The Yankees have a number of highly touted prospects, but what makes the organization's farm system one of the best in the game is its depth. With that in mind, let's discuss some second-tier prospects who might see some time with the big league club this season...
The Yankees have conducted a five-player competition this spring to find the team's No. 4 and No. 5 starters. Adams was not part of the competition, but he did enough last season and during the spring while in MLB camp to be considered an option down the road.
Adams, the Yankees' No. 8 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, recorded a 2.33 ERA across 127 1/3 innings at High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton in 2016, to go along with a 0.90 WHIP, 10.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. This spring, Adams tossed four innings and had a 2.25 ERA in big league camp. It would not be surprising if he continues to climb the rotation ladder as the season progresses, making him a potential call-up in case of injuries within the MLB rotation.
Fowler put together one of the best seasons for a Yankees minor league position player in 2016 while with Double-A Trenton. In 574 plate appearances, he hit .281 with a .311 OBP and .458 SLG. Fowler laced 57 extra-base hits, drove in 88 runs and stole 25 bases.
This spring, Fowler, No. 9 on MLB Pipeline's Yankees rankings, has demonstrated he might continue the growth at Triple-A. He accumulated 37 plate appearances with the Yankees this spring and slashed .254/.324/.387 with two triples and three stolen bases.
Fowler has surpassed Mason Williams on the depth chart and if the Yankees need a replacement due to injury to any of the four MLB outfielders, Fowler could be the choice.
The only concerning thing about Higashioka getting time at the major league level would be if it was as a result of an injury to Gary Sanchez. Not that anyone wants to see expected backup catcher Austin Romine get hurt, but losing him to an injury would be less costly to the club than missing Sanchez.
Higashioka, considered a "defensive" catcher for much of his career, saw his offensive production surge in 2016 well beyond anything he had displayed to that point. Higashioka clubbed 24 doubles and 21 home runs across 416 combined plate appearances with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Higashioka's contributions last season impressed the Yankees to the point that they added him to the 40-man roster to protect him from being grabbed in the Rule 5 draft.
This spring, Higashioka has put together a .989 OPS in 29 plate appearances.
Montgomery, No. 13 on MLB Pipeline's Yankees rankings, is a left-handed hurler with four solid pitches who gets batters to hit ground balls. That is the perfect combination for Yankee Stadium and with less than two weeks until the regular season begins, Montgomery has pushed himself into the discussion for one of the final rotation spots.
Part of Montgomery's addition to the rotation mix has to do with the performance of the original grouping of which no one has overwhelmingly impressed the Yankees' coaching staff. However, Montgomery has pitched well this spring -- 10 1/3 innings, 3.48 ERA, 0.87 WHIP -- and is coming off an impressive 2016 season. In 139 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last season, Montgomery generated a 2.13 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. The southpaw struck out 8.7 hitters and walked 2.9 batters per nine innings pitched.
Montgomery is making his first start of the spring Thursday and if it is a good one, he is likely to earn one more start before the regular season. If Montgomery fails to crack the rotation as camp breaks, he could still be retained as a reliever. Regardless, Montgomery seems set to pitch in the big leagues at some point in 2017, considering the incredibly shaky rotation after ace Masahiro Tanaka.
Wade has been very impressive this spring after the club asked him to work on becoming a super-utility type in the mold of Chicago Cubs player Ben Zobrist. Wade has played five different positions this spring, but it's the work with his bat that has opened eyes.
Wade, No. 12 on MLB Pipeline's Yankees prospect rankings, spent the 2016 season playing shortstop and second base for Trenton. In 583 plate appearances, he hit .259 with a .352 OBP and a .349 SLG. Wade also stole 27 bases in 35 attempts.
With Didi Gregorius out with a shoulder injury until the beginning of May, Wade is now being considered as the option to play shortstop for the Yankees on Opening Day after having a fine spring -- .369/.395/.444 in 38 plate appearances. I'm not sure I see Wade nailing down the starting gig, but it goes to show how impressed the team is with Wade's progression.
In my opinion, it is entirely possible Wade breaks camp as a utility player, with Ronald Torreyes, last season's utility infielder, taking Gregorius' place at short. Wade's speed, versatility and maybe more importantly, his left-handed bat, could be a nice 25th man addition to the Yankees roster.