New York Yankees Prospects: Ken Waldichuk

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone

The next New York Yankees prospect that we will be taking a look at is a big left-handed starting pitcher who was the Yankees fifth round draft pick in 2019. That pitcher would be the talented, Ken Waldichuk. Waldichuk played his college ball at St. Mary’s, and did enough to impress the Yankees for them to select them in the fifth round last year. Waldichuk stands 6’4 and weighs about 220 pounds, so he has a great frame for a starting pitcher. Waldichuk is one of those under the radar prospects in the Yankees system. He was selected in the first five rounds of the draft last year, but not a lot of people have him high on the rankings yet. Waldichuk has a solid mix of pitches, and he really impressed me in his first stint in rookie ball.

Impressive Professional Debut

After getting drafted by the Yankees last season, Waldichuk started in ten games for the Pulaski Yankees. In those ten games, Waldichuk threw 29.1 innings. His numbers were pretty sensational across the board. In those 29.1 innings, Waldichuk pitched to a 3.68 ERA, and he struck out 49 batters compared to just 7 walks. A 7-1 strikeout to walk ratio is eye popping for someone coming right out of the draft. Another number that really stood out was his WHIP which was an incredible 0.89. Simply put, Waldichuk dominated in rookie ball last year. Waldichuk features a fastball that can touch 95, and he pairs that with an above average slider and a developing change up. I know it’s very early in his professional development, but I’m very impressed with what I see in Ken Waldichuk.

The Yankees Plan for Waldichuk

Left-handed starting pitchers are extremely valuable in baseball. I think the Yankees might have found a diamond in the rough in their fifth round selection last year. I really like the mix of pitches that Waldichuk features, and I’m a huge fan of his ability to stay ahead in the count. He’s not the type of guy who is going to dance around the edges, he’s going to go right after guys. I think Waldichuk is the kind of prospect that the Yankees love. I think the Yankees will fully plan on developing Waldichuk the same way that they developed Jordan Montgomery. Waldichuk is the type of prospect who could rise up through the system quickly, and surprise a lot of folks outside the Yankees organization. Definitely someone to keep your eyes on Yankee fans.

New York Yankees Prospects: Carlos Verdecia

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The next New York Yankees prospect that we will be taking a look at is one that I’m very excited to watch progress. This prospect raised a lot of eyebrows when he only struck out one time in 115 plate appearances in the 15U Cuban National League. That prospect would be the dynamic infielder, Carlos Verdecia. Verdecia has poise at the plate that I like to see from such a young kid. Verdecia just turned 18-years-old back in March, but his maturity at the plate for surpasses his age. Last year, Verdecia made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League for the DSL Yankees. It was going to be a question on how well he’d be able to still make contact seeing professional action. Verdecia did not disappoint in his first professional season.

2019 season with the DSL Yankees

Verdecia appeared in 28 games for the DSL Yankees back in 2019. In those 28 games, Verdecia had 100 plate appearances where he hit .280 and had an OBP of .415. As I mentioned, his plate discipline was really the thing to watch for in his first season. Well, Verdecia actually walked more times than he struck out. In those 100 plate appearances, Verdecia walked 22 times while he only struck out 19 times. Another thing about Verdecia is that he has pretty decent speed. He was successful in 12 of is 17 steal attempts last season. At this stage, Verdecia is not much of a power threat at the plate. He didn’t hit one home run, but you should see an increase in power as he continues to fill out his 5’11 frame. Verdecia spent the majority of his time at second-base last season, but is currently projected as a shortstop prospect.

Development moving forward

Moving forward, I think Verdecia just needs to continue to add strength. I think his approach is already fantastic, but I would like to see him add just a little more pop. Verdecia looks really smooth at second, but the Yankees seemed inclined to develop him at short. He’s going to need to improve his range just a little, and be more consistent with his throwing. I really like him long-term as a second base prospect. Verdecia is a guy who is going to be under the radar, but with his approach at the plate, do not be shocked if he moves quickly through the system. To me, he projects as the kind of guy who is going to hit at all levels.

New York Yankees Prospects: Agustin Ramirez

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The next prospect we are going to be taking a look at for the New York Yankees is a catching prospect that they signed out of the Dominican Republic. That prospect would be Agustin Ramirez. Ramirez stands six feet tall and weighs 210 pounds. When being scouted, a lot of scouts loved his compact swing. He finds the barrel a lot when he swings which is going to help him tremendously as he progresses. At just 18-years-old, Ramirez is still really green as a prospect, but there is enough there to work with to believe that one day he will become a major league ball player.

Debut with DSL Yankees

Last year, Ramirez made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League. Ramirez appeared in 41 games, and gave scouts quite a bit to unpack in his first taste of pro action. He hit .239 with four home runs, and 26 RBIs. One of the things that I noticed in his game tape was his swing. As mentioned above, he really can find the barrel with just about any fastball that is thrown in the zone. He needs to get a little stronger at this stage in his young career. There were several times I saw him square up a pitch that would have likely gone out had he been a little stronger. If he gains some strength without sacrificing his swing, you should see his average and power numbers go up. Ramirez did show some solid patience at the plate which is always encouraging when evaluating a young prospect.

Development Moving Forward

Obviously it’s way too early in his career to make any drastic predictions, but I worry about Ramirez long-term as a catcher. I think his receiving skills will get better with time, but he just doesn’t look great throwing the ball down to second. He struggled with this a lot last season. I love the way his bat projects, but I think down the road, he might need to switch positions to make a major league roster. Again, this is just judging based on the tape we’ve seen. He could come out in 2021 after adding a lot of muscle, and show drastic improvements with his throwing ability. His swing looks great, but he also needs to work on picking up breaking balls out of the pitchers hand. If he can read those better and add some strength, his solid bat will start to trend towards a plus-plus. I think with time and a lot of polishing, Ramirez could be a guy to keep your eye on in the New York Yankees organization.

New York Yankees Prospects: Denny Larrondo

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The next New York Yankees prospect that we will be discussing is one that was in the news a couple of months back when the pandemic started. That prospect would be the talented right-hander from Cuba, Denny Larrondo. Larrondo made headlines when it was reported that he had tested positive for COVID-19 back in March. By all accounts, Larrondo has made a full recovery, so we can start talking about the kind of player that he is on the field. Larrondo stands 6’2 and weighs about 180 pounds. He has a very nice frame for a pitcher. He has a very quick arm that generates a fastball in the mid-90’s. He compliments his fastball with a curveball that shows great potential and a developing changeup. After being signed by the Yankees out of his native Cuba, Larrondo made his professional debut last year in the Gulf Coast League.

First year in the Yankees organization

Pitching for the GCL Yankees (East & West), Larrondo started in nine games, and he appeared in relief in three. Larrondo pitched a total of 32.1 innings last year and had an ERA of 5.01 with a WHIP of 1.21. While those numbers are not ideal, there are a couple of really good numbers if you dive into his season. He held opponents to an average of .171 and he didn’t give up one home run in those 32.1 innings. Larrondo has a very raw arm at this young stage of his career, but he is already showing a lot of promise. He’s a hard guy to square up when you’re at the plate. He’s got two plus pitches already with one coming along nicely. It’ll still take years for him to fully develop into someone who is major league ready, but I’m very encouraged with what I’ve seen and read about Denny Larrondo.

Development for Larrondo

Being young and inexperienced does have it’s drawbacks with the main one being control. Larrondo had poor numbers overall last year due to the amount of guys he walked. In those 32.1 innings, Larrondo walked 21 batters and hit 10. Almost every inning he was allowing someone on base for free. As he continues to develop, I believe that control will get ironed out. I like his frame, and I think the Yankees will continue to develop him over the next few years as a starter. I think that changeup that he’s shown will develop into a solid third offering. If it doesn’t get to the level it needs to be as a major league starter, Larrondo projects very nicely as a bullpen arm with a tightly spun curveball and a fastball that sits in the mid-90’s with life.

New York Yankees Prospects: Mauro Bonifacio

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The next prospect in the New York Yankees farm system that we will be taking a look at will remind you a lot of the Yankees current superstar right-fielder. The prospect that I’m referring to is the big Dominican right-fielder, Mauro Bonifacio. Bonifacio, at just 18-years-old is very impressive from a physical standpoint. He stands 6’7 and he weighs about 230 pounds. He has very long strides when he runs, and he has a very good arm in the outfield. As you can probably imagine, he is a very strong prospect, and when he connects on a pitch, the pitch will go a long ways. From a distance, you could see a lot of things that would remind you of Aaron Judge. Of course, Bonifacio is extremely green, and he just got his first taste of pro-ball last year after being signed by the Yankees in March of last year. In his first year, Bonifacio showed some big gaps where he needs to improve, but his natural physical gifts allowed him to shine as well.

Bonifacio’s first taste of pro-ball

Last year in the Dominican Summer League, Bonifacio played in 42 games. In those 42 games, there were not a ton of positives to draw from as Bonifacio hit .196 with four home runs and 19 RBIs. There was a positive number that I took away and that was that his OBP was .319. Bonifacio is very intimidating at the plate which causes pitchers to be very careful with him. There were a lot of times where pitchers would go ahead and surrender ball four before throwing him a fastball down the middle in a hitters count. At this stage of his career, Bonifacio does struggle with pitch recognition and hitting offspeed pitches. He has a very long swing which generates a lot of loft, but can also generate a lot of misses. Bonifacio is still getting the hang of things, and he’s going to need a few years to really develop before he’s even close to being ready for major league action.

The Yankees Plan for Bonifacio

As Bonifacio continues to develop in the Yankees system, the Yankees just need to keep working with him on being more patient at the plate. Being so young and strong, Bonifacio loves to attack pitches, but he doesn’t sit back on anything yet. That will come with a lot more age and experience. I can tell you now, he’s always going to be a player that is going to strikeout a lot. Bigger guys who have very big strike zones are always going to strike out, just ask Aaron Judge. Bonifacio just needs to continue to work on making solid contact and maturing his approach at the plate. I really like the way he looks in the corner outfield. He seems extremely comfortable, and I think he will develop nicely in right field. Again, it’s going to take some time for him to be even close to being major league ready, but this is definitely a kid that you want to keep your eyes on if you’re a Yankee fan.

New York Yankees Prospects: Nick Green

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The next prospect in the New York Yankees system that we will be looking at is a pitcher that has already seen a lot of scenery changes in his professional career. That prospect would be right-handed starter, Nick Green. Green initially was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the seventh round of the 2014 draft. The New York Yankees acquired him in the Carlos Beltran trade back in 2016. After spending some time in the Yankees organization, Green was selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Diamondbacks in 2018. However, Green was returned to the Yankees before he made an appearance for the D-Backs. Green has a very solid arm with a nice repertoire of pitches. He generates a ton of weak contact which is good, but that actually played into his rough 2019 season.

Green’s 2019 Struggles

2018 was a big year for Nick Green. He opened up a lot of eyes in the Yankees organization by going 8-7 with a 3.32 ERA. The D-Backs liked what they saw enough to draft the unprotected prospect. The Yankees had eyes on Green entering 2019, but the year was a struggle for the talented right-hander. Green went 3-6 with a 6.67 ERA in 18 games last year between Staten Island and Trenton. Green’s WHIP was 1.70 which can be attributed to weak-contact hits and averaging four walks per nine innings. Green features a fastball with good cutting action, a change up, and a pretty decent curveball. While Green did strike out 63 batters last year, he doesn’t generate a ton of swings and misses. I went back and watched a few of his rougher starts, and it just seemed like the ball had eyes. He gives up a lot of contact, but the guys at the plate always did a good job of getting the ball through even on weak contact. Moving forward, Green’s ability to generate weak contact is definitely a plus, but he has to get better at mixing in pitches that generate misses.

The Yankees plan for Nick Green

Whenever minor league baseball resumes, Green has several things he needs to work on. The Yankees love pitches who induce a lot of ground balls which Green does. The Yankees really need to work with Green on developing those secondary pitches to generate more misses. Green can become a little predictable on the mound throwing his fastball too much. While the movement generates weaker contact, hitters sit on that pitch because it’s his main weapon. His curveball has plus potential, and if he can control it better, his entire pitching game will improve. Like the Yankees, I like ground ball pitchers. Green has the potential to be a really good ground ball pitcher, but he must refine his game, and he has to become more consistent with his secondary pitches. If he can do that, he can move up through the system. It will be interesting to see if the Yankees keep him as a starter or if they try to make the reliever transition.

New York Yankees Prospects: Diego Castillo

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Back in December of 2014, the New York Yankees signed a talented infielder out of Venezuela to a minor league contract. That prospect is turning into a pretty solid infielder within the Yankees organization. That prospect would be the 22-year-old shortstop, Diego Castillo. Castillo made his professional debut in the Yankees organization back in 2015. Since joining the Yankees, Castillo has bounced back and forth between shortstop and second, but I think he’s at home at short. Castillo has pretty good range and a decent arm for that position. When he’s at the plate, the right-handed Castillo sprays line drives to all sides of the field. He does not generate a lot of power, but he does make solid contact quite often when he’s at the dish.

Step-Back 2019

2019 was the second consecutive year that Castillo spent the entire season with the Tampa Tarpons. In 114 games for the Tarpons last season, Castillo hit .248 with an OBP of .310. Again, Castillo is never going to be the type of player who is a power threat only hitting four home runs and driving in 33 runs. Overall, his year at the plate was a step back from the year prior. In 2018, Castillo was able to drive in 18 more runs and had an average of .260. Castillo did show off some decent range last year, and to me proved himself to be a solid utility candidate in the Yankees organization. He’s not going to blow you away with much, but he’s the kind of player who is always going to give you his best effort.

Solid Utility Potential

In looking at Castillo as a prospect, I’m struggling to see a guy who will develop into a major league starter. I do believe that he can make a major league roster with time, but he’s going to need to improve offensively. He’s got very good range at the shortstop position, but there were times last year where I saw his throwing as a little inconsistent. If he can keep his throws consistent, I think he can develop into a plus defender. Again, he’s never going to be a power threat, but I do believe he has room to grow offensively. He needs to get better at pitch recognition. When he makes contact, he does a fantastic job of going with the pitch. He doesn’t try to pull the ball which is beneficial to a hitter with his abilities. If he can get his batting average up and be more consistent with his throwing ability, I think you should see him make the jump to AA next year. I think he can be a solid utility piece down the line for the New York Yankees.

New York Yankees Prospects: Freicer Perez

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The next prospect in our series is one that the New York Yankees organization still has high hopes for despite injuries over the last couple of years. That prospect would Dominican born, Freicer Perez. Perez has an absolute cannon of an arm and a very big frame. Perez stands an impressive 6’8 and weighs about 240 pounds. Perez resembles Dellin Betances when he’s on the mount. Perez has a lightning fastball that can touch 100 mph when he’s healthy. His fastball graded at a 70 on the 20-80 scout scale. To go along with his fastball, Perez has a plus curveball that can be a devastating complimentary pitch to his fastball. Perez has also been developing a changeup and slider to go along with those two pitches. Perez was on the fast track to being one of the best prospects in the system after an incredible 2017 campaign. However, injuries have derailed his development and we haven’t seen much of him over the past couple of years.

Injury Bug

Perez entered the 2018 season as a top 25 prospect in the New York Yankees system. He had one of the best fastballs in the system, and the Yankees had faith that he could develop into a really good starter or an elite reliever. Perez made 24 starts in the 2017 season. In those 24 starts for Charleston, Perez went 10-3 with a 2.84 ERA. Perez also struck out 117 batters in 123.2 innings and had a WHIP of 1.14. Perez was entering the 2018 season with a ton of hype. When watching Perez, you could see why the Yankees were so excited about him. His fastball was so good, but the fact that he was 6’8 just helped it even more. When you have a pitcher standing that tall, it makes the pitch seem even faster than it is. 2018 saw Perez hit a big wall in his development. His shoulder was giving him a ton of trouble in Tampa and he was shut down after going 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA. Shoulder inflammation was the cause of the injury, and he did not appear for the rest of the 2018 season. The injury persisted and we didn’t see Perez at all during 2019 as well.

Poised for Comeback

By all accounts, 2020 was supposed to be a big year for Perez to show the organization that he has returned to the promising form we saw in 2017. However, the pandemic has likely canceled minor league baseball for the 2020 season so we look towards 2021. When minor league baseball comes back, Perez has to show the Yankees that he can stay healthy. If he comes out and shows that he’s healthy, he will fly up the prospect boards. The kid is an absolute stud and has stuff that you simply can’t teach. He needs to continue to work on his offspeed pitches and his command, but he has the makings to be a big-time pitcher for the Yankees. I’m not sure how the Yankees will go about developing him over the next couple of years. He was being developed as a starter, but with his size and injury concerns, I’m curious to see if the Yankees try to transition him to the bullpen. He’s definitely a prospect that fans should keep an eye on over the next couple of seasons.

New York Yankees Prospects: Armando Alvarez

The next prospect that we will be taking a look at was the New York Yankees 17th round pick back in 2016, and it’s a player that could see MLB action sooner than later. That prospect would be third baseman, Armando Alvarez. After getting drafted by the Yankees, Alvarez has continued to gradually make his way up through the system. After starting last season with AA Trenton, Alvarez was promoted to AAA for the second half of the season. Alvarez has pretty decent size standing 6’1 and weighing 195 pounds. He’s not a flashy prospect, but he’s solid all the way around which is how he’s made his way up to AAA. As mentioned, Alvarez spent the second half of the season with Scranton, and he looked pretty impressive there.

Rising 2019

Armando Alvarez made the final minor league jump halfway through the season last year. Alvarez spent 66 games with Scranton and the Yankees prospect looked very impressive at AAA. In those 66 games, Alvarez had an average of .277 and he drove in 44 runs. Combining his 2019 stats between Trenton and Scranton, Alvarez hit .270 with 11 home runs and 76 RBIs. In addition to hitting the ball well at both levels, Alvarez impressed me with his ability to handle third. He’s got really good first step instincts and a very solid arm from third. There is a lot to like about Alvarez as a prospect. He hits the ball consistently well, and you can trust him in the field. He’s got average speed, but he was four for four on stolen bases last year. He’s got great baseball instincts and he’s the kind of player who is going to always come in and give it his all.

MLB Ready

Armando Alvarez can play at the MLB level now. I think he’s close to maxing out on his raw talent, but he still has room to grow as a baseball player. If the Yankees had injuries at third, he’s the type of guy that fans should feel comfortable with filling in. He’s going to hit the ball well and he’s going to be serviceable defensively. When it comes on things to work on, I’d like to see Alvarez be a little more patient at the plate. He has a really good eye for hitting the ball, but I’d like to see his walk numbers go up just a little. I’d like him to get his OBP closer to the 350 mark as opposed to the current mark of 324. Alvarez has what it takes to stay at the MLB level, but I’m not convinced he’s a starter at least within the Yankees organization. The Yankees are stacked on the corner of their infield with guys like Gio Urshela and Miguel Andujar. If Alvarez is blocked inside the Yankees organization, he’s definitely the kind of guy that teams would love to take a flyer on. Alvarez can flat out play, it’s just a matter of if he gets the opportunity.

New York Yankees Prospects: Pablo Olivares

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This has been a sad week for the New York Yankees with the team releasing 43 minor leaguers due to the loss of revenue from the Covid-19 pandemic. We have been going through the Yankees system breaking down some of the bright spots in the minor league system. Despite the unfortunate news of the cuts, we will be continuing our prospect series. The next Yankees prospect that we will be breaking down is a talented outfielder from Venezuela. That outfielder would be Pablo Olivares. Olivares has been with the Yankees organization for five years and he’s continually climbed the organizational latter slowly but surely. Olivares has some good tools all around but took a little step back in 2019 after a very impressive 2018 campaign.

Step Back 2019

2018 was truly a breakout year for Olivares where he hit .322 in 70 games in A-ball. Olivares also looked pretty solid in the field in 2018, but that success didn’t transition over to 2019. Olivares appeared in 117 games last year for the Tampa Tarpons and in those 117 games, Olivares hit .250 with an OBP of .358. Olivares also showed off really good speed last year but looked a little lost in the outfield at times. Olivares has the speed to play center, where he’s currently getting the majority of his reps, but he needs to work on his route running. Last year, Olivares impressed me with his eye at the plate. The OBP is a stat that I was encouraged by. In watching some tape, Olivares is really good about being able to identify pitches quickly out of the pitcher’s hand. I’ve seen him spit on really good breaking balls that appear to be strikes when they are first released. When he made contact, Olivares does a really good job of getting the barrel on the ball. He doesn’t have the power to hit you a ton of home runs, but he could develop into a doubles machine with time. Olivares has shown the Yankees organization that he has the tools to be a contributor at whatever level he’s at.

Moving Forward

There are plenty of things to work on for Pablo Olivares. While Olivares has a really good eye at the plate, he gets a little anxious sometimes. I think his lack of power gets to him, and he pulls off the ball quite a bit. He gets a little power happy, but that’s not hitting to his strength. Again, he’s got a tremendous eye so he needs to focus on just making consistent contact and driving the ball in the gaps. It doesn’t matter if he can’t get the ball out of the ballpark if his average is floating around 300. Olivares has really good speed, and he needs to continue to use it as a weapon. I was encouraged that last year he attempted stealing 33 times, successfully stealing 20. He’s got the speed, but he needs to continue to work on reading the pitcher before he takes off. I think his success numbers could become even better. Olivares has the speed and the arm of a plus defender, but he has trouble with some of his fielding mechanics. Olivares doesn’t always take the best route to the ball and misjudges the ball off the bat sometimes. His speed can make up some of the difference, but he could become a special defender with more reps. Olivares is not a guy that I believe is going to develop into a star, but he can definitely develop into a solid major league baseball player with time. Some scouts believe that his future is as a fourth outfielder, and I think at this point that’s closer to the floor of his potential. Time will tell, but I’m interested to continue to watch Olivares over the next couple of years.