Making sense of Yankees’ surprising farm-system rankings

The numbers look strange at first glance.

A Yankees system that has been hyped to no end, that has produced touted prospect after touted prospect, that is hailed for being seemingly never-ending …

… is the 17th-best in baseball, according to Baseball America.

MLB Pipeline is more optimistic: 10th.

Is it the “graduations” of Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar? The trade-deadline deals depleting the reservoir? Have the Yankees’ prospects taken a step back?

“Little bit of all three,” Baseball America’s Josh Norris said this weekend. “The big hits were Gleyber and Andujar. A guy who was top five or 10 in baseball [in Torres], and Andujar was in the top 100. … There’s also been some steps backward this year.”

Predominantly, those steps backward have been on the pitching end, though Estevan Florial (their second-best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline) and Thairo Estrada (16) have missed time, too. Jonathan Loaisiga (3), Albert Abreu (4), Domingo Acevedo (5) and Freicer Perez (20) have dealt with injuries and not shown the progress the Yankees had hoped.

Loaisiga has shown flashes of brilliance — at the big-league level, too — but also has shown fragility. Abreu, part of the 2016 Brian McCann trade, just made his return to High-A Tampa on Saturday after sitting since late June because of fatigue, according to Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Danny Borrell, who pointed out Abreu playing in the Arizona Fall League and having a shorter offseason. Acevedo hasn’t pitched since July 28 with arm soreness, and Perez has been shut down for the year with a shoulder issue.

“I don’t think it’s been [particularly hard-hit] this year,” Borrell said of the Yankees system. “I think it’s been pretty even. Other than Freicer, they aren’t long-term.

“You’re always discouraged [about the injuries]. You’re more discouraged for the players, though.”

Without Torres and Andujar, what is left is a bottomless system that is thin at the very top, with the exception of Justus Sheffield. It’s a system teeming with prospects who could have been on the doorstep but are still stewing. Florial, perhaps the most exciting youngster, missed two months following wrist surgery and still hasn’t fixed his weakness against breaking pitches. In 58 High-A games, the 20-year-old is hitting .239/.345/.329.

But if the top of the system is not ready yet, the organization’s true strength lies as you keep digging.

“I still think they have one of the deepest systems in baseball,” said MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis, who also acknowledged the injuries. “On the flip side, you look at guys like Trevor Stephan, Clarke Schmidt, Deivi Garcia, you can also point to guys who [have] taken a step forward.”

The lower minors is where the Yankees separate themselves, with a new class of young Yankees whose fastballs are breaking radar guns. Garcia threw a seven-inning perfect game for Tampa last week, striking out 12. The 19-year-old from the Dominican Republic throws 92 to 95 mph and stands just 5 feet 10 but “pitches like he’s 6-5,” Borrell said.

Luis Gil, who was acquired from Minnesota for outfielder Jake Cave in March, is “just your typical 94-100 guy,” Borrell said with a laugh. “The swing-and-miss rate on his fastball is elite.”

There is no Torres or Andujar awaiting, and the farm-system rankings reflect that. But the Yankees won’t fall too far.

“They have so many guys who throw mid- to upper 90s, it’s kind of insane,” Norris said.

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