Over recent year the Yankees have used their high draft picks to targets specific needs within the system. Since 2017 the Yankees have used their early rounds picks to address deficencies in their minor league system such as pitching, catching, shortstop, left-handed pitching and left-handed hitting. Heading into the first round of Sunday's draft lets take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Yankees minor league system and see if it gives us a look at the type of player the Yankees will be targeting over the early rounds.
In 2019 the Yankees used their top two picks on shortstops, taking Anthony Volpe and Josh Smith with their first two picks of that draft. Both players have lived up to their lofty draft status to this point. Volpe was recently named to Baseball America's top-100 prospects in baseball after his fast start in 2021. He currently leads the Low-A Southeast in home runs, triples and doubles. Smith currently has a 1.135 OPS on the season and is sparking the first place High-A Hudson Valley Renegades offense.
Joining Volpe among the top-100 prospects ranks is Oswald Peraza who shot up the prospect ranks in 2019 as scouts began to see his well rounded set of offensive and defensive tools. Peraza is putting those tools to work this season and has already earned a promotion to Double-A Somerset where he is the third youngest player in the entire league.
Farther down the system the Yankees have highly touted shortstop prospect Alexander Vargas who recently began his season in the Florida Complex League. Vargas received the Yankees top signing bonus in the 2018 international free agent class and is considered a top-100 prospect in all of baseball by FanGraphs.
Another strength for the Yankees system is centerfield. The Yankees have leaned heavily on the international free agency process to acquire talented centerfielders in recent international signing periods. In 2017 the Yankees signed Everson Pereira and Raimfer Salinas who both were highly touted centerfield prospects. The following year the Yankees added Kevin Alcantara who was similarly consensus ranked in the top-15 for all international prospects in the class.
Pereira was recently promoted to Low-A Tampa and is showing all the tools that made him one of the top prospects in his signing class. Salinas and Alcantara are playing in the Florida Complex League with the best centerfield prospect in the Yankees system.
Pereira, Salinas and Alcantara were all highly touted international free agents but none of them generated the excitement that Jasson Dominguez did when the Yankees signed him in 2019. Only seven games into his professional career, Dominguez is considered the Yankees top prospect.
The Yankees also have several more prospects in Estevan Florial and Brandon Lockridge who are playing centerfield in the system at various levels. Florial was once the Yankes top prospect but has struggled to maintain his status through injury and under performance over the last few years. Lockridge, a fifth-round pick in 2018 performed well at the Low-A level in 2019 and after missing some time due to injury earlier this year has seen a recent uptick in his performance.
While centerfield has primarily been a position targeted by the Yankees through international free agency they have used the draft in recent years to bring in some of their best catching prospects. In 2018 the Yankees drafted catchers Anthony Seigler and Josh Breaux in the first and second round of the draft.
In 2020 the Yankees used their first round pick on University of Arizona catcher, Austin Wells. Like Breaux before him there are questions about Wells’ ability to stick behind the plate. Both players are bat-first players but offer the Yankees solid depth behind the plate.
Also joining Seigler, Breaux and Wells on the most of the Yankees top prospect list is Venezuelan catcher Antonio Gomez. Gomez is know for having one of the best throwing arms in the Yankees system and could be a game changer defensively if he can hit enough to continue moving up the system. He is currently playing in the Florida Complex League.
The Yankees strength has been built up the middle over the last several season through the types of players the team has acquired through the draft and as part of international free agency. When it comes to the draft the Yankees have tried to address areas of need across the system.
On of the areas the Yankees are not getting big production from is the corner infield positions. The Yankees have not drafted a corner infielder early in the draft since 2013. While they could seek to address either third base or first base in the draft it feels like it would be a big change in the teams organizational drafting philosophy.
The biggest area of need in the system right now is lower level pitching. Many of the Yankees top pitching prospects have graduated to the upper levels of the system in recent years. While not barren the lower levels of the system could use an influx of capable arms that could prevent the team from developing a hole in their pitching. Following this season pitchers such as Beck Way, Matt Sauer and Yoendrys Gomez will likely graduate to the High-A or even Double-A level.
The attrition rate for pitchers can be absolutely brutal. Highly regarded prospects from the Yankees 2017 pitching heavy draft class such as Clarke Schmidt, Matt Sauer and Glenn Otto have all lost significant time due to injuries since joining the organization.
An analysis of the Yankees minor leauge system can help understand the decisions that the team will make on draft night. The team has added significant depth to positions of need over the last few years and will likely do so again starting on Sunday night.
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