The Yankees had a serious infusion of shortstop talent in 2013. Last year at this time five out of the six people on this list were either injured or not with the organization. Better yet, even Cito Culver, the second best shortstop in the organization now, was not worth mentioning at this time last year. The Yankees in one season went from absolutely nothing at shortstop to having reasonably good depth at the position. That’s not even the best part though.
They have two more players coming stateside from the DSL in 2014 who will take the depth from good to phenomenal. They won’t be described in depth here because they both have yet to play an inning in the United States. Suffice it to say both are major talents. Most have heard of Yancarlos Baez, the high profile signing in 2012. He’s 6-foot-2, switch hitting, and will be 18 to start 2014. Most, however, haven’t heard of Jorge Mateo, the 18 year old who dominated DSL pitching with nine doubles, six triples, and seven homeruns while stealing 49 bases in just 64 games last year. He has a similar scouting report to Abiatal Avelino with slightly less speed and slightly more power. He is going to be a big deal next year. Adding those two to this list next year will make the depth significantly better.
1. Abiatal Avelino, “Abi” – SS, 5-foot-11, 186-pounds, RHB, 18 – Stole 28 bases in just 51 games this year, and had a .303/.381/.399/.780 batting line. He dominated the GCL and held his own in Staten Island last year. If he can improve his power output he is a star in the making. He hit nine doubles and five triples this year, and will look to expand on that in 2014. He has elite athleticism and enormous, soft hands. He makes good contact and when the ball is hit on the ground the opposition has trouble throwing him out. Defensively he is a whizz. He is quick, has soft hands, and has an excellent arm. Everything about this kid screams top 100 prospect. I’d be surprised if after next season he hasn’t hit that mark. Highest level: Short Season Staten Isand. Will start 2014 at: Low-A Charleston. Estimated arrival: 2017-2018. Ceiling: Perennial All-star shortstop, 50 steals per year, 10 homers per year, gold glove defense. Floor: Pinch runner, defensive replacement. Likelihood of reaching ceiling: intermediate.
2. Cito Culver – SS, 6-foot-0, 190-pounds, RHB, 21 – Last year Cito was not even on my top 50, this year he was top 25. It’s amazing how much can change in a year’s time. Cito Culver changed the trajectory of his career in 2013. He was on a downward spiral, culminating in his horrific 2012 season. Then in the offseason he abandoned switch hitting and began to hit only right handed. It took an adjustment period but towards the end of the season he completely turned his career around. He ended the season with nine homeruns, and hit .248/.322 overall. Where the surprise came was towards the end of the season when he caught fire. After about 15 games of being on fire he was promoted to High-A Tampa, where he continued his dominance. In 16 games with High-A Tampa, he hit .355/.394/.484/.878. This is leading many to believe he is on the brink of a breakout season in 2014, including myself. He’s still an excellent defensive shortstop with a great arm, and he has above average speed. He doesn’t have the tool set of Avelino, but if he starts to kick his game into another gear he could be a bigtime coup for this system. Highest level: High-A. Will start 2014 at: High-A. Estimated arrival: 2015-2016. Ceiling: All-star, 20+ homers, .280+ average, 20+ steals, gold glove defense. Floor: Flop. Likelihood of reaching ceiling: Low.
3. Tyler Wade, “T-Wade” – SS, 6-foot-1, 180-pounds, LHB, 19 – Overall he ended the season .291/.412/.349/.761. He had 11 SB to just one CS. He did hit 10 doubles on the season. He’s got good size and room to fill out, so it’s not inconceivable that he could develop some power as time goes on. He’s quick and he is an excellent contact hitter. For where they got him in the draft, he was a big time pickup. Only time will tell if he can develop into a top prospect, but he has all the tools at his disposal to make a run at it. He’s an above average fielder already who should only get better. The key to his development will be his bat. Highest level: Short Season Staten Island. Will start 2014 at: Short Season Staten Island. Estimated arrival: 2019. Ceiling: 30 SB, 7-8 HR, .300+ average. He could increase that ceiling as he develops if he fills out though. Floor: bust. Likelihood of hitting ceiling: intermediate-low.
4. Thairo Estrada, “Estrada-sphere” – SS, 5-foot-10, 154-pounds, RHB, 17 years old – I can hear John Sterling’s homerun call now… “He hit one to the Estrada-sphere.” Given his slight build and game geared towards contact and speed, it’s unlikely that we will hear that homerun call too often. That said, at 17 years old and already stateside, Thairo Estrada has a long time to develop. Scouts like his gritty play and his swing. He is an above average fielder and a good contact hitter. He had 11 doubles, five triples, and two homeruns his first year stateside, which isn’t half bad. He also stole seven bases while being caught twice. Expectations are not high on Estrada, but he has an advanced approach already and a mature attitude and game. If things break right, he could be a major player in this system in due time. He already hit .278/.350/.432/.782 as a 17 year old in rookie ball. Highest level: Rookie GCL. Will start 2014 at: Rookie GCL or Staten Island. Estimated arrival: 2019. Ceiling: 10 HR, .290+ average, 20 SB, solid defender. Floor: bust. Likelihood of reaching ceiling: low.
5. Carmen Angelini – SS, 6-foot-2, 185-pounds, RHB, 25 – Looks there’s no sugar coating it. Angelini is 25, he’s had several injuries, missed an entire year in 2012, and is not a guy you would describe as “toolsy.” He is an average defender, he has an average arm, has an average hit tool, and his patience at the plate is… you guessed it, average. He does have one tool working for him, and that is power (relative to others at his position. He did hit nine homeruns this season in addition to 17 doubles and two triples. His season line in 98 game (the most he’s played since 2008) was .252/.306/.385/.741. It was his best season by a long shot, and his healthiest too. That being said, he is a complete long shot to make the majors. This year will be big for him, as it’s basically his last chance to prove himself. After that he has a whole line of shortstops ready to surpass him. Once he made it to Double-A last season his statistics really came back down to Earth. That said 2013 was a huge rebound season for him and there is some renewed hope that he could still be a useful MLB player. I’m skeptical, but only time will tell. Highest level: Double-A. Will start 2014 at: Double-A. Estimated arrival: 2015. Ceiling: Every day shortstop, 15+ homeruns, .250/.320 average. Floor: busts as soon as 2014. Likelihood of hitting ceiling: Long shot.
6. John Murphy – SS, 5-foot-11, 185-pounds, LHB, 22 – Murphy was the Yankees’ 6th round pick in 2013. He was taken out of Sacred Heart University, where he hit .367/.442/.565 with 29 stolen bases, 4 HR, 13 doubles, and eight triples. He was also highly successful in the Cape Cod League in 2012, which is a league we know the Yankees love to scout. He struggled in 2013 for the Yankees, hitting just .173, but he is a solid fielder and I would expect his numbers to improve quite a bit next season if he gets some opportunities to play. Highest level: Short Season Staten Island. Will start 2013 at: Low-A or High-A. Estimated arrival: 2017. Ceiling: 10+ homeruns, 20+ SB, .300+ average. Floor: Bust. Likelihood of hitting ceiling: Long shot.