1B, Mike Ford: Critics and fans alike get enamored with super sluggers at power-hitting positions like first base and that allows more of the hit-first type players to fly under the radar, and this former Princeton standout absolutely falls into the above average hitters category. Not known for plus power, he was hitting .371 with the high-A Tampa Yankees this season when an injury put him on the shelf for the subsequent three months.
When he returned in mid-July he got out of the hot, sweltering heat of the Florida State League and wound up hitting .280 with 15 extra-base hits and 35 walks in 42 games for the Trenton Thunder in the Double-A Eastern League. He walked more than he struck out too and his .890 OPS over three minor league levels in 2016 isn't exactly a pipe dream to extrapolate as his potential peak big league numbers someday should he get there.
He often gets overlooked by his perceived limited power potential and rather smallish 6-foot-0 stature but the guy can flat-out hit with the best of them and his left-handed swing and at least average or better 'now' power could be maximized with the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. His 2016 injury-shortened season is absolutely one of the more underrated seasons put together this year. and he should not be overlooked as potential big league help someday
OF, Alexander Palma: Like Ford, Palma's overall numbers [.265, six home runs] this year don't exactly jump off of the page, especially in comparison to the innumerable standout seasons put together by the general masses in the Yankees farm system. However, it was just a little over a year ago that the now 20-year old was considered one of the real up and coming hitters in the farm system before he struggled to the tune of a .202, one home run showing in low-A Charleston last year.
His season last year was bad enough and he was buried a bit too much entering Spring Training this season that he began the year in Extended Spring Training before being sent back for a second dose of the South Atlantic League. After showing no power whatsoever a year ago [he had just nine extra-base hits in 81 games in 2015], Palma really began driving the ball once again this year.
He laced 17 doubles in just 62 games and went deep six times. Had he gotten to Charleston earlier or had his EST numbers counted he could have easily approached 30 doubles and double-digit home runs, and that not only would have put him in some elite hitting company overall in a very deep Yankees farm system but would have done so at a very young age. He's back on the radar after a strong 2016 showing.
OF, Mark Payton: Numbers-wise there really shouldn't be anything underrated about the season this former University of Texas standout had in 2016. He hit .282 with ten home runs and eleven stolen bases over three minor league levels. In fact, he was just one of five players in the Yankee farm system to have double-digits in both categories and he ranked second among them in batting average [Polo was first at .289].
However, while his numbers put him in some pretty elite company from a production standpoint [he was also among the runs scored, RBIs, and walks leaders] in the entire farm system, he is still rarely every discussed among the top prospects in the organization. It's true that there is a limited ceiling with his game due to his smaller stature [5-foot-7, 180 pounds] and that helps him fly under the radar but perhaps it's time to consider him more than a potential 'sleeper' candidate given the production he has been putting up in recent years.
RHP, Adonis Rosa: The Palma-Ford pitching version of the Yankees, this smallish 6-foot-1, 170-pound right-hander doesn't exactly stack up physicality-wise in comparisons to some of the other high-end arms the Yankees have. However, especially in a Ford-like situation, Rosa has something most others only dream of; consistent on the field production. The Dominican native posted a combined 2.19 ERA between short-season Staten Island and low-A Charleston, and did so after a solid season in short-season Pulaski a year ago [7-2, 3.93 ERA].
He doesn't turn many heads with mid-90s heat nor does he have the wicked breaking ball a lot of elite pitching prospects possess, but what he does have is uncanny control of three big league pitches, all of which show better than average movement. Considering he can throw strikes with his eyes closed too -- he walked just 15 batters in 78 innings this year -- there are some apt comparisons to current big leaguer Jonathan Holder style-wise that can't be ignored.
His time split between two levels allowed his numbers to get a bit overlooked this year and his stuff does pale in comparison to the elite arms the Yankees can tote out to the mound down on the farm, but not many can bring the solid combination of both. This 21-year old has 'sleeper' prospect written all over him after yet another great year.
RHP, Matt Wotherspoon: This former 34th round pick out of the University of Pittsburgh has been [and continues to be] buried on the Yankees pitching depth charts despite having very good stuff and the on-the-field results to match. He was nearly brilliant in 2016 once again, posting a combined 6-2 mark with eight saves and a 2.50 ERA between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton.
He has been even better the later it has gotten in the season too, posting a 1.09 ERA over his last ten appearances, and it's not like he doesn't have stuff either. He will sit in the low-to-mid-90s with his fastball and he has quality secondary pitches as well. He gets quickly lost in the Yankees impressive bullpen depth down on the farm but it's through no fault of his own.
Perhaps the 'king of the underrated', if he continues to pitch like he has been over the past two years he will eventually force the Yankees to give him looks. Now not only Triple-A tested but a real standout too, the next logical step has him sneaking up on big league hitters soon.