Stock Up, Stock Down for New York Yankees' Top 5 Prospects for Week 1
Although the New York Yankees aren't mailing it in this year, the real intrigue arguably lies with the veritable boatload of talented prospects in their farm system.
Want to know how they're doing one week into the minor league season? You've come to the right place.
Officially, the aim here is to address the stock of each of the Yankees' top five prospects, as ranked by MLB.com. However, there are some strings attached:
- No major leaguers: Sorry, Aaron Judge.
- No injured players: That means you, James Kaprielian.
- No players who haven't played yet: Looking at you, Justus Sheffield.
As such, this is really an update on the Yankees' top five active minor leaguers.
Without further ado, let's get to it.
Chance Adams, RHP
Yankees Rank: 8
Overall Rank: N/R
Chance Adams has been rising fast since the Yankees chose him in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. He performed well in the low minors and finished 2016 with a 2.07 ERA for the Double-A Trenton Thunder.
Adams is back with Trenton to start 2017 and has already picked up where he left off.
The right-hander was literally unhittable in his debut on Saturday, holding the Erie Seawolves (the Detroit Tigers' Double-A affiliate) to no hits and no runs in 5.2 innings. He collected five strikeouts, the last of which came on a nasty breaking ball.
The one negative? Adams also walked four batters. Even he was kicking himself for that.
"I'll just come out and try and do better next time. It was OK," Adams said, according to Tyler Maun of MiLB.com. "I would've traded two walks for two hits in a heartbeat, but it was OK."
Walks shouldn't be a long-term issue for the 22-year-old. While he has the same sort of hard fastball and sharp breaking stuff that many prospects have, MLB.com also grades his control as above average.
Jorge Mateo, SS
Yankees Rank: 5
Overall Rank: 45
As Adams looks to stay on an upward trajectory, Jorge Mateo is trying to get back on track after a rough 2016.
So far, so good.
Back with the High-A Tampa Yankees to start the year, Mateo started slow at the plate with just one hit in his first three games. He has six hits in nine at-bats in two games since, bringing his early-season average to .333 and his OPS to .845.
After he hit just .254 with a .306 on-base percentage for Tampa last year, more of this is what the Yankees need to see. They would also like to see if he can handle a move from shortstop to center field. That experiment got underway in earnest with his first professional start in center on Tuesday.
In the meantime, there's no question the 21-year-old can run. He gets 80 grades for his speed and has showed it off with five stolen bases already.
It'll be a while before Mateo completely repairs his stock. But for now, he has himself pointed in the right direction.
Blake Rutherford, OF
Yankees Rank: 3
Overall Rank: 35
Blake Rutherford hit the ground running after the Yankees picked him at No. 18 overall in last year's draft, hitting .351 with a .986 OPS in 33 rookie-ball games.
The 20-year-old is now with the Single-A Charleston RiverDogs. But the results, so far, are mostly the same.
In six games, Rutherford has hit .348 with a .943 OPS. He already has two three-hit games, including one in which all three of his hits were doubles.
All told, Rutherford has looked every bit like the guy MLB.com has billed as "a rare talent who has the chance to hit for plus average and power."
In the meantime, the search is on for Rutherford's best spot on defense. He was drafted as a center fielder, but his projectable 6'3" frame raises questions about his long-term fit at the position. Thus, he's played a game in left and a game in right in addition to three games in center.
Given Rutherford's youth, his most likely major league ETA is still a few years away. But if he keeps refusing to slow down, it'll become harder for the Yankees to keep him down.
Clint Frazier, OF
Yankees Rank: 2
Overall Rank: 23
It appears the file can be closed on the Mantlegate controversy. All relevant parties have denied that Clint Frazier asked about wearing Mickey Mantle's famed No. 7.
The focus can now be where it belongs. Primarily: on his bat.
Frazier struggled with the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders after coming over from the Cleveland Indians in the Andrew Miller trade last summer, hitting just .228 with a .674 OPS. He's off to a better start in 2017. Although he's hitting only .250 through five games, he has a .400 OBP and .838 OPS.
Three of Frazier's four hits are doubles. Homers would be better, but doubles will do for a reminder that the 22-year-old is known for power that stems from his uncanny bat speed.
Just as encouraging is how he has four walks to go with four strikeouts. After he whiffed 30 times and drew only seven walks with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season, that's a step in the right direction for his approach.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are continuing to give Frazier time in left field and right field. Although he's played mostly center field since beginning his pro career in 2013, he profiles better as a corner outfielder.
Gleyber Torres, SS
Yankees Rank: 1
Overall Rank: 3
Between winning the Arizona Fall League MVP and dominating in spring training, Gleyber Torres has been on a roll.
The roll is currently ongoing at Trenton. Torres has a hit in four of the five games he's played in and is batting .294 with an .890 OPS overall. He has more walks (five) than strikeouts (two).
That's just him being himself. Although he's still only 20 years old, Torres gets plus grades all over for his bat. They're particularly high on it at MLB.com, giving it a 65 grade.
Mind you, Torres isn't quite perfect. He's not regarded as much of a runner. As if to prove the point—and make Mateo look good in the process—he was picked off in Sunday's game.
The jury's also still out on Torres' versatility. The plan is to play him all around the infield this season, but he's played only shortstop so far.
Still, these are minor quibbles. Torres already looks like an excellent return from last summer's Aroldis Chapman trade, and should one day be a Yankees cornerstone at shortstop.