It’s not the top-of-the-line prospects where the Yankees’ system separates itself from the other 29 systems in baseball. It’s the fact that the line of prospects never ends.
A prospect base that’s led by Justus Sheffield, Estevan Florial and Clint Frazier is backed by a seemingly never-ending supply of pitching, a collection of arms that any team would envy ahead of the approaching trade deadline.
For the moment at least, there may not be a true ace on the block, and the Yankees may have to settle for a lesser starter who probably wouldn’t command the prospect riches that a Jacob deGrom would. Plucking from that depth brought Sonny Gray, Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle last year, and their prospect supply is still booming.
This year’s trade bait could feature a pitcher such as Albert Abreu, a 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic who himself was acquired in the 2016 Brian McCann trade.
“Absolutely devastating changeup and a plus curveball,” said High-A Tampa manager Pat Osborne of Abreu, who’s listed at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, but looks sturdier. “Stuff-wise, you look around the majors, he has the stuff of a [No.] 1 or a 2 guy [in the rotation]. … This guy’s got a tremendous arm.”
The right-handed Abreu, who touches 98 mph with his fastball, is the organization’s third-best prospect, according to MLB.com. He started the year quietly after he needed surgery for an appendectomy just before the start of spring training, but he’s returning to the pitcher who was one of the best in the Arizona Fall League last year. In his past three starts, Abreu has allowed five earned runs and struck out 17 in 16 ²/₃ innings (2.70 ERA).
“Last two or three outings, he’s looked really good. Back to dominating,” said Osborne, who noted Abreu needs work on holding runners on base.
As Abreu’s value rises, Freicer Perez’s stagnates. The team’s sixth-best prospect, a 22-year-old righty from the Dominican Republic, was brilliant last year in the lower levels. Promoted to Tampa this year, he had six poor starts to begin the year, pitching to a 7.20 ERA, before he was placed on the DL after his May 8 outing with shoulder inflammation that Osborne said had affected him all year.
“We haven’t really seen the real Freicer yet,” Osborne said.
The real Freicer can hit the triple digits and went 10-3 with a 2.84 ERA in Single-A Charleston last year. Osborne said Perez is throwing off the mound again and should return with a few weeks.
Osborne also heaped praise on Nick Nelson, a fourth-round pick in 2016, and compared this year’s rotation to 2016’s, when he coached Domingo German, James Kaprielian and now-Triple-A arm Josh Rogers.
But the system goes deeper.
Luis Medina, who only turned 19 last month, can hit 102 mph, has a strong curveball and was the Opening Day starter of the rookie league Pulaski Yankees on Tuesday, when he showed his devastating stuff (no hits in four innings) and rawness (five walks).
Last year’s first-round pick, Clarke Schmidt, debuted in the Gulf Coast League on Friday. Their second-round pick in 2017, Matt Sauer, opened his year with Staten Island with six no-hit innings last week.
Of the Yankees’ 15 best prospects, 13 are pitchers. At upper levels, there are names such as Chance Adams, Domingo Acevedo, Jonathan Loaisiga and Dillon Tate who could be dangled for a proven major league starter.
There isn’t a bottom to the pitching system. As the Yankees keep churning out arms with value, it’s apparent how they likely will find their major league reinforcements.
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