The New York Yankees have had stellar play from their minor league affiliates. Who was the best talent on each team?
There has been a lot of winning by the New York Yankees organization this season — and not all of it has been in the Bronx.
2017 has been a special year for the franchise’s minor league affiliates, too.
The Pulaski Yankees (rookie ball) finished their season in second place while the Staten Island Yankees (short season) were an impressive 17 games over .500 in the New York-Penn League. The Charleston RiverDogs (A) stood atop the South Atlantic League’s Southern division and the Tampa Yankees (A+) had the most wins (46) in the Florida State League. Finally, the Trenton Thunder (AA) sported the best record in all of Double-A as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (AAA) and their .610 winning percentage was tops amongst International League competition.
When it comes to minor league ball, roster turnover happens on a regular basis. And while that makes the first place feats all the more impressive, it also proves what many believe — the Yankees have a deep crop of impressive prospects at every level.
But which Baby Bombers did their best to help secure their club’s winning ways? Let’s take a look at the Most Valuable Player for each of the top four affiliates.
Charleston RiverDogs MVP: Frecier Perez
Despite losing in the first round of the playoffs, the Charleston RiverDogs had an impressive 2017 campaign — and the charge was led by ace and emerging prospect Frecier Perez.
The 21-year-old that stands as tall as Dellin Betances paced his fellow starting pitchers in wins, strikeouts and ERA, finishing his season going 10-3 with a 2.84 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and .213 BAA in 24 games. Over that span, he pitched in 123.2 innings and allowed just 96 hits while sporting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 117:45.
Perez seemed to have put it all together this season. His fastball now reaches triple digits and his secondary pitches are transitioning from average to plus. Most importantly, he’s shown a willingness to give the opposition fits, no matter where he pitches (6-1, 2.64 ERA on the road).
Perez will be a prospect to watch next season. And if he develops into the pitcher many believe he can be, 2017 will be the season looked upon as where it all started.
Tampa Yankees MVP: Nick Solak
Like Perez, Nick Solak will be a young talent in the Yankees system to watch next season. After being drafted in 2016, he quickly broke out as the top player in High-A.
Over 100 games, the young second baseman produced an impressive triple slash of .301/.397/.460. Solak, who is known for his speed, displayed it in a major way by hitting 17 doubles and four triples while stealing 13 bases in 17 opportunities. He has also begun to grow into his power, as he reached double digits in home runs (10).
In many ways, Solak is everything the Yankees hoped Rob Refsnyder would become — a second baseman that’s known for his hitting, not fielding. Fortunately for the organization, the young prospect isn’t only a better defender than the former Yankee but is also better at the plate.
Solak’s mature offensive approach will make him get through the system at a fast pace. He’s already playing for the Trenton Thunder in the postseason and it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities to see him start the season there next year.
Trenton Thunder MVP: Thairo Estrada
If you follow the Yankees farm system, you know the organization has a number of high-quality middle infielders at nearly every level. Solak was that player for the Tampa Yankees. And Thairo Estrada was that player for the Trenton Thunder.
He’s been a consummate professional and has done everything the Yankees have asked of him — and whether it’s playing second base or shortstop, Estrada is recognized as one of the premier defenders in the entire system.
His bat isn’t too shabby, either. Estrada had an impressive .301 batting average in 495 at-bats while sporting an on-base percentage of .353 and an OPS of .745. He’ll never be a threat to go deep (six home runs this season) but excels at hitting the ball to all gaps. And even though he’s yet to use it to his full advantage, his speed is seen as arguably his greatest asset.
It’s unknown whether Estrada has a future in pinstripes or not. But that won’t take away from his tremendous season with the Thunder.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders Co-MVP’s: Miguel Andujar and Chance Adams
There have been a number of big name prospects that have proved their potential during a full season in Scranton. But for Miguel Andujar and Chance Adams, they started their seasons with the Thunder.
But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish — and they finished as the two best players with the RailRiders.
After overpowering the competition in Double-A, Adams was promoted on May 13 and picked up where he left off. In 21 starts, the righty had an ERA of 2.89 and struck out 103 batters in 115.1 innings pitched, good for a BAA of .197. While Adams struggled with pitch counts and length, he still completed the regular season as the top starting pitcher on the RailRiders staff.
As good as Adams was on the mound, Andujar was just as impressive in the batter’s box. The third baseman was called up to Scranton on June 19 and has grown into their best all around hitter. In 58 games, he’s hit for average (.317), gotten on-base at a high clip (.364 OBP) and flashed power (.502 SLG, nine home runs). He still needs to improve on defense but there’s no denying that his bat is Major League ready.
Both Adams and Andujar have proved they can handle the minors. It shouldn’t shock anyone if they follow in Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino‘s footsteps and start the 2018 season with the Yankees.