Every season around the end of July, there is a lot of attention paid to prospect rankings in regard to trade discussions. There are usually a few separate camps that fans form around this time of year. Some people are critical of the organization being too willing to depart with homegrown talent. Others would rather have success at the major league level regardless of who makes up the roster. A more recent trend by some of the top teams in the game has been to balance both sides.
Organizations play to their strengths in roster composition. The Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves, and even Los Angeles Dodgers, to name a few, are great at developing homegrown talent. Their long-term approach sees certain players as contributors to the big league club. More often, teams are relatively balanced in their roster composition through drafting, trading, and signing free agents. However, the success that teams find in one avenue is able to dictate which direction they rely on or prefer. For example, the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the best teams in baseball this season, are built largely through trades. They sit at 54.5% of their 40-man roster acquired via trade.
The Yankees have famously been big spenders in free-agency, that is no secret. Where they capitalize in forming their roster is via trade as well. They currently sit at 37.5% of their 40-man roster made up from traded acquisitions. With this in mind, it is easy to see how the Yankees past moves regarding their Top 30 prospects have been justified. While this could be a combination of certain players and tendencies, it is apparent that the team trusts their pro scouting departments to identify potential contributors.
Here is a quick look back to 2018 at some top prospects. I will list the players, their current team, their FWAR (calculated by FanGraphs), and their current level.
Yankees 2018 Top 10 Prospects (via MLB Pipeline):
1. Gleyber Torres / New York Yankees / 12.0 / MLB
Torres, the starting second baseman for the Yankees, has been a very solid player since coming up in 2018. He is currently enjoying a good year at the plate, with a .768 OPS. Though he has been the subject of trade conversations in the past, Torres has proved a steady and crucial part to the Yankees current core.
2. Estevan Florial / New York Yankees / -0.1 / Triple A
Florial was unceremoniously designated for assignment in the beginning of this season. However, he has taken that in full swing and is mashing in Triple-A with Scranton with a .983 OPS. Unfortunately, he has not proven his hitting skill at the major league level. Florial is still 25 and could be a part of an MLB roster sooner than later.
3. Justus Sheffield / Atlanta Braves / 1.4 / Triple A
Sheffield was originally acquired by the Yankees in a trade that sent Andrew Miller to Cleveland. There was a lot of hype surrounding Sheffield, though it was tough for him to live up to it. He was sent to Seattle in a deal that brought James Paxton to the Bronx. Sheffield has struggled this year in Triple A for the Gwinnett Braves, pitching to a 8.60 ERA in 16 appearances.
4. Miguel Andujar / Pittsburgh Pirates / 2.0 / Triple A
Andujar arrived in the Bronx for his first full season in 2018. He put together an incredible rookie season at the age of 23 and could have won the Rookie of the Year award. Well, that is if Shohei Ohtani wasn’t in the game! Andujar would have a difficult time staying healthy and in the lineup for the Yankees over the next couple of years. His production fell off a cliff and was let go from the organization last season.
5. Albert Abreu / New York Yankees / -1.1 / MLB
Originally coming up the minor leagues as a starter, Abreu has settled into a bullpen role in his second stint with the Yankees. He came over in a 2016 trade from the Houston Astros. Abreu has not been used in many high leverage situations during his Yankee tenure and has mostly been used as a pitcher to eat up some innings. He rounds out a 2018 top 5 prospects that were not overly impressive.
6. Chance Adams / Colorado Rockies / -0.5 / Triple A
Adams was once the Yankees top pitching prospects and was often in discussions as a main trading piece in some discussions. Namely, the Yankees were looking to upgrade their pitching rotation in 2017 and were interested in the likes of Gerrit Cole, Michael Fulmer, and Chris Archer. Many fans didn’t want the team to part with Adams, who was once ranked the #58 prospect in all of baseball. The right handed starter was eventually designated for assignment and traded to the Kansas City Royals.
7. Luis Medina / Oakland Athletics / 0.0 / MLB
The Yankees signed Luis Medina for $280,000 as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2015. Throughout his career, Medina reached as high as Double-A with the Yankees before being traded last summer. He was sent to the Athletics in a trade that brought Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino to the Bronx.
8. Freicer Perez / New York Yankees / – / Top: High A
Perez signed for an inconsequential $10,000 in 2014 but did not make his debut in full-season ball until 2017. A monster figure on the mound, standing at 6’8 and 240 pounds, his build reminds some of former Yankee, Dellin Betances. Perez unfortunately got hit by the injury bug during his professional career. A combination of tough injuries, along with the pandemic really set Perez behind, and he has yet to pitch since 2021.
9. Domingo Acevedo / Oakland Athletics / -0.2 / Triple A
After signing with the Yankees in 2012, Acevedo used his electric fastball to climb the system. He reached Triple A in 2017, though he could not quite make the jump to the major leagues with the Yankees. After the 2020 shortened season, the Oakland Athletics signed Acevedo, and he made his major league debut. Acevedo made 70 appearances in 2022 but encountered trouble in 2023, leading to his designation for assignment earlier this season.
10. Thairo Estrada / San Francisco Giants / 6.5 / MLB
Estrada rounds out the top 10 as the former Yankee prospect with the best major league career. Estrada broke in with the Yankees in 2019 where he played sparingly in a bench role. The Yankees traded Estrada to the San Francisco Giants in 2021 in exchange for cash considerations. Rougned Odor was brought in to fill the vacant roster spot. Estrada has provided a league average bat with the Giants, with an OPS+ of 107 in his three seasons.
Notable Other Top 30 Prospects:
11. Dillon Tate / Baltimore Orioles / 1.2 / MLB
13. Clarke Schmidt / New York Yankees / 1.7 / MLB
14. Jonathan Loaisiga / New York Yankees / 3.3 / MLB
15. Trevor Stephan / Cleveland Guardians / 1.5 / MLB
18. Domingo German / New York Yankees / 5.6 / MLB
22. Giovanny Gallegos / St. Louis Cardinals / 6.3 / MLB
27. Jake Cave / Philadelphia Phillies / 2.8 / MLB
While the talent level of prospects on a year-by-year basis undoubtedly changes, a look back helps fans understand some decisions. Each case is unique in its own right and rankings matter to a point. However, a trend study paints a better picture about prospects. Sometimes, prospects do not live up to their billing. Sometimes, prospects overachieve from their original rankings.That is why pinpointing the future of someone in the minor leagues is so hard. People within the game refer to prospects as “lottery tickets”, and it is not a bad characterization.
The 2023 Trade Deadline may see the Yankees part with some highly regarded prospects, wherever they may fall on a list. Fans will surely have differing opinions on how some of these trades go down, but that is all part of the experience. Just remember, some of these prospects traded away or brought in may never reach the expectations that are set on them. It is hard not to fall in love with certain prospects, but at the end of the day winning at the major league level takes priority. As we can see from the rankings above, sometimes the lesser known names are the ones who have a big impact. The upcoming week promises to be intriguing as we await the team’s moves, let’s see how it all shakes out!