Entering this season, the Yankee farm system was considered perhaps the deepest in baseball. Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar and Tyler Austin have all been promoted to the majors. The top remaining hitting prospect, Estevan Florial, will miss most of the remainder of the season with hamate surgery. Nearly every other remaining prospect is a pitcher. MLB.com lists 30 Yankee prospects, only six of whom bat, and only three of whom are currently playing in full-season ball, and one of which is Billy McKinney. Yuck.
This imbalance poses a problem for me because I find pitching prospects incredibly boring. Half of them will end up injured. Of the other half, it’s difficult to tell which mid-90s fastball guy with a plus breaking ball, decent command and a developing changeup is going to be a good major league pitcher. It’s harder still when most of them are in A-ball. Thus, my daily habit of checking minor league box scores is quite boring right now.
After years of familiar hitting prospects graduating, it’s time to learn a little more about the obscure ones. Who are the most interesting Yankee hitting prospects currently playing in games?
The Top Prospect: Thairo Estrada, 22, SS
He’s in Triple-A. He’s a middle infielder. He kind of hits well, putting up wRC+s above 107 at every full-season minor league level despite being younger than his competition. However, no one thinks Thairo Estrada is going to be a great major league hitter. If he is successful long-term, Estrada is going to be a Freddy Galvis, Brandon Crawford, or pre-power Didi Gregorius type. Other than missing most of Spring Training with a bullet wound, Estrada is a snoozefest. Next.
The Probably Terrible But Maybe Decent Prospect: Dermis Garcia, 20, 3b
Way back in the more innocent days of 2014, the Yankees decided to exploit a hole in Major League Baseball’s international free agency spending caps and spend tens of millions of dollars all at once. The cream of the crop was Dermis Garcia. The third baseman has a low-average, maxed power slugger scouting report, with nothing special coming out of the other tools. He had a successful and age-appropriate 2017 season, hitting .249/.357/.542 with a 30% strikeout rate. The power was on display, but not much else. The current trend in MLB prospects has been to follow athletic guys with strong hitting skills learn to hit for 25 home runs (see Torres, Gleyber), not to try and teach power sell outs to hit singles.
Garcia is fine. He’s almost certainly going to bust at this point, but the power is interesting. He could be Mark Trumbo, Danny Valencia, or, in the best possible world, Khris Davis. Even in that timeline, which I’m pretty sure if crazy optimistic, Garcia won’t sniff even the high minor leagues until we’re knee-deep in the 2020 primaries. He didn’t even break camp to full-season ball right away. Next.
My pick: Tyler Wade, 23 Everywhere
Tyler Wade still exists. After an excellent Spring Training, Tyler Wade looked to be the next great Yankee utility guy. Then he hit below .100 in 38 MLB plate appearances. Wade hasn’t been much better since he was demoted, hitting .231/.293/.286. Not good.
That said, I still think Tyler Wade is super interesting. He can credibly play every non-catcher position pretty well. A year ago, at just 22 years old, he hit .310/.382/.460 at Triple-A. He runs and steals bases. Tyler Wade could still become an enormously valuable utility player. In one scenario, he’s Brock Holt or Eduardo Nunez. In another, he’s Chris Taylor or even a poor man’s Jose Ramirez. And he could continue his journey to the major leagues as soon as later this year. The pickings in the Yankee farm system are slim, but Tyler Wade could still be a very fun player.