Continuing The Times-Tribune’s annual countdown of the top 15 Yankees prospects. I rank 20 prospects, Donnie Collins ranks 20 prospects, and then we average them together. The list takes into account ETA for the big leagues. You’re going to find some guys who might not have ceilings as high as others, but who instead could be in a position to help the Yankees sooner. Since they’re so new to pro baseball, 2018 draftees are not included on the list. 

A fourth-round pick two years ago, Trevor Stephan is rocketing through the Yankees farm system.

The basics

Position: Starting pitcher
Throws: Right
Age: 23
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 225
40-man? No
Acquired: Selected by the Yankees in the third round of the 2017 draft out of the University of Arkansas. He was also an 18th-round pick by the Red Sox in 2016 out of Hill College (Hillsboro, Texas).
SWB ETA: 2019

2018 season

Started the system at High-A Tampa, where he went 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in seven starts. He struck out 49 and walked nine. He earned a promotion to Double-A Trenton, where he would go on to post a 3-8 record with a 4.54 ERA in 17 starts. He struck out 91, walked 29 and allowed 80 hits in 83.1 innings. His 140 strikeouts ranked third in the Yankees farm system (Mike King, 152; Nick Nelson, 144).

Here are some videos of Stephan:

Why 7?

Below, Donnie and I discuss why Stephan lands at No. 7 on the list, what’s good about him and what might need work.

CF: This guy had the third-most strikeouts for anyone in the Yankees farm system, so that’s probably a good place to start. Stephan K’d 140 in 124.1 innings between Trenton and Tampa, a 10.1 K/9 mark. He keeps the walks down, too, at only 2.8 per nine innings. Before getting to Trenton, his worst ERA at a level was 1.98 at Tampa last year, then in 17 starts with the Thunder, it jumped up to 4.64, so safe bet he starts there again. You had him as your No. 4 prospect, so I’ll let you take it from here. What is it about him that you like so much?

DC: Basically, because I think he’s close. He’s certainly s guy I can see making a few starts for the RailRiders, if not more than a few. He’s a bigger guy, which is still a plus in a potential starter. He has a good fastball that moves, and he can command it. He has an ok breaking ball, but the big question with him last year was the third pitch, and I think that developed with his changeup. It’s becoming a legitimate pitch. Bottom line is, he’s a guy who had a really impressive first full season, who has shown the ability to develop and who is probably going to start out in Double-A. I’m surprised more people aren’t raving about Stephan.

CF: I was excited to get a look at him coming into spring training. Unfortunately, things didn’t go too well for him on the big league side. He gave up six earned runs in two innings and let up four homers. Now, that was still early in camp, so you can’t read too much into the numbers. I just wish we had gotten a longer look at him. I did see him pitch in a minor league game while I was down there, and he’s an interesting dude. He pretty much works out of the stretch the whole time. There’s not much to his delivery. He’s tall, but he really drops and drives toward the batter, so we’re not talking about a super high release point. I’m guessing his length more plays up in releasing it closer to the plate. He’s apparently got the high-spin-rate fastball, so that’s always going to play. It’s impressive, too, that he’s been a pro since 2017 and he’s already looking at Triple-A in 2019.

Trevor Stephan deals a pitch in a minor league spring training game. Conor Foley / Staff photo

DC: The Yankees are going to be very aggressive with their college draftees, because now they have to be. We saw them aggressive with Diehl, and obviously other organizations (or at least the Rockies) liked him. They’ve been aggressive with Whitlock. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nick Nelson move up the ladder this year. Stephan is arguably the guy who has had the most pro success out of anybody in that group.

CF: Yeah, and I think you could say the same about the guy who’s coming tomorrow. There’s something about Stephan that reminds me of Chad Green. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something there. Maybe it’s just that his fastball seems to really play up. Maybe it’s a body type thing. I think at worst, though, Stephan could do some good things in the bullpen. Imagine him getting to air it out for an inning or two. His starting prospects probably depend on that third pitch, and getting a second go-round at Double-A will provide a chance to see if he’s adjusted to the level or if the level adjusts to him.

DC: I like the potential of his sider and change better than the reality of what Green’s slider and change were, from a starter’s perspective. He’ll get every chance to prove that. I’d love to see him in Triple-A. Green had a lot of success there because the fastball was so good, but I said the first time I saw Green start that he was going to be a dominant reliever. One of those pitches is going to have to look mediocre before I think that’s Stephan’s future is in the bullpen, and how good that future could be. But I’ll say this: That fastball has late life. That’s obvious. I thought it was pretty obvious with Green, too.

Trevor Stephan deals a pitch in a minor league spring training game. Conor Foley / Staff photo

The list

15: Phillip Diehl  (Traded to Colorado on March 23)
14: Stephen Tarpley
13: Garrett Whitlock
12: Nick Nelson
11: Albert Abreu
10: Luis Medina
9: Roansy Contreras
8: Thairo Estrada
7: Trevor Stephan
6: Tuesday
5: Wednesday
4: Thursday
3: Friday
2: Saturday
1: March 30

Main photo: Associated Press