The New York Yankees have zero top-10 prospects, but spring training is a chance for fans to peep high-level talent on other squads.
Now batting for the New York Yankees … someone you’ve never heard of before and probably never will again.
Click. The channel changes. But it shouldn’t.
For the casual fan, spring training can be tough to watch after the first few innings. At that point, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and the rest of your favorite Bombers are already taking ice-water baths in the clubhouse.
All that’s left on the field is the Yankees’ crop of bottom-50 and below farm hands, and Seinfeld reruns are calling your name from just a few clicks away. But don’t you dare go there.
New York may not have any top-10 talent, but their opponents do. In fact, by watching Yankees spring-training games, you might get a look at six of the 10 best prospects in all of baseball, per MLB.com’s top-100 list.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, #1
The Bombers play five spring-training games against the Toronto Blue Jays, including split-squad contests. Three of those games are broadcast either on WFAN, YES, or both. That means you have three chances to see the best prospect in the land, third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
If the name sounds familiar, you’re thinking of Vladimir Guerrero Sr., a notoriously good hitter who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.
Junior may just join his father in the hall one day if his projections are accurate.
According to Ben Badler at Baseball America, scouts say Guerrero Jr. is a full-package hitter, with massive power to all fields, next-level bat speed, and advanced pitch recognition.
Those skills translated well in 2018 when he topped all minor-leaguers with a .381 batting average and a .636 slugging percentage, mostly at double-A and triple-A. He racked up 20 homers and 78 RBI in just 408 plate appearances overall.
Oh, and he’s still just 19 years old (until March 16).
Now—in spring training when the scores don’t matter—is the best time to watch him if you’re a Yankees fan. Once he hits the big leagues, he’s likely to terrorize the Bombers and the rest of the AL East.
Victor Robles, Washington Nationals, #4
Victor Robles, 21, has been up for a couple cups of coffee with the Washington Nationals in the last two seasons.
He’s projected to make the opening-day roster, so the Yankees’ final game of the spring on March 25 is probably your last opportunity to see him as a prospect.
Per Baseball Prospectus’s Greg Goldstein, Robles is a “five-tool center fielder” who could be an “elite base stealer.”
In five minor-minor-league seasons, the youngster is a .300/.392/.457 hitter with 129 bases swiped. He also had a solid .288/.348/.525 showing in 66 plate appearances with the Nationals in 2018.
— Nationals on MASN (@masnNationals) February 21, 2019
The 5:05 pm (ET) game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., will be broadcast on the MLB Network in New York.
Royce Lewis, Minnesota Twins, #5
This spring he may have his first opportunity to play against the team Jeter once captained. But he’ll have to still be in big-league camp on March 24, the only Twins-Yankees contest on the spring schedule.
Lewis slashed .292/.352/.451 last season, with 14 homers and 28 stolen bases in 121 games.
— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) May 29, 2018
The game won’t be broadcast locally in New York, but you can always scan the box score for Lewis’s name.
Forrest Whitley, Houston Astros, #7
Despite serving a 50-game suspension at the start of 2018 for violating MLB’s drug policy, Forrest Whitley jumped two spots on the top-100 list in 2019.
At No. 7 overall, he’s the highest-rated pitching prospect in the game right now.
Per MLB.com, the 21-year-old righty features a fastball that reaches 98 mph, and he compliments his heater with a sharp curveball and slider. Jeffrey Paternostro at Baseball Prospectus noted that Whitley also throws a low-80s changeup.
He has a solid 13.3 SO/9 and 3.28 ERA in three farm-system seasons, mostly at double-A.
MLB.com lists him at 6-foot-7-inches tall and only 195 pounds, which probably explains his drug-policy transgression.
Here’s Forrest Whitley throwing an up-and-away fastball by Jake Marisnick in his live BP today pic.twitter.com/7Qy8zbrsA3
— Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) February 20, 2019
Houston plays the Bombers just once this spring, on March 20, at 1:05 (ET). It should be available on the MLB Network.
Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros, #8
Another guy to look for against Houston is 22-year-old outfielder Kyle Tucker. The Astros drafted him fifth overall in the 2015 draft.
Watch out for his crazy power.
He blasted 25 bombs in 120 games as a 20-year-old in 2017. He then mashed 24 dingers in a mere 100 games in 2018, his first year at triple-A.
Tucker also slashed .332/.400/.590 and stole 20 bases last season, so there’s more to his game than prodigious pop.
MLB.com noted that Tucker has “an unorthodox left-handed stroke” that he compensates for with “exceptional hand-eye coordination and plenty of bat speed.”
Here’s a little preview of that unusual swing:
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) June 24, 2018
Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins, #9
Finally, there’s one more Minnesota Twin to check out.
The lefty swinger came back strong from the operation, slashing .348/.392/.578 with 20 homers and 101 RBI.
Jason Woodell at Prospects Live projects him as a “middle of the order bat that contends for batting titles” and a “perennial All-Star that could compete for Gold Glove due to (his) arm.”
Here’s an in-depth breakdown of Kirilloff’s talent:
So, there you have it.
The Bombers will see some of the most exciting prospects in baseball this spring, including the overall No. 1. And now you have at least six good reasons not to skip Yankees spring-training games.
You can use this list as a sort of baseball scavenger hunt. The prize at the end is the start of the 2019 regular season.