Four Yankees outfield prospects who could earn non-roster Spring Training invitesWill any of these four get a nod to major-league camp?
All 40 members of the 40-man roster will be there, a slew of extra pitchers will come to eat early innings, extra catchers will be there to catch all those hurlers, and surely, position players like Ruben Tejada and Donovan Solano who have inked minor-league deals will get an invite as well.
But what about the rest of the campers? The Yankees always invite a dozen or more non-roster prospects to camp, and even if they're among the first cuts, it's both a confidence boost for the players and a chance for the organization to see what they have up close.
Dustin Fowler got a taste of major-league camp last year (as did Jake Cave with the Reds) and Clint Frazier is almost certain to follow this year - and in part one of a week-long series, we've gone beyond those three potentials to scout four more we'd like to see in play to round out the spring outfielders.
The Yankees often give their top picks a taste of MLB Spring Training in their first year, and Rutherford should be no exception. Hitting .382 with a an OPS over 1.000 in Advanced Rookie ball as a 19-year old is something that could've earned him a spot regardless, but there's no better way to get last year's first-round pick a taste of the Yankees way - and give Yankees fans a further glimpse into the youth movement - than having Rutherford in camp for the first few weeks.
Gleyber Torres was the hyped prospect, Adam Warren was the right-now piece, and Billy McKinney was the guy the Yankees long were linked to - but the fourth piece of last summer's Aroldis Chapman deal with the Cubs was Crawford, who hit .291 at Class-A Advanced Tampa after the trade. Crawford also stole a career-high 26 bags between the Cubs and Yankees last year, and he should get a longer look on the big stage this spring.
Even with the trade of Ben Gamel, the Yankees still have many left-handed hitting, on-base profiling outfield prospects, but the new king of the unheralded may be Payton, who reached Triple-A for the first time last September - going 7-for-24 between two regular-season and four playoff games - and will likely fill in the outfield gaps around Frazier, Mason Williams, perhaps Fowler and others in Scranton this year. Payton spent most of last year in Trenton, hitting .272 with seven homers, and he can play all three spots, so he could merit late-game looks this spring as the Yankees figure out their upper-level situation.
Like Rutherford, Robinson is a SoCal kid and was a 2016 draftee - albeit 20 rounds later - but the former USC Trojan spent his rookie year raking in Staten Island. He led that squad in homers (8), doubles (18) and total bases (111), finishing in the Top 5 in the entire New York-Penn League in those categories, and he led the NYPL with 52 RBI. The Yankees gave hard-hitting Charleston first baseman Chris Gittens some spring love last year, and Robinson just may fit that bill this season.