Yankees Prospect Estevan Florial Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Yankees Prospects Playing Winter Ball: The Studs And Duds

Several Yankees prospects have completed play in various winter ball leagues. Who moved up and who moved down in the eyes of the organization?

Yankees fans may be surprised to learn that in the space of just one year, the team’s farm system has fallen to the middle of the pack among major league teams. According to Bleacher Report, the Yankees now rank 16th among thirty teams, a plunge from number three in last year’s rankings.

There was a time not too long ago when names like Blake Rutherford, James Kaprielian, Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler, Justus Sheffield, and Billy McKinney were all familiar to Yankees fans, and an integral part of the much-hyped, but no longer found in print or conversation, Baby Bombers of the future.

The topic here is not to argue the merits of decisions made by Brian Cashman to trade off these players, but to point out the impact these transactions have had on the Yankees farm system. Remarkably, the organization still has some players in their system who remain highly touted by the Yankees, as well as throughout baseball.

A good portion of these prospects has just completed play in the Arizona Fall League and various Dominican Leagues. Based on their performance, some took steps forward, while others may have slipped a notch or two in the Yankees thinking. Here’s a brief look at the studs and duds.

Editor’s Note: 

All stats and italicized comments are provided courtesy of River Avenue Blues.com.

Yankees Winter League Studs

The good news among Yankees prospects come right where they need it most – starting pitching – that is on schedule to be ready when CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ are gone.

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  • RHP Albert Abreu: 6 G, 6 GS, 20 IP, 13 R, 7 ER, 11 B, 15 K, 1 HB, 2 WP (1.80 ERA and 1.20 WHIP) — he hasn’t pitched in three weeks, so I assume six winter ball starts was the plan

Only 23, Abreau has accelerated from Low A to Double-A ball at Trenton where is expected to begin the 2019 season. The eleven base-on-balls in the Dominican Winter League indicates he is still working on his command. A promotion to Triple-A Scranton by seasons end will keep him in line for the next natural step to the big club.

LHP Nestor Cortes: 8 G, 8 GS, 42 IP, 26 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 10 BB, 45 K, 3 HR, 2 WP (1.71 ERA and 0.86 WHIP) — hasn’t pitched in three weeks so I assume he was shut down after throwing 175.2 total innings this year, 49 more than his previous career high

Nestor Cortes just turned 24 and is one step ahead of Abreu having spent all of last season with Triple-A Scranton, compiling a 6-6 record in 18 starts for the Railriders. The ERA and WHIP he turned during the Dominican Winter League are promising, along with his low rate of walks. Thirty more starts with Scranton and the Yankees will have a better idea of what they have in Cortes.

  • RHP Matt Wivinis: 11 G, 12 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 14 K, 1 HB, 1 WP (1.50 ERA and 1.00 WHIP)

A relative unknown, New York Yankees signed free-agent RHP Matthew Wivinis to a minor league contract in October 2016. He’s probably ticketed to begin the season again at Double-A Trenton, but his showing in the Arizona Fall League, if continued, could propel him further.

Yankees Prospects Winter League Duds

A word of caution first. Often, a team will send a player to the winter leagues with specific instructions to work on this or that, perhaps hitting to the opposite field more or cutting back on his swing. With these players, I don’t know if that was true, but it’s worth consideration as we view these stats.

  • OF Estevan Florial: 21 G, 13-for-73 (.178), 10 R, 2 2B, 2 3B, 8 RBI, 12 BB, 29 K, 2 SB, 1 CS (.178/.294/.260)

Replacing Justus Sheffield, who was traded to Seattle in the James Paxton deal, Florial is now considered to be the number one Yankees prospect. Mentioned in virtually every trade the Yankees have been involved in, the team has hung onto him with kid gloves as the only remaining position player with substantial value.

Twenty-one games in the Arizona Fall League is not likely to dent the Yankees thinking too much, but Florial will be watched closely to see if this negative trend continues. Only 21, Florial begins his fourth seasons with the Yankees organization but has never played higher than A-Ball. He’s likely to play a full season at Double-A Trenton.

  • IF Thairo Estrada: 19 G, 19-for-80 (.238), 9 R, 2 2B, 7 RBI, 4 BB, 15 K, 1 CS, 1 HBP (.238/.282/.263)

Estrada played the entire 2017 season with Double-A Trenton, but then had the misfortune of getting shot during a robbery attempt, putting him out of action for most of 2018. Thus, the Arizona Fall League numbers can be seen, if one chooses, as a re-introduction to the game of baseball for Estrada. He’s likely to begin the season again with Trenton, with an earned promotion to Triple-A hopefull in the making by season’s end.

Yankees Prospects Winter Ball Wrap-Up

The above Yankees prospects are only a few that I’ve highlighted, and once again, there’s more here, but we do a sense of the Yankees and their planning for the future. How many of these players will be here when we do this again next year remains to be seen.

For some, their future is entirely in their hands, and if they can produce, they will be playing at Yankee Stadium, having given the Yankees no choice (recall Jordan Montgomery) but to include them in their plans.

For others, top Yankees prospect or not, Brian Cashman will make those hard decisions necessary to part with them if another James Paxton comes along with the ability to help the team – right now!

The story will play itself out in Trenton and Scranton this upcoming season, and we’ll be watching.

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball

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