The New York Yankees have one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball. The number of top prospects in the organization rivals all other teams. Beyond that, the depth of talent on the farm in the most impressive collection of young players that the Yankees have had in my lifetime. As we prepare for the start of spring training, let’s look at this depth, position by position. We will examine the organization from top to bottom, focusing on each player’s primary position.
The New York Yankees acquired Alex Rodriguez in the winter of 2004 after postseason hero Aaron Boone injured his knee during a game of basketball. For over a decade, the converted shortstop manned the hot corner, playing solid defense while earning multiple MVP awards and leading the team to the 2009 World Series championship.
As age caught up with AROD, he was relegated to a role as designated hitter. The Yankees traded for Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres in 2014. Headley had produced 31 home runs and 115 RBIs while winning a gold glove two years earlier. The Yankees retained Headley, signing him to a 4-year, $52Million free agent contract. 2015 was extremely disappointing as he committed a league-high 23 errors while hitting only .259/.324/.369. 2016 started out even worse as he failed to produce an extra-base hit until the second week in May. He rebounded to finish strong both offensively and defensively.
Through all the negativity and trade rumors, Headley remained professional. He received the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) NY Chapter Good Guy Award. He has earned praise for always being accountable and available. This year, Headley figures to take a more prominent role of leadership on the team with the departures of veterans Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller and Rodriguez.
The Yankees are also hoping that Headley’s production on the field more closely resembles to the second half of last year than the first half. It is necessary for him to rebuild his value, especially if the 2017 team has aspirations of making the playoffs. Whether he finishes the last two years of his contract in pinstripes or is traded away to make room for the promotions of Yankees prospects will be determined in the upcoming months.
In the majors, 24-year old Ronald Torreyes is the primary backup to Headley. Surprisingly, the undersized Torreyes managed to remain on the Yankees roster all season last year. Listed at a generous 5’10, 150 pounds, he became a fan favorite. His ability to play a solid defense at third, as well as shortstop, second base, and even the outfield makes him an asset. Any offense that he produces is a plus. Torreyes figures to earn a spot on Manager Joe Girardi’s bench because of his ability to play short, which neither Rob Refsnyder nor Tyler Austin can.
Miguel Andujar was recently rated by MLB Pipeline as the seventh-best third base prospect in the sport. The Dominican Republic native will turn 22 during spring training. Last year he split the season between Tampa and Trenton, where he was 3.3 years younger than the average player. He produced a .273/.332/.410 batting line, which was an improvement in all three from the previous season (.243/.288/.363). His walks increased while his strikeouts decreased, showing an improved approach at the plate.
This fall was very busy for Andujar. First, He played in the Arizona Fall League, where he was an all-star. Later, he was added to the Yankees 40-man roster. Whether he begins the season at Trenton or Scranton, Andujar will be looking to continue to develop into a top prospect. He will likely push his way into the Bronx later this summer where he will make his Major-League debut.
Dermis Garcia is a member of the vaunted international free agent class of 2014. He turned 19 earlier this year. He spent last year playing third base for Pulaski, where he was 2.5 years younger than the average player. He managed only a .206 batting average but his tremendous power produced 13 home runs in 57 games. He also struck out an alarming 79 times. The Yankees need to refine his raw talents for him to succeed at the higher levels. Look for him to begin the year in Charleston and advance as he matures. He has the potential to develop into a future star.
Dante Bichette Jr. spent last year in Trenton, of the Eastern League. As discussed in this featured interview, Bichette finished the year strong. He is coming to camp confident and hopes to advance to Scranton and onto the Bronx before the season is through. The 2011 first-round pick split time between playing first base and third. He has a power bat and solid glove.
Mandy Alvarez was selected in the 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft. The 22-year old began his career tearing up Staten Island before being promoted to Charleston. Overall, he his .288/.306/.404. Expect him to see time in Tampa this season.
Drew Bridges spent most of last year with the Staten Island Yankees, where he hit .258/.31/.377. He will likely advance to play for the Charleston River Dogs this season when he will be 22 years old.
A couple of third basemen to keep an eye on this year are Nelson Gomez and Alfred Pujols. Gomez signed with the Yankees as part of their international free agent class of 2014. Last year, in the Gulf Coast League, he batted only .194 with 8 walks and 55 strikeouts in 54 games. However, of his 37 hits, 21 went for extra bases, including 9 home runs. Pujols is only 18-years old with minimal playing time in the Dominican Summer League. It will be interesting to see how this teenager progresses.
The Yankees will have Chase Headley at third base in 2017, where he will be a veteran presence on an otherwise young team. However, the team has a vast amount of talent at the position throughout the system. The next couple of months will determine if this talent manifests itself on the playing field and if anyone steps up to push their way into the big-league lineup.