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Minority Report: Game time! Who to watch and why, position player edition

We earlier looked at pitchers worth sticking around to watch during spring training broadcasts once the major league regulars hit the showers. It was only a difficult task in choosing who to leave off the list. There is a lot of organizational talent standing 60’6” from home plate advanced enough to be in big league camp. Some deserving guys had to be left off when limiting the list to five.

Choosing positional players has been a little more of a struggle. It’s not necessarily the shortage of talent, although that is part of it. Realistically, you will have some holes when you have produced Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres over three seasons. It empties the top half of the system, with our best positional prospects at the lowest levels.

The best overall, Jasson Dominguez, has not yet put on a Yankee uniform on mainland North America. The only other two top ten organizational prospects, Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe are not even 20 years old. Volpe only played a short time in rookie league Pulaski last year after being drafted in the first round and contracting mono. At some point this season, we will talk about the lower level talent who I did not include here because they are not in big league camp.

The result is that we have six pitchers in our top ten prospect list (Roansy Contreras could easily be seven) in big league camp and no positional players. It took a little creativity to choose the top five and determine who is an actual “minor leaguer” in contrast with a journeyman.

Here they are:

Estevan Florial

A name we have all heard, but still holds a ton of promise. His career thus far has read like the 2019 Yankees. There was a ton of hope popped by the reality of injuries. A suspension only contributed to the delay. Half seasons are particularly catastrophic in the minor leagues, as development becomes nearly impossible. Plate discipline comes from consistent practice, something he has not been able to accomplish.

It has reflected in his stats. His excellent bat speed is there, but so is his atrocious 32.8% whiff rate. His physical speed is there, but he only has a 62% base-stealing success rate. He projects as having above-average power and a plus center field arm. The tools are there if he can play consistently to put them together. The word is “raw.”

He will likely start over in 2020 at A+ Tampa.

Clint Frazier

I struggled with the idea of putting him here, as he is a known entity and not really a minor league guy. He’s not even Rookie of the Year eligible. However, he also does not have a path to the big club at this point, unlike Mike Ford, and will be more than worth watching. We know he can hit, and the “legendary bat speed” will be there. The question is whether he will develop into a serviceable outfielder.

Watch his breaks to the gaps and the lines, how comfortable he looks in pursuit, and listen for the “football follies” music replete with the “bonks” and “doinks.” If the first two look good and the latter sounds are lacking, you are probably watching a guy playing in the major leagues in 2020, even if not for the Yankees.

Thairo Estrada

I know. I know. Another guy about who we are all aware. Reread the intro!

When the sky fell last summer, Thairo came up and did a very competent, and I would say under-appreciated, job for the big club. In 35 games, he slashed .250/.294/.438 with three home runs and 12 RBIs compared to his .266/.313/.452 minor league line in 60 games.

The 23-year-old Venezuelan, like Florial, is coming to an age where he needs to begin displaying the promise he came with to the organization in 2013. If not, he is still a useful piece but was once considered a prized prospect. He should give Tyler Wade some competition for the utility man role but ultimately will probably end up in Scranton.

Chris Gittens

The Yankees 2014 12th round draft pick had a breakout campaign in 2019, slashing .281/.393/500, 23 HRs, and 77 RBIs in 115 games. It proved good enough to capture the Trenton Thunder Player of the Year and the Eastern League MVP. A 300 pounder when drafted out of college, he could hit for power in all directions while also scouted as a pitcher. He has slimmed down but is still too large to be a presence anywhere but first base.

Those 2019 numbers should be good enough to get him a promotion to Scranton, assuming that Mike Ford retains his spot in the Bronx. An injury to Ford or Luke Voit could even result in “Hard Hittin’ Chris Gittens” getting a call from the big club. This spring may hint towards a real leap forward last season or a one-year anomaly.

Kyle Holder

Holder is a 25-year-old shortstop from San Diego, chosen in the first round of the 2015 MLB draft. His glove is his most noteworthy attribute, as he was named the organization’s best defensive infielder by Baseball America.

After bouncing between Charleston and Tampa for a couple of seasons, he stuck with Trenton halfway through 2018 and all of 2019. He would finish with a .265/.336/.405 slash and is likely to end up back in Trenton for 2020. His ceiling should be as a utility player defensive specialist.

So there you have it. I probably could have just done ten pitching prospects for this two-part series but felt it was equally important to give a nuanced view of the position players as well. There are not a lot of sexy position player types in camp, but that should change in 2021 after a season of guys like this mashing through rookie and A ball.