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Six Yankees make cut on MLB Pipeline’s Top-100 prospects list

On Saturday, MLB Pipeline released its Top-100 prospects list for the 2018 season, and six Yankees made the cut. Below are the rankings, along with a scouting report and description of each player, per MLB Pipeline. 

No. 5: Gleyber Torres, INF —  The top infielder on the 2013-14 international amateur market, Torres signed with the Cubs for $1.7 million and his stock has climbed steadily ever since. He ranked as the low Class A Midwest League’s best prospect and won a championship in the high Class A Carolina League during his first full pro season in 2015, then got traded to the Yankees as the key piece in the Aroldis Chapman trade in mid-2016. He capped that year by becoming the youngest MVP and batting champion (.403) in Arizona Fall League history and was pushing for a big league promotion last summer at age 20 before injuring his non-throwing elbow in a play at the plate, requiring Tommy John surgery that ended his 2017 season in mid-June.

Torres has exceptionally quick hands that allow him to excel from the right side of the plate and make plays in the field. Always an advanced hitter for his age, he recognizes pitches well, uses the entire field and has improved his walk and strikeout rates in each of his seasons in full-season ball. He makes adjustments easily and also has hit for more power each year as well as he has gotten stronger, projecting as a hitter who can contend for batting titles while providing 20-plus homers annually.

Though he’s just an average runner, Torres covers enough ground to stick at shortstop and has the hands and arm to be a solid defender there. With Didi Gregorius entrenched at shortstop in New York, the Yankees played Torres regularly at second and third base in 2017. He could contend for a starting job at either position this year and has the tools to be a star wherever he winds up.

No. 44: Estevan Florial, OF — Florial assumed the identity of Haniel de Oleo when registering for school in the Dominican Republic, then emerged as one of the top prospects for the 2014-15 international signing period. When MLB discovered the discrepancy, it barred him from signing for one year and he landed with the Yankees in March 2015 after producing a Haitian birth certificate with a slightly different birthdate. His $200,000 bonus — a fraction of what he would have commanded without the controversy — looks like a bargain because he has the best all-around tools in New York’s deep system and earned a spot in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game while making his full-season debut in 2017.

Florial has three tools that grade as well above average in his raw power, speed and arm strength. With the quickness and loft in his left-handed stroke, he’s built to do a lot of damage at Yankee Stadium. The only question he has to answer is whether he can tone down his aggressive approach and make consistent contact after posting a 31 percent strikeout rate last season and a 36 percent mark in the Arizona Fall League.

While his swing-and-miss issues mean there’s a wide gap between his ceiling and floor, Florial doesn’t have to hit for high average to help a team win. He’s as raw on the bases as he is at the plate, but his double-plus speed could make him a 30-30 player if he adds the necessary polish. While he’s still learning in center field as well, he should be able to stick there and his arm is a weapon anywhere in the outfield.

No. 48: Justus Sheffield, LHP — The Indians parted with two former first-rounders, Clint Frazier (No. 5 overall in 2013) and Sheffield (No. 31 in 2014), as part of a four-prospect package to get Andrew Miller from the Yankees in July 2016. The only detour in Sheffield’s steady development path came when he missed most of the final two months of last season with a strained oblique, though afterward he was one of the best pitchers in the Arizona Fall League. His older brother Jordan, a right-hander, was a 2016 supplemental first-round choice by the Dodgers.

Sheffield could have three plus pitches when all is said and done. His 92-97 mph fastball features some run and sink and is his most consistent offering, though his mid-80s slider may have more upside. His changeup isn’t as reliable as his first two options, yet he still shows the ability to miss bats with it.

Though Sheffield is a little shorter than desired for a starter at 5-foot-11, he still creates downhill plane with his delivery and doesn’t throw with excessive effort. He’s athletic and has been durable as a pro outside of his oblique injury. He improved his control in 2017 and has the potential to become a No. 3 starter.

No. 65: Miguel Andujar, 3B — Andujar’s $750,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic was the highest in a Yankees 2011-12 international class that also included Luis Severino. He has improved consistently while being pushed aggressively, batting .315/.352/.498 with 16 homers in 125 games at the upper levels of the Minors last year at age 22. He arrived in the big leagues with a bang, going 3-for-4 with four RBIs against the White Sox in his June 28 debut.

With a quick right-handed bat and strong wrists, Andujar offers plenty of pop that shows up against both lefties and righties. He recognizes pitches well for his age and rarely swings and misses, repeatedly barreling balls and producing rockets to all fields. The only knock on him at the plate is that he rarely walks, though that won’t matter much if he continues to hit for average and power.

Despite his offensive prowess, Andujar’s most impressive tool is his cannon arm. He has slightly below-average speed, but more than enough range for third base, though he still needs to polish some rough edges on defense. While he has lapses with his footwork and throwing accuracy, he’s making progress.

No. 74: Albert Abreu, RHP —  Gary Sanchez’s development made Brian McCann redundant on the Yankees, so they sent McCann to the Astros for right-handers Abreu and Jorge Guzman in November 2016. While McCann helped Houston win the 2017 World Series, New York has no complaints with the deal, because Abreu shows the upside of a frontline starter and Guzman became the headline prospect in the Giancarlo Stanton trade with the Marlins. Signed for $185,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Abreu pitched just 53 1/3 innings last summer while dealing with a shoulder strain, but was one of the more impressive arms in the Arizona Fall League.

When Abreu is at his best, he exhibits command of three pitches that all grade as plus or better. His fastball usually runs from 93-98 mph, tops out in the triple digits and features sink and run that generate both swings and misses as well as weak ground-ball contact. His power breaking ball looks like a curveball at times and a slider at others, more often the former, and he also can miss bats with his fading changeup.

Abreu has a bit of a short-arm delivery that adds deception, making him all the more difficult to hit. His walk rate dropped from 4.5 per nine innings in three years in the Astros system to 3.0 in his first with the Yankees, quieting talk that he might be destined for the bullpen. He still needs more consistency with his secondary pitches and his command but made encouraging progress in those areas last year.

No. 75: Chance Adams, RHP —  Though Adams only started for one of his three college seasons and dominated as a reliever while reaching high Class A in his 2015 pro debut, the Yankees decided to move him to the rotation. It’s hard to argue with the results, as he went 28-6 with a 2.40 ERA and 279 strikeouts in 277 2/3 innings in 2016-17. He led the Triple-A International League in opponent average (.197) last season after topping the entire Minors (.169) the year before.

Adams worked at 92-94 mph with his fastball as a Dallas Baptist reliever, but now sits at 94 as a pro starter. His heater lacks life so he has to command it well to succeed and usually does. His slider has gotten faster and tighter in pro ball, and it’s now a plus pitch in the mid-80s.

The key for Adams to reaching his upside as a No. 3 starter will be refining his changeup into a solid third offering. He also has a curveball that’s his fourth-best pitch yet still qualifies as average. He lives on the corners and the bottom of the strike zone, making it difficult to square him up.

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.

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