The New York Yankees have definitely hit a rough patch of late: they have gone just 6-16 in their last 22 games, have fallen out of first place in the AL East, and have had to deal with several key players going on the disabled list in rapid succession.
But all hope is not lost! While veteran starters like Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks, Greg Bird, and Tyler Austin recover from their injuries, the Yankees have been forced to recall some of their top prospects to fill the void.
While the results have been predictably inconsistent, there have been some serious flashes of brilliance from the young players that have been recalled, including Tyler Wade, Miguel Andujar, Dustin Fowler, and Clint Frazier. Each of these players still has a long way to go in their prospect growth curve, but the early returns have been encouraging enough to where Yankee fans can’t wait to see more of their vaunted prospect core.
The first prospect to be recalled was Tyler Wade. Wade has had the best season out of any of the prospects, and has the best chance of sticking around with the big club for the rest of the season. A shortstop for most of his life, Wade has played second base proficiently for much of his minor league career, and has recently learned how to play the outfield. After a similar experiment with Rob Refsnyder failed due to Refsnyder’s inability to hit or field consistently at a variety of positions, Wade has become the Yankees’ latest attempt at becoming a Ben Zobrist-type of player.
Wade is hitting just .100 in 7 games, but has shown many ways in which he can help the Yankees. For one, Wade always works the count and gives good at-bats. He has made lots of hard contact, and is arguably the fastest player on the Yankees’ current roster. He has also played all over the diamond, and has shown the ability to come in during clutch situations: his first big-league run tied the game and his first hit gave the club a late-inning lead.
While the team seems to prefer Ronald Torreyes, it is easy to see Wade leapfrogging Refsnyder on the organizational depth chart the next time the team needs a utility call-up.
The Yankees’ next call-up was more of a surprise, as Miguel Andujar made his big-league debut at DH and batting seventh. The hard-hitting third baseman had a debut for the ages, going 3-4 with a walk, a stolen base, and 4 RBI. Andujar is the most raw of the prospects that has debuted this season, and he was promptly sent down despite his epic performance. He has to become a better fielder and cut down on his strikeouts, but Andujar has the bat speed to play in the bigs.
There is no clear way for Andujar to get regular playing time in the MLB right now though, so he was sent back down to AAA where he could get daily reps at third base. Andujar has played just 13 games at the AAA level, but he has hit .275 and is a big part of the Scranton attack. He will be an intriguing prospect to keep tabs on.
The next day, the Yankees recalled outfielder Dustin Fowler from AAA. The lefty is capable of playing all three outfield positions, and has been a leadoff or second hitter in the lineup for much of his minor league career. Fowler’s power has blossomed this year at AAA; he hit 13 homers in Scranton in just 70 games, after hitting just 17 dingers in his prior two seasons. He has top-notch speed as well, which furthers the similarities to the Yankees’ own Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Unfortunately, Fowler’s debut couldn’t have gone any worse. In his first inning, Fowler wrecked his knee while crashing into an outfield wall. He was due to lead off the next inning, but Fowler’s first MLB at-bat will have to come next season.
The Yankees didn’t let Fowler’s injury get them down though, as they recalled their top healthy prospect, outfielder Clint Frazier. Frazier has the most promise and received the greatest hype of any of these prospects, and he found a way to rise above that in his MLB debut on national television in Houston, smacking a double and a home run. He has not gotten a hit since, but has also shown excellent plate discipline and quick bat speed, while playing both corner outfield spots.
The Yankees have also seen many pitchers make their debuts this season to varying degrees of success, including Jordan Montgomery, Tyler Webb, Domingo German, Ronald Herrera, and Giovanny Gallegos. While Montgomery has been one of the Yankees’ top starters, the other young hurlers still have work to do before they are in the Bronx for good. Still, the fact that the Yankees are unafraid to give rookies a shot in the midst of a playoff chase says a lot on how the organization has evolved over the years.
Ultimately, when the injured players return from the DL, the kids will likely retreat to AAA. But if injury strikes again or when September Call-Ups roll around, the Yankees have found some trusty depth players that they can count on, and have given fans hope for the future.