The Yankees had an excellent week in the system, and with the big league club also rolling, it’s a great run for the organization as a whole. For the organization, they’re seeing plenty of high-level position player prospects dominate in the early parts of the season, and they’ve had some breakout pitching prospects who look to climb up prospect rankings and climb through the farm system. It’s evident that despite the myriad of huge trades Brian Cashman has made over the past few seasons, the Yankees have been able to maintain the core pieces of their farm and draft replacements for the talent they’ve dealt away.
With some of these players pushing for MLB playing time, it was an action-packed week for Yankee prospects.
Oswald Peraza Continues to Shine at Triple-A
After returning from a lower leg injury he suffered running the bases against the Cleveland Guardians, Oswald Peraza has been unbelievable with the Scranton Railriders. In a week Scranton set numerous home run records for their franchise, and Peraza clubbed three home runs including a multi-HR game against the Charlotte Knights. Hitting .500 in his five games this week, Peraza saw his wRC+ climb to an incredible 150, but this trend of hitting extremely well and for power is one that we saw in the summer last year. The recently-graduated shortstop prospect had a slow start to his season last year, but in June he finally turned things around.
In his last 67 games in Scranton dating back to last season, Oswald Peraza has a 148 wRC+, clubbing 17 HRs and hitting .326 as well. His speed has contributed to elite-level baserunning as well, swiping 27 bags while only being caught five times. Peraza’s a seriously underrated offensive player, as 17 HRs in 67 games is a 38 HR pace over 150 games. While he’s obviously not a near-40 HR talent, he’s certainly capable of hitting at a higher level than most people pegged him for, and his developing hit tool and elite-level speed could allow Peraza to couple elite defense with strong offensive value.
While his wRC+ has dropped at every level he’s played at, it’s also important to note that he’s stayed well above average and that in Triple-A he’s seen massive growth. Peraza doesn’t turn 23 until June 15th, meaning this surge for the Venezuelan-born prospect has come largely as just a 22-year-old, making him one of the younger players in the International League. Peraza’s someone with plenty of upside, and his incredible defensive play and strong physical tools can allow him to be one of the better shortstops in baseball if given the opportunity.
2023 MiLB wRC+: 150
Yankees Could Look to Somerset For Outfield Help
The Yankees have plenty of talent at the Double-A level, and while Jasson Dominguez is someone to keep an eye on as the season progresses, he missed the cut on being highlighted in this week’s newsletter. As for his teammate Everson Pereira, he’s quietly been one of the Yankees’ best position player prospects in 2023, and he continues to hit at every level he plays at. After finishing last season with a 128 wRC+ at Double-A and slugging .504, he’s continued his excellence with the Somerset Patriots, as his hot month of May continues. Pereira’s hitting .313 in May, clubbing five homers and posting a wRC+ of 156.
Pereira currently has his lowest strikeout rate in a month with Somerset (23%), and in his last 51 games, he’s putting up incredible numbers at the level, posting a 146 wRC+ and hitting .297, showing an ability to hit for high average alongside his strong game power and great speed. With versatility in all three outfield spots and great physical tools, the Yankees can look at Everson Pereira as a versatile defender who can cover them if Harrison Bader is out of the lineup or potentially as a full-time left-field option. There are concerns about his ability to stay healthy and make consistent contact, but it seems like he’ll always be a strikeout-prone bat.
One advantage he has is that he’s already on the 40-Man Roster, and with the Yankees currently having the worst LF unit in all of baseball according to fWAR and wRC+, they could look to shake up their outfield soon. It’s not as if this deadline presents an abundance of outfield options as well, so perhaps the Yankees look internally to solve these issues and rely on their impressive youth.
2023 MiLB wRC+: 131
Austin Wells simply doesn’t belong in Double-A, and the numbers are continuing to reflect that. The Yankees’ 1st Round Pick in the 2020 Draft, he’s done nothing but mash as the left-handed catcher every Yankee fan dreams of this team having. He consistently generates damage contact, pulling the ball in the air with ease and doing so at high exit velocities. The ability to consistently pull the ball in the air as a left-handed hitter in Yankee Stadium is extremely beneficial for his ability to play to that ballpark, and it should result in plenty of homers.
So far on the season, Wells has seven home runs in just 15 games in Somerset, with 20 RBIs and an OPS north of 1.000. This isn’t an aberration either, as all Wells has done at every level of MiLB is mash. It’s not like Oswald Peraza either, who has understandably performed better at lower levels of the minors as opposed to the higher levels, Wells has just mashed at whatever level the Yankees have thrown him at. There’s a legitimate argument that had Wells not suffered an injury in Spring Training, he’d currently be in Scranton with the Triple-A team, potentially vying for an MLB roster spot right now.
Wells has collegiate experience at first base and all three outfield spots (yes, even CF!) but it’s likely that he’ll play more of a corner outfield role if he isn’t catching. There are legitimate concerns about his ability to play the catcher position, but who better to learn from about catching and handling an MLB pitching staff than Platinum Glove winner Jose Trevino? Kyle Higashioka is also an excellent defender in his own right, and the Yankees’ pitching staff loves pitching to these two seasoned veterans. Their pregame preparation and how they work with pitchers between outings can aid Wells in his routine as well.
He’s made it clear that he wants to catch, but I’m sure that he’ll play the outfield to get in the lineup and work as a defacto third catcher on the roster who can play the outfield and first as well until he can become the full-time catcher. He might be the most MLB-ready bat in the farm system, and that’s saying something considering he hasn’t played a single game at Triple-A. Every day that Austin Wells spends at Double-A is another day where Wells is wasting his time, it’s time to get him one step closer to big-league action.
2023 MiLB wRC+: 146
2022 Draft Picks Showing Off Elite Stuff
When the Yankees selected Drew Thorpe out of Cal Poly, it was clear that they were looking to develop his velocity and make him into a fast riser in the system. Well, against the Brooklyn Cyclones, the 22-year-old righty turned in his best start of the season, tossing 6.1 scoreless frames with eight strikeouts and just two walks. Thorpe relies on a north-south profile to generate swings-and-misses, with a four-seam fastball in the lower 90s that generates almost 18″ of Induced Vertical Break, making it a solid but not great pitch. That being said, his changeup is what makes that fastball a strong pitch, as it establishes vertical deception that’s allowed Thorpe to strike out 28.7% of batters faced.
In his first stint in professional baseball, Thorpe’s shown a great ability to generate groundballs (51.1%) and has a solid ERA of 3.55. He still has to work on his walks (10.2%) but if he can continue to turn in strong outings, he’ll get into a rhythm that allows him to fly through the Yankee farm system. He’s currently the Yankees’ #6 prospect on MLB Pipeline and considered their best pitching prospect, so there’s plenty of hype around Thorpe. If he can continue to remain excellent, the Yankees could see him in Double-A Somerset soon.
2023 MiLB ERA: 3.55
As for 6th Round Pick Chase Hampton, he turned in 5.1 innings with two earned runs and struck out seven batters with one walk. Hampton has been one of the Yankees’ best pitchers in the early going, as he’s posted a 30.4% K-BB% and could see a promotion sooner rather than later to Double-A. His stuff is incredible, with a mid-90s fastball that has plenty of carry, a strong slider and curveball, and a changeup he’s developing as a fourth pitch. Hampton is an arm with plenty of upside as a 21-year-old with high-level stuff. He’ll need to settle down the walks (8.8%) but with his strikeout numbers, it hasn’t mattered much.
He’s controlled his strikeout to walk numbers well and has a 0.93 HR/9, which has allowed him to post a strong .296 FIP to go alongside his 3.10 ERA. The Yankees might find themselves with a steal here, and he’ll be someone to keep tabs on as the Yankees either flip him in a deal or watch him blossom into one of the organization’s top pitching prospects. His profile fits the modern game as well, relying on a power fastball and strong breakers that’ll play well for generating strikeouts.
We saw him put up strong Stuff+ numbers in Spring Training in his extremely limited sample size, with a 117.2. He’ll continue to develop his arsenal and make a name for himself as he strings together more quality outings, as in the Month of May his three starts have resulted in a 1.76 ERA and 39.1% K%. He’s an exciting sleeper prospect, but as with all prospects, it’s a matter of if they can keep up said performance.
2023 MiLB ERA: 3.10
All four of the Yankees’ MiLB affiliates are scheduled to take the field tonight, with all eyes on Will Warren, who looks to follow up a solid Triple-A debut last week with an even better outing.