Imaginary Brick Wall was one of the only publications to have Gary Sanchez ranked #1 overall in the New York Yankees farm system coming into 2016. When I say “Imaginary Brick Wall,” of course, I mean me. And when I say “publication,” I mean this here blog. I’m just trying to class this joint up a little bit. Baseball America, Fangraphs, and MLB.com all had Jorge Mateo #1. Baseball Prospectus, ESPN, and Prospect361 went with Aaron Judge. I only mention those other websites due to how much I respect them, not to denigrate them. But nanny nanny poo poo … I beat them. Let’s give them another shot to take the crown this year, as I’m going to make this New York Yankees prospect ranking an annual thing. Here is the 2017 Top 10 New York Yankees Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings:
1) Aaron Judge OF – The 44% K rate in his MLB debut have people jumping ship faster than Jack and Rose did from the Titanic. Incidentally, Judge is about the size of the Titanic, and in fairness to the ones jumping ship, that scary K rate just might be the tip of the iceberg. I guess in this analogy that makes me the weird violinist who is pretending all is well. But Judge struggled in his promotion to Triple-A in 2015 too, before slashing .270/.366/.489 with 19 homers and a 98/47 K/BB in 93 games there this season. He has shown an ability to make adjustments against more advanced pitching. And you have to remember that all of New York’s minor league affiliates are pitcher’s parks in pitcher’s leagues. Judge had the 4th highest OPS in the entire International League. He also displayed his monster raw power, exit velocity, and plate discipline in the Majors even with the strikeouts, and should have the RF job locked up coming out of Spring Training. I ranked Judge 25th in my End of Season Top 35 Fantasy Prospect Rankings.
2) Clint Frazier OF – Frazier is one Brett Gardner/Jacoby Ellsbury trade away from joining Judge in the Yankees corner outfield for years to come. He probably needs more work at Triple-A anyway, as he put up a .657 OPS with a 36/7 K/BB in his 30 game end of season promotion there. The elite bat speed is his number one tool on the field. The elite red hair is his number one tool off it. I ranked Frazier 26th in my End of Season Top 35 Prospect Rankings.
3) Gleyber Torres SS – Torres will likely be the Yankees #1 ranked prospect in most of those aforementioned publications. His performance in the Arizona Fall League had scouts absolutely buzzing, as he slashed a ridiculous .403/.513/.645 with 3 homers and 4 steals in 18 games. While he is not projected to hit for monster power or rack up crazy steal totals, he should be a legitimate five category producer who can stick at shortstop. Whether he does stick at shortstop with Didi in town remains to be seen. I ranked Torres 34th in my End of Season Top 35 Fantasy Prospect Rankings.
4) Jorge Mateo SS/2B – It was not a good year for Mateo. He saw his numbers take a dip at High-A and was suspended 2 weeks for whining about not being called up to Double-A when he wanted to be called up. Even his stolen bases dropped from 82 in 2015 to 36 this season, and barring a trade, it is looking less and less likely that Mateo will stick at shortstop. Having said that, his raw talent and plus, plus speed are still there, so it is more likely this season was just a bump in the road rather than a representation of his true talent level. Prime Projection: 86/12/60/.269/.321/.396/33
ETA: Mid-season 2018. What team and position is anyone’s guess.
5) Justus Sheffield LHP – I think Sheffield has gotten a little overshadowed by Frazier, but he may end up being the real prize from that Andrew Miller trade, especially in real life. He pitched solid all year in High-A as a true 20-year-old with a 3.19 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 8.9 K/9. He then closed his year out in impressive fashion by going 4 IP, 2 Hits, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K against Double-A Reading in their wind tunnel of a stadium, helping to hold their impressive middle of the order (Alfaro, Cozens, Hoskins) to a 2 for 11 day. There is video of that entire start if you are interested. Prime Projection: 3.48/1.23/184 in 188 IP
ETA: Mid-season 2018. Wouldn’t be crazy to see him get a cup of coffee in September this year.
6) Blake Rutherford OF – I would like to see more age appropriate production before fully jumping on the Rutherford bandwagon for fantasy. The traditional scouts seem to be in love with the kid, so maybe I’m just being too conservative. I ranked Rutherford 22nd on my Top 40 Dynasty First Year Player Draft Rankings.
7) James Kaprielian RHP – Kaprielian’s velocity ticked up in pro ball after being drafted 16th overall in the 2015 draft and then he promptly got injured. The extra velocity seemed to turn him into an absolute beast, though, as he racked up the strikeouts when he did manage to take the mound. His injury risk and lack of an extended professional resume is concerning, but the pitch repertoire of a mid-90’s fastball, wipeout slider, slow curve, and changeup from a polished college starter is hard to pass up. Prime Projection: 3.59/1.25/167 in 174 IP
ETA: Could see a late season call up this year, but more likely to get his first extended action in 2018.
8) Dustin Fowler OF – Fowler might be one of the more underrated power/speed combo prospects going right now. As a 21-year-old in Double-A he put up a .281/.311/.458 triple-slash with 12 homers, 30 doubles, 15 triples, and 25 steals in 132 games. He has excellent raw tools and a smooth lefty swing that is geared for both average and power. He walked only 3.8% of the time, so there is still work to do, but he made contact at a high clip too (15% K%). I’m tempted to rank Fowler higher, and I may when I come out with my Top 100 this off-season. Prime Projection: 73/17/70/.270/.306/.420/18
ETA: 2018. Yanks are stacked in the outfield right now so it is really impossible to know how it is all going to shake out. His ability to stick in CF will also play a big role.
9) Dillon Tate RHP – Tate dominated in his first two starts of the season before suffering a hamstring injury. When he returned, his stuff just wasn’t the same and he got smacked around the rest of the way. The Yanks still took a chance on him in the Carlos Beltran trade, and it looks like it might pay off as he was back to hitting mid-90’s with a wipeout slider in the Arizona Fall League. He has a long way to go to recover the prospect shine that made him the 4th overall pick in the 2015 draft, but I wouldn’t count him out yet. Prime Projection: 3.72/1.27/165 in 182 IP
ETA: See James Kaprielian
10) Miguel Andujar 3B – Andujar has been on the radar of hardcore Yankees prospect fans since 2011 when he was a highly touted international signing. He finally broke out a bit this year at High-A where he slashed .283/.343/.474 with 10 homers and a 30/18 K/BB in 58 games. He struggled in his promotion to Double-A, but still more or less maintained his underlying hitting skills. I think there is a decent chance the Yanks use him as trade bait in the next couple years. Prime Projection: 68/19/74/.277/.330/.434/5