The Next Wave

The Yankees have proven to have some significant depth up and down their minor league system. With 13 of their Top 20 prospects either already reaching Double-A or likely to reach the Double-A level at some point in 2015, however, a lot of their top talent is creeping up towards the big leagues. Here are some names at the lower levels that could replace these top prospects in the coming years.

Catcher: Gary Sanchez -- Miguel Flames -- Nationally questions continue to arise regarding the actual prowess of Sanchez behind the plate and surrounding his overall maturity but what there is little doubt about is the impact offensive potential he brings to an otherwise light-hitting position. The same question marks on the defensive side of the ball seemingly will follow Miguel Flames too as he gets set to begin his career in 2015. The Venezuelan native doesn't have quite the same plus arm strength either just yet so perhaps there will be even more doubt clouding his long-term potential to stick at the position. But just like Sanchez, however, and built very much like Sanchez, Flames enters the professional ranks as a hit-first backstop with a lot of power potential so he will get every opportunity to stick there, especially considering his limited mobility that makes moving him to another spot a difficult proposition. Still, it's the bat that has the chance to be special, so much so that he could slide in nicely among the top prospects after Sanchez has graduated to the big leagues.

First Base: Greg Bird -- Drew Bridges -- Bird has risen among the top overall prospects the past two seasons on the strength of his overall offensive approach, consistent hitting ability, and plus power potential to all fields. He has also ascended to the top in part due to his on the field production. Bridges, standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 230 pounds, is already built like Bird, bats left-handed like Bird, and has both the ultra-patient approach and burgeoning plus power potential like Bird. What the 20th round pick in 2013 doesn't have yet, however, is the consistent on the field production and that hasn't allowed him to rise to the top of the prospect rankings yet. He still has to prove capable of the same degree of production but the entire package is a recipe for similar success. Don't be surprised if Bridges becomes Bird-like one day and becomes a top prospect.

Second Base: Rob Refsnyder -- Ty McFarland -- Refsnyder, a former college outfielder, was known for his all-out hustle style of play, his tireless work ethic, and his ability to consistently put the ball in play. McFarland, this year's tenth round pick and former college third baseman, enters pro ball with a lot of the same qualities. There are distinct differences, including being a bit bigger and batting left-handed, so the comparison might not be 100 percent congruent, but with a similar knack for consistently barreling the baseball he too brings above average offensive potential to the middle of the diamond. Like Refsnyder he is going to have work extremely hard to make the defensive transition to second base but don't be surprised if McFarland, like Refsnyder, continues to hit his way up the minor leagues and shoot up the rankings.

Shortstop, Jorge Mateo -- Wilkerman Garcia -- Mateo is a very unique case in that he is one of the extremely young prospects with limited experience who has already ascended to the top of the prospect rankings and it's because of his special tools. Matching up tools like his is extremely difficult, not only in the organization but even all around baseball. Keeping that in mind, matching up his eventual potential successor requires finding somebody who simply can be considered a top prospect at the position someday and that could be Wilkerman Garcia, one of the top International free agent signings this year. The switch-hitter from Venezuela is simply not tooled-up like Mateo. He's an average to slightly above average runner, doesn't have quite the same power potential, and his arm isn't exactly the same plus tool either, but lauded for his advanced hitting approach at a very young age, the entire game could allow him to become one of the top prospects at the position in the coming years.

Third Base, Miguel Andujar -- Dermis Garcia -- Andujar is widely regarded as the top third base prospect for the Yankees due to his combination of impact offensive potential and natural defensive abilities. Dermis Garcia right now seems best equipped to follow Andujar in the same mold. Standing 6-foot-3 already at just 17 years old, he has even more power potential but also has the chance to simply out-grow the position as he continues to mature. However, with soft hands, plus arm strength, and solid range right now, the former amateur shortstop could stick at the position if he employs an Andujar-like work ethic and drive. Throw in a similar patient approach at the plate and an ability to use the whole field, it wouldn't be surprising to see Garcia one day be considered the top third base prospect in the Yankee organization.

Outfielders Aaron Judge, Jake Cave, and Tyler Austin -- Kendall Coleman, Juan De Leon, and Jonathan Amundaray -- Just like the case with Mateo, matching somebody up with Aaron Judge, who stands 6-foot-7 and has both an advanced hitting approach and a rather short swing for such a big player, proves extremely difficult on any scale. However, while only standing 6-foot-4, physically and approach-wise, Kendall Coleman might be the closest fit here. Outside of the obvious difference batting left-handed, he too has shown an ultra-patient approach at the plate, a shorter swing for a bigger guy, and the kind of thunder that screams immense upside too. Staying healthy is priority number one for Coleman and if he can do that then there's a chance he could develop into a Judge-like prospect in the coming years.

De Leon and Cave are very similar despite batting from different sides of the plate. Both are 'hitter-ish' outfielders with an extremely high energy level, a knack for running down balls in the outfield despite not being prototypical centerfielders, and speed that is more above average than plus. And just like Cave who is starting to see his power materialize the higher he has climbed the minor league ladder, De Leon might not be a power bat at the lower levels either but has intriguing long-term power potential. However, it's the special makeup that he possesses and innate hitting ability that compares favorably to Cave.

Amundaray is arguably the closest comparison to Tyler Austin at the lower levels because of his tapered upper-body, excellent internal game clock, intriguing above average power potential, and innate pitch recognition, but perhaps more than anything it is his advanced ability to use the whole field that stands out. And like Austin, Amundaray has shown in the early going that he has the ability to hit right-handers very well. He could prove to fit in right after Austin in right field in the coming years as one of the top outfield prospects.

Starting Pitcher, Luis Severino -- Alexander Vargas -- Just as the case with Mateo and Judge, finding a comparison with the electric tools that Luis Severino has on the mound is not an easy task. It usually takes a couple of years for a young arm to emerge with the power that Severino has developed but Vargas, this year's top International free agent pitcher signing by the Yankees, could be best equipped to one day succeed Severino as the top overall pitching prospect for the Yankees. Just 17 years old and standing 6-foot-4 and a solid 205 pounds, he's already bigger than Severino. But while he won't sit in the mid-to-high 90s yet like Severino, Vargas has shown an ability to sit in the 92-94 mph range and the secondary pitches, Severino's other main strengths, are already a bit more developed at similar points in their careers. But perhaps more than anything it's Vargas' innate strike-throwing ability and advanced feel for pitching that could, along with a bit more power, help him become the second coming of Severino over the next couple of years.


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