Prospect Profile: Albert Abreu

(@MLBpipeline)
(@MLBpipeline)

Albert Abreu | RHP

Background
Back in 2013, the Astros signed the now 21-year-old Abreu out of the relatively small town of Guayubin, in the Dominican Republic. He received a $185,000 bonus. Baseball America did not rank Abreu among the top 30 international prospects available during the 2013-14 international signing period.

The Yankees acquired Abreu from Houston in the Brian McCann trade earlier this offseason. Abreu and fellow right-hander Jorge Guzman went to New York in the two-for-one swap.

Pro Career
Because he wasn’t a high-profile signing, the Astros assigned Abreu to one of their rookie Dominican Summer League affiliates for his pro debut in 2014. He had a 2.78 ERA (3.41 FIP) with 19.4% strikeouts and 10.4% walks in 14 starts and 68 innings that year.

The ‘Stros brought Abreu to the U.S. in 2015 and sent him to their rookie Appalachian League affiliate. That summer he made seven starts and six relief appearances, and threw 46.2 innings with a 2.51 ERA (3.56 FIP) with 26.0% strikeouts and 10.7% walks. Baseball America ranked Abreu as the sixth best prospect in the league after the season.

Abreu opened the 2016 season in the Low-A Midwest League. He managed a 3.50 ERA (3.85 FIP) with 27.1% strikeouts and 12.8% walks in 90 innings spread across 14 starts and seven relief appearances at that level. Houston bumped Abreu up to the High-A California League at the end of the season, where he allowed eight runs in 14.1 innings.

All told, Abreu had a 3.71 ERA (4.07 FIP) with 26.3% strikeouts and 12.9% walks in 104.1 innings in 2016. Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 14th best prospect in the league, one spot ahead of Angels catcher Matt Thaiss, the 16th overall pick in the 2016 draft. Abreu was ranked the Astros’ tenth best prospect prior to the trade by Baseball America.

Scouting Report
When the Astros signed Abreu, he was 6-foot-2 and rail thin with an 87-91 mph fastball. He still stands 6-foot-2, but he’s filled out a bit and now checks in at 175 pounds. His fastball has climbed into the 93-96 mph range and will top out at 99 mph. Abreu’s arm is really loose and the ball jumps out of his hand.

Depending on the day, either the slider or the changeup will look like Abreu’s second best pitch. The slider has hard break in the mid-to-upper-80s while the changeup fades down and away to lefties when thrown properly. Abreu also has a big breaking power curveball. He’s still working to gain consistency with all three non-fastballs. Here’s some video:

Abreu is a good athlete with a really quick arm, though his control suffers because he tends to rush through his delivery. He’s still learning to repeat his mechanics, especially from the stretch, and once he does that, it should improve his presently below-average control. Abreu is very much a young pitcher with tantalizing stuff who is still learning how to pitch.

2017 Outlook
Given his success at Low-A last season, the Yankees figure to assign Abreu to High-A Tampa to begin the 2017 season, his first in the organization. I wouldn’t count on a midseason promotion. Abreu just turned 21 in September and he’s not very experienced. A full season at High-A is in the cards, even if he dominates.

My Take
I’m not gonna lie, I’m not much of an Abreu fan. The kid has a great arm, no doubt about that. Four pitches and a good delivery is a nice starting point. I just see too many obstacles to overcome. Abreu needs to refine multiple secondary pitches, hone his mechanics, and learn to throw strikes. His upside is enormous, possibly the highest of any pitcher in the system, but there’s a very long way to go before Abreu approaches that ceiling. And, frankly, the Yankees haven’t much success developing these high-risk/high-reward kids. Abreu is a quality prospect. I’m just not his biggest fan. That’s all.

Prospect Profile: Justus Sheffield

(@MiLB)
(@MiLB)

Justus Sheffield | LHP

Background
Sheffield, 20, grew up in Tullahoma, Tennessee, which is about halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga. As a senior at Tullahoma High School, Sheffield struck out 131 batters in 61.2 innings while allowing only three earned runs. That’s a 0.34 ERA with seven-inning games. He had a 17-strikeout game and also hit .405 with three home runs, which earned him Gatorade National Player of the Year honors. No, he is not related to Gary Sheffield.

Like his older brother Jordan, Justus committed to Vanderbilt, which meant he figured to be a tough sign. Vandy is typically a tough commitment to break. Baseball America ranked Sheffield as the 49th best prospect in the 2014 draft class and the second best prospect in Tennessee, behind Vanderbilt righty Tyler Beede. Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Justus as the 21st best prospect in the draft class while MLB.com had him 39th.

The Indians selected Sheffield with the 31st overall pick in the 2014 draft, the supplemental first round pick they received as compensation for losing Ubaldo Jimenez to free agency. Rather than be a tough sign, Sheffield was literally the first 2014 draftee to agree to terms. (That we know of, anyway.) The two sides agreed to a below-slot $1.6M bonus only hours after the MLB Network broadcast of Day One of the draft. Slot money for the 31st pick was $1.733M.

The Yankees acquired Sheffield from Cleveland in the five-player Andrew Miller trade at the 2016 deadline. Miller went to the Indians for Sheffield, outfielder Clint Frazier, and righties Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen. It was a four-for-one swap.

Pro Career
Because he signed quickly, the Indians sent Sheffield to their rookie level Arizona League affiliate for his pro debut. Sheffield had a 4.79 ERA (2.67 FIP) with 29 strikeouts and nine walks in 20.2 innings after signing. That’s a 30.9% strikeout rate and a 9.6% walk rate. After the season, Baseball America ranked him Cleveland’s fourth best prospect.

During the 2014-15 offseason, Sheffield was arrested back home in Tullahoma for underage drinking and aggravated burglary after breaking into a home in the early morning hours to confront one of the residents about a personal matter. Sheffield pled guilty to underage drinking and a reduced charge of aggravated criminal trespassing, and was sentenced to probation. He also had to donate $500 to a local charity and was allowed to have the charges expunged from his record one year later.

Once the 2015 season began, the Indians assigned Sheffield to their Low-A affiliate in the Midwest League, where he was the sixth youngest player and second youngest pitcher in the league on Opening Day. He spent the entire season at the level and posted a 3.31 ERA (2.99 FIP) with 24.9% strikeouts and 6.9% walks in 26 starts and 127.2 innings while being nearly three years younger than the average Midwest League player. Baseball America ranked Sheffield as the club’s fourth best prospect and 81st best prospect in baseball after the season.

The Indians moved Sheffield up to the High-A Carolina League to begin 2016 — he was the sixth youngest player and youngest pitcher in the league on Opening Day — and he had a 3.59 ERA (3.80 FIP) with 22.8% strikeouts and 9.8% walks in 19 starts and 95.1 innings there before the trade. Baseball America ranked Sheffield as the 69th best prospect in the game in early-July, in their midseason top 100 update.

After the trade the Yankees initially assigned Sheffield to High-A Tampa, where he made five starts and had a 1.73 ERA (2.33 FIP) with 27.3% strikeouts and 10.1% walks in 26 innings. A late season bump to Double-A Trenton saw Sheffield make three more starts, postseason included, during which he managed a 4.97 ERA (4.86 FIP) with 17 strikeouts and nine walks in 12.2 innings.

All told, Sheffield pitched to a 3.36 ERA (3.61 FIP) with 24.2% strikeouts and 10.4% walks in 27 starts and 134 innings in 2016. He was three years younger than the competition in both High-A leagues. After the season, Baseball America ranked Sheffield as the seventh best prospect in New York’s stacked farm system. He should be in the middle of all the top 100 prospect lists that come out this spring.

Scouting Report
Sheffield is a short little southpaw — he’s listed at 5-foot-10 and 195 lbs. — with big stuff. His fastball is more of a two-seamer than a four-seamer, with run down and back in on left-handed batters. It sits mostly in the low-90s and has topped out at 96 mph. That’s pretty good velocity given his age (he doesn’t turn 21 until May) and size.

A low-to-mid-80s slider is Sheffield’s primary secondary pitch. He used to throw a curveball back in the day, but it’s morphed into a slider since signing and become a more reliable offering. Sheffield also throws a mid-80s changeup that has made a lot of progress since high school and is now an average-ish offering. On his best days, he’ll take two swing-and-miss secondary pitches out to the mound. Here’s some video from September.

Throwing strikes has been an issue for Sheffield at times, which is surprising because he’s a great athlete and repeats his delivery well. The hope is he’ll iron out his location with more experience. Sheffield has mid-rotation upside, but as a lefty with three quality pitches, he could exceed that ceiling with much improved command. Keep in mind it’s not unusual for a 20-year-old kid to lack pristine location.

The arrest a few years ago was a surprise because Sheffield was praised for his makeup prior to the 2014 draft. He completed his probation and hasn’t had any other legal problems, either before or since the arrest.

2017 Outlook
Sheffield will open the 2017 season as a 20-year-old in Double-A, where he figures to be one of the youngest players and pitchers in the Eastern League on Opening Day. You can never rule out a player starting extremely well and forcing a promotion, but I think Sheffield will remain with Double-A Trenton almost all season. He could make a handful of Triple-A starts at the end of the regular season and in the postseason or something like that, I suppose. The Yankees like to do that stuff. A midseason promotion seems unlikely though given his age and developmental needs.

My Take
It’s easy to overlook Sheffield in the system, isn’t it? He wasn’t even the headliner in his own trade (that was Frazier), and the Yankees landed other bigger name prospects like Gleyber Torres and Dillon Tate at the deadline. And they drafted Blake Rutherford. And guys like Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian are prospect list holdovers from last year. It’s really easy to forget about Sheffield.

That said, I think Justus is the Yankees’ best pitching prospect at the moment. His medical history is cleaner than Kaprielian’s — Sheffield has never had an injury, arm or otherwise — and his arsenal is more advanced than Albert Abreu’s. Fastball plane and homeritis is always a concern with sub-6-foot pitchers because they tend to lack downhill plane on their fastballs, but Sheffield has some natural sink on his heater and has kept the ball in the park as a pro (career 0.46 HR/9), which is encouraging.

There is no such thing as a low-risk pitching prospect — Sheffield has been healthy to date, but that doesn’t mean he can’t blow out his arm on the first day of Spring Training — but I feel like Sheffield carries less risk than the typical 20-year-old hurler. He has three pitches already, and he’s athletic and he repeats his delivery well. I’m optimistic his control will improve in time. Sheffield has less to figure out than most kids this age.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how Sheffield handles his assignment to Double-A this season. A good season at that level would put him in the game’s top tier of pitching prospects and make him a potential big league option for the Yankees as soon as 2018. It’s not often a high school pitcher reaches the big leagues within four calendar years of being drafted, but Sheffield has a chance to do it. That’s pretty awesome.

Prospect Profile: Gleyber Torres

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Gleyber Torres | SS

Background
Torres, who turned 20 last month, grew up in Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela. Baseball America ranked him as the second best prospect in the 2013-14 international class, and the Cubs landed him with a $1.7M signing bonus. Chicago exceeded their bonus pool to sign Torres and outfielder Eloy Jimenez, Baseball America’s best available prospect that signing period.

The Yankees acquired Torres from the Cubs as the headliner in the Aroldis Chapman trade at the 2016 trade deadline. Torres, outfielders Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford, and righty Adam Warren went to New York for Chapman, an impending free agent. It was a four-for-one swap.

Pro Career
Torres signed at age 16 and the Cubs moved him up the ladder pretty aggressively. He split the 2014 season, his pro debut, between the rookie level Arizona League and short season Northwest League, where he hit .291/.381/.429 (132 wRC+) with two homers, ten steals, 18.4% strikeouts, and 13.5% walks in 52 games and 223 total plate appearances. Torres was nearly three years younger than the competition overall.

In 2015, the Cubs sent Torres to their Low-A affiliate in the Midwest League, where he was the youngest player in the league on Opening Day by five months. Gleyber was excellent, hitting .293/.353/.386 (116 wRC+) with three homers, 22 steals, 21.0% strikeouts, and 8.4% walks in 119 games and 514 plate appearances. The Cubs had him finish the season with seven-game cameo at Low-A. After the season, Torres was ranked the team’s top prospect and the 41st best prospect in baseball by Baseball America.

Chicago moved Torres up to their High-A affiliate in the Carolina League to start last season, where he was the circuit’s second youngest player on Opening Day. Gleyber hit .275/.359/.433 (121 wRC+) with nine homers, 19 steals, 21.3% strikeouts, and 10.3% walks in 94 games and 409 plate appearances before the trade, prompting Baseball America to rank him the 27th best prospect in the game at midseason. MLB.com ranked him 17th.

After the trade, Torres hit .254/.341/.385 (115 wRC+) with two homers, two steals, 16.7% strikeouts, and 11.6% walks in 31 games and 138 plate appearances with High-A Tampa. He played the entire season at age 19 and was nearly four years younger than the competition. The Yankees sent Torres to the Arizona Fall League after the season, where he hit .403/.513/.645 (218 wRC+) with three homers and four steals in 18 games. He became the youngest MVP and batting champion in league history.

“I heard everything he did, and we’ve been very excited about this young kid ever since we’ve had him,” said Joe Girardi to Mike Mazzeo last month. “He went out and played at a very, very high level, with kids that are older than him, 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, and I look forward to seeing him (in the spring).”

Scouting Report
Torres, who’s grown three inches since signing and now stands 6-foot-1 and 175 lbs., stands out most for his ultra-advanced offensive approach. He knows the strike zone, recognizes spin, and has a plan at the plate. His right-handed swing is controlled but aggressive; Gleyber doesn’t get cheated when he swings, though he’s not a wild hacker either. Torres has good bat-to-ball skills and uses the entire field, though most of his over-the-fence power is to the pull side at the moment.

In the field, Torres combines great instincts with good defensive tools. He has soft hands, good range, and a strong arm. There’s very little doubt he can remain at shortstop long-term, though the Yankees are loaded at the position, so they’ve had Gleyber work out at second base. I wouldn’t be surprised if he sees some time at third base going forward as well. Torres is a good runner who can steal bags and push the envelope on the bases.

The total package points to a future star. Torres projects to be a complete hitter who hits for average and power, and draws enough walks to post high on-base percentages as well. He’ll also swipe some bags and save runs in the field, regardless of whether he remains at short or slides over to second or third. Torres is a very hard worker — he spent a lot of time with Chicago’s infield instructors and erased doubts about his ability to remain at short early in his career — and a mature player. There’s very little not to like.

2017 Outlook
Brian Cashman has already said Torres will begin the 2017 season with Double-A Trenton, and hinted at the possibility of a midseason promotion to Triple-A Scranton. Remember, Torres just turned 20 last month. He’ll be one of the youngest players in the Eastern League on Opening Day, if not the youngest, so it’s entirely possible he’ll make his MLB debut before his 22nd birthday. I don’t think he’ll reach the show this coming season, but I wouldn’t completely rule it out either. He could tear up Double-A, earn a quick bump to Triple-A, and force the issue.

My Take
When the Yankees were gauging the market for Chapman, I was hoping they’d get a Torres-caliber prospect in a one-for-one swap, and they managed to get Torres and three other players. Amazing. The trade far exceeded my expectations.

As far Torres himself, how can you not love the kid? The tools are as good as it gets, he’s a mature player who carries himself like someone who’s been in the league ten years, and he projects to have two-way impact. Torres is New York’s top prospect and one of the best 10-15 prospects in all of baseball. He and Gary Sanchez figure to be the faces of the franchise going forward, as the Yankees work to build their next championship team.

Prospect Profile: Blake Rutherford

(@MiLB)
(@MiLB)

Blake Rutherford | OF

Background
Rutherford, 19, was born in Morristown, New Jersey, and he lived there until age two, when his family moved to Southern California. He played both baseball and football at Chaminade College Preparatory School in Simi Valley, and as a senior last spring, Rutherford hit .577 with 13 doubles and nine home runs in 27 games. He was invited to play in the Under Armour All-America Game in 2015 and spent two summers with Team USA’s 18-and-under team, helping them win gold in Japan last year.

Rutherford has been on the radar as a prospect a very long time, so much so that he committed to UCLA following his freshman year of high school. Prior to the 2016 amateur draft, Rutherford was ranked as a top ten prospect in the draft class by Keith Law (6th), MLB.com (8th), and Baseball America (9th). The Yankees selected him with their first round pick, No. 18 overall, and maxed out their bonus pool to sign him to a well-above-slot $3,282,000 bonus.

“Blake’s a guy that we’ve scouted for a long time, and we couldn’t be happier with him falling to us,” said scouting director Damon Oppenheimer after the draft. “He’s hit at a high level, he can run, he’s a really good defender in center field, and he’s got power. He’s got a chance to have all the tools to profile. The fact that he’s performed on a big stage with Team USA, where he’s been a quality performer, makes it really exciting for us.”

Rutherford slipped out of the top ten for two reasons. One, his age. He turned 19 in May, which makes him older than most high school draftees. And two, he had big bonus demands, which isn’t surprising because he was a projected top ten pick. There are rumors Rutherford had a pre-draft deal in place with the Mets, who held the 19th pick, but the Yankees grabbed him one pick earlier and met his asking price.

“Oh man, I don’t think it’s hit me yet. It will hit me soon,” said Rutherford to Tony Ciniglio after the draft. “I grew up a Yankees fan. I loved the Yankees and the organization, I loved the people. It’s an amazing legacy, and it’s a pretty incredible situation.”

Pro Debut
Following a quick tune-up stint in the rookie Gulf Coast League, the Yankees bumped Rutherford up to the rookie Pulaski Yankees so he could face a higher caliber of competition. Rutherford was the best player on the field pretty much every game, hitting .382/.440/.618 (186 wRC+) with seven doubles, four triples, and two homers in 25 games and 100 plate appearances with Pulaski. Add in the GCL stint and he hit .351/.415/.570 (171 wRC+) with three homers in 130 plate appearances in his pro debut earlier this year.

Rutherford’s season ended prematurely due to a pair of minor injuries. He tweaked his knee running through first base on August 8th and missed Pulaski’s next eleven games. Then, on August 24th, Rutherford hurt his hamstring running out a ground ball. Pulaski had already been eliminated from postseason contention and the regular season was ending in a week, so the Yankees played it safe and shut their first round pick down. Rutherford’s knee and hamstring were healthy enough for him to participate in Instructional League in September.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-3 and 195 lbs., Rutherford is well built with all sorts of physical projection. He’s a left-handed hitter with good bat speed and a level swing that allows him to cover the entire plate. Rutherford’s hit tool is highly regarded and he has a plan at the plate, plus he’s already shown power in games. He projects as a classic No. 3 hitter. A guy who can hit for both average and power down the road. Here’s some video:

There are two knocks on Rutherford’s offensive game. One, he can sometimes get into a little mechanical funk at the plate and start stepping in the bucket. And two, his swing right now produces line drives more than anything, and there’s some thought he won’t reach his full power potential unless he learns how to get the ball in the air more often. It could be worse.

The offensive potential is what got Rutherford drafted in the first round, but he’s not a bat-only prospect. He runs well and has good outfield instincts, which allow him to play center field. There are mixed reports on his arm; some say it’s strong while others indicated it’s below-average. They all agree it’s not a top tier arm, so should Rutherford move out of center at some point, left field is the more likely destination than right.

Beyond the athletic ability, Rutherford draws rave reviews for his makeup — he helped out at a baseball league for kids with disabilities throughout high school, as Mike Persinger writes — and work ethic. A player who projects to hit for average and power, provide value on the bases and in the field, play with energy, and be a genuinely good dude off the field is a potential franchise cornerstone.

2017 Outlook
The Yankees have not been shy about sending prep draftees to full season ball the year after the draft and Rutherford figures to follow that path. Unlike, say, Gosuke Katoh and Dante Bichette Jr., Rutherford is more than ready for the assignment because he’s a polished hitter, not just a guy with big rookie ball stats. He turns 20 in March and will be one of the youngest players in the Low-A South Atlantic League to open the 2017 season, assuming that’s where the Yankees send him.

My Take
How could you not love Rutherford? There’s very little not to like about him. He’s a true four-tool player — his arm is the only thing that’s lacking — and a good athlete with baseball smarts. His upside is significant and he could be a rare quick moving high school bat. Splitting next season between Low-A and High-A wouldn’t completely shock me. Rutherford has that kind of ability.

The Yankees have a loaded farm system right now. They have several high-end prospects and a ton of depth, and Rutherford has as much long-term ceiling as anyone in the system. There’s a good chance, maybe even a great chance, that at this time next year Rutherford will be the top prospect in the organization, even ahead of the totally awesome Gleyber Torres. It’s been a long time since the Yankees landed a talent like Rutherford in the draft.

Prospect Profile: Dillon Tate

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Dillon Tate | RHP

Background
Tate, 22, was born and raised in Southern California, and he attended Claremont High School in the Los Angeles suburbs. He earned all sorts of baseball and academic honors, and during the summers he trained at MLB’s Urban Youth Academy in Compton.

Baseball America ranked Tate as the 79th best prospect in California and 391st best prospect overall in the 2012 draft class. Their scouting report said he “could develop into an impact prospect” in college, and noted there were “scouts who regard him as a sleeper worth gambling on inside the top 10 rounds this year.”

Despite that praise, Tate went undrafted out of high school and wound up at UC Santana Barbara. He rarely pitched as a freshman — four games and three innings, that’s it — before pitching for the Urban Youth Academy Barons of the California Collegiate League in the summer. Tate threw another 32.2 innings in the CCL. He told Grace Raynor he vowed to himself that summer to become a first round pick after watching the 2013 draft on television.

As a sophomore in 2014, Tate took over as the Gauchos’ closer and pitched to a 1.45 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 17 walks in 43.1 innings. He was among the finalists for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year award as the nation’s top reliever. Tate pitched for Team USA in the summer and was ranked the fifth best prospect on the team by Jim Callis, one spot ahead of James Kaprielian.

UCSB moved Tate into the rotation his junior year and he took over as the staff ace, throwing 103.1 innings of 2.26 ERA ball. He struck out 111 and walked 28. Because he’d thrown more innings than ever before, Tate started to wear down late in the season and the Gauchos had to lighten his workload. He was named a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award as college baseball’s best player.

Prior to the 2015 amateur draft, Baseball America ranked Tate as the third best prospect in the draft class behind Brendan Rodgers and Dansby Swanson. MLB.com and Keith Law (subs. req’d) both ranked Tate as the fifth best prospect available. The Rangers selected him with the fourth overall pick — he was the first pitcher selected in 2015 — and signed him to a $4.2M bonus.

The Yankees acquired Tate and two others from the Rangers in the Carlos Beltran deal at the 2016 trade deadline.

Pro Career
Because he threw so many innings at UCSB last spring, the Rangers took it very easy on Tate following the 2015 draft. They assigned him to the short season Northwest League and Low-A South Atlantic League. He appeared in only six games and threw only nine innings after signing, during which he allowed one run on three hits and three walks while striking out eight.

Texas sent Tate back to Low-A to start this season, and after two dominant starts (10.2 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 16 K), he was placed on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain. It sidelined him for nearly three weeks. Tate struggled when he returned and he never really got going. He allowed 19 runs on 23 hits and seven walks in his first five games and 13 innings back. Yikes.

At the time of the trade Tate had a 5.12 ERA (4.37 FIP) with mediocre strikeout (19.0%) and walk (9.3%) rates in 65 innings. The Yankees moved him to the Low-A Charleston bullpen immediately and had minor league pitching coordinator Danny Borrell work on his mechanics. Tate had a 2.95 ERA (3.62 FIP) with 17.9% strikeouts and 8.3% walks in 18.1 relief innings with the RiverDogs after the trade.

The Yankees sent Tate to the Arizona Fall League after the season for more innings. He had a 3.86 ERA (5.21 FIP) in six relief appearances and 9.1 innings with the Scottsdale Scorpions before reaching his innings limit and being shut down, according to Randy Miller. On the bright side, his small sample size strikeout (29.7%) and walk (2.7%) rates were excellent.

Scouting Report
There are essentially two scouting reports on Tate. The good scouting report has him sitting mid-90s and topping out at 98 mph with his fastball, and backing it up with a killer upper-80s slider and a promising changeup. The bad scouting report has his fastball in the upper-80s/low-90s with a sweepy breaking ball and generally inconsistent secondary pitches.

The good version of Tate existed prior to the hamstring injury. The bad version showed up after his early season disabled list stint. Reports indicate Tate’s stuff bounced back by time he got to the Arizona Fall League, which is promising. His velocity was more consistent in a relief role with the Yankees. That’s for sure. The changeup looked good too.

Even when he’s at his best, Tate’s fastball is pretty straight, so there’s some concern he’ll be homer prone against advanced hitters. The Yankees could try teaching him a two-seamer or sinker, though that’s easier than it sounds. Learning how to locate a pitch that moves unlike anything you’ve thrown before takes time.

Tate is listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 lbs., and he’s very athletic with a repeatable delivery, generally speaking. His tempo was out of whack for much of the year however, and that’s what the Yankees worked to fix. And for what it’s worth, Tate’s a really bright kid who did well in school. The good version of him is really, really good. The bad version might not get out of Double-A.

2017 Outlook
Brian Cashman told Randy Miller the Yankees are planning to move Tate back into the rotation next season. “(His velocity) has been good since we got him. We kind of let him go back to some of his mechanical ways before they made changes with him in Texas, and the velocity came back,” said the GM.

My guess is Tate will open next season with High-A Tampa, and if he does well, the Yankees figure to move him up to Double-A fairly quickly. There’s some thought he could reach the show as soon as next season if the team moves him to the bullpen full-time, but I think it’s way too soon to do that. Give him a chance to start with your coaches and instructors first.

My Take
The Yankees were really smart to buy low on Tate in the Beltran trade. He was a top prospect coming into the season — MLB.com (36th), Keith Law (50th), Baseball Prospectus (59th), and Baseball America (69th) all ranked him as a top 100 prospect in the spring — and the Yankees were able to get him (and two others!) for a rental DH. Had he suffered an arm injury in April instead of the hamstring, things might be a little different, but his arm’s healthy.

Now, that said, the Yankees took a pretty big risk here. Tate may not be fixable — the early returns suggests he’s getting back on track, so hooray for that — and even if he does get back to where he was last year, he still may only be a reliever long-term. A really good reliever, but still a reliever. He was definitely a worthwhile pickup though. The Yankees have a ton of depth in the farm system are in position to roll the dice on a talented player like Tate.

Prospect Profile: Clint Frazier

(Scranton Times-Tribune)
(Scranton Times-Tribune)

Clint Frazier | OF

Background
Frazier, who turned 22 in September, attended Loganville High School in the Atlanta suburbs. He was named Perfect Game National Player of the Year as a junior after hitting .424 with 24 home runs, and playing in the Under Armour All-American Game. The next year Frazier hit .485 with 17 home runs as a senior, and was named Gatorade National Player of the Year and Baseball America High School Player of the Year.

Both Baseball America and MLB.com ranked Frazier as the fourth best prospect in the entire 2013 draft class — and the best high school prospect overall — behind Kris Bryant, Jon Gray, and Mark Appel. The Indians selected him with the fifth overall pick after Appel (Astros), Bryant (Cubs), Gray (Rockies), and Kohl Stewart (Twins) went with the top four picks, in that order. Cleveland bought Frazier away from the University of Georgia with a $3.5M bonus.

The Yankees acquired Frazier, along lefty Justus Sheffield and righties Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen, from the Indians in the Andrew Miller trade at the 2016 trade deadline. “There is excitement about coming to terms for a guy that we targeted. At the same time, there was a pit in your stomach because we knew we were trading really good players,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti to Andrew Marchand after the trade.

Pro Career
The Indians assigned Frazier to their Rookie Arizona League affiliate after signing, and he hit .297/.362/.506 (137 wRC+) with five home runs in 44 games in his pro debut. In 2014, the Tribe sent him to their Low-A Midwest League affiliate for his first full pro season, where he hit .266/.349/.411 (120 wRC+) with 13 home runs in 120 games as a 19-year-old. Frazier was 2.5 years younger than the average Midwest League player.

As expected, the Indians moved Frazier up to their High-A affiliate in the Carolina League in 2015. He hit .285/.377/.465 (147 wRC+) with 16 home runs in 133 games during the regular season — Frazier was 2.7 years younger than the average Carolina League player — then put up a .281/.347/.438 (115 wRC+) batting line with three homers in 22 games with the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League.

Frazier started the 2016 season with the Indians’ Double-A Eastern League affiliate, with whom he hit .276/.356/.469 (129 wRC+) with 13 homers in 89 game before being promoted to the Triple-A International League. He was promoted one week before the trade, after participating in the Futures Game. Frazier went 5-for-21 (.238) in five games with Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate before authoring a .228/.278/.396 (90 wRC+) line with three homers in 25 games with Triple-A Scranton.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘I’ve let other people make me feel pressure.’ And that’s never happened before, I’ve never felt pressure,” said Frazier to Kelsie Heneghan when asked about his mindset after the trade. “You go through that feeling of that you have weight on your shoulders the whole time. Every time I stepped into the box, I was trying to impress people.”

Frazier is a career .273/.353/.444 (128 wRC+) hitter with 54 home runs, a 25.8% strikeout rate, and a 10.0% walk rate in 2,027 minor league plate appearances and 457 games. He’s done that despite being at least 2.5 years younger than the average competition in each league. (He was almost four years younger than the competition for his levels in 2016.) Needless to say, Frazier has appeared on many top 100 prospect lists over the years.

Baseball America MLB.com ESPN Baseball Prospectus
Pre-2014 48th 48th 45th 36th
Pre-2015 DNR 53rd 92nd 89th
Pre-2016 44th 47th 72nd 53rd
Mid-2016 21st 15th 34th 26th

At this point Frazier is a lock for all pre-2017 top 100 prospect lists. Had he followed through on his commitment to Georgia out of high school, he would have been draft-eligible this summer. Instead, Frazier reached Triple-A at age 21, and is now only a phone call away from the show.

Scouting Report
Brian Cashman called Frazier’s bat speed “legendary” after the trade and that has long been the right-handed hitter’s calling card. Frazier has an insanely quick bat and strong hands that generate big raw power. That power doesn’t always show up in games though because he hits the ball on the ground too frequently. Frazier’s ground ball rates in his three full minor league seasons are 41.6%, 42.8%, and 45.0%. Those are a wee bit too high for a high-end prospect. He needs to generate more loft.

Over the years Frazier has worked to tone down his setup at the plate, which featured a lot of unnecessary movement back in the day. He used to waggle his bat, things like that. Frazier has good knowledge of the strike zone and recognizes spin, though he tends to get too swing happy at times and chase out of the zone. It’s not so much an approach problem as it is a “hey, calm the hell down” problem. Frazier plays very hard with an all-out style that will endear him to fans, but sometimes the aggressiveness carries over into his at-bats. Here’s some video from his stint with the RailRiders:

In addition to the bat speed, Frazier is an above-average runner and that allows him to be a weapon on the bases and track down balls in the outfield. He’s played all three outfield spots in his career and has the defensive prowess to remain in center for the foreseeable future. Frazier, who is listed at a stocky 6-foot-1 and 190 lbs., also has an above-average arm that would fit well in right field. Point is, he’s not a one-dimensional player. He contributes at the plate, in the field, and on the bases.

2017 Outlook
Frazier won’t be Rule 5 Draft eligible until next offseason, so he’s not on the 40-man roster and won’t have to be added until after the 2017 season. The Yankees will surely bring him to Spring Training next year as a non-roster player though, and given his talent, Frazier is the kind of player who could force the issue quick and get called up next summer. My guess is he’ll be added to the 40-man and reach the show before being Rule 5 Draft eligible, which doesn’t happen often for high school draftees, even ones selected fifth overall.

My Take
I really like Frazier as prospect, have for a long time, and I was thrilled the Yankees were able to get him (and more!) for Miller. I didn’t think they would be able to pry a prospect of this caliber (and more!) loose for a reliever, even one as good as Miller. The bullpen market really blew up over the last 12 months or so.

Frazier is not without his flaws. He’s going to swing and miss some, and it’ll probably take him some time to get his footing in the big leagues, but the offensive potential is very high, and Frazier is going to play a well-rounded game too. With all due respect to guys like Aaron Judge and Austin Jackson, Frazier is probably New York’s best outfield prospect since Ruben Rivera was in his heyday in the late-1990s.

Prospect Profile: Chance Adams

(Dallas Baptist)
(Dallas Baptist)

Chance Adams | RHP

Background
Adams grew up in Scottsdale and attended Chaparral High School, where he both pitched and played third base. He helped the Firebirds to back-to-back state championships in 2011 and 2012, his junior and senior years. Adams was not much of a pro prospect at the time — Baseball America did not rank him among the top 500 prospects for the 2012 draft — so he went undrafted out of high school.

As a freshman at Yavapai College, Adams focused on pitching full-time and had a 5.40 ERA in 16 2/3 relief innings. He struck out 18 and walked eleven. He was draft-eligible again in 2013 since Yavapai is a two-year school, but he was still not much of a pro prospect, so he went undrafted. Baseball America (subs. req’d) did not rank Adams among the top 500 draft prospects overall or the top 45 prospects in Arizona.

The second year at Yavapai went much better. Adams moved into the rotation and had a 2.88 ERA in 56 1/3 innings with 62 strikeouts and 19 walks. He also managed four complete games. Baseball America (subs. req’d) again did not rank Adams among the top 500 prospects for the 2014 draft and again he went undrafted.

Adams transferred to Dallas Baptist for his junior season and moved into a full-time bullpen role. He had a 1.98 ERA with 83 strikeouts and 13 walks in 59 innings for the Patriots. Baseball America ranked Adams as the 245th best prospect in the 2015 draft class, and the Yankees selected him with their fifth round pick, No. 153 overall. He signed for a $330,000 bonus, just below the $342,000 slot value.

Pro Debut
The Yankees did not screw around with Adams. He signed quickly and they sent him to Short Season Staten Island. After four appearances with the Baby Bombers, the Yankees moved him up to Low-A Charleston. After five appearances with the RiverDogs, Adams was bumped up to High-A Tampa. All told, Adams threw 35.1 relief innings at three levels after signing last year. He had a 1.78 ERA (1.75 FIP) with 45 strikeouts (31.7%) and nine walks (6.3%).

Scouting Report
Last spring at Dallas Baptist, the 21-year-old Adams was a low-90s fastball guy with an inconsistent cutter as his primary secondary pitch. His velocity jumped into the 93-96 mph range in pro ball — he reportedly ran his fastball up to 99 mph with Staten Island — and the Yankees helped him turn the cutter into a true slider. Here’s some video:

Adams made some progress with his changeup after signing, so much so the Yankees will apparently give him a chance to start next season. He’s not particularly tall — listed at 6-foot-0 and 215 lbs. — and getting downward plane on his fastball has been challenge. There’s a decent chance he’ll be fly ball prone going forward, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Adams, who as best I can tell has never had any injury issues, uses a full windup in relief and his control is fine. After spending the spring as a low-90s fastball/cutter pitcher at Dallas Baptist, Adams finished the 2015 pro season as a mid-90s fastball/slider guy with an okay changeup.

2016 Outlook
The Yankees do have a recent history of moving college relievers into the rotation — they did it last year with 2014 sixth rounder Jonathan Holder, for example — so I don’t doubt they’re planning to try Adams as a starter in 2016. Either way, starter or bullpen, he seems likely to begin the 2016 season back with High-A Tampa. Adams might stay there all season if he remains in the rotation. If he works as a reliever, he could zoom up the ladder and possibly even make his MLB debut late in the season. That’s the very best case scenario though.

My Take
I like Adams as a prospect and kinda wish the Yankees would just leave him in the bullpen, but I suppose they do have a ton of upper level relievers, so they have the depth to try him as a starter. Now’s the time to do it, early in his career. I’m interested to see if the mid-90s velocity sticks going forward — probably not as a starter, but who knows — because if it does, it changes his outlook considerably. At 91-93 mph he was interesting. At 94-96 mph he was dominant. The Yankees know how to get power arms to MLB quickly and Adams could be next in line.