All the talk centered, rightfully so, on Derek Jeter the last few years. Yet, while the Yankees made headlines by trading for Didi Gregorius to replace him, they also assembled quite a group of shortstops in their system.
As we head into the 2015 edition of Spring Training, shortstop might be the best-stocked position in the Yankees system. Bear in mind, Jorge Posada was signed as a shortstop. In the future, the Yankees may find spots for all these talented players.
Cito Culver, the Yankees’ top pick in 2010, a good guy and superb fielder who has not hit, can be listed sixth or seventh on the Yankees farm system depth chart at that position. Let’s take a look at the talent that has been amassed and where these players will likely be in 2015:
Jorge Mateo – The best of the group, and quite a bargain ($225,000) signed out of the Dominican Republic by Juan Rosario. Mateo, who will be 20 on June 23, has shown a dazzling combination of defense, speed and potential power when he has been on the field. Injuries, however, have limited him to 93 games in three seasons. He debuted in the United States in 2014, showing how he could steal a base, handle the position and aggressiveness at bat. A broken left wrist, the result of an errant pitch, ended his Gulf Coast League season after 15 games in 2014. He only played 14 games in the Dominican Summer League in 2012 due to a hairline fracture in his left arm. His only full short-season was in the Dominican Summer League in 2013, in which he hit .287 (74-for-258) with seven homers, 26 RBIs and 49 stolen bases. The Yankees will take that to Pulaski (Va.), their new Rookie Appalachian League affiliate where Mateo will likely play.
Tyler Wade – A fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft, Wade, a native of Murrieta, Calif., will turn 21 Nov. 23. He was supposed to split time with Abiatal Avelino at Class-A Charleston last season. He played regularly after Avelino was injured, and batted .272 (138-for-507) from left side, displaying a loose swing that produced plenty of line drives and 24 doubles. Defensively, he was one of the smoothest shortstops in the South Atlantic League. With speed rated a bit better than average, Wade will take his game to Class-A Advanced Tampa in 2015, with the goal of refining his tools for a trip to Class-AA Trenton and the upper minors in 2016.
Abiatal Avelino – Having turned 20 on Valentine’s Day, this 2011 Dominican signee by Jose Sabino was poised for big things at Class-A Charleston last spring. Scouts loved his overall combination in the Gulf Coast League and in a 17-game stint at Staten Island in 2013. A quad injury limited him to 53 games at Charleston in 2014. He has a good arm and is an excellent baserunner, having swiped 59-of-70 attempted stolen bases. So far he has not shown power, and might not be as smooth in the field as some of his position-mates in the system. Now healthy, he will return to Charleston with a chance for his game to grow.
Thairo Estrada – A Venezuelan who was signed for $50,000 by Alan Atacho and Ricardo Finol in 2012, Estrada, who will turn 19 next week, showed above-average range defensively and a solid plate approach offensively in a 17-game stint at Short-Season Staten Island in 2014 that was cut short by an injury. He batted .271 (16-for-59), but did not show much power as an 18-year-old in the New York-Penn League. Power, however, is the last tool to come. Estrada will likely return to Staten Island, hoping to refine his game and have a healthy season.
Angel Aguilar – Aguilar is another Venezuelan who made a splash in his United States debut in the Gulf Coast League last season, batting .311 (47-for-151) with seven home runs and 31 RBIs in 39 games, His range and hands have so far fit the position and are rated above-average. His speed is in the same category, and, at 6-0, 170, with strong hands and wrists, he showed definite power potential. He signed for $60,000 in 2012 and brings an all-around solid package to the table. Scouts also like his baseball sense and intangibles. He likely will surface at either Pulaski or Staten Island in 2015, looking to follow up his excellent 2014 season.
Cito Culver – After bring selected 32nd overall in the 2010 draft from Irondequoit High in Rochester, N.Y., Culver has a .233 average (449-for-1,925) in parts of five minor-league seasons. His approach at the plate overall has not been good. Last season, he batted .220 (112-for-508) at Tampa and struck out 141 times with an on-base percentage of .298. The 22-year-old faces a make-or-break season at Trenton, where he likely will get a chance to play every day. His defense is solid, but others in the system have passed him. There has been talk of converting him into a pitcher.
The Triple-A shortstop will likely be Ali Castillo, who is coming off an outstanding Winter League season. He shows signs of consistent hitting for average and power here and there, and is a solid fielder. He has a .271 (497-for-1,831) average and, at 25, has been in the Yankees system since 2008. Another player to watch is Dermis Garcia, a 17-year-old the Yankees signed during their International harvest of prospects in July. He presently is a shortstop who will likely play third base or the outfield in the future. He has a plus arm and double-plus power and could impress in the Gulf Coast League in 2015.