This past week, MLBPipeline.com posted the annual MLB Top 100 Prospects List. Just like every year there is always some kind of controversy on who was left off or who made a crazy jump to the top of the board and what not. However the focus of this year so far has been the number of prospects the Yankees and Braves have.
The two teams missed the playoffs in 2016 and watched October baseball from their couches at home, but that may not be for long. Both the Braves and the Yankees lead the way with seven prospects each in the Top 100, more than any other team.
This is not by mistake.
The Braves have not been a successful ball club in terms of wins and losses for quite some time now. It is more than apparent that they are a rebuilding club and their fan base has accepted this in the hopes for a brighter future. In fact, not much usually goes right for a team that ends with 93 losses, but there has been a few bright spots in the past few years. John Coppolella took over the helm at the end of the 2014 season after Frank Wren was fired and he immediately started to clean house. He shipped off Jason Heyward and Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel netted a few prospects and some big league pieces while Heyward brought back Shelby Miller from the Cardinals.
Fast forward to the offseason going into the 2016 campaign and Coppolella continued his work trading Andrelton Simmons to the Angels for a package surrounding Sean Newcomb who is now listed in their Top 100 at #80. Not too long after, Coppolella traded Shelby Miller to the Diamondbacks in what seems like a lopsided deal for Dansby Swanson who was the first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft and Ender Inciarte whom the Braves have already locked up for the foreseeable future. Swanson is listed as the fourth overall prospect in the 2017 list.
However, Swanson and Newcomb are the only two of the seven who were acquired via trade which speaks great volumes about the immense work the Braves have done in the Draft. Thanks to a more aggressive approach the Braves scooped up Kolby Allard (53), Mike Soroka (78) and Ian Anderson (86) who all project to be big league pitchers. They have done well on the International market as well signing Ozzie Albies (11) and Kevin Maitan (32). These two middle infielders have scouts drooling over their tools. It’s obvious the Braves have ramped up their efforts to improve their farm system using every facet they could and now they will try to groom their young players while complementing them with veterans such as Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey.
The Yankees have had a similar approach to improving their farm system but are from an entirely different situation than the Braves. The Bronx Bombers are expected to be contenders year in and year out for the coveted World Series trophy. Their fans have been spoiled for quite some time now being able to host many parades in the streets of Manhattan. Cubs fan would laugh at the notion but a World Series "drought" since 2009 is actually a big deal for the Yankees. After having missed the 2013 playoffs and watching their rival Red Sox bring home the trophy the Yankees went out and did what they knew how to do best, spend big.
They signed catcher Brian McCann, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, right fielder Carlos Beltran and starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka totaling just under $438 million dollars to these four players. The Yankees were all in and had the World Series or bust mentality going into the 2014 season. They again failed to make the postseason and the critics started to tear apart the team for spending that much money to miss the playoffs again. The 2015 season was ended by Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros in a one-game winner take all Wild Card game held in the Bronx. Then a monumental thing happened in 2016 that went against everything the Yankees have stood for, they sold at the deadline.
General manager Brian Cashman went to ownership and told them that he thought they should take advantage of the sellers market and try to capitalize on their assets as it didn't look promising for the squad to reach the playoffs. Owner Hal Steinbrenner was very hesitant to give the thumbs up on any deal in the hopes the team could bounce back. But a sweep of the Yankees down in Tampa stole any hope Steinbrenner had and he gave Cashman full permission to start the rebuild. He went right to work shipping off Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs, Andrew Miller to the Indians, Carlos Beltran to the Rangers and Ivan Nova to the Pirates netting 11 players.
Among those 11 was shortstop Gleyber Torres from the Cubs who is now listed as the number three prospect overall. In the Andrew Miller deal with the Indians the Yankees received outfielder Clint Frazier (24) and left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield (79). Those three prospects are the only three to make it on the Top 100 prospects list for the Yankees as players they acquired via trade. Next, the Yankees started to spend money more wisely and avoid giving up draft picks to sign players with the qualifying offer attached to them. Outfielder Blake Rutherford (37), outfielder Aaron Judge (45) and pitcher James Kaprielian (48) are the last three first round draft picks the Yankees have had. Rounding out the Yankees' seven is shortstop Jorge Mateo who was signed in 2012 and is the lone representative on the Top 100 of the Yankees International efforts. Brian Cashman has done excellent work to improve the system and to also deny gutting it for players such as Jose Quintana.
The Yankees' top 3 prospects are garnering a ton of attention as they have the ability to become superstars at the Major League level. Gleyber Torres the Arizona Fall League MVP at the age of 20 had a scout dub him as "a potential superstar with the ability to hit .280 with 20 home runs." Clint Frazier is an athletic freak who has shown his impressive strength in videos from his weight trainings this offseason and Cashman told the media that the Yankees love his "legendary bat speed." Blake Rutherford, the Yankees first round pick of the 2016 Draft at number 16 was widely regarded as the best bat in the whole class, thanks to signability concerns he slipped to the Yankees and they are ecstatic. Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline said of Rutherford: "big upside. Everyday center fielder, maybe elite-level."
The Braves top 3 are not anything to laugh about either. Swanson is a spot behind Gleyber and was the first overall in 2016. Ozzie Albies has been asked about by every team looking to do business with the Braves as a speedy middle infielder with the ability to hit. Kevin Maitan at the young age of 16 has already found himself as #32 overall and the seventh-best shortstop prospect.
The Yankees got the edge in the better farm thanks to the fact that they have more prospects in the top 50 (6) than the Braves (3) have. It'll sure be fun to see how these two farm systems grow and develop.
Just remember, prospects are not guaranteed and we have all seen top prospects fail from time to time.