As the minor league system approaches its halfway point, there’s still plenty of good news coming out of the Yankees’ farm. Tyler Austin earned his way to the major leagues Saturday, taking the spot of Chris Carter, who was designated for assignment. The Yankees also officially signed their first two 2017 draft picks, Clarke Schmidt and Matt Sauer, Saturday and now have more than half of their draft picks under contract.
Jacoby Ellsbury picked up his rehab with AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Saturday night. In two games with the RailRiders so far, he has gone 3-8 with two extra-base hits, one run scored, and a stolen base. He will head to Chicago Monday to rejoin the big league club.
Plenty of prospects had impressive weeks this week. Before we profile a handful of them, let’s take a look at some of the other dominant performances. Shortstop Jorge Mateo homered Saturday and stole three bases Sunday for High-A Tampa, and has now gone three games without striking out. For a prospect whose biggest weakness has been his penchant for whiffing, this is an encouraging sign for his development.
Third-base prospect Miguel Andujar has a hit in 30 of his last 33 contests, including hits in five out of six games since his call-up to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 22-year-old is batting .364 in his first six AAA games. He had been hitting .312 with seven home runs and 52 RBI at AA Trenton before his promotion, but drew only 12 walks in 253 at-bats with the Thunder. The Yankees presumably would like to see Andujar handle AAA pitching before considering him as a potential replacement for incumbent big-league third baseman Chase Headley.
Chance Adams was on it for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Saturday, pitching six shutout innings, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out eight. In eight starts and 46 2/3 innings at AAA, Adams has a 2.12 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP, 52 strikeouts and 17 walks. Adams continues to prove his ability to handle higher levels of competition. Given the Yankees major league rotation struggles, it would not be surprising to see Adams called up very soon.
Finally, before we jump into our prospect profiles, shoutout to Eric Wagaman, who kicked off his professional baseball career in style. The first baseman, picked in the 13th round of this year’s draft from Orange Coast Community College in California, homered twice and drove in six runs in his pro debut Thursday.
Now, here are four prospects worth checking in on:
Caleb Smith- LHP- Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA)– Yankees’ fans may be clamoring for Chance Adams’ call-up, but Smith may be the most dominant pitcher currently on the RailRiders’ staff. The 25-year-old is riding a 13-inning scoreless streak, including six shutout innings in a start on Friday. Smith also struck out six and walked nobody in the performance, and has a 1.72 ERA in his last ten starts. Smith had been selected by the Brewers and promptly traded to the Cubs in last winter’s Rule 5 Draft, but the Cubs returned him to the Yankees at the end of spring training. Smith relies on pairing his fastball, which sits in the low-90s, with a solid, borderline above average changeup. It’s hard to know what the Yankees will do with their assorted arms, but Smith could see time as a reliever or spot starter in September or perhaps earlier.
Domingo Acevedo- RHP- Trenton (AA)– The big flame throwing righty has done well since his promotion to Trenton, allowing just six runs in 33 1/3 innings over five starts while striking out 31 batters in AA. On Wednesday, Acevedo pitched a spot start for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but allowed five runs and nine hits in five innings. The Yankees sent the 23-year-old back to Trenton after the start, but they are still in no rush with one of their hardest-throwing prospects. Acevedo’s stuff lends itself to strikeouts, as his fastball regularly touches 100 miles per hour. He has good control over his changeup, which comes in around 85 mph and contrasts starkly with his fastball. Acevedo also mixes in an inconsistent slider, but nevertheless finds the strike zone with all of his pitches (he has just 20 walks compared to 91 strikeouts in 87 total innings this season.) Acevedo probably will not be in the bigs this season, but he has very high upside as either a starter or a reliever. In terms of size, delivery, and velocity, Dellin Betances would be a good natural comparison.
Nick Solak- 2B- Tampa (A-Advanced)– Solak has torn up the Florida State League this past week. In his last six games, the 2016 second-round pick has hit .545 with a home run, seven RBI, and four stolen bases. Overall this season, Solak is batting .309 with a stellar .411 on-base percentage, four home runs, 25 RBI, and eight stolen bases. Coming out of college, Solak had been praised by scouts for his ability to hit for contact, but has become a more well-rounded player since turning professional. His fielding has been a positive, as he has just six errors in 63 games in the field. He may not be much more than a utility infielder if he makes it to the major leagues, but if he keeps hitting like this, the Yankees will have no choice but to keep moving him up through the system.
Estevan Florial- OF- Charleston (A)– Florial is just 19 years old, but he has handled A-ball well this season, hitting .310 in 65 games this season. The young Haitian outfielder has hits in 10 of his last 11 games, including home runs in back-to-back games this weekend. Over that 11-game span, Florial has three home runs, 10 RBI, four stolen bases, and a batting average of .447. This season, he has already reached double digits in home runs and stolen bases, with 10 home runs and 13 stolen bases. Florial signed with the Yankees two years ago as an athletic, “tools-y” talent with a very aggressive approach to the game. He still has not fully refined that aggression, as he still strikes out in over 30% of his plate appearances, but he has been able to sustain an impressive three-month stretch. He is still coming off a season when he batted just .227 in rookie ball, but at 19, he has plenty of time to harness his tools and refine his game.