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  • Cary Greene

How the Yankees Partial Youth Movement is Looking

How the Yankees Partial Youth Movement is Looking: Late-May Thoughts

by Cary Greene

May 23, 2023

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This past offseason, I wanted Yankees team owner Hal Steinbrenner to pull out all the stops and spend whatever it took to build a prohibitive World Series favorite. Yankees GM Brian Cashman managed to sign Aaron Judge and Carlos Rodon, which seemed to indicate a willingness on Steinbrenner’s part to position the Yankees payroll at the very top of MLB’s CBT Tier-3 Threshold ($293 million). Alas, unfortunately, instead the plan to surround the star power was to cobble together a supporting cast.


Cashman got a few star players for a massive outlay of the Yankees who opened the season without a proven left fielder while also penciling in an obviously tanking and well past his prime third baseman in Josh Donaldson. Cashman also charged into the season without a proven closer, his bullpen was thinner and more suspect than its been in years and of course, he was unable to move on from the team’s fourth outfielder, Aaron Hicks.


What Yankees fans got was a primarily right handed lineup, punctuated by Aaron Judge, but dotted with a number of stopgap players like Willie Calhoun, Jake Bauers and Isaiah Kiner-Falefa who, when added to the likes Hicks and Donaldson, form the makings of a collectively unproductive bottom half of the lineup.


Cashman’s reasoning for using a stopgap approach is that the Yankees appear to be in the midst of partial youth movement and I find it interesting to do a litmus test now that it’s the middle of May as I ask the question, how are the players the Yankees appear to be counting on doing and when, if ever, are Yankees fans likely to see any of them in pinstripes? Can any impact this year’s quest to win a World Series?


Making headlines recently on offense, the Yankees Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton RailRiders, have seen a serious uptick in power as they hit 20 home runs in a recent series with Charlotte. If the Yankees are going to get any internal help from their partial youth movement, it’s likely going to originate from Brian Cashman promoting prospects who are forcing the issue and are ready “now.”


CF- Estevan Florial:

Leading the charge is the toolsy Estevan Florial, who homered five times last week. Florial now has nine home runs already this season to go with four doubles and two triples. With a team leading OPS of 1.044 and wOBA of .449, he’s easily positioned himself for a well deserved promotion to the big league roster. Instead, Brian Cashman has thus far decided to block Florial with the recently acquired Greg Allen and a mix of Isiah Kiner-Falefa (.251 wOBA), Jake Bauers (an unlucky .279 wOBA) and Willie Calhoun (.292 wOBA).


It appears the Yankees are wary of Florial’s current 31.1 percent strikeout rate. FanGraphs doesn’t consider Florial to be a viable Major Leaguer, but a close look at where his hit tool and his in-game power are reveals that he’s pretty much peaked, so I’m in favor of putting him on the next shuttle to the Bronx as I believe it’s either now or never for Florial - who is out of options. If the Yankees were to promote him, he’d either need to stick or they’d have to DFA him.

* Chart courtesy of FanGraphs.com


It’s likely that Major League pitchers would exploit Florial’s approach at the plate, but it's also likely that Florial would take his walks and he’d be able to get on base well enough to more than hold his own with regular playing time. My assessment contradicts what he’s shown in his brief cameos with the Yankees to date, where he’s struggled badly to make contact, but I still believe he has enough upside to warrant promoting him and giving him the subsequent playing time


Aside from Florial obviously deserving a call up considering the underwhelming performances of the trio of below average players presently blocking him, the Scranton roster isn’t exactly loaded with projectable help. Third baseman Alex Chaparro has shown very good in-game power season to date, while recording 12 dingers but the Yankees real problems this season revolve around opposing managers exploiting the Yankees lineup and subsequently loading up on right-handed pitching. The Yankees rank 17 in MLB with a .723 OPS against righties so far this season. Meanwhile, their OPS is 20 points higher against left-handed pitching, so what the Yankees need is clearly some left-handed pop.


Forming the tip of the partial youth movement’s spear are a number of intriguing prospects currently with the Yankees Double-A affiliate, the Somerset Patriots:


CF- Jasson Dominguez:

Starting with star prospect Jasson Dominguez, who the Yankees slated for Double-A Somerset to open the season, he’s unfortunately not looked nearly ready for the big leagues, this assessment based on his across his first 117 at-bats of the young season. He’s struggled to make contact, as framed by his .197 average, but he does have six home runs, three doubles and a .351 wOBA though, which shows he’s getting on base and also indicates that when he does get a hit, it’s usually for extra bases. It’s also well documented that Dominguez has an otherworldly walk rate this season (20 percent) and he’s in the midst of making some adjustments with pitches he’s swinging at, which to his credit is slowly having a positive impact on his batting average.


Clearly Dominguez is still a work in progress and it’s a stretch to project that he could help the big league team this season. However, if he keeps trending up, he may find himself in line for a promotion to Triple-A Scranton at some point this season at which point, he’d technically only be a phone call away from an actual cup of regular season coffee.


FanGraphs evaluates Dominguez as a prospect with terrific power potential, rating him as being a 65 on the 20-80 scale, but his in-game power is presently only rated at 30. Suffice it to say, it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to help at the major league level this season as he’s still learning how to tap into his immense raw power in game situations. His hit tool is rated with a ceiling of 40, but he’s presently got a lot of work to do in terms of making contact and for now, his progression depends on getting as many reps as possible, but suffice it to say, it’s doubtful he’ll be able to sport a gaudy batting average as a Major Leaguer.

* Chart courtesy of FanGraphs.com


This might be disappointing news pertaining to the switch-hitting Dominguez, who’s rated as having a Future Value of 50, which means that FanGraphs projects him as being an average everyday player. Many Yankees fans might be disappointed by FanGraphs assessment here and based on how good he looked this past spring, I certainly empathize as I’m guilty of dreaming of Dominguez potentially becoming an above average Major League player.


C/DH/LF Austin Wells:

Considering how right-handed Cashman’s Yankees once again are, left-handed catching prospect Austin Wells, who’s also developing in Double-A presently, appears to have a much more advanced bat than Dominguez presently possesses. Presently Wells has a .274/.348/.661 slash line with 7 home runs and 3 doubles in only 62 at-bats - which explains his tantalizing .433 wOBA.


Given that Wells has started strong, he may be a candidate for a fairly quick promotion to Triple-A and considering that the Yankees are in need of left-handed balance, it’s conceivable that Wells might actually have an outside shot of helping the Yankees at some point later on this season. The Prospects Report on Wells indicates that there’s still a sizeable gap between his 55 Raw Power and his present 45 game power and as this gap narrows, he may have “late season D-H” written all over him as far as the Yankees are concerned.

* Chart courtesy of FanGraphs.com


Ultimately, Fangraphs views Wells as being a bench player and that might be fine with the Yankees, he could become a much needed source of left-handed pop. due to his poor footspeed, he’ll never log a surplus of extra base hits, but his raw power is undeniable.


SS/3B - Trey Sweeney:

With the aged Josh Donaldson hampered by a Grade-1 Hamstring Strain, the Yankees have been relying on DJ LeMahieu to man the hot-corner, playing him 70% of the time at third base and he’s done a solid job of it, ranking 12th among MLB third basemen with a .737 OPS and a .323 wOBA.


Enter Trey Sweeney, a left-hand hitting shortstop prospect with an elevated 17.6 percent walk-rate so far this season who’s also currently impressing in Double-A with Somerset. He’s sporting a .246/.386/.352 slash line with two home runs and seven doubles in 122 at-bats, which has helped him to a very good .355 wOBA.


It seems reasonable to think that Sweeney is ticketed for a promotion to Triple-A Scranton in the not too distant future. His hit tool is still a work in progress and he’s still working on his fielding, but a move to third base might help Sweeney’s ability to rise more quickly. Fangraphs sees Sweeney as a bench player, rating his future value as a 45. I’m actually okay with that assessment and I’d hedge my bet that the Yankees would take that as well as he could give the Yankees lineup more left-hand balance.


Sweeney may be the left-handed contact hitter that the Yankee lineup lacks and if combined with Wells, the Yankees might be able to magically conjure up some surprisingly intriguing balance later on this season.

* Chart courtesy of FanGraphs.com


LF/RF - Everson Pereira:

Another toolsy outfield prospect currently residing in Somerset with the Yankees Double-A ballclub is Everson Pereira and he’s currently slashing .282/.343/.516 with nine doubles and six home runs albeit with an elevated 29.3 percent K-Rate. His .383 wOBA however is screaming, “promote me soon” though, so it’s likely he may be on the first midseason bus to Scranton. Meanwhile, he’ll need to work on his strike zone recognition and depending on how he does, best case scenario, he’s likely a possible late season call-up if the Yankees feel they need more right-handed pop.


Besides needing to cut down on his strikeouts, Pereira’s main opportunities are that he needs to work on making his raw power translate to in-game power, while also working on making more solid contact to reach his hit-tool’s ceiling. Is he a future everyday MLB outfielder? Probably not quite, but he could be a viable fourth or fifth outfielder for the Yankees, but not likely this season because there are significant issues regarding making contact and tapping into his power as mentioned.


* Chart courtesy of FanGraphs.com


There are a few other fringy prospects in the Yankees system who have managed to get off to noticeably good starts this season, Brandon Lockridge, a speedy Double-A center fielder with a pesky, gap to gap approach probably tops the list. If he can continue his momentum, he might find himself promoted to Scranton at some point and he might be able to actually help the Yankees down the stretch, once rosters expand.


However, now at 26 years of age as a Double-A prospect and rated by Fangraphs as not quite being a projectable bench player, it’s doubtful that Lockridge is a long term solution for the Yankees outfield.


* Chart courtesy of FanGraphs.com


Sometimes I cringe when I consider the various ways that Brian Cashman has bungled the Yankees roster. The Yankees basically have to win in spite of Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone, that’s just the reality of the Yankees right now but imagine if Cashman possessed the inside scouting acumen necessary to prevent several of his blunders? I contend that Cashman does a poor job scouting international talent and he doesn’t even scout his own prospects very well.


The Yankees could easily have fielded a terrific infield, an amazing outfield, an incredibly deep bullpen and some very solid rotation depth that would have helped the Yankees quite a bit this season.


Some 2023 Stats of Just a Few Players Cashman Traded Away, Lost via the Rule 5 Draft or Failed to Sign in Free Agency

● Internal Mistake, 3B Ezequiel Duran .308 AVG / 374 wOBA / 140 wRC+

○ Traded to the Rangers for Joey Gallo

○ Imagine how good he’d look occupying Josh Donaldson’s roster spot?


● Internal Mistake, RHRP Trevor Stephan 2.29 ERA / 28% K-Rate / 1.216 WHIP

○ Lost to the Guardians in the Rule 5 Draft after Cashman left him unprotected

○ Would be a key piece in the Yankees bullpen


● Internal Mistake, SS Jorge Mateo - 2022 Fielding Bible winner at shortstop

○ Traded to A’s in 2017 for Sonny Gray

○ Could have been the Yankees starting shortstop over the past two plus seasons


● Very Poor Return on Trade, RHSP Sonny Gray 1.64 ERA/2.56 wOBA Against/1.160 WHIP

○ Traded to the Reds in 2017 for Shed Long JR and a competitive balance pick, who turned out to be T.J. Sikkema was flipped with others for Andrew Benintendi last season.

○ Say what you like, but dude is an ace in every regard not that he’s back to being “not” a Yankee


● Internal Mistake, 2B-SS Thairo Estrada .309 AVG/.356 wOBA/130 wRC+

○ Traded to the Giants in 2021 for cash considerations (seriously)

○ Very clearly, he should have been kept


● Poor International Scouting, LF Masataka Yoshida .303 AVG/.382 OBP/.380 wOBA/138 wRC+

○ Cashman passed on signing him this offseason, no doubt due to George Steinbrenner being unwilling to spend the necessary coin

○ Should have been signed this past offseason, to balance the lineup


● Poor International Scouting, Seiya Suzuki .285 AVG/.369 OBP/.366 wOBA/131 wRC+

○ Cashman passed on him during the 2021 offseason, no doubt curtailed by Hal Steinbrenner’s imposed payroll budget

○ Would have been a very good middle of the order bat, he makes a lot of hard contact and his barrel rates are well over league average. Fast runner with a strong arm.

○ Should have been signed to two years ago to replace Aaron Hicks




24 Comments


jjw49
May 23, 2023

Nice overview ….. the Sonny Gray trade hurt not because of who theygave up but because he was a bust in NY and they got nothing when he was traded to Cincy... Thairo Estrada for cash…. YIKES .. however at the time nobody new about Estrada potential except the Yankees who whiffed on the player. I also follow the Giants and Estrada has played every infield position except 1B along with LF. Cashman is know for trading young prospects and rolling dice for short term fixes to roster. Usually doesn’t pay off.

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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
May 25, 2023
Replying to

Fair point on the Gray trade but - Cashman should be evaluated for what the ultimate return was on that deal. In 2017 with the Yankees, Gray had a 3.90 ERA accross 90.0 innings at Yankee Stadium and a much better 3.11 ERA over 72.1 innings on the road. On the surface, he seemed to be a perfectly serviceable starter - except he actually wasn't and guess what - the Yankees should have easily been able to predict this as even I did at the time of the trade. I knew it wouldn't work, I thought it was a very bad trade and yes, I follow the A's ver closely, along with the Pirates and Yankees.


Here's why I didn't…


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Andy Singer
Andy Singer
May 23, 2023

Great look at guys coming up the road, Cary!


I question some of the scouting reports that Fangraphs have put out recently - I'm not sure that Pereira's hit tool is anything close to 45 in the present day, though his stat line certainly looks good this year (and I really hope I'm wrong!). I saw some pitch recognition and swing decision issues when I watched him in Spring Training, but that could easily have been a guy trying to do too much with a ST look.


Dominguez also has been significantly better since his early-season struggles. He's making a lot more contact, most of it very hard, and he's doing it against guys significantly older than he is. It…


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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
May 25, 2023
Replying to

Awesome points Andy. Interesting thoughts on Pereira too. Perhaps one conclusion we can make at this stage of his development is that he needs LOTS more reps if he's ever going to make contact regularly and square balls up. I mean, yes, he's got pretty fantastic raw power, but pitchers are going to be a lot more savvy as he gets closer and closer to "the Show." MLB pitchers will pick him apart and disguise breaking balls once they get ahead in the count. He's got alot of work to do before we will see him in the Bronx. I think at least a year-and-a-half more perhaps -- minimum.


I agree with your take on Dominguez, I noticed some of…


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cpogo0502
May 23, 2023

Incredible reporting job, Cary. Deep research. The last part of the article however is an indictment of Cashman's player personnel mismanagement. It looks worse when you consider the trade for Frankie Montas who will never pitch for the Yankees and what we gave up to get injured goods.

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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
May 23, 2023
Replying to

Thanks CPOGO, I was 100% "out" on Montas - said as a lifelong A's fan (and I also love the Pirates and Yankees of course too), it was clear he was not himself and that he was dealing with arm problems. Beyond that though, a dive into his peripherals at the time of the trade really showed that Montas wasn't going to be an asset towards beating teams like the Astros and Dodgers, who appeared to be who the Yankees would be playing in a potential championship run.


Of course, the Phillies crashed the party with amazing left-handed power in the form of "Schwaba" and "Harpa" but the point being was Cashman's "planning" regarding the rotation and bullpen was lacking.…


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fuster
May 23, 2023

trading Mateo as part of the package for Sonny Gray doesn't seem like all that much of a mistake.

that Gray wouldn't work out well for the Yankees was not obvious.


that Mateo, in 2017, was not ready to be of much use to a major league club was fairly obvious.

turns out that that Mateo provided no help until the 2022 season and only after bouncing around from Oakland

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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
May 26, 2023
Replying to

Yes, correct, the passed balls are reflected in the Blocks Above Average stat. How many of Gary's passed balls occurred when Sonny pitched though, and how many resulted in runs? Sonny averaged 10 Wild-Pitches per season with the Yankees, down from his prior 14.3 mark that he averaged in his previous 3 seasons with the A's, so he improved a bit in that area when with the Yankees, but of course passed balls are a result of the cather not receiving what is deemed a catchable or blockable pitch, so Gary was no doubt not helping Sonny in this area, but how many of Gary's miscues led to runs is really more the tell-tale quesiton.


I went with BAA just…

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