The Yankees have a strong system, and by holding on to their prospects last summer they’re going to enter the 2016 season with a lot of potential energy. Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge are poised to help the big club this year. So is Greg Bird, although he technically lost his eligibility. Because the Yankees are active in the international market, there’s a solid crop of teenagers coming up in the low minors. It’s not going to be anytime soon, but you can sort of see how this might converge into an even stronger group in the next year or two, especially when you factor in their crop of new draftees stateside. Of course not all of them will make it, but the more lottery tickets you own the better your chances, right?
Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings.
Aaron Judge, OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA/AAA
2015 Stats: 540 PA, .255/.330/.448, 20 HR, 7 SB, 10% BB, 27% K
Obviously the big attraction to Judge is his huge raw power. It’s probably parallel to Joey Gallo. The similarities don’t stop there, though, as Judge also shares Gallo’s propensity to strike out. Judge has accumulated 280 or more plate appearances at each of the upper levels (A+/AA/AAA) and has struck out in 25% or more of those appearances. That can improve with adjustments of course, and is one of the arguments for Judge to get a longer look in Triple-A before taking on right field for the Yanks. At any rate, there’s 30+ homer potential in his bat.
Jorge Mateo, SS | Age: 20 | ETA: 2018 | 2015 Level: A/A+
2015 Stats: 500 PA, .278/.345/.392, 2 HR, 82 SB, 9% BB, 20% K
Mateo is one of the most exciting players in the minors, and you could make a case for him to be the top name on this list. There’s still a good bit of distance between him and the bigs (<100 plate appearances above A-ball) and while his speed is elite, there may not be enough power to truly be a fantasy monster in the middle infield. He looks like a good bet to stick at short, where his speed could contribute Dee Gordon-like value.
Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.
Gary Sanchez, C | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA/AAA
2015 Stats: 400 PA, .274/.330/.485, 18 HR, 7 SB, 7% BB, 20% K
There’s bound to be a bit of prospect fatigue with Sanchez, who signed the same summer as Miguel Sano. Now he’s on the verge of the big leagues, and the good news for fantasy owners is that the Yankees look interested in keeping him behind the plate. He’ll likely back up Brian McCann at some point in 2016, and his bat has enough pop to get to twenty homers without tanking your average.
Rob Refsnyder, 2B | Age: 24 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA/MLB
2015 Stats: 525 PA, .271/.359/.402, 9 HR, 12 SB, 11% BB, 14% K
Like Williams, Refsnyder’s playing time isn’t a lock, and the signing of Castro really dampens his value. He can hit though, and there’s enough pop and speed to warrant a look in mono leagues and deeper dynasty formats. He’d make an interesting utility piece behind Gregorious and Castro, with the ability to spell starters in the outfield as well. A full season of plate appearances would probably yield something like .280/15/10, so he’s a name to keep an eye on if a spot opens up.
Dustin Fowler, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A/A+
2015 Stats: 518 PA, .298/.334/.394, 5 HR, 30 SB, 5% BB, 17% K
Fowler is your typical center field profile, with a good chunk of his value stemming from his solid defense. But there’s potential with the bat as well. Speed is the best tool, grading as plus, and he can also hit and hit for a bit of power. If this package really comes together, you could see .280/15/30. Obviously that’s the dream scenario, but for a name that hasn’t received much attention – he was an 18th round draft pick – there’s an awful lot of upside.
Mason Williams, OF | Age: 24 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA/AAA
2015 Stats: 235 PA, .318/.397/.398, 0 HR, 13 SB, 11% BB, 10% K
Williams hit over .300 in both Double and Triple-A in 2015, but unfortunately his season was cut short by a shoulder injury. So while there were some positives to take away, the long-term outlook hasn’t changed all that much. He still looks a lot like a fringe starter with some speed and more likely winds up as a fourth outfielder. Deep leaguers may want to use him as a depth piece since he’s close to the majors.
James Kaprielian, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: Rk/A(ss)
2015 Stats: 11.1 IP, 3.97 ERA, 3.2 BB/9, 11.1 K/9
Kaprielian was selected 16th overall by the Yankees in the 2015 draft. He should move relatively quickly through the minors as a college arm with polished command and control. The upside is limited to a mid-rotation starter, but the stuff is quality and there’s little bullpen risk. His four-pitch mix should yield enough strikeouts to be a viable mixed-league starter.
Tyler Wade, MI | Age: 21 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+/AA
2015 Stats: 535 PA, .262/.321/.333, 3 HR, 33 SB, 8% BB, 17% K
Wade is a good bet to stay in the middle infield, and while there isn’t enough power to make him a target in shallower leagues, his speed makes him at least interesting in deeper ones. His walks really tapered off after the promotion to Double-A in 2015, which is concerning if you’re looking at him as a table-setter. He’s likely a utility guy, which is par for the course in this tier.
Miguel Andujar, 3B | Age: 20 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+
2015 Stats: 520 PA, .243/.288/.363, 8 HR, 12 SB, 6% BB, 17% K
In each of the past two seasons, Andujar’s second half numbers are much better than in the first. It could be a sign that he just needs some time to adjust to a level (pssst that’s normal). The Florida State League, where Andujar spent all of 2015, normally supresses offense. Could he get to 15-20 homers at the hot corner? Sure, but even then I’m not sure it’s the type of profile to get too excited about in shallower formats. His best tool is actually his arm, which inflates his real life value while doing nothing for us over here on the fantasy side.
Jacob Lindgren, LHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA
2015 Stats: 22 IP, 1.23 ERA, 4.1 BB/9, 11.9 K/9
Reliever prospects generally aren’t good investments in dynasty leagues, so even the best ones aren’t going to climb too high on these lists. Lindgren isn’t the worst choice if you’re going to go the reliever route, with a big fastball that plays up in relief and good strikeout numbers. He had health issues last year (a bone spur) and the control blows. The latter issue is what’s steering me away.
Tier 3: Long Shot Lolitas
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs.
Wilkerman Garcia, SS | Age: 17 | ETA: 2020 | 2015 Level: Rk
2015 Stats: 158 PA, .299/.414/.362, 0 HR, 11 SB, 16% BB, 12% K
Garcia is starting to get some buzz and recently found his way onto Baseball America’s top ten Yankees prospects. If your league rosters a bunch of minor leaguers and you can stash guys long term, Garcia is a solid snag. He’s already impressing with his bat from both sides of the plate, and while the stat line won’t show it yet, there’s the potential for 12-15 homers and even more steals. This is all forever away so it’s not a name to burn a slot on in shallower formats, but rather one to keep on the radar.
Juan De Leon, OF | Age: 18 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: Rk
2015 Stats: 222 PA, .226/.344/.366, 3 HR, 1 SB, 11% BB, 30% K
The Yankees have been big players with the J2 kids, and De Leon is another high upside pick from the 2014 group. Right now he’s a speedy center field type with above-average tools across the board. But he’s only 18, and a lot of this is just projection. The biggest question mark is how his power will develop, but like Garcia he’s a chip that could continue to snowball in value over the next two to three years.
Leonardo Molina, OF | Age: 18 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: Rk
2015 Stats: 178 PA, .247/.290/.364, 2 HR, 6 SB, 6% BB, 21% K
Molina is very similar to De Leon. Both are center fielder types with speed being their best current tool. Like De Leon, Molina is young and projectable – meaning there’s a chance he develops more pop as he matures. Unfortunately we aren’t going to see either of these guys anytime soon, so they’re lottery tickets to dream on and not much more at this point.
Nelson Gomez, 3B | Age: 18 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: Rk
2015 Stats: 274 PA, .243/.350/.435, 11 HR, 1 SB, 12% BB, 24% K
Another guy in the “very far away” category is Gomez, whose calling card is big raw power. Both Gomez and Dermis Garcia are decent upside plays in the very low minors. Unlike Garcia, Gomez was able to flash some of his power in games and led his league in homers. He could stick at third base, which would make the power bat all the more valuable in fantasy.
Ian Clarkin, LHP | Age: 20 | ETA: 2018 | 2015 Level: DNP
2015 Stats: N/A
I know we see this blurb a lot, but if Clarkin would just stay healthy he’d be a lot easier to invest in. All the pieces are there to be a juicy fantasy starter – southpaw, strikeout potential, frontline stuff – but Clarkin has pitched a grand total of 104 innings since the Yankees took him 33rd overall back in 2013. It’s just a ton of risk when every year we see another crop of quality (albeit unsexy) arms like Kaprielan enter the pool.