The New York Yankees have one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball. The number of top prospects in the organization rivals all other teams. Beyond that, the depth of talent on the farm in the most impressive collection of young players that the Yankees have had in my lifetime. As we prepare for the start of spring training, let’s look at this depth, position by position. We will examine the organization from top to bottom.
The Yankees developed a home-grown talent into a perennial all-star at second base. However, when he reached free agency following the 2013 season, they allowed Robinson Cano to leave for the lucrative deal that the Seattle Mariners offered him. Since then, General Manager Brian Cashman has struggled to replace the consistency and production that Cano had provided.
Last offseason, Cashman was able to pry Starlin Castro away from the Chicago Cubs in a deal for right-handed pitcher Adam Warren, who subsequently returned to the Yankees as part of the trade for closer Aroldis Chapman, who later returned to the Yankees as a free agent last month.
Castro had formerly been a shortstop with the Cubs and was athletic enough to make the switch to second base in deference to Didi Gregorius. He provided solid defense as well as provided 21 home runs from the keystone position. Castro has three more years remaining on his contract, and he has the versatility also to play third and short if the need arises. As the roster is currently configured, he will remain at second, where the Yankees will look for him to provide some much need power and to hit with more consistency.
Last year, Rob Refsnyder saw time at first, second, third, left, and right field. He is the proverbial jack of all trades. He has earned a reputation as a contact hitter but has yet to master any specific position. He is very useful as a player with six more years of team control that can fill in at several different positions.
Donovan Solano played most of the last season at Scranton, before getting a late season call-up to the Yankees. He became a free agent after the season, before re-signing to a minor-league contract. He saw time at second, third and short while providing a solid bat for the RailRiders.
Abiatal Avelino split time last year between Tampa and Trenton. The natural shortstop also split his time on each side of second base. With so many gifted shortstops in the system, it has become necessary for them to share playing time. The 21-year old has a nice combination of speed and developing power. We, of course, would not leave out Tyler Wade who has seen time at second base in his career but spent most of his 2016 season as a shortstop.
Billy Fleming hit very well at Tampa (.329/.395/.479) in 2016, earning a promotion to Trenton. That is likely where he will start the upcoming season.
Thairo Estrada played last year as a 20-year-old advancing from Charleston to Tampa. He is another shortstop that has begun spending more time at second base. He has even added third base to his repertoire. He is a very talented player that should improve upon his (.290/.346/.391) stats as he adds muscle to his slender frame. Jorge Mateo has some work at second base and is now getting some reps in the outfield.
Gosuke Katoh is a former top 10 organizational prospect (2013) that has stalled at Charleston, as this was his third year there. He has also seen playing time at both short and third. At 22, he still has time to turn things around and start moving back up the ladder.
Last year’s second-round draft pick, Nick Solak, had an impressive debut season with Staten Island. He hit .321/.412/.421 while providing solid defense. His best asset has always been his bat, and he will go as far as it allows.
Griffin Garabito, Brallan Medina, and Diego Duran are three to keep an eye on. Garabito is a 19-year-old that played last year in the Gulf Coast League. Medina is also 19, spending last season in the Dominican Summer League. Duran also spent the season in the DSL and is yet to turn 19. They all have a lot of work to do to develop into blue chip prospects.
Castro will continue to man second base for the foreseeable future. However, if Chase Headley is traded at some point, Castro could move across the diamond, allowing Refsnyder more playing time at second. There is also going to be a push of young players looking to break into the major leagues in the very near future.