Probably not known by the casual New York Yankees fan, outfield prospect Mark Payton has been on an absolute tear in 2017.
Mark Payton was selected by the New York Yankees in the seventh-round of the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft from the University of Texas at Austin and hasn’t really accumulated much attention.
He was previously drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 2010 (31st round) and Cleveland Indians in 2013 (16th round) but didn’t sign until the Yankees took him in the seventh round three years ago for $45,000. Since then, Payton has done nothing but continue his ascension.
In four seasons as a part of the farm system at every level, the 25-year-old owns a .286/.365/.417 slash line with 22 home runs and a respectable OPS of .782 in 321 games. Yet, he is often excluded from any top lists or any widespread popularity by scouts because he’s generally regarded as an organizational player. Nevertheless, the 5-foot-7 lefty continues to put up great numbers and has even taken it to a whole new level here in 2017.
In 29 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Payton is slashing .333/.387/.471 with an OPS of .858. Since May 5, he has posted a .958 OPS which included walk-off bases-loaded single on May 20 against the Rochester Red Wings at PNC Field.
Among International League hitters, he ranks third in batting average (.333) and sixth in OBP (.387). Even during his NCAA career, Payton never struggled.
In four seasons as a member of the Longhorns, he slashed .318/.425/.444 which featured a junior season in which he led the Big 12 in batting average (.393), on-base percentage (.483) and triples (8). He also finished second to Matt Oberste in OPS (1.028).
Mark Payton has literally never struggled at any level — professional or college — yet has still managed to fly completely under-the-radar because of his forecasted ceiling.
At 5-foot-7 and 180 pounds, he looks nothing more than a scrappy fourth outfielder or frail major leaguer. His bat usually doesn’t carry much pop, he doesn’t steal many bases and has a sure glove at all three outfield spots.
Payton’s greatest strength at the dish, however, is his discipline. As mentioned before, he ranks sixth in the International League with a .387 OBP and is sporting a career total of .365. His career walk rate is 10.4 percent and his strikeout rate currently sits at 16.3 percent.
Although he has impressed, the glut ahead of him doesn’t make his future outlook so bright. Payton faces rigorous competition from top prospects like Clint Frazier, Jake Cave, Dustin Fowler and Blake Rutherford on the way.
If anything, Payton will undoubtedly be selected in the Rule-5 draft by another organization if this strong campaign continues. New York’s log jam in the outfield doesn’t help, but he isn’t too far off from obtaining an outfield job at baseball’s highest level.