As we head into the MLB 2017 regular season, we’ll be examining the New York Yankees Top Ten prospects of 2017. The Yankees are coming off a season in which they finished in fourth place despite winning 84 games. For all New York’s troubles last season, they were still in the hunt for a Wild Card berth entering the last month of the season. Which is quite remarkable for a team that was transitioning away from their established veteran approach to one that was willing to embrace unproven youth for the next generation of Yankee baseball.
The Yankees were not only willing, but they were hoping to rely on the veteran bats of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira who were both coming off a productive 2015 season. Unfortunately for Rodriguez, he could not sustain the production from just a year ago. Not only was he restricted permanently to the DH spot because of the damage to his hips, which was clear to everyone watching that he no longer had his legs under him. Making going from first to third on a single to center something he could no longer manage, and it was effecting the entire team.
2017 New York Yankees Prospects Preview Part One
In 65 games, A-Rod had a slash line of .200/.247/.351, with seven doubles, nine home runs, and only 31 RBI in 225 at-bats. Not to mention the 67 strikeouts. With every excruciating at-bat it was getting more obvious that something drastic needed to be done. Teixeira wasn’t doing any better by any means considering his injury history, but he still provided solid defense at first base and the occasional power surge here and there. To look at his slash line (.204/.292/.362), however, you’d think he was mimicking Rodriguez. But Teixeira was still able to hit 16 doubles, 15 home runs, and drive in 47 runs in 438 at-bats. Years of injuries were beginning to take their toll on the Gold Glove first baseman.
The Yankees transition actually began with the sudden announcement of Rodriguez’ impending retirement that would take place immediately, while excepting a job with the Yankees front office. But it was clear to anyone watching and paying attention that A-Rod didn’t have much of a choice when it came to his retirement. Not long after, Teixeira announced that he would be retiring at season’s end, and as a result was relegated to more of a bench player.
So when the trade deadline approached, Yankees GM Brian Cashman rolled the dice by offering up the two best closers in Major League Baseball in lefties Andrew Miller and flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman, but for a kings ransom only. The Yankees would trade Miller to the Cleveland Indians that netted them four prospects in return, including the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft, highly touted outfielder Clint Frazier. Many scouts from around the league believe that Frazier could be major league ready very soon. The Yankees also received a very promising LHP in Justus Sheffield and righty relievers J.P. Feyereisen and Ben Heller.
Then when New York traded Chapman to the Chicago Cubs, they were able to get back four players as well. Including former Yankee Adam Warren, who New York had previously traded to the Cubs for second baseman Starlin Castro. But getting Warren back gave them a very effective arm out of the bullpen, to go along with his ability to spot start a game here and there. But it’s the three prospects that the Yankees were able to acquire that immediately upgraded their minor league system. Those players included Rashad Crawford, Billy McKinney, and the Cubs top ranked prospect, as well as MLB’s 24th ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Gleyber Torres.
Torres, 20, was hitting .275/.359/.433 with the Cubs at High Class-A at the time. The future phenom has nearly all the tools an organization is looking for, with the only knock being his lack of power with the bat; but he’s young and his body is still maturing. The Yankees sent Torres to the Arizona Fall League this past off-season, where he proceeded to win the MVP award. This Spring Training with the Yankees, Torres is hitting .464/.484/1.448 with eight runs scored, 13 hits, five doubles, one triple, two home runs, and nine RBI.
The one player that appeared in Pinstripes last August, and rewrote some of the record books, was one of the Yankees own prospects, Gary Sanchez. The potential superstar single handedly kept the Yankees playoff hopes alive despite the July sell off. Sanchez would hit 20 home runs in only 53 games, setting a MLB record in the process. Sanchez finished 2016 batting .299/.376/1.032, with 20 homers, 42 RBI, 60 hits, 34 runs scored, and in only 201 at-bats. He ultimately finished second in Rookie of the Year voting.
With Sanchez’ emergence as a bona-fide superstar in the making, it also made veteran catcher Brian McCann‘s $85 million contract expendable. So the Yankees made a deal to send the veteran catcher/designated hitter to the Houston Astros for right-handed pitching prospects Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman.
Abreu, 21, was 2-8 with a 3.50 ERA along with 104 strikeouts in 90 innings pitched in Class-A. The Astros had Abreu ranked as their seventh best prospect before they dealt him to New York. The other pitcher in the deal, 20-year-old Jorge Guzman, was 3-4 with an ERA of 4.05 in Rookie Ball.
The July fire sale by the Yankees also included the trade of Carlos Beltran, who at the time was easily the Yankees most productive hitter and run producer. New York would trade the veteran outfielder to the Texas Rangers for right-handed pitching prospects Dillon Tate, Erik Swanson, and Nick Green.
Tate, 22, was the prized acquisition for the Yankees, and was the Rangers first-round pick in the 2015 draft. In Tate’s 17 games (16 starts) with the Rangers Class-A team, the Hickory Crawdads, he went 3-3 with an ERA of 5.12, but showed a lot of potential and upside.
2017 New York Yankees
All the prospects that the Yankees acquired via trade, will start their seasons at various levels of New York’s minor league system, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see some of them by mid-summer for one reason or another. As far as the Yankees other young players, like Greg Bird and Aaron Judge, they are all set for the regular season in the Bronx. The Yankees signed former Milwaukee Brewers slugger Chris Carter to platoon at first base after Bird missed the entire 2016 season with a shoulder injury. After all, Carter did belt a National League leading 41 home runs, but he also struck out over 200 times and is only batting .143 this spring. Bird on the other hand, is hitting .452, with 14 hits, six runs scored, five doubles, a triple, four home runs, and seven RBI. Which makes sharing duties at first base unlikely.
Judge got off to a hot start this Spring, but since has cooled off dramatically. Coming into Spring Training, both Judge and switch-hitter Aaron Hicks were competing for playing time. As of now, Judge is hitting .286/.375/.500, with Hicks hitting .270/.357/.541, making difficult to name a starter for right field just yet.
Stay tuned for a complete breakdown of the top ten 2017 New York Yankees prospects in part two of our 2017 New York Yankees Prospects Preview.