will struggle at times to make contact and will mix in a three strikeout game with a multi-homer game but the talent is real. He has legitimate 40-homer power and flashes some speed on the basepaths. Judge is a big guy at 6-foot-7 and his swing had a lot of holes coming into this season but he has worked on it and it is paying dividends. He should be the Yankees’ starting right fielder next season and shouldn’t look back. He could be really special.