Yankees Prospect Report: 2021 first-rounder blossoming, Future’s Game representatives, and Triple-A debuts

trey sweeney, yankees
Hudson Valley Renegades' Trey Sweeney (3) during game against the Brooklyn Cyclones at Dutchess Stadium in Wappingers Falls July 27, 2022. Renegades Vs Cyclones Baseball

The Yankees put together a strong week against the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers, going 4-2 with two series wins against some tough opponents.

Still, without their leader and best hitter in Aaron Judge, the Yankees are looking to stay alive in a competitive American League Wild Card race.

As for their MiLB affiliates, it was business as usual, and some exciting promotions and honors were distributed across the week to cover as well. With plenty of exciting performances up and down the week, we continue our search for interesting prospects and hopefully hit on a player that could develop into one of the Yankees’ better players.

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2021 First-Round Pick Trey Sweeney Finds His Swing

It was a huge week for the Somerset Patriots, who looked to clinch their second-consecutive first-half division title, and they were able to do so because of the efforts of SS Trey Sweeney.

The left-handed LSU product was on fire, clubbing three home runs and driving in six in the six-game series. Sweeney’s found his power stroke in the month of June, slugging .596 and having seven of his 10 longballs on the season come in that 22-game sample size. This is highly encouraging for the Yankees, seeing that Sweeney’s success at Double-A could expedite his development and have him in Triple-A sometime soon.

It’s hard not to love his profile if he can consistently tap into his raw power, as he has incredible plate discipline as evidenced by a .367 OBP and 14.5% BB%, but also has strong contact skills (19.2% K%) and strong speed.

The Yankees’ first-round pick in 2021, Sweeney was profiled as a bat-first left-handed prospect with strong all-around tools at the plate, but concerns regarding how he’d handle high-velocity pitching. With issues staying healthy and problems with his swing, Sweeney would start 2022 extremely slow before going on a tear in mid-July which included a 29-game stretch to end the season with a .410 OBP and 143 wRC+.

Compared to fellow Yankee and LSU graduate DJ LeMahieu, Sweeney has the raw power and size to hit for power, but his swing path seems to get in the way of that. If he’s genuinely made an adjustment, that would be excellent, as similarly to LeMahieu in his best days, he’d work plenty of walks while having strong contact rates, and a left-handed infielder who can provide a balanced approach to the plate is something this team could desperately use.

yankees, dj lemahieu
Jul 30, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees first baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) hits an RBI single against the Kansas City Royals during the fourth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Over his last 92 games of MiLB action between High-A and Double-A, Sweeney has been absolutely phenomenal. He’s walked 15.3% of the time with just an 18.6% K%, hitting 15 HRs, working a .381 OBP, and having a 127 wRC+.

Sweeney is a name to certainly keep tabs on for now, and if this stretch continues, his Rule 5 eligibility doesn’t kick in until after the 2024 season, so the Yankees could give him more time in MiLB without being forced to add him to the 40 Man Roster. He isn’t the only player in Somerset impressing, however, as they once again add a newcomer to replace one of their departing stud pitchers.

Somerset Continues to Breed Pitching Talent

The Yankees promoted another one of their promising arms from Double-A to Triple-A, as Clayton Beeter joins Will Warren in the Scranton rotation. His debut was solid, allowing three runs across five innings with three walks and six strikeouts. He displayed a strong four-seam fastball and slider, and both pitches generated high whiff totals. He still has command issues to work through as evidenced by two HRs allowed and three walks, but if he can command his arsenal, you could see him at the very least in a bullpen role soon. Beeter also joins Spencer Jones as the Yankees’ representative for the All-Star Future’s Game, an exciting and well-deserved honor for both.

Back in Somerset, the Patriots saw the return of RHP Matt Sauer, who made his Double-A debut on the season. Sauer would toss 4.1 innings of one-run ball, striking out five and walking none. He showed off a strong fastball, collecting his first strikeout with a 96 MPH fastball before breaking out a myriad of breaking pitches (mostly sliders) to generate more swings and misses. His stuff looked excellent, and while he had an ugly ERA in Double-A last season, he’s excellent at generating strikeouts and his Rule 5 eligibility could make him either a fast riser in the system or someone the Yankees look to trade.

Another excellent performer was Chase Hampton, who made his second start in Double-A and was able to grind through a tough one.

With his lowest K% in any professional start (23.8%), Hampton would give up two walks and four hits, but he held the Fisher Cats to just one run across 5.2 IP, lowering his ERA on the season to 2.61 and pulling him ever closer to reaching the 100 strikeout mark. Hampton’s 2.31 ERA and 25% K-BB% in the early-going with Somerset is impressive, and he could be MLB-ready at some point in 2024 if he keeps it up.

richard fitts, yankees
Auburn’s Richard Fitts (43) pitches during the Auburn-Alabama Capital City Classic at Riverfront Park in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Alabama defeated Auburn 6-3. Jc Aubase 27

Their best starting performance came from Richard Fitts, who gave the Patriots six innings with no walks, one unearned run, two hits, and seven strikeouts. Fitts turns in his sixth straight quality start on the season, lowering his ERA to 3.91 and giving him a 27% K% and 5.1% BB%. Fitts knows how to generate swings-and-misses, and his strong command and aggressiveness in-zone with decreasing HR rates could lead to a promotion to Scranton in the near future. His stuff is better than people give him credit for, and his ability to pitch deep into games, attack batters, and get whiffs will certainly help his projectability as a starter.

Hudson Valley Sees Dominant Duo Continue to Shove

The Hudson Valley Renegades are also winners of their first-half division titles, allowing them to clinch a playoff spot.

Two of their biggest catalysts on this front are Juan Carela and Drew Thorpe, who have given the Yankees an unbelievable month of June thus far. Let’s start with Carela, who didn’t have his sharpest stuff against the Brooklyn Cyclones but still struck out six batters across six innings with just two runs allowed, giving him yet another quality start.

Carela’s had an unbelievable month of June, posting a 2.45 ERA and 2.48 FIP, striking out 36.7% of batters faced and walking just 7.1%. For as amazing as he’s been, Drew Thorpe has somehow been better. In a start where Drew Thorpe would watch his June scoreless streak end, he’d still put together a dominant performance for the Renegades.

The Yankees’ Second-Round Pick in 2022 struck out seven across 7.2 IP, walking just two, allowing three hits, and allowing just one run. In the month of June, Thorpe has been downright unbelievable:

  • 0.31 ERA
  • 1.98 FIP
  • 34.0% K%
  • 6.0% BB%
  • 0.63 WHIP

In that aforementioned stretch of dominance, Thorpe is averaging over seven innings an outing, which makes his run even more impressive. It’s time to get him on the next available trip to Somerset because he’s too good for Hudson Valley right now.

Thorpe is another name who could fly through the season, as while he doesn’t have elite-level velocity, his great vertical life on the pitch on top of great secondaries and a strong changeup allows him to pitch deep into games and remain effective as well. According to MLB Pipeline, he’s the Yankees’ best pitching prospect, and the 2.49 ERA and over six innings a start back that up.

Also wanted to note that Tyrone Yulie has put together back-to-back strong starts, setting a new career high with a seven-inning outing, allowing no runs with seven strikeouts and three walks. He won Pitcher of the Week for the South Atlantic League and could develop into an arm worth talking about with his electric stuff. It’s a matter of command, but the Hudson Valley Renegades are rolling on the starting pitching front.

Overlooked Prospects to Keep Tabs On

The Yankees selected OF Anthony Hall in the 4th Round of the 2022 Draft, and he’s starting to find his power stroke in A-Ball with the Tampa Tarpons. He clubbed three longballs this week, with four in his last six games total. He’s hit just seven on the season, and finally tapping into that power swing could help expedite his development.

Hall’s been a solid bat all season, but a 138 wRC+ with a low 23.8% O-Swing Rate and a sub-20% K% to go alongside above-average power will certainly catch the eyes of Yankee scouts. He’s a left-handed bat who showed a ton of upside in college and is finally having it translate.

Back in 2021, the Yankees used their Second-Round Pick on RHP Brendan Beck, who immediately needed Tommy John Surgery, knocking him out until this season. He made his High-A debut, going two innings with just one walk, one hit, and three strikeouts. He made a start in the Florida Complex League as well, and this gives him five scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in his extremely brief MiLB career. He’s 24 years old and the Yankees explicitly referred to him as someone who was close to MLB-ready when drafted, so we’ll wait and see if he’ll be in Double-A during the season.

The Yankees could have two of their future relievers developing in High-A right now, as Bailey Dees and Jack Neely have dominated with Hudson Valley.

Both selected late in the 2021 Draft, they’re strikeout machines, with Dees having a 39.3% K% and Neely a 32.8% K%. Both have an ERA below 2.50 and could see themselves in Double-A shortly. Dees is 24 and Neely 23, with both showing that they could fly through the system and put themselves into bullpen talks at some point in 2025. If there’s one thing the Yankees have always been good at, it’s developing relievers, and I believe these two are names to keep tabs on in the future.

That’ll wrap up this prospect report, as the first half officially comes to a close, the Yankees have guaranteed at least two playoff teams in High-A and Double-A, but their other affiliates look to throw their hat in that ring as well. It’ll be an interesting second half for New York as they deal out of that talent pool and potentially look internally for help at the Major League level.