You might remember Christopher Crawford from our draft-day coverage and more recently from him helping to explain what the Yankees got in return for Aroldis Chapman. If not, he writes about prospects and draftees for Baseball Prospectus and ESPN. On Monday, he took time to answer questions we had about the Yankees' rebuilt farm system.
What did you think about the Yankees' various July trades?
I think the Yankees did very well. This was already a system on the rise, but these moves they've made over the past week have done a lot to address not only the quality in the system but the quantity. Some might accuse them of prospect hoarding, but I'd say it's just a case of a team realizing the current roster isn't up to par and it's time to address the players who can remedy those ails in the short and long term.
Where would you have ranked the Yankees' farm system two weeks ago -- and where do you rank it now?
Before the trades, I would say they were a top-12 system, maybe a top-10 if you're feeling generous. Now, it's assuredly one of the top-five systems in baseball, and if one was forced to come out with a ranking right now, I'd put them in the top-three. That's a heck of an improvement.
Where would you rank the various additions within the system?
I'd say that Gleyber Torres is the new no. 1 prospect; you just don't see shortstops with this well-rounded of a game very often. Clint Frazier would be at no. 3 for me, right behind Aaron Judge. Justus Sheffield would sneak into the middle of the top 10, and Billy McKinney and Dillon Tate will both be competing for back-end placements as well.
The Mike Trout comparisons are crazy, but how good can Frazier be?
He can be pretty darn good. The bat speed is enormous; and it gives him the ability to not just hit for average but to generate enough speed to hit for power despite his smallish frame. He's also seen a significant improvement in his pitch-recognition abilities and is more willing to get on via walk. My only concern is defensively. He's a quality runner, but he's not a center fielder long-term, and his arm is only average. That means left field is a likely landing spot, which put a lot of pressure on the hit tool. He should be up for the task, though.
What's the elevator pitch on Justus Sheffield?
Sheffield is the brother of Dodgers first-round pick Jordan Sheffield, but you wouldn't guess they were related with how different they are pitching wise. While Jordan is a right-hander with an electric fastball and wipeout slider, Justus is more of a feel guy; he shows an above-average fastball, but the best pitch is a curveball that flashes plus. The change also flashes in that range, although it's mostly solid-average to slightly-above. He can throw strikes with all three pitches, and that makes him a high-floor, medium-high ceiling prospect.
And how about Dillon Tate?
Tate was the best pitching prospect in college baseball last year, showing a plus-plus fastball and a slider that would show that kind of ability in glimpses as well. Unfortunately, he hasn't shown anywhere near that stuff as a professional; the fastball has been clocked in the high 80s, and the slider isn't generating the same kind of tilt it did in college. It could be injuries or fatigue (he was mostly a reliever in college), but this is very much a lottery ticket at this point. A high paying one, but a lottery ticket nonetheless.
Biggest takeaway from the Yankees' trades?
I'd say the biggest takeaway is that the Yankees are committed to building something similar to what they built in the mid-'90s. I'm not comparing what they have now to that group, but let's remember that when the Yankees were a dynasty, it was with homegrown talent with the occasional big name to address depth. It may be frustrating to some fans who want them to spend big money on every player, but in the long run, the Yankees are setting themselves up to be a very good team, and we all know they won't be afraid to spend big when the big name free agent that fits becomes available.