2017 New York Yankees Top 10 Prospects
Chat it up: Yankees Top 10 Prospects Chat with Josh Norris
Knowledge is Power: Yankees Top 10 Insider
Want More? Complete Top 10 Prospects Rankings
Listen Up: Yankees Top 10 Podcast
Go 30 deep: Order the 2017 Prospect Handbook!
TOP 10 PROSPECTS
|1. Gleyber Torres, ss|
|2. Clint Frazier, of|
|3. Blake Rutherford, of|
|4. Jorge Mateo, ss|
|5. James Kaprielian, rhp|
|6. Aaron Judge, of|
|7. Justus Sheffield, lhp|
|8. Chance Adams, rhp|
|9. Dustin Fowler, of|
|10. Domingo Acevedo, rhp|
When the Yankees acquired Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, they thought the duo would be used to get key outs in the middle of a run to the World Series. They were right—except that they weren’t getting outs for the Yankees.
Instead, Miller was shipped to the Indians and Chapman to the Cubs as the Yankees went through their first major sell-off since the early 1990s. With those two trades, plus three more, the Yankees acquired 14 prospects, including three midseason Top 100 Prospects: shortstop Gleyber Torres (Cubs), outfielder Clint Frazier and lefthander Justus Sheffield (Indians).
Before they could get younger, however, the Yankees had to shed some of their past. They released Alex Rodriguez, while first baseman Mark Teixeira announced his retirement. The slew of changes helped create lineup space for the team’s host of talented youngsters and provided a preview for 2017 and beyond.
No one took advantage of that opportunity like catcher Gary Sanchez, who positioned himself to become the face of the franchise. He scalded the ball over the final two months and hit .299/.376/.657 with 20 home runs in just 53 games. He hit a record 11 in his first 23 games and thrust himself into the middle of the rookie-of-the-year conversation. Prospects Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin contributed moments of their own and could join Sanchez as focal points of the team’s offense in 2017.
To truly move back into contention, though, the Yankees will need major pitching upgrades. Masahiro Tanaka did his job at the front of the rotation, but righthanders Michael Pineda and Luis Severino took steps backward, Nathan Eovaldi turned in an uneven performance before having Tommy John surgery and Ivan Nova was traded to the Pirates.
That leaves Tanaka as the only rotation certainty entering 2017. Pineda and Severino will likely be given more chances. Righthanders Luis Cessa and Chad Green, both acquired from the Tigers for lefty reliever Justin Wilson, made a combined 17 starts and should get cracks at the back-end spots out of spring training.
The Yankees could choose other avenues to address their pitching. Armed with one of the game’s top farm systems, they could try to swing a trade for an ace such as Chris Sale of the White Sox.
They also have young arms developing at the upper levels of the system. Four of their Top 10 Prospects—Sheffield and righthanders James Kaprielian, Chance Adams and Domingo Acevedo—should pitch in Double-A or higher in 2017. Lefthander Jordan Montgomery, who went 14-5, 2.13 while helping lead Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to the Triple-A championship, also could help in New York in 2017.
The Yankees missed the playoffs for the third time in four years, but finally their youth movement has begun. This offseason will determine how quickly they return to big league relevance.
1. Gleyber Torres, ss |
Born: Dec. 13, 1996. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 175. Signed: Venezuela, 2013. Signed by: Louie Eljaua/Hector Ortega (Cubs).
|Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.|
Background: As an amateur, Torres trained in Venezuela with Ciro Barrios, who also worked with Athletics shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto. The Cubs signed Torres on July 2, 2013, for a bonus of $1.7 million as part of the same international haul that brought outfielder Eloy Jimenez to the Chicago organization. Torres also worked with Cubs minor league infield coordinator Jose Flores to help him mold the skills that will help him stay at shortstop for the long term. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman reportedly was given a choice between Torres and Jimenez when negotiating the Aroldis Chapman deal with the Cubs, and he chose the shortstop as the key piece of the deal. Torres joined high Class A Tampa after the trade and slotted in at shortstop despite the presence of Jorge Mateo, another of the system’s cadre of shortstops and the organization’s No. 1 prospect entering the season. Pushing Mateo to the other side of the bag, Torres continued to hit after the trade. He batted .270/.354/.421 with 11 home runs, 21 stolen bases and 58 walks at two high Class A stops and thoroughly impressed evaluators in the Carolina (No. 4 prospect) and Florida State (No. 2) leagues.
Scouting Report: Even with a host of talented middle-infield prospects in the system, Torres shoots to the top of the ranking. He’s an excellent bet to stay at shortstop because of his soft, quick hands and smooth actions around the bag. He’s also got range to both sides, and an accurate arm with enough strength to handle third base if he switches positions. He also played a little second base in the Arizona Fall League (because there are other players who need time at shortstop) and showed the same smooth actions and instincts at the keystone. Moreover, he looked comfortable turning the double play from that position. Evaluators in the Florida State League compared his defensive chops with the Reds’ Zack Cozart. What makes Torres special, however, is his offensive potential. At just 19 years old he already has excellent pitch recognition skills and has shown the ability to sort through breaking pitches in order to get to the fastball he desires. Early in the season, Torres tried too hard to hit for power and got pull happy, but he showed the ability to adjust and got back to an all-fields approach. Evaluators believe Torres has the ability to hit for plus average and plus power, and this season showed pop to both corners. It’s evident in both games and batting practice, but Torres has an uncanny ability to put barrel of the bat on the baseball. To prove it, he opened his AFL campaign with a monster home run to the opposite field at Scottsdale Stadium. Though he has just average speed, he has enough baseball instincts, aggressiveness and intellect to make it play on the bases.
The Future: After his AFL stint, Torres should move up to Double-A Trenton in 2017. He’ll continue to be paired with Mateo in what should be a dynamic Trenton lineup. He’ll play all of the 2017 season at age 20, and with a good year could position himself to make his big league debut before he turns 22.
|Myrtle Beach (Hi A)||.275||.359||.433||356||62||98||23||3||9||47||42||87||19|
|Tampa (Hi A)||.254||.341||.385||122||19||31||6||2||2||19||16||23||2|
2. Clint Frazier, of |
Born: Sept. 6, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 201. Drafted: HS—Loganville, Ga., 2013 (1st round). Signed by: Brad Tyler (Indians).
Background: The Indians used the fifth overall selection in the 2013 draft to take Frazier, the BA High School Player of the Year, and they signed him for $3.5 million. Cleveland dealt Frazier to the Yankees in 2016 along with lefthander Justus Sheffield and relievers J.P. Feyereisen and Ben Heller in the deal that sent closer Andrew Miller to the Indians.
Scouting Report: Frazier’s calling card is his elite bat speed, which is generated by a taut, muscular frame and huge forearms. That bat speed produces well above-average raw power. He has worked to quiet his pre-swing movement to help cut down on his growing strikeout totals. He’s got above-average speed, which has served him well both on the bases and in the field. He has worked at all three outfield positions in his career, but his above-average throwing arm would serve him well in a corner spot. His range could be helpful in left field, which evaluators have noted is more challenging than right field at Yankee Stadium.
The Future: Frazier struggled at both Triple-A stops in 2016 and will return there in 2017. A student of the game, he will continue to work on pitch recognition and cutting down his strikeout rate in the hopes that he can make his debut late in the season.
3. Blake Rutherford, of |
Born: May 2, 1997. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 192. Drafted: HS—Canoga Park, Calif. (1st round). Signed by: Bobby DeJardin.
Background: Because he was 19 years old and had a big price tag, Rutherford fell to the Yankees with the No. 18 pick. He had the big price tag because he ranked among the best hitters available in the 2016 draft, with a long track record of success in Southern California high school ranks and with USA Baseball’s 18U national team. The Yankees gladly took him and awarded him a $3,282,000 bonus, which ranks as the second-highest figure they’ve given a draftee. Rutherford spent most of his debut at Rookie-level Pulaski, where he dealt with a hamstring injury that cost him time and eventually ended his season on Aug. 24.
Scouting Report: Rutherford made plenty of hard contact in his pro debut and projects as a four-tool player. He’s athletic and rangy and center field, but his arm is below-average and could push him to left field. He also has the potential for plus power, with some scouts putting future 60 grades (on the 20-80 scouting scale) on both his hitting ability and power. Scouts laud his smooth lefthanded swing and ability to cover the plate. He’s an average runner, but jumps and instincts will help him stay in center field as long as possible.
The Future: After his first pro offseason, Rutherford probably will start 2017 at low Class A Charleston. He’ll continue to get reps in both center and left field, as he did at Pulaski.
|GCL Yankees 2 (R)||.240||.333||.400||25||3||6||1||0||1||3||4||6||0|
4. Jorge Mateo, ss/2b |
Born: June 23, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 179. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2012. Signed by: Juan Rosario.
Background: After signing for $225,000 in 2012, Mateo quickly blazed a path through the lower levels of the minors. Despite playing just 15 games in 2014, Mateo jumped to low Class A Charleston in 2015, and he responded by showing off an all-around tool set and leading the minor leagues with 80 stolen bases. His performance took a step backward in 2016, and his makeup took a hit, too, when the Yankees announced a two-week suspension for insubordination. He reportedly lashed out at team officials over not receiving a promotion to Double-A Trenton.
Scouting Report: As ever, Mateo is still blessed with 80-grade speed on the 20-80 scouting scale. How the Yankees want to employ it, however, is another question. That level of speed will play in the outfield, and Mateo saw time in instructional league in center field. He plays average defense at shortstop and second base, leading multiple evaluators to project center as his best path to the big leagues. He’s got plenty of bat speed to catch up to good fastballs but still has rough edges to polish at the plate. He showed a vulnerability to breaking balls, though he should be an average hitter with surprising power for his wiry frame.
The Future: Mateo probably will move to Double-A Trenton in 2017, where he will pair with Gleyber Torres and see time at shortstop, second base and center field.
|Tampa (Hi A)||.256||.308||.381||464||65||119||16||9||8||48||33||108||36|
5. James Kaprielian, rhp |
Born: March 2, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Drafted: UCLA, 2015 (1st round). Signed by: Bobby DeJardin.
Background: The Yankees drafted Kaprielian with the No. 16 overall pick and signed him for $2.65 million in 2015. The team expected big things from him after a strong pro debut, and general manager Brian Cashman hinted Kaprielian had an outside chance of making his big league debut by season’s end. Instead, Kaprielian dealt with a strained right flexor tendon in his elbow all season long and made just three starts. He made it back for instructional league and performed well enough there to warrant an assignment to the Arizona Fall League.
Scouting Report: After touching 95 mph toward the end of his college career, Kaprielian added 20 pounds of muscle prior to this season and saw his velocity jump again. He touched 97 mph both with Tampa and again in the AFL, and he sat between 94-96. He throws all four pitches, including a slider and curveball that have both been plus at their best, as well as a changeup that could be an average fourth pitch. Evaluators note that his delivery, featuring a plunging arm action, is high-stress and could contribute to further injury issues down the road.
The Future: A mature competitor, Kaprielian has front-of-the-rotation makeup and stuff with a well below-average delivery. After six weeks in the AFL to make up for lost time, Kaprielian could join either high Class A Tampa or Double-A Trenton in 2017.
|Tampa (Hi A)||2||1||1.50||3||3||0||18||8||1||3||22||.136|
6. Aaron Judge, of |
Born: April 26, 1992. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 275. Drafted: Fresno State, 2013 (1st round). Signed by: Troy Afenir.
Background: The Yankees drafted Judge with their second of three first-round selections in 2013 and awarded him a $1.8 million bonus. He found success at every stop before becoming a bit streaky when he reached Triple-A late in 2015. He missed time in July 2016 with a knee injury but made his major league debut on Aug. 13. He and Tyler Austin that day became the first teammates in history to record back-to-back home runs in their first major league at-bats. Judge continued to show the big-time power, but he also struck out in 42 of his 84 at-bats.
Scouting Report: Judge easily has the best raw power in the system, and the tool rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He won’t completely access that power until he cleans up his approach and lowers his strikeout rate. He cut his strikeout percentage to 23.9 this year at Triple-A—his lowest mark since low Class A—but big league pitchers exploited holes in the 6-foot-7 masher’s swing. He’s a slightly above-average runner underway and plays average defense in right field with a well above-average throwing arm.
The Future: The right-field job in the Bronx is Judge’s for the taking, but he’ll have to continue to work to cut his strikeouts in order to seize the job in 2017.
|New York (MLB)||.179||.263||.345||84||10||15||2||0||4||10||9||42||0|
7. Justus Sheffield, lhp |
Born: May 13, 1996. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Tullahoma, Tenn., 2014 (1st round). Signed by: Chuck Bartlett (Indians).
Background: Sheffield was set to pitch at Vanderbilt with his brother Jordan before the Indians made him a first-round pick and signed him for $1.6 million. He blitzed the competition in the Rookie-level Arizona League in his debut but was arrested in the offseason for underage drinking and criminal trespass. He pled guilty to those charges. Cleveland traded him to the Yankees at the 2016 trade deadline, along with outfielder Clint Frazier and relievers J.P. Feyereisen and Ben Heller, in the deal that sent closer Andrew Miller to the Indians.
Scouting Report: A short lefthander, 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.
The Future: Sheffield, who will open 2017 as a 20-year-old, is probably headed for a return to Double-A Trenton with a future as a mid-rotation starter if he achieves his ceiling.
|Lynchburg (Hi A)||7||5||3.59||19||19||0||95||91||6||40||.93||.252|
8. Chance Adams, rhp |
Born: Aug. 10, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 2015. Drafted: Dallas Baptist, 2015 (5th round). Signed by: Mike Leuzinger.
Background: Adams started his college career at Yavapai (Ariz.) JC before transferring to Dallas Baptist as a junior. He made just 10 starts—all in his sophomore year—before the Yankees popped him in the fifth round in 2015. He moved into the rotation this year and was one of the breakout stars in the minor leagues. He went 13-1, 2.33 and led all qualified starters with a .169 opponent average.
Scouting Report: A stocky-bodied righty, Adams starts his four-pitch mix with a hard, lively fastball that sits in the mid-90s and can check in as high as 97 mph. He complements his fastball with a hard slider that he uses as his out pitch. His changeup is his third pitch, and he’s worked hard to make sure he throws it from the same arm slot as his fastball and changeup. He’s also got a curveball, but it’s well behind his other three pitches at this point. He pitches with ferocity and has shown the ability to command the strike zone. Scouts noticed that Adams’ fastball tended to flatten when left up in the zone, and more advanced batters often hammer those mistakes.
The Future: The Yankees shut down Adams just before Double-A Trenton began the Eastern League playoffs because he reached his innings limit. He will move to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2017 and has a ceiling of a No. 3 starter.
|Tampa (Hi A)||5||0||2.65||12||12||0||57.2||41||4||15||73||.196|
9. Dustin Fowler, of
Born: Dec. 29, 1994. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HS—Dexter, Ga., 2013 (18th round). Signed by: Darryl Monroe.
Background: Fowler was a Louisville commit out of high school, but the Yankees liked his all-around ability and signed him for $278,000 as an 18th-round pick in 2013. So far, they’ve liked what they’ve seen. He began to break out in 2015, when he put up dynamic numbers at two Class A stops and finished with a nice run in the Arizona Fall League. He continued that trend this year at Double-A Trenton, where he was a force on both sides of the ball for a team that made it to the Eastern League championship series.
Scouting Report: Fowler is an above-average defender in center field with range both side to side and back and forth. His arm is a little bit below-average, but he makes up for it with a quick release. He’s a slashing type of hitter with above-average speed that serves him well both on the bases and on defense. Some evaluators noted that his speed will play even better once he learns to take more aggressive leads. He’s got more power than other players his size. It’s primarily to the gaps, but his speed helps earn him extra bases. For example, his 15 triples led the EL. His biggest weakness is that he tends to expand the zone, and he walked just 22 times all year.
The Future: After a successful season in Double-A, Fowler will move to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2017 and play all season there as a 22-year-old.
10. Domingo Acevedo, rhp |
Born: March 6, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 242. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2012. Signed by: Esteban Castillo.
Background: Signed for just $7,500, Acevedo already has supplied the Yankees with incredible value. The burly, 6-foot-6 righthander cuts an imposing figure on the mound, but injuries have slowed his rise. He began the 2015 season at low Class A Charleston but was limited to only one start after blister issues surfaced. When he returned, he moved to short-season Staten Island. He returned to Charleston in 2016, jumped to high Class A Tampa and was limited to just eight starts there because of hamstring and right shoulder injuries. The Yankees shut him down on Aug. 15.
Scouting Report: From Acevedo’s massive frame comes massive velocity. He can sit in the mid-90s and touch triple digits with regularity. His changeup grades as above-average and has the makings of a plus pitch. His low-80s slider, which he calls a curve, is still a work in progress and may determine if he can start or winds up in the bullpen. He throws plenty of strikes with his arsenal and finished the year with 102 punchouts against just 22 walks. He’s a prospect with flaws who could develop quickly with a few key improvements.
The Future: Acevedo probably will return to Tampa to start the 2017 season but should make his Double-A debut at some point on what should be a stacked Trenton club.
Top International MLB Shortstop Prospects Often Pan Out
The star-studded list of recent signings is good news for Cubs fans who are looking ahead to this year's international class.