Next wave coming: Yankees prospects likely MLB-bound in 2024

Yankees prospects are celebrating a victory at the Somerset Patriots in 2023.

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In 2023, the Yankees not only pursued victories but also laid the groundwork for their future success. Toward the fag end of the season, three newbies – Everson Pereira (left field), Jasson Dominguez (center field), and Austin Wells (catcher) – were introduced to the big leagues.

Shortstop Anthony Volpe made an immediate impact, earning a Gold Glove, achieving a 20-20 season (20 home runs and 20 stolen bases), and becoming the first Yankees rookie to accomplish both feats. Although Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez weren’t part of the late-season surge, their contributions were noteworthy. These Dominican right-handers, acquired in the Winter Meetings trade for Juan Soto, played dual roles with a combined 18 starts and 18 relief appearances, accumulating 11 wins.

Yoendrys Gomez and Matt Krook also made their MLB debuts in 2023, bringing the total number of Yankees rookie debuts that year to eight – the highest since 2017 (12) and just shy of the Aaron Judge-led class in 2016 (10). Going back further, a remarkable 18 Yankees debuted in 2015, including future stars like Luis Severino and Gary Sanchez.

This recent influx of rookies adds to the impressive count of 87 Yankees who have debuted in the last ten seasons. While only five of them – Masahiro Tanaka, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, and Gleyber Torres – have achieved All-Star status thus far, the abundance of young talent entering the organization indicates a promising future.

This season, additional Yankees prospects are poised to make their major league debuts, and as in previous years, the eventual roster may feature some unexpected names. Here are 10 prospects who might make their first appearances for the Yankees in 2024.

LHP Edgar Barclay

  • Age: 25
  • Draft: 15th round 2019
  • MLB Pipeline prospect rank: 27
  • 2023 performance: Played for Somerset (AA) & Scranton Wilkes-Barre (AAA), 4-4 record, 3.91 ERA, participated in 21 games with 10 starts, pitched 78.1 innings, faced 70 hits, conceded 39 runs, 34 earned runs, allowed 12 home runs, issued 44 walks, and struck out 100 batters.

Edgar Barclay has been a somewhat overlooked talent in the Yankees’ farm system, consistently showcasing his skills. Despite not possessing an overpowering fastball, his 89-92 mph range provides enough velocity for his exceptional changeup to stand out. As the only left-handed pitcher among the Yankees’ top 30 prospects with experience beyond A ball, Barclay stands out. Hailing from Oklahoma City, he could be considered for an initial call-up during the upcoming season, especially if he performs well and the Yankees are in need of bullpen support. Barclay demonstrated his prowess last season as a reliever in Double-A, achieving a 3-1 record, 1.32 ERA, and an impressive 51 strikeouts in 34 innings across 11 appearances. However, his performance wavered towards the end of the season when transitioned to a starting role in Triple-A. With Scranton, he posted a 1-3 record, a 5.89 ERA in 10 starts, accumulating 49 strikeouts and 33 walks over 44.1 innings.

RHP Clayton Beeter

Yankees pitching prospect Clayton Beeter in action for the AAA RailRiders
  • Age: 25
  • Trade: from the Dodgers on August 2, 2022, in exchange for outfielder Joey Gallo.
  • MLB Pipeline prospect rank: 14
  • 2023 performance: Played for Somerset (AA) & Scranton Wilkes-Barre (AAA), achieved a 9-7 record with a 3.62 ERA in 27 games, making 26 starts. Threw 131.2 innings, faced 105 hits, allowed 54 runs, 53 earned runs, yielded 18 home runs, issued 75 walks, and struck out 165 batters.

In a surprising move, the Yankees secured a promising pitching prospect for Joey Gallo during the summer trade deadline two years ago. Some scouts envision Clayton Beeter‘s future as a late-inning bullpen asset, possibly even a closer. Despite such projections, the Yankees intend to keep him in a starting role until he demonstrates otherwise. Beeter displayed an impressive first half in the 2023 season, boasting a 2.08 ERA in 12 Double-A starts. However, his performance took a downturn in Scranton, where he posted a higher 5.07 ERA in 14 starts. It’s anticipated that he will commence this season in Triple-A and eventually become a viable option for spot starts or long relief appearances. With the departures of pitchers like Domingo German, King, Brito, and Vasquez from the organization, the Yankees aim to identify versatile pitchers, and Beeter’s status on the 40-man roster works to his advantage.

OF Elijah Dunham

Gordon Donovan
  • Age: 25
  • Batting: Left
  • Signed: Amateur free agent on June 18, 2020.
  • Ranking: MLB Pipeline’s top 30 and Baseball America’s top 10
  • 2023 record: Played for Somerset (AA) & Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA), maintained a .227 average in 476 at-bats, scored 71 runs, recorded 108 hits, including 25 doubles and 2 triples. Hit 16 home runs, drove in 43 runs, stole 35 bases with 7 caught stealings. Accumulated 67 walks, struck out 151 times, resulting in a .719 OPS over 125 games.

There was a time when scouts envisioned Dunham as a potential fourth outfielder in the major leagues, and while that possibility remains, his stock has diminished due to a disappointing 2023 season. Despite this setback, the Yankees might find some encouragement in Dunham’s improved performance in the second half of the season compared to the first. In the initial 65 games, he batted .220 with six home runs and a .672 OPS, whereas in the subsequent 56 games, he hit .240 with 10 home runs and a .778 OPS. Currently not on the Yankees’ 40-man roster and not an immediate consideration for a big-league opportunity, Dunham still holds more promise than Trey Amburgey, a former Yankees outfield prospect who received a call-up in 2021. In the event of simultaneous injuries to several Yankees outfielders, as witnessed in previous years, Dunham could potentially receive an initial opportunity, especially considering the notable departures from the organization’s outfield depth since last summer, including Greg Allen, Harrison Bader, Willie Calhoun, Franchy Cordero, Billy McKinney, and super utilityman Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

RHP Chase Hampton

  • Age: 22
  • Draft: 2022, 6th round
  • MLB Pipeline ranking: 4
  • 2023 record: Played for Hudson Valley (High A) and Somerset (AA), recorded a 4-3 record with a 3.63 ERA in 20 games started. Pitched for 106.2 innings, allowing 85 hits, 51 earned runs, 43 runs, and 13 home runs. Accumulated 145 strikeouts while walking 37 batters.

Hampton stands as the premier pitching prospect in the Yankees’ ranks, but his absence from Triple-A experience and exclusion from the 40-man roster may likely keep him in the minors until at least the latter half of 2024, and potentially the entire year. However, if Hampton excels in Triple-A and the Yankees turn to the minor leagues for a starting pitcher for an extended period, a potential debut in the summer could be considered. Coming off a breakout season with a 2.68 ERA in nine High A starts and a 4.37 ERA in 11 Class AA assignments, Hampton is expected to begin the year in Double-A and swiftly progress if he starts the season impressively.

3B Tyler Hardman

Yankees prospect Tyler Hardman
  • Age: 24
  • Draft: 2021, 5th round
  • MLB Pipeline ranking: 15
  • 2023 record: Played for Somerset (AA), recorded a .237 batting average over 283 at-bats, scoring 56 runs, collecting 67 hits including 9 doubles and 2 triples. Hit 26 home runs, produced 56 RBIs, stole 9 bases, and had an .890 OPS in 77 games.

Hardman stands out as the Yankees’ top right-handed power hitter, showcasing the potential for even more home runs in the 2023 season if not for a season-ending hand injury on July 29. His 26 home runs led the Eastern League and ranked second in the Yankees organization. Despite his prowess for hitting majestic shots to all fields, Hardman faces challenges with a high strikeout rate, struggles to maintain a high batting average as a professional (excluding his standout Arizona Fall League performance in 2022), and displays below-average skills as a third baseman. A scout remarked, “If Hardman ends up being a 35-homer guy in the big leagues with that defense, you can live with it. He’s got big power. He can hit them a long way and a long way to all fields. It’s just a lot of swing and miss. If you cut it down, now you have something.”

Yankees’ big boy Spencer Jones

  • Age: 22
  • Bats: Left
  • Draft: 2022, 1st round
  • Rank: No. 1 on MLB Pipeline and No. 2 on Baseball America
  • 2023 record: Played for Hudson Valley (high A) and Somerset (AA), posted a .267 batting average over 480 at-bats, scoring 71 runs, recording 128 hits including 29 doubles and 4 triples. Hit 16 home runs, produced 66 RBIs, stole 43 bases but was caught stealing 12 times. Accumulated 49 walks and 155 strikeouts, with an OPS of .780 in 117 games.

Jones is acclaimed as the Yankees’ top prospect for multiple reasons, possessing a well-rounded set of skills and excellent character traits. His potential suggests he could emerge as a left-handed equivalent to Aaron Judge. Although he reached Double-A towards the end of the previous season, he is expected to begin the upcoming season in Somerset, potentially remaining there for a significant portion of 2023. Despite his considerable talent, there is room for development, particularly in reducing his strikeout rate. However, a late-season debut with the Yankees is not out of the question, as exemplified by Dominguez’s trajectory from Double-A to the Yankees last season. Jones could follow suit if he progresses as envisioned by the Yankees, and the big-league team has a late-season need for a top outfield prospect.

Catcher Ben Rice

  • Age: 24
  • Draft: 2021, 12th round
  • MLB Pipeline rank: 21
  • 2023 record: Played for Tampa (low A), Hudson Valley (high A), and Somerset (AA), achieved a .324 batting average over 275 at-bats. Scored 62 runs, recorded 89 hits including 18 doubles and 1 triple. Hit 20 home runs, produced 68 RBIs, stole 11 bases but was caught stealing 3 times. Accumulated 44 walks and 62 strikeouts, with an impressive OPS of 1.049 in 73 games.

Rice‘s performance last season propelled him into the Yankees’ prospect rankings, showcasing his hitting prowess. His power numbers could have been even more substantial if not for a back injury that sidelined him from April 30 to July 1. Starting the season in high A, Rice batted .341 in 15 April games before the injury. Upon returning, he continued his impressive run, batting .327 with 16 homers, 48 RBIs, and a 1.049 OPS in 48 Eastern League games with Somerset. Yankees hitting coordinator Joe Migliaccio described Rice as one of the organization’s top 10 hitters, emphasizing his above-average contact, sound swing decisions, and ability to hit the ball hard in the air. While scouts admire Rice’s batting skills, there’s uncertainty about his future as a big-league catcher. Some speculate he might transition to first base or serve as a utility player if he establishes himself in the majors.

2B Jorbit Vivas

  • Age: 22
  • Trade: From the Dodgers in exchange for shortstop prospect Trey Sweeney on December 11, 2023.
  • MLB Pipeline rank: 10
  • 2023 record: Played for Tulsa (AA) and Oklahoma City (AAA), achieved a .269 batting average over 506 at-bats. Scored 98 runs, recorded 136 hits including 25 doubles and 3 triples. Hit 13 home runs, produced 63 RBIs, stole 25 bases while being caught stealing 5 times. Accumulated 69 walks and 71 strikeouts, with an OPS of .788 in 135 games.

With Gleyber Torres approaching free agency after the upcoming season, the Yankees may have secured their future second baseman by acquiring Vivas and lefty reliever Victor Gonzalez in a trade for shortstop prospect Trey Sweeney last month. The Dodgers made the deal to open up 40-man roster spots for free-agent signees Shohei Ohtani and Joe Kelly. A Venezuelan talent, Vivas swiftly progressed through the Dodgers’ system since signing for $300,000 in 2018. In the previous year, he showcased his hitting skills with a .280 average, 12 homers, and an .827 OPS in 109 games with Double-A Tulsa. However, his performance dipped after moving to Triple-A Oklahoma City on August 22, where he struggled with a .226 average, one homer, and a .633 OPS in 26 Pacific Coast League games. Vivas stands out as a good contact hitter, addressing a need the Yankees have faced in recent years. Over five minor-league seasons, he maintains a .281 batting average with 250 strikeouts and 217 walks in 2,109 plate appearances. While he has experience at second and third base, his proficiency at second base, evidenced by a .983 fielding percentage in 91 games last season, surpasses Torres’ .975.

RHP Will Warren

Will Warren is the Yankees No. 1 pitching prospect.
  • Age: 24
  • Draft: 8th round in 2021
  • Rank: No. 8 on MLB Pipeline and No. 10 on Baseball America.
  • 2023 record: Split time between Somerset (AA) and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA), achieving a record of 10-4 with a 3.35 ERA. Participated in 27 games, making 25 starts, covering 129 innings. Recorded 109 hits, 60 runs, 48 earned runs, and 15 home runs. Issued 59 walks while striking out 149 batters.

In the previous season, Brito was the Yankees’ primary choice for a depth starter, with Vasquez as the second option. Heading into the upcoming season, Warren is likely to enter spring training as the second choice behind Luis Gil, who, despite having MLB experience, is returning from Tommy John surgery. Warren impressed observers last season, posting a 3-0 record with a 2.45 ERA in six Double-A starts and a 3.61 ERA in 21 Triple-A appearances, 19 of which were as a starter. His notable pitches include a fastball with an average speed of 93-96 mph and a slider, complemented by a changeup and curve. An MLB scout recently shared with NJ Advance Media his projection of Warren as a “backend starter or middle reliever” in the major leagues. The scout further commented, “Warren doesn’t have top-of-the-rotation stuff, but he has a good arm and some bulldog in him. There are days when he attacks with his fastball and slider. I actually like him better than Chase Hampton.”

RHP Danny Watson

  • Age: 23
  • Draft: 15th round in 2021
  • MLB Pipeline rank: 28
  • 2023 record: Split time between Hudson Valley (High A) and Somerset (AA), amassing a record of 7-1 with an exceptional 1.58 ERA. Contributed to 45 games, securing 5 saves, and covering 62.2 innings. Limited opponents to 30 hits, 14 runs, 11 earned runs, and 6 home runs. Maintained control with 25 walks while striking out an impressive 82 batters.

Watson emerges as arguably the top reliever in the Yankees’ prospect pool. His remarkable performance last season began in High A, where he dominated with a 1.48 ERA in 15 appearances at Hudson Valley. Transitioning to Somerset on May 30, he continued his excellence with a 1.68 ERA in 30 Double-A games. Hailing from Albany, Watson, with his towering presence, confounds hitters with a low 90s fastball delivered from a distinctive low arm slot. Although not currently required to be on the 40-man roster, he stands as a ranked prospect expected to commence the upcoming season in Triple-A, with the potential to make his mark in the major leagues during the course of this year.

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