In the past when I have done this exercise it was a fantasy. Oddly enough that fantasy is starting to become a reality. For several years now I have been looking three years ahead and predicting who would be the starting lineup for the Yankees if they let all of the non-homegrown contracts expire, and traded and released the rest, leaving only prospects that are currently in the system to fill the gaps. This year the Yankees are actually close to making that a reality. My most recent iteration for the 2018 team already has several “hits,” including Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Robert Refsnyder, Greg Bird, Luis Severino, and Dellin Betances.
It’s a very exciting time to be a farm system fan, and for that reason I am more eager than ever to unveil my prediction for the 2020 team.
Catcher – Gary Sanchez – The guy is a star, this is pretty self-explanatory.
Backup – Kyle Higashioka – I think Higashioka forces the Yankees to give him a shot when he runs out of options and they have to choose between him and Romine. They’ll trade one or the other, but I think they keep Higashioka because he has more upside.
First Base – Greg Bird – I think he’ll come back strong from the shoulder injury this year, and by 2020 he will be a mainstay in the lineup. He’s one of the only sources of left handed power in the lineup, so he’ll be an important piece going forward.
Second base – Jorge Mateo – He’s already taken reps at second, and he’ll be the perfect complement to Torres. They’ll be one of the better up the middle combinations in baseball, both offensively and defensively.
Shortstop – Gleyber Torres – This one is obvious. He’s a top 5 prospect in all of baseball, so he’ll most certainly get his chance to start at shortstop.
Third Base – Miguel Andujar – He’s finally knocking at the door. An excellent fielder with the bat breaking out, the Yankees may soon have their third baseman of the future. There will be several guys competing to steal his spot though with Dermis Garcia and Nelson Gomez coming up behind him.
Centerfield – Blake Rutherford – With declining speed, Brett Gardner will not be very useful when his current contract expires. Meanwhile, I expect Rutherford to tear through the minors quickly. 2020 will be his year, a potential star.
Left field – Clint Frazier – One of the best outfield prospects in the game, he should be settling into a role in left field by 2020, hopefully in an all-star level capacity.
Right field – Aaron Judge – This behemoth has the chance to be one of the biggest, most powerful, and yet one of the most athletic right fielders in the game if he can cut down on his strikeouts. 2017 will be the beginning of his learning curve, and hopefully by 2020 he is a productive, homerun hitting right fielder.
Backup 1B/DH – Chris Gittens – It’s close between him and Mike Ford, but I think Gittens has more power potential and ultimately beats him out as the backup first baseman/DH.
Infield utility/OF – Tyler Wade – He’s becoming incredibly versatile, with experience at SS, 2B, and in the OF. He’s got speed and some developing power, and is a strong defender at every position.
Backup OF – Dustin Fowler – A tremendous athlete with a great hit tool and developing power, Fowler makes the perfect fourth outfielder as he can both hit, and play any position in the outfield. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that he could even be a starter in this group if one of the other guys falters. There will be plenty of competition to go around though, with guys like Billy McKinney, Trey Amburgey, and Estevan Florial all in the system currently.
Backup IF/OF – Wilkerman Garcia – The Yankees are training their middle infielders to play outfield and every position in the infield. This makes them insanely valuable. They’ll likely do the same with Garcia. I predict he breaks out either this year or next, and then moves very quickly up the ladder. He’ll have some stiff competition with Thairo Estrada, Abiatal Avelino, Hoy Jun Park, Solak, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Kyle Holder around.
Ace – James Kaprielian – All indications are this guy is the real deal. Mid-90’s fastball that reaches the upper 90’s, and a repertoire that already looks major league ready.
Starting Pitcher #2 – Luis Severino – I will bet that he majorly improves his numbers in 2017 and becomes a mainstay in the rotation going forward.
Starting Pitcher #3 – Chance Adams – The guy has unbelievable stuff, maybe even better than Kaprielian
Starting Pitcher #4 – Justus Sheffield – He makes this a pretty small rotation height wise, but he’s as good as pitchers three or four inches taller than him.
Starting Pitcher #5 – Jordan Montgomery – Lefty with a mid-90’s fastball and a deep major league repertoire. I’ll take that as my fifth starter any day.
Note: The system is rich with starters right now, Acevedo, Tate, Abreu, Dietrich Enns, Freicer Perez, Domingo German, and many, many others could hold spots in the rotation.
Closer – Dellin Betances – We know this guy, he’s a monster.
Setup man – Domingo Acevedo – Acevedo is a bit like Betances, except with better control earlier in his career. He’ll be a monster as a reliever.
Relief Pitcher #3 – Dillon Tate – Reaching the upper 90’s as a starter, there’s no telling how hard Tate will be able to throw as a reliever. I say he reaches triple digits. That and his slider is all he’ll need to be a late inning guy.
Relief Pitcher #4 – Albert Abreu – Another upper 90’s fireballer who routinely reaches 99 mph, all he needs to do is make his inconsistently plus curveball into a consistently plus one, and he’ll be pretty filthy as a reliever.
Relief Pitcher #5 – Freicer Perez – Yet another monstrously tall man, this bullpen might be one of the tallest of all time, as well as the hardest throwing. He too can reach 99-100 mph as a starter and has great control for a guy his size.
Relief Pitcher #6 – Domingo German – Yet another guy who tops out at 99, has good control, and has a killer changeup and developing slider. Yikes.
Relief Pitcher #7 – Jonathan Holder – He might be the slowest throwing pitcher amongst all of these relievers, but he’s also likely to be the most reliable. He’s more of a lower to mid 90’s guy who has multiple secondary offerings to get guys out. Might be a perfect swing man type for the Yankees.
Relievers are the hardest to predict. Johnny Barbato, Bryan Mitchell, Adam Warren, Chasen Shreve, Giovanny Gallegos, Chad Green, Ben Heller, J.P. Feyereisen, and countless others will be competing for spots.