Yankees giving 24-year-old prospect a chance to impress at Spring Training

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One of the biggest breakout prospects for the Yankees this past season was Ben Rice, a little-known catcher from Dartmouth who showed off an incredible ability to generate power at the plate.

Making it up to Double-A this past season and flat-out dominating, Rice is expected to start the season in Triple-A, and he’s just one step away from the Bronx. While Anthony Rizzo is projected to be the starting first baseman, the team will also get a look at Ben Rice this upcoming Spring Training.

This season could be huge for the left-handed slugger, as he’ll have a chance to make it to the Major Leagues as soon as 2024, and over the coming weeks, he’ll have a chance to turn plenty of heads in the organization.

Ben Rice Could Be a Middle-of-the-Order Threat For the Yankees

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Hudson Valley Renegades players, from left, Ben Cowles, Ben Rice, and Spencer Henson arrive for media day on April 5, 2023. Renegades Media Day

Ben Rice was drafted in the 12th Round back in 2021 out of Dartmouth and was at a distinct disadvantage compared to other members of that draft class. Since he attended an Ivy League school, it meant that not only did he not have a 2020 season due to COVID-19, but he also missed out on a season in 2021 as, unlike the NCAA, Ivy League schools canceled the season that year as well. Coming out of the draft, Rice had just 30 collegiate games, having to play in various summer leagues to get at-bats and work in as a result.

When the Yankees drafted him in 2021, he didn’t do much at the plate, but he found his footing with the Tampa Tarpons in Single-A the season after. He displayed some skills that stood out to the Yankees, but a lack of consistent playing time due to injuries prevented him from making the mid-season ascent to High-A. As a 24-year-old with no experience above Single-A, his outlook was bleak, but he’d turn it all around with an unbelievable season that has firmly placed him in the organization’s top 30.

The ability to generate damage contact in the air while not striking out a lot has allowed him to become one of the most dangerous hitters in Minor League Baseball, and there’s a reason he smashed 16 home runs in just 48 games with Somerset. At a ballpark like Yankee Stadium, having a hitter who can consistently put the ball in the air from the left-handed side is going to result in a lot of home runs and run production. He’s a perfect fit for the Bronx, and the Yankees will get a chance to see how he fares while playing alongside their everyday regulars.

Projections are very optimistic about what he can provide in 2024 despite not playing a single game above Double-A, as ZiPS projects him for a 108 wRC+ and 12 home runs across 75 games. A question that he’ll have to answer, however, is in regards to his position, as while he’s come up as a catcher, he’s also had to play first base as well with Somerset. Given the team’s depth at catcher with both Austin Wells and Agustin Ramirez on the 40-man roster, one would assume he’d have to settle for a role at first base.

His bat is extremely enticing, and the Yankees want to get him into their lineup as soon as possible, given how well he fits the lineup’s needs. There’s serious potential here, and while he’ll turn 25 before the first games of Spring Training begin, it’s important to put into context how little time he’s had to develop at the plate. With just 163 games of professional action, Ben Rice has progressed quickly in a short amount of time, and this year could be his chance to earn a job during the season.

MLB: New York Mets at New York Yankees
Jul 22, 2018; Bronx, NY, USA; General view of the sky over the facade during a rain delay before the game between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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Something that the Yankees have lacked in recent years is their ability to convert Minor League talent into Major League regulars, and this is their best farm system since the start of the Baby Bomber era. From 2017-2019, the Yankees produced the most position player fWAR (18.1) from rookies and the highest wRC+ (125), making it no surprise that they had the third-best winning percentage (.605) over that stretch as well. Since 2020, the Yankees have just 2.9 fWAR and a 78 wRC+ from rookie position players, and that trend has to change with this new group of young prospects.

Ben Rice will be one of many young position players that the Yankees consider debuting over the next two seasons, and we’ve already seen an early wave of youngsters arrive. Anthony Volpe, Austin Wells, Everson Pereira, Jasson Dominguez, Oswald Peraza, and Oswaldo Cabrera have all debuted in the last two seasons, and the Yankees will need to start converting some of them into quality MLB talent.

There’s plenty of excitement surrounding the Yankees’ farm system entering the 2024 season, and Ben Rice is another name on the horizon who could become a great addition to their lineup.

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