The 2016 New York Yankees Top 10 Prospects

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1. Aaron Judge, RF                                                         
Born: 04/26/92 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Matt Joyce, Marvin Lowrance,

Jai Miller, James Ramsey, Victor Roache

Height: 6-7 Weight: 275 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 22 A 278 15 2 9 0.333 0.428 0.530 0.197 14.0% 21.2% 167
2014 22 A+ 285 9 2 8 0.283 0.411 0.442 0.159 17.5% 25.3% 149
2015 23 AA 280 16 3 12 0.284 0.350 0.516 0.232 8.6% 25.0% 147
2015 23 AAA 260 10 0 8 0.224 0.308 0.373 0.149 11.2% 28.5% 98

Background: Here are a couple interesting tidbits about the Yankees and drafting outfielders:

  • The last time the ball club had an outfielder picked in the first round make the big leagues was former top prospect turned bust Slade Heathcott.
  • Prior to Judge’s selection as the 32nd overall pick in the draft three years ago, the last time the franchise picked a collegiate outfielder in the opening round was way back in 2001 when they selected former Florida State slugger John-Ford Griffin
  • In the storied – and lengthy – history of Yankees, Carl Everett was the most successful first round outfielder in the team record books. And every last win-above-replacement Everett tallied in his career was done outside the organization.

So, needless to say, the former Fresno State herculean right-fielder has a fairly decent shot to go down in the Yankees’ record books. Judge, who stands a monstrous 6-foot-7 and 275-pounds, was a three-year mainstay in the heart of the Bulldogs’ lineup. He burst onto the scene as a true freshman, hitting a robust .358/.437/.465 while filling the stat-sheet with 12 doubles, one triple, a pair of homeruns, and 11 stolen bases.

Judge followed that up with another giant season during his sophomore campaign, slugging .308/.453/.458 with another 14 doubles, two triples, four homeruns, and 13 stolen bases. But the Paul Bunyan-esque right-fielder had a season for the ages for Fresno State during his final year: in 56 games, 246 plate appearances, Judge posted a .369/.461/.655 triple-slash line, adding career bests in doubles (15), triples (four), and homeruns (12) while adding 12 stolen bases.

And he’s continued that torrid approach at the plate since entering pro ball two years ago.

Judge tore through the South Atlantic League (.333/.428/.530); the Florida State League pitching hardly fazed him (.283/.411/.442); he took to the minors’ toughest level, Class AA, with aplomb (.284/.350/.516), though he finally showed signs of slowing down in the International League late season (.224/.308/.373).

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in his pre-draft evaluation three years ago:

“Judge, a hulking 6-foot-7, will always have to contend with an abnormally large strike zone and the subsequent questions surrounding it. But he’s incredibly athletic, has a history of solid plate discipline, and could be another 20/20 candidate down the line. A reasonable comp might be Milwaukee ‘s Corey Hart, another gangly, athletic outfielder with a similar skill set.”

Since then, Judge has proven to be a dynamic middle-of-the-order thumper. Through his first 1,100+ professional plate appearances he’s walked nearly 13% of the time, shown 25- to 30-homerun potential, and hit for a decent average. In terms of offensive ceiling think something along the lines of Matt Joyce’s 2011 season with the Rays: .277/.347/.478. And if he doesn’t make the club come Opening Day, which is a possibility given his struggles in Class AAA, he won’t – or shouldn’t – be kept down for long

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

2. Jorge Mateo, SS                                                         
Born: 06/23/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Roman Quinn, Yamaico Navarro,

Argenis Diaz, Nick Franklin, Danny Santana

Height: 6-0 Weight: 188 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 20 A 409 18 8 2 0.268 0.338 0.378 0.110 8.8% 19.6% 106
2015 20 A+ 91 5 3 0 0.321 0.374 0.452 0.131 7.7% 19.8% 152

Background: Like a poorly produced reality show featuring a bunch of Hollywood rejects and C-list types, the franchise has been on the search for Derek Jeter’s heir apparent seemingly for the past decade-plus, anointing – among others – C.J. Henry, Eduardo Nunez, Ferdin Tejeda, and D’Angelo Jimenez at various points. So, needless to say, a lot of hope is riding on the slender shoulders of the Dominican-born middle infielder. Mateo, who stands 6-foot and 188 pounds, originally signed in January 2012 for a fairly scant sum – at least to 99.999% of the world – of $250,000. And for much of his first three professional seasons the young shortstop had a hard time appearing in a whole lot of games; he tallied just 93 games between 2012 and 2014. But Mateo had a bit of coming out party with Charleston in the South Atlantic League last season, his first year in full-season ball, hitting a respectable .268/.338/.378 with 18 doubles, eight triples, and a pair of homeruns. The most impressive part of his 96-game stint in Low Class A: he swiped 71 bags in 86 attempts. New York bumped the then-20-year-old shortstop up to the Florida State League in early August and he batted .321/.374/.452 in 21 games.

Projection: It probably goes without saying, but I’ll write it anyway: the speed is a plus-plus skill and a game-changer in every respect. But Mateo refuses to be pigeonholed into the typical slap-hitting speedster; he flashes solid-average power with the ability – down the line – to slug 12 to 15 dingers in a season. And after a bit of slow start in the Sally last season he batted .280/.344/.400 over his remaining 106 contests. Mix in some solid defensive abilities and Mateo has a strong foundation to develop into an above-average – perhaps even an All-Star caliber – big leaguer.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

3. Gary Sanchez, C                                                             
Born: 12/02/92 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Travis D’Arnaud, John Ryan Murphy,

Ryan Lavarnway, Wilin Rosario, Nick Hundley

Height: 6-2 Weight: 230 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 20 A+ 399 21 0 13 0.254 0.313 0.420 0.166 7.0% 17.8% 108
2013 20 AA 110 6 0 2 0.250 0.364 0.380 0.130 11.8% 14.5% 113
2014 21 AA 477 19 0 13 0.270 0.338 0.406 0.135 9.0% 19.1% 108
2015 22 AA 254 14 0 12 0.262 0.319 0.476 0.215 7.1% 19.7% 127
2015 22 AAA 146 9 0 6 0.295 0.349 0.500 0.205 7.5% 19.2% 145

Background: The highly-touted Dominican-born backstop finally passed the Class AA test – it just took 191 games spread across parts of three seasons. Since bursting onto the scene – and by scene I mean the Gulf Coast League and the NYPL – as a 17-year-old, Sanchez has historically been an offensive force at an offensive deficient position. But his bat seemingly plateaued in Trenton beginning back in 2013. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound backstop hit a league-average-ish .250/.364/.380 in a 23-game stint at the level three years ago, followed that up with a full season triple-slash line of .270/.338/.406, and finally upped the ante to .262/.319/.476 last season. Sanchez finally got the call-up to the International League in mid-July and batted .295/.349/.500 with Scranton/Wilkes Barre the remainder of the way. He also got a quick two-game trip up to Baseball’s Cathedral in early October and promptly went 0-for-2.

Projection: Double-digit homerun potential with the caveat of poor batting averages, Sanchez isn’t nearly the prospect he was once a couple years ago when he ranked among the game’s best. He’ll take a walk once in a while, flash solid contact skills, and above-average power for the position. CAL is reasonably optimistic about Sanchez’s future, linking him to Travis d’Arnaud, John Ryan Murphy, Wilin Rosario, and Nick Hundley. Think of a backstop that will add some value on defense and post a wRC+ mark between 90 and 110.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

4. James Kaprielian, RHP                                          
Born: 03/02/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-4 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 21 R 2.3 0 0 11.57 4.16 7.71 7.71 18.2% 18.2% 0.00 0.0%
2015 21 A- 9.0 0 1 2.00 1.52 12.00 2.00 32.4% 5.4% 0.00 80.0%

Background: Armed with a top 16 selection for the first time since the club picked some guy named Derek Jeter with the sixth overall selection in 1992, New York grabbed Kaprielian out of UCLA in the middle of the opening round last June. A three-year member of the Bruins – and a two-year member of the rotation – Kaprielian showed a certain tenacity for the punch out during his collegiate run: he fanned 53 in 40.2 relief innings as a true freshman; he then punched out 108 in 106 innings during his first year as a starting pitcher, and upped the ante slightly by fanning 114 in 106.2 innings as a junior. For his collegiate career, Kaprielian fanned 275 and walked 92 in 253 innings of work. The club selected the 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander with the 16th overall pick last June and sent him – briefly – to the Gulf Coast before bumping him up to the New York-Penn League. He would throw just 11.1 innings during his debut, fanning 14 and walking four.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote prior to his selection in the draft last June:

“Very, very little to dislike about Kaprielian: he’s not overpowering, per se, but his advanced approach allows him to miss plenty of bats; he does a solid job of limiting free passes; he’s performed well at the highest amateur levels of competition, against premium opponents; he’s sturdy, but hasn’t been overworked.

Kaprielian is, quite frankly, everything one would look for in a polished collegiate arm – one that is very likely to move quickly through the minor leagues.

The lone knock on the big right-hander has been his inability to avoid the long ball over the past two seasons with UCLA; he’s allowed nine dingers in his last 198.2 innings of work, or about 0.41 HR per nine innings.”

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

5. Ian Clarkin, LHP                                                             
Born: 02/14/95 Age: 21 Bats: L Top CALs: Greg Harris, Michael Main,

Randall Delgado, Jameson Taillon, Jake Thompson

Height: 6-2 Weight: 190 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 18 R 5.0 0 2 10.80 10.06 7.20 7.20 16.0% 16.0% 3.60 55.6%
2014 19 A 70.0 3 3 3.21 3.74 9.13 2.83 25.0% 7.8% 0.77 75.7%
2014 19 A+ 5.0 1 0 1.80 2.39 7.20 1.80 20.0% 5.0% 0.00 87.5%

Background: After whetting the appetites of fans and front office personnel alike while briefly shining in the South Atlantic and Florida State Leagues in 2014, Clarkin missed the entire 2015 campaign as a result of lingering – and pesky – elbow inflammation.

Projection: Just as I noted in last year’s book, CAL remains quite impressed by Clarkin’s limited action, linking him to Greg Harris, Michael Main, Randall Delgado, Jameson Taillon, and Jake Thompson. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound former Bonus Baby did make it back finally as he was named as a participant of the Arizona Summer League. And through his first six starts, the big lefty has – unsurprisingly – struggled a bit against some of the top lower level prospects: he tossed 24.2 IP with 17punch outs and 14 walks.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

6. Jacob Lindgren, LHP                                                 
Born: 03/12/93 Age: 23 Bats: L Top CALs: Mike Minor, Bruce Rondon,

Carlos Rodon, Gregory Infante, David Robertson

Height: 5-11 Weight: 205 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 21 R 1.0 0 0 0.00 -0.49 18.00 0.00 40.0% 0.0% 0.00 100.0%
2014 21 A 5.0 1 0 1.80 -0.21 19.80 0.00 57.9% 0.0% 0.00 50.0%
2014 21 A+ 7.3 0 0 0.00 0.39 20.86 4.91 54.8% 12.9% 0.00 85.7%
2014 21 AA 11.7 1 1 3.86 2.58 13.89 6.94 36.7% 18.4% 0.00 60.0%
2015 22 AAA 22.0 1 1 1.23 1.88 11.86 4.09 31.5% 10.9% 0.00 73.1%

Background: The 5-foot-11, 205-pound southpaw was a consistent dominant force working out of Mississippi State University’s bullpen and rotation, though the latter was a brief – albeit highly – successful experiment. During his three-year run with the Bulldogs, Lindgren posted a ridiculous 189-to-50 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 140.0 innings. For those keeping track at home that’s 12.2 punch out and just 3.2 walks per nine innings. The Yankees plucked the lefty in the second round two years ago, 55thoverall, and he’s been light’s out ever since. Lindgren’s basically leapfrogged up to Class AAA last season and was in New York soon after. So far he’s tallied 46.2 minor league innings, fanning a laughable 77 and walking 23. During his seven-game stint in New York he fanned eight and walked four. Not bad production for a hurler with barely any minor league experience.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote prior to the draft in 2014:

“If left in the bullpen Lindgren could very easily be pitching in the big leagues by the end of the year a la Chris Sale in 2010. And make no mistake about it; the Mississippi product has all the tools to become a dominant backend reliever – namely above-average control and an elite ability to miss bats.”

Well, I wasn’t too far off. It only took 46.2 innings for the lefty to ascend to the game’s highest level. Despite his high strikeout ability Lindgren isn’t overpowering in the traditional sense as his fastball averaged just a tick over 89 mph during his big league debut. But he complements that with a dominant low-80s slider, giving him a solid one-two punch. He should bring back memories of Mike Stanton as early as Opening Day 2016.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

7. Rob Refsnyder, 2B                                                   
Born: 03/26/91 Age: 25 Bats: R Top CALs: Cord Phelps, Jason Kipnis,

Chris Nelson, Scott Sizemore, Chris Taylor

Height: 6-1 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 22 A+ 507 28 2 6 0.283 0.408 0.404 0.121 15.4% 13.8% 140
2014 23 AA 244 19 5 6 0.342 0.385 0.548 0.206 5.7% 15.6% 159
2014 23 AAA 333 19 1 8 0.300 0.389 0.456 0.157 12.3% 20.1% 137
2015 24 AAA 522 28 2 9 0.271 0.359 0.402 0.131 10.7% 14.0% 123
2015 24 MLB 47 3 0 2 0.302 0.348 0.512 0.209 6.4% 14.9% 130

Background: Refsnyder’s string of strong offensive performances pre-dates his time in the Yankees’ organization. A three-year starter with the University of Arizona, the solidly built second baseman burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2010, slugging an impressive .344/.397/.440 with nine doubles, three triples, and a pair of homeruns in a lineup laden with future minor league talent such as Jett Bandy, Seth Mejias-Brean, and Joey Rickard (among others). Refsnyder followed that up with another dominant performance during his sophomore season, flashing significantly more power en route to hitting .320/.371/.498. But despite an otherworldly junior campaign with the Wildcats – he batted .364/.453/.562 – New York didn’t call his name until the fifth round in 2012.

Since then, however, all Refsnyder has done is cobble together a minor league triple-slash line of .290/.380/.432 with 106 doubles, 11 triples, 33 homeruns, and 55 stolen bases in 430 total games. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Korean-born second baseman spent the majority of last season in Class AAA, his second extended stint in the International League, and batted a quality .271/.359/.402. He also spent 16 games in Baseball’s Palace, hitting .302/.348/.512 in 47 plate appearances.

Projection: In last year’s book I ranked the offensive-minded second baseman as the club’s eighth overall pick, writing:

CAL’s a big fan of the former Wildcat, comparing his production over the last three stops to an All-Star (Jason Kipnis) and another former top prospect (Nick Franklin). Prior to the year the power was below-average, but it flashed 15-HR potential last season. Strong walk rates, solid contact skills, and sneaky speed all add up to [a] solid, below-the-radar prospect. As far as his ceiling is concerned: think a slightly better than average offensive performer with decent, not great defensive ability.”

Well, let’s update that a bit – shall we? CAL still remains quite optimistic in terms of his offensive ceiling, linking him to Jason Kipnis and Scott Sizemore. But the power, which peaked two years ago, regressed some in his repeat of Class AAA; it now remains squarely in the below-average to average territory. Solid plate discipline and hit tool, Refsnyder remains an under-the-radar prospect – one that is only further clouded by the recent acquisition of Starlin Castro. In terms of offensive output, think somewhere along the lines of him posting a 100 wRC+.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

8. Jeff Degano, LHP                                                   
Born: 10/30/92 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-4 Weight: 215 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 22 R 10.7 0 4 5.06 4.43 6.75 3.38 16.0% 8.0% 0.84 62.5%
2015 22 A- 10.7 0 0 2.53 2.86 11.81 4.22 29.2% 10.4% 0.00 82.4%

Background: The immediate comparisons between this tall lefty out of Indiana State University and another former tall lefty hailing from the college, Sean Manaea, are going to be all too easy to make – especially once you consider each hurlers injury history. But unlike Manaea, Degano missed a lengthy amount of time – more than 12 months – recovering from Tommy John surgery, which limited his collegiate tenure to just 108.0 innings, all but eight of those spent during his final season with the Sycamores. But, damn, Degano was as dominant as any collegiate hurler last season. In 15 starts, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound southpaw punched out 126 and walked just 28 to go along with a 2.36 ERA in 99.0 innings of work. New York grabbed him with the 57th overall pick and signed him to one of the lowest second round bonuses last season. Degano tossed another 21.1 innings between the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues during his debut, fanning 22 and walking just nine.

Projection: Very, very little statistical data to go off of, but it was as dominant as one would expect for an early round pick – so much so, in fact, that one wonders how (A) he lasted until the middle of the second round and (B) how the Yankees were able to finagle the sleeping giant to a well below-slot bonus. Because of the injury he’s already entering his age-23 season, but he’s one to pay attention to in the coming years, though he may be forced – undeservedly so – into a bullpen role within the next year or two to accelerate his path to the big leagues.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

9. Kyle Holder, SS                                                          
Born: 05/25/94 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Alec Sole, Ismael Tijerina,

Emmanuel Marrero, Ryan Jackson, James Roberts

Height: 6-1 Weight: 185 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 21 A- 250 7 1 0 0.213 0.273 0.253 0.040 6.8% 13.6% 57

Background: The franchise’s second first round pick last June, Holder was taken with the 30th overall selection out of the University of San Diego. A two-year member of the Toreros by way of Grossmont College, the lefty-swinging shortstop emerged as one of college baseball’s top middle infielders after a breakout 2015 campaign. In 55 games with the school, Holder batted .348/.418/.482 with career highs in doubles (14) and homeruns (four) while tying a career best with two triples. He also swiped five bags, though it took 11 attempts, and posted a 19-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 260 trips to the plate. Perhaps the most impressive part: in 645 career plate appearances at the college level Holder fanned just 34 times, or just about 5.2%. New York pushed him to short-season ball for his debut and, well, let’s just summarize that by saying things didn’t go swimmingly (.213/.273/.253).

Projection: Here’s what I wrote prior to the 2015 draft:

“Defensive-minded middle infielder who won’t hurt his team too much at the plate. Holder isn’t going to walk a whole lot – his career walk rate [at the time of the original writing] with San Diego is 7.3% – but he’s not going to swing-and-miss in bunches either. Not overly quick on the base paths and power’s a below-average skill, Holder looks like a fringy big league regular. If his defense is as good as advertised he might be able to carve out a couple Zack Cozart, Adeiny Hechavarria, Brandon Crawford-type seasons.”

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

10. Dustin Fowler, CF                                                 
Born: 12/29/94 Age: 21 Bats: L Top CALs: Dorssys Paulino, Jorge Bonifacio,

D’Arby Myers, Max Kepler, Delta Cleary

Height: 6-0 Weight: 185 Throws: L
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 R 117 8 4 0 0.241 0.274 0.384 0.143 3.4% 19.7% 89
2014 19 A 272 13 6 9 0.257 0.292 0.459 0.202 4.8% 19.5% 104
2015 20 A 256 9 3 4 0.307 0.340 0.419 0.112 4.3% 18.4% 114
2015 20 A+ 262 11 3 1 0.289 0.328 0.370 0.081 5.7% 16.4% 111

Background: Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: the franchise unearthed the 6-foot, 185-pound center fielder in the late, late rounds of the draft. Fowler, an 18th round pick out of West Laurens High School in 2013, split the season between Low Class A and High Class A last year, hitting a combined .298/.334/.394 with 20 doubles, six triples, and five HRs while swiping 30 bags in 43 attempts.

Projection: Similar ilk to that of Ben Gamel. Fowler’s power took a tremendous step backward after his surge in the Sally two years ago. After slugging nine dingers in 66 games, Fowler followed that up with five long balls in 123 games in 2015. He hasn’t handled fellow southpaws that well in his career, so unless the power rebounds he looks like a backup outfielder.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.

 



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.