Not to inundate you with more prospect posts, but it just happens to be that time of year when everything else has slowed down and the rankings start rolling in. Anyway, today Keith Law unveiled the final installment of his 2017 prospect rankings, numbers 20 through 1. If you’re an ESPN insider you can find the full rankings here. If you’re not an ESPN insider, then the content is behind a paywall, so you can’t. Maybe ask a friend who is.
Law had six Yankees on his top 100 list, with four in the top 30. Here they are:
4. SS Gleyber Torres
22. OF Blake Rutherford
27. OF Clint Frazier
28. RHP James Kaprielian
44. OF Aaron Judge
88. LHP Justus Sheffield
You’ll notice that Jorge Mateo has fallen off of the list since last season, which has a lot (a.k.a. everything) to do with his performance last season. As I’ve noted before though, the raw talent is still there for Mateo, so we’ll see if he can put a few things together and maybe jump back into the top 100 next season, or even mid-season.
A few quick thoughts on the list. Based on everything we know about Gleyber Torres, that #4 spot seems to be much deserved, especially after the way he raked in the AFL this past fall. The three players ahead of him were #1. Red Sox OF Andrew Benintendi, #2. Braves SS Dansby Swanson, and #3. Mets SS Amed Rosario. Remember, MLB.com has Torres ranked higher than both of those shortstops, so there’s no clear consensus that any of them are better than the other.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Blake Rutherford? 22?!”, and if you are then you’re not alone. Law appears to be VERY high on Rutherford, who at this time last year was still in high school. That fact alone seems to defy all logic. Imagine going from being a high schooler to the 22nd best prospect in all of baseball in under a year. I can barely wrap my head around it. But Rutherford did a lot between then and now for Law to be able to justify that ranking. After getting drafted in June, the kid mashed in Rookie ball, slashing .382/.440/.618. Even before that, he was considered to be in the top 10 draftees by several lists, including Law’s, prior to the draft. The main reason he slipped to the Yankees at pick #18 was because of his age (19 as a high schooler is pretty old) and because he wanted top 10 draft pick money, which a lot of teams apparently weren’t willing to give him. The Yankees saw their chance and took it though, and so far it seems to be panning out pretty well, even though it will be years before we see B. Ruth(erford) get MLB playing time, if he does at all.
The next thing you’re probably thinking is, “James Kaprielian? 28?!”, and if you are then once again you’re not alone. Kap ranked #87 on Law’s list last year, and since then he’s played in all of 10 games due to a flexor tendon injury back in April. Before the injury though he was dominating at High A ball, but the important thing is that when he made his return via a stint in the AFL, Kap was right back to where he left off in terms of his stuff, hitting 97 mph on the radar. His fall league numbers weren’t great, but it was good to see him back at it and feeling good after missing nearly the whole season. That’s a great sign that even this early in his career he can bounce back from an injury like that. Law’s ranking is an optimistic one, but he sees Kap as having a very high ceiling. Top of the rotation type stuff. Obviously I’m pulling for all of the Yankees prospects, but as a fellow Armenian American I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pulling for Kaprielian just a little bit more than the rest of the guys. If you’re looking for even more of a reason to root for him as well, check out this video that delves into his backstory growing up as a kid with a mother battling cancer. Really good, motivating stuff.
In all seriousness though, Law puts a ton of work into his rankings, and his opinions and value judgments on these guys is obviously worth way more than mine. He takes a lot of factors into account and he has access to way more information about baseball and players than most of us could ever dream of. It’s exciting that he’s so high on a lot of these young Yankees.