Yankees OF Brett Gardner has been very impressed with the talent and work ethic of outfield prospects Billy McKinney and Dustin Fowler this spring.
"I think they're both 22," Gardner told Dan Martin of the New York Post, accurately, on Wednesday. "They're both better players than I was when I was that age, I'll tell you that."
While Gardner has noticed the potential both prospects have to suceed in the majors, the veteran is also aware of the reality of playing in the MLB.
"It's all there for them," said Gardner, entering his 10th season in the majors. "I don't know what that means for them five, 10, 15 years down the road. It doesn't mean they're going to all play 10-plus years in the big leagues. Maybe they'll get 20. Who knows?
"They have the ability and they're on top of all the prospect lists. That's great and everything, but what it comes down to is just playing."
McKinney was one of the players acquired by the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman trade with Chicago last season. In 123 games between New York and Chicago's Double-A teams, McKinney hit .246 with four HRs, 44 RBIs and 97 strikeouts. In 14 ABs this spring, he is batting .429 with two HRs and five RBIs.
Fowler was selected by the Yankees in the 18th round of the 2013 draft. He appeared in 132 games with Double-A Trenton last season and hit .281 to go along with 12 HRs, 88 RBIs, 30 doubles and 15 triples. Fowler has 23 ABs in spring training and is hitting .304 with two triples and three RBIs.
"I try to take as much from him as possible because our games are very similar," Fowler said about Gardner. "We're both smaller guys that have a little bit of power and play defense and run the bases [well]. If I could emulate his game, it would be great - because it's definitely working for him."
Gardner still has two years left on his contract, along with a team option for 2019. Yet with the veteran constantly in the middle of trade talks, McKinney or Fowler could eventually take his spot in the Yankees' outfield. Yet that has not stopped Gardner from passing along whatever tips and information he can to the young prospects. In fact, Fowler said he's gone to the 33-year old this spring to help improve his bunting.
"I was never highly ranked as those guys are," said Gardner. "I was toward the other end of the list. I was more of a suspect and less of a prospect. But just like the draft, people either exceed expectations or don't live up to expectations - or fall somewhere in the middle. It'll be a lot of years before you know if any of these those guys fulfill their potential and what kind of careers they're going to have. There's no way to predict it. But all of them have a bright future ahead of them."