MLB releases Yankees top 30 prospect list

spencer jones, yankees
May 27, 2022; Hoover, AL, USA; Vanderbilt right fielder Spencer Jones (34) fields a single hit by a Kentucky batter in the SEC Tournament at the Hoover Met in Hoover, Ala., Thursday. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-The Tuscaloosa News Sports Sec Baseball Tournament Vanderbilt Vs Kentucky

The Yankees have a lot of buzz surrounding their farm system, and MLB released their top 30 list for prospects in the organization ahead of the 2023 season. There are plenty of notable changes, including the ranking of 1st Round pick Spencer Jones and some pitchers who rose up the boards during the 2022 season.

While the Yankees are still deadset on trying to win a World Series in 2023, they certainly have plenty of exciting names to look at for the future. From international signings to players on the cusp of making their MLB debut, their farm system is loaded with players who could grow into quality MLB players or even star-level players.

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Yankees Have Serious Risers in the Organization:

Richard Fitts was ranked the Yankees’ 29th best prospect entering 2022, and after an incredible showing at the MiLB level last year, he’s entered the top 10 for the organization. He was at one point projected to be a potential 1st Round pick, but a poor collegiate season prior to entering the draft caused him to plummet. The Yankees took a flyer on him, hoping he could return some of his velocity from his college days, and so far, it’s worked extremely well for them. After posting a 5.01 ERA with the Tampa Tarpons, it seemed like a head-scratching decision to promote him to High-A with Hudson Valley.

The Yankees weren’t as focused on his ERA as they were on a 23.2% K-BB% and 3.34 xFIP, and their trust in the righty to have positive ERA regression was more than rewarded. He immediately became the ace of the Renegades, posting a 0.55 ERA with just a 2.5% BB%. He gets plenty of strikeouts, is aggressive in the strike zone, and in Spring Training we saw increased velocity which helped his fastball register a 65.3 Stuff Grade on Cameron Grove’s Stuff Grader. He has a sweeping slider and cutter as well as a changeup, but he’ll need to develop those breaking/offspeed pitches to become a frontline starter.

Infielder Tyler Hardman also finds himself in the top 30, but unlike Fitts, he wasn’t even ranked ahead of the 2022 season. Now the #20 prospect in the Yankees’ organization, Hardman posted a 109 wRC+ across High-A and Double-A last season with 22 HRs in 111 games, but his over 30% K% is alarming for his projectability long-term. He’s a 1B/3B and has also played some corner outfield, but he’s a strong defender at the hot corner, and with the Yankees having a potential opening at 3B after 2023, this is a huge year for the 24-year-old.

He really made a name for himself after tearing it up in the Arizona Fall League, slugging over .600 with 6 HRs in 20 games, striking out just 7.2% of the time in that sample size. If Hardman can build on his success at the AFL in 2023, we could see him rise all the way to Triple-A and enter camp next year in competition for the 3B job. We’ve seen Hardman in Spring Training already, where he has two hits in his 4 ABs so far.

New additions to the list include the likes of Brock Selvidge, Matt Sauer, Zach Messinger, and Chase Hampton as well, all pitchers who have something to prove in 2023. Hampton made his professional debut in the Yankees’ 8-5 win against the Tigers, with Messinger and Selvidge hoping to convert their success at the lowest levels of professional baseball into momentum to climb through the system. The Yankees are also hoping they can rely upon Matt Sauer to finally have his strong strikeout rates convert into better run prevention, as he struck out nearly 30% of batters in spite of a middling 4.54 ERA.

Sam Briend has done a great job with developing the young arms in the farm system, so it’s exciting to see how these guys will continue to progress. It’s exciting to see some of these arms in camp as well, where Yankees’ pitching coach Matt Blake can get an extended look at them in-game or during bullpens.

matt blake, new york yankees
Mar 15, 2022; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake (67) looks on during spring training workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Spencer Jones also climbed into the Yankees’ top 5, which is extremely exciting after he had just a cup of coffee at the professional level last season. It was an exciting cup of coffee, however, as Jones slashed .344/.425/.538 with 4 HRs in 25 games, striking out just 18.9% of the time. He spent time with the Tampa Tarpons in A-Ball, but if he can climb through the farm the way 2021 1st Round Pick Trey Sweeney, we could see him in Double-A this season. He’s got ridiculous power, great athleticism, and can even play a strong center field. He’s one of the most exciting prospects in the farm system, and 2023 is a huge year for him.

spencer jones, yankees
Vanderbilt right fielder Spencer Jones (34) hits a single against Texas A&M during the eighth inning at Hawkins Field in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, April 28, 2022. Vandy Tam Base 042822 An 010

Plenty of exciting names on the list moved up or were added to the top 30, but there were also some notable subtractions and snubs.

On the Outside Looking In:

One of the more predictable falloffs for the top 30 was Deivi Garcia, who still possesses great stuff and is still young but hasn’t performed at the MiLB level in years. He tossed 2 scoreless innings in his Spring debut, and he may have a 4th MiLB option that could extend his shelf life in the organization. He has the mid-90s four-seam fastball with great ride and from a lower slot that generates a ton of whiffs (32.9%) but got hammered (.361 xwOBA). He has a sweeping breaking ball that grades out extremely well and gets plenty of whiffs (46.2%) and even a good amount of chases.

He’s got a new cutter as well that he showed off in Spring, which, just like for Clarke Schmidt, serves as a bridge pitch that can generate more swings in-zone as they sit closer to the zero line in horizontal break. It should also help him handle left-handed batters, who crushed Deivi Garcia last year. Command, consistency, and a good bill of health can get Deivi Garcia back on this list, but for now, it makes sense to leave him off of the list. The upside is there, he just needs to put it all together one more time.

New York Yankees, Deivi Garcia
Aug 30, 2020; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Deivi Garcia at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Breaux, Brandon Lockridge, and Alexander Vargas all struggled to put together good numbers at the plate, and at the backend of the top 30 list last year, they were prime candidates to fall off of the list in favor of new draft picks and some risers from last season. 2023 will be a year for them to try to put things together, but they have something to prove once again. As for Juan Carela, he struggled after his promotion to High-A however he was just 20 years old last season. In his time at A-Ball, he pitched to a sub-3 ERA with a 22.5% K-BB%, so it’s a head-scratching demotion.

Edgar Barclay was lights out last season, with a sub-2 ERA and 25.7% K-BB% at High-A, however, being a reliever makes it really hard to get ranked over players projecting for larger roles at the MLB level. Relievers are naturally going to get snubbed on lists because of their position, so it’s less of an indictment on his talent level and more of a positional value debate.

Josh Breaux, yankees

The biggest snub on this list is Andres Chaparro, who showed off serious power with the Somerset Patriots last season. He posted a wRC+ north of 150, slugging nearly .600 in his 71 MiLB games last season and striking out under 20% of the time. Chaparro has some serious power, and the hit tool seems to be much better than people give it credit for. He’s able to pull the ball plenty, which requires earlier swing decisions and can lead to higher chase or whiff rates, but instead, we’ve seen the strikeout rates decrease as he climbed from High-A to Double-A.

Chaparro has a shot to start with the Triple-A team, and we’ve already seen him send baseballs into orbit, like this 106 MPH blast off the bat of the Venezuelan 1B/3B against the Blue Jays:

There are legitimate concerns about his defense, but if he’s a poor defensive corner infielder with a great bat, the Yankees are still going to find value in that. The chance of becoming a DH seems to be what holds him off of their top 30 list, but I think it’s a silly reason to hold off what could be a 115-120 wRC+ bat with serious power. The Yankees are trotting him out at 1B to see if he can make the position change, as if he’s a competent 1B he’ll find his way into the lineup in Scranton often, and they could potentially call him up in 2023.

He’s in better shape now than he was at the end of last season, decreasing his body fat percentage while maintaining the monstrous frame that allows him to record exit velocities north of 112 MPH. He’s going to make a lot of noise in Triple-A as he has in camp early on, and I don’t imagine that MLB Pipeline will be able to keep him off their top 30 for much longer. This top 30 list allows us to shine a light on guys we normally wouldn’t think of, but it’s clear as day that the Yankees have a lot of guys to keep your eyes on this MiLB season.