Yankees minor league update: June 19th

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There’s been plenty of news out of the Yankees minor league system this past week, especially now that the MLB Draft has concluded. For details on who the Yankees drafted, we have more coverage on their first ten picks here and here. Several of those prospects, including second-rounder Matt Sauer and third-rounder Trevor Stephan, have announced their intention to sign with the Yankees.

Three different Yankees, catcher Kyle Higashioka, outfielder Mason Williams, and right-handed pitcher Ronald Herrera, all earned call-ups to the big leagues this week. Higashioka, called up Friday, has shuttled between Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the big club this season, as he played nine major league games in April. Williams, also called up Friday, has been in AAA all season after making occasional big league appearances in the last two seasons, and has 12 stolen bases and a .243 batting average in the minors this year. Herrera, on the other hand, came up Wednesday after spending most of his career at the AA level or lower. The 22-year-old has only five innings at AAA, so the call-up to “the show” will likely be the biggest challenge of Herrera’s young career.

In more unfortunate news, the club’s top prospect, infielder Gleyber Torres, was placed on the disabled list at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after suffering a hyperextended elbow. Torres reportedly injured his hand after trying to slide into home plate, and will be evaluated further on Monday.

Additionally, fellow prospect Greg Bird, who had been rehabilitating from a torn labrum, had his rehab assignment halted after he fouled a pitch off his shin. Bird had hit .237 in 12 rehab games in AAA, but still drew 12 walks compared to just four strikeouts. There is no present timetable for his return.

In this week’s profiles, we take a look at three prospects spread out across three different levels. We have one hot hitter who may be knocking on the door for a call-up, one pitcher putting it all together, and one of the newest members of the Yankees organization, who just came over in a trade.

Tyler Wade– SS- Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA)– Wade has been absolutely on fire as of late, currently riding an 18-game hitting streak. During that streak, Wade has been hitting .419 with two home runs, 8 RBI, and 18 runs scored. The streak has boosted Wade’s season numbers considerably, with his batting average jumping up 37 points and his on-base percentage jumping up 29 points to .324 and .384, respectively. Overall this season, the 22-year-old has flourished in AAA, adding five home runs, 24 RBI, and 19 steals in 23 attempts to his impressive batting average and OBP numbers. His walk rate has dropped a few percentage points from last year, but his strikeout rate is lower than his career average. If Wade can keep up this hitting pace, he may warrant a call-up from the Yankees this summer, especially if fellow infield prospect Gleyber Torres remains on the shelf.

Justus Sheffield– LHP- Trenton (AA)– We tend to avoid featuring the same players too often in our Yankees minor league updates, and although we provided an update on Sheffield a few weeks ago, his performance was too good to ignore this week. The left-hander started twice this week, striking out eight and allowing five hits, one run, and two walks in six innings Tuesday, and then pitching seven shutout innings and allowing just three hits Sunday. Sheffield has had control issues in the past, but allowed just three walks in his last two starts, and has walked just under three batters per nine innings this season. Sheffield shares the Eastern League lead in strikeouts, punching out 64 batters this season while posting a 2.99 ERA. At 21, the Yankees have no need to rush Sheffield, but if he continues to refine his command, we may see Sheffield reach the Bronx by the end of next season.

Matt Frawley– RHP- Charleston (A)– Frawley came over in a trade from the Pirates earlier this week and was assigned to low-A Charleston. In four innings since the trade, Frawley has allowed one hit and struck out eight batters. The 21-year-old right-hander was drafted by the Pirates out of Purdue in the 17th round of last year’s draft and has done well in his first full professional season. Frawley has pitched 37 1/3 innings overall this season and has struck out 40 batters while posting a 1.45 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP. Scouting reports suggest he can touch 94 mph with his fastball and has a solid, if not overpowering curveball. With a 40:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio, it seems as though Frawley has been using his stuff effectively. The odds are never great for draft picks from double-digit rounds pitching relief in A-ball, but if Frawley keeps doing what he has been doing, anything could be possible.

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