Zack Granite is more interesting than your typical non-roster invitee

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Minor league free agent signings typically don’t merit much thought. But, with so little in terms of Yankees rumors this offseason, a blogger needs something to write about. That’s where Zack Granite, who the Yankees have reportedly signed to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, comes into play. You may remember him from when he missed first base in the 2017 Wild Card Game.

It’s pretty easy to ignore any team’s minor league signings, as those players typically don’t contribute much at the big league level. But, the Yankees have made a cottage industry of unearthing solid production from minor league free agents, and Granite could be the next in line. Remember, the Bombers have brought in guys like Yangervis Solarte, Gio Urshela (they did trade for him first, of course), and David Hale on minor league deals with invites to spring training and received good production from each.

Obviously, there’s no guarantee Granite works out. He may not see any time in the Bronx at all, in fact. He’s got a June 15th opt out, for what it’s worth. For every Urshela and Solarte, there are a dozen Billy Burnses and Jace Petersons. Nonetheless, there are reasons to like the 27 year-old outfielder.

Although Granite was never a league-wide top prospect, he’s historically done a few things well that have kept him on scouts’ radars. Namely: speed, defense, and bat-to-ball skills. His prospect status peaked after the 2017 season, when he raked in Triple-A (.338/.392/.475, 144 wRC+) and made his (underwhelming) major league debut. After that, Granite appeared on the Twins’ organizational top prospect lists on Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball America. But he was even more enamored by KATOH, Fangraphs’ erstwhile prospect projection system, which thought he was an elite prospect.

Unfortunately, Granite cratered in 2018. He posted a 51 wRC+ in 263 Triple-A plate appearances before a rotator cuff injury ended his campaign. The Twins wound up dealing him to Texas before the 2019 season began, where he was OK for the Rangers’ top minor league squad (.290/.331/.375, 91 wRC+). Clearly, Granite is not the guy he was just a couple of years ago, but perhaps the Yankees can help him rebound. After all, they’ve had a player like Granite in the past.

Let’s play a game surely you’ve seen before. Can you name player A and B by their lifetime minor league numbers below?

PlayerAVGOBPSLGK%BB%PA/HRSBCS
Player A0.2900.3900.38516.6%13.6%19615731
Player B0.2840.3440.3639.8%8.0%20215461

If you guessed that player A is Brett Gardner and player B is Zack Granite, you’re correct. Although Gardner had a better minor league career than Granite, Zack isn’t too far behind. That’s not where the similarities end. Like Gardner, Granite is also a lefty swinging and lefty throwing outfielder known for speed and defense.

(MLB GIF Hub)

All this isn’t to say that Granite is the second coming of Gardner. Remember, Gardner had already solidified himself in the Yankees’ outfield for a few years when he was 27 and had two five-plus WAR seasons by then, per Fangraphs. But hey, maybe the Yankees see Granite as potentially Gardner-lite.

Even if the odds of Granite doing anything for the Yankees are small, he’s at least an interesting story to follow. Granite is from Staten Island and grew up a Yankees fan, so surely just being part of the Yankees’ camp come spring training is a dream come true for him. Expect to see him in Scranton’s outfield, though an injury or two could afford him an opportunity in the Bronx.

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3 Comments

  1. RetroRob

    Looking forward to Granite’s new-found power and his .330/.420/.580 season with the 2020 Yankees.

    More seriously, the Yankees need depth at CF down in AAA to backup the big league squad. A solid addition, but likely only for AAA and the occasional start in the majors. Of course, I thought similar of Tauchman and he turned out to be much more.

  2. Wire Fan

    With Hicks out the Yankees need minor league CF depth. Tauchman will make the MLB roster and I think Gardy will be back once they clear some 40 man space.

    But if either get injured early on the Yankees have no real CF options in the minors. Granite would presumably fill this role.

  3. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    I don’t mind giving this kid a chance but he ain’t going to leap frog Tauchman, Derek. I’d just re-sign Maybin because we’re going to need him like we did last year. Both Stanton and Judge will miss 50-100 games a piece, Hicks is out until at least June, Gardy will be a year older. This Granite could be the next Soley in which case we’ll have hit a gold mine or he could be the next Brandon Drury dumpster dive special. Is he an upgrade over Bozo the Clint? I think so. I can’t imagine Clint catching those balls in the plays you posted. Clint would ran around in circles and dove 20 feet from the ball then whined when he was sent to AAA for Tyler Wade.

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