The Yankees have an extraordinarily underrated catcher prospect

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Sal DiMaggio / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Yankees are renowned for their rich vein of talent consistently emerging from the minor leagues — or at least trading them away.

Though some critics express doubts about these prospects’ potential MLB performance, the real debate often centers on the Yankees’ hesitation to promote these young talents rather than their capability to deliver in the future.

Yankees’ Inconsistent Approach with Prospects

In recent years, the Yankees’ treatment of prospects has been questionable. Their inconsistent approach is evident from how they managed Josh Donaldson, a player who, based on analytics, was given a larger sample size of action. However, they showed reluctance in allowing Oswald Peraza the same courtesy to display his prowess, which many deem as contradictory.

It’s perplexing to see the Yankees, currently languishing at the bottom, not following the strategy of other triumphant teams: ushering in young prospects and building for the future.

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Spotlight on Ben Rice: The Rising Star

One name that’s set to gain prominence among the Yankees’ prospects is Ben Rice. A 24-year-old drafted in the 12th round during the 2021 June Amateur Draft, Rice’s standout performances have earmarked him for bigger things. With his Rule 5 eligibility looming this winter, the Yankees must strategize around his future, particularly given his commendable output with Double-A Somerset.

His statistics are a testament to his formidable talent. At High-A Hudson Valley, over a 15-game stint, he averaged .341 with an impressive .559 OBP, amassing two home runs, 10 RBIs, and a 204 wRC+. His promotion to the more challenging Double-A did little to dent his form.

Over 20 games, Rice averaged .342, with a .422 OBP and .696 slugging percentage, adding seven homers, 25 RBIs, and a 199 wRC+. Of note is his 17.8% strikeout rate, an indicator of his excellent plate discipline.

Moreover, throughout his professional journey, Rice has consistently maintained a walk rate above 10%, hinting at a potential Triple-A promotion in the near horizon.

The Defensive Dilemma: Where Does Rice Fit?

Rice’s defensive positioning remains a talking point. Currently playing as a catcher, his good framing numbers are offset by challenges in controlling stolen bases. With certain limitations like arm strength and reaction speed, some analysts suggest a potential shift to the outfield or a first baseman role in the long run.

Rice’s record of just one error in 24 games as a first baseman and predominant roles as a catcher and designated hitter opens the door for potential corner outfield roles to explore his adaptability further.

The Yankees have the exciting challenge of nurturing his journey through the minor leagues, tapping into his batting prowess while refining his defensive skills. Given Anthony Rizzo’s contract nearing its end in 2024 and Matt Carpenter’s outfield stint last season, Rice could emerge as a versatile asset for the Yankees, provided his batting continues to flourish at higher tiers.