Mar 18, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; A view of the field and the New York Yankees logo before the game between the Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles at George M. Steinbrenner Field. The Orioles defeat the Yankees 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Yankees utilized the trade deadline to drastically improve their minor league system, putting them among the top in the entire game.
Our minor league top 10 series is coordinated by Benjamin Chase, one of our contributors at Call To The Pen.
He has poured over thousands of minor league games over the course of the year via milb.tv along with speaking with a number of team and independent scouts. These lists are based out of those conversations.
Each system will have prospects from 10 to 1, and then finish with one newcomer to the system that is worth keeping an eye on that is not in the top 10 at this time.
Conversations are certainly encouraged in the comments section on each system as we go along!
nearly any team would take the ability to rebuild their minor league system the way that the Yankees did while also having a legit chance to compete up to the last month of the season
Yankees System Review
The New York Yankees aren’t used to losing, and neither are their fans, but it’s quite intriguing to listen to the sudden interest online of Yankee fans in the minor leagues as their team has become a player in the minor league market.
While the Yankees did finish 4th in the AL East in 2016, they also finished with 84 wins, and nearly any team would take the ability to rebuild their minor league system the way that the Yankees did while also having a legit chance to compete up to the last month of the season.
The Yankees started to see the fruits of their big 2014 international expenditure, especially on their Appalachian League team this season. That gives the Yankees not just the top end talent, but also very solid depth.
That depth will allow the Yankees to compete among the best systems in the entire game when I present my list of the top systems in a few weeks.
Birthdate: 11/25/97 (19 years old) Level(s) Played in 2016: rookie, low A, high A Stats in 2016: .227/.312/.371, 8 HR, 10 SB
While he didn’t get huge money in the Yankees 2014 international free agent splurge, Florial quickly established himself as the guy who was most likely to make a quick impact and has shown to have the highest immediate ceiling of those players.
Florial is extremely athletic, though he is already filling out into his 6’1 frame, listed at 185 pounds, but looking more like 200ish pounds in my viewings. He does possess a very good arm in the outfield, which would allow him to play well in right field, though his natural instincts in the outfield would play up more in left field.
Florial’s biggest selling point is his big-time power
Florial has a very solid left-handed stroke, arguably showing plus contact ability, in spite of his low batting average on the season. For an 18 year old to play into high-A says a ton, but in 23 low-A plate appearances, he hit .300/.348/.550.
Florial displayed excellent patience in his first pro season in the Dominican Summer League, but he fell off some as he faced more advanced pitching this season in that regard. He does have a good eye, though, so when he doesn’t fall in love with the deep ball, he’ll be able to be a guy to rack up a bunch of walks.
Florial’s biggest selling point is his big-time power. He hit 20 extra base hits in only 299 plate appearances this season. He’s one of those guys who the ball just sounds different coming off of his bat compared to other hitters, whether it’s during the game or in batting practice.
The Yankees will send Florial to full-season ball in 2017, and he’ll be very interesting to track as he moves forward.
Oct 18, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Scottsdale Scorpions pitcher Dillon Tatte of the New York Yankees against the Surprise Saguaros during an Arizona Fall League game at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Birthdate: 5/1/94 (22 years old) Level(s) Played in 2016: low A Stats in 2016: 82 1/3 IP, 4.70 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 8.94 BB%, 18.97 K%
Tate was the most highly-regarded college starter in the 2015 draft and was selected #4 overall due to that based primarily on his two-pitch mix of a plus-plus fastball and a plus slider.
Tate seemed to be worn down as a pro in 2015, which many figured would tick back up in 2016 with a fresh season to pitch. That didn’t happen until he was traded from the Rangers to the Yankees in the Carlos Beltran deal.
(Tate’s) slider is one of the best in the minors when it’s on
At its best, Tate’s fastball touches 99 and sits 92-95. He gets excellent run on the pitch along with solid late dip that’s more of a quick hitch than true sink, but is very effective nonetheless. While he had the same sitting velocity, he couldn’t seem to reach back for the same top-end early in the season, and he also struggled with getting the same movement.
His slider is one of the best in the minors when it’s on, touching 90 MPH, which would make it one of the highest velocity sliders in the minors, along with having tremendous break.
Tate hurt his hamstring early in the season and never seemed to be able to get his legs right the rest of the first half of the season, which hurt his movement.
The Yankees sent Tate to the bullpen and had him working with their staff to rebuild his mechanics after he had developed bad habits due to his injury earlier in the year. His velocity and movement were both back, and he was stretched out longer and longer in his relief appearances, indicating the Yankees intend to move him back to the rotation.
In fact, they did state just that to multiple sources at the AFL, and Tate should have an opportunity at high A in 2017 to re-establish his value and very possibly leap up the system once he gets his mechanics right.
Birthdate: 8/10/94 (22 years old) Level(s) Played in 2016: high A, AA Stats in 2016: 127 1/3 IP, 2.33 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 7.88 BB%, 29.09 K%
Adams was part of a staff in college full of guys who could hit the upper 90s in short bursts at Dallas Baptist, but Adams was the one who had secondary pitches and the control to be a future elite starter.
He saw consistent rest and repetition bring him added velocity as a pro, with his fastball reaching upper 90s and his slider finding extra depth with healthier legs under him.
Adams saw consistent rest and repetition bring him added velocity as a pro
Adams has a smaller frame for a guy with his stuff, sitting only 6′ tall and roughly 215 pounds. He does have an aggressive approach on the mound, which led many to believe he’d be best suited for the bullpen, but in my views of him at AA, he had more of a “bull dog” mentality than a wild, untamed mentality.
Adams has shown the ability to locate his change, even if it isn’t an above-average pitch on its own, and when he sequences it well with his solid control, it plays up well.
Adams made a dozen starts at AA last season, so it’s quite feasible that he’ll end up starting with the AAA club in 2017 and could even see some major league time.
Birthdate: 3/6/94 (22 years old) Level(s) Played in 2016: low A, high A Stats in 2016: 93 IP, 2.61 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 5.91 BB%, 27.42 K%
Acevedo was not snapped up right away as a 16 year old, but that certainly looks to be an oversight now as a guy standing 6’7 who can hurl a baseball at 103 MPH is someone who should definitely be on anyone’s radar.
Acevedo has taken huge strides forward in both of his off speed pitches, which has many seeing a future for Acevedo in the rotation, whereas he was considered a bullpen-only type for his first few years in the Yankees’ system.
Acevedo in my views was as exciting an arm as I saw in the Yankees system this year
The Yankees were cautious with Acevedo’s innings, keeping him to roughly 5 innings per start. He has worked well to repeat his delivery, but at his height, that can be a frequent concern.
Acevedo in my views was as exciting an arm as I saw in the Yankees system this year. His hard slider isn’t exceptional in its movement, but hitters were constantly left flailing due to the velocity of the slider, a speed that really only Noah Syndergaard touches with a slider in the major leagues.
Acevedo will likely see the upper minors in 2017, whether he opens in AA or is promoted there after a little time in the Florida State League.
Birthdate: 5/13/96 (20 years old) Level(s) Played in 2016: high A, AA Stats in 2016: 125 1/3 IP, 3.09 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 10.08 BB%, 24.52 K%
Justus and brother Jordan Sheffield are certainly pitchers that have established themselves as future major leaguers. Justus was having a very solid season for high-A Lynchburg in the Carolina League.
Then the Indians trade Sheffield as part of their deal to acquire Andrew Miller, and he simply dominated both the Florida State League and one start in AA, going 6 starts, striking out 36 over 30 innings with a 1.50 ERA.
Sheffield is not the biggest guy at 5’10, but he’s worked to develop excellent plane on his pitches through a higher arm slot
Sheffield has an excellent fastball with tremendous movement at the 92-94 range, touching 96. His curve is a swing-and-miss pitch that frequently breaks multiple planes in its path to the plate.
Sheffield is not the biggest guy at 5’10, but he’s worked to develop excellent plane on his pitches through a higher arm slot. That higher arm slot has led to some mechanical issues as Sheffield has advanced as a pro, but that delivery has become extremely clean and repeatable.
Sheffield will most likely start the season at AA, and if his change continues to make the progress it did in 2016, he could be a very highly regarded pitching prospect in 2017.
Mar 5, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Jorgge Mateo (93) hits a home run during the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Birthdate: 6/23/95 (21 years old) Level(s) Played in 2016: high A Stats in 2016: .254/.306/.379, 8 HR, 36 SB
While not an elite talent coming into signing season, Mateo was still talented enough that the Yankees spent $225K on him because of his ridiculous speed.
The speed has certainly not disappointed, as Mateo is a legit 80-run tool player on the 20 to 80 scouting scale, one of perhaps a dozen in the entire minor leagues.
It’s the rest of his offensive game that has come and gone in fits and spurts, with his power flashing, his contact skills flashing, and the biggest issue continuing to be his pitch recognition.
Mateo is a legit 80-run tool player on the 20 to 80 scouting scale
Mateo moved to second base with the arrival of Torres into the system, and that is probably a better location for him, in spite of his plus arm as he struggled with his accuracy from short. He could also profile well in center field with his speed and arm if the Yankees decide to make that transition.
Mateo has average power that should allow him to tap into double-digit home runs a time or two in his major league career, but he’ll most likely get his extra base hits in the form of doubles and triples. However, getting on base will need to be a priority for Mateo, as he has struggled with pitch recognition thus far.
Mateo will likely join Torres in AA in 2017, and if he maintains his current levels, he’d be an elite 9-hole hitter in the AL. However, if he could get his strike zone recognition to tick up a level, he could be a very impactful piece at the top of the lineup.
Birthdate: 5/2/97 (19 years old) Level(s) Played in 2016: rookie Stats in 2016: .351/.415/.570, 3 HR
Rutherford was well-known last summer among those scouting high schoolers for the upcoming draft. He had led the U.S. national team to a gold medal in the 18U World Cup and displayed an advanced approach at the plate in international competition.
He then went to his high school season and really didn’t impress. He had an excellent season for sure, but nothing about the season wowed scouts, and he started to see his draft stock slip from a possible first overall selection to a possible Daz Cameron-type of over-slot sign later in the first round.
In the end the Yankees drafted Rutherford #18 overall, and that’s shown to be a very solid pick in his post-draft production in his limited exposure to pro ball.
the Yankees drafted Rutherford #18 overall, and that’s shown to be a very solid pick
Rutherford already had a number of scouts off of him coming into 2016 due to being older than nearly all of the high schoolers in the class, already 19 before the draft. He also was at his physical projection, with little to expect in physical growth going forward.
That all said, Rutherford as he is could be a pretty impressive prospect. He shows a fringe-plus to plus level on his contact tool, his raw power, and even his speed.
Rutherford’s defense won’t play in center as a pro, and his average arm doesn’t really profile in right field, but putting him in left field and letting him simply hit should be a positive thing and allow him to move quickly.
Rutherford will likely open 2017 in full-season ball.
Oct 18, 2016; Mesa, AZ, USA; Scottsdale Scorpions pitcher Jammes Kaprielian of the New York Yankees against the Mesa Solar Sox during an Arizona Fall League game at Sloan Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Birthdate: 3/2/94 (22 years old) Level(s) Played in 2016: high A Stats in 2016: 18 IP, 1.50 ERA, 0.61 WHIP, 4.62 BB%, 33.85 K%
Right now, this spot is based on Kaprielian staying healthy, which is a concern that spiked in 2016.
Kaprielian was a key reliever on the UCLA 2013 College World Series champion, and then he took over as the Friday night starter for the next two seasons. He was highly regarded due to his feel for pitching coming into the draft.
Kaprielian throws three plus pitches along with an above-average slider to give him an elite four-pitch mix. However, he got a ton of notice this summer when he made a few starts in the Florida State League and was able to hold velocity to 94-96 and touching 99 deep into ball games.
Even before the velocity spike, Kaprielian was regarded with a plus fastball due to the elite sink he got on the pitch, so adding that velocity immediately would bump Kaprielian to a potential front-line starter.
After some innings in the Arizona Fall League, it’s possible that the Yankees give Kaprielian the opportunity to move up to AA in 2017.
Jul 10, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; USA outfielder Clint Frazzier hits a RBI double in the third inning during the All Star Game futures baseball game at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Birthdate: 9/6/94 (22 years old) Level(s) Played in 2016: AA, AAA Stats in 2016: .263/.335/.447, 16 HR, 13 SB
Frazier was the first high school hitter taken in the 2013 draft at #5 overall, and many considered him a legit option at #1 overall in that season’s talent pool.
Frazier has displayed exceptional tools across the board in his pro career with plus power, fringe-plus speed, a plus arm, and solid ability in the field and with contact.
He was the centerpiece of the Andrew Miller trade that sent him from the Indians to the Yankees, and while the Indians wouldn’t swap the World Series appearance for anything, most likely, they will miss Frazier’s bat going forward.
Frazier is not a guy who will likely hit .300 with a swing that isn’t necessarily long, but does have some load on the back side. Once entering the zone, there are few with a faster bat in the entire game, leading to raw power that’s been easily rated plus-plus.
Frazier has shown excellent ability to control the strike zone, though his strikeout rate did spike in his AAA time for both the Indians and Yankees. He is a guy who will likely be a .350+ OBP guy with big power as a big leaguer.
Frazier is athletic enough to play center field, but his arm and instincts play best in right field. He will likely spend the entire 2017 season in AAA, short of a September call-up, but he should be in line to be starting in the Bronx in 2018.
Nov 8, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Scottsdale Scorpions infielder Gleyyber Torres of the New York Yankees against the Glendale Desert Dogs during an Arizona Fall League game at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Birthdate: 12/13/96 (19 years old) Level(s) Played in 2016: high A Stats in 2016: .270/.354/.421, 11 HR, 21 SB
I got to see Torres in April and was incredibly impressed in the drastic change to his physical build from 2015. While he looked to be at a similar weight, his build was completely different.
The offensive results followed the change in build. Initially, Torres worked to adjust his swing to his new build, but as he did, he cut down on strikeouts and began making LOUD contact.
Torres saw no reduction in his defensive ability, likely even gaining more strength in his legs to make leaps that he’s received notice for in the lower levels of the minors.
Torres progressed throughout the entire 2016 season as he moved from the Cubs to the Yankees as the primary piece of the Aroldis Chapman return and then to the Arizona Fall League, where he was selected as the Most Valuable Player of the league.
Torres has improved to a legit fringe-plus power tool along with his plus contact and plus run tool. This should allow him to tally a ton of gap hits, and he did collect 45 extra base hits.
Torres will likely open 2017 at AA at 20 years old, which is incredibly impressive, and he’s secured himself as one of the top 10 prospects in the entire game.
Birthdate: 6/30/98 (18 years old) Level(s) Played in 2016: rookie Stats in 2016: 7 IP, 3.86 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 14.29 BB%, 10.71 K%
Martinez used the modern measurements of the game to really help his stock in the 2016 draft.
Coming into the 2016 season, Martinez was a very solid prospect, considered a likely two-way player for San Diego State before he went to the summer showcases in 2015 with the rest of the 2016 draft class.
His fastball had the highest recorded spin rate of any pitcher that was recorded at the World Wood Bat Association World Championship, and that suddenly caught the attention of many teams who saw Martinez as a guy to gamble on after the 11th round as a likely college player to a guy to target in the early rounds.
The Yankees selected Martinez in the 3rd round and gave him an above-slot bonus to sign with the team. He was one of the youngest players in the draft, so he still has some projection in his 6’2 frame.
Martinez works with a fastball that currently touches 95 with that high spin rate. He also utilizes a power curve that often gets mistaken for a slider due to its sharp break, though he needs to build more depth to it.
Like most teens, Martinez’s change is behind his other pitches, but he has a great chance to start with solid control and the ability to develop even more velocity as he physically matures.