Since their most recent trip to the World Series in 2009, the New York Yankees have sought to improve their minor league system and develop a sustainable winning model. Using the template of the “Core 4” of Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera from the early 1990s, the Yankees have utilized both the amateur draft and international markets to build cost-effective talent and the next wave of superstars to reach the Bronx.
The initial prospects came to fruition during the 2015 as pitcher Luis Severino and first baseman Greg Bird reached the big leagues for the first time and were integral components to the Yankees’ first playoff appearance in three seasons. Their efforts combined with marked improvements in player development under Gary Denbo are the results of a shift in organizational philosophy and a desire to cultivate its own players.
As spring training officially gets underway, MLB.com released its annual list of top 30 Yankees prospects, which includes a blend of top draft picks and recent breakouts. As is the case with most Yankees prospect lists, MLB.com places Jorge Mateo, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and James Kaprielian as the top four players in the p system.
Mateo, 20, an international free agent signed in 2012 is currently the top prospect in the Yankees system and organization’s most complete shortstop since Derek Jeter. Following three seasons in rookie ball, Mateo split time in 2015 between Class-A Charleston and Tampa, batting a combined .278 with 78 stolen bases and 11 triples. Mateo’s quickness and athleticism combined with consistency at the plate make him one of the top position player prospects in the game and may spend the upcoming season in Double-A Trenton.
Wilkerman Garcia, Dustin Fowler, and Domingo Acevedo make their first appearances on MLB.com’s list and each established themselves with strong performances last season after seemingly coming out nowhere to make their mark. The trio has emerged as elite prospects who will continue to flourish and grow in the coming seasons.
Acevedo, 21, became one of the top pitchers in the New York-Penn League with the Staten Island Yankees after dealing with blister issues in July, going 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in 11 starts. Featuring a fastball which can touch 103 miles per hour at its peak, Acevedo is one of the hardest throwers in the system and at 6″7 and 190 pounds and draws comparisons to Michael Pineda and Dellin Betances. Despite his tall stature, Acevedo has average fastball command and a fastball described as “major league ready” by his pitching coach Butch Henry and may have a future either as a starting pitcher or a late inning reliever.
The 2015 draft is well represented on the MLB.com list with seven players, including outfielder Trey Amburgey at #30, who earned consecutive New York-Penn League Player of Week honors in late August and early September. Other recent draft picks featured on the list are Drew Finley, Kyle Holder, Donny Sands, Jeff Degano, and Chance Adams.