Inbox: Is there an ace in Yankees' system?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers fans' questions

Inbox: Is there an ace in Yankees' system?

With all the talk centering on the Yankees' position-player prospects, who do you see as potential breakthrough starters down there? Do we have a Stephen Strasburg or Matt Harvey waiting in the wings?
-- Owen S., Rehoboth Beach, Del.

James Kaprielian would like to think so; as he said at the Yankees' Winter Warm-Up, he wants to be the ace of the staff sooner rather than later. It's only talk until you back it up, but that confidence is exactly what you want to hear. Wielding a deep three-pitch arsenal, Kaprielian was the 16th overall pick out of UCLA in 2015 and moved into MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list (No. 58) despite missing most of last season with a right elbow flexor strain. According to those in the know, he is a good bet to become at least a No. 3 starter, and perhaps more.

Asking for a Strasburg or Harvey sets a high bar, but let's not forget that Luis Severino had so much hype at this time last year and is still just 23 years old. He wouldn't be the first young starter to hit a few bumps before figuring it out. Left-hander Justus Sheffield is the Yanks' No. 6 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com and has a world of promise after being acquired in the Andrew Miller deal, as does No. 8 prospect Domingo Acevedo, who hit 103 mph last summer in Class A and regularly sits 96-100 mph.

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The Yanks added No. 10 prospect Albert Abreu and No. 11 prospect Dillon Tate to the system last July and both merit tracking, as do a host of other names you'll hear this spring, like Chance Adams, Dietrich Enns, Ronald Herrera and Jordan Montgomery.

Assuming the Yankees are going into Spring Training with the current roster, we know three of the starters and some of the relievers. Where do the others fit?
-- Tom G., New York

To very briefly recap, the rotation locks are Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia, while the late-inning relief crew should be comprised by Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, plus Tommy Layne. That settles seven of 12 spots, and if their public comments are any indication, the Yankees intend to have an open competition to fill the others.

The rotation contenders are Adams, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, Severino and Adam Warren, and it's easy to make a case for any one of those. Adams has vaulted into the discussion after making a smooth transition to starting, Green has drawn high praise from teammates like Sabathia, and Mitchell was one of their best pitchers last spring before he was injured late in camp.

Severino and Warren have both proven that they can succeed in the bullpen, and that might hurt Warren in particular as some of those rotation hopefuls are going to have to slide into relief roles. The Yanks would love to see Severino rebound after they essentially guaranteed him a rotation spot last spring only to see him flop, and Cessa could just as easily be used as a long reliever or sent to the Minors as a starter.

Torres named No. 3 prospect

What are the odds of Gleyber Torres getting some big league Spring Training experience? Hoping to see him in a game or two when I go to Tampa.
-- Jeff M., Harrisburg, Pa.

Pretty good. The Yanks are eager to see MLBPipeline.com's No. 3 overall prospect up close coming off his MVP performance in the Arizona Fall League, and though they expect him to open the season with Double-A Trenton, Torres will be invited to big league camp. He might pick up a few extra Grapefruit League innings at shortstop since 2017 is a World Baseball Classic year and Didi Gregorius has committed to play for the Netherlands.

The Yankees aren't willing to give up prospects for Jose Quintana, but he got released after going 10-2 with a 2.91 ERA for Class A Advanced Tampa in 2011. Did the Yankees not see his potential then?
-- David H., Buffalo, N.Y.

File this one under "hindsight is 20/20," though that's a big missed opportunity. The Yankees opted not to put Quintana on the 40-man roster after his fourth year in their system, having washed out of the Mets' system previously. The Yanks apparently didn't see him as much more than a fringe prospect and had him relieve in 18 of his 30 games that year.

Quintana trade seems unlikely

When asked about the decision, general manager Brian Cashman has said there wasn't much of an internal argument to keep Quintana at the time; instead, they protected guys like David Adams, Zoilo Almonte, Greg Golson, Corban Joseph and D.J. Mitchell. White Sox scouts Daraka Shaheed and Joe Siers were watching, with Siers saying that he believed that Quintana had a chance to be a back-end Major League starter. Quintana signed with the White Sox in November 2011 and, as you know, has exceeded that modest forecast.

"[The Yankees] didn't see him being a top guy, and I guess we had a better feel for him," Shaheed told MLB.com. "It happens sometimes."

If Chase Headley has another dreadful start, do you see one of the youngsters plugged in immediately?
-- Angel R., Lantana, Fla.

Probably not, especially since Headley turned his year around after that brutal April showing in 2016. The Yanks stuck with Headley in part because they believed he would play better, but they also didn't really have anyone to take his spot on a regular basis -- Ronald Torreyes is a nice role player, but he's not someone you'd expect to start 135 games for you at third base. Miguel Andujar is a name to know down on the farm, but he's still a year away, and Headley has two years left at $13 million each.

Headley excited for 2017 season

Will Rob Refsnyder still get a call to the Majors in 2017 even though the infield and outfield backups are covered by Torreyes, Tyler Austin and Aaron Hicks?
-- Nehru M., New York

Assuming he isn't moved in a trade, Refsnyder will probably log some big league service time, though it's difficult to see where he fits at this moment. Refsnyder's versatility is going to be the key to getting a chance with the Yankees; if they were going to start him anywhere, they say it would be right field, but they have Aaron Judge and Hicks ahead of him on the depth chart. That leaves him fighting for the utility man role that saw him play five positions in the Majors last year.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. 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.