Yankees’ High-A Hudson Valley Renegades are gearing up for a big 2024 season

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Last year was a great one for the Hudson Valley Renegades, who went 70-62 to clinch a playoff spot and make it to the South Atlantic League Championship. While the Greenville Drive swept them in that final round, there were plenty of positives from a season that saw Spencer Jones, Drew Thorpe, and Chase Hampton emerge as some of the best prospects in the game.

This upcoming season comes with plenty of new faces, headlined by third-round draft pick Kyle Carr, whom the organization is extremely excited about.

It’ll be another tough season. They open the season with a nine-game road trip down south, but the Renegades have a roster full of young, talented prospects who could surprise, and they’re chomping at the bit to get a chance to take home their first championship as an affiliate of the Yankees.

Renegades Are Ready To Repeat Success From Championship Run

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It was a wet and rainy day in Hudson Valley, but optimism was in the air as the Renegades gear up for Opening Day on Friday in Bowling Green. They should expect warmer weather down south, and first-year manager Nick Ortiz is optimistic and excited about his group for the upcoming season. What immediately stands out, however, is their new field, as the renovations made to replace the turf and update their facilities have plenty of people, including their skipper, buzzing about playing at Heritage Financial Park.

“To see what the Renegades have been able to do to the facilities is great for our players, it’s one of the best facilities in baseball for [High]-A, so I’m excited to get going”

These new renovations will include new private hitting tunnels and weight rooms, which should give the Renegades even more tools at their disposal to hone their craft and improve. Lounges for the players and expanded seating for the fans should make Hudson Valley even more hospitable for fans, as they’re excited for their 30th Anniversary season. Last year was a huge success for the Renegades, who finished with the best ERA in the South Atlantic League (3.62) and the most strikeouts in all of High-A (1,420), but a lot of those key contributors have departed from Dutchess County.

Drew Thorpe, Chase Hampton, Brock Selvidge, Jack Neely, and Danny Watson aren’t walking through those clubhouse doors anymore, but their pitching coach from that season is. Spencer Medick, who was one of the many coaches who came over to the organization from Driveline Baseball in recent years, is eager to work with this new group of young, talented arms.

“All those faces were new last year too between Chase Hampton, Drew Thorpe…it comes down to the credit of the entire pitching department and the pieces our director Sam Briend have put in place, and then our scouting as well…then really focusing on developing throughout the season too and there was a lot of buy-in with these players last year and I think there would be this year in terms of really trying to hammer the things that’ll make them successful in the long run.”

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Hearing him discuss buy-in and communication harkened me back to the issues the Yankees had throughout the season at the Major League level with those concepts. That issue seemed to exist solely at that level. At the Minor League level, the Yankees had each affiliate finish in the top half of their leagues in either OPS or ERA. The Hudson Valley Renegades saw some extremely talented players blossom, and Medick delved into what goes into getting a player to be bought in on what a coaching staff preaches.

“It starts with conversations with the players; what do they understand? Where are they at? What are they looking for; what do they think is going to get them to the big leagues and what do we think is going to get them to the big leagues and how does that mesh? We also have a great support staff around too between our analysts, guys who are very good breaking down the numbers for us coaches and then allow us to build a relationship with the player and kind of meet them where they’re at.”

As he further discussed their way of getting buy-in from their players, it was his final lines that stood out in regards to what their coaches aim to do in the journey of helping a player improve and identify how they can take steps forward:

“A lot of what we do is along the lines of education as well as well…having conversations with them and seeing where they’re at…picking their brains and asking more questions instead of ‘Hey here’s the answer, now go do it’, but almost try to guide them and lead to the answers themselves and then having the numbers to back up those ideas.”

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One of the new faces that Spencer Medick and company will have plenty of fun working with? Kyle Carr has been hard at work over the offseason, refining his arsenal ahead of his first season as a professional. Naturally, the pitch that he’s done the most work with is his slider, a pitch that should have plenty of prospect analysts buzzing as he spoke glowingly about it when I asked him about it:

“That’s probably my best offspeed pitch, it was my offspeed pitch during the JUCO season, but we’ve kind of altered the grip a little bit to make sure the efficiency on the spin is right, it’s moving a lot more and it’s sharper so I’m excited to use it during the season…more sweeper-ish.”

The Yankees are considered one of the most sweeper-heavy organizations in baseball, and it’s no surprise to hear that one of their new top pitching prospects has added one to his repertoire. The southpaw is just 21 years old, but the buzz around him is legit, with Baseball America picking him as a potential breakout candidate who could be on the top 100 lists after the season.

Over the past few seasons, the Yankees have gained a reputation as a pitching factory, which factored into Kyle Carr’s excitement about being drafted by New York.

“We had our eye on the Yankees specifically, we knew how well they develop pitchers specifically, so when we saw the Yankees we were so excited”

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He’ll have some big shoes to fill with Brock Selvidge heading to Somerset to open the season, but he’s not the only pitcher hoping to make an impact as a full-time starter. Sebastian Keane, Jackson Fristoe, Brian Hendry, and Cam Schlittler are some of the pitchers expected to fill out the Renegades’ rotation, and they all come with excitement in their own rights as well. It’s a completely revamped rotation, but the offense could be potent as well with some of the names they’re bringing back and adding to the roster.

Roc Riggio, whom the Yankees selected in the 4th Round of the 2023 MLB Draft, is one of those new faces eager to get the ball rolling in his first professional season. There’s one thing that stands out about Riggio from his days at Oklahoma State that has nothing to do with his bat or glove, and that’s his unwavering confidence. I asked him how he feels it helps him on the baseball diamond, and he gave a pretty deep explanation of his belief in himself.

“It gives me a leg up on some other players out there, knowing that a lot of what I do, my story is already written, whatever I’m supposed to do is meant to happen, whatever I do that day is set to happen…just playing fun I love playing free, I love playing, so give it all I got and not take it for granted,” Riggio told Empire Sports Media.

The confidence and energy he exudes on the playing field are easy to see, and fans have become enamored with that kind of spark from new additions like Juan Soto and Marcus Stroman. Alex Verdugo’s starting the “dawg” mantra has instantly given this team an identity, and Riggio would fit right in with that clubhouse.

“At the end of the day, this game is entertainment for viewers, if we’re not entertaining the viewers we’re not getting paid…people wanna see authenticity…I don’t try to be anything I’m not, I am who I am, I’m the same person on the field that I am at home.”

He carries himself with the confidence and demeanor of a seasoned veteran despite having just a handful of games at the professional level, and you can already dream of what his left-handed swing would look like in the Bronx. The guys were already bouncing off of the walls on a stormy gloomy day in Hudson Valley, and one can imagine what the energy from these players will look like when the season kicks off.

Sebastian Keane, one of the aforementioned starters for the Renegades this season, is extremely excited to get his season started after spending last year in the bullpen. He moved up three levels from the Complex League to High-A, and that meant being flexible and constantly changing environments and roles.

“For starers in college I never relieved before so coming into the Yankees’ organization was definitely a learning process for me, because I had a 45-minute pre-game warm up, and learning that has helped me drastically.”

He pitched to a 2.56 ERA with 43 strikeouts across 31.2 innings for the Florida Complex League and Single-A affiliates before joining the Renegades for their postseason run, firing three innings of scoreless baseball. Coming out of Northeastern University in Boston, he’s back on the East Coast and could be a strong rotation piece for the Renegades with his solid fastball and good breaking ball offerings.

Very quietly, the Renegades have become one of the most successful teams in Minor League Baseball, finishing with at least 70 wins in each of their three years as the Yankees’ High-A affiliate. From Anthony Volpe to Spencer Jones, plenty of top prospects have come through the Renegades, and you just might catch the next Yankee great at your next stop in Hudson Valley.

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