With the Yankees’ season coming to an end, a keen eye will be placed on what the Major League team does in the offseason will be talked about all winter, but emphasis should still be placed on their Minor League affiliates as well. An organization can only go as far as their internal talent takes them, regardless of whether they’re one year or three years away. This series will allow us to take a deep dive into the Yankees’ MiLB affiliates, highlighting top performers and incoming talent for their affiliates that could break out in 2024.
There is one level below the FCL, but due to a lack of data and the high variance of the Dominican Summer League, I’ve chosen to lump their top DSL performers in with the incoming talent that could fill out the FCL Yankees, who were arguably the best team relative to their level among any in the Yankees’ organization. Falling in the Championship Series to the Braves FCL affiliate, they did a lot right in their season, and some of the Yankees’ best prospects were part of this team’s story.
We’re working our way up through the Minor Leagues, and our first stop is in the familiar confines of George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida.
The Best Offense in the Florida Complex League?
The FCL Yankees finished at the top of the leaderboards in Runs Scored, OPS, SLG%, OBP, and Hits, finishing top three in Home Runs and Stolen Bases as well. The team was led by a ridiculous group of teenagers who combined good power with excellent swing decisions and speed to dominate opposing pitchers. The Yankees’ top prospect at the level was Roderick Arias, who was solid but not great in his previous season, dealing with injuries and the struggles of being a first-year pro. In 2023, he boosted his stock not just by going stateside to the FCL but also by putting up great numbers.
The 19-year-old switch-hitter was only 18 throughout the season, and he still put up a 143 wRC+ with a .423 OBP in 27 games, and Brendan Kuty of The Athletic reported that he reached exit velocities as high as 110 MPH. He doesn’t possess a massive frame, but he’s got great game power (.505 SLG%) to couple with blazing speed and great patience. Baseball America placed him in their top 100 in their most recent update, and he’s proven to be one of the most exciting young prospects in all of baseball.
Arias had his season cut short by a season-ending wrist injury, but he should be back in action in 2024, and it’ll likely be for their Single-A affiliate in Tampa. It would be silly for him to repeat a level he dominated, and aggressive promotions are becoming more and more common with the reliance on Key Performance Indicators over just setting guidelines for how much time a prospect needs to spend at a certain level. He wasn’t the only infielder crushing it, with Emmanuel Tejada and Keiner Delgado both having great years, and just like Arias, I imagine they’ll head to Tampa as well.
George Lombard Jr. also joined the FCL Yankees mid-season, as he was their first-round draft pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, and he acclimated quickly to the level with a .988 OPS and 202 wRC+ in his brief stint in Florida. The team leader in Home Runs wasn’t even a legal adult, with the 17-year-old left-handed outfielder John Cruz clubbing 10 in 48 games, posting a 131 wRC+, and looking like a potential top-10 name in the organization if he can carry that into a great stint in Single-A next season.
Keiner Delgado was their team leader in steals (36), Tejada in wRC+ (153) and OBP (.465), and Cruz in SLG% (.531), which summarizes their top performers at the dish. Ryan Chipka and Tom DeAngelis were the hitting coaches for this dominant offense, and you can see a consistent theme of making the right swing decisions and generating power as the pillars of their offense. They utilized their athleticism to steal bases and get the extra base when they could, and overall, this lineup was loaded with young and dynamic athletes, with many of their key contributors headed to Single-A in 2024.
As for their top bat, I’ll go with Roderick Arias, who likely would have had better counting numbers if he didn’t get hurt but was the best prospect on the team entering the season and ended his year not just supporting that notion but cementing it. He’ll be the guy you watch in 2024 to take that next step, and he could become one of the 50 best prospects in baseball if he continues his rise through the prospect world.
Entering 2024, the FCL Yankees should anticipate the promotion of Brando Mayea, who’s one of the top prospects in the organization and held his own as a first-year pro, posting a 113 wRC+ and slashing .349/.440/.558 in the final month of the season. They probably won’t be as good as they were this past season, but the Yankees’ track record of developing young talent suggests they won’t fall off too hard in the absence of their top bats.
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Yankees Continue to Produce Talented Young Arms
Finishing 4th in ERA (4.47), 4th in WHIP (1.46), 2nd in K:BB (2.05), and 1st in Strikeouts (587), it was one of the best staffs in their circuit. The Yankees pride themselves in excellent pitching development, especially after the hiring of Sam Briend, who has overseen their pitching development since 2020. The Yankees have been 5th in MLB ERA (3.75), and that trend carried into this FCL Yankee squad, headlined by some names that could continue to pop in 2024. Carlos Lagrange led the staff in innings pitched, and while a 4.97 ERA isn’t great, he led the entire league in strikeouts (63).
Lagrange possesses a dominant fastball that touches 99-100 with plenty of spin, and while he needs to tweak the shape of that pitch and improve his command, his stuff is undeniable. Lagrange is likely headed to Single-A as well and could be a name that pops in the 2024 season with public Statcast data at the level. It remains to be seen if he’ll be a starter or a reliever, but the elite-level velocity makes it easy to see how he could become a high-floor prospect if he stays healthy and continues to climb through their system.
Luis Serna was a second-year FCL arm for the Yankees, and while injuries prevented him from taking a leap as a prospect, he still put together a solid season. With a 4.19 ERA and 17.6% K-BB%, Serna’s results were encouraging, and now he can head into Single-A completely healthy, while his stock is a bit lower than where it was in 2022 when he completely dominated the level, he’s only 19 years old. 2022 12th Round Pick and first-year pro Jackson Fristoe was underwhelming for the FCL Yankees, posting a 5.27 ERA and walking 19.4% of batters faced, but he took off after a promotion to Single-A.
Fristoe’s stuff is undeniably great, throwing a riding four-seam fastball that sat at 96 MPH in his small stint at Single-A and generated 18.5″ of Induced Vertical Break. He also possesses a cutter and slider and overall looks like a name who can dominate MiLB if he stays healthy. He made it all the way up to High-A Hudson Valley, where he made a playoff start and completed four scoreless frames, striking out five and walking just one batter in the process.
As for their top pitcher at this level, it’s hard to go with anybody other than Henry Lalane. The 6’7 lefty didn’t have the ERA (4.57) but put up ridiculous underlying numbers that suggest he’s ready for that Single-A leap. He struck out 38.6% of batters faced, walking just 4.5% of batters faced in the process. His groundball rates declined, but that could be a product of a small sample size. This was Lalane’s first season stateside, as he spent two years in the DSL before heading to Tampa, and he’ll likely remain there as a part of the Tampa Tarpons next Spring.
2024 is a huge season for Lalane, who could get off to a hot start and find himself in High-A before the season ends. Lalane has plenty to develop as he grows more into his large frame, and he’ll hold the crown of their best pitching prospect on last year’s FCL team.
As for a name to look out for next year at the Florida Complex League? Chalniel Arias made the jump from the DSL to CPX mid-season, and he was brilliant in his 8 starts in the Dominican Republic. He had a 35.3% K% and 5.9% BB% while keeping the ball on the ground 57.1% of the time, and while that didn’t translate well in his first three FCL starts, he could settle into the level well in 2024 and put himself in position for a promotion to Single-A.
- Yankees in Baseball America’s Top 20 FCL Prospects
- Roderick Arias (#2)
- Henry Lalane (#4)
- Carlos Lagrange (#7)
- Keiner Delgado (#10)
- John Cruz (#16)
The FCL Yankees were one of the best MiLB affiliates relative to their level across all of professional baseball, and that talent will mostly get their shot to play at Single-A and start climbing the system. We’re seeing the collection of Double-A and Triple-A talent trickle into their Major League team, but there’s another slew of Minor League talent on its way to replenish the farm once more.