Early Look at the New Tiers of Yankee Prospects

We're not yet in the prospect ranking season, but it's worth taking stock of the current Yankee farm system. MLB.com elevated the Yankee system to #2 in baseball following the trade deadline. We've all become somewhat familiar with Clint Frazier, Gleybar Torres, and the rest. However, the Yankee system is also deep, both from newly-acquired talent and players already in the organization. Below, I'll break up the Yankee farm system into tiers, and offer my thoughts generally. We'll talk much more about these guys in detail over the next six months.

Names within tiers are listed in no particular order.

First Tier: Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Jorge Mateo, Gary Sanchez

These five guys are all top-50 prospects. Only Mateo is having a bad year in the minors. Only Torres is still in the low minors All are position players. All of these facts make it more likely that each individual prospect will produce a major league player. The Yankees could easily get two all stars out of this group, and maybe more. Greg Bird and Luis Severino aren't technically prospects, but they would be in this tier as well. It's as good of a first tier as any system in baseball.

Favorite player: It's tough, but I'm going with Gary Sanchez, who was just named as the best defensive catcher in the International League by Baseball America. Even if we're talking about a weak field, that's high praise for a guy who seemed to be on the verge of moving off the position for years.

Least Favorite Player: I'm going with Aaron Judge. I get the ceiling, and I get why people see potential for huge power in him, but the guy strikes out a ton. There's a reason why tall MLB hitters are so rare. Maybe he's Richie Sexson (who, let's remember, never topped 4 bWAR), but I'd bet against it.

Second Tier: Blake Rutherford, Justus Sheffield. Miguel Andujar, Domingo Acevedo, Dillon Tate, James Kaprielian

Here are the pitchers. They all have a fatal flaw. Acevedo is raw and untested. Tate has mechanical issues to work out. Kaprielan may be a Tommy John candidate. Sheffield has control issues. However, all four are high-ceiling pitchers with pedigree and stuff. Chances are at least one or two will fail to make the majors due to injury. However, we could also 

Favorite Player: Definitely. Blake Rutherford who has hit .368/.426/.600 in his first 70 professional at bats. Get excited.

Least Favorite Player: This is close, but I'm going with Acevedo. The results don't match the stuff, and he feels like an arm injury waiting to happen. Still, 100 mph + 6'7" puts him in this tier.

Third Tier: Wilkerman Garcia, Mason Williams, Dustin Fowler, Chance Adams, Tyler Wade, Billy McKinney, Luis Torrens, Dietrich Enns, Jordan Montgomery, Domingo German, Jacob Lindgren, Ian Clarkin, Daniel Alvarez

To me, this is where the Yankee prospect pool really starts to look good. Adams, Montgomrey Wade, Enns, and (if he can stay healthy) Williams are all safe future MLB players, if not all stars. Torrens, Garcia, Fowler, German and McKinney are all intriguing lottery tickets with lots of upside. Prior to the trades, the Yankees would have needed to count on real production from one or two of these guys to contend in the near future. Now, that would just be gravy. 

Favorite Player: Mason Williams, still. If he can ever be healthy, he'll be a productive major leaguer. He's got plenty of ceiling too.

Least Favorite Player: Clearly Wilkerman Garcia. Every couple of years, there seems to be a trendy toolsy low-minors guy whom people rank in the top-10 that no one ever hears from again. Past examples include Leonardo Molina and Ravel Santana. Call me when Garcia hits better than .181/.234/.257 in rookie ball.

Other Notables: Ben Heller, Rashad Crawford, Erik Swanson, J.P. Feyersien, Dermis Garcia, Jake Cave, Tyler Austin, Hoy Jun Park, Ben Gamel, Drew Finley, Leonardo Molina, Kyle Higashioka, Alex Palma, Brian Keller, Brady Lail

Pretty standard organizational stuff right here, although it's refreshing that names like Austin, Cave, and Heller show up so far down the list. I won't even bother to pick a least favorite.

Favorite Player: I'm a sucker for a good story, so I'm going with Kyle Higashioka. Prior to 2016, he looked like an organizational filler catcher destined to soon manage the Charleston Riverdogs. Instead, he's hitting .308/.368/.563 and an 16% strikeout rate. The surge is probably not going to last, but damn. Sleeper pick for the next Francisco Cervelli. Unfortunately for him, Higashioka picked the wrong organization.

Bottom Line

The Yankees had a deep farm system at the beginning of July, if a little thin on the highest high-end prospects. They added two guys to the first tier, two to the second, and several more down below. Even the best prospects are lottery tickets, so it pays to play a volume game. If the Yankees develop two above-average major league players from the top tier and one from each below, they'll have a cheap young core to build off. Throw in a few big hits and you've got the Chicago Cubs, but with more money.