Spring training is the perfect time to look at how several prospects who once graced the New York Yankees farm system are faring.
Peeking at MLB box scores for glimpses of former New York Yankees prospects can feel sort of like stalking your exes on social media. Your current relationship status determines what emotions surface.
The Bombers did swap several attractive farm hands for shiny new big leaguers in 2018. However, most Yankees fans are probably still sufficiently infatuated with the current roster to not worry about those losses.
New York is a World Series favorite and has a self-proclaimed chance to break home run records. There’s not much reason to regret past moves at this point. That could change in a hurry, though.
Therefore, now is the ideal time to check out the youngsters Brian Cashman offloaded in 2018—before the pinstriped players still in your life have a chance to break your heart and make you wish you could go back in time and un-trade a better future.
The Zack Britton deal
On Jul. 24, Cashman bulked up his bullpen by dealing for Baltimore Orioles ace reliever Zack Britton (then known as Zach). The price was steep, with the Yankees relinquishing minor-league pitchers Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll, and Josh Rogers.
At the time of the deal, Tate was the Bombers’ No. 9 prospect. He spent 2018 pitching at the double-A level for both the Yankees and the Orioles.
The 24-year-old righty had a rough spring, pitching to a 7.71 ERA and giving up two long balls in 4.2 innings. He’s already been sent back down to double-A.
Carroll was New York’s No. 15 prospect when he switched teams. The 26-year-old appeared in 15 games with the Orioles in 2018, throwing up a 9.00 ERA in 17 innings of work.
This spring a 3.00 ERA and two saves in six innings have earned the righty a shot at joining the Baltimore bullpen.
A lefty starter, Rogers has a 2.53 ERA in 10.2 innings in spring, and he’s battling for the Orioles’ fifth rotation slot.
— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) March 10, 2019
Like Carroll, he made his MLB debut in 2018 with Baltimore. The 24-year-old went 1-2 in three starts, with an 8.49 ERA in just 11.2 innings.
The J.A. Happ deal
McKinney came in at No. 20 on New York’s top-prospect list when traded, and he’s now at No. 14 on Toronto’s, per MLB.com.
He’s had a solid spring, slashing .276/.400/.517 with two homers and four RBI in 29 at-bats. The lefty swinger looks likely to make the Jays’ opening day roster.
According to the Toronto Sun’s Don Brennan, McKinney will see some time at first base in addition to the corner outfield spots.
“Billy McKinney is one of those guys that watching from the other side I say ‘ooh, I like that guy,’” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo told Brennan. “And now I’m on this side, so now that I get to know him I like him even more.”
Being in the same division as his former team, McKinney will have plenty of chances to get back at the Yanks for shipping him to Canada.
The Lance Lynn deal
Austin broke out in 2018 with 17 dingers in just 268 plate appearances between New York and Minnesota. He also earned Bombers fans’ respect by charging the mound at Fenway Park.
Tyler Austin & Joe Kelly, A Breakdown pic.twitter.com/T02AszLEqF
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) April 12, 2018
This spring he’s bashing .414/.414/.586 for the Twins, with one home run and four RBI. He faces stiff competition at first base, though. Veteran first basemen C.J. Cron and Lucas Duda are also having good camps.
Even if he doesn’t win a starting job, Austin could still grab a bench role.
Just 20 years old, Rijo wasn’t invited to Twins camp this year. The righty starting pitcher went 6-1 with a minuscule 2.24 ERA in 12 games at the rookie and single-A levels in 2018.
He’s currently the Twins’ No. 30 prospect.
The Andrew McCutchen deal
An onslaught of injuries forced the Yankees to make a move for an outfielder late in the season. So, on Aug. 31 they brought in Andrew McCutchen from the San Francisco Giants for infielder Abiatal Avelino and righty pitcher Juan De Paula.
The Giants’ No. 17 prospect, Avelino debuted in the MLB with his new team in 2018, hitting three singles in 11 at-bats. He played poorly in camp, slashing .091/.130/.136, and was optioned to triple-A on Monday.
The 24-year-old hit 15 homers and stole 27 bases at double-A and triple-A in 2018.
De Paula, 21, played his 2018 ball at the single-A level, posting a 1.72 ERA in 11 games (10 starts). He didn’t make an appearance at the San Francisco training camp.
The James Paxton deal
On Nov. 19, Cashman made his biggest move of the offseason. The crafty GM gave up top prospect Justus Sheffield and less-known farm hands Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams to acquire James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners.
— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) February 24, 2019
A 22-year-old lefty, Sheffield gave up just one hit and didn’t allow a run in four innings for the Mariners in the 2019 cactus league. Despite that dominance, he’s already been reassigned to minor league camp.
He probably won’t stay in the minors for long, though. Seattle manager Scott Servais recently told ESPN 710’s Brock and Salk that Sheffield is “ready to take the next step in his career, and the next step’s really the big-league level.”
Maybe he’ll even be called up by the first week of May when the Yankees play their first of two 2019 series against Seattle.
Swanson spent time in Mariners’ camp, going 1-1 with a 6.23 ERA in three games. He’s already been optioned to triple-A, where he’ll join Sheffield and wait for a chance to make his MLB debut.
At triple-A Scranton in 2018, Swanson struck out 78 batters in 72.1 innings.
Dom Thompson-Williams smacks his first Double-A Home Run in the 4th and it's 5-3 after his 2-run blast.
Tayler Saucedo into the game for NH after a 1-out walk by Crawford. pic.twitter.com/Pk3zH0p9vr
— Trenton Thunder (@TrentonThunder) September 6, 2018
A non-roster invitee to Seattle training camp, Thompson-Williams collected three singles in 16 at-bats before being reassigned to the minors. He displayed excellent power at single-A last season, smashing 22 bombs in just 100 games.
In the end
Right now, there’s no need to look back at these prospects with regret.
Even though Lynn has moved on to another team and Austin’s power plays well, there’s no room for the first basemen on this team. Until Sheffield becomes an ace, the Yankees will take their top-of-the-rotation return in Paxton.
Similar statements about the rest of the list are also true.
For the most part, New York fans’ collective relationship status should read “smitten with the Bombers.” Who knows, maybe the Yankees will reciprocate with a ring in 2019.