Yankee Farm System Report, June 2023
by EJ Fagan
June 18, 2023
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The Good, the Bad and the Dominguez
The minor league season is about a third over. How are the Yankee prospects doing? As usually, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. Here’s a quick roundup by level.
Triple-A Scranton Railriders
Scranton is having a weird season. The big story here is Oswald Peraza. After a hot May, he slowed down a bit in June. Still, Peraza is hitting an incredible .296/.364/.585, with a 15% strikeout rate. I don’t need to tell you much more about Peraza. The dude should be in the majors.
The other big standout player at Triple-A has been catcher Ben Rortvedt, who is hitting an incredible .327/.426/.558 with a 25% strikeout rate. He hasn’t played this week, so I’m not sure what is going on there. Rortvedt sure feels like the catcher of the future for the Yankees, as we all expected when they traded for him last year.
Lots of Triple-A veterans are putting up gaudy numbers, but other prospects haven’t been so hot. Andres Chaparro and Elijah Dunham have been cold. The pitching staff is a dumpster fire, with guys like Deivi Garcia, Randy Vazquez, Will Warren, Jhonny Brito and Sean Boyle all putting up ERAs over 5.00. I wouldn’t count on Scranton to produce many more MLB reinforcements this year.
Double-A Somerset Patriots
The news is better down in Double-A. Everson Pereira is about to return from an injury. He started the season hitting .285/.350/.514 with a 28% strikeout rate. It feels like Pereiera has been around forever, but he just turned 22 years old in April. He has only faced 11 plate appearances against pitchers who are older than him in 2023. I think we’ll see him at Triple-A soon enough.
Austin Wells has also put up a strong start to the season. He missed the first month of the season with a fractured rib. Since then, he’s basically been doing exactly what he’s been doing for his entire career: .260/.358/.527 with a 23% strikeout rate. He also may have fixed Anthony Volpe. The Yankees still aren’t playing Wells at a position other than catcher, so his major league future is still uncertain. He feels like trade bait.
On the pitching side, Clayton Beeter has been a real standout with a 2.13 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 55 innings. I wonder if the Yankees will wait to promote him to Triple-A, considering how much of a meat grinder the International League has been for Yankee pitchers so far. Beeter has been pretty much the lone bright spot among Yankee pitchers in the upper minors this year. They might want be conservative with him.
And then there’s Jasson Dominguez. He has had a weird 2023 season. His batting line is .212/.358/.394 with a 26% strikeout rate. That’s pretty good for the youngest player in the Eastern League, but not dominant. What’s going on? Without Statcast data, I’d focus on his .252 BABIP. His .252 mark is 13th worst in the league among qualified batters, down about a 100 points from his career average. Nothing in his batted ball profile sticks out as a red flag: his GB/FB/LD mix is similar to 2022 with a lot fewer infield fly balls. His pull/center/opp splits are identical. Without real scouting information, I’d bet heavily that Dominguez is suffering from a little bit of bad batted ball luck. If I were a betting man, my money would be on a big second half.
High-A Hudson Valley
The big prospect at Hudson Valley is Spencer Jones, and the results are mixed. Jones has a strong .281/.332/.516 batting line, but a nasty 34% strikeout rate. It looked for a second that the big guy would sail through the minor leagues, but has clearly has a lot to learn. I don’t expect a call up to Double-A any time soon. He’s still only a year out of the draft, so Jones is still ahead of schedule.
Hudson Valley has also seen the biggest breakout of 2023 in Aaron Palensky, who hit .352/.434/.744 with a 24% strikeout rate before being promoted to Double-A, where he has been the best hitter on the team with a strong .257/.481/.543 line, inlcuding a 14% strikeout rate. He is also 14-0 in stolen bases and plays both corner outfield spots.
I can’t find a single scouting report on him. Palensky was an undrafted college signee during the weird abbreviated 2020 draft. While he was drafted out of a big program, Nebraska, Palensky only really played about a season and a half there. He was a solid minor league hitter before 2023, but nothing incredible.
The other big news out of High-A has been Drew Thorpe. The 2022 second round pick appeared higher than expected on a lot of prospect lists last year, despite not playing a professional game. Thorpe was everyone’s Yankee Coaching Magic pick, given that he had great command, a plus slider/changeup combo and a pedestrian 92 mph fastball. The bad news it that Thorpe hasn’t gained any real velocity. He still sits 91-92. The good news is that he’s posting a 2.91 ERA in 59 innings. I’m no pitching analyst, but his delivery sure looks free and easy to me.
Honestly, not much to see here. Jared Serna looked like a high-contact slap hitting second baseman coming into this season, but is now hitting .314/.375/.528 with a 17% strikeout rate, so keep an eye on the 21 year-old. Brock Selvidge has been strong, with a 3.56 ERA and good K/BB numbers. The Yankees don’t have a ton of prospects at Low-A at the moment.
State of the Farm System
I think it’s been a very C+ year for the Yankee farm system. Most of the top Yankee prospects are playing well enough, but no one other than Peraza is a real standout. Basically no top hitting prospect has had a bad year. You’d love to see more Triple-A pitching depth, but guys like Randy Vazquez, Jhony Brito and Deivi Garcia aren’t exactly blue chips.
If one of Peirera, Dominguez or Wells can really break out in the second half, I think the Yankees will regard the 2023 farm season as successful. If none have a big season, then they are relying on breakouts from off-the--radar guys like Palenesky and Serna to develop the next wave of Yankee prospects. Either way, I think it’s safe to declare the Yankee farm system decidedly mid right now. They have interesting pieces that might find their way to the major league roster, but are far from flush. The 2022 trade deadline and 2023 injuries sucked a lot of talent out of the upper system, and they still haven’t recovered.