Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Six Yankees' prospects set to go to Arizona Fall League

Today MLB released preliminary rosters for the upcoming Arizona Fall League. As always, the league is loaded with high-end minor league talent from all over the sport, and some of that high-end talent is coming from the Yankees' system.

The best prospect from the Yanks' farm that will be heading to the desert is Estevan Florial. At first I was a little surprised Florial would be sent to the AFL, given he's just 19 years old and doesn't have too much time under his belt at the High-A level, but clearly the Yanks want to give him some exposure to a league that is considered to be more advanced than High-A (although baseballs are much more prone to flying out of the ballpark in the desert than in the Florida State League, for obvious reasons). The Yankees have sent several power bats to the Fall League in recent years (Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, to name a few) and Florial has a chance to put up some big-time numbers this fall if he can make enough contact.

Two of the Yanks' best pitching prospects, Justus Sheffield and Dillon Tate, will head to Arizona as well. This is Sheffield's first time in the Fall League, while Tate was there last year. Both pitchers are being sent to Arizona to make up for lost time due to injury: Sheffield's oblique and Tate's shoulder have sidelined the two for a chunk of the season.

Next up are infielders Thairo Estrada and Kyle Holder. Estrada is currently with Double-A Trenton and having the best season of his career, and will once again be Rule-5 draft eligible. With the Yankees looming Rule-5 roster crunch it will be interesting to see if the Yanks' protect Estrada; they have Ronald Torreyes doing a superb job at the Major League level in his utility role, and Tyler Wade is on the 40-man as well. My guess is ultimately Estrada will be protected.

Holder was having a dreadful first three months of the season at High-A Tampa, went on the DL, came back in mid-July and has hit very well since (although a near-.400 BABIP doesn't hurt). He's still unquestionably the best defender in the system and one of the best defensive shortstops in minor league baseball. Holder is set to start 2018 in Trenton, so giving him some at-bats against more advanced competition will help him prepare for next season.

Chris Gittens is the sixth member sent to the Fall League and overall his 2017 has been pretty solid at the High-A level. There's power and lots of strikeouts, and as a right-handed hitting first baseman Gittens being able to hit for power is a must as he climbs the minor league ladder. Also noteworthy: as a college pick in 2014 Gittens will be eligible in the Rule 5 draft, but I'll be surprised if the Yankees ultimately protect him this off-season.

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