Some matters with the 2017 Double-A Trenton Thunder are settled, with manager Bobby Mitchell and the majority of his coaches returning after last season’s spectacular 87-55 campaign and a trip to the Eastern League Championship Series.
The question is how Mitchell and his staff will position the infield, with Gleyber Torres, Jorge Mateo, and Abiatal Avelino all expected to start the season in the Garden State unless any are involved in a trade between now and Spring Training.
Avelino, in 33 games at Trenton in 2016, hit .244 (31-for-127) and played well at both second base and shortstop. Torres, of course, is the Yankees’ new No. 1 prospect and has thrived at shortstop throughout his minor-league career. Mateo has the chops as well to play that position, and so does Tyler Wade and Kyle Holder.
Do not forget Didi Gregorius, who will turn just 27 in January; Torres played a bit of second base during his excellent Arizona Fall League season, but that’s not where the Yankees need him. Third base is the weakest spot in the Yankees farm system, and it is perfect for Torres.
The Yankees, with Wade, Avelino and perhaps Mateo playing at second base, and Gregorius at shortstop, are well-stocked at those positions. The situation is not the same at third base, where the only real prospect in the system is Miguel Andujar, who hit .273 (140-for-512) in 130 games between Class-A Advanced Tampa and the Thunder. He also showed a bit of power with 12 homers and 83 RBIs.
While Andujar has soft hands and a quick release and charges the ball well from third, his defense was not the best at Trenton late last summer and he also seemed to tire toward the end of the season. Can Andujar play in the majors in time? Absolutely? Does the 21-year-old (he’ll be 22 March 2) have the same ability as Torres, who just turned 20 Dec. 13? Likely not.
Torres has the stuff to replace Chase Headley at third base by 2018 at the latest. Andujar could make a good backup at that time as the Yankees continue to develop young stars. There are several who are starting to think that way, including Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
“He hasn’t played third base, but we believe he can play there just as well. It gives us a lot of flexibility when the day comes that we believe he’s ready for the majors,”’ Cashman told the Daily News in November.
At 19, Torres, who is 6-foot-1, 175, will likely fill out some more as his power develops. He has set a goal of making the Yankees this September, and if he rolls through the Eastern League on April, May and June, that could happen.
The Yankees and Mitchell ought to play Torres at third base some in Trenton this spring. Andujar, who was protected from the past Rule 5 Draft with a spot on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, could spend some time at Trenton before heading to Scranton. Again, Andujar’s defense needs to be more consistent.
Torres makes a lot of sense as a future third baseman with the Yankees. It is both a position of need and he needs to fill it.