BEST PLAYER: The organization favors Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre catcher Gary Sanchez as best player, though high Class A Tampa shortstop Jorge Mateo is certainly in the discussion. He hit .270 with 26 stolen bases through 69 games and appeared poised for a promotion to Double-A Trenton.
Sanchez came to spring training this season with a chance to be the big league backup catcher, but the out-of-options Austin Romine emerged instead. So Sanchez headed to Scranton, where he hit .277/.321/.492 with eight home runs and 16 doubles through 48 games. He missed time with a fractured thumb and returned as a DH.
“What Gary has done at Triple-A at a young age as a catcher has been very good,” general manager Brian Cashman said of the 23-year-old Dominican whose best defensive asset is an above-average throwing arm. “He is (one of the youngest) players in the International League. What he is doing at his age, he is a man and has to be the No. 1 prospect.”
BIGGEST LEAP FORWARD: When the Yankees signed California prep catcher Kyle Higashioka for $500,000 as a seventh-round pick in 2008, the question he faced was: Will he hit? Defensively, the Huntington Beach native was sound.
Higashioka hit .229 through his first seven seasons, but he experienced a breakthrough in 2015, just in time for minor league free agency. The Yankees re-signed him, and he hit .301/.358/.519 in 38 games at Trenton this season, prompting other teams to ask for him in trade.
“He has always been an excellent defender, and the bat is coming along this year,” Cashman said of the 26-year-old who advanced to Scranton in late May. “There is no doubt he will play in the big leagues.”
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Lefthanded reliever Jacob Lindgren quickly ascended to the big leagues after being a second-round pick in 2014 out of Mississippi. He reached New York in 2015 and seemed poised for a high-leverage spot in 2016. Instead, after having surgery to remove bone chips in his pitching elbow last June, Lindgren started the season at Tampa.
Things didn’t go according to plan there, either. He walked nine in seven innings over four outings before landing on the disabled list on April 21 with an elbow injury. He hasn’t pitched since.