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Part of Brian Cashman’s offseason evaluation of the team revolves around the prospects in the minor leagues, not just free agents he might go after on the market. Determining which of those top players in the farm system could be impactful in 2021 is crucial before considering the money the team might spend on a free agent.
The Yankees' minor leagues are filled with some great upside players, many of whom are pitchers. That is a big area of emphasis for the Yankees this offseason, as multiple starters are currently free agents and decisions need to be made. And top prospects should be in that conversation.
Here are five prospects who could make an impact for the Yanks in 2021:
This is an obvious one after Garcia made his MLB debut and postseason debut at just 21 years old this season. He owned a 4.98 ERA over 34.1 innings with 33 strikeouts to six walks.
Garcia showed that he can be effective in this league, especially if his fastball command is there. He has a nasty arsenal of pitches to work with that keeps hitters off balance, and this was just a taste of what he might be capable of.
Because of that experience, the Yankees will now have to evaluate if Garcia could be a back-end rotation piece with Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ all set to become free agents. Garcia should be a frontrunner for one of those spots.
Schmidt was a standout during Summer Camp before the regular season began, and it was a bit of a surprise when he didn’t make the roster. But when he finally made his MLB debut, it wasn’t too pleasant.
Schmidt pitched just 6.1 innings, giving up five earned runs on seven hits, five walks and two hit-by-pitches. Whether it was the nerves of his first MLB experience or something else, Schmidt didn’t show the Yankees what he was producing during those July weeks heading into the season.
The 24-year-old is just above Garcia on the prospect list, and many believed before the coronavirus pandemic hit and messed up the timing of the season that Schmidt would’ve been the first to break into the bigs. Schmidt will certainly have a chance to prove himself in spring training to make the club outright.
This hard-throwing right-hander should want to redo his MLB debut after allowing three earned runs over 1.1 innings in two games, including a walk-off home run against the Mets.
It wasn’t a good memory, but Abreu has much more to give the Yanks with a high-90s fastball and a tight curve that can either work in the rotation or bullpen. At the moment, the bullpen is where Abreu is projected because of his shaky command. But his stuff is electric enough to really make an impact, and it could be next season at some point.
Looking away from the pitchers, it’s hard to see a prospect making a big impact with the amount of depth the Bombers still have on their roster. But if there is someone who could come up at the end of the season it would be Florial.
He, too, made his MLB debut this season. He collected his first career hit – a single – in three at-bats.
A couple of years ago, Florial projected to be the Yankees’ center fielder of the future. But since rehabbing from a hamate bone injury, he hasn’t been the same hitter. He posted a .237 average in 2019 with High-A Tampa, though his speed and strong arm in the outfield helps to make up for that.
If Florial can prove he’s a more disciplined hitter this season, he could easily come up to the bigs again depending on how the roster shakes out.
Further down the prospect list, Yajure is a pitcher who will be interesting to watch in spring training. He had just three appearances in 2020, but they were solid outings (seven innings total). He let up just a single run – a solo homer – while striking out eight and walking five.
While the Yankees’ farm system is full of guys touching triple digits with fastballs, Yajure’s high is 95 but with command. That is what sets him apart and could make him someone the Yanks trust at the back end of the rotation at some point. As for next year, a bullpen role as a long reliever could be in the cards.