C – Carlos Narvaez – 17 yo
- 3.09/.750 – PAG/APPA (DSL1)
- 2016 stats: .338/.389/.444; .832 OPS; 9 doubles, .987 Fld%; 55% CS
Unless you are living under a rock, you couldn’t avoid the splash Yankee rookie catcher Gary Sanchez made late in the season. The 23 year old Dominican bashed 20 home runs and drove in 42 in only 53 games this season, firmly supplanting himself as the immediate catcher of the future for the Bronx Bombers. This type of situation allows us here to be a little more open with our OAS choices. The 6’0″ – 190 lb. Narvaez not only possesses good defense and an incredible caught-stealing rate, he has quite a bit of pop in his bat too. It’s a long way to the Yankee Stadium, but the former Little League World Series star from Maracay should be interesting to watch.
- 1B – Chris Gittens – 23 yo
- 3.46/.820 – PAG/APPA (LoA Charleston)
- 2016 stats: .253/.359/.478; .837 OPS; 21 home runs, 23 doubles; 183 TB
Despite not making as explosive an impact as Gary Sanchez did in 2016, Yankee first baseman Greg Bird had a 2015 to remember. Upon his promotion in mid-August, Bird went on to club 11 home runs, score 41 runs and drive in 31 in 46 games, giving Yankee fans a glimpse into Bird’s bright future. But after suffering a torn labrum and undergoing surgery in February, Bird went on to miss the entire 2016 season. Bird should be back at full strength in 2017; and much like Sanchez and the catching position, Bird allows us to be more open with the prospect landscape. Chris Gittens, a 2014 – 12th rounder out of Grayson County College (Denison, TX) made darn sure I didn’t look too far and wide. The enormous 6’4″ – 250 pound righty crushed 21 home runs, leading all Yankee farm hands (including Double and Triple A) and posted a .454 extra-base percentage this season. This after hitting only eight round-trippers and 13 doubles in his in his first two years as a pro. He seemed prone to errors with 16 this season, but still boasts a .981 career fielding percentage in 970 career chances. It will be interesting to see if Gittens can sustain his power output upon a near certain promotion to HiA Tampa of the Florida State League; a league known to be challenging for power hitters.
- 2B – Thairo Estrada – 20 yo
- 2.92/.691 – combined PAG/APPA (LoA Charleston – 3.11/.736; HiA Tampa – 2.84/.672)
- 2016 stats: (combined) .290/.346/.391; .737 OPS; 18 doubles, 8 home runs, 18 stolen bases
The Yankee second base vector offered quite the competition for OAS supremacy. It’s been awhile since I had more than two equally worthy candidates. Nick Solak, a 2016 draftee out of the University of Louisville, had an outstanding debut for SS Staten Island. He was among the New York-Penn League leaders in runs scored (48), hits (77), walks (30), OB% (.412) and total bases (101). Then we have fifth year Yankee Abaital Avelino. The 21-year-old Dominican posted career highs in doubles (28) and home runs (6) in 2016, several of which came after a late-July promotion to Double-A Trenton. So this leaves me with Thairo Estrada. I say this in jest because one thing the 5’10” – 160 lb. Venezuelan has shown over his four years as a pro is consistency. Although he’s logged time at third base, he’s been trending toward the prototypical mold of what a second baseman should be: bat-first, good defender, some pop, good speed and average arm strength. Estrada has a ways to go, but he should be fun to watch. He could spend 2017 with HiA Tampa in the Florida State League; a league known to boost the multi-tooled talent like Estrada.
- 3B – Dermis Garcia – 18 yo
- 3.07/.761 – PAG/APPA (Rookie Pulaski)
- 2016 stats: .206/.326/.454; .780 OPS; 9 doubles, 13 home runs.
We’ll keep the insanely deep system love rolling with the hot corner. In our inaugural UTR OAS in 2014, Miguel Andujar was anointed the first ever Yankee third baseman to make the OAS list. The young Dominican has gone on to achieve top 10 status and could see Yankee Stadium as early as late-2017 or early-2018. So, with the omission of Andujar, the rest of the prospects all brought their own pros and cons to the table, but it was 18-year-old Dermis Garcia that secured this years honor. The 6’3″ – 200 lb. Dominican signed a $3M contract after scouts tabbed him the top home run hitter in the 2014 international class. Garcia skipped the Dominican Summer League and headed straight to the Gulf Coast League where he batted .159 with only 2 doubles and 25 strikeouts in 23 games (1.52/.449 PAG/APPA). 2016 brought a new season and a new challenge that the young righty seemingly met with ease. Garcia ranked 2nd in the Appalachian League in home runs while his 32 walks ranked fourth. With Garcia’s power and ability to draw a walk, these are tools that can help him develop him into a more well-rounded prospect moving forward.
- SS – Oswaldo Cabrera – 17 yo
- 3.50/.835 combined – PAG/APPA (DSL – 4.11/.987; GCL – 6.29/1.294; APPY – 2.31/.571)
- 2016 stats combined: .345/.396/.523; .919 OPS; 15 doubles, 4 home runs.
An embarrassment of riches, you could call it, when you think about how the Yankees entered the 2016 season with top SS prospect Jorge Mateo, and ended it with both Mateo and all-world SS prospect Gleyber Torres in the fold. The Yankees traded closer Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs for Torres and OF prospect Billy McKinney days before the MLB trade deadline. Situations like this brings more light to those deeper within the system. And a huge UTR spotlight shines on Oswaldo Cabrera. The 5’10” – 150 lb. Venezuelan burst onto the scene after showing off his polished plate approach and gap power. He barely got his footing in the DSL before a promotion to the GCL, where in seven games, he posted video game-like numbers. He cooled off after his second promotion of the season to Rookie Pulaski, but what do you expect from a 17-year-old playing against competition four years his senior? I’m more excited about Cabrera than any other INF in the system. He might spend a full season in Pulaski where ha can continue working on a multi-dimensional skill set.
- LF – Dario Unda – 20 yo
- 3.17/.780 – PAG/APPA (DSL2)
- 2016 stats: .322/.394/.473; .867 OPS; 17 doubles, 4 home runs; 25:30 BB:K
There’s a nice even hierarchy, or plethora, of talent in left field for the Yankees. At Lo/HiA, there was Trey Amburgey, a 2015 UTR Organizational All-Star, 2016 “One to Watch” choice and now top 30 Yankee prospect; and 23-year-old Zach Zehner, a 2015 – 18th rounder out of Cal Poly State University (San Luis Obispo, CA), who in his sophomore season, was among the Florida State League leaders in doubles (24) and walks (63). But at 24 years old, Zehner is less than a year away from UTR age disqualification. That brings me to this year’s OAS Dario Unda, who ranked within the DSL top 10 in doubles and home runs. The 5’11” – 170 lb. lefty debuted in 2014 and posted a 3.24/.785 PAG/APPA in 54 DSL games. He missed most of 2015 due to injury, yet didn’t miss a beat this season showing improvement in several offensive categories. It’s a shame Unda lost a season of development. I believe if he hits the ground running in 2017 with an assignment to the GCL, he could possibly reach Rookie Pulaski by seasons end.
- CF – Estevan Florial – 18 yo
- 3.10/.696 combined – PAG/APPA (Rookie Pulaski – 3.08/.690; LoA Charleston – 4.40/.957; HiA Tampa – 0.50/.215)
- 2016 stats combined: .227/.312/.371; .683 OPS; 10 stolen bases, 8 home runs.
When analyzing all the centerfielders in the Yankee system, I have to admit, even Jim and I sometimes reach the point of saying, “What’s the point?” Because when there’s a prospect in the system like Clint Frazier, trust me, everyone who even casually knows prospects, knows that everyone else takes a back seat. Frazier is a stud in every sense of the word. In the UTR sense, this blows open the OAS landscape. Estevan Florial is no stranger to UTRMinors. He was a 2015 Organizational All-Star and 2016 “One to Watch.” For good reason after posting a whopping 4.68/1.008 PAG/APPA in 57 games in his 2015 pro debut for the DSL. He took a step backward in 2016, but the 6’1″ – 185 lb. native of Haiti has shown plenty of promise; and I believe letting him play a full year in either Short Season Staten Island or LoA Charleston would do him and Yankee fans serious good. I true sleeper in the system.
- RF – Timmy Robinson – 22 yo
- 3.59/.853 – PAG/APPA (Short Season Staten Island)
- 2016 stats: .265/.343/.483; .826 OPS; 18 doubles, 8 home runs, 9 stolen bases
Robinson had an impressive debut with Short Season Staten Island leading the New York-Penn league in RBi’s (59) and sitting among the NYPL leaders in total bases (111), doubles and home runs. The 2016 – 21st rounder out of USC brings above average power, good speed and exceptional arm strength. Scouts believe his mix of power, speed and defense will help him ascend through the minors quickly. I predict an Opening Day assignment to LoA Charleston of the South Atlantic League.