The Yankees have 3 prospects set to break out in 2023

trey sweeney, yankees

When evaluating the Yankees‘ farm system, it’s apparent that they have an abundance of talent. They possess plenty of high-octane arms and dynamic position players, but there are plenty of prospects that have yet to break through in a way that establishes them as one of the better prospects at their position. It’s clear that the Yankees are shifting towards an approach of prioritizing their farm, something that should allow them to have cost-controlled talent surrounding their high-priced talent. These prospects weren’t bad last season, instead, they showed off qualities and skills that could allow them to reach a higher level and put themselves in the Yankees’ future plans.

Yankees Could Have Their 3B of the Future

When Anthony Volpe was called up to Triple-A with the Scranton RailRiders, the door opened up for the Yankees 2021 1st Round Pick Trey Sweeney to make his Double-A debut. With a 105 wRC+ at Double-A, it’s a solid showing for your first 11 games at such a high level. It’s often viewed as the biggest jump for any prospect, as this is their first crack at playing against MLB-caliber talent, and while a 112 wRC+ at High-A wouldn’t scream “elite hitter,” he made massive strides mid-season that should excite Yankees’ fans. Sweeney struggled with his plate discipline early on, but he made dramatic improvements and tore up Hudson Valley.

  • First 43 Games
    • .208/.283/.382
    • 29.8% K%
    • 7.6% BB%
    • 80 wRC+
  • Final 57 Games
    • .269/.402/.443
    • 18.8% K%
    • 16.9% BB%
    • 136 wRC+

Sweeney’s ability to make more contact and work more walks significantly improved two key metrics; BA and OBP. While batting average is a metric I often cite as pretty irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, a high average inherently raises your OBP, so they’re tied at the hip. A lot of that stems from producing batted balls with high hit expectancies, a skill we can quantify. BABIP, also known as Batting Average on Balls in Play, evaluates how often your batted ball events go for hits. League-average is .300, and while people initially viewed BABIP as a metric that defines luck, it’s actually a skill metric.

tre sweeney, yankees

Hitting more line drives, consistently generating hard contact, and hitting groundballs the other way, are all ways to generate batted balls that’ll go for hits. Trey Sweeney’s BABIP over the final 57 games was .321, which is notably above that .300 clip. With a 20.6% LD% and even distribution between flyballs and groundballs, the ceiling for his BABIP could be higher than the career .294 BABIP he’s posted as a pro. He doesn’t have strikeout issues, he walks a ton, and he has above-average power that can translate to more HRs and XBHs in 2023. In a sense, he’s the perfect left-handed bat for a power-heavy Yankees lineup.

Trey Sweeney really didn’t have the breakout campaign we were anticipating from one of the best bats at the collegiate level in 2021, but reaching Double-A for his age-23 season should be a great test for the young SS. There are legitimate questions about his defense at SS, and many scouts profile him to move to 3B at some point. That being said, keeping him at SS, for now, is the right move until the Yankees know for a fact that Volpe or Peraza is the real deal. He swiped 31 bags in 34 attempts as well, so adding some speed to the infield eventually, alongside his left-handed bat, would make him a dynamic young bat for this franchise.

Sweeney gives the Yankees another left-handed bat in their system, and for a franchise with the short porch in RF, they’ve been uncharacteristically right-handed in recent years. It’s clear that Brian Cashman and the Front Office are beginning to revert back to being left-handed once again, as Austin Wells and Trey Sweeney are both left-handed bats in the higher levels of the farm. This isn’t even mentioning Jasson Dominguez and Oswaldo Cabrera, who are switch-hitters and should be integral to the Yankees over the next 5 years.

With a big 2023 campaign, he could climb into various top-100 lists and reach Triple-A, where he’d put himself firmly in the Yankees’ 2024 plans. He’s probably the player on this list with the most to gain next year due to his draft status, raw talent, and high ceiling, but it also could be argued that it’s the least interesting option for those very same reasons. We already know Sweeney should be a good prospect, so let’s get to the nitty gritty of the Yankees’ farm system.

King of Command

Richard Fitts had an excellent 2022 season, his first as a pro. While with the Tampa Tarpons, he had a 5.01 ERA and 1.48 HR/9, but that didn’t reflect his true talent level. His xFIP (3.34) and K-BB% (23.2%) were both remarkable, and the Yankees identified this trend of lots of strikeouts without many walks and decided to elevate him to High-A with the Hudson Valley Renegades. What would follow is one of the most dominant stretches any pitcher in the organization could imagine going on.

  • Stats with High-A Hudson Valley
    • 33.0 IP (6.2 IP/GS)
    • 0.55 ERA
    • 2.20 FIP
    • 32.2% K%
    • 2.5% BB%
    • 0.61 WHIP

When delving into his pitch mix, we see that Fitts is able to generate strong movement that profiles for a ton of swings and misses. His primary pitch is his four-seam fastball, which he threw ~55% of the time and had plenty of success with. With 17.8″ of Induced Vertical Break and a 33.4% CSW%, he was attacking batters in the zone with a fastball that relies on movement instead of velocity to overpower hitters. At just 92.5 MPH from a RHP, he actually has below-average velocity that, on the surface, should cause him to have to be more “crafty,” but instead, he pitches like a power pitcher.

Batters chased 36.6% of the time against the pitch with a putrid .242 xwOBA, making it a truly dominant pitch for the Auburn alumni. His second most used pitch (~35%) is his slider, a pitch that definitely needs work in 2023. Fitts allowed a .355 xwOBA on his slider despite a 34.5% CSW%, but perhaps the Yankees can help him in developing a slider that resembles more of a true sweeper. He already gets 9.1″ of horizontal sweep, and an extra inch or two would go a long way. The Yankees love their sweepers, so this would be in line with what the organization does.

We also saw Fitts incorporate the occasional cutter and changeup, with the cutter struggling to prevent hard contact (.438 xwOBA) and the changeup limiting hard contact (.265 xwOBA) but neither doing well as a whiff pitch. It’s very apparent that Fitts is best using his fastball a ton, but if he can polish those secondaries, we might be looking at one of the better pitching prospects in the sport. Something we can also observe as “lacking” in his arsenal is velocity, as the aforementioned sub-93 MPH fastball might not be able to play at higher levels, but Fitts has flashed a higher velocity upside.

When Richard Fitts was with Auburn, he had a mid-90s fastball that could touch 97, and while he hasn’t had that velocity return, could 2023 be the year it comes back? Adding a tick to his fastball could make it go from a solid pitch to an excellent one, and with his release not being entirely 12:00 on his fastball, there’s some deception going on there. It’s not to the extent of a Cristian Javier or Nestor Cortes, but there’s a reason that his lower velocity plays so well in a world where everyone’s throwing over 95 MPH. Standing at 6’3 and 215 pounds, Fitts can definitely add some velocity and get closer to 93-94 MPH on his fastball.

Richard Fitts, yankees
Auburn’s Richard Fitts (43) pitches during the Auburn-Alabama Capital City Classic at Riverfront Park in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Alabama defeated Auburn 6-3. Jc Aubase 27

Easily the biggest selling point with Richard Fitts is his incredible command and aggressiveness in the strike zone. He walked just 10 batters in his final 13 starts, and his BB% on the season was under 5%. That aggressiveness will only benefit him more if he’s able to add a tick to his velocity, as his fastball already has posted results that would suggest there’s more to it than the pitch data may initially suggest. When we look at the PitchingBot model developed by Cameron Grove, we see that his four-seam stuff grading system relies heavily on movement and velocity.

Adding velocity is an easy way to increase your “stuff,” and while adding velocity is easier said than done, the Yankees have been able to get velocity leaps from their prospects consistently. It’s not a matter of sitting 92.5 in 2022 and then hitting 99 with ease, instead, it’s going from sitting 92.5 and to sitting 93.5 and being able to increase your max velocity as well. He’s been able to sit 94-95 in college, and if he’s somehow able to rekindle that collegiate velocity, Fitts is going to dominate MiLB and force himself onto the 40-Man Roster.

The Yankees’ farm system is void of elite pitching prospects, but perhaps Richard Fitts could live up to his previous 1st Round Grades entering his final year of college and dominate at Double-A. It would be wise for the Yankees to make him a fast riser, as they could either flip him in a deal or make him one of their next starters in the upcoming years as guys like Luis Severino and Frankie Montas hit free agency. It’s not too late to get on his hype train before he goes mainstream, the Richard Fitts Fanclub is accepting all prospective members.

A Sneaky Pick From Last Year’s Draft

2022 1st Round Pick Spencer Jones gets a ton of hype, and rightfully so. He’s a behemoth who hits the cover off of the baseball and has star potential written all over him. In the 4th round of that draft, the Yankees selected another left-handed bat in Anthony Hall, who was dominant in his college career with the Oregon Ducks. Hall was a three-year college player at Oregon, and 2022 was a massive year for his stock. He was a solid hitter, but he became one of the top hitters in the country last season after swatting 14 HRs and slugging .640.

He had a Max Exit Velocity of 110.9 MPH in college, which is well above average and shows off good raw power for someone who really didn’t get much hype in the farm system over the offseason. He’s a line-drive machine, and those elite batted ball sprays are why he hit .333 in his final collegiate season. Hall excels at laying off of breaking pitches out of the zone, doesn’t struggle with making contact on higher velocity fastballs, and is an all-around plus hitter who only fell due to uncertainty regarding his defense.

Anthony Hall simply possesses offensive tools that are extremely desirable for a hitter looking to be a fast riser in the system and climb his way to the Major League level. As mentioned previously, his defense leaves a lot to be desired, and is most likely a corner outfielder, but that shouldn’t be an issue if he’s able to have the bat translate, as the Yankees have plenty of athletic defenders in the farm already. In the offseason leading up to his final year at college, he was able to increase his bat speeds and generate higher exit velocities, tools that shined in 2022 and allowed him to get drafted in one of the earlier rounds.

While he only had 1 AB in professional baseball, next year is a year we could see Hall start out in A-Ball with Tampa and try to slug his way into the higher levels of MiLB. Out of the three prospects on this list, he’s got the most question marks surrounding him, but I also think that makes him the most interesting. I view Anthony Hall as someone who could be like Andres Chaparro and be that bat-first guy that flies under the radar until he reaches the higher levels of the Minor Leagues. There’s definitely some serious juice in his bat, and being left-handed will certainly generate some buzz in the fanbase.

He has experience at 1B as well, and the Yankees don’t have a ton of MiLB depth at that position, so perhaps as Anthony Rizzo ages and re-enters FA in 2-3 years, Hall gets ready to take over at that position. The versatility in the corner outfield and at 1st allows him to have multiple lanes to get into the lineup if he rises through MiLB, but that’s thinking way too far into the future. The Yankees have plenty of talent that could take leaps in 2023, but these 3 stand out for unique reasons as guys who could explode up prospects lists.

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