Yankees 3 dark horse impact players for the 2024 season

MLB: San Diego Padres at New York Yankees
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are entering 2024, relying on some questionable players to either return to form or breakout and while the team is projected to be one of the best in the sport, they’re also an extremely volatile roster. Last year, we saw the ugly side of that volatility, as the team would lose multiple starters throughout the season and were in the bottom half of the sport in most metrics for their rotation. Even following the trade for Juan Soto, the offense has plenty of questions stemming from their aging veterans and inexperienced rookies, but there’s also a lot of upside with a roster like this.

With the team looking to make a World Series push in 2024, we could see these three players exceed expectations and make a serious impact.

The Overlooked Addition in the Juan Soto Trade

Syndication: The Enquirer
San Diego Padres center fielder Trent Grisham (1) makes a catch in deep center field in the second inning during a baseball game between the San Diego Padres and the Cincinnati Reds, Saturday, July 1, 2023, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

Trent Grisham is one of the most tantalizing defenders in baseball, playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at a premier position in centerfield. While he hasn’t hit much in the past two seasons, the 27-year-old outfielder has plenty of upside and could take advantage of the short porch in right field for more home run power. He slashed just .198/.315/.352 for a 91 wRC+ but was still worth 1.7 fWAR due to his excellent glove in center field, and there’s plenty to be enticed by in his profile.

In 2024, Grisham barreled 11.8% of batted balls and walked 13.5% of the time, and generating damage contact while working plenty of walks should usually result in an above-average hitter. He puts the ball in the air plenty but only pulls 24.4% of his flyballs, something that the Yankees could tweak to generate more home run power. Steamer likes what Trent Grisham can provide in 2024, with a 104 wRC+ and .405 SLG% in 65 games, but if he plays like that, he might find himself in the lineup more often than not.

Alex Verdugo is viewed as a breakout candidate as well in the Bronx, but Grisham’s glove in centerfield makes him an excellent fit regardless of the defensive alignment, whereas Verdugo is limited to just the corner outfield. This also places pressure on Giancarlo Stanton, who had just an 89 wRC+ this past season, as his time in pinstripes could be nearing an end if this season isn’t up to snuff. Grisham is the team’s security blanket in the outfield, and his career 34 OAA and 25 DRS in centerfield show some pretty exciting upside for a reliable defender with left-handed power.

Centerfield has consistently been an issue for the Yankees, and while they’ll try to run out Aaron Judge there for now, his body may not hold up at that demanding of a position over 162 games. Injuries have been a constant for the Yankees, and Grisham can sell durability as part of his package as well, not taking fewer than 500 plate appearances in each of the last three seasons and playing 59 of the Padres’ 60 regular season games in the COVID-shortened 2020 season.

Youth and durability are two things this team sorely needed, and when you get that in a two-time Gold Glove centerfielder, there’s a lot to like for the Yankees.

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Yankees Could Debut a New Pitching Prospect

Syndication: Courier News
Somerset Patriots rout Erie on Sept. 27, 2022 evening to force decisive Game 3 of Eastern League Championship Series Erie Seawolves At Somerset Patriots 9 27 22 5

Will Warren was one of the most exciting pitching prospects in the Yankees’ organization this past season, sporting a 3.35 ERA across Double-A and Triple-A, the latter being the highest-scoring run environments across MiLB. The right-hander displayed excellent stuff and pitch shapes with a sweeping slider and strong sinker, but he’d add some new tricks to his bag to elevate his game even more in 2023. Over the final month of the season, Warren began leaning more on his four-seam fastball, and as a result, he held left-handed hitters to a .300 OPS, and he pitched to the tune of a 0.63 ERA.

His 124.5 Stuff+ was the best for any pitcher with over 500 pitches thrown at that level, and his 3.61 ERA was the fourth-best for any pitcher with at least 80 innings at that level. Warren is an excellent pitcher whose upside bodes well for future projections, as his 4.30 projected ERA over 109 innings would make for a pretty strong fifth starter. If they can’t find a starter on the market, rolling the dice with the 24-year-old isn’t a bad gamble either, especially given the fact that Warren is likely good for 140-150 innings this upcoming season.

We’ve seen teams act aggressively with pitching prospects, and the Yankees doing the same thing would certainly raise eyebrows, but it’s a risk that could pay off big time. They’d need to add depth around him, and I’d prefer if the team traded for an arm like Shane Bieber, but I also understand that the pitching market is heavily inflated due to a high demand and shortening supply. He isn’t the top pitcher in the organization; that would be Chase Hampton, but Warren is still an MLB-ready arm with plenty of upside.

The right-hander has a knack for generating groundballs and generated a decent amount of whiffs as well, and the Yankees could be looking at an arm that bolsters their rotation or bullpen based on what they need. Losing Randy Vasquez and Jhony Brito stung, but the organization has the internal depth to make up the value they lost, and it would also allow for the team to save their trade chips and money for the deadline, where we could see even more pitchers enter the trade market.

Ranked in the top 10 of the Yankees’ organization by both FanGraphs and Baseball America, Will Warren is the pitching prospect who has the chance to make the biggest impact on the 2024 team right out of the gate.

Pick to Click in the Yankees’ Bullpen for 2024

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies
May 19, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Nick Burdi (49) throws a pitch during the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The final player on this list that we’re going to discuss is Nick Burdi, who is my pick to be the random reliever who turns into a stud for the team in 2024. Burdi has had virtually no MLB success, but he also has some of the nastiest stuff in baseball. His four-seamer and slider are outright devastating from a lower-slot release, and he can run it up to 100 MPH when he’s going right. Burdi is entering his age-30 season, and while that’s much later than when most players break out, we’ve seen pitchers take longer to click, especially in the modern era of development where pitchers are re-discovering themselves in their 30s.

Command has been an issue for Burdi as he’s walked a lot of batters over the past few seasons across various professional levels, but when he throws strikes, he gets plenty of whiffs. Even in his brief 15.1 innings of MLB work, the right-hander has struck out 27 batters faced, and if the Yankees can tap into that for a full season, he could be an underrated weapon for the Bronx Bombers. Looking at his Stuff+ numbers in Triple-A, it’s hard not to be enticed by what his upside could be if the pitch sequencing and location are even remotely decent:

  • FF: 136
  • SI: 115.8
  • SL: 109.5

Using his four-seamer primarily against left-handed batters and his sinker primarily against right-handed batters would give him a better platoon advantage, and pitchers with multiple fastballs can tunnel them to throw hitters off as well. That sharp slider with double-digit horizontal movement fits the profile of sweeping sliders that the Yankees love, and it can get up to the upper 80s and even touch 90 MPH. He’s projected for a 3.88 ERA in 2024, and if Matt Blake and Sam Briend can unlock a bit more in this profile, this could be another success story for the Yankees’ bullpen.