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?
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.
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.