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Weekly Prospect Update: New York Yankees

Even when your favorite team is playing well, it’s still fun to look toward the future. For some teams, the future is all they have to look forward to. Prospects are an exciting part of the game and provide plenty of discussion on who will turn into the next star or who will bust. This week, we take a look at the New York Yankees, who have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball.

The minor league season is well underway, and prospects are working hard to make their cases that they’re ready for the big leagues. Here’s a look at how the Yankees’ top 10 prospects are doing about a third of the way into the season.

10. Albert Abreu, RHP

Acquired from the Astros last year in exchange for Brian McCann, Abreu has risen through the ranks and cracked the top 10 prior to this season. The 21-year-old’s fastball ranges between 93-97 mph. He complements it with two power breaking balls and a changeup that induces plenty of ground balls and swings and misses. He’s currently being used as a starter but has performed well out of the bullpen as well.

2017 stats (Low-A Charleston): 3 games, 1-0, 1.84 ERA, 0.818 WHIP, 22 K, 3 BB. (High-A Tampa): 6 games, 0-3, 5.09 ERA, 1.478 WHIP, 19 K, 9 BB.

Abreu performed well in Charleston before moving to High-A Tampa. He made just two starts before being sidelined for two weeks with inflammation in his pitching elbow. He’s yet to regain his footing, as he was roughed up for five runs over five innings on May 31.

Before he can gain any traction throughout dynasty formats, Abreu will have to improve his control and command and continue to work on his secondary pitches. He has the upside of a No. 2 starter but is still at least two years away from the majors.

9. Miguel Andujar, 3B Lists: Top 10 3B Prospects (#7)

Andujar has been in the Yankees’ system since 2011 and put together the best season of his career in 2016. He earned a midseason promotion to Double-A, where he put up impressive numbers at the plate while playing a solid hot corner. Andujar has an aggressive approach at the plate, which has gotten him into trouble at times, but he repeatedly makes hard contact when he connects.

2017 stats (Double-A Trenton): 54 games, .305/.336/.493, 6 homers, 42 RBI.

Andujar has been absolutely on fire the past two weeks. He’s currently on a 14-game hitting streak over which he’s slashed .490/.534/.765 with two homers and 15 RBI. He leads his league in RBI and ranks among the top 15 in nearly every offensive category.

The 21-year-old is getting hot at the right time. With Chase Headley struggling for the big league club, the Yankees may look internally sooner rather than later to improve production at third base. Top prospect Gleyber Torres has been taking reps at third base, but Andujar has much more experience at the position. If the Yankees do pull the trigger on Headley, Andujar may be the beneficiary. He should be on everyone’s radar in dynasty leagues, as he may be starting at third base sooner than expected.

8. Dustin Fowler, OF Lists: Top 100 Prospects (#100) 

The Yankees’ 18th round draft pick in 2013 has made huge strides to push his way into the top 10. Fowler has the looks of a five-tool player in the making, notching 57 extra-base hits and 25 steals last year at just 21 years old. He earned a promotion to Triple-A before the season started and has picked up right where he left off last season.

2017 stats (Triple-A Scranton): 52 games, .296/.338/.547, 9 homers, 28 RBI, 9 stolen bases.

Fowler is in a bit of a slump, batting just .167 with 10 strikeouts in the month of June. Nonetheless, he’s still showing a seamless transition to Triple-A. Fowler leads the league in triples, is tied for second in doubles and ranks sixth in batting average. His success at both levels of the minors makes him a prime September call-up candidate. There isn’t much room for him in the Yankees’ outfield just yet, but Fowler could compete for a starting job as early as next spring.

7. Chance Adams, RHP Lists: Top 100 Prospects (#97)

Adams looked like he was on the fast track to the majors as a reliever after being drafted in the fifth round in 2015. However, they experimented with him as a starter, and now he is looking like a big piece of the Yankees’ future rotation. Adams’ fastball averages 95 mph with a great combination of velocity and command. His slider and changeup both rank well above average, and even his worst pitch, his curveball, still grades as average.

2017 stats (Double-A Trenton): 6 games, 4-0, 1.03 ERA, 1.086 WHIP, 32 K, 15 BB. (Triple-A Scranton): 5 games, 3-2, 2.17 ERA, 0.862 WHIP, 34 K, 11 BB.

The 22-year-old has been far and away the best pitching prospect for the Yankees thus far. He dominated Double-A throughout six starts and was promoted to Triple-A on May 12. Adams has been unfazed by the increase in competition as he still continues to dominate hitters. His best start came on May 31, when he went six innings, gave up just one hit, and struck out 12.

Adams has the most immediate fantasy value at the moment. With Masahiro Tanaka struggling mightily, the Yankees might look to mix the rotation up a bit. If Tanaka needs a DL stint, expect Adams to get a shot. He’s proved just about everything he needed to in the minors, and the payoff could be very close.

6. Justus Sheffield, LHP Lists: Top 100 Prospects (#69), Top 10 LHP Prospects (#8)

The Yankees received a huge return last season for Andrew Miller. Clint Frazier headlined the package, but left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield was more than just a throw-in. His fastball reaches 96 with plenty of sink and is complemented by a changeup and slider that generates plenty of swings and misses.

2017 stats (Double-A Trenton): 11 games, 4-4, 3.47 ERA, 1.396 WHIP, 53 K, 22 BB.

Sheffield struggled out of the gate, but he has started to put it together. Prior to June 7, Sheffield strung together three very impressive starts for the Thunder. In 20 innings across the three starts, he gave up just two runs, struck out 15 and walked three. His command has been an issue as his 2.41 K/BB and 7.7 K/9 are the worst marks of his career. The strikeout potential is there, 9.4 lifetime K/9, but we have yet to see it in 2017.

Sheffield just turned 21 and he’s still a ways away from reaching the majors. His command should be his main focus moving forward. When he gets it under control, he has the upside of a No. 3 starter.

5. James Kaprielian, RHP Lists: Top 100 Prospects (#68)

Kaprielian became the highest-drafted college pitcher in Yankees history when they took him 16th overall in 2015. His fastball has touched 99, and his curveball, slider, and changeup all grade as plus pitches. Kaprielian was having a great spring in 2017 and even competed for a rotation spot. However, elbow discomfort sidelined him before the season started, eventually resulting in Tommy John surgery. Even without throwing a pitch in 2017, Kaprielian still remains the Yankees’ top pitching prospect.

4. Jorge Mateo, SS/2B Lists: Top 100 Prospects (#39), Top 10 SS Prospects (#7)

The Yankees’ top shortstop (and overall) prospect at the start of 2016 now has a much different outlook. After the acquisition of Gleyber Torres, Mateo moved over to second base and has spent time in center field as well. The 21-year-old is known for his blinding speed, often drawing comparisons to Billy Hamilton. Mateo has surprising strength for his size and makes plenty of contact at the plate.

2017 stats (High-A Tampa): 55 games, .249/.292/.409, 3 homers, 10 RBI, 20 stolen bases.

Mateo is struggling at the plate so far but is wreaking havoc on the basepaths. He’s 20-for-22 in stolen base attempts and ranks second in the league. However, he also ranks fifth in strikeouts, and his OBP sits at an underwhelming .292. Mateo is 6-for-25 with five runs scored, a triple, and two RBI in the month of June.

Mateo has a ton of talent, but we have yet to see it all come together in his young career. He’s adapting to playing different positions well, which increases his future fantasy value. He’s still got some work to do in the minors, but whenever he is called up, expect him to make a name for himself with his legs.

3. Blake Rutherford, OF Lists: Top 100 Prospects (#32)

The Yankees drafted Rutherford 18th overall in 2016 and signed him for $3,282,000, a franchise record for a hitter. At just 20 years old, Rutherford has all the makings of a five-tool player. He has immense bat speed and raw power from the left side of the plate, as well as the ability to recognize pitches well.

2017 stats (Low-A Charleston): 47 games, .280/.355/.394, 1 homer, 18 RBI, 9 stolen bases.

Rutherford is currently on the 7-day DL but has enjoyed a decent season at Low-A Charleston thus far. He’s spent time at each outfield position, has committed just one error and has thrown out two runners from center. He’s batting .280 with 13 doubles, two triples, and a homer. Don’t expect to see Rutherford in the Bronx anytime soon, but keep an eye on him in dynasty leagues, as his stock is sure to continue to rise.

2. Clint Frazier, OF Lists: Top 100 Prospects (#18), Top 10 OF Prospects (#7)

There’s been a lot to like about Frazier since he was drafted out of high school in the 2013 Draft. The Yankees acquired him from the Indians in July of 2016 in the Andrew Miller deal. He’s made adjustments to his game and his stock is as high as it’s ever been. Frazier has unmatched bat speed and raw power, above-average speed and a strong arm. He’s altered his ultra-aggressive approach that has occasionally gotten him in trouble, and he is working more walks than he has in the past.

2017 stats (Triple-A Scranton): 53 games, .254/.346/.477, 9 homers, 30 RBI, 5 stolen bases.  

After a rough April, Frazier bounced back with an impressive month of May, when he batted .277 with six homers and 18 RBI. He’s maintained that pace in the early going in June and is 5-for-20 with three runs, a double, and four walks. Frazier is currently leading the league in doubles and is tied for 15th in RBI.

Frazier should have been on the radar of dynasty leaguers a couple of seasons ago. He has the tools to hit for a solid average and the power to reach 30 homers in a season. His above-average speed makes him a 30-20 threat as well. At most, Frazier could earn a September call-up in 2017, but expect him to compete for a starting job in the spring.

1. Gleyber Torres, SS Lists: Top 100 Prospects (#2), Top 10 SS Prospects (#1)

Torres became the Yankees’ prized possession last season after he was acquired from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman deal. The top shortstop prospect in all of baseball has great instincts at the plate that allow him to use the entire field. He recognizes pitches well, makes hard contact, and is tapping more and more into his raw power. Since being signed out of Venezuela in 2013, Torres has continued to get better, ranking as the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball.

2017 stats: (Double-A Trenton): 32 games, .273/.367/.496, 5 homers, 18 RBI, 5 stolen bases. (Triple-A Scranton): 14 games, .261/.414/.370, 1 homer, 9 RBI, 2 stolen bases.

Torres has spent time at third, short and second throughout 2017 and has excelled at each spot. He busted out of a slump on June 5, going 3-for-3 with his first Triple-A homer, four RBI, and a run scored. He followed it up two days later with a 2-for-4 performance with a double and two RBI. Torres has raised his Triple-A average to .261, but more impressively, his OBP sits at .414. There’s obviously plenty to like about the 20-year-old, but one thing that sticks out is his patience at the plate. He’s worked 28 walks while striking out 37 times across the two levels.

There’s been plenty of talk and rumors that Torres is ready for the majors now. Chase Headley is struggling for the Yankees, and many think that Torres deserves a chance to take over. While calling up a top prospect is always tempting, the Yankees should pump the brakes on rushing Torres. He’s still just 20 years old and could benefit from more seasoning in the minors. That being said, if he continues to perform like he has, he may force the Yankees’ hand.

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