While the Yankees lost a close game against the Toronto Blue Jays on the back of a walk-off home run by Danny Jansen, their four affiliated minor league teams also took the field. They managed just one win in those four contests, there were plenty of notable performances from some of the farm’s most exciting prospects. On top of that, the Yankees also promoted one of their top pitching prospects, bringing them to Triple-A after dominating with Somerset. Who’s on promotion watch? Who’s trending in the wrong direction? All that and more is discussed in today’s edition of our prospect report!
Will Warren Gets Much-Deserved Triple-A Promotion
After struggling to find his footing in Double-A last season with a 4.02 ERA, 4.03 FIP, and 20.6% K%, Will Warren has quickly dominated the Eastern League. In six starts with the Somerset Patriots thus far, Warren’s displayed improved strikeout stuff and run prevention, with a 32.2% K% and 2.45 ERA on the season, despite worsened BB% and GB% numbers. When you make a massive jump in K-BB% from 12.4% to 22.3%, good things happen, especially when you consider how good Warren has been at limiting damage contact in the early going.
Despite always maintaining low HR/9 numbers, Warren’s taken the approach of just not giving them up at all. He’s one of just two pitchers who have tossed over 20 innings in the Eastern League while not allowing a longball, though the difference between himself and Wyatt Olds is that Olds has walked 26.5% of batters faced and has an ERA north of 6.00. I’ve always been a massive fan of Will Warren’s stuff, with his sweeping slider and hard sinker both grading out as plus pitches. Last year showed that if he wanted to be a full-time starter, he’d have to make adjustments and that he did.
Will Warren’s sweeping slider generates 19″ of sweep at 85.4 MPH, which is an anomaly considering that you’re typically sacrificing break for velocity or vice-versa, making the sweeper a low-80s pitch with double-digit break or a mid or high-80s pitch with below-average sweep. Take Greg Weissert, for example, who has a sweeper that sits at 79.5 MPH with 22.3″ of horizontal sweep, whereas Clarke Schmidt’s sweeper sits at 86.7 MPH with just 8.6″ of horizontal sweep. This elite-level breaking ball allows Warren to absolutely dominate right-handed batters, but what about lefties?
Last season, it was apparent that Will Warren had issues against left-handed hitters, and the reason for that had entirely to do with his pitch mix. Since 2022, left-handed hitters hit .270 with a .348 wOBA, which on its own should already tell us what we need to know, but understanding why something happens is arguably more important than just understanding that the phenomenon occurs. Horizontal break works better against same-handed batters, whereas vertical break works better against opposite-handed batters, and that caused massive issues for the 23-year-old righty.
- vs RHH
- 31.7% Called Strike + Whiff%
- 22.4% Chase%
- .289 xwOBA
- vs LHH
- 26.7% Called Strike + Whiff%
- 17.9% Chase%
- .314 xwOBA
When you generate called strikes and whiffs at a below-average clip alongside struggling to generate chases, it results in an increase in walks and a decrease in strikeouts. On top of that, you’re also throwing at least four pitches during a walk, which means an inflated pitch count and reduced effectiveness multiple times through the order. It was evident that Warren would need to improve his arsenal to establish a vertical profile alongside a horizontal one, and he was able to do just that with the additions of a new breaking pitch and an improved four-seamer.
Why would a four-seamer help Will Warren if it’s the 2nd worst pitch against lefties from RHP behind just sinkers? Well, that’s because four-seamers help you achieve more swings, and swings typically result in positive outcomes for a pitcher rather than a hitter. If that raised more questions than it answered, that’s fine because that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about. Warren needs to generate more swings and chases from left-handed batters since if they swing, they’ll whiff or generate soft contact enough times to result in positive outcomes for Warren.
A four-seam fastball with enough ride up in the zone can help establish a vertical profile, as he can throw his changeup or slider off of that fastball to generate swings in the lower part of the strike zone or do the inverse and use his slider/changeup to then elevate the four-seamer for a whiff. His four-seam fastball and slider work extremely well off of each other due to little horizontal movement but well over 10″ of vertical separation, and now left-handed hitters are finding themselves swinging more against his stuff.
Both pitches also graded out extremely well in the Stuff+ in the small sample size we got in Spring Training:
- FF: 108.6
- SL: 123.2
He’s got elite-level stuff, his arsenal’s evolved to allow him to consistently get left-handed hitters out, and he’s set to make his Scranton debut tonight. If he continues to pitch at this level, the Yankees may look to call Will Warren up to give them some starts with the state of their rotation. Injuries are a constant in sports, and if Warren stays locked in, don’t be surprised if he’s the next man up.
2023 Stats as of writing:
- 2.45 ERA
- 1.73 FIP
- 2.62 xFIP
- 22.3% K-BB%
- 4.2 IP/G
Home Runs From Two of the Organization’s Top Position Player Prospects
While the Yankees struggled to do much of anything offensively yesterday, Andres Chaparro continued his hot month of May with another blast, raising his wRC+ on the season to 111 and his wOBA to .370, which suggests that the Triple-A run-scoring environment is out of this world. Chaparro’s hitting .327 this month with three longballs and a 162 wRC+, decreasing his strikeout numbers and increasing his walk numbers in the process. It wasn’t too long ago that Chaparro was in the midst of a 1 for 31 start to his season, and since that low point, he hasn’t looked back.
Few batters can hit the ball as hard as Chaparro can, as he’s maxed out at 114.2 MPH, which would rank in the 95th Percentile in MLB. He’s been one of the best hitters in the International League over the past month, and while defensively, he’s still a liability, it wouldn’t shock me to see him get the call if someone were to go down with an injury. Chaparro’s bat looks MLB-ready, but it’s a matter of finding a position where he sticks to make sure they can routinely get him in the lineup. His two natural positions are already covered for the Yankees by DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo, who are excellent defenders with solid bats as well.
His bat is certainly impressive, and when we look at just how good he’s been since coming back from injury in the summer, you have to wonder what his bat would look like in the Bronx. With 22 HRs and a 147 wRC+ in those 72 games, he’s displayed impressive power with impressive contact skills as well, with a K% below 20% and BB% above 10%. The Yankees are going to make it a priority to either make him a 1B or 3B as if he could occasionally play the field, they’d have a bat they could get into the lineup three or four days a week that can do serious damage.
2023 Stats as of writing:
- 111 wRC+
- 11 HRs
- .370 wOBA
- 21.7% K%
- 10.8% BB%
He’s not the only important prospect who went yard either, with Everson Pereira also having a big day with the bat, as he recorded two hits in yesterday’s loss with a single and a bomb. After having a rough end to his month of April, Pereira’s been on fire, launching three home runs in his last six games while hitting over .300. The Yankees’ #4 prospect, Pereira’s one of the more overlooked prospects despite putting up strong numbers consistently at the Minor League level and also being on the Yankees’ 40-Man Roster.
Pereira’s put together a strong month of May, posting an OPS of .863 and recording a wRC of 131 following a two-week slide where he struck out 31.4% of the time and had a wRC+ of just 84. The Yankees should be excited since Pereira only turned 22 last April and has already recorded 58 games at Double-A with an OPS of .822 and 10 HRs spanning back to last season. If we dig even deeper, we see that the recent trends for the Venezuelan-born outfielder would suggest that he’s on the cusp of being promoted to Triple-A despite ugly strikeout numbers.
- Last 45 Games
- .282 BA
- 9 HR
- 12 2B
- .389 wOBA
- 138 wRC+
Again, he’s already on the Yankees’ 40-Man Roster, and if they need outfield help, they could try to fast-track him to the Bronx. There’s also a possibility that he’s a hot commodity on the trade market, as teams would love to take a flyer on his talent. He’s reached exit velocities north of 113 MPH in the past, has electric speed tools, and can play all three outfield positions as well, though health and strikeouts have held him back from being much more than a fun backend top-100 prospect pick.
2023 Stats as of writing:
- 116 wRC+
- 5 HRs
- .358 wOBA
- 31.7% K%
- 8.3% BB%
Other notable performers from yesterday include Randy Vásquez, who got his first Triple-A win in a 6-3 win, holding the Knights to two hits and three walks across five innings with five strikeouts. After starting the season with a 7.48 ERA and 11.1% K-BB% through five starts, Vásquez has a 17% K-BB% and 2.14 ERA in his last four starts, logging at least five innings in each start. If he’s capable of stringing together more strong starts, the Yankees could use him in their rotation or bullpen as they deal with injury.
His first win came with the help of his catcher Ben Rortvedt, who went 3-4 with a two-run HR and a walk as well. He has a 155 wRC+ and .622 SLG% through his first 10 games with Scranton. The Yankees are in fact, calling up Rortvedt to replace an injured Jose Trevino. Despite being in his second year with the team, he’s yet to make his debut with the team, but his 14% Chase Rate thus far in Triple-A shows a more patient approach at the dish that should help him put up quality at-bats if that can translate to the MLB level.
An excellent defensive catcher in his brief career, the left-handed hitting 25-year-old has +5 DRS and +2.3 FRM in under 300 MLB innings of work behind the dish, and his 111.4 Max EV is extremely enticing. The average outcomes for Rortvedt feel like a left-handed version of Kyle Higasioka, but considering he’s currently the Yankees’ third-string catcher, is that a bad thing?
Underrated reliever Steven Jennings tossed two flawless frames with four strikeouts, bringing his ERA to 2.60 with a 22.4% K-BB% and 50% GB%. The 24-year-old RHP was acquired off of waivers by the Yankees following the 2021 season, and he finished 2022 strong with a 2.45 ERA in September, which means in his last 24.2 IP, he has a 33% K%, 2.55 ERA, and 1.74 FIP. Don’t be surprised if he’s in Triple-A soon.
Not an eventful day for prospects, but tonight all four affiliates are going to run it back with an opportunity to bounce back after a 1-3 day. As mentioned earlier, Will Warren will be making his Triple-A debut tonight, but other notable arms starting tonight include Brock Selvidge (1-3, 3.94 ERA) and Zach Messinger (0-1, 2.03 ERA), both look to build off of their solid starts to the season.
Selvidge was the Yankees’ 3rd-round pick in 2021 and has a 3.32 ERA and 3.30 FIP with 86 strikeouts in 76 IP as a professional. He averages between 91-92 on his four-seamer and sinker, but with tweaks to his pitch shape and added velocity, he could be a quick riser in the system.
Messinger is the Yankees’ #22 prospect, and after being promoted to High-A with the Hudson Valley Renegades, he’s struck out 31.1% of batters faced and has held batters to just two HRs across 31 IP despite a high flyball rate. His sweeping slider and riding fastball make his arsenal diverse, also has a curveball to help him deal with left-handed batters. He averages ~93 MPH on his fastball, and there’s a chance for him to reach Double-A swiftly following Will Warren’s promotion.
It’ll be a fun night to prospect-watch; hopefully, there will be more to discuss in tomorrow’s report.