New York Yankees: Ranking the Top 10 Prospects Ahead of Spring Training

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2017

New York Yankees: Ranking the Top 10 Prospects Ahead of Spring Training

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    The New York Yankees' coffers are overflowing—not with cash, but with prospects.

    Thanks to some quality drafting and shrewd wheeling-and-dealing by general manager Brian Cashman, the Yankees head into spring training with what is arguably baseball's most talented—and deepest—farm system.

    Wading through that sea of talent to settle on just 10 players wasn't nearly as easy an exercise as it would have been a year or two ago. There were simply too many legitimate candidates for inclusion. But we've done just that.

    So here's a look at the top 10 prospects in the Yankees' system, ranked on their current level of talent and upside.

10. RHP Albert Abreu

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    Age on Opening Day: 21

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 175 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R


    2016 Stats (A/A+)

    24 G (16 GS), 3-8, 3.72 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 101.2 IP, 74 H, 58 BB, 115 K


    If we were ranking pitching prospects on stuff alone, Albert Abreu—one of the two pitchers the Yankees received from the Houston Astros in exchange for Brian McCann—would be ranked far higher on this list.

    Abreu's blazing fastball sits in the mid-90s, and he complements it with a pair of power breaking balls and an improving changeup. That's the kind of repertoire that belongs to a front-of-the-rotation arm. But thanks to inconsistent mechanics, Abreu struggles to throw strikes consistently with any of his offerings.

    He'll start the season at Double-A—his first on what should be a stacked Trenton Thunder club—where the Yankees will try to iron out those funky mechanics and get him using a delivery that he can easily repeat.

    If he's able to do that, Abreu could find that he's on the fast track to the Bronx.

9. OF Dustin Fowler

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    Age on Opening Day: 22

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 195 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    2016 Stats (AA)

    132 G, .281/.311/.458, 57 XBH (12 HR), 88 RBI, 25-for-36 SB


    It took a little while, but Dustin Fowler has flashed the across-the-board tools in each of the past two seasons that the Yankees saw when they selected him in the 18th round of the 2013 draft.

    A plus defender in center field with the necessary speed to get to balls hit into the outfield gaps or back toward the outfield wall, Fowler makes up for a weak throwing arm with a quick release. That speed has been a weapon for him when he gets on base, as he's swiped at least 25 bases in back-to-back years.

    While he has a solid left-handed swing that should allow him to hit for average and power, Fowler has been prone to expand the strike zone, chasing pitches out of the zone. That's led to a relatively low on-base percentage and higher strikeout totals than you'd like to see.

    He'll get his first crack at Triple-A pitching this season, and if he can make the necessary adjustments to show more plate discipline, he could find himself in Yankee Stadium when the team is in need of an extra outfielder.

8. RHP Chance Adams

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    Age on Opening Day: 22

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 215 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R


    2016 Stats (A+/AA)

    25 G (24 GS), 13-1, 2.33 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 127.1 IP, 76 H, 39 BB, 144 K


    A reliever in college and during his first professional season, the Yankees transitioned Chance Adams, a fifth-round pick in the 2015 draft, to the rotation in 2016. The switch went about as well as anyone could have hoped for.

    Not only did Adams put up eye-popping numbers, but he also drew the praise of other teams. "It's early in his pro career," Cashman told John Harper of the New York Daily News, "but a lot of people who saw him last year thought he was one of the best pitching prospects in the game."

    The aggressiveness he had as a reliever is evident in his starts, as he attacks batters with a mid-90s fastball and a nasty slider, but his changeup and curveball remain works in progress and may never be plus pitches like his other two offerings.

    He still needs some overall refinement, and it'd be much easier to see him in a big league rotation if one of his secondary pitches started to play up. Adams figures to start the year with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and could make his MLB debut at some point in 2017.

7. OF Aaron Judge

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Age on Opening Day: 24

    Height/Weight: 6'7", 275 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    2016 Stats (MLB)

    27 G, .179/.263/.345, 6 XBH (4 HR), 10 RBI, 0-for-1 SB


    A hulking behemoth of a man whose build more resembles that of a power forward in the NBA than a baseball player, Aaron Judge made his presence known in his first big league at-bat, crushing a home run off Tampa Bay's Matt Andriese into the netting above Monument Park in center field at Yankee Stadium.

    Not only did Judge show off his power in his first taste of the majors, but he also flashed above-average athleticism for a player his size and a strong, accurate throwing arm. Like most sluggers, strikeouts are always going to be a part of the deal with Judge.

    But major league pitchers exploited that, as Judge went down swinging more than 44 percent of the time, per FanGraphs. He has to figure out how to make adjustments to his swing to bring that down to a far more reasonable rate.

    He'll head into spring training as the favorite to serve as the team's everyday right fielder, but if the big holes in his swing remain, he could find himself back down at Triple-A to work things out.

6. LHP Justus Sheffield

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    Age on Opening Day: 20

    Height/Weight: 5'10", 195 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L


    2016 Stats (A+/AA)

    25 GS, 10-6, 3.09 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 125.1 IP, 107 H, 53 BB, 129 K


    One of the four prospects the Yankees got from Cleveland in the midseason Andrew Miller trade, Justus Sheffield has steadily worked his way through the lower levels of the minor leagues since Cleveland made him the 31st overall pick in the 2014 draft.

    He may be undersized at 5'10", but the southpaw is still able to create a good downward plane toward the plate and does an excellent job of keeping the ball in the yard while using his entire arsenal to keep batters off-balance.

    Here's what Baseball America's Josh Norris had to say about his repertoire:

    Sheffield owns three plus or potential plus pitches. His fastball, which has sinking action, sits in the 93-95 mph range and can touch 97 at times. He complements it with a short-breaking slider in the low- to mid-80s and a changeup in the same range. His slider is his best secondary pitch, but he has good feel for his changeup, and with more reps it could be as good as the slider.

    While it's possible his stuff could play up in a relief role, he's proved to be durable despite his size, tossing at least 125 innings in each of the past two seasons. He'll head back to Double-A Trenton in 2017 as he looks to take the next step toward reaching his ceiling of a mid-rotation starter.

5. RHP James Kaprielian

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Age on Opening Day: 23

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 200 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R


    2016 Stats (A+)

    3 GS, 2-1, 1.50 ERA, 0.61 WHIP, 18 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 22 K


    Less than a year after being selected 16th overall in the 2015 draft, James Kaprielian found his name floated as an unlikely, but potential, addition to the Yankees' regular-season rotation. But elbow issues limited him to just three starts, ending any chance he may have had of making his MLB debut.

    Instead, he headed to the Arizona Fall League to try to make up for lost time, where he caught the eye of New York Mets first base coach Tom Goodwin, his manager in the AFL. 

    "I'd say he's more like Jacob deGrom with a fastball and slider and changeup," Goodwin told NJ Advance Media's Randy Miller when asked if the 22-year-old reminded him of anyone. "You hate to put names on the guy, but Kaprielian's got that kind of electric life."

    Armed with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, a nasty curveball, consistent changeup and improving slider, Kaprielian has the stuff and makeup to become a front-of-the-rotation arm. The only question is whether he can stay healthy enough to do so, as his high-stress delivery could lead to further missed time.

4. SS/2B Jorge Mateo

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Age on Opening Day: 21

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 190 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    2016 Stats (A+)

    113 G, .254/.306/.379, 33 XBH (8 HR), 47 RBI, 36-for-51 SB


    Signed as an international free agent in 2012, the Yankees brought Jorge Mateo along slowly until 2015, when he broke out in his first full season, hitting .278 with a .737 OPS and a minor league-leading 82 stolen bases between Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa.

    A return to Tampa in 2016 didn't prove to be nearly as successful, as Mateo struggled to replicate his performance at the plate, saw his strikeout rate increase and, most troubling of all, was suspended for two weeks, allegedly for insubordination.

    George A. King III of the New York Post (h/t's Bryan Hoch) reported that Mateo was livid when fellow prospect Miguel Andujar received a promotion to Double-A Trenton and he did not, calling on the franchise to release a player from Trenton's roster to make room for him.

    The team have denied that was the case, according to NJ Advance Media's Randy Miller, but it was confirmed Mateo received a suspension.

    Tampa manager Patrick Osborn chalked the incident up to youthful exuberance. "He's a great kid," Osborn told Miller. "Shoot, when we're young, we all have done stuff that we look back on and probably shouldn't have done. It's part of growing up."

    Not only will Mateo have to show that he can make the necessary adjustments at the plate so that he can continue to take advantage of his biggest tool—his speed—but he'll also have to prove that he's mature enough to handle adversity.

    While he remains a part of the team's long-term future, it's unclear where he'll wind up on the field. Will he stick at shortstop, slide over to second base or head out to center field, where his speed would allow him to cover a huge swath of ground?

3. OF Blake Rutherford

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    Age on Opening Day: 19

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 195 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    2016 Stats (Rk)

    33 G, .351/.415/.570, 15 XBH (3 HR), 12 RBI, 0-for-2 SB


    High signing demands and advanced age for a prep player factored into Blake Rutherford dropping to the Yankees with the 18th overall pick in the 2016 draft. 

    The teen didn't disappoint in his professional debut, flashing the bat speed and smooth swing needed to hit for average and power. Athletic enough to play center field, he figures to lose a step as he matures physically and doesn't have great arm strength. A permanent move to an outfield corner seems likely.

    In its profile of Rutherford, noted that "some scouts liken him to a more athletic version of David Justice." That's an outcome the Yankees would gladly sign up for.

2. OF Clint Frazier

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    Age on Opening Day: 22

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 190 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    2016 Stats (AA/AAA)

    119 G, .263/.335/.447, 48 XBH (16 HR), 55 RBI, 13-for-17 SB


    The centerpiece of the Miller trade, Clint Frazier has been regarded as one of MLB's best prospects ever since the Indians made him the fifth overall selection in the 2013 draft.

    He's a solid defender with plenty of speed and a strong throwing arm who is capable of playing all three outfield positions, though Frazier fits best in a corner spot. But his calling card has always been his offense, where his elite bat speed and natural strength help him generate power to all fields.

    Frazier will start the season back at Triple-A, where he struggled late last season, hitting .230 with 36 strikeouts in 122 at-bats. Cutting down his whiff rate and improving his pitch recognition are among the things he'll look to work on to start the season.

    One thing Frazier doesn't have to look to improve, however, is his confidence level.

    "I can’t wait to pound the ball into those right-field seats," Frazier told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post earlier this month. "I’m going to start this season at Triple-A, but I know where I want to finish this season. My performance is going to dictate my destiny. And I have visions of finishing in The Bronx."

1. SS Gleyber Torres

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    Age on Opening Day: 20

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 175 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    2016 Stats (A+)

    125 G, .270/.354/.421, 45 XBH (11 HR), 66 RBI, 21-for-34 SB


    The centerpiece of the four-player package the Yankees got from the Chicago Cubs in last year's Aroldis Chapman trade, Gleyber Torres has done nothing but reaffirm his place as not only the best shortstop prospect in baseball, but also one of the best prospects regardless of position.

    "When I was out [in Arizona] for the GM meetings, I went to see him play and the buzz among all the baseball people, the scouts and front office execs alike was 'this is the best player in the [Arizona Fall] League,'" Cashman told George A. King III of the New York Post. "And he was the youngest player in the league, so that’s pretty exciting to hear."

    Not only was he the youngest player in the AFL, but he also became the youngest AFL MVP in the league's 25-year-history after hitting .403 with a .513 on-base percentage and 1.158 OPS.

    "That was the first time I’d seen him live. Seen a ton of video," Cashman said. "His bat is his calling card. Defensively he could play probably all three positions: second, third and short. He’s not played third, but he can play second and short. What really differentiates him from others is the hittability."

    He'll once again be one of the youngest players in his league—if not the youngest—as he'll begin 2017 with Double-A Trenton.