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RailRiders 2019: Reese Riding Farm System Re-boot

April 4, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. — He blends in well with the rest of staff at the minor league complex, trading a suit or business casual ensemble for Yankees attire, shorts and sunglasses.

Surrounded by his lieutenants and coaches, senior director of player development Kevin Reese divides his time to watch both of the games going on that day. There’s a lot to keep an eye on at the complex these spring days, not the least of which are the platoons of athletes roaming the grounds.

A group of pitchers playing catch in the outfield here, another bunch of arms throwing bullpens there. The catchers are off doing their own drills in an area between field No. 3 and field No. 4. There’s infield practice, outfield practice and base-running practice. There’s batting practice on a field and batting practice in cages and everyone runs to wherever they’re going. It’s carefully coordinated, but at its height, it’ll feel like it’s all going on at once. By the time the games begin that day, it feels calm.

“We’ve got 175 players (in camp),” said Reese, adding he knows most everybody’s name. “We have another 115 or so staff. We continue to grow.”

Growing is a good way to describe the Yankees farm system. Baseball America ranked it third best in the game in 2017, when Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge, Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams highlighted a top 10 so packed that not even Miguel Andújar could steal a spot.

Two years later, the Yankees are No. 20 on Baseball America’s list, with zero top 100 prospects. Judge, Torres, Andújar and Frazier graduated. Sheffield leads a long list of prospects traded away the past two seasons to bolster the big league roster, headlining a package sent to Seattle for James Paxton last offseason.

The system’s re-booting. The talent core is further from the big leagues than it’s been in recent years.

“I think in the time I’ve been here, we’ve had a lot of different, here in the organization, we’ve had a lot of different makeups of our prospect lists, where we’ve had some really high-end upside guys that you’ll see on the top 100 lists in all of baseball, and then we’ve had some years where we’ve made a lot of trades and there wasn’t a whole lot of anything,” said Reese, who is in his 18th season with the Yankees, including 12 as a scout or front office guy.

Of major scouting outlets Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs.com, none had the same group of players ranked as the top five in the system. Outfielder Estevan Florial and starter Jonathan Loaisiga made each list — Florial the top prospect in three and Loaisiga

No. 1 in Baseball Prospectus’ book. Right-handed starters Mike King, Albert Abreu, Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt and Roansy Contreras; outfielders Everson Pereira and Antonio Cabello; and catcher Anthony Seigler all claimed spots in someone’s top five.

King, the injured RailRiders ace, is No. 5 for Baseball America, but No. 29 for Fangraphs. Adams is No. 10 for Baseball Prospectus, but he’s way down at 20 with MLB Pipeline.

“And now, I think the general perception is that it’s really hard to rank a top 30 or even a top 50 because there’s just a lot of guys,” Reese said. “And for me, that’s more fun because there’s just more to work with. Hats off to scouting department, international and domestic, bringing guys that have some talent and hopefully we can polish around the edges and turn out some good big league players.”

There’s talent and there is also uncertainty.

Another good season could go a long way to adding polish to some prospects’ names. Garcia, a 19-year-old who reached Double-A striking out 12.8 batters per nine innings last year, climbs as high as No. 3 for Fangraphs.

Another bad one could wear down that shine. Nineteen-year-old Luis Medina hits triple digits with his fastball and complements it with two above average secondary pitches — the makings of a possible No. 1 overall prospect. If can’t lower his 11.5 walks-per-nine innings average, however, he’ll tumble even lower than the No. 14 spot he occupies for MLB Pipeline.

“We’re trying to improve each player and help them reach their individual season, but at the end of the day, that’s how we judge ourselves, is who’s progressing and who’s not; try to look back on it and see what we would have done differently at times,” Reese said. “A lot of times, there’s not a ton of time to do that. You’re onto the next. New draft guys coming in, instructional league and all that stuff. The beat goes on.”

Contact the writer:

cfoley@timesshamrock.com;

570-348-9125;

@RailRidersTT on Twitter

 

Reese’s pieces

Check out some of Yankees senior director of player development Kevin Reese’s thoughts on what he’s seen from the farm system so far this year.

On who’s impressed him:

■ “(Outfielder) Isiah Gilliam has had a good camp. He’s done some things over across the street that have been good.”

■ “(First baseman) Chris Gittens kind of looks healthy and is swinging the bat really well.”

■ “(Outfielder) Trey Amburgey has had a good major league camp across the street. He’s in the mix to be in Scranton.”

■ “Overall, there’s a lot of really good arms here. I don’t think that’s been any secret in the system. Some guys that have picked up some (velocity) and guys that are working on developing second and third pitches that are making strides. So, there’s been more good, more pleasant surprises than ‘What the heck happened to this guy?’”

On Deivi Garcia, the 19-year-old, 5-foot-9 pitcher who had a 2.55 ERA, 12.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 across three levels last year

“What don’t I like about Deivi is a better question, because there’s not really anything I don’t like about him. He’s super mature. He’s got good stuff. He knows how to pitch. Usually, there’s — one of those things are missing. Like some guys have really good stuff and they just rear back and throw the ball. But he has a feeling for how to set up hitters, he has a feeling for how to keep himself strong over the course of a game as opposed to just come out and throwing it out. He made a couple outings or at least one in Double-A last year and he had no fear. Usually it’s like this guy might not be ready for it, or how will he handle this situation? And the pitching guys had no issue with him being anywhere and he rose to the occasion every time out.

On starter Chance Adams, who had a 4.78 ERA in his second trip through Triple-A last season

“I think he was frustrated last year with his performance. Again, he’s a good worker and he’s a good athlete. I expect him to bounce back. He got his first taste of the big leagues. Everybody that ends up coming back down to Triple-A always probably wishes that it could’ve gone better. And then it’s just kind of what are you going to do about it? He’s working. Every time I see him in the weightroom, he’s getting after it. Doing his pregame routines and things, he gets after it. So, hopefully that’s a good indication of him bouncing back.

 

Top prospect lists

A collection of Yankees prospect ranking lists:

 

The Times-Tribune

1. OF Estevan Florial

2. RHP Michael King

3. RHP Jonathan Loaisiga

4. SS Kyle Holder

5. RHP Deivi Garcia

6. RHP Clarke Schmidt

7. RHP Trevor Stephan

8. IF Thairo Estrada

9. RHP Roansy Contreras

10. RHP Luis Medina

11. RHP Albert Abreu

12. RHP Nick Nelson

13. RHP Garrett Whitlock

14. LHP Stephen Tarpley

15. LHP Phillip Diehl (traded to Colorado on March 23)

 

Baseball America

1. OF Estevan Florial

2. RHP Jonathan Loaisiga

3. OF Everson Pereira

4. C Anthony Seigler

5. RHP Michael King

6. RHP Deivi Garcia

7. RHP Roansy Contreras

8. OF Antonio Cabello

9. RHP Albert Abreu

10. RHP Matt Sauer

11. RHP Luis Medina

12. OF Josh Stowers

13. RHP Clarke Schmidt

14. RHP Chance Adams

15. RHP Anthony Garcia

 

MLB Pipeline

1. OF Estevan Florial

2. RHP Jonathan Loaisiga

3. RHP Albert Abreu

4.RHP Deivi Garcia

5. RHP Clarke Schmidt

6. C Anthony Seigler

7. OF Everson Pereira

8. RHP Trevor Stephan

9. OF Antonio Cabello

10. RHP Roansy Contreras

11. RHP Nick Nelson

12. RHP Michael King

13. RHP Luis Gil

14. RHP Luis Medina

15. C Josh Breaux

 

Baseball Prospectus

1. RHP Jonathan Loaisiga

2. OF Estevan Florial

3. OF Antonio Cabello

4. RHP Deivi Garcia

5. OF Everson Pereira

6. RHP Luis Gil

7. RHP Michael King

8. RHP Roansy Contreras

9. RHP Clarke Schmidt

10. RHP Chance Adams

 

Fangraphs.com

1. OF Estevan Florial

2. RHP Jonathan Loaisiga

3. RHP Deivi Garcia

4. CF Antonio Cabello

5. RHP Roansy Contreras

6. RHP Albert Abreu

7. CF Everson Pereira

8. C Anthony Seigler

9. RHP Luis Gil

10. RHP Clarke Schmidt

11. RHP Luis Medina

12. CF Kevin Alcantara

13. RHP Trevor Stephan

14. RHP Osiel Rodriguez

15. RHP Nick Nelson

 

RiverAveBlues.com

1. OF Estevan Florial

2. RHP Jonathan Loaisiga

3. C Anthony Seigler

4. OF Everson Pereira

5. OF Antonio Cabello

6. RHP Deivi Garcia

7. RHP Roansy Contreras

8. RHP Albert Abreu

9. RHP Michael King

10. RHP Luis Medina

11. RHP Chance Adams

12. RHP Clarke Schmidt

13. RHP Trevor Stephan

14. Thairo Estrada

15. RHP Nick Nelson