While the Major League team is off to a rough start way too early to judge fully into the season, some New York Yankees’ prospects are off to a hot start down on the farm. Aaron Judge and James Kaprielian lead the way early on for best starts to the year and they happen to be the two most important prospects the Yankees could potentially turn to at some point this season.
Aaron Judge: Tasked with the challenge of figuring out AAA pitchers, Judge has mostly risen to the occasion early in 2016. The 6’7″ slugger launced his second home run on Tuesday and has driven in nine runs in 45 at bats. Judge is hitting .333/.360 with a .916 OPS. If he continues at this pace it will equal a trip to the Bronx where the offense has been sputtering and showing its age.
Where to Improve: Contact rates. Judge has struck out 15 times, or exactly one third of his at bats. That ratio might work in the modern game on the major league level, but if Judge is heading back to the dugout every third time in AAA, it could be a major sign he’s not ready for MLB.
James Kaprielian: Two starts, 12 innings, one earned run. That’s been the start to professional baseball for Kaprielian, a 2015 draft pick who many feel already has the tools of a major league pitcher. Kaprielian was drafted as a fast riser and if he continues on his: 12IP, 4H, 1ER, 13K line he has started for A class Tampa, he will be in AAA by the late summer and may possibly play a role on the major league team if he doesn’t face any setbacks.
Where to Improve: Back in the day Brian Cashman used to always talk about how Phil Hughes needed to face as many real life situations as possible before he would be called up. What he meant was some pitchers are so dominant in the minors they need to actually face situations where runners say, reach scoring position or even reach base in the first place. Kaprielian needs to get his reps in and stay healthy.
Diego Moreno: “But what if Andrew Miller misses time with his broken hand? What if Aroldis Chapman gets suspended? Who will replace Adam Warren and Justin Wilson? These are all scenarios critics presented for the Yankees and they were all silly then and continue to be now. The Yankees churn out relievers. Constantly. It’s what they do, it’s their MO and they’ve been doing it for about a decade straight now. Johnny Barbato has stepped up to move into another freak-of-an-arm role and if anyone gets injured look out for someone like Diego Moreno. Moreno, (surprise, surprise) throws hard and is sitting in AAA Scranton.
He’s off to a good start, throwing 6.2 innings and yielding just five hits, two walks and two earned runs to go along with eight strikeouts. Moreno could be one of the first men up if somehow something happens to the depth at the major league level. He also could present an intriguing secondary trade chip in a packaged deal.
Where to Improve: Moreno has already reached the majors and wasn’t very successful. A hot start and as the Yankees’ bullpen eats a lot of innings for its starters, will probably lead to another call up this season. Moreno will need to nail the audition to carve himself a spot on the 2017 roster and could contribute positively in 2016 if he does perform well.
Jorge Mateo: Mateo is still just 20-years-old and teammates with Kaprielian on the Tampa Yankees, the only difference being he’s the only one on this late who almost certainly will not play for the big league club this season. The speedster is continuing to run constantly, stealing five bases early on to compliment a .295/.373/.770 line in 44 at bats. Mateo has 13 hits this season, and while none have left the park, he does have four for extra bases.
Where to Improve: At a certain point, Mateo’s assault on the base paths is going to need to be refined a little. He’s currently stealing at a 60% clip this season well below the 82% rate he had last season when he went 82/99. It’s likely just a statistical bloop from a much smaller sample size, but Mateo has also only faced A caliber catchers. He will also need to work on contact, with 16 strikeouts already, or 36% of his at bats, something you don’t want out of a stolen base threat.
Gary Sanchez: The struggling one of the group, his offensive woes have carried over from Spring Training. Sanchez is hitting: .167/.231 with one home run in 36 at bats. On the bright side? He had a slow start in 2015 as well before having a career year. Sanchez will look to turn up the offense and the power and with just eight strike outs he’s at least not totally lost early on in the year.
Where to Improve: He needs to miss more fielders. Sanchez has received rave reviews on his defense early on, but if the catcher wants to make the final step to the majors, he’s going to have to put up the numbers at the plate, which is where he generates almost all of his prospect hype.