Yankees Prospect Primer: All eyes on Torres

Frazier, Judge, Kaprielian could all make a run at the Majors in 2017

Gleyber Torres batted .448 with two homers and nine RBIs in 19 Spring Training games. (Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com)

By Danny Wild / MiLB.com | March 28, 2017 10:00 AM

Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2017 season approaching, MiLB.com takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.

Shining star: Gleyber Torres, SS 

The No. 3 prospect in baseball was outstanding in Spring Training, hitting .448 with two homers and nine RBIs in 19 games. The fact that the 20-year-old saw that much Grapefruit League action tells you how highly New York regards the infielder. Torres, who came over from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade last summer, hit .270 with 11 homers, 66 RBIs and 21 steals in 125 games between the two organizations, all at the Class A Advanced level. He was the youngest player to ever win the Arizona Fall League's batting title and MVP award last year. Torres, by the way, hadn't even been born when the Yankees' last huge shortstop prospect, Derek Jeter, won his first World Series ring in 1996.

"We've been very excited about this young kid ever since we've had him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi told MLB.com. "He went out and played at a very, very high level with kids that are older than him [in the AFL], with kids that played at a higher level than him. He was one of the kids that really shined. I think that really bodes well for us."

Yankees vice president of player development Gary Denbo agreed, calling Torres an "advanced" hitter.

"We saw some real good things when he was playing for the Florida State League," Denbo told MiLB.com earlier this month. "For his age, he's very advanced as a hitter. He seems to pick up pitches very well, recognizes pitches. He knows his strengths and weaknesses. He uses the entire field to hit."

Major League-ready: Aaron Judge, OF

Yankees fans are already familiar with the intimidating Judge, who stands 6-foot-7 and has the most power in the Bombers' system. Judge, 24, hit .270 with 19 homers and 65 RBIs in 93 games last year at Triple-A before spending about a month in the Majors, where he hit .179 with four long balls and 10 RBIs in 27 games.

The 2013 first-round pick's challenge has always been to cut down on strikeouts, and he struggled with that in the Majors last season, whiffing 42 times in 84 at-bats. That ratio has dropped this spring, though, as he batted .321 with a pair of homers, four RBIs and just 12 strikeouts in 47 at-bats over his first 21 games (53 at-bats). Judge, now the Yankee's No. 4 prospect, may not hit near .300 in 2017, but the Yankees seem ready to give him a shot in right field to begin the year, at least in a platoon with Aaron Hicks.

"He has looked a lot better," Yankees hitting coach Alan Cockrell told NJ.com. "He's putting balls in play. We'll just play it out here down the stretch and see what happens, but he's working hard. He's working hard everyday. I think he's putting himself in a better position to see the baseball and get his swing off. He's got such leverage that if he could consistently barrel the baseball, good things are going to happen for him."

Full-season debutant: Drew Finley, RHP 

The San Diego native was New York's third-round pick in 2015, but 2017 will be his first full season in the Minors after he was limited to just six games last summer with Class A Short Season Staten Island due to elbow fatigue. One of those games was noteworthy, however, as Finley combined to pitch a no-hitter against rival Brooklyn in his season debut.


• More quotes from Yankees director of Minor League operations Eric Schmitt »


The 20-year-old throws a low-90s fastball but is known for his curve. He's made just 18 Minor League appearances since he was drafted and allowed 11 home runs, so New York will look to see how the 6-foot-3 righty responds this season. In 27 1/3 innings last summer, he went 0-3 with a 4.28 ERA and 20 strikeouts.

Back and healthy: James Kaprielian, RHP

Kaprielian was also limited in 2016, making just three starts due to a strained flexor muscle in his forearm and prompting the young righty to describe himself this spring as a "caged bull."

The Yankees' top pick in 2015 made one appearance this spring, working two hitless innings and picking up the win against the Blue Jays. He pitched in only five games in 2015, so it's obviously all a very small sample size for the 23-year-old, but he enters the year ranked as the organization's top pitching prospect and No. 6 overall. Girardi even said the righty has a chance to reach the Bronx sometime this season.

"That's exciting," Kaprielian said, according to NJ.com. "Any time you can hear the manager say something positive like that, it's important. But regardless of what's said, I have to be able to take care of what I'm taking care of at the exact moment and do what I can. Wherever I am, I need to pitch. I need to do a good job and give my team a chance to win whether I'm in A-ball, Double-A, Triple-A or New York in the Bronx."

"He's another kid that we think can move pretty quickly," Girardi told the New York Post. "Whether he gets here this year, I don't know, but there's a ton of talent there. I think the biggest thing for him is to stay healthy. If he does that, there's definitely a chance I think."

Loudest tool: Clint Frazier, OF

Frazier's "loudest" feature is his hair, if we're being honest. The 22-year-old's flowing red locks were deemed "a distraction" by the Yankees this spring, and he agreed to sit down for a haircut (a New York City barbershop has since offered him free haircuts for the entirety of his New York career). It's a silly story, but it's also helped Frazier become more of a name in the Yankees universe, where he is now the club's No. 2 prospect.

Along with his locks, however, Frazier also brought an impressive skill set when the center fielder came to New York in the Andrew Miller trade from Cleveland last summer. The No. 24 overall prospect hit .308 with a homer and eight RBIs in 39 at-bats over 20 games this spring before being reassigned to Minor League camp.

"I can see Major League talent," Yankees Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson told the New York Post. "I like the athleticism. He has real good work habits. From there, it's how he progresses. The pinstripes are a little heavier than other uniforms, but Clint certainly has the talent and I like the way he's developing."

Others to keep an eye on: Outfielder Blake Rutherford enters the season as the Yankees' No. 3 prospect, ahead of Judge. "He's an advanced young hitter that's had a lot of experience on the big stage," assistant director of amateur scouting Ben McIntyre told MiLB.com. "He's got a good feel for the bat and overall hitting ability, developing power that should show up in the game. Good athlete, getting stronger. We just like the whole tool package, and we're looking forward to seeing him grow in our player development system." ... Yankees pitching coordinator Danny Borrell praised 21-year-old righty Albert Abreu, whom the Yankees acquired from the Astros in the Brian McCain trade. "It's a huge arm. He spins the ball really well. From all accounts, he's a good kid, works hard," he said. "We had him out there for live batting practice, and he was showing elite fastball velocity, above-average curveball and above-average changeup. So we're talking three plus pitches as a starting pitcher. We've loved what we saw from him so far." ... Justus Sheffield, the Yankees' No. 7 prospect, is another new face to the organization after coming over from Cleveland last year. "He's 93-97 [mph]. Nice little breaking ball," said Borrell. "Nice power changeup. Dynamic personality. Great athlete. So all the ingredients are there for him to repeat his delivery and show good fastball command." ... How about Jorge Mateo? Once considered the Yankees' No. 1 prospect, he's dropped to No. 5 and become obscured by some of the other new names. "Jorge Mateo's one of the fastest players in all of professional baseball," Denbo told MiLB.com. "I think from the offensive side, he's had to make adjustments to facing better pitching."

Danny Wild is an editor for MiLB.com. Follow his MLBlog column, Minoring in Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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