By JED WEISBERGER
Yankees fans were excited – and well they ought to be – after MLB Pipeline’s 2018 Top 100 was announced Saturday evening.
Six prospects from the Yankees’ loaded system – infielder Gleyber Torres (No. 5), outfielder Estevan Florial (44), left-hander Justus Sheffield (48), third baseman Miguel Andujar (65), right-hander Albert Abreu (74) and right-hander Chance Adams (75) – were named by the committee selecting the Top 100.
Will all six become at least better-than-average major-leaguers? The projections state yes, but you never know.
We have a very good idea with Torres, who hit .287 (58-for-202) in 55 games between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton before a rotator cuff injury ended his season prematurely. His fielding and base-running were both superlative.
In addition, we have a good idea about what Miguel Andujar has to offer. Also splitting his season between Trenton and Scranton, the soft-spoken native of San Cristobal, D.R., batted an impressive .315 (151-for-522) with 36 doubles, 16 homes and 82 RBIs. He also played five games with the Yankees, with four hits in his debut.
“Andujar’s bat is certainly there,’’ said an NL East scout. “If he gets his defense in order, the Yankees could have a star for 10 years at third base. If not they may have to find another position for him.’’
Adams, who was downgraded by some for control issues that showed up after a promotion from Trenton to Scranton – yet still finished 15-5, 2.45, with a strikeout/walk ratio of 135-58 in 27 starts – is virtually ready. Yes, his change-up may need some refinement, but he spots it well.
Torres, Andujar and Adams will all be given a chance to claim a spot in the Yankees’ 2018 plans. Torres must show his injury has healed, Andujar must show he can play third base satisfactorily and Adams must prove he can change speeds and get big-league hitters out.
All three have jumped the Double-A hurdle and can be rated as legitimate MLB prospects. A player reaching Double-A knows part of his game is MLB ready, but also knows he still has work to do. An MLB career beckons if that work is completed, an independent league career is on the horizon if it is not.
This is why Double-A is the level of Minor League Baseball that separates what scouts call the “prospects and the suspects,’’ as what is done in Class-A is not as important as what is navigated at higher competition levels.
While we feel Florial, Sheffield and Abreu have the potential to be outstanding major-leaguers, they need to be seen at the Double-A level before they are judged.
Florial, who burst onto the scene with an impressive effort split between the Yankees’ two Class-A stops – Tampa and Charleston – before finishing the season with a cameo playoff appearance with Trenton in the Eastern League Championship Series.
The native of Port Au Prince, Haiti, one of the few players from that nation, showed off plenty of toils in both hitting .298 (125-for-420) on his two stops, with 13 homers, 57 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. Plate management needs to improve, as 148 strikeouts in 2017 reveal.
Florial will be watched closely at Trenton on 2018.
Southpaw Sheffield, who turns 22 in May, has a fastball that can reach 97 – usually sitting 93-95 – and a hard slider and changeup. He is also working to improve his curve.
He was 7-7, 3.12 in 2017, making 19 starts between Trenton and the Gulf Coast Yankees. He missed some time with an oblique injury. He also was hit by a line drive in the left quad in the Arizona Fall League.
This will be a key season for the native of Tullahoma, Tenn. He is projected to start at Trenton, and, if he dominates, will quickly move to Scranton. Consistency in command could use a little polish.
Abreu, 22, a righty who was obtained by the Yankees in the Brian McCann trade, missed a lot of time in 2017 with a muscle issue in his right shoulder and only threw 53/1 innings. He has 99 mph with his fastball, more of a thrower than a craftsman on the mound at this point.
He was 2-3, 3.36 with Tampa, Charleston and the Gulf Coast Yankees in 2017. We would not be surprised to see him start at Tampa and make his way to Trenton when the weather warms. He throws a harder and softer curve but will need to refine his slider.
We are as excited as any fans about these prospects, but we will withhold judgment on Florial, Sheffield and Abreu – or any other prospect – until they successfully traverse the Double-A level.