The moves and roster decisions that the Yankees made before the trade deadline and shortly after have been a benefit to the team for the rest of the season in addition to helping the team for years to come.
Their farm system, which was middle of the pack before the end of July is now regarded second best in baseball by MLBPipeline.Com. Brian Cashman was able to get the approval from Hal Steinbrenner to trade away Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran and the Yankees are still about as far back in the wild card race as they were before. In return for those impact players, the Yankees received a total of 11 players (and Adam Warren) including a few elite prospects.
Gleyber Torres and Billy McKinney were the most highly rated prospects received in the Chapman trade. Torres is a shortstop who was recently ranked the 27th best prospect by Baseball America. Torres, who is only 19, is younger than most High-A players. He was hitting an impressive .275 with nine homers in 356 at-bats with the Cubs affiliate before the trade.
McKinney is an outfielder who was drafted in the first round by the Athletics in 2013 before being included in the trade to the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija in July of 2014. He was the Cubs #7 ranked prospect after the 2015 season and at Double-A he was hitting .252 with 31 RBIs before the trade. McKinney might be able to contribute next season or be included in a trade.
An impact player that the Yankees got back in the Andrew Miller trade is Clint Frazier. He is also the player who will likely be called up to the Yankees faster than any of the others they received. The outfielder was the 5th overall pick by the Indians in 2014 and was the 44th ranked prospect in all of baseball after 2015.
Ben Heller is a lower ranked prospect that the Yankees received before the deadline who was called up earlier this month for two games because they needed more pitchers on the roster. He did not make an appearance and could get called up again in September but is not nearly at the level of Frazier.
Frazier has top of the line bat speed and has improved his pitch recognition. He is only 21 and is hitting .250 in his 15 games at Triple-A Scranton. He will likely be called up when the rosters expand in September and is another player who will give the team options going forward because if they trade him he could help get a top starting pitcher.
Another highly rated prospect that the Yankees got back in the Miller trade is Justus Sheffield. He has an above average fastball, but his best pitch is his curveball, and he also had a solid change. He is a 20-year-old pitcher who was drafted with the 31st pick of the first round in 2014 and was the Indians #4 prospect after 2015. He had a 3.59 ERA in 19 starts before the trade and for the Yankees High-A Tampa affiliate he has an excellent 1.04 ERA with 17 strikeouts and four walks in three starts.
Dillon Tate was the major piece that came back to the Yankees in the Beltran trade. The Yankees also got back Nick Green, who is now with Single-A Charleston, and Erik Swanson. Tate was the 4th overall pick in the 2015 draft, who was the best pitching prospect in college baseball last year.
Before he was drafted he had a plus fastball and a reliable slider. He didn’t have much success with Low-A Hickory, the Rangers affiliate, as he had a 5.12 ERA in 17 games (16 starts). It appears that the Yankees will be using him as a reliever, which is what he primarily was in college at UC Santa Barbara. In his two games for Charleston so far he has pitched six innings and allowed one earned run (1.50 ERA) to go with four strikeouts and three walks. He hasn’t showed the success he had in college, but he could turn into a lockdown 8th or 9th inning type of reliever.
In addition to all of the prospects that the Yankees got back, trading away Beltran, releasing Alex Rodriguez and deciding to essentially make Brian McCann the back-up catcher has opened up space for three of the best producing minor leaguers in the Yankees system.
Gary Sanchez was called up on August 3 and was the fist of the Baby Bombers to get called up for good. He signed with the Yankees as an international free agent when he was 16 and had always been more known for his hitting. He is now 23 and has really improved his defense behind the plate.
He was ranked the #2 Yankees prospect after the 2015 season. He deserved to be called up because he had a .339 average, .468 on-base percentage with 10 homers and 50 RBIs for Triple-A Scranton. He has not had a difficult adjustment at all to major league pitching since he has a .360 average in 13 games (50 at-bats) with five homers and 11 RBIs since being called up. He has also impressively thrown out three of the five runners who have attempted to steal on him.
The two Yankees prospects who were drafted by the team that have been called up recently were Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin. Judge and Austin, who are both 24, made their debuts on August 13 and they made history during the second inning. Austin hit a homer just over the wall in right on a 2-2 pitch and then Judge blasted a homer that went off the railing above the sports bar in center and landed on the netting above Monument Park.
On Judge’s first major league at-bat, he became only the third player to homer over the batter’s eye at new Yankee Stadium. (Judge is a mammoth of a human and can be compared to Giancarlo Stanton since Judge is 6-7 and 275 pounds.) The two 24 year olds did something that had not been done in the 120+ year history of major league baseball since teammates had never before homered in their first major league at-bats in the same game.
In Judge’s five games, 18 at-bats, he has seven hits (.389 average), one double, two homers and four RBIs. He has done very well at the plate so far after displaying his power with Triple-A Scranton as he had 19 homers and 65 RBIs and a .489 slugging percentage in 93 games (352 at-bats). Judge, who went to Fresno State, has also made a few impressive defensive plays since being called up. It seems like he is poised to be a middle of the order outfielder for years to come for the Yankees.
Austin is a great story of overcoming adversity because he was a top prospect a few years ago and then had to battle through injuries and underperformance to get back on the map this year. Austin even went unclaimed after being designated for assignment after the 2015 season. The Yankees then claimed him and sent him back down to Double-A Trenton.
The Georgia native was chosen to represent the Yankees in the All-Star Futures Game in 2012 but had to miss it due to an ankle injury. However, he was referred to by Brian Cashman as a mega-prospect in August of 2012, and in three levels, the top being Double-A Trenton, he hit .322 and had a .400 on-base percentage with 17 homers and 80 RBI.
In the 2013 season, Austin had to miss 60 games due to a wrist injury in July. He didn’t really regain his top prospect status until this season as he hit a combined .240 with six homers and 35 RBIs across two levels in 2015. However, everything clicked for him this season at Triple-A, as slowing the game down helped him have a .323 average with 13 homers and 49 RBI and regain his top prospect status.
The first baseman and outfielder has not been impressive as he other two but has still held his own so far. He has a .250 average in his 12 at-bats so far with his one homer. Greg Bird, who had to miss this season due to a shoulder injury, hit so well in the final two months of last season that he will likely be the starting first baseman next season. In 46 games (157 at-bats) he had a .261 average with an impressive .529 slugging percentage after hitting 11 homers and driving in 31 runs. Austin could be a solid back-up first baseman and outfielder.
Bird was a big part in the Yankees making it to the wild card game last season and at 23 next season he will be another key young piece of the lineup. Austin and especially Judge and Sanchez have showed promising signs and look very comfortable in the big leagues. The Yankees made the right decisions in trading the players they did and calling up the Triple-A prospects and many of these players could be part of the next Yankees team that goes deep into the playoffs.