Yankees MiLB Report (5/6): Surging bats, emerging pitching prospects, and Scranton’s second sweep

Minor League Baseball: Louisville Bats at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders
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With the Yankees coming off of a sweep of the Detroit Tigers at the Major League level, the vibes are pretty high as they climb to 10 games above-.500 for the first time this year. At the Minor League level, this was another successful week for the organization, as they got another week of huge performances. We also saw the start of rookie ball, with the FCL Yankees beginning their season, adding another wrinkle to the MiLB fold for the Yankees’ organization.

There was a lot to discuss, going from a 3-HR game to a sweep from the Scranton RailRiders, as we make stops at every level of Minor League play to highlight the Yankees’ top performers from this past week.

Florida Complex League Yankees Get Their Season Started

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees
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There was only one game, but the FCL Yankees are back, this time with a lot of new faces. The likes of Roderick Arias, Enmanuel Tejeda, and Henry Lalane are no longer with the team, so we’ll get to see how some of the youngest players in the organization hold up. Brando Mayea was placed on the 7-Day IL before the start of the season, so they won’t have their highest-rated DSL prospect joining the team just yet.

In their first game of the season against the FCL Tigers, they lost in walk-off fashion as this game went to the 10th inning. They were down 3-0 early before Wilson Rodriguez smacked an RBI single into centerfield and Josue Gonzalez doubled to make it a one-run game in the top of the seventh inning. A groundball single from Rodriguez tied things up in the eighth inning, leading to bonus cantos entering the 10th inning of this game.

Gabriel Terrero had an RBI groundout in the top half to score the Manfred Man, but they couldn’t get more, and with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th, a groundout and single would give the FCL Tigers the win. There isn’t enough of a sample size to start highlighting top performers, but this was a thrilling game and I’m excited to see how their season continues to progress as in each of the last two seasons, the FCL Yankees were in the championship round.

Next Game: FCL Yankees @ FCL Phillies

The Tarpons Settle For a Split In Dunedin

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. Ut Baseball Miss St

The Tampa Tarpons have really struggled on the season, but getting a split on the road could help them build up some momentum for the season. We saw a huge week from Dylan Jasso, who smacked three home runs with 10 RBIs across the week, showing off some big-time power early in the season. The 21-year-old infielder has a 167 wRC+ and 18 RBIs on the season, as he’s one of the few Tarpons off to a great start. Injuries have killed this team, as they would have Henry Lalane, Carlos Lagrange, Enmanuel Tejeda, and George Lombard Jr. helping them if not for injuries.

Enmnauel Tejeda might be the toughest blow they’ve suffered as he hit .571 with an HR and five RBIs on the week prior to his placement on the IL. He’s just 19 years old, and he’s hitting .330 with a 128 wRC+ through his first 24 games at the Single-A level, so when he returns I’ll be excited to see how the production holds up. The most impressive performances we saw however could arguably have been on the pitching side of the ball.

Cade Smith was excellent this past week, striking out a career-high 11 batters across six scoreless frames, and he’s been one of the most impressive pitchers in the organization. Through his first five professional starts, the 22-year-old has a 2.11 ERA and 38.8% strikeout rate, and his last two starts in particular have been phenomenal. He’s struck out 18 batters to just two walks across 12 innings, and the Yankees might have found another gem in the sixth round of the draft.

Despite the performance, it wasn’t the most strikeouts we saw from a Tarpons’ starter this week, as Josh Grosz picked up 12 strikeouts across 5.2 innings with just two earned runs. He has struggled this year, but he has a riding fastball with a good sweeping slider, and it’s just a matter of finding the command in-zone. He’s given up 5 home runs in 21.2 IP, but the 24% K-BB% is certainly enticing.

Gabriel Barbosa had another strong start as well, firing six innings of two-run baseball with nine strikeouts to just one walk, and this is his second straight week with a great start. Allen Facundo is in the middle of his first season with the Tampa Tarpons, and while command has been an issue, he struck out eight batters with no walks, lowering his ERA to 2.76 on the season. He has a 59.5% groundball rate, with his best pitch being a nasty sweeping slider with a Whiff Rate north of 60%.

Next Series: Clearwater Threshers @ Tampa Tarpons

Hudson Valley Gets Breakout Week From Infield Prospect

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Credit: Patrick Oehler/Poughkeepsie Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Due to rain, this crucial series against the Blue Rocks and Renegades was held to just four games that these two teams split, but the biggest storyline was the week Jared Serna had. With a three home run game, Serna had an unbelievable .429 AVG and 1.407 OPS in this series, raising his wRC+ from 99 to 138 in just four games. He’s changed his profile to lift the ball in the air more without hurting his plate recognition or contact skills, and it’s paid off big time.

Jared Serna has a .244/.358/.477 slashline, striking out 11.3% of the time with a 15.1% walk rate, and he’s still just 21 years old. His versatility in the infield is extremely valuable as well, and while he hasn’t been as efficient on the basepaths, Serna is usually a great baserunner. He also pulls the ball over 53% of the time, so there’s a lot about his approach that projects extremely well, and we should see Serna in Double-A soon.

The story of this week for Hudson Valley was offense, as Jesus Rodriguez also had a multi-homer week, cranking two long balls and posting an OPS north of 1.000. His 149 wRC+ and 14.4% strikeout rate with Hudson Valley should result in a pretty quick promotion, as last year in 112 trips to the plate he had a 172 wRC+, and his ability to mesh a lot of different skills at the plate together has made him a strong all-around hitter.

First-year Renegades Roc Riggio and Jace Avina continued to impress, as Riggio had a .500 OBP in 16 trips to the plate to increase his OBP to .371 on the year, and while Riggio has struggled to hit for average, he still has a 119 wRC+ and 15 walks to 11 strikeouts. As for Avina, he launched his second home run of the season and picked up five hits in his series, posting a 161 wRC+ with just a 23.8% strikeout rate through 14 games.

The usually stout Renegades’ pitching staff struggled, but they did get two key relief appearances in this series that should be noted. Ben Shields, who has been a dominant reliever for the Renegades, fired 2.2 innings of scoreless baseball with five strikeouts to just one walk. The southpaw has a 0.54 ERA and 33.9% strikeout rate, not walking a lot of batters and keeping the ball on the ground as well.

Fellow left-hander Joel Valdez struggled mightily after being promoted to High-A last season, but this year he has a 1.80 ERA and 35.2% strikeout rate through 15 innings on the season. He fired 3.2 innings of scoreless baseball with seven strikeouts this week, and his sinker-sweeper profile is made even better by a deceptive release point.

Next Series: Hudson Valley Renegades @ Aberdeen IronBirds

Somerset Patriots Pick Up Tough Series Win

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles
Mar 2, 2024; Sarasota, Florida, USA; New York Yankees catcher Ben Rice (93) at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

A slow start to the season has put the Somerset Patriots in unfamiliar territory, as they’re 4.5 games back of the Portland Seadogs for first place in the Eastern League. They needed a series win against New Hampshire at home to try and get their season back on track, and they got just that. By taking three out of five, they can ride high on a two-game win streak as they head into Aloona to face a 6-21 squad and potentially get back over .500.

This week was spearheaded by the one and only Ben Rice, who had a 1.087 OPS, hitting a home run and working four walks to just three strikeouts. This isn’t a hot take at this point; Rice is an MLB-caliber hitter, as the young catcher has a 167 wRC+ with a 14.8% walk rate, being an on-base machine while still doing damage on contact. There has been an increase in whiffs and groundballs, but this is an elite offensive prospect who has every skill you’d want for a bat in the Bronx.

Elijah Dunham and Grant Richardson also had OPS numbers over 1.000 on the week as they put in important efforts in helping the Somerset Patriots secure a series win. Zach Messinger fired 5.2 scoreless frames with seven strikeouts and three walks, with some gritty outings by Brock Selvidge and Bailey Dees as well to help them in this series. Trystan Vrieling had the unluckiest start I’ve ever seen, cruising through the first four innings before being blooped to death in the fifth.

It wasn’t a super eventful week in Somerset due to the postponement of their Sunday game, but they’ll be ready for their upcoming set on the road

Next Series: Somerset Patriots @ Altoona Curve

Scranton RailRiders Complete ANOTHER Sweep On the Road

MLB: Spring Training-Miami Marlins at New York Yankees
Feb 29, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Clayton Beeter (85) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Miami Marlins at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The Scranton RailRiders were entering a pretty important series against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp as the two teams were within proximity of each other in the standings. Scranton rolled in with the best record in all of Triple-A, and they remain the top team in Minor League Baseball’s top level. The RailRiders have a five-game lead in the International League at 23-9 with a +53 Run Differential and they’ve dominated on both sides of the ball.

First baseman T.J. Rumfield has come up and finally clicked, hitting .360 with two home runs in this series, and his wRC+ in his first two weeks at the Triple-A level is at 118. He’s got a strikeout rate over 30%, but his Whiff Rate is below 20%, indicating that there’s some positive regression on the way potentially. Rumfield is still trying to generate more damage on contact as he has the build and swing for it, and the defense at first base is rated highly, as Caleb Durbin has called him a gold-glove caliber defender there.

Nine different players recorded a home run in this series and that’s the spirit of this RailRiders’ lineup, as they’re comprised of some veterans and rising prospects who have gelled together nicely. Their power numbers are strong, and they’re in the top half of the league in runs scored on the season. Pitching however has become their identity however, as right now their ERA sits at 3.38.

For context; no other team in the International League is below 4.23. The Yankees have an incredible 1-2 punch with Will Warren and Clayton Beeter who dazzled this week on the mound, with Warren firing six innings of two-run baseball with six strikeouts and Beeter delivering five shutout frames with nine strikeouts. Edgar Barclay complements that duo and fired six innings of two-run baseball as well, as their bullpen came in and got the job done in some big spots.

Out of the bullpen they’ve gotten a big year out of Cody Morris (1.23 ERA) who has seen his velocity tick up a bit, as he’s settling well into a reliever role. Another name that warrants mention is Alex Mauricio, who fired four shutout frames this past week but has also struck out 18 batters to just one walk with a 1.88 ERA on the season. His cutter is nasty and he has a four-seamer with good vertical carry, this is a name that can help the Yankees at the MLB level sooner rather than later.

The RailRiders have been the Yankees’ top affiliate on the season, and they’re looking to continue their run of dominance this week as well.

Next Series: Rochester Red Wings @ Scranton RailRiders

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