by Cary Greene
January 4, 2022
When the Yankees bolted into the free agent market by signing Anthony Rizzo, who is projected to be a key left-handed bat for the Yankees, only to follow that up by bringing homegrown superstar Aaron Judge back into the fold, Yankees fans were pretty stoked. Cashman followed those moves up by improving the bullpen by signing Tommy Khanle and then he succeeded in upgrading the starting rotation by landing Carlos Rodon.
None of these moves came cheap and of course the Yankees payroll went to the very ceiling of the CBT’s Tier-Three, but that didn’t stop Hal Steinbrenner from proclaiming that the Yankees weren’t finished yet. He pronounced that the Yankees were looking to further add to the lineup and also reinforce the bullpen. While Brian Cashman is working on implementing the vision that Steinbrenner described, I thought it might be fun to imagine how the partial youth movement the Yankees appear committed to might impact the Yankees.
Clearly the Yankees top three prospects are well known and there is little doubt that the team is planning on this core-three to anchor the partial youth movement. Shortstop Anthony Vople is widely considered to be a MLB Top-Five prospect who happens to be rated a “Future-Value of 60" by FanGraphs, which means he’s not only a likely “cant-miss” prospect, but that he’s probably going to be very good. In fact, MLB.COM feels there’s a good chance he’s capable of hitting .280 with 25 to 30 home runs a season as a big leaguer while having the hands and feet to play at least average shortstop.
Volpe will likely start the season at Triple-A with the Scranton RailRiders and depending on how he progresses, the Yankees might need to be rather aggressive about calling him up. While it’s anyone’s guess as to when that will happen, it depends a lot on how the shortstop battle between incumbent Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Oswald Peraza plays out. Peraza is a better overall fielder than either Kiner-Falefa or Volpe for that matter, but the million dollar question is “Can Peraza hit well enough to win the position or will he wind up being more of a utility player at the big league level?”
Rated as the Yankees third best prospect and rated by MLB.COM as the 50th best prospect in baseball, Peraza got a brief cup of coffee this past September, appearing in 18 games and making 57 plate-appearances as he slashed .306/.404/.429 with an .832 OPS, and a 139 OPS+ while posting a .371 wOBA and a 146 wRC+. Unfortunately, StatCast suggests he got quite lucky in the small sample-size as his xwOBA was a more down to earth .343 which is still well above the League’s .315 average.
For 2023, the Yankees would probably happily sign up for those numbers if Peraza could come anywhere near them over a full Major League season. He slugged 19 home runs in Triple-A last season as well, but his OPS was 50 points below what it was during his stint with the Yankees and so I tend to agree with Statcast, and feel Peraza is more likely going to be what his xwOBA suggests. For what it’s worth, Steamers projects Peraza to slash .249/.308/.407 with a .313 wOBA and a 105 wRC+ which, if that happens, it’s probably safe to say that Volpe will likely be coronated as the team’s starting shortstop some time after the All-Star break.
Some scouts think Peraza might be able to stick at shortstop if he can play defense at a high level and that Volpe might be forced to second base, while others think Peraza is destined for a utility role since the Yankees have Gleyber Torres under team control for two more seasons and they also have DJ LeMahieu signed for four more years as well.
Rated as the Yankees second best prospect these days, switch-hitting center fielder Jasson Dominguez, who is only 20-years-old this season, has crept to Double-A and will open the season with Somerset. His .388 wOBA / 140 wRC+ season last year, which was spent mostly in Low-A and then High-A before a late season promotion to Double-A was pretty impressive. Dominquez is now rated the 39th best prospect in MLB and deservedly so as he now flashes at least solid-to-plus tools across the board, generating fast bat speed from both sides of the plate and looking especially good when batting left-handed. He’s gotten a lot bulkier as he’s matured and he’s now projecting more as a corner outfielder than a center fielder.
Surprisingly, Austin Wells has become the Yankees' fourth-rated prospect and the lefty masher is exactly the kind of DH, backup first baseman the Yankees would love to be able to tap into. With a below-average arm and poor receiving skills, Wells struggles with passed balls but the silver lining is that he has some speed, which might help him also potentially play a little bit of left field in the future.
Slotting in as the Yankees 5th-ranked prospect, center fielder Everson Pereira is another Yankees prospect who has snuck up through the system’s levels and is now slated to begin the season with Somerset and will probably move to Scranton fairly quickly if things go well. Though the Yankees desperately need center field depth, Pereira is also bulking up as he matures and it’s looking like he too, along with Dominguez, is destined to be a corner outfielder.
Organizationally, the Yankees are still pretty loaded at shortstop, with the Yankees number-six overall prospect Trey Sweeney, a sweet-swinging lefty with a penchant for pulling the ball now set to start the season in Double-A with Somerset and their number-eleven prospect, Rodrick Arias expected to open the year in Low-A with Tampa.
Sweeney, according to some scouts, may wind up moving to third base and that would fit well with the Yankees infield situation as they’ll need an everyday third baseman in 2024, which is probably when Sweeney will be nearing promotability. Arias is described as being extremely advanced at the plate for a 17-year-old and, with his blazing speed and highly rated arm, he’s very likely going to stick at shortstop.
These six prospects, Volpe, Dominguez, Peraza, Wells, Pereira and Sweeney make up the first wave of the prospects who may be able to trickle into the Yankees clubhouse and begin impacting the Big League roster around the halfway-point in this year’s season and into 2024. This leaves Yankees fans a chance to close their eyes and dream about what the potential lineup might look like by the end of the 2024 season. I’ll close by sharing the vision I imagine and I invite you share the one you hope to see, or chime in on any of the prospects I’ve covered and give your thoughts!
2024 End of Season Lineup
1. Volpe 2B/SS
2. Judge RF
3. Dominguez LF
4. Stanton DH
5. Rizzo 1B
6. Pereira CF/LF
7. Sweeney 3B
8. Wells C ? (or Trevino)
9. Peraza SS
Bench: Cabrera, Rortvedt?, LeMahieu, ?