Mid-April Stock Up, Stock Down for New York Yankees' Top 5 Prospects

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterApril 19, 2017

Mid-April Stock Up, Stock Down for New York Yankees' Top 5 Prospects

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    Although the New York Yankees can't seem to lose these days, their best baseball still lies ahead of them.

    That's thanks to the big collection of stud prospects they have down on the farm. And with the first half of the first month of the season now in the bag, it's once again time to check in on the best of the best.

    As it was with the Week 1 check-in, the aim here is to take stock on the Yankees' top five prospects, as ranked by MLB.com. There are only a couple of strings attached:

    • No Major Leaguers
    • No players who have been too injured to play

    This means Aaron Judge, who's starting in right field for the big club, and James Kaprielian, who's been lost to Tommy John surgery, will not be featured here.

    Everyone else is subject to a game of stock up, stock down. So let's get to it.

Justus Sheffield, LHP

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    Yankees Rank: 7

    Overall Rank: 75

    Justus Sheffield hadn't yet made his 2017 debut when last week's check-in went live. He's done well in two starts since then.

    Pitching for the Double-A Trenton Thunder, the lefty allowed one unearned run on two hits in five and two-thirds innings in his first start, and one run on three hits in six innings in his second start.

    What's been most encouraging is Sheffield's ability to miss bats. He's whiffed 11 batters in 11.2 innings. This is nothing new, of course. The 20-year-old was known for his strikeout stuff even before the Yankees acquired him from the Cleveland Indians in the Andrew Miller trade last summer.

    The down side is that Sheffield is still trying to get his control problems under, er, control.

    He walked two and hit a batter in his first outing, and walked five more in his second outing. Although the MLB.com book on him states that his "athleticism and delivery are good enough that he could develop average control," it remains a work in progress for now.

    Still, there's been more good than bad from Sheffield in his first two trips to the hill. Since the same can also be said of right-hander Chance Adams, the loss of Kaprielian may not be the end of the world.

    Stock: Up

Jorge Mateo, SS

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    Yankees Rank: 5

    Overall Rank: 44

    At first check, Jorge Mateo was making progress at putting a rough 2016 season behind him.

    Said progress hasn't yet fizzled. Mateo has seven hits in 26 at-bats since last week's check-in, and 14 in 47 at-bats overall for the High-A Tampa Yankees. That's a .298 batting average. 

    There are still nits to pick with Mateo's hitting. His 13 strikeouts go to show he's still making less contact than a speedy hitter with no power should be making. And with only three walks, he's relying strictly on his bat to get him on base.

    Mateo therefore must keep his batting average high. For that, it's for the best that he's hitting 51.6 percent of his batted balls on the ground, thereby using his 80-grade speed to put pressure on defenses.

    Speaking of his speed, he also has nine stolen bases in 11 games. He's been caught only once.

    This all represents a nice departure from a 2016 season in which Mateo hit just .254 and mixed 36 stolen bases with 15 caught-stealings. It's early yet, but he's getting back on track.

    Stock: Up

Blake Rutherford, OF

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    Yankees Rank: 3

    Overall Rank: 34

    Blake Rutherford caught fire upon making his professional debut after being picked 18th overall in the 2016 draft, and he promptly started out hot this year with eight hits in his first 16 at-bats.

    Things have been less awesome since then.

    After owning Rookie ball last summer, Rutherford is playing at Single-A with the Charleston RiverDogs. With just five hits in his last 29 at-bats, it's apparent that he's starting to feel the step up in competition.

    One thing to keep in mind is that Rutherford is only 19 years old. Another is that he's showing a strong approach in mixing 11 walks with 16 strikeouts. That's where his solid .289 average and better-than-solid .429 OBP stem from.

    In the meantime, he's played in left field and right field in addition to center field. He'll need to get comfortable at those positions. The more he fills out his 6'3" frame, the more likely it will be that he'll be moved off center permanently.

    So while Rutherford is no longer hot, he hasn't crumbled completely. This early in his career, he's doing what he needs to be doing.

    Stock: Up

Clint Frazier, OF

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    Yankees Rank: 2

    Overall Rank: 22

    Rather than "good" or "bad," Clint Frazier's start to the 2017 season has been merely OK.

    Frazier is hitting only .235 through 10 games with the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. And though he finally hit his first home run of the year on Tuesday, he still has only five hits in his last 24 at-bats.

    This is coming on the heels of a rough start at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last summer after coming over with Sheffield in the Miller trade. He managed only a .674 OPS in 25 games. 

    It's not a total loss, however.

    Frazier is making strides with an approach that has been over-aggressive in the past. He's struck out only seven times in 34 at-bats and has also drawn five walks. This marks a big course correction from the 30 strikeouts and seven walks he had for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last summer.

    Like Mateo, Frazier isn't out of the woods just yet. But he's doing what he needs to be doing. 

    Stock: Up

Gleyber Torres, SS

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    Yankees Rank: 1

    Overall Rank: 2

    Everyone fell a little bit in love with Gleyber Torres during spring training, which led to a clamor for him to take over at shortstop for the Yankees after Didi Gregorius got hurt.

    Well, apparently it wasn't the right time for Torres' big break after all.

    Torres started hot with Trenton out of the gate, but he then cooled with four hits in 21 at-bats to drop his average to .237 and his OPS to .683.

    And now he's hurt. As Kyle Franko of the Trentonian reported, Torres was scratched from Tuesday's action with biceps tendinitis.

    "It was just kind of tired and got inflamed," Trenton manager Bobby Mitchell said.

    It's not yet clear how seriously Torres is hurt. But for now, it's safe to say he's suffered a series of blows to his stock.

    Of course, it must be kept in mind that he's still only 20 years old and very much still in development. He's been playing against older, more seasoned competition and has been working on expanding his defensive versatility. Even after he gets healthy, his promotion won't be imminent.

    Stock: Down


    Data courtesy of MiLB.comBaseball ReferenceFanGraphs and MLBFarm.com.

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