Five prospects to keep an eye on in spring training

Spring training is underway and regular season baseball is less than a month away.  The New York Yankees reported to George M. Steinbrenner Field for their 23rd year of spring training in Tampa as they gear up for the 2019 season, looking for their third postseason berth in as many years.

The Yankees bring back most of their 2018 100-win team, and guys such as Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and Gary Sanchez will attract most of the fanfare in Tampa. New York also brought in some intriguing names this offseason.  DJ LeMahieu, Adam Ottavino, James Paxton, and Troy Tulowitzki highlight the offseason acquisitions, and are guys Yankee fans will be excited to see this spring as well.

With so much talent already in the bigs, many of the current Yankee prospects are being swept under the rug.  However, New York’s farm system was just ranked as the 12th best in baseball, according to BaseballProspectus, and sport many talents that could make an impact at the big-league level.

The Yanks have brought up many big-name prospects over the past few years, but several more are on the way.  Here are five prospects that all Yankee fans should be focused on this spring.

Disclaimer: Stephan and Acevedo were reassigned to minor league camp yesterday, but could still appear in MLB games.

Estevan Florial
Rank: #57 in Top 100, #1 in NYY organization
Age: 21
Position: OF (CF)
Photo Credit: Cliff Welch/Getty Images

Estevan Florial is undoubtedly the top current prospect in the Yankees farm system.  The versatile outfielder was signed by the Yankees system in 2015, spending most of his time of 2015/16 in rookie ball.  In 2017, Florial played 91 games for the Single-A Charleston River Dogs. After slashing .297/.373/.483 with above-average fielding and base running, Florial was promoted to the Single-A+ Tampa Tarpons and spent all of 2018 with them.  Though, he hit just .255 in 75 games as he battled a multitude of injuries last season.

With that being said, Florial is an elite prospect that scouts believe has well above average raw power, speed, and arm strength.  The 21-year old, when healthy, has shown flashes of someone with the tools of a future all-star caliber player.  Florial can play all three outfield positions but is seen as a true center fielder.  At the plate he is still overly aggressive, but when he puts the bat to the ball his lefty-swing could pay dividends in Yankee Stadium.

Albert Abreu
Rank: #3 in NYY organization
Age: 23
Position: RHP
Photo Credit: Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

The Yankees acquired Albert Abreu in a November 2016 deal centered around Brian McCann going to the Houston Astros. Abreu is a hard-throwing right-hander out of the Dominican Republic who the Yankees hope can eventually crack their rotation. Unfortunately for both parties, Abreu has suffered a variety of injuries in his two seasons in the Yankee organization limiting him to just 126 innings over that span. In 2018 Abreu had a 5.20 ERA in 17 starts over three-levels of ball.

His arsenal starts with a fastball that has clocked in at 101 with movement. Abreu is a power pitcher who can sometime become predictable as he relies a ton on his fastball. He pairs his fastball with a sweeping curve that is deadly to righties as well as an average changeup. Abreu often struggles with command and consistency, the main reason he has not achieved his full potential. He gave up four walks per nine in 2018. This spring is huge for Abreu as he tries to overcome his injury-bug and put himself in the upper-echelon of Yankee pitching prospects.

Trevor Stephan
Rank: #8 in NYY organization
Age: 23
Position: RHP
Photo Credit: Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com

The Yankees took Trevor Stephan out of Arkansas in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft after he put up a 2.87 ERA and 11.9 K/9 in one season as a Razorback.  He spent most of the summer of 2017 playing for the Staten Island Yankees where he finished with a 1.39 ERA and 12.0 K/9 in nine starts.  He started off 2018 with the Tampa Tarpons but was quickly promoted to the Trenton Thunder after dominating in high-A ball.  However, Stephan struggled in his time in double-A, finishing with a 4.54 ERA in 17 starts.

Stephan relies heavily on his running fastball that can touch 97 MPH.  His 6-foot-5 frame allows him to tower over hitters, giving him a menacing look on the mound.  He was able to dominate the low-levels of minor league ball with just his fastball, but Stephan must develop his secondary pitches if he wants to keep progressing through the system.  He features a slider with a wicked spin rate as well as a changeup that needs some fine tuning.  With that being said, the Yankees believe Stephan can eventually find his way into the big league rotation and another year of growth in the minors will keep him on that track.

Thairo Estrada
Rank: #19 in NYY organization
Age: 23
Position: SS/2B
Photo Credit: Jake Danna Stevens/Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

After signing with the Yankees out of Venezuela in 2012, Thairo Estrada has bounced around the Yankees farm system for the better half of a decade looking for his opportunity to break through.  In 2017 Estrada had finally seemed to put everything together as he hit .301 in 122 games for the Trenton Thunder and a blistering .342 in 20 games in the Arizona Fall League.  This garnered him some national attention and led Estrada to be named the top shortstop prospect in the fall league. Unfortunately, almost all of 2018 was lost for Estrada after he was shot in the right hip in January back in Venezuela during a robbery attempt.

Estrada lacks pop in his bat, but he handles the stick very well and rarely strikes out. If Estrada sees the bigs soon he would make an impact on this Yankee team with his defensive versatility.  Estrada is a vaccum in the infield and can make all the throws a shortstop needs to make. He can play second and third, as well as some outfield in emergency situations.  At this point in his career, Estrada’s ceiling is somewhat low because of his limitations at the plate.  Though he does serve a niche role which could find him in some injury appearances should he himself bounce back from an injury-riddled 2018 season.

Domingo Acevedo
Rank: #23 in NYY organization
Age: Turns 25 in March
Position: RHP
Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

The 6-foot-7 right-hander out of the Dominican Republic will turn 25 before the start of the 2019 season, but his frame and dynamic fastball make him a very intriguing prospect, even in his mid-twenties.  Acevedo has been clocked at 103, which coming from a 6-foot-7 frame is virtually impossible to hit.  He pairs that power fastball with a hard slider and an average changeup. He has struggled to find consistency with his secondary pitches, however.

Since 2015 Acevedo has bounced around from Single-A Charleston to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and everywhere in between.  In 2018 he appeared in only 16 games, 14 of them in Double-A Trenton.  He finished his injury-riddled season with just a 2.99 ERA and a depleted fastball due to a blister injury.  Acevedo has missed time due to injury in four of the last five seasons which is a cause for concern.  He is currently a starter in the minors, but his big frame may cause him to wear down sooner rather than later setting him up for a potential bullpen role should he ever reach the majors.

*All prospect rankings from MLBPipeline.com
*All statistics from baseball-reference.com

Article by: Shane Black

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Yankees should turn a former Yankee-killer into a Red Sox-killer

Six early trade deadline targets for the New York Yankees

How a family rule made the “Aaron Judge Kid” have the night of his life