For many in the Minor Leagues, the low pay, constant travel, and massive time commitment serve as unfair deterrents that the system has placed put them at a disadvantage. Yankees‘ Andres Chaparro battled through it all. Going unranked in every single Top 30 for the Yankees released by MLB Pipeline, Chaparro hasn’t ever gotten the recognition he deserved. 2022 was a continuation of the great success he had in 2021, and he’s quietly put his name up there with some of the best bats in the Yankees’ farm system. Despite the Yankees not placing him on their 40-Man Roster ahead of the 2023 season, this could be the year we see him finally make his MLB debut.
Overlooked from the day he was signed, Chaparro has already come so far in his professional career en route to his Double-A breakout. Spring Training presents an opportunity for the 23-year-old to become the 3B for the Scranton Railriders at Triple-A and have him just outside of the bright lights of New York. I was fortunate enough to have Chaparro take some time back in November to discuss his journey through Minor League Baseball.
[su_posts template=”templates/list-loop.php” posts_per_page=”3″ tax_term=”1622326″ offset=”1″ order=”desc”]
The Hard Journey Began Early:
Andres Chaparro is a Venezuelan native, born on May 4th, 1999. He grew up playing baseball in Venezuela, and as is the story for many young prospects from Central and South America, the window to get scouted and signed is rather short. Many international free agents from these regions are signed as young as 16 years old, and that was no different for Andres Chaparro. One of the biggest transitions commonly cited is the culture shock from leaving home to go play in the United States, but when I asked Chaparro about his transition to the US, he told me about his unique background:
“The transition was not so difficult for me, because since I was 13 years old I have lived away from my family and I think that was what was really difficult for me, I had to go to the center of my country to be able to continue preparing and get an opportunity to play professional. It was about 10 hours from my house so usually when I got to the US it wasn’t that hard to be away from home. Obviously it’s another culture another language but I’ve been adapting.”
Most children at the age of 13 are figuring out middle school or the beginning of their freshman year, but Chaparro was preparing for the opportunity to become a professional baseball player. The journey for many international free agents is hard, and Chaparro’s case was no different. His hard work at Carlos Guillen’s program paid off, as the Yankees inked him to a $215,000 deal on July 2nd, 2015. He also notably signed with a 17-year-old Oswaldo Cabrera out of Venezuela, who happened to also sign on July 2nd. With his ticket to go play professional baseball, Andres Chaparro would find himself struggling to find his bat in the lower levels of the Minor Leagues.
From 2016-2018, Andres Chaparro played in 156 games, but it wasn’t very pretty. While subpar offense at the MLB level won’t cost you a job permanently if you play great defense, for a prospect who isn’t highly-touted relative to his peers, this is a death sentence at the lower levels. Despite hopes for good power, Chaparro struggled to do much of anything with the bat:
- .659 OPS
- 14 HRs
- 90 wRC+
Chaparro wasn’t hitting for average, wasn’t getting on base, wasn’t hitting for power, but in 2019 he’d show signs of progress. The power still wasn’t there (.332 SLG%), but he posted a .366 OBP and 119 wRC+ for the Staten Island Yankees. It looked like he was going to have a chance to potentially have a breakout 2020 campaign and emerge as one of the Yankees’ better prospects, but instead, he and countless other professional baseball players were robbed of their 2020 season.
Monumental Improvement During the Pandemic:
Andres Chaparro was one of the countless professional baseball players who had their futures hanging in the balance. Where would they play without affiliated baseball? How would they get their reps in? Would they survive the downsizing of MiLB talent?
“To have baseball taken away from you out of nowhere when you have dedicated your whole life to baseball is really difficult, at first I relaxed a bit and took it easy then I put a stop and said I have I have to be ready because I don’t know when they will call us again and I started working hard at the gym.“
There was plenty of uncertainty surrounding that 2020 season, and for many players, it tested their ability to push themselves. Andres Chaparro didn’t just keep himself in shape, he would train like never before to take massive strides in his game:
I remember that my work at the gym was something like 80% Gym and 20% Baseball. I never lost focus and in my mind I always had that I could not get out of shape because it would be an important year and good work paid off and even more so when you are in the middle of a pandemic where I had to put more effort because everyone at home I had to go and continue preparing even if I didn’t want to“
The work he put in the gym paid off immediately, as when he reported to the Tampa Tarpons for A-Ball, he got off to a strong start. He posted a 123 wRC+, but the notable change came in the .435 SLG%, the highest he had posted at any level of affiliated baseball. Chaparro had even hit a ball 112.5 MPH, which in 2021 would have ranked in the 85th Percentile for Max Exit Velocity. Chaparro found his power stroke, but that breakout in Tampa would just be the tip of his power iceberg.
He would get the call to play for High-A in Hudson Valley, and he’d get even better. Andres Chaparro hit 8 HRs in just 36 games with a 144 wRC+ and .527 SLG%. He quickly became one of the best hitters at the High-A level, but he was doing so while being overshadowed by star prospect Anthony Volpe.
Chaparro posted a 130 wRC+, hitting balls north of 112 MPH, and having a low K% and high BB%, surely he was ranked in the Top 30 of at least one credible Yankee prospect list, right? FanGraphs, MLB Pipeline, and Baseball America all omitted Andres Chaparro from their editions of the Top 30 Yankee Prospects coming into 2022. Once again, Andres Chaparro would have to prove himself, even after all of his incredible work.
Going Scorched Earth in 2022:
Living 10 hours away from his family as a pre-teen, losing his 2020 season, and putting up gaudy numbers after putting in a lot of hard work at the gym wasn’t enough to put Andres Chaparro on the map, but in 2022 he left everyone no choice. To say Andres Chaparro was really good in 2022 is an understatement, no, he was unbelievably great. On a team that rostered prospects like Austin Wells (First-Round Pick), Anthony Volpe (First-Round Pick), and Jasson Dominguez (Top IFA in 2019 Class), Andres Chaparro was their best hitter by far. Here are the metrics he led the 2022 Somerset Patriots in (min. 200 PAs):
- wRC+ (158)
- wOBA (.412)
- SLG (.594)
- AVG (.289)
- OPS (.962)
- HR (19)
He was a monster at the AA level, and his combination of a high average, great power, and a low K% (19.9%) was so elite that he was the only player in all of AA to have an ISO (SLG minus AVG) better than .300 and a K% below 20% (min. 200 PAs). 2022 wouldn’t come without its own share of problems, however, as Andres Chaparro went down with an injury in early June that sidelined him for almost two months. When I asked about the process of dealing with an injury, Chaparro talked about what goes through an athlete’s mind in the rehab process.
“An injury for us is always a dagger to the heart and to your mind, because we don’t know how long we will be out and if we will recover quickly or not. For me it was a bit frustrating at first since in previous years I had never had an injury where I lasted so long outside and I had never experienced what it was like to be injured in the middle of the season. but I was able to stay calm and find patience where there was none to be able to wait for the rehab time and be back on the field.”
Having strong support systems in place is a huge part of helping an athlete, more than people give it credit for. At the end of the day, none of the data and scouting changes the fact that players are people. Chaparro talked about how he managed to stay patient and remember that the Patriots’ impending effort was a team effort.
When you’re injured you’re very hungry to get back on the field with your teammates and I really think the anxiety of wanting to play fast makes it harder to wait all the time for rehab. Many times I felt that I was not part of the team’s achievements, but then I thought that’s why we are a team, that when someone is not [there] due to injury or anything we are all here to help each other. I think my family and my teammates were fundamental in my rehabilitation.”
Chaparro missed some of the crucial stages of the Patriots’ summer surge, but he’d get back in time to get himself ready for a chance to win the Eastern League. Chaparro actually played better after his injury to the tune of a 190 wRC+ and 11 HRs in 34 games, and that hot streak carried into the postseason, where Chaparro have a huge playoff knock.
The Somerset Patriots were down 5-4 against the Portland Sea Dogs in the bottom of the 9th, and with two outs Chaparro would come up with the game-tying hit, and the Patriots would go on to win in the 10th, advancing to the Eastern League Championship, where they’d win the Eastern League. Andres Chaparro had an OPS north of .900 in the AA playoffs, which is the most competitive stage of baseball he’s played thus far. He shined bright when the team needed a hero, just as he had all season. The Patriots were a tight-knit group, and Chaparro credits that for their postseason success.
“During the playoffs we stayed closer than ever and I think that makes playing in those moments easier when you have some teammates who always have your back no matter what, it makes playing more fun than it already is , you just go out and play and let things flow and thank God things always flowed in our favor and we were able to get the title.“
Through a global pandemic, a lost season in 2020, and injuries in 2022, Andres Chaparro found himself alongside the Somerset Patriots as a champion. He would finish his second straight season as an organizational All-Star, but with success at Double-A comes serious discussion about a player’s viability at the Major League level. It’s a big leap between MiLB and MLB, but could Andres Chaparro not just pull it off but do so in 2023?
How Does Andres Chaparro Fit into the Yankees’ Plans?
While the Somerset Patriots reached the top of their mountain, it was just the beginning for Andres Chaparro. He’s generating buzz in the Yankee fanbase, and rightfully so. Chaparro has some of the best power in the Yankees’ MiLB system, and his contact skills are still there. There are the makings for a really good hitter here, and the defense isn’t too far behind, either. While in 2022, he had posted a -3.2 Fielding Runs Above Average, in 2021, he had a 5.5 Fielding Runs Above Average. He can play both 1B and 3B, though 3B is his primary position.
The Yankees could see Chaparro as a viable depth option if he starts out in Triple-A, though he’ll have to fight for a 40-Man roster spot as well. With the way he’s swinging the bat, it’s easy to imagine how he could force the Yankees’ hand, and his ability to play 3B plays into the Yankees’ biggest question mark in the infield. Josh Donaldson is coming off of a season with a sub-100 wRC+, and DJ LeMahieu just narrowly avoided a catastrophic toe surgery, creating an opening for the Venezuelan-born power bat.
He should have a good chance to open up some eyes in Spring Training, but it’ll come down to improving his glovework in order to get a crack at the Majors. His bat’s going to carry the majority of his value, but teams want to have positional versatility, and Chaparro proving he can handle both corner infield spots at an acceptable level would further entice the Yankees to roster him at some point during the season. The Yankees heavily value infield defense, but he could definitely provide a spark in the lineup or off the bench due to his HR prowess.
The biggest questions people have about the Yankees pertain to their lineup, and that’s persisted all offseason. It’s foolish to expect a player that hasn’t stepped foot in Triple-A to solve those problems, it’s not foolish to imagine Chaparro could factor into the equation if the Yankees were to become desperate for offense. It’s how we saw the emergence of fellow Venezuelan Oswaldo Cabrera, who also signed back in July 2015. Baseball is about opportunities, and whether we see it in 2023 or 2024, it feels like a matter of time before one presents itself for Chaparro.
Andres Chaparro is a great guy to root for. I’d like to take time to thank him for answering some of my questions for this piece, especially during the offseason when players just want to focus on their personal life and family. You can follow Chaparro on Twitter @Ch_andres07, and make sure to keep an eye on him at Scranton or Somerset to start the season. He could climb up the system quicker than people may think, joining the other highly-touted prospects in their system as part of this youth movement. Who knows, maybe Andres Chaparro can go from hoisting the Eastern League Trophy to hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy for the Yankees over his head in just a year.