As with the shortstops, not every outfield prospect in the Yankees system will wear the hallowed Pinstripes in his major-league career if he is fortunate to get there.
There are simply too many vying for too few spots. In fact, it’s easy to go out on a limb and state the one sure-shot of all the prospects is power-hitting Aaron Judge, who will start the 2016 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and attempt to fine-tune his recognition of off-speed stuff. He’s about ready otherwise.
Right below Judge are Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams, who proved they could play at the big-league level. There is so much depth – and Jacoby Ellsbury‘s contract – that Ramon Flores, who gave a good account of hisself with the Yankees in 2015, was swapped to Seattle in the Dustin Ackley trade and now finds himself with a solid shot to go north with with the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I was always high on Flores,” said a scout from a National League East team. “I think he will have a solid career with Milwaukee or another club. The Yankees just have so many outfielders with talent in their system, I wonder where some will end up.”
“They lost (Jake) Cave to the Reds in Rule 5, and (Ben) Gamel would have been selected had he not been protected (on the Yankees’ 40-man roster). Other teams were high on those kids.”
Whether or not Cave rejoins this Yankees group is an open question. Cincinnati would have to keep him on its 25-man roster all season, and that is not a total given. Figure Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton and Jay Bruce will be the Reds’ outfield starters, with Cave in a mix with Scott Schebler Kyle Waldrop, Yorman Rodriguez, who, like Flores in Milwaukee, is out of options, Tyler Holt, Jesse Winkler and Donald Lutz.
Cave, 23, will be competing for one of two spots on the Cincinnati roster. Since the Reds are rebuilding in the powerful National League Central, they may decide to keep Cave, or send him back to the Yankees for $25,000.
Gamel, 23, had his best season in 2015, batting .300 (150-for-500) with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs – along with 28 doubles and 14 triples – at Scranton. He makes contact, hustles constantly, takes the extra base and has played all three outfield positions. He’s the kind of player whose total package impresses more than any tool. Look for him to play with Heathcott and Williams at Scranton. He can be a pesty big-leaguer, which all teams love.
Scouts are higher on Dustin Fowler, who will get his first shot at the upper levels at Double-A Trenton in 2016. He is coming off a, 70-RBI, 30 stolen-base 2015 split between Class-A stops Charleston and Tampa. He has excellent speed, a quick first step and a future as a big-league center fielder. A big season at Trenton, with a power boost, would put him on the fast track, competing with Heathcott and Williams.
Two others many scouts like are Jhalan Jackson, whose raw power and plus-arm excited many during his 2015 season at Staten Island. He will start at Charleston, where he likely will be teammates with Carlos Vidal, who, at Pulaski last season under manager Tony Franklin, showed the type of above-average skills Flores displayed before his trade.
“Carlos had a great season for us in Pulaski,” said Franklin. “He did a lot of things well at a young age. The Yankees have something with him. Excellent potential there.”
Then there are others who have shown flashes, like the hustling Mark Payton and highly-touted Leonardo Molina. And what of players like Trey Amburgey and Jeff Hendrix?
They all want to be Yankees, but, seriously, not all will be.
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