With the Arizona Fall League right around the corner, the New York Yankees are sending some of their top young talents to participate.
This year’s crop of Baby Bombers that will suit up for the Scottsdale Scorpions are Estevan Florial, Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, Thairo Estrada, Kyle Holder and Chris Gittens. They’ll be following the steps of one-time highly touted teens that have taken the Yankees by storm.
The tradition continued the following season. Before Gary Sanchez became a household name in the Bronx, he slashed an impressive .295/.357/.625 with seven home runs and 21 RBI. Domingo Acevedo also stood out as he sported a 2.25 ERA in seven games.
Despite success from the aforementioned talents, the best performance in the AFL came last season. Gleyer Torres — the Yankees best amateur talent who has the chance to be in the Opening Day lineup next season — became the youngest player in league history to take home MVP honors after batting .403 with an OPS of 1.158 in 62 at-bats. Miguel Andujar, Tyler Wade and J.P. Feyereisen displayed varying levels of prowess as well.
And by the looks of who’s going, the positives that the Yankees have seen from the AFL can continue this year.
Many talent evaluators believe Florial is rapidly ascending as a top prospect — not only in the Yankees system but in all of baseball. Despite being just 19 years old, the Haitian-born center fielder possesses each of the five tools and has “superstar potential,” according to one National League scout.
Florial is currently suiting up for High-A Tampa and is batting .281/.364/.386 in 14 games — and even though his power has yet to translate, that’s expected from someone who is facing new pitching. Because of his ability as a true center fielder, the organization envisions him playing in between Judge and Clint Frazier down the road. It’ll be interesting to see if he can take a leap in production in the AFL.
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2017 was supposed to be the coming out party for Sheffield. After being one of the top names acquired during the 2016 deadline purge, the young southpaw was expected to make strides towards his eventual Yankees debut.
Despite facing some injuries and inconsistencies, Sheffield, 21, has put together a strong campaign for the Trenton Thunder. He did allow 89 hits in 90.1 innings pitched but he also struck out 79 batters, good for an ERA of 3.09. Sheffield will still need to conquer Triple-A but sporting pinstripes at some point next season isn’t out of the realm of possibility — especially if he performs well in the AFL.
Like Sheffield, Tate was acquired last summer and also had considerable hype due to being selected with the fourth overall pick in the MLB Amateur Draft don 2015. The right hander has rebounded his stock in a major way since the Texas Rangers tried tooling with his mechanics as he went 6-0 with an ERA of 2.62 and a WHIP of 1.08 in High-A Tampa before earning a promotion to Double-A. Some believe Tate will be better suited coming out of the bullpen but the Yankees will give him every opportunity to make it as a starter, and that’s something he’ll try to do in Arizona.
Florial, Sheffield and Tate are the three prospects with the highest upside — but that doesn’t mean the remaining three are youngsters to overlook.
Estrada has been a hitting machine for the Trenton Thunder, as evidenced by his .300 average and .354 on-base percentage this season. He may not be a home run threat but his defense, speed, gap to gap power and intangibles are all reasons why the Yankees hold him in a high regard.
When thinking of Holder’s game, it’s topped by his tremendous defensive ability. But the 30th overall pick in 2015 has seen his offense mature as well, as he’s hit .267 with the Tampa Yankees this season. If his bat can catch up to his glove, the glut of middle infielders in the system will be even deeper.
And even though Chris Gittens has yet to jump out in prospect rankings, the Yankees love his power. Plus, the first baseman has dealt with injury issues this season, so his time in the AFL will give the organization a better look at his overall skill set.
The Arizona Fall League has been a sight to see for Yankees fans in recent years, thanks in large part to the number of big-time prospects that have taken the field and succeeded.
There’s a strong chance the tradition will continue in 2017.