In a dizzying series of roster moves prior to tonight’s game, the Yankees announced that they’ve selected the contracts of top outfield prospect Dustin Fowler and recently outrighted slugger Chris Carter. To clear spots on the 40-man roster, New York designated Mason Williams for assignment and transferred Greg Bird to the 60-day disabled list. The Yankees also announced that a right hamstring strain has landed Tyler Austin on the 10-day disabled list, while third baseman Miguel Andujar has been optioned back to Triple-A after just one game.
The 22-year-old Fowler ranks just inside the game’s Top 100 prospects, per Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, who have the former 18th-round pick as baseball’s No. 98 overall prospect. Fowler opened the 2017 season in Triple-A and, in his first exposure to that level of pitching, responded with a very strong .293/.329/.542 batting line through his first 70 games. In 313 plate appearances, Fowler has racked up 13 homers, 19 doubles and eight triples to go along with 13 stolen bases.
Callis and Mayo laud the defensive improvements that Fowler has made since signing, noting that he’s gone from a corner-only option to a solid center field defender. They feel his approach at the dish needs some refinement — which is seemingly reflected in his poor 63-to-15 K/BB ratio in those 313 PAs — but note that he makes tons of hard contact and has 20-homer, 20-steal upside in the Majors.
Carter was outrighted off the 40-man just yesterday, but he’ll return to replace the injured Austin as a first base option for the Yankees. Austin has been told that he’s suffered a “high-grade strain” of his hamstring, tweets MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Certainly, that’s an ominous development for the 25-year-old Austin, who looked to have an opportunity to establish himself at first base following Carter’s DFA and Bird’s injury struggles. Austin is headed to Tampa to be examined by a specialist.
Carter signed a one-year deal with the Yankees this winter after what some considered to be a surprising non-tender from the Brewers. Carter led the National League in homers last year, but his huge strikeout totals, lack of OBP and limited defensive value suppressed his price tag to a $3.5MM guarantee on said one-year deal. In 189 plate appearances with New York this season, Carter hit just .204/.286/.383. While he did slug eight homers in that fairly short timeframe, he also struck out in 37 percent of his plate appearances in his first stint with the Yankees.
Williams, 25, has received just 17 plate appearances with the Yanks this season and a total of 68 across the past three seasons, but the once-elite prospect hasn’t delivered at the game’s highest level — or in Triple-A, for that matter. Through those 68 big league PAs, Williams has batted .281/.313/.391, and his cumulative line across parts of three Triple-A campaigns rests at a less-impressive .278/.318/.345 in a much larger sample of 480 PAs.
New York’s 40-man roster is stuffed with outfielders, including Fowler, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks, while top prospect Clint Frazier is also waiting in the wings. As such, there’s no real path to playing time for Williams, whom the Yankees will have seven days to trade or attempt to pass through waivers.
Yankees fans will undoubtedly be frustrated to see Andujar optioned just one day after going 3-for-4 and plating four runs in his Major League debut, but manager Joe Girardi tells reporters that the decision comes down to a simple desire to get Andujar everyday at-bats at third base (Twitter link via Hoch). While some will undoubtedly clamor for Andujar to play over Chase Headley, the veteran Headley has somewhat quietly rebounded from a poor start to hit .303/.415/.395 across his past 95 trips to the plate.
It certainly remains possible that Andujar resurfaces with the Yankees later this summer, and he certainly figures to be back with the club as a September call-up, at the very least, now that he’s on the 40-man roster.