What happened to the top 2018 Yankee prospects?
Five years ago today, an article appeared on the YES Network’s website. Baseball America had published its annual list of the top 100 prospects in baseball, and the YES Network broadcast that news to the fandom that might have missed it in BA. Only the Atlanta Braves had more players appear in the top 100 than the Yankees, though three other clubs managed to match New York’s plethora of prospects.
Five years later, with five Yankees making the cut in the 2023 version of BA‘s annual rundown, it’s worth taking a look back to see how their 2018 counterparts fared in the last half-decade.
Gleiber Torres (No. 6 in the Top-100)
The crown jewel of the Yankees’ 2018 system, Torres is also far and away the most successful of the half-dozen New York prospects who appeared in the Top-100. After his unbelievable 2019 season, it looked like Gleyber might turn into one of baseball’s elite young stars. Rough 2020 and 2021 campaigns knocked the bloom off the rose, however, though Torres definitely bounced back in 2022. As of now, he looks to be pretty ensconced as the club’s second baseman for 2023.
Estevan Florial (No. 38)
There is a proud tradition of “prospect fatigue” among the Yankee fanbase over the last decade or so (see: Montero, Jesús and Sánchez, Gary for a couple of examples of young players who seemed to be in the Yankee system forever). But wow. Here we are in 2023 with Florial still in the system, though I don’t think anyone is putting him in the upper tier of the club’s prospects anymore. Once upon a time though, Florial played in the Futures Game (2017), and his tantalizing tools had a lot of people dreaming big. He’s managed to sporadically appear in the Bronx (63 PA), and he’s at least theoretically in the mix as a left field option for the Yankees this season.
Justus Sheffield (No. 41)
If Torres was the cream of the crop overall, Sheffield was the headliner among the hurlers in the Yankee system headed into 2018. Acquired in the deal that sent Andrew Miller to Cleveland at the 2016 trade deadline, Sheffield was coming off a successful 2017 that saw he reached Double-A in his 21-season. New York dealt him to Seattle as part of the package that brought James Paxton to the Bronx in November 2018. He has spent parts of each of the past five seasons in the big leagues, pitching to a 5.47 ERA in 186 innings.
Miguel Andújar (No. 59)
For a hot minute, it looked like Miggy Mantle could be a core part of the Yankees for years. BA was bullish on him heading into 2018, and he got his chance with New York after immigrants felled Brandon Drury. Andújar never looked back. By the time 2018 came to a close, he’d hit .297, clubbed 47 doubles, and drove in 92 runs. That led to a second-place finish in AL Rookie of the Year voting behind some Ohtani guy. Unfortunately, that was the high point for Andújar as a Yankee. New York designated him for assignment last September. Andújar ended up in Pittsburgh, but they too have since DFA’d him.
Albert Abreu (No. 77)
Along with Torres and Florial, Abreu remains in the Yankee system, though his current tenure is his second, after the club traded him to Texas for Jose Trevino last April. New York originally acquired him in the deal that sent Brian McCann to Houston after the 2016 season. Last year was undoubtedly Abreu’s best, pitching to a 125 ERA+ in 25.2 innings, and he figures to be a piece of the 2023 bullpen puzzle.
Chance Adams (No. 81)
Baseball America might have been the high ones on Adams headed into 2018. FanGraphs had Adams penciled in as only the fifth-best pitching prospect in the Yankees’ entire system, behind Freicer Perez and Luis Medina in addition to Sheffield and Abreu. Adams made his major league debut as a Yankee in 2018, and threw 33 innings through the 2019 campaign, to the tune of -0.9 bWAR. New York dealt him to Kansas City after the 2019 season. Adams tossed 8.2 innings for the Royals in 2020, but that seems to have been his swan song, as Adams has not pitched again in the big leagues and Kansas City granted him a free agency in November 2021.
So there you have it. Five years after the six made the cut, Torres and Florial have remained with the Yankees throughout, with the former flashing glimpses of stardom. Abreu is back with the club for a second time, after going to Texas to bring All-Star and Platinum Glove backstop Jose Trevino to the Bronx. The Yankees packaged Sheffield out to bring “Big Maple” James Paxton to town. Miguel Andújar looked like a world-beater at first, but found himself on a downward trajectory after 2018. Finally, though Chance Adams made The Show, he was unable to stick, as a Yankee or as a Royal.
The Yankees have five players in this season’s Baseball America Top 100. Once again, a middle infielder headlines the crop, this time shortstop Anthony Volpe. The hope for the Yankees and the club’s fans is that this year’s complement of prospects pans out to a greater extent than their counterparts from five years ago, as only Gleyber has managed to carve out a consistent role in the big leagues, and even that looked in question as recently as two years ago.