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Where Are They Now: Yankees Top 30 Prospects (2016) – #5-1

At the end of the 2016 season the #1 prospect in the MLB was Corey Seager. Earlier this week he just got a contract for $325M over 10 years. This got me thinking: Where are the Yankees Top-30 prospects from that 2016 season?

Today we look at 2016 prospects #5 through #1. At the top of the farm, the Yankees must have hit at least once…right?

 

Prospect #5: Wilkerman Garcia (SS)

2016 Scouting Grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

Where Is He Now? Minor League Free Agent (Elected November 7th, 2021)

Where Was He Last? Hudson Valley Renegades (New York Yankees: Class-A, 2021)

It is awfully hard, especially as an international prospect, to quickly shoot up the minor leagues. It typically takes about a year post-signing before any of them will begin a professional career, and it is almost always at the lowest levels given their inexperience and trying to mitigate culture shock. For Wilkerman Garcia, he broke out immediately in the rookie leagues in 2015, but through level elevation has yet to reach that same pedigree. Since then, Garcia has stayed in the Yankees system but has yet to make it above Class-A+ ball.

Wilkerman Garcia was signed by the New York Yankees for $1.3M out of the Dominican Republic as part of the 2014-2015 international free agent class. He was one of 7 guys that the Yankees gave a signing bonus of 7-figures that year for the Yankees. Before becoming a minor league free agent this offseason, Garcia had spent the last 8 years within the Yankees organization though because of the cancelled 2020 minor league season and an undisclosed injury this past year has kept him from the field since 2019. He’s still just 23 (will be 24 for the 2022 season) so he has time, but he’s definitely not a hyped prospect like he was 5 years ago

What Was His Value? -$1.35M signing bonus

 

Prospect #4: James Kaprielian (LHP)

2016 Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50

Where Is He Now? Oakland Athletics (MLB)

Where Was He Last? Oakland Athletics (MiLB)

James Kaprielian may have been one of the most promising starting pitching prospects in the Yankees farm system since Luis Severino. He was a sure-fire budding ace of the Yankees pitching staff of the future, had all the necessary tools, had a 4-pitch mix (with a fastball touching near 100 MPH), but lacked the most important thing: health. In college, Kaprielian had pitched 100+ innings in both his sophomore and junior years so there was no expectation of an extensive injury history with him, but after 3 games in professional baseball the injuries began. He managed just 29.1 innings in regular season ball (56 if counting Fall ball) in his first two seasons between 2015 and 2016. He didn’t pitch at all in 2017 for the Yankees.

James Kaprielian was the 1st Round pick of the New York Yankees in the 2015 MLB Draft out of the University of California Los Angeles. After spending 3 years in the Yankees organization and during the 2017 season he was used with Dustin Fowler (who we talked about yesterday) and another prospect on this list for Sonny Gray at the trade deadline. Kaprielian would take until 2019 to play a game in professional baseball while dealing with constant injuries, though this story has a good ending (for him). In 2020, he made his MLB debut for the Oakland Athletics and in 2021 Kaprielian pitched 119.1 innings (first time he reached 100+ innings since college) to a 4.07 ERA. He’s always going to be an injury worry, but he is expected to stay in the MLB for the next few years as a considerable piece for Oakland.

What Was His Value? -$2.65M signing bonus and part of the trade package for Sonny Gray

 

Prospect #3: Gary Sanchez (C)

2016 Scouting Grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 60 | Run: 30 | Arm: 70 | Field: 45 | Overall: 55

Where Is He Now? New York Yankees (MLB)

Where Was He Last? New York Yankees (MLB)

The expectations have been set far too high for Gary Sanchez over the past few years, of which has made it impossible for many Yankees fans (myself included) to realize that he is truly valuable to the Yankees MLB team. This is in large part thanks to Gary Sanchez absolutely exploding over 53 games in 2016 as he raked 20 Home Runs, an OPS above 1.000, and +3.0 bWAR towards a 2nd place ROY finish. It’s incredibly unrealistic to expect that from any player and quite obviously Sanchez has not played to- or near- that level again. However, that isn’t to say he’s been necessarily bad. Gary has averaged about +2.0 bWAR each season since 2016. However, that also isn’t to say Sanchez has been great either as his defensive game is often a large (and due) critique.

Gary Sanchez was signed for $3M out of the Dominican Republic by the New York Yankees during the 2009-2010 international free agent signing period. It was worth the price given Gary’s immense raw power and strong arm. Up to this point, Gary Sanchez has been with the New York Yankees for 13 years since he signed and has put up the most value (so far) of all the prospects on this list. Rumors are that he may be traded (if the Yankees acquire Wilson Contreras from the Chicago Cubs) though, my expectation is that Gary Sanchez will be back behind the plate for 2022. Though, I also think that this is his last chance to prove it for the Yankees before he becomes a free agent.

What Was His Value? Officially, +11.7 bWAR and likely more in 2022

 

Prospect #2: Aaron Judge (OF)

2016 Scouting Grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55

Where Is He Now? New York Yankees (MLB)

Where Was He Last? New York Yankees (MLB)

I really hope that I don’t need to explain who Aaron Judge is to the Yankees fans of world. Not only is it hard to avoid hearing his name as the defacto captain of the current era of the Yankees but he’s also impossible to miss physically at 6’7” and 282 pounds. And that’s to not even mention how much of a presence he is on the field as well, being one of the Top-10 players across the MLB of the last 5 years. Honestly, there is so much to say about Judge that it’s hard to want to cut it all down to such a short blurb. Long story short, Judge should’ve won the 2017 MVP along with his Rookie of the Year. He has hit to a 150 OPS+ in his career, and while injuries have kept him from the field a good amount from 2018-2020, he’s easily the least replaceable Yankee on the team.

Aaron Judge was one of the Yankees first round picks in the 2013 MLB Draft out of California State University, Fresno. Up to this point, Judge has spent 9 years in the Yankees organization and if the fans get what they want the Yankees (whenever the lockout ends) will extend him for another 5 years beyond 2022. Judge is a fantastic hitter and fielder (he is due a gold glove one of these years) though his concerns come with his older age (he’ll be 30 in 2022) and his moderately extensive injury history (and the legacy of big guys like him not aging well). I hope he bucks the trend. All Rise!

What Was His Value? Officially, +26.4 bWAR and lots of room to grow!

 

Prospect #1: Jorge Mateo (SS)

2016 Scouting Grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 80 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55

Where Is He Now? Baltimore Orioles (MLB)

Where Was He Last? San Diego Padres (MLB/Triple-A)

Speed. I am speed. Though this is a famous quote from one of my favorite racing cars ever (Lightning McQueen), it was also the true embodiment of the Yankees #1 prospect at the end of the 2016 season. Jorge Mateo was built on his 80-grade running which helped him patrol the left-side of the infield with ease. He was a consensus Top-100 prospect for three years (2016-2018), reaching into the Top-50 during the first two of those years, though he never broke the MLB with the Yankees. Mateo did have some controversy with the Yankees as they instituted a team suspension for 2 weeks in the middle of 2016.

Jorge Mateo was an under-the-radar signing by the New York Yankees as part of the 2011-2012 international signing period out of the Dominican Republic, signing him for a bonus of only $225K. After spending 6 years in the Yankees organization, he was traded at the 2017 deadline (along with James Kaprielian and Dustin Fowler) for Sonny Gray from the Oakland Athletics. Mateo would spend 3 years in the Athletics organization before being traded to the San Diego Padres during the 2020 season. He would later make his MLB debut for the Padres this season, playing in 14 games. He was brought up again by the Padres in 2021, playing 52 games, but after being put on waivers became a Baltimore Oriole. While in Baltimore, Mateo did hit better over 32 games. Going forward he’s likely to break the 2022 roster with the Orioles as a middle infielder.

What Was His Value? -$225K signing bonus and part of the trade package for Sonny Gray

 

What’ve We Learned So Far? (Part V)

This was the Yankees best talent at the end of the 2016 season. And, well, I have to give them some credit for the value that they have gotten our of these guys. Combined, these 5 players have played in 1110 games at the MLB level while producing to a +38.1 bWAR. However, all of those games and value has come from Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Still, those two have been solid contributors for the Yankees for a number of years now. Outlook: Very favorable, for some, but not all.

Collectively, in order to sign the 5 players above the New York Yankees spent $8,325,000 to get players from the draft or as international free agents ($3M for Sanchez, $2.65M for Kap, $1.8M for Judge, $1.35M for Garcia, and $225K for Mateo). A good amount of money, but overall the Yankees definitely beat out the Millions/WAR value. And, yes, that holds even if we consider the MLB salaries of Sanchez and Judge. Outlook: Still very favorable…though still for just some.

The Yankees have gotten back one player from trades with the prospects in this list. Yankees got Sonny Gray, who was a very good pitcher before and after his Yankee tenure for Kap and Mateo. Ultimately, I’m not underselling how good Sonny Gray was as a Yankee as he provided just 1.3 bWAR over 1.5 seasons. Not great for the price of admission. Outlook: Well, those were the unfavorable guys above…

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Combined from the Yankees prospects in 2016, these 30 players have played 1980 games in pinstripes/road grays. Together they’ve combined for +45.4 bWAR. (With over 50% of the games played from Judge and Sanchez and more than 80% of the WAR value.) Together they’ve cost the Yankees $26,084,500 in signing bonuses (not counting MLB or MiLB salaries).

It really makes you think just how valuable the Yankees current top prospects truly are. It’s all a shot in the dark, really, but should players who are years away from the MLB really be held on to while keeping the Yankees away from making major moves to help this team now, with proven talent. The hits on these prospect lists came from guys who already had broken into the MLB (Judge, Sanchez) or where playing well in Triple-A and due to soon (Montgomery). A talent- as good as he is and may be- like Jasson Dominguez (who just played in Class-A+) be held on to so tight?

It makes you think.

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