The Yankees invited 23 additional players to spring training, and several of them are big name, non-roster prospects who have been generating a lot of buzz among fans, journalists and Yankees minor league affiliates.
INF Gleyber Torres, OF Clint Frazier, and LHP Justus Sheffield are three of the top non-roster players invited to the big league camp. These invitees are listed among the team’s top 10 prospects for 2017 by Baseball America and are sure to bring a lot of attention to their appearances later this month.
Torres and Frazier (prospects no. 1 and 2 respectively) are getting strong media coverage and have a lot of hype around them this offseason, seemingly carrying the banner for the “youth movement” the Yankees have embraced. Sheffield (no. 7) is getting a lot of praise as a top pitching prospect who still has a couple years to develop.
Let’s take a closer look at where these three prospects came from and what they’re bringing to the table.
Prospect Rank: 1
Torres was originally signed by the Cubs in 2013 as an international free agent for $1.7 million. He signed at 16 and started his career splitting his 2014 time between the Cubs’ rookie-level Arizona League and the Northwest League, where he hit .291/.381/.429 (132 wRC+).
For the 2015 season, Torres played for the Cubs’ low-A affiliate, where he continued his successful hitting streak, batting .293/.353/.386 (116 wRC+). At the close of the 2015 season, Torres was already considered one of the Cubs’ top prospects and one of the best all-around infielders in the minors.
In 2016, Torres moved up to play in the Cubs’ high-A affiliate in the Carolina League, where he hit .275/.359/.433 (121 wRC+). After a successful start to the 2016 season, Torres caught the Yankees’ eye and was traded for closer Aroldis Chapman. Torres then played for high-A Tampa and was sent to the Arizona Fall League after the season, where he hit .403/.513/.645 (218 wRC+) and was named the youngest batting champion in league history.
Torres’ ability to go the opposite way with authority separates him from other prospects. He has the potential to be a 15-20 homer guy at the big league level, as well as hitting for average. A shortstop by trade, Torres could probably make a successful transition to either second or third. Expect to see Torres ready for the majors by 2018.
Prospect Rank: 2
Frazier started his career as a fifth overall pick for Cleveland in 2013. The Indians were able to lure him away from the University of Georgia with a rookie league contract and a $3.5M bonus. At the time, Frazier was considered the best overall high school prospect. While playing for the Indians’ rookie league Arizona affiliate in 2013, Frazier hit .297/.362/.506 (137 wRC+).
In 2014, Frazier played for the Indians’ low-A team in the Midwest League, where he hit .266/.349/.411 (120 wRC+). He also clubbed 13 home runs.
In 2015, he was promoted to the Indians’ high-A affiliate in the Carolina league. Here he hit .285/.377/.465 (147 wRC+) before having similar success with the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League.
Frazier started 2016 playing at double-A in Akron where he hit .276/.356/.469 (129 wRC+) before being moved up briefly to Columbus in triple-A.
Frazier came to the Yankees organization as part of a trade that sent Andrew Miller to the Indians at last season’s trade deadline. Because of his “legendary bat speed,”according to Brian Cashman, many believe Frazier has perennial all-star written all over him. He’s probably best suited for center field, although he does have the arm strength to play a corner outfield position. If Frazier continues to develop in the right direction, expect to see him in the Bronx at some point in 2017.
Prospect Rank: 7
Sheffield was also initially part of the Indians organization, who selected him as a 31st overall pick in the 2014 draft. He was sent to their Arizona League affiliate where he managed a 4.87 ERA with 29 strikeouts (20.1 IP).
In 2015, Sheffield played for the Indians’ low-A team in the Midwest League, where he pitched to a 3.31 ERA with 138 strikeouts and allowed 135 hits (127.2 IP). After the season, Sheffield was ranked as the Indians’ fourth best prospect.
For the 2016 season, Sheffield was promoted to the high-A Carolina League where he had a 3.59 ERA with 93 strikeouts (95.1 IP). Sheffield was then acquired by the Yankees as part of the same trade that brought Frazier to the organization.
After the trade, the Yankees assigned Sheffield to high-A Tampa, where he had a 1.73 ERA with 27 strikeouts (26 IP). Late in the season, the Yankees moved Sheffield to double-A Trenton, where he posted a 4.97 ERA with 17 strikeouts (12 IP).
With a fastball that consistently sits at 92-93 mph, Sheffield has been able to touch 96 at times. His curveball projects to be a plus-pitch in the majors, while his changeup is still developing. Sheffield is currently on track to become a quality mid-to-high rotation starter.
All three of these guys are generating an unbelievable amount of hype for good reason. The youth movement is in full swing for the Yankees, and Torres, Frazier and Sheffield are three prospects who are going to make spring training very interesting for Yankees fans.