Yankees MiLB Report (5/27): Rising pitchers, MLB-ready slugger, and wave of promotions

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles
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The New York Yankees had another successful week at the Major League level, splitting a series against the Seattle Mariners and taking a series on the road in San Diego. At the Minor League level, there were plenty of fun performances over the past week, and we’re going to have full-week action from the Florida Complex League to Triple-A as we cover the bases with their farm system. With some incredible performances on the mound and in the batter’s box, we try to highlight the top performers at each level and keep you up to date on what’s going on around the farm.

FCL Yankees Are Eyeing First Place After a Strong Week

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees
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The constants of life are death, taxes, and the FCL Yankees playing great baseball. A 4-1 week would propel them right back into the conversation for first place in the division, and a huge part of that has been both the pitching and hitting clicking at the same time. Danny Flatt fired 4.2 innings of shutout baseball with six strikeouts and two walks, and the right-hander has a 1.42 ERA and 27.8% strikeout rate in his first three appearances of the season.

Command has been an issue, walking 13% of batters faced, but he’s only 19 years old and this is his first season at the professional level. After getting crushed in his second start of the season, Jordarlin Mendoza was electric this week, pitching 7.2 innings of one-run baseball with 12 strikeouts to four walks. He has a 3.29 ERA on the season and a 61.3% groundball rate to go with a 32.9% strikeout rate in his first four appearances.

On the offensive side of the ball, outfielder Brian Sanchez is off to an excellent start with a 176 wRC+ on the season, and he put up a 1.311 OPS this past week. He’s walking 13.7% of the time with a modest 23.5% strikeout rate in his first 13 games in the FCL, and the Yankees acquired the 19-year-old in the deal that sent Jake Bauers to the Brewers. Edgleen Perez, who just turned 18 years old this past weekend, is sitting pretty with an 181 wRC+ and .521 OBP through his first 12 games in the FCL as well.

Brando Mayea played his first week of games, posting a 109 wRC+ and .400 OBP through his first five contests but also striking out 30% of the time. It’s very early, but he’s a name that could become a top-100 prospect, so keep tabs on how well he does at this level.

It was a 4-1 week for the FCL Yankees, who will hope to get themselves into first place at some point this week if they can keep the ball rolling.

Tampa Tarpons Start To Get on a Roll Thanks To Brilliant Starts

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Mississippi State’s Cade Smith (15) pitching against Tennessee during their NCAA baseball game in Knoxville, Tenn. on Thursday, April 27, 2023.

The Tampa Tarpons, who struggled to get consistent pitching all season, are on an absolute roll with their rotation, as a strong trio is starting to emerge at the top of their rotation. Cade Smith, the Yankees’ sixth-round pick in the 2023 Draft, fired 7 shutout innings with two hits, two walks, and five strikeouts as he lowered his ERA to 2.41. His 30.1% strikeout rate and .172 AVG against are excellent, and while the walk rate is a bit high (11.8%), he’s mixed in more of his curveballs and changeups and has found ways to get more outs and pitch deeper into starts.

He boasts a 92-94 MPH fastball with good ride from a low slot, and his breaking balls are some of the nastiest in the organization thanks to his release heights and movement profiles. Luis Serna threw 5.1 innings of one-run baseball, striking out seven batters and walking one as he’s starting to find his groove on the mound. He started his season with a very ugly 10.32 ERA through his first three starts, but since then he’s pitched to a 1.74 ERA with a miniscule 2.6% walk rate.

Serna is throwing more of his nasty changeups, a pitch that I think is truly one of the best secondaries in baseball. With a 50% Whiff Rate and .178 wOBA, it absolutely overpowers opposing hitters regardless of the matchup. The most impressive pitcher this week arguably was Allen Facundo, who struck out 11 batters over five scoreless innings, and the key for him has been a slider that’s utterly dominant. It has a 67.2% Whiff Rate on the season, and Facundo has started to tear up the Florida State League in recent starts.

Over his last four starts, he has a 39.7% strikeout rate and 6.4% walk rate, posting a 2.41 ERA and 2.38 FIP in that timespan and the 21-year-old lefty could be in Hudson Valley soon (as could all three pitchers mentioned). The offense was not particularly great, but George Lombard Jr. picked up some hits and had a 119 wRC+ through the week. They went 4-2 and won the series, and they’ll hope to keep the ball rolling after an ugly start to their season.

Hudson Valley Scuffles in Brooklyn Road Trip

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The Hudson Valley Renegades took a series loss to the Brooklyn Cyclones on the road, as they struggled on both sides of the ball. Cam Schlittler, who has been their best pitcher all season, was impressive once again in two starts as he allowed one run over 9.2 innings, striking out 13 batters. Walks are a problem for him, as he’s walked 11.7% of batters faced, but his high groundball rate (54.7%) and he’s showing off a brilliant breaking ball to go alongside his cutter.

Rafael Flores has really stepped up and mashed, especially this past week where he had a .438 OBP and .855 OPS in Brooklyn. The right-handed hitting catcher was selected to the Spring Breakout Game, and he’s posted a 138 wRC+ and .386 OBP with excellent framing skills behind the plate. He’s 23 years old, so he’s a bit older than the average hitter at that level, but he could be the first catcher up to Somerset when one of Agustin Ramirez or Ben Rice get moved up a level.

Jesus Rodriguez, another catcher who has torn it up in Hudson Valley, had a 1.006 OPS this past week with four doubles, and his wRC+ on the season sits at 153. He’s an excellent all-around hitter and could be one of the more interesting prospects to look at since he’s Rule 5 eligible already and could be a trade piece to bolster a package in a deal. Rodriguez seems to have a legitimimate bat, so I think a team could value him even if he doesn’t stick behind the dish.

Somerset Drops a Series, Ben Rice Warms Back Up

Syndication: Courier News
Designated hitter Ben Rice jogs to first base after being walked during the August 25, 2023 game against the Bowie Baysox at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, N.J.

It was not a great series for the Somerset Patriots, who took a 2-4 series loss on the road against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Ben Rice smashed three home runs and had a 1.262 OPS this week, and after hitting a rough slump, he’s brought his wRC+ on the season all the way up to 144. He’s slugging .490 and has improved walk rates while the strikeout rate is finally coming down, and could be an MLB option for the team at first base.

The problem is the lack of certainty that he could hold his own at first base consistently, because the bat looks more than ready for a call-up to at least Triple-A. Another standout performer from the past week was Zach Messinger, who struck out 8 batters over 5.2 innings, allowing two earned runs and walking just one batter. He has a 2.01 ERA and 22.5% K-BB% over his last four starts, and has lowered his ERA to 3.75 on the season.

Brock Selvidge had a strong start as well allowing just two runs over five innings, but he walked five batters in the process. He has an uncharacteristically high 11.5% walk rate in his first eight starts in Somerset, but he still has a strong 3.07 ERA and 3.64 FIP as he’s striking out 25.7% of batters faced with a 49.1% groundball rate. Selvidge is just 21 years old, and if he can find a way to get back in sync mechanically, he could find himself in Triple-A by season’s end.

Scranton Stumbles, Yankees Seeing Top Pitcher Slump Hard

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers
Mar 23, 2024; Lakeland, Florida, USA; New York Yankees third baseman Caleb Durbin (87) bats during the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

With a 3-4 week, the Scranton RailRiders played some poor baseball this week, but they were bound to hit some sort of slide at some point during the year. Injuries are catching up to them, with Clayton Beeter on the IL and Caleb Durbin hitting the IL after being hit by a pitch. Durbin had a 1.571 OPS before getting hurt this week including a walkoff HR and four RBIs, and the organization views him very highly. He could be someone the Yankees promote at some point in 2025 to potentially fill-in at second base.

On the more negative side here; something is seriously wrong with Will Warren. After getting off to a great start 3.95 ERA, he’s allowed 30 runs in 17 innings, and it’s not clear what exactly is wrong here. Things have gone from good to atrocious in a hurry; and he’ll have to turn it around quick if he wants to maintain his status as one of the better pitchers in the organziation.

It wasn’t a pretty week for Scranton as a whole, who had multiple spot starters thanks to the aforementioned issues in their usually stout rotation, but massive credit to Baron Stuart who fired seven innings of one-run baseball for the RailRiders to help them stay afloat.

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