Say the Yankees need to trade some prospects for an established starting pitcher. Which of the team’s farmhands have the most value?
This corner is not looking to advocate a trade of any Yankees prospect – and let’s take pitcher Luis Severino, outfielder Aaron Judge, first baseman Greg Bird and second baseman Robert Refsnyder out of the conversation – but let’s see who might bring back what the Yankees might need.
First of all, as has been discussed previously, the Yankees have a glut at catcher. Figure John Ryan Murphy to be Brian McCann’s backup. That leaves two back-stoppers other teams may have an interest in.
They would be Gary Sanchez, whose value un this opinion is one of the Yankees’ top trade chips. With McCann in place for at least a few more seasons, and Murphy a player pitchers enjoy throwing to, that area is set in The Bronx. Sanchez, who is listed as the Yankees’ No. 5 prospect by Baseball America, really has no future in the system.
A lot of teams still like his overall skill set, which is improving, and he plays out as a 15-20 home-run guy in the majors. His value has never been higher, as he just turned 22 in December, and if a club wants him as the centerpiece of a trade for a piece the Yankees need, why not? Especially with Luis Torrens, the Yankees’ No.9 prospect according to Baseball America, highly touted.
Also in this boat, though not to as big a value level, is Austin Romine, who is 26. Injuries have affected his career, yet there are teams who feel he can help. He has actually played in 76 big-league games, and would be a good guy to have available for several teams.
Then there is the enigma of the system, outfielder Mason Williams. No “Classical Gas” from this guy, who hit a paltry .223 (113-for-507) in his first full season at Double-A Trenton in 2014. While be pressed at the plate, he excelled in the field. No doubt the 23-year-old Williams’ defense is at major-league level.
The Yankees protected Williams, a fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft, from this winter’s Rule 5, obviously not wanting to lose him for $50,000, but hoping perhaps to involve him in a future trade. His defense is that good, and it’s certainly possible a team might figure it could fix Williams at the plate as the Yankees feel they can fix Nathan Eovaldi on the mound.
Teams are always looking to “fix” players with natural talent. Both Williams and Eovaldi, who have shown tantalizing flashes of what could be, are in that category.
The Yankees have built a bullpen surplus in the major-league level, and have a pair of talented lefties – 2014 top draft pick Jacob Lindgren and Chasen Shreve, who was acquired from Atlanta in the Manny Banuelos deal – knocking at the big league door. While Lindgren and Shreve are almost certainly off the market, their presence may allow the Yankees to flip one of the pitchers they acquired in the off-season as part of a deal.
Among Yankees prospect pitchers, a lot of teams like righty Jaron Long, who went 13-6, 2.26 in a breakout season in 2014, among Charleston, Tampa and Trenton. At Double-A, he was 7-2, 2.35 for the Thunder. Overall, his strikeout-walk-ratio 122-22.
A sinker-slider guy who has terrific movement, the 23-year-old Long, who allowed just four home runs in 144.1 innings last season, is perhaps the best Yankees prospect you never heard of. He likely could reach the majors as soon as late-2015. The son of now-Mets hitting coach Kevin Long would be a good guy to keep around – he’s a ground-ball machine – but he could be packaged in a deal with Sanchez, Williams and a major-league proven reliever for a needed piece.
There also is a glut of outfielders in the Yankees upper minors. Taylor Dugas and Jake Cave, whom a scout compared to Brett Gardner when he was in Double-A several years ago, might be attractive. Dugas reached Triple-A last season while Cave, who missed a season due to a knee injury, made it to Double-A.
And, believe it or not, the Yankees, led by Baseball America No. 3 prospect Jorge Mateo, in the untouchable category, have something of a shortstop glut in the lower minors. Abiatal Avellino, Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada are thought of highly, as well as a kid named Jose Rosario, who had something of a breakout season himself in 2014. Add Korean Hyo-Joon Park to the list. There are others as well.
The point is, the Yankees, as they are positioned now, and in the system, have the pieces to make a deal and not mortgage the future if they need to.