Many remember the spark Oswaldo Cabrera provided the Yankees in September as they reversed an abysmal August to secure the American League East. While it didn’t result in a World Series appearance, the Yankees have plenty of young talent in 2023 that can impact the Major League roster mid-season the way Cabrera did. Anthony Volpe comes to mind as an obvious answer, but I’ll avoid mentioning him on this list since he’s an obvious answer. Injuries are a constant in baseball on both sides of the ball, and the Yankees are going to need all hands on deck if they want to win their 28th World Series Championship.
With question marks in the outfield, an ever-present need for pitching, and some offensive holes they could look to fill, these prospects could be in-season promotions who push the Yankees over the edge.
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An Overlooked Outfield Bat
Self-admittedly, my love for Elijah Dunham is more of a by-product of my Fireside Yankees co-host and ESM writer Nick Nielsen, who is probably Dunham’s biggest fan. That being said, the numbers provide plenty of reason to believe Dunham could be a quality left-handed bat in 2023, and that’s due to his strong swing decisions and speed. The Yankees need help in left field, and Dunham provides an option at the Triple-A level who could get called up and isn’t necessarily of a high enough status as a prospect to warrant being called up earlier than expected.
The Yankees don’t like rushing prospects, but Dunham provides the right balance between a young player who can provide value to the Big League team and also not be considered a prospect they have to be ultra careful with. Dunham’s provided elite plate discipline by walking 12.2% of the time and chasing at a rate well below the MLB average. He’s got great OBP skills with decent contact tools, and his .200 ISO shows an ability to generate plenty of in-game power. He quietly posted a 118 wRC+ with 37 SBs in 44 attempts in 2022, and this was after an impressive AFL showing in 2021.
He didn’t produce the same line-drive swing he had in 2021, but if he’s able to find his ideal launch angles again in 2023, his BABIP could climb back over .300 with his great speed, and we could see him crush Triple-A quickly. He’s turning 25 in late May, and while he isn’t on the Yankees’ 40 Man Roster, they could add him if they DFA Estevan Florial, who hasn’t found his swing at the Major League level yet. He has a solid glove out in LF, and the Yankees could certainly use that if Aaron Hicks struggles and ‘Big Cheese’ is able to get off to a hot start in Scranton.
Currently the #18 prospect in the Yankees’ farm system according to MLB Pipeline, he’s someone who’s close to the Majors and that I know the Yankees definitely like. He hasn’t gotten many reps in Spring Training, but we’ve seen him show off the glove, bat, and plate discipline in his small sample. He doesn’t have amazing raw power, but his ability to pull the ball in the air should allow him to play well at Yankee Stadium, and the high OBP is definitely enticing to the Yankees. He was also a wrecking ball in the Eastern League playoffs, slashing .368/.478/.526 in five games to help secure the Somerset Patriots a title.
Dunham’s shown an ability to lead a team in crucial situations, and anyone on that roster or who watched that team would rave about his abilities as an all-around talent. There’s no atmosphere like the bright lights of New York, but Dunham’s overcome a lot of adversity that would have demoralized most, including having to sign as an undrafted free agent due to the COVID-19 pandemic or having to wait until his age-23 season to debut at the MiLB level.
He finished his Double-A season with an above .800 OPS and 18 HRs in 115 combined regular and postseason games, and if he’s able to translate that to Triple-A, this could be a great addition to the Yankees’ roster. There’s a clear need for left-handed hitting in the Bronx, and Dunham is probably their best bet early in the season with Austin Wells on the sidelines with rib issues. They’ll stick with Ortega/Calhoun/Hicks as their LF options for now, but if the Yankees are struggling in the outfield, Dunham is one of their MLB-ready bats that can give them a spark if need be.
Potential Fast Track to the Bullpen
Will Warren is someone who I’ve written extensively about, and he’s just absolutely filthy. His low-slot release and sweeper caught the eyes of the Yankees, who drafted him in 2021 and saw him climb to Double-A by the end of 2022. We saw him throw two innings in Spring Training earlier in camp, and in that small sample size, he showed off elite-level stuff and movement that would make any pitching guru drool. Warren’s velocity was up across the board in that Spring outing, which makes sense considering he’s a starter and he could have amped up his velocity since it was a two-inning outing.
The reason Warren’s on this list is that he could be a multi-inning weapon for the Yankees, who have shown an ability to trust young arms to pitch in the bullpen. According to Bryan Hoch, the Yankees even considered having LHP Matt Krook make his MLB debut in the 2022 postseason, showing that they really value stuff over anything else. When we look at his pitches in the Stuff+ model based on that model, we see some seriously gross pitches:
- Sweeper: 232.7 Stuff+
- Slider: 123.1 Stuff+
- Four-Seam: 108.6 Stuff+
- Sinker: 106 Stuff+
- Changeup: 86.5 Stuff+
That averages out to a 139.9 Stuff+, which is absolutely ridiculous. He has a unique slider that can be thrown at higher velocities with ridiculous sweeping action, and his gyro slider acts as a sort of cutter that he can use against left-handed hitters who tend to bite more on vertical deception rather than large horizontal movement.
Warren’s value stems from his elite arsenal, and I don’t think it’s crazy to say that he could pitch his way into the Yankees’ bullpen at some point this season. He’s one of the most electric arms in MiLB, and as he matures and figures out sequencing and command more, he’ll be able to test himself more as a starter. The Yankees could always use pitching depth, and while I don’t think the Yankees are going to call upon Warren to make a start before they call upon Brito/Vasquez, he could end up being the guy in that group with the best upside and viability in a postseason environment out of the bullpen.
The Yankees are definitely slow to make changes at times, but this is still an organization on the cutting edge of pitching data. They’re one of the most forward-thinking organizations in the sport, and I believe that they are the exact type of organization that changes the mold with pitching development and starts guys out as relievers prior to full-time starting roles. It’s hard to deny Will Warren’s near 20″ of sweep on a mid-80s slider and strong fastballs, and the Yankees could certainly lean on him post-All-Star Break for relief innings if he gets off to a really strong start.
Arguably the MLB-Ready Bat in the Yankees System
Andres Chaparro is one of the most exciting prospects so far this Spring Training, and he’s going to start the season in Triple-A with the Scranton RailRiders. He’s currently making the transition from third base to first base, and while we can’t know how that’s going to go until we get a larger sample, we do know his bat is legit. He’s hitting .345 this Spring with a .441 OBP, and more importantly, he’s shown off incredible power. With four home runs and a .759 SLG, the Yankees have a 1.200 OPS hitter coming off of a Double-A campaign where he was the best hitter on a championship-winning team.
Yes, he was better than the likes of Anthony Volpe, Austin Wells, and Everson Pereira in wRC+, and his 19 HRs in 271 PAs at Double-A make him a serious power threat. He’s registered exit velocities north of 112 MPH, and that’s all while making strong swing decisions at the MiLB level and Spring Training. With a 23.5% O-Swing%, he’s not expanding the strike zone much, and it’s led to just a 20.5% K% and 11.8% BB%. In Double-A, his strikeout rate and walk rate (including regular and postseason) were incredible as well, with a 20% K% and 9.5% BB%, showing an ability to command the zone well while still taking aggressive hacks.
Andres Chaparro also has a 47% flyball rate and pulls 52.4% of batted balls, meaning he’s displaying above-average hit tools and patience while also making earlier swing decisions. His bat is way more advanced than given credit for, and it’s surprising that no team picked him up in the Rule 5 draft. Out of all of the prospects on this list, Chaparro is the one with the biggest positional misfit due to being a 1B and not having much viability at third. Perhaps an injury to Stanton or Rizzo could get him promoted, but his bat is so good that the Yankees could try to get creative in order to get him in the lineup.
He has serious upside as a middle-of-the-order bat, and the Yankees are definitely intrigued by what he can provide to the team down the road. With Opening Day right around the corner, these three prospects will start their campaigns in the upper levels of MiLB, but you can expect to hear some buzz about them potentially getting MLB reps if they play the way they did in the 2022 season.