TAs the Yankees have fully embraced the youth movement, it should be no shock that the club will rely on rookies in its effort to return to the postseason. We'll cover five rookies -- including a couple of sleepers -- that may make significant impacts for the Yankees this season.
At various times last season, it seemed Adams was a candidate to be brought up to the big leagues. However, when the opportunity arose, the Yankees went in a different direction. In 2018, Adams sits comfortably atop the Yankees' minor league depth chart, making it difficult to envision the club going elsewhere the first time they need a sixth starter. Of course, that could change if the Yankees land a starting pitcher via the trade market or through free agency.
Adams, 23, throws four pitches with a fastball that sits in the low-mid 90s and a solid slider. His biggest issue is his command. In 115 1/3 innings at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Adams walked 3.4 runners per nine innings, though he was not hurt too much by it because he allowed batters just a .197 batting average.
Adams has won at every level (31-7 overall minor league record) and touts 2.33 ERA in 313 total innings. Even if the Yankees add to the rotation before the regular season begins, I believe Adams will make 10-15 starts for the Yankees simply based on the injury history of the current starting five.
Andujar's performance last season has brought him squarely into hype-mode for Yankees fans.
Andujar made two brief trips to the big leagues last season, providing a glimpse of his offensive upside. The Yankees believe his defense -- long his ball and chain -- has come around enough give him a chance to prove he deserves to be in the big leagues.
The notion of Andujar, who turns 23 in March, starting at third base was first evident when the Yankees traded Chase Headley at the beginning of the offseason, and became clearer when they decided not to bring back Todd Frazier. The Yankees hope Andujar's .317/.364/.502 slash line in 250 plate appearances at Triple-A translates to the big leagues. If Andujar demonstrates in spring training that he can provide adequate defense at the hot corner, the presumed offensive production will be welcomed at the bottom third of the lineup come Opening Day.
Carroll has blossomed into one of the top relievers in the Yankees' system. After a short stretch at High-A Tampa to start the 2017 season, Carroll moved on to Double-A Trenton and recorded a 2.66 ERA with a 11.2 K/9 rate in 47 /13 innings across 26 appearances. Carroll, another in a long line of hard-throwing right-handed relievers in the Yankees' system, then dominated in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 18 batters in 11 2/3 scoreless innings.
While Carroll, 25, could be labeled as a sleeper for this exercise -- he is not on the Yankees 40-man roster and will likely begin the season in Triple-A -- he is talented enough to surpass others in the system. If the Yankees need an arm badly enough and Carroll is dominating Triple-A batters, the 40-man roster is not going to get in the way of his promotion.
McKinney, the 24th pick in the 2013 draft, turned things around after a lackluster 2016 season and certainly boosted his standing with the Yankees once he was promoted to Triple-A. In 224 plate appearances with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, McKinney roped 13 doubles, three triples and 10 home runs to the tune of an .887 OPS.
McKinney is another sleeper pick because others seemingly block him in the system at the moment. As an outfielder, McKinney would have to jump a few players to get consistent playing time. However, the Yankees had McKinney taking reps at first base in the Arizona Fall League last season, making him a potential injury replacement for Greg Bird. Bird has missed significant time over the last couple seasons, and while last year's injury was a fluke, it would not be shocking for Bird to miss games with another malady in 2018.
McKinney has competition here as well with Tyler Austin still on the Yankees' roster. That said, McKinney hitting from the left side (same as Bird) may give him an edge over the right-handed hitting Austin considering the Yankees' predominantly right-handed hitting lineup.
During the offseason, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman admitted that the club was ready to call Torres, the prize of the team's system, up to the big leagues last summer. Unfortunately, Torres suffered an elbow injury to his non-throwing arm while making a headfirst slide. Torres required Tommy John surgery, but is 100 percent ready for spring training.
Before the injury, Torres posted an .863 OPS marks at both Double-A (139 PA) and Triple-A (81 PA). Torres showed some pop -- 23 of his 58 hits went for extra bases -- and he possesses decent speed (seven stolen bases last season, and 20+ in his previous two seasons).
Torres will be competing for the second base job in spring training along with Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade. The question with Torres is whether or not the Yankees believe he requires more seasoning in Triple-A. Of course, there is a service time benefit to giving Torres a couple of weeks in the minors, so the Yankees may use "seasoning" as a reason to start him at Scranton. For a talent like Torres, it would be hard to argue with the Yankees were they to go that route.
Regardless of when he comes up, Torres seems ready to contribute in a big way.