On Monday, MLB Pipeline released its annual Top-30 Yankees prospects list for the 2019 season. Below are the Top-10 rankings, along with a scouting report and description of each player (some videos included), per MLB Pipeline.
No. 1: OF Estevan Florial (2021 ETA) — Assuming the identity of Haniel de Oleo when registering for school in the Dominican Republic, Florial emerged as one of the top prospects on the 2014 international signing market, but MLB banned him from signing for one year after discovering the discrepancy. After he produced a Haitian birth certificate with a slightly different birthdate, the Yankees signed him in March 2015 for $200,000, a fraction of what he would have earned without the controversy. He quickly established that he had the best all-around tools in the system, though his development was slowed by right hamate surgery that cost him two months last summer.
Florial excites scouts with three tools that grade as well above average: his raw power, speed and arm strength. With the bat speed and loft in his left-handed swing, he’s well equipped to take advantage of Yankee Stadium. He’s still raw and overly aggressive as a hitter, leading to concerns about whether he can make enough contact to realize his full potential, though he did post the best walk rate (13 percent) and second-best strikeout rate (25 percent) of his career during his truncated 2018 season.
Florial also has a lot to learn about basestealing, though if he puts everything together he could become a 30-30 player. He’s improving as a defender in center field and should be an asset there in the big leagues. His cannon arm will fit anywhere he’s needed.
No. 2: RHP Jonathan Loaisiga (2019 ETA) — Originally signed by the Giants out of Nicaragua in 2012, Loaisiga had a decent pro debut the next summer before missing the next two years with shoulder issues and drawing his release in May 2015. The Yankees signed him in February 2016 after watching him reach 95 mph during a tryout, but he blew out his elbow after making one start in Class A and needed Tommy John surgery. He has been a revelation since returning, needing just 77 2/3 innings to rise from Rookie ball to the Majors, where he blanked the Rays for five innings in his debut last June 15.
Loaisiga lacks physicality but makes up for it with a quick arm that produces three pitches that each can grade at plus or better at their best. He sits around 95-96 mph with his four-seam fastball, pumping it up to 98 with some late life. His fading changeup was his most effective offering in his first taste of New York, though it gets a bit firm at times, and his high-spin breaking ball combines curveball depth with slider velocity in the mid-80s.
Loaisiga has a history of pounding the strike zone, averaging 1.6 walks per nine innings in his first four Minor League seasons, though his control got away from him in his introduction to big league hitters. He has the upside of a No. 2 or 3 starter if he can stay healthy — though that’s a big “if.” He has a frail build and has yet to pitch more than 80 2/3 innings in a pro season after coming down with shoulder inflammation in his fourth start with the Yankees last summer.
No. 3: RHP Albert Abreu (2020 ETA) — When Gary Sanchez made Brian McCann redundant in New York, the Yankees traded McCann to the Astros in November 2016 for Abreu and fellow right-handed pitching prospect Jorge Guzman (whom they later spun to the Marlins in a deal for Giancarlo Stanton). Signed for $185,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Abreu has shown frontline-starter upside when healthy. A shoulder strain, appendectomy and elbow inflammation limited him to 126 innings in his first two seasons with his new organization, however.
All of Abreu’s pitches grade out as plus or better when he commands them, beginning with a 94-98 mph fastball that tops out at 101 with sink and run. His power breaking ball can absolutely wipe out right-handers, combining curveball depth with slider velocity in the mid-80s. His fading changeup can shut down lefties, though it wasn’t as effective in 2018 as it was in the past.
Abreu has a short-arm delivery that provides deception but sometimes hampers him from locating his pitches. He doesn’t dominate as much as he should because he needs more consistency with his secondary pitches and better command of his entire arsenal. If he can’t do that and heads to the bullpen, he could fill a high-leverage role.
No. 4: RHP Deivi Garcia (2020 ETA) — After spending $18.1 million on the 2014 international market, the Yankees were restricted to giving out bonuses of no more than $300,000 the following summer, yet they still landed a pair of quality pitching prospects in Dominican right-handers Garcia ($200,000) and Luis Medina ($280,000). While Medina has louder stuff, Garcia has much more polish and used it to rush from low Class A to Double-A in only three months at age 19 last year. He struck out 12 in seven perfect innings in the second game of a Class A Advanced doubleheader on Aug. 6, though his Tampa team lost the game (but not the no-hitter) in the eighth.
Garcia’s best pitch is a high-spin curveball with so much depth that he’ll have to prove he can land it for strikes when more advanced hitters don’t chase it out of the zone as often. He also gets good spin on his fastball, which plays better than its 91-96 mph velocity with deceptive riding life. He made strides with his fading changeup in 2018, creating optimism that it can become at least a solid third offering.
Though he doesn’t have the smoothest delivery, Garcia repeats it well and exhibits advanced control and command for such a young pitcher. Because he’s small and works with some effort, there are some concerns about his long-term durability as a starter, but his athleticism and efficiency help his cause. His fastball/curveball combination should play well in the late innings if he winds up as a reliever.
No. 5: RHP Clarke Schmidt (2020 ETA) — One of the best pitchers in the best conference in college baseball (Southeastern) as a sophomore and junior, Schmidt went 16th overall in the 2017 Draft despite having Tommy John surgery a month earlier. The Yankees knew he wouldn’t have lasted until their next choice, so they took him early, signed him for a below-slot $2,184,300 and used the savings to afford second-rounder Matt Sauer. Schmidt returned to the mound last June and showed the potential for four solid or better pitches.
Schmidt pitches off of a 92-94 mph fastball that peaks at 96 and generates ground balls with heavy sink. While both his mid-80s slider and low-80s curveball can be plus pitches at times, they sometimes lack consistency. There are days when his tumbling changeup is his best secondary offering, though his breaking balls are generally more reliable.
Schmidt has a history of throwing strikes, but can get knocked around when he doesn’t keep his pitches down in the strike zone. His 6-foot-1 frame doesn’t create a lot of downhill plane on his pitches, and his size and less-than-smooth delivery created concerns about his durability even before he blew out his elbow. He has the best four-pitch mix among Yankees pitching prospects, so they will continue to develop him as a starter.
No. 6: C Anthony Seigler (2022 ETA) — Seigler’s notoriety as a switch-hitter and switch-pitcher who could throw in the upper 80s with equal effectiveness with either arm sometimes overshadowed the fact that he was one of the best catchers in the 2018 Draft. New York made him the first prep backstop selected, signing him for $2,815,900 as the 23rd overall pick. If he reaches the big leagues, he’ll join Jacoby Ellsbury as the only members of the Navajo Nation to do so.
The Yankees often prioritize slugging over hitting ability and defense at catcher, but Seigler doesn’t fit their usual profile. He’s extremely athletic for his position and could develop into a Gold Glover behind the plate. He has promising receiving and framing potential, and his plus arm plays even better because he has such a quick transfer.
A proficient hitter from both sides of the plate, Seigler controls the strike zone and drills line drives to all fields. He has a contact-oriented approach with solid bat speed, and while he’s not loaded with raw power, he has the hitting ability to get the most out of what he has. He’s close to an average runner and has good instincts on the bases and in all phases of the game.
No. 7: OF Everson Pereira (2022 ETA) — After two years in MLB’s penalty box for outspending their international bonus pool during the 2014-15 signing period, the Yankees faced no restrictions in 2017 and gave seven-figure bonuses to four different position players. The most advanced of the group is Pereira, who signed for $1.5 million out of Venezuela. Not only did he come to the United States for his 2018 pro debut at age 17, he also skipped a level and held his own as the youngest regular in the Appalachian League, an advanced rookie-level circuit.
Pereira couples all-around talent with advanced instincts. He uses a compact, quick right-handed stroke and impressive hand-eye coordination to lace line drives all over the field, and his 33-percent strikeout rate last year was more reflective of his youth than his future hitting ability. He has gotten stronger since signing and should develop close to average power.
Pereira has plus speed and presently uses it better in center field than on the bases. While he’s still developing basestealing savvy, he already shows the ability to chase down balls from gap to gap. He also has solid arm strength and is capable of handling all three outfield spots.
No. 8: RHP Trevor Stephan (2019 ETA) — Stephan saw more action at first base than on the mound in high school and didn’t become a full-time pitcher until he got to Hill (Texas) Junior College. He transitioned from relieving to starting after transferring to Arkansas in 2017, when he led the Southeastern Conference in strikeout rate (11.9 per nine innings) and pitched his way into the third round. He has advanced quicker than expected in pro ball, reaching Double-A 11 months after signing.
Stephan relies heavily on his fastball, which gets a heavy dose of swings and misses within the strike zone. He sits at 90-95 mph and touches 97 with significant running action that comes from his deceptive crossfire and uphill delivery. After struggling to develop a curveball, he scrapped it and had more success with a slider/cutter that has high spin rates.
His changeup is more of a work in progress after he relied mostly on his fastball in college, and it wasn’t as effective once he got to Double-A. He usually throws strikes and commands his fastball to both sides of the plate, though he struggled more than usual to locate his pitches after his promotion. There are some questions as to whether his delivery and arm action are suitable for starting every fifth day, but the Yankees envision him eventually claiming a spot in the middle of their rotation.
No. 9: OF Antonio Cabello (2022 ETA) — When the Yankees failed to sign Shohei Ohtani after the 2017 season, they regrouped and spent their surplus international money on Venezuelan position players Raimfer Salinas ($1.85 million) and Cabello ($1.35 million) in December. Scouted and signed as a catcher, Cabello had atypical athleticism for the position and moved to center field before his 2018 pro debut. He showed enough in one week in the rookie-level Dominican Summer League for New York to decide he needed a tougher challenge and to bring him to the United States at age 17.
Cabello has advanced discipline and bat-to-ball skills for a teenager. His bat speed and strength also give him plenty of raw power, which translated into him topping the rookie-level Gulf Coast League with a .555 slugging percentage. He should develop even more pop as he adds more loft to his right-handed swing.
Cabello’s speed earns well-above-average grades from some evaluators, a major factor in the Yankees’ decision to move him from behind the plate. He’s still learning as a center fielder, but should become at least an average defender once he improves his reads and routes. He has average arm strength and enough offensive ability to profile as a regular if he has to shift to a corner.
No. 10: RHP Roansy Contreras (2022 ETA) — Though international bonus rules prohibited the Yankees from paying more than $300,000 in individual bonuses in 2016 after they overspent two years earlier, they still landed some intriguing talents. Slick-fielding shortstop Jose Devers ($250,000) became part of the Giancarlo Stanton trade with the Marlins, while right-hander Yoendry Gomez ($50,000) has precocious polish. The best of the group is Contreras, who signed for $250,000 out of the Dominican Republic and reached low Class A last year at age 18.
Like many of the Yankees’ best young pitching prospects, Contreras generates high spin rates on his fastball and breaking ball. His heater sat around 91 mph when he signed and now ranges from 93-97 with riding action up in the strike zone. He has nice feel for spinning a hard curveball with good shape and the potential to give him a second plus offering.
Contreras is also making progress with a fading changeup that will help him against left-handers. He repeats his delivery well and fills the strike zone. Though he’s only 6 feet tall, his sound mechanics, strength and athleticism should allow him to remain a starter.
Here are some other notable names that appear on MLB Pipeline’s Top-30 list:
– RHP Michael King (No. 12, 2019 ETA)
– RHP Luis Medina (No. 14, 2022 ETA)
– RHP Matt Sauer (No. 17, 2021 ETA)
– RHP Osiel Rodriguez (No. 18, 2023 ETA)
– INF Thairo Estrada (No. 19, 2019 ETA)
– RHP Chance Adams (No. 20, 2019 ETA)
– RHP Domingo Acevedo (No. 23, 2019 ETA)
– OF Josh Stowers (No. 25, 2021 ETA)
If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.