The countdown to Thursday, the official reporting day for Yankees pitchers and catchers, is underway. Activity has already started at the team complex in Tampa, Fla., and anticipation is kicking into high gear for the upcoming season.
In the third installment of our Spring Training preview package, "Prospects to Watch," MLB.com will take a quick glance at some of the exciting young talent that manager Joe Girardi and his staff will be evaluating at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
OF Aaron Judge: The organization's No. 1 prospect as rated by MLBPipeline, Judge has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton for his hulking stature (6-foot-7, 275 pounds) and his powerful bat. Judge led all Yankees Minor Leaguers with 20 homers last year. Judge turns 24 in April and is slated to begin the year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but he could make his big league debut at some point after the All-Star break.
RHP James Kaprielian: The Yankees' first-round pick in 2015, Kaprielian made his professional debut after signing out of UCLA. He posted a 3.97 ERA in five games (three starts) with the Gulf Coast Yankees and Class A Short-Season Staten Island, then made two postseason starts for the latter. There are high hopes that the Yanks will see much more in '16; managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in November that "hopefully we'll see [Kaprielian] at the Major League level as soon as the end of this season."
LHP Jacob Lindgren: A promising season that saw Lindgren make his Major League debut on May 25 against Kansas City was cut short in June, when Lindgren needed surgery to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow. He held a 1.23 ERA with three saves in 15 appearances at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and got in seven big league games, posting a 5.14 ERA.
SS Jorge Mateo: The speedster was one of the prospects that the Yankees refused to part with in a trade last summer, though he was at one point dangled to the Padres for closer Craig Kimbrel. The Yanks believe Mateo's ceiling is sky high; still just 20 years old, he led all Minor Leaguers with 82 stolen bases last year at Class A Charleston and Class A Advanced Tampa. Though he probably won't see the Majors until 2018, Mateo has earned comparisons to Jose Reyes for his speed and on-base ability.
RHP Bryan Mitchell: The Yankees will look for Mitchell, who turns 25 in April, to grab an Opening Day roster spot and potentially fill the vacancy left by the trade of valued swingman Adam Warren to the Cubs. Mitchell went 0-2 with one save and a 6.37 ERA in 20 appearances (two starts) over four stints with the big club last year. Brian McCann in particular has spoken optimistically about Mitchell's promise.
2B Rob Refsnyder: The Yanks talked about having second base manned by a platoon of Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley, but those plans were scrapped by the acquisition of Starlin Castro. Refsnyder now projects as insurance at Triple-A, where they envision his continued development in transitioning from the outfield. He batted .302 with two homers and five RBIs in 16 games for New York last year, making 12 starts at second base.
C Gary Sanchez: The clear front-runner to serve as McCann's backup, Sanchez is coming off a monster performance in the Arizona Fall League, where he led the circuit with seven homers and heard scouts rave about his big league power and strong throwing arm. Sanchez batted .295 with six homers and 26 RBIs in 35 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season after beginning the year at Double-A Trenton.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.