top of page
file.jpg
  • E.J. Fagan

Top 10 Yankee Prospects for 2024

by EJ Fagan

December 31, 2023

***

NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission.


Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.

***

2023 forced a radical rethinking in how I perceive Yankee prospects with a few different events. We saw former players like Ben Ruta sound the alarm on some of the unorthodox coaching methods used by the Yankees. We saw Dillon Lawson, the architect of those methods, fired. And most importantly, we saw a bunch of young players who hit incredibly well in the minor leagues fall flat on their face against major league pitching.


I’m down on the high strikeout, high exit velocity approach that the Yankees pushed into Volpe, Peirera, Wells, Cabrera, Florial and others. The Yankees saw a number of big breakout hitters in Ben Rice, Agustin Ramirez and Aaron Palensky, among others, that I just don’t buy. This list prioritizes advanced pitchers and athletic, contact-oriented hitters who can play defense.


  1. Jasson Dominguez, CF

Both the Fangraphs and Baseball America rankings have Dominguez further down. That’s crazy. Am I the only one who remembers watching him in the second half last year? On July 1st, Dominguez was hitting .197/.345/.357 with a 28% strikeout rate. I speculated that he was getting a little unlucky in April and May, but the slow start was real. After July 1st, he hit .333/.403/.527 with a 20% strikeout rate. After August 1st, he hit .362/.428/.617 with an 18% strikeout rate. That’s exactly the kind of pattern you would expect from a talented player who turns 21 in February.


Dominguez looked like a strong major league center fielder during his short stint in the majors in 2023. He looked like he belonged. He still has a chance to be a truly special player, especially if he ends up as a better than average contact hitter given how hard he hits the ball. His small strike zone is a huge advantage. He also has lots of room under that ceiling to be a successful major league hitter; if he ends up as a solid center fielder who hits more modestly, that would be fine as well. The average center fielder in 2023 hit just .246/.318/.408.


2. Chase Hampton, SP

The Yankees are so good at this. They selected him with a 6th round pick in 2022 out of Texas Tech. They took a 91-94 mph thrower and turned him into 94-96 with life, as well as plus sliders and curveballs. He could be in the majors just two years after being drafted.

There’s plenty of risk in Hamilton’s profile, but the upside is huge. I’ll believe that the Yankees can develop a young star hitter when I see it, but they have an excellent pitching track record. He’s could start at Triple-A just one year after being drafted, although I’d bet on the Yankees starting him at Double-A given his inexperience. While he could be called up to the majors in 2024, I wouldn’t expect it until late in the season.


3. Will Warren, SP

Everything that I read about Warren screams mid-rotation starter. He has a ton of movement on everything he throws, including a 94 mph sinker and plus-plus slider. His 3.61 ERA in Triple-A last year is impressive as hell considering the zoo that was the 2023, robo-umpired International League with an average ERA of 5.18. I read somewhere that Warren was struggling to get sinkers called for strikes, which explains his elevated walk rate.

If the Cortes/Rodon/Schmidt group weren’t so uncertain heading into 2024, I think the Yankees could do worse than Warren as a 5th starter. But they need some insurance in Warren at Triple-A. I’m excited to see what he can do with normal umpires, and wouldn’t be shocked if he ends up being the new Jordan Montgomery on the 2020s Yankees.


4. Roderick Arias, SS

It’s hard not to get excited about Arias. In his 27 complex league games before breaking his thumb, Arias looked like a star. Josh Norris at Baseball America gave him the following tools this year: 55 hit, 60 power, 55 run, 60 fielding 70 arm. Holy crap. He was one of the best player in the Florida Complex League before getting hurt.


He obviously has to do it in full season ball, but there’s a world where Arias is a top-10 prospect in baseball by the All Star Break. As the #1 2022 IFA, we shouldn’t be that surprised if he does. Along with Mayea, the Yankees strategy of going for quality over quantity with IFAs might be working out.


5. Spencer Jones, CF

I don’t buy it. It’s easy to look at Jones and say he looks like a left-handed Aaron Judge. Like Judge, he’s struggled to use his big body in the minors, hitting .261/.333/.407 with a 28% strikeout rate. Unlike Dominguez, he was worse in the second half of the season than the first half, although his contact rates did tick up a little bit. Add a little bit more speed than Judge and it’s easy to see why everyone has rated him the #1 prospect in the Yankee season.

But Aaron Judge is a freak of nature. You can count the number of successful 6’7” or taller MLB hitters on one hand. Maybe the Yankees can find a second unicorn, but I’d bet against it until Jones shows some results on the field. If I’m Brian Cashman, I’m eager to include Jones in a trade package for a Dylan Cease or some other young starter. I’m a little surprised he wasn’t a part of the Soto trade.


6. George Lombard Jr., SS

He’s a first round pick out of high school. He grades out well with all five tools. That’s about all we know. We’ve definitely hit a tier drop off with Lombard. I see some speculation that he could end up as a strong defensive third baseman because he’s 6’3”, but it’s all speculation at this point. He hit okay in his pro debut, but didn’t show a lot of power. We’ll see, but so far signs point toward good.


7. Brando Mayea, CF

Another top IFA. Unlike Arias, Mayea projects as more of an average/on base hitter than a power hitter. Lucky for him, he also projects as an excellent runner and defender in center field. His ceiling is more like Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner, where Arias could be as good as any shortstop in the league.


I think it’s a sign of weakness that Mayea is the organization’s 7th best prospect. He’s a lottery ticket. In a better world, I’d be comfortable rating the two hitters lower on this list above Mayea, but that’s where we are.


8. Clayton Beeter, SP/RP

Beeter is probably a reliever. He has an incredible fastball-slider-curveball combination, but poor command. His strikeout rates since coming over from the Dodgers are staggering, and the Yankees have dramatically lowered his home run rate. He struggled at Triple-A much more than Warren, but still walked away with an above-average 4.94 ERA. I’d like to see how Beeter does with normal umpires at Triple-A in 2024, but the signs point to him in a late inning relief role. I think he would already be transitioning there if the Yankees didn’t just trade away all of their MLB depth.


9. Austin Wells, C/DH

I don’t get the Wells hype. Fangraphs ranked him second, over Dominguez. He was a very average hitter in 2023, mostly at Double-A. His hard work has paid off as a passable catcher, but his weak arm is still a real problem. He looked a lot like 2023 Yan Gomes.

Don’t get me wrong, Wells has upside. His 2021-2022 hitting was off the charts. He’s improved tremendously behind the plate. But runners are going to learn to take advantage of him, as they did in the minors. He needs to be one of the best hitting catchers in the game to be viable. There’s a world where Wells evolves into Wilson Contreras or something, but he’s still far off.


10. Everson Pereira, OF

Pereira looked awful in the major leagues. He struck out 39% of the time. He barely ever hit the ball hard, which was his specialty in the minor leagues. Along with Volpe and Florial, Pereira is the poster boy for the theory that the Yankees minor league hitting approach is deeply flawed. It was shocking to watch a 22 year-old who hit .300/.373/.358 in the minors look so lost at the plate in Yankee Stadium.


All is not lost though. Pereira looked like a real major league corner outfielder who could fake it in center while he’s still young. He doesn’t have to hit his ceiling to match Alex Verdugo. But I want to see him improve his contact rate at Triple-A for half a season before his next call up.


Honor Mentions That I’ll Be Watching in 2023:


  • Brandon Beck: The 2021 second-rounder is finally back from Tommy John surgery. He has some of the best command in the minor leagues. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him come out of Spring Training with an extra tick or two of velocity. If he does, they won’t miss Drew Thorpe as much.


  • Ben Rice: He was one of the best hitters in the minors in 2023: .324/.434/.615 across A-Ball and Double-A. He makes contact. When you listen to him being interviewed, he’s clearly very smart. But he’ll need to hit very well as a 1b-only prospect.


  • Agustin Ramirez: Dude hit .384/.430/.714 at High-A. And he might stick at catcher, although just barely. On the 40-man.


  • Jared Serna: Short, slap hitting, fast defense-first second baseman who suddenly hit 19 home runs in 95 Low-A games without compromising his contact hitting. Then he hit zero home runs in 27 High-A games.

  • Henry LaLane/Carlos LaGrange/Sabier Marte/Angel Benitez: Someone on the Yankees said “Get me every 6’7” kid who plays ball in Latin America and teach them to pitch.”

Bottom Line

The Yankee farm system is a little weird right now. They’ve lost an insane number of arms over the last few years between the Soto trade, the 2022 trade deadline and Rule V draft. As a result, they are uncharacteristically thin on pitching depth. I’m sure that half a dozen other top arms will emerge in 2024 the way that Chase Hampton and Will Warren did over the last two years, but there could be a little bit of a gap.


Their hitting is more complicated. On one hand, they have a lot of really interesting young toolsy prospects. Their strategy to sign the top 16 year-old IFA appears to working out well, with only Alexander Vargas an obvious bust. We’ll see who among them emerges from the pack. A lot of their lower level prospects don’t have the low-contact, power hitting profile that isn’t working out for Volpe, Florial, Peraza, Cabrera and Pereira. I wonder if their “hit strikes hard” approach can work better where their starting point is someone like Jared Serna, a prospect who can hit but not for power, than someone who already hits for power like Pereira.

I’d be enthusiastic about their system if their hitting track record were better. For now, I’m hopeful but concerned.

12 commentaires


Frank Graziadei
Frank Graziadei
01 janv.

The Yankee hitting philosophy has not changed in the minor leagues. The hitting disciples of Dillon Lawson are still there. Cabrara is an excellent example of how a change in hitting philosophy can really help. He could barely hit 200 when he went to play for his country's team in the WBC. He came back a different hitter who sprayed the ball to all fields as a switch hitter. I watched him at Somerset and it was a remarkable transition. Now he hits like Pereira. The yankees do not develop hitters. They change hitters to accomodate their analytical philosophy. (See Estrada )

J'aime

jeff
31 déc. 2023

There are other great players on the way up in the Yankee farm system who also deserve mention, consideration, and evaluation. The big one who comes to my mind is corner infielder Tyler Hardman, who had an outstanding season in 2023 at AA Somerset. Hardman was named the Eastern League Player of the Week THREE TIMES last season, including being named Eastern League Player of the MONTH in July. He has led the Eastern League in home runs, runs, total bases, and was also among the leaders in slugging percentage and third in OPS. He posted THREE multi-homer games last July, including a three-homer effort on July 1 at Bowie and two-homer games on July 20 at Hartford and …


J'aime

jeff
31 déc. 2023

The reason for the hype inn regard to Austin Wells....AND Ben Rice......There is a tremendous shortage these days of good catchers who can also be a powerful force in the lineup. Many teams have to settle for a Jose Trevino, Kyle Higashioka, or Martin Maldonado type who do a superb job of handling a pitching staff, calling a game, framing pitches, and throwing out potential base stealers but are below average hitters against Major League pitching. So if you have an Austin Wells or a Ben Rice in your system, two heavy hitting catchers, if you can also somehow squeeze good, or at least passable catching skills out of them, you want to go for it, because it is…

J'aime

Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
31 déc. 2023

BTW, the Daily News has a piece extolling Ben Rice. https://www.nydailynews.com/2023/12/29/yankees-breakout-catcher-prospect-ben-rice/

J'aime

fuster
31 déc. 2023

pretty important points made concerning the high success rate of the Yankee instructional staff

in turning mid-round draft picks into reasonably valuable major league pitchers.


and also pretty important in noting that there is not as much success in turning draft picks into big-time hitters.

the instructors (and scouts) have to adjust to the change in conditions wherein OBP and speed have been given added emphasis

J'aime
dr sem.png

Start Spreading the News is the place for some of the very best analysis and insight focusing primarily on the New York Yankees.

(Please note that we are not affiliated with the Yankees and that the news, perspectives, and ideas are entirely our own.)

blog+image+2.jpeg

Have a question for the Weekly Mailbag?

Click below or e-mail:

SSTNReaderMail@gmail.com

SSTN is proudly affiliated with Wilson Sporting Goods! Check out our press release here, and support us by using the affiliate links below:

587611.jpg
583250.jpg
Scattering the Ashes.jpeg

"Scattering The Ashes has all the feels. Paul Russell Semendinger's debut novel taps into every emotion. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll reexamine those relationships that give your life meaning." — Don Burke, writer at The New York Post

The Least Among Them.png

"This charming and meticulously researched book will remind you of baseball’s power to change and enrich lives far beyond the diamond."

—Jonathan Eig, New York Times best-selling author of Luckiest Man, Opening Day, and Ali: A Life

From Compton to the Bronx.jpg

"A young man from Compton rises to the highest levels of baseball greatness.

Considered one of the classiest baseball players ever, this is Roy White's story, but it's also the story of a unique period in baseball history when the Yankees fell from grace and regained glory and the country dealt with societal changes in many ways."

foco-yankees.png

We are excited to announce our new sponsorship with FOCO for all officially licensed goods!

FOCO Featured:
carlos rodon bobblehead foco.jpg
bottom of page