With Aaron Hicks going down with yet another oblique injury, the Yankees could find themselves in a tough situation that greatly affects their future.
There are still doubts regarding the effectiveness of Jacoby Ellsbury‘s bat. Clint Frazier begins his rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton on Monday. The next top Yankee outfield prospect, Estevan Florial, has yet to crack Double-A with Trenton.
With 40-man rosters, the Yankees could do nothing. But, they need another outfielder to back up Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge. Sure, they could recall Tyler Austin or Tyler Wade, who have experience in the outfield corners. Sure, they could ask Matt Holliday to don an outfield glove and pray nothing bad happens.
Or, they could look to their Nos. 19 and 24 prospects: Jake Cave and Billy McKinney, respectively. Cave, 24, leads the RailRiders in batting average with his .328 clip for the 2017 season. Plus, he is tied with Ji-Man Choi for the team lead in home runs with 15. He has started 28 games in center field for Scranton, as well as 24 in right field and 12 in left field. He has just one error in the outfield this season. At his age, Cave is eligible for the Rule-5 draft. He knows all about that process, having spent 2017 Spring Training with the Cincinnati Reds. Cave was returned to the Yankees on April 5, 2016. Cave is also eligible for Minor League free agency after the season.
Billy McKinney, though he profiles as a corner outfielder, could still help the Yankees down the stretch. His .312 average puts him behind just Cave and Miguel Andújar for the best mark on the RailRiders. He, too, has shown a power stroke by clobbering 10 home runs in the International League. He has played both outfield corners regularly. At age 23, the former first round pick is Rule-5 eligible.
Both players have impressed at the highest levels of the minor leagues. A rebuilding team could be willing to take a chance on either player through the Rule-5 Draft since both have shown quality outfield defense and a talented left-handed bat. The Hicks injury essentially forces the Yankees to look at both Cave and McKinney as outfield options down the stretch. They may not trust Ellsbury, and certainly do not want to rush their No. 2 prospect, Clint Frazier, back from injury.
Protecting either Jake Cave or Billy McKinney allows them to keep a valuable future asset in the system while filling a current need on the MLB roster.