By Chad Jennings
Minor league standouts: Yankees’ organizational all-star team
Tonight is the All-Star Game in Cincinnati, a celebration of the best players in Major League Baseball, plus Brock Holt (I kid, I kid, I actually really like Holt). Anyway, before tonight’s big league All-Star Game, let’s take a look at the all-star-type performances in the Yankees minor league system this year.
This is not an attempt to name the top prospect at each position, only the top first-half performances at each position. Here, then, is an all-star team based on first-half numbers in the Yankees’ farm system.
1B Greg Bird– Triple-A
Confession: I was actually planning a version of this post a little more than a week ago when the minor league all-star teams were announced. And at that time, I had Kyle Roller as organization’s top first baseman of the first half. But Roller’s numbers have sagged while Bird’s have taken off. He was hurt and underperforming much of the season, but 11 hits in seven games prompted a promotion from Double-A to Triple-A, and Bird’s hit .273/.368/.515 in a week and a half with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Notable: Lefties have given him trouble, but Kyle Roller is a Triple-A all-star with 12 home runs. … Terrific last year, Mike Ford has slugged just .292 in Tampa. … Charleston’s Connor Spencer had a .385 on-base percentage before going on the DL last month. … Injuries have slowed former fourth-rounder Matt Duran, but he’s back on fielder in short-season Pulaski, and through 10 games he’s hitting .306/.375/.556
2B Rob Refsnyder — Major Leagues
With expectations through the roof, Refsnyder’s perfectly solid year felt like a disappointment until he got red-hot in July, raised his slash line to .290/.387/.413, got a call-up and homered in his second big league game. Since the end of April, he’s walked more than he’s struck out, and after a sloppy start to the season, he significantly cut down on the errors. He’s the system’s top second base prospect, and — big leagues includes — no organizational second baseman’s had a better year so far.
Notable: Recent high-round draft picks Angelo Gumbs and Gosuke Katoh continue to put up disappointing numbers in the lower levels. … Acquired in the David Carpenter trade, new addition Tony Renda has been hot lately and he’s hitting .276/.357/.337 in Trenton. A lot of errors, though. … Shortstop prospects Abiatal Avelino, Angel Aguilar and Thairo Estrada have played more second base than shortstop this season because they’re sharing roster space with other shortstop standouts (Tyler Wade, Jorge Mateo and Kyle Holder respectively).
3B Eric Jagielo – Double-A
A knee injury has sidelined Jagielo since mid-June, but it’s still hard to overlook his potent bat. He’s averaged a strikeout per game, and all but one of his home runs have been hit against right-handed pitchers, but Jagielo’s .284/.347/.495 slash line remains an impressive show of power at the plate. Even with all the time off, he’s still top 25 in both home runs and RBI in the Eastern League. His injury has taken a pretty interesting bat out of the mix at this point.
Notable: Minor league veteran Cole Figueroa has emerged as the regular third baseman for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and after an ugly April, he’s lived up to his reputation for getting on base and rarely striking out. Got a short big league look earlier this month. … Considered one of the top lower-level prospects in the system, Miguel Andujar has really struggled in High-A. Still very young, but still not a good year. … Dante Bichette Jr. was demoted from Double-A to High-A, and he hasn’t hit much more at the lower level than he did at the higher level.
SS Jorge Mateo — Low-A
In terms of raw talent and best-case-scenario upside, Mateo might be the most exciting prospect in the entire Yankees system. The consensus seems to be that he has the tools to stay at shortstop, and there’s no doubt he has game-changing speed. Mateo’s already stolen 56 bases (been caught 13 times). He’s made 18 errors, but that seems mostly acceptable for a shortstop of his age. He just turned 20 less than a month ago, and he’s hitting week, and he’s hitting .276/.344/.385 with an OPS that’s gotten better month-by-month.
Notable: Obviously the Yankees love Cito Culver‘s glove, but the former first-round pick has a .201/.249/.277 Double-A slash line and has been getting some time at second base and third base. … Noticeable buzz growing around Tyler Wade this season. He’s hit .297/.363/.373 in Tampa. … The Yankees top position player draft pick, Kyle Holder, was assigned to short season Staten Island where he’s hit .197/.247/.211 through 17 games.
LF Ramon Flores – Triple-A
If the Yankees were sold on his center field defense, Flores would fit perfectly in the system’s long list of left-handed, upper-level, center field prospects, but he’s been left to play primarily left field throughout his career. Flores was helpful during his stint in the big leagues earlier this season, and he’s putting up good numbers in Triple-A (.288/.372/.421 overall in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season). Flores still looks like a pretty solid fourth outfielder or injury replacement whenever the Yankees need him, but he’s often overshadowed in this system.
Notable: One of the few full-time left fielders in the system, Tampa’s Ericson Leonora has just six walks all year, but he’s remained productive with 27 extra-base hits including 10 home runs (twice the total of any of his teammates). … Injuries and call-ups have finally given Ben Gamel a chance to play center field basically every day this season. Through most of his career he was primarily in left, but Gamel can handle center, and he’s hitting .290/.348/.436 in his first taste of Triple-A.
CF Dustin Fowler — High-A
Certainly not the top center field prospect in the Yankees system, but Fowler’s put up the position’s best numbers so far this year. With apologies to Heathcott, Williams and Cave, it’s hard to ignore Fowler’s .311/.354/.407 slash line between Low-A and High-A. Bumped up to Tampa in late June, Fowler had multiple hits in four of his first five starts in the Florida State League, building his way to a .407 on-base percentage with eight stolen bases in 18 games at that level. Of all Yankees full-season players, Fowler has the second-highest batting average behind Figueroa.
Notable: Obviously Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams were excellent in reestablishing themselves before getting hurt. … Jake Cave is hitting .280/.346/.356 with 12 stolen bases in Double-A. … Last year’s seventh-round pick, Mark Payton, reached Double-A after hitting .291/.390/.396 in High-A through the middle of June. He’s moved around a lot since getting to Trenton and has hit .259/.315/.366. … Leonardo Molina is hitting .288/..338/.322 as a 17-year-old in rookie ball.
RF Aaron Judge – Triple-A
The system’s top hitting prospect has not disappointed this year. With massive hype and attention, Judge opened the year in Double-A — with only one year of pro ball experience — and wound up bumped to Triple-A after hitting .284/.350/.516 with 12 homers, nine of which came in the month of May and half of June. He’s off to a slower start in Triple-A where he’s hitting 268/.365/.338 with 12 walks in 19 games. Judge remains a favorite among scouts and had a hit as the U.S. team’s starting DH in Sunday’s Futures Game. Baseball America ranked Judge 13th on its mid-season top prospects list.
Notable: The up-and-down development of Tyler Austin continues with a .226/.292/.310 slash line and a couple of disabled list stints in Triple-A. … Second-round 2012 pick Austin Aune is finally making noise. He’s still striking out a ton, but he’s slugging .469 in Charleston. He’s actually shown progress for three years now. … Danny Oh already has the second-most single-season at-bats of his career. He started the year hitting .333/.411/.438 in Tampa but got bumped to Trenton where he’s hit .313/.353/.438 while playing both corners.
C Gary Sanchez — Double-A
Just like at first base, this selection has changed in the past couple of weeks. There’s still a lot to be said for Austin Romine’s bounce-back season — doubt teams would pass on him if he were put on waivers again — but it’s hard to ignore the power numbers Sanchez is posting down in Double-A. He homered in four straight games earlier this month and went to the Futures Game with a .471 slugging percentage in Trenton. The Yankees seem thrilled with his added maturity and defensive improvement.
Notable: Removed from the 40-man roster after spring training, Austin Romine had a brutal April but rebounded to make the Triple-A all-star team with a .270/.328/.411 slash line. … Been a revolving door behind the plate in Charleston, including Isaias Tejeda, who’s now listed as an infielder and has begun getting all of his time at first base and third base. … Lately, it’s been 26th rounder Collin Slaybaugh catching for Charleston. He’s hitting .345/.402/.393 through 25 games.
SP Luis Severino — Triple-A
For me, this spot is a total toss up between five pitchers — I’ll mention the other four below — but I’ll go with Severino because of his 0.95 WHIP and 1.79 ERA since moving up to Triple-A. His strikeouts are down since moving up to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and he hasn’t gone deep into games lately, but he’s been a dominant pitcher at the highest level. All told, Severino has a 1.02 WHIP, 2.45 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 88.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Hard to argue with those numbers.
Notable: Lowest ERA among Yankees full-season starters belongs to Brady Lail, who has a 2.09 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in Double-A. He just went 7.2 innings on Friday. … Last year’s fourth-round pick, Jordan Montgomery, has a 1.11 WHIP between Low-A and High-A. He made the jump at the start of June. … Converted reliever Eric Ruth went undrafted out of college, but now he has a 2.22 ERA in Trenton. He pitched seven innings without an earned run last time out. … The organization’s strikeout leader is Rookie Davis, who has 92 strikeouts through 82 innings with Tampa. … Coming back from Tommy John surgery, Vicente Campos has been moved up to High-A Tampa, but his first three starts at that level have been rough with an 11.81 ERA through 10.2 innings.
RP Nick Goody – Triple-A
A sixth-round pick out of LSU back in 2012, Goody’s rise through the farm system was slowed by injuries that limited him to just two games in 2013 and a little more than 30 innings in 2014. Finally healthy, Goody has reemerged as one of the top relief prospects in the system. He made 29 appearances in Double-A with a .190 opponents’ batting average, a 1.03 WHIP and 59 strikeouts in 41.2 innings. Pushed up to Triple-A earlier this month, it’s not out of the question that Goody could pitch his way into the big league mix by September. In his first two Triple-A outings he pitched 3.2 scoreless innings with no walks and five strikeouts.
Notable: Once considered the top relief prospect in the system, Mark Montgomery is having a bounce-back season with a 0.95 WHIP between Double-A and Triple-A; mostly Double-A though. … Injured to start the season, James Pazos has split his year between Double-A and Triple-A and pitched very well at each level for a 0.75 WHIP with 27 strikeouts and five walks. … Second full season of pro ball and Nick Rumbelow has some big league time plus 42 strikeouts with eight walks in Triple-A. … Tampa reliever Evan Rutckyj has cut down on the walks a little bit, but still has 56 strikeouts in 40 innings. … Not big names in the system, but Giovanny Gallegos and Caleb Cotham have pitched well while bouncing to various levels. Cotham could be interesting in his first year as a full-time reliever.