Yankees Minor League Report: A Preview of the 2020 Season

2019 was an interesting season down on the farm.  The pitchers mostly lived up to their hype while the hitters (as expected) lagged behind.  The Yankees promoted very few position players during the season, which was weird.  However, when you look back at the campaigns, not many hitters deserved promotions up the chain.  Hopefully, this can change as we move forward to 2020.

I do a lot of research to come up with my final product, and that research takes me to websites all over the internet. Some of my favorites are MLB PipelineFangraphs (They also have a fantastic tool that allows you to filter statistics down to all players within an organization), Baseball-ReferencePaul Woodin of Prospects 1500John Sickels of The AthleticEric Cross of Fantrax HQ, and the people behind 2080 Baseball, who do scouting analysis of players throughout the year. They keep a convenient library of their scouting reports throughout the year for you to sift through, which includes several Yankees' farmhands. Before you get worked up over any of your favorite prospects who come away with less-than-favorable profiles, remember that nothing is set in stone for any prospect. External evaluations are important but there are also internal evaluations that we are not privy to that are also very important.  

Some of you may remember when Mike Axisa (of River Ave Blues fame) posted an annual Top 30 Prospects list. Axisa now has a Patreon page which is behind a paywall (I only had the funds to subscribe to The Athletic this year, so I had to pass) but he did give everyone access to his Top 30 Prospects post. That was probably a very smart thing for him to do to increase his readership since he does an excellent job with this list every year.

Pinstriped Prospects is a site that has some free features and a more detailed analysis behind a paywall. I do not currently subscribe to the paywall stuff (again, due to putting my money towards The Athletic). Part of their Top 50 prospects list is accessible for free.  Robert Pimpsner is the brains behind the site.  Matt Kardos (who does work for that site in addition to other endeavors) is one of my favorite Twitter follows, especially for Trenton Thunder news.

About me: I am not a scout nor do I pretend to be one. I love to do research. I will read countless pieces of information (especially from the sites above, but also on social media (reputable sources only!) to draw my conclusions on which prospects I gravitate towards).  My work also includes my daily minor league report during the season. That report helps me frame opinions on many of the Yankees' prospects. I can pick up on trends on young prospects getting hot as they begin to figure out a league, as one example. Some may find the work tedious. My brain, however, throws this massive ball of information into its "fun" hemisphere alongside researching what the best television is for three weeks and ending up buying none of them.

I do not publish "Top X" lists because enough people already do them and I feel mine would just be the same list of players in a different order. I aim for my prospect report to be a little different from most, which is not a knock on the work of others. It is the contrary as they do such a good job with prospect rankings that it forces me to do things differently.

With all the fluff out of the way, let me dig into my 2020 prospect preview:

1. Some rankings from various sites:

Fangraphs has been the most aggressive site with Yankees' prospects this winter, placing five Yankees' farmhands (Deivi Garcia, Jasson Dominguez, Kevin AlcantaraEzequiel DuranAlexander Vargas) in their preseason Top 100. It is reasonable to conclude that Fangraphs leans "upside" when they do their rankings. MLB Pipeline ranks three (Dominguez, Clarke Schmidt, Garcia). Baseball Prospectus loves themselves some Garcia (#24) and ranks Dominguez, but nobody else. Baseball America lists Dominguez first, followed by Schmidt and Garcia.  Fantrax HQ (which is a fantasy baseball site that ranks players based on dynasty league value) has Dominguez at #12 with Schmidt and Estevan Florial also in the Top 100.  

On the Yankees-based sites, Axisa lists Dominguez as his top choice, followed by Garcia and Schmidt. Pinstriped Prospects has Garcia/Dominguez/Schmidt.

We can argue the order of players and who deserves placement on these lists but I wouldn't fret it too much. The Yankees' organization is still one that is cluttered with upside prospects who need to break through the top levels of the system. Once that happens, you will start seeing more players showing up on Top 100 lists.

They are making strides and evaluators are starting to pay attention, even if they need binoculars to bring some of these players into focus. 

2. The Arrival of "The Martian"

We may as well start with him. While we won't get a look at Jasson Dominguez in a minor league game until this summer, we will be reading about how he is doing as he gets ready for his anticipated debut. Here is a suggestion for MLB: Whenever Dominguez makes it to Pulaski or Staten Island, televise the game. I don't expect them to send a crew down to the DSL to televise a game (though that would be cool, I must admit), but if you are going to hype this kid, you may as well follow him around by televising some of his games on MLB Network or online. This could be one way to turn faceless prospects into something all fans can enjoy following.

Regardless, Yankees' fans (and baseball fans in general) won't be able to get away from this prodigy, who is a cross between Mike TroutWillie Maysand Ty Cobb. Perhaps I am underestimating him with that assessment. Seriously though, Dominguez is already a star prospect who will be creating buzz for better or worse for the next several seasons.  I think some of his rankings are too aggressive.  John Sickels is the only national prospect writer to not rank him at all. Don't be throwing eggs at John's house, as it is perfectly acceptable to wait until Dominguez starts playing in some professional games.  However, I think there should be exceptions to any rule if a player is deemed worthy of such an honor. 

Dominguez supposedly can play anywhere on the field, including catcher. The Yankees smartly will not develop him behind the plate and will instead throw him in the outfield. Other than experience (which is a big deal), there doesn't seem to be anything Dominguez is lacking. We will see how professional pitchers attack him when he makes his debut. Where will he be? A recent quote from Brian Cashman indicates he will begin where almost every international teenager begins: The DSL. The rate that he moves from the DSL through the rest of the chain will be up to him. In case you were wondering, Juan Soto skipped straight to the GCL for his professional debut, where he promptly hit .361/.410/.550. Amazing how many superstars have this knack of showing off their stardom right out of the gate. I would be surprised if Dominguez didn't make his way to the GCL in 2020, with the potential to earn ABs at even higher levels. Soto ended his freshman campaign in the NYPL.

We have to be careful with this kid because he is already entering a stratosphere where people are expecting a Hall of Fame talent to debut in Yankee Stadium sometime in 2022. If Dominguez were to develop into a solid everyday player and consistent All-Star, that would be a win for player development. I have a feeling that some fans would consider that a failure, given all the superlatives.

3. Is Deivi Garcia the organization's best pitching prospect?

Garcia is the top prospect in the system according to Fangraphs and John Sickels. He is the third-best prospect in the system according to Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, and Prospects1500. Fantrax has him ranked fifth, as they are aggressive with Luis Gil (4th). There are differing opinions on the order of players in the system, and that is not a bad thing. 

I agree with those who are placing Clarke Schmidt as the organization's top pitching prospect, though Garcia is likely the organization's closest prospect. The Yankees drafted Schmidt in the first round back in 2017, doing so because they knew they could sign him for under slot. That allowed them to give Matt Sauer (injured) an over-slot bonus as the organization's second-round pick. Schmidt was impressive in his first full season of professional baseball in 2019, flashing a 3.84 ERA (2.87 FIP) in 63.1 Florida State League (A+) innings before tossing an extra 19 strong innings for Trenton to close the campaign. Schmidt has power in his profile but is a tool chest type of pitcher, featuring two different fastballs to go along with his curveball and changeup. He did miss a little time in 2019 due to elbow inflammation, which concerns me, given he had Tommy John surgery after the Yankees drafted him. While he is not currently on the 40-man roster, the Yankees are in championship mode. If Schmidt makes a push for a rotation spot at some point during 2020, you make room for him. I don't think he wins a spring training competition (if Luis Severino's injury is significant, that equation can change), though I would have said the same about Jordan Montgomery before 2017.

As for Garcia, my thoughts on Schmidt should not equate to thinking I am down on Garcia. Believe it or not, it is acceptable to place one prospect above the other while still loving the potential for both guys. Garcia was brilliant in 2019 until he arrived in Scranton, where I assume a combination of tiredness and ball adjustment stopped his momentum. Garcia struck out 165 batters in 111.1 innings in 2019, including 45 in 40 innings for Scranton (proving he was still able to miss bats at the highest minor league level). In 11 starts for Trenton, he struck out 37% of the hitters he faced while flashing a 2.20 FIP. He was incredible. Have I mentioned that he won't be 21 years old until May? It is easy for people to lose sight of Garcia based on his struggles in Scranton and not-so-ideal size. But his advanced spin rate on his pitches coupled with his athleticism makes one feel encouraged about his future as a starter. If he can't make it as a starter, his stuff has a similar ring to it as Seth Lugo, the Mets' reliever who relies on an incredible spin to post strong results out of the bullpen. Garcia is on the 40-man roster and will compete this spring for an MLB job. I suspect he will stay in Triple-A for a while, though (just like with Schmidt) the Severino story can change everything.

Other pitchers on the 40-man roster include reliever Brooks Kriske and starters Miguel Yajure, Luis GilLuis MedinaNick NelsonMike Kingand Albert AbreuAbreu is an interesting prospect – he is often forgotten about in this mix as injuries and inconsistent pitching have seemingly lowered his stock. He wouldn't be the first high-velocity pitcher to suddenly put everything together to become an MLB contributor. Can Abreu be a good student for Matt Blake this spring? One has to assume the new pitching coach will love working with someone of Abreu's talent. His stock would skyrocket if he is seen as the coach who unlocked the potential.

Kriske may have surprised some people by being placed on the 40-man roster (including me), but the Yankees had their reasons for protecting him over someone like Rony Garcia, who ended up going first in the Rule 5 draft. The 26-year old Kriske, who has never pitched above Double-A ball, was dominant in Trenton during the 2019 season (32.2% K; 2.82 FIP) and we must consider him a candidate for an MLB job as early as Opening Day (though I wouldn't necessarily expect him to make it). You don't add a 26-year-old relief prospect to your 40-man roster unless you think he is going to help you soon. There are a few warning signs with Kriske: Although he has been stingy with the long ball (three in 105.1 career innings), his flyball rate is still less than ideal for a right-handed pitcher in Yankee Stadium: 52.7% in Trenton in 2019. Combine that with his 11.6% walk rate and you can see where he could have issues in MLB.

Medina had one of the craziest seasons in recent memory in 2019. He started the season as if he was going to be his typical enigmatic self, compiling a rather ugly 8.38 ERA in his first 14 starts with an 18.9% BB rate and 1.24 HR/9 rate. He was walking the ballpark and allowing plenty of balls to go over the fence. That is never a recipe for successful pitching. I don't know if something clicked after that 14th start or what, but Medina compiled a 1.77 ERA over his last eight starts with a 35.2% K rate, 8.4% BB rate, and 0.20 HR/9 rate. He turned into a completely different pitcher and someone to watch closely in 2020. Medina has the stuff to be a big-time MLB pitcher if he is starting to put the mental and physical package together. He is still only 20 years old and has only two High-A starts to his credit, I would suspect he will spend some more time in Tampa to start the season before moving on to the biggest test up in Trenton.

Who was one of the most consistent starters in the system last year? The answer is…Yajure, who never flinched on his way from Tampa to Trenton. Yajure was efficient and strong in Tampa, throwing to a 2.26 ERA (2.73 FIP) in 127.2 innings before closing out the year with 11 innings of strong pitching for the Thunder. Yajure (who was the organizational ERA and FIP leader among pitchers who threw 75+ innings) can strike batters out, but he is not a power pitcher in the true sense of the term. He relies on his command/control (5.4% BB) and the ability to generate ground balls (54.6% ground ball rate in Tampa). While there isn't anything sexy about that, this gives Yajure the potential of a middle-to-bottom of the rotation innings eater, which we know every team in baseball can use. Yajure strikes me as the type of pitcher the Yankees would peddle in midseason trade talks because other teams could see him as a safe prospect to acquire.

Nelson is the anti-Yajure. There is no fooling around with this kid. He throws hard, misses plenty of bats (30.2% K), and is starting to develop his secondary stuff. There could be some Chad Green in Nelson. Given his ability to maintain velocity throughout starts, one has to assume he can easily maintain it three times a week as a multi-inning high-leverage relief pitcher. This is not to say that the product of Gulf Coast Community College is a reliever long-term. Just like with Green, he will be given every opportunity to remain a starter. He does need to work on his control before he assumes any MLB role. By the way, if you laugh at the fact that he is a product of Gulf Coast Community College, keep in mind that there have been a few MLB players who have at least made a pit stop at the school, including HOF pitcher Don Sutton.

Do you remember Jake Cave? The Minnesota Twins' outfielder was a piece of an under-the-radar trade the Yankees made that is starting to pay some dividends. That dividend is Gil, who is listed as the #5 prospect in the system on Prospects 1500. Gil has been known to hit triple digits with his fastball and his curve is a true power curve. If he can develop a third pitch, he has top-of-the-rotation potential. If he struggles with adding another pitch, he can become a high-leverage relief pitcher. Regardless, the Yankees have extracted value out of a 40-man roster fringe guy, and that will always be a win. Gil made 20 starts in 2019, with three of them in High-A Tampa. He compiled a 2.72 ERA (2.66 FIP) with a 30.2% K rate. I would think he would start 2020 at that level with the idea of getting him to Trenton at some point.

Of all the prospects I listed above, King is the only one who has made his MLB debut, as the Yankees were able to get his feet wet late in 2019. Acquired from the Marlins in a trade that sent Caleb Smith to the Sunshine State, King made waves in 2018, when he was able to climb up to Scranton from Tampa during the season. Due to an arm injury, he did not make his 2019 debut until July. Unlike many Yankees' prospects, King doesn't overwhelm you with a hard fastball. He is more about advanced movement and command of that fastball. While nobody should put King in the same sentence as Greg Maddux (wait, didn't I just do that?), the reason Maddux's name gets brought up is that it gives you the visual of what King tries to do with his fastball.  King was going to be a spring training factor regardless of Severino.  Now, he may be counted on to play a bigger role.

The Yankees have so many right-handed power arms that it is almost criminal. They don't yet need to protect Alexander Vizcaino (known for his devastating change-up), Roansy Contreras (buzz prospect entering 2019 who did not disappoint, especially over his last 11 starts), Yoendrys Gomez (started generating buzz during the 2019 season), Osiel Rodriguez ($600K bonus baby out of Cuba who hasn't made his debut in the states, but should in 2020), Trevor Stephan (rightfully doesn't receive the buzz Schmidt generates but will be in Triple-A at some point in 2020. He tossed a no-hitter for High-A Tampa in 2019), Jio Orozco (22-year old who should get his first taste of Double-A this season), Tanner Myatt (high impact potential but has to learn to harness it. He will be a good project for the development team), Glenn Otto (fastball-curve combination is strong), Frank German (throws hard, developing secondary arsenal), or 6'8" Gonzaga product Daniel Bies (imagine being 6'8" and being recruited for baseball at Gonzaga?).  

The left-handed side of the equation isn't as well represented, with T.J. Sikkema the best of the bunch. Sikkema, drafted in 2019 out of Missouri, can rise quickly through the system if the Yankees decided they wanted his arm in the bullpen. He still is a candidate to rise relatively quickly as a starter as well.  Ken Waldichuk, a 5th round pick out of St. Mary's in 2019, pitched well in his ten starts with Pulaski, striking out 49 hitters in 29.1 innings (yes, they were abbreviated starts as they were just getting his feet wet in a professional setting after he threw 92.2 innings in college). Lefty relief types who could potentially be asked to get some outs for the big club this year are James Reeves and Trevor Lane.  Lane, who was a 10th round pick back in 2016, pitched to a 1.99 ERA (3.04 FIP) for Trenton last season with a 23.9% strikeout rate but only has 4.2 innings of Triple-A experience. Reeves, who was picked in the 10th round one year earlier, pitched to a 1.79 ERA (3.39 FIP) in 55.1 innings for Trenton with a 27.7% strikeout rate. There are concerns about these pitchers being LOOGY types in a league where that type of pitcher is being devalued. Neither was invited to Spring Training.

As you can see, there is plenty of upside above but hardly any of these pitchers can help ease the pain if Severino misses significant time.  King, Garcia, and Schmidt are the most likely to fill in MLB roles during the 2020 campaign.  A breakout by Abreu (don't completely rule it out) could also help. 

I can write forever on these pitchers as it is an incredible pipeline of pitching talent. I have probably missed a few of your favorites in my listing above. The new development team will probably be given their time to assess what they have before the Yankees start sorting through who is expendable and who is a must-keep.  

4. Have the position players made any strides?

While the organization still leans heavily towards the mound, we are starting to see some strides in the batter's box. The key is for some of these players to start moving up into the higher levels of the system.

Canaan Smith decimated Low-A pitching for most of the season (.307/.405/.465; 154 wrC+) and the Yankees didn't push him to Tampa at any point. It was frustrating to watch but they had their reasons. Listed at 6'0", 215 pounds, the 4th round pick in the 2017 draft showed off the bat that made Texas high school pitchers run for the hills every time they saw him coming to the plate. He will turn 21 in April, so he will still be younger than league-average when he tries to conquer the Florida State League in 2020. He is not Rule 5 eligible until after the 2021 campaign. By then, the Yankees will have more than enough information on how good of an MLB prospect he is.

The new kid for everyone to hype up appears to be Oswald Peraza, a 19-year old shortstop who MLB Pipeline rated as the organization's best defensive player. Peraza has been able to develop his offensive game as well, as shown by his 13.5% K rate at Charleston, a reduction of 12.3% from his mark in rookie ball in 2018. While he hasn't flashed power yet, there could be some of that to tap into as he continues to grow and develop. If he can keep up his strong defense while developing a solid power tool to go along with his contact skills and good speed, he is going to zoom up prospect rankings. He is going to be #4 on the Yankees' MLB Pipeline list, it appears. Patience is key and it isn't like the Yankees need to rush a shortstop prospect through the chain.

The Yankees drafted a pair of catchers early in the 2018 draft and thus far the results are mixed.  Anthony Seigler is the better all-around player of the two but an injury to his kneecap (ouch!) in July 2019 cut his season short. He only appeared in 30 games and didn't hit much in those games.  Josh Breaux can enter the organization's home run hitting contest along with Chris Gittens, Dermis Garciaand Ezequiel Duran (to name a few). He is one of the best pure power prospects in the entire system, as shown by his 13 home runs in 51 games for Charleton. His overall game, however, is rawer than that of Seigler. His throwing arm is plus, but he has to work on his technique behind the plate to make his arm a true weapon. Both catchers need to stay healthy in 2020 to develop their overall games. Seigler is an elite athlete who will likely be able to stick behind the plate, but he needs a lot of at-bats. Breaux has to figure out some plate discipline to go along with his advanced power and needs reps behind the plate. It is never good for any prospect to lose development time. This is especially true for catchers. If you want a youngster to follow who is further down in the system, Antonio Gomez ($600,000 signing) is the prospect for you. The 18-year old played in 14 GCL games last season, hitting his first professional home run. Depth options in the system include Donny Sands (injuries have been a big problem for the converted third baseman), Jason Lopez (solid offensive season in 2018 but he didn't follow it up in 2019), and Carlos Narvaez (fun fact: He has hit one home run in each professional season, which spans from 2016-2019). Sands and Lopez were splitting time in Tampa in 2019 and one or both can easily be moved up to Trenton. Narvaez should get to Charleston for his first taste of a full-season league.

I read on Twitter sometimes about how the Yankees stockpiling catchers (including the rumored two big guns they are getting out of Venezuela this summer) means doom for Gary Sanchez. It doesn't. Seigler and Breaux have yet to prove that they are legitimate MLB prospects. Gomez is a long-term prospect, as would be these two new prospects. Do you want to know why it is good to stockpile catchers?  Franchises always need catching and they will treat catchers like gold. This is why the Padres rudely stole Luis Torrens from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft a few seasons ago.  If you can develop a pipeline of catchers, you will instantly have high-value trade bait, in addition to the potential successor for Sanchez if that becomes necessary. The Yankees didn't draft Anthony Volpe thinking that he would replace Gleyber Torres or whoever the Yankees' shortstop is someday. Baseball does not work that way when it comes to drafting players and signing international free agents. You stockpile the talent (especially up-the-middle talent) and figure out the rest if that talent develops. Some catchers cannot even stick behind the plate long-term (Greg Bird was a catcher when the Yankees drafted him). Let it all sort itself out as it will be at least two years before any of the Yankees' young catchers can start seeing the major leagues in their sights. For the youngest of the bunch (like Gomez), we are talking 4-5 years.

I am entering my sixth paragraph in this section and I haven't even touched on Estevan Florial.  When you follow baseball prospects, you often find yourself in situations where a player who was hot a few years ago suddenly is lost in the shuffle. Florial has missed a lot of time due to injuries and has struggled to perform when he is healthy, though it is reasonable to ask just how healthy Florial has been when he has been able to play. I am here to tell you to not jump off the Florial train just yet. Florial is only 22 (and he will be 22 for the entire 2020 season) and will make his debut in Trenton sometime in 2020. He is coming off of a dismal season in Tampa. There is zero use trying to sugarcoat it. He showed signs during the season of breaking through, but he just wasn't able to maintain it for long. His wRC+ ended up at 101 to go with this .231/.297/.383 triple slash. His .335 BABIP proves that he wasn't hitting in bad luck. He simply wasn't consistently hitting at all. The key for 2020 is for him to stay healthy as he cannot afford another 75-game season. While his tools and ability to play center field likely make teams drool, you have to figure his trade value has fallen. The Yankees have been bullish on this kid for a while, and they are at the point of needing to sink or swim with him. I think he can be a pleasant 2020 surprise.

The positional strength in this system leans more towards outfielders than it does infielders. In addition to Dominguez, Smith, and Florial, the Yankees have a few hotshot teenage prospects who are going to hopefully start making their way up the ladder.  Kevin Alcantara is a big kid with loud tools who you would be talking more about if it wasn't for Dominguez. At 16, he made it to the states last season (GCL), compiling 128 plate appearances. That will likely be enough for the Yankees to put him in Pulaski at 17 years of age. Speaking of big kids, switch-hitter Anthony Garcia is huge and has the power you would expect from a kid with his size. In 2018, at the age of only 17, he hit ten home runs in 44 games down in the Gulf Coast League, which is an insane number for a kid at his age down in that league. He only compiled 24 plate appearances in Pulaski last season. He compiled four extra-base hits in that limited playing time.  Raimfer Salinas had an encouraging season in the GCL last year, putting up a solid .270/.329/.415 (114 wRC+) line in 173 plate appearances. Another prospect you would hear more about if not for Dominguez, Salinas has an upside of an everyday MLB center fielder.   Antonio Cabello didn't play up to his scouting report in Pulaski in 2019, though he was only 18 years old. He will spend his entire 2020 season at the age of 19 and I assume he will still make his way up to Staten Island. How high were the Yankees on Everson Pereira entering 2019? They shipped him to the NYPL at the age of 18, a league where college players make pitstops on their way to the full-season leagues. He got off to a slow start (not entirely surprising) before injuring his ankle chasing down a fly ball. I hate ankle injuries – brings back memories of promising Yankees prospects David Adams and Ravel Santana. Those who have followed the system long enough likely remember Santana, a kid who started entering our imaginations in 2010 and 2011. He destroyed his ankle stealing a base in 2011 and his career was essentially over. Adams' injury is famous for scaring the Mariners away from a trade package that would have netted the Yankees Cliff Lee.  Oh, the memories.

As you can see, the outfielders in this system are mostly about upside at the moment. None of these kids (except maybe Florial, given his 40-man roster status) are rescuing the Yankees in 2020 if injuries pop up. They have a few players who will be making their way to Tampa along with Smith this year, notably Josh Stowers (speedster acquired in the Sonny Gray deal) and Brandon Lockridge, a power-speed kid they drafted in the 5th round back in 2018 out of Troy. Fellow 2018 draftee Ryder Green should make his way to Staten Island after flashing his power (24 extra-base hits in 61 games) down in Pulaski in 2019. Last year's draft produced Jake Sanford, one of the best stories in the organization in my opinion. Sanford went to high school in Nova Scotia and had to earn his way on to the baseball team for Western Kentucky (after spending a few years in a community college). Did I mention he did all this after turning down a volleyball scholarship in his native land? Like Brett Gardner back in the day, this may be a kid that you doubt at your own risk.

Infielders to watch in addition to Peraza include Kyle Holder (advanced defender who can make his debut in 2020), Maikol Escotto (he will make his way over to the states after a strong DSL performance), Alexander Vargas (had his share of struggles in his first taste of the GCL but did go 13-for-13 stealing bases), 2019 first-round pick Anthony Volpe (the Yankees put him on a train straight to Pulaski, where he was starting to get into a groove before mono ended his season early), 2019 college draftee Josh Smith (hit the tar out of the ball in Staten Island and I can see him skipping right to Tampa in 2020. Smith has "fast-track" ability and could be in an MLB equation as early as 2021 if one wishes to be aggressive), Hoy Jun Park (he hasn't developed in a way you want a million-dollar bonus baby to develop, but he is in the upper minors), and power-hitting first basemen Chris Gittens and Dermis Garcia. Gittens won the Eastern League MVP last season while destroying baseballs in Trenton (.281/.393/.500; 164 wRC+). While his batting average was strong, I see him more like a three outcomes type of MLB bat if he gets there).   Garcia added 17 home runs to his ledger, giving the now 22-year old an impressive 62 home runs in 1,234 minor league plate appearances.

One infield prospect I have touted over the years despite not-so-great numbers is Oswaldo Cabrera. The Yankees continued their pattern of being aggressive with Cabrera in 2019, moving him to Tampa despite a rough performance in Charleston in 2018. While his strikeout rate jumped last season, so did his overall performance. He ended the season with a .260/.310/.378 (104 wRC+) line with career highs in doubles, home runs, and stolen bases. Cabrera is known for his solid defense and could, at the very least, develop into a utility player down the line. Will the Yankees continue their aggression by putting him in Trenton in 2020? Maybe not to begin the season, but you have to expect it to happen.

5. What does this all mean, exactly?

When you look at organizational rankings (not something I am fond of, but they are good for discussion), the Yankees are not a franchise you are going to see in the top five. They won't likely be in the top ten. Top 15? Maybe someone will go crazy on their upside and think so highly of Dominguez that they will start putting the Yankees in this range. The Yankees are not a farm system that has been built to help the big leagues now, especially when it comes to position players. We could see Gittens or outfielders Trey Amburgey and Ben Ruta in an emergency. Maybe Florial transforms from a cluster of thunderstorms into a hurricane and becomes a stud overnight. I wouldn't count on it, but that is what makes this so much fun. Thanks to careful planning, the Yankees already have depth with Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada as players who can play the infield and outfield. They have Luke Voit and Mike Ford to cover first base.  Miguel Andujar is the ultimate wild-card who they are trying to make into a "corners" type of player who can also DH. Nobody likes seeing a flyball hit to Clint Frazier, but we all know he can hit. While they don't have any catching prospects who are going to help, they will have veteran depth (Erik KratzChris IannettaJosh Thole) hanging around in the upper minors to help guard against injuries to Gary Sanchez or Kyle Higashioka.  This puts the Yankees in a position where they don't yet need any of their toolsy prospects to help them soon. They can develop at their own pace and hopefully make considerable strides forward in 2020. The Yankees are essentially rebuilding their train. You want legitimate prospects at every level from the front of that train to the caboose. There is a break between the upper minors and lower minors that we hope some of their prospects start to fill in.

They are in better shape on the hill, where a bunch of pitchers can be used this season either in relief roles or potential spot-starting roles. Like every season, the Yankees have added several veterans on minor league deals to increase their depth (Nick TropeanoChad Bettis, David HaleDan OteroTyler LyonsTony ZychLuis Avila), but the overall landscape of the Yankees' minor league pitching staffs will be dotted with legitimate MLB prospects. Their starting staff in Tampa will be electric when the season opens.  Hopefully, some of them come to New Jersey at some point to help Trenton win another Eastern League title.  The system is beyond rich with power arms. Not all of them will indeed make it, but they have put themselves in a position where they can survive the normal attrition rate that comes with minor league pitching.

I find myself in a place where I am cautiously bullish. There are too many question marks for me to sit here and claim that the Yankees have a top farm system that is the envy of baseball. You see that in Top 100 lists, where they might get a prospect in the Top 50 on some lists, but nobody is surging into the Top 10 at this time. It is going to be a process. The Yankees seemingly are paying close attention to this process given that they have revamped their minor league development staff.  

Honestly, a few years ago, I had a feeling that the system was on the verge of collapse. They graduated a bunch of their best guys, traded away the surplus to strengthen their MLB roster further, and were seemingly running low on chips. Just like the MLB team turned what could have been a five-year process into something that almost resulted in going to the World Series in 2017, they have been able to rescue their system from becoming a wasteland. It is now time for some of their seeds to start blooming into flowers.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s