There’s been a lot of talk about the Yankees trading – or not trading – any of their top prospects for a starting pitcher or any other needed piece for 2017.
So far, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has rejected any trades involving Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier and the like for whatever was being offered. Yet, there is a prospect – a top prospect – which we feel is tradable. In fact, for what infielder Jorge Mateo could bring in return, Cashman could make him the centerpiece of a package.
Mateo, 21 (he’ll turn 22 in June) is a prime talent, 0ne who would help any team within the next year or so. The 6-foot, 190-pound native of the Dominican Republic has all the tools – speed, power – that can be developed, defense that is bound to improve. He is rated highly by several other teams who would love to have him in their organization.
When one analyzes the Yankees system, he is the one top prospect who is indeed expendable.
With Torres in the house, showing both more maturity and more ability at every infield position he has played, Mateo really doesn’t have a position. His fielding is too erratic to take over at shortstop from Didi Gregorius; his throws likely not the best from third base if he was put there. The Yankees future could live without him if it had to.
And there is no reason to consider Mateo for center field – even if Brett Gardner is ever traded and the Yankees somehow find a taker for Jacoby Ellsbury. The Yankees have an excellent future center fielder in Dustin Fowler, who had an excellent season at Trenton in 2016, batting .281 (152-for-574) with 30 doubles, 15 triples, 12 home runs and 88 RBIs in 132 regular-season games with the Thunder last season.
Fowler will take his .770 OPS to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2017, and could likely receive a September call-up. The 22-year-old native of Cadwell, Ga, is outstanding defensively, runs balls down in the gap easily, and handed the Eastern League easily at 21.
So, there is no need to push Mateo to center field in the Yankees system. Fowler has that well-in-hand for future seasons and works hard to keep improving his game. He’s the type of player the Yankees front office loves.
This has nothing to do with Mateo’s suspension last summer, one which cost him both a promotion to Trenton and a spot in the 2016 Futures Game. He made a mistake, pure and simple. It cost him at the time, but good play in 2017 will certainly erase that. Young kids can get impatient, wonder why teammates were promoted before them. Such is life in any minor-league system.
Mateo ended up hitting .254 (118-for-507) with 16 doubles, nine triples, eight home runs and 47 RBIs in 113 games for Class-A Tampa, also swiping 36 bases. His OPS was .685. He will start at Double-A Trenton in 2017, competing for time in the middle infield with Torres and Abiatal Avelino, who is a solid player in his own right.
But if a piece that will make a difference in a mid-season swap – or even before – Mate0 is the one blue-chip prospect who could be moved to seal a deal. This was not the case a year or two ago, but is certainly reality now.