Yankees sleeper prospects to watch out for in 2018

The Yankees enter the 2017-18 offseason with one of, if not the best farm system in Major League Baseball. By now you know the big names. There's MLB Pipeline’s #1 overall prospect Gleyber Torres, there's top arms Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield, there's top outfield prospects Clint Frazier and Estevan Florial, and of course there's Miguel Andújar, a 3B/DH prospect who possesses possibly the best bat in the organization.


But look beneath the surface and you'll find other hidden gems; lesser known names that might just force their way onto the 25-man roster at some point next season.

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports


Billy McKinney, OF/1B
The forgotten man from the blockbuster Aroldis Chapman/Gleyber Torres in 2016, McKinney has steadily chipped in solid numbers in his year and a half with New York.


Splitting 2017 between double-A Trenton and triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, McKinney hit a combined .277/.338/.483 across 441 combined at-bats with 16 home runs and 64 runs batted in.


Where McKinney has impressed the most however, has been in the Arizona Fall League this year where he made the Fall Star Game and is hitting .281/.380/.422 and has played both in the outfield as well as first base.


Scottsdale Scorpions manager Jay Bell has been on the record about him stating “He’s got a chance to be a major leaguer for a long time.”


With New York's stacked outfielder blocking his immediate path to the Bronx and Rule 5 Draft eligibility looming, look for the Yankees to continue to give him reps at first as a potential backup to Greg Bird or perhaps deal him if they are unable to protect him.


Thairo Estrada, INF
Thairo Estrada is one of the fastest rising prospects within the Yankees organization over the past year.


Estrada was absolutely scorching at double-A Trenton this past season and has carried that momentum over into the Arizona Fall League where he is quickly putting his name into Rule 5 Draft consideration. Since last season was the last year the Yankees could protect Estrada from the Rule 5 Draft without having to add him to the 40-man roster, they'll have to make a decision between now and Monday whether to add him, seek a trade, or risk him being selected by another team and lose him for nothing.


Over 122 games with the Trenton Thunder in 2017, Estrada hit a cool .301/.353/.392 with 29 extra-base hits and 72 runs scored. He was thrown out a concerning 11 of 19 times attempting to steal a base, but that's something the Yankees can work on with him to improve.


Playing alongside Estevan Florial and Billy McKinney on the Scottsdale Scorpions this Fall, Estrada has hit a remarkable .347/.388/.440 in 19 games. His .347 batting average ranks sixth among all AFL players.


At this point, the Yankees would be hard pressed not to add Estrada to the 40-man roster. They like him and will want to keep a close eye on him going into 2018.


Jake Cave, OF
Another lesser known outfield prospect within the Yankees farm system is 24 year old Jake Cave who has been within the organization since 2011.  Cave had stalled out at the AA/AAA level over the last 2+ years, but he showed some signs of finally putting it all together in 2017.  Split between Trenton (31 games) and SWB (72 games), Cave hit a combined .301/.351/.542 with 20 HRs and 56 RBIs, also throwing in 26 doubles.


Cave has solid defensive metrics with a strong arm and won the International League Player of the Month Award in July.

Photo Credit: NJ.com

You might remember, however, that the Cincinnati Reds selected Cave in the Rule 5 Draft last year and he might again be at risk of selection by another team.  Cave is currently 40-man protected but if the Yankees need to rework their roster again before Monday in order to protect others on this list, Cave might be the one to pay the price and lose his spot.


Albert Abreu, SP
Acquired alongside Jorge Guzman one year ago tomorrow in the deal that sent Brian McCann to the Houston Astros, Albert Abreu is a lesser known, but high-ceiling type pitching prospect.


While Abreu won't light up the radar gun to the tune of 105 miles per hour like Guzman can, Abreu is, at this point at least, the more polished prospect and closer to potentially breaking through at the big league level.  He projects to be as good as current Yankees’ ace Luis Severino if he is able to hit his ceiling.


Abreu battled injuries in the minors this season but possesses a heater than can hit 100 MPH and backs that up with a plus curveball and solid changeup.


Abreu appeared in 14 games (13 starts) this past season and threw to a combined 3.38 ERA with a 1.181 WHIP and a gaudy 10.3 K/9 ratio. He also surrendered just three home runs over 53.1 innings pitched.


Most impressively, Abreu has been nothing short of stellar in the Arizona Fall League this Fall.  As of this morning, Abreu leads the AFL with 27.2 innings pitched and ranks sixth among all starters with a 2.60 ERA.


Nick Solak, INF
Second year second baseman Nick Solak might be the biggest longshot of this group to impact the Yankees at the big league level this season, but the young Louisville product has already put together two strong years in the minors since being drafted in the second round by New York in the 2016 amateur draft.


At Staten Island in 2016, Solak cruised to a .321/.412/.421 slash line with 16 total extra base hits in 64 games.

Photo Credit: Martin Griff

2017 was split between the Tampa Yankees (high-A) and Trenton and Solak continued his steady stream of production.  He hit a combined .297/.384/.452 with 12 HRs, 53 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.

Solak is still just beginning his journey and he plays a position with arguably the most depth ahead of him within the organization, but if he is able to continue his steady climb through the organization, he just might find himself in the Bronx sooner rather than later.


Dillon Tate, SP
Dillon Tate was the centerpiece prospect acquired from Texas at the Trade Deadline in 2016 when the Yankees shipped Carlos Beltran to the Rangers and for all intents and purposes was regarded as a bit of a reclamation project. Brian Cashman used the term “lottery ticket” to describe Tate’s addition to the franchise.


Tate was drafted fourth overall in the 2015 draft, but had quickly fallen the ranks within the Rangers’ system due to injuries and ineffectiveness.  Tate wields a plus fastball that can touch 100 MPH, a good slider and an average changeup.  Control has been a bit of a question mark for him, but if he is able to put all the pieces together, he has the makings of being a solid 3-4 starter in the Major Leagues one day.


In 2017, Tate missed the first two months of the season with a shoulder injury and was sent to  high-A Tampa once he was activated.  His stint in Tampa didn’t last long as he was quickly promoted after just nine starts, going 6-0 with a 2.62 ERA, 1.080 WHIP and .221 BAA.


Following his promotion to double-A, Tate wasn’t as dominant, but still performed well, going 1-2 with a 3.24 ERA and 1.280 WHIP.

Photo Credit: Baseball America


Tate was scheduled to compete in the Arizona Fall League again this year but the Yankees pulled him earlier in October and haven’t cited an injury as of yet so fingers crossed here. Ideally they just didn’t want him to re-aggravate his Spring shoulder injury and instead opted to give him the Winter to rest and come back strong in 2018.


Domingo Acevedo, SP
The highest regarded prospect on this list, yet still one that all too often falls through the cracks when we discuss top prospects in the Yankees organization, Domingo Acevedo is one name you’ll need to keep your eye on this season.  After dominating in the minors in 2017 - skyrocketing from Tampa all the way to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre - Acevedo, like Estrada, will need to be added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster before Monday to protect him from being selected in the December 5th Rule 5 Draft.


Acevedo is an intimidating presence on the mound at 6’7” and backs that up with an overpowering fastball that can reach as high as 103 miles per hour and an above average changeup.


“Ace”, as he was affectionately known by his Trenton teammates this season, pitched to a 5-1 record in double-A with a 2.38 ERA, 1.030 WHIP and an overwhelming 82 strikeouts in just 79.1 innings pitched.


There are question marks as to whether or not Acevedo can hold up as a starter over a full season, so if he were to make the majors at all in 2018 it would likely be as a reliever, but he has the dominating stuff to be every bit as good as Luis Severino in 2016 and Chad Green in 2017 in their respective bullpen roles.

Article by: Andrew Natalizio

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