2022 Storylines: Prospects with something to prove

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Not every prospect can be Anthony Volpe. Some hits bumps in the road, some struggle to stay healthy, or some simply fall short of expectations. That doesn’t always mean all hope is lost.

The Yankees have a few minor leaguers who are looking to rebuild lost value or establish themselves as legitimate top prospects this season. 2022 isn’t necessarily make or break for all of them, but good showings would go a long way to entrench themselves into the Yankees long term plans.

Deivi García

It took one season for García to go from the organization’s top pitching prospect to an absolute enigma. 2021 was a disaster for the young righty, to put it lightly. After a 6.85 ERA in 90.2 Triple-A innings and just two big league starts, here’s what Baseball Prospectus’ Jarrett Seidler had to say about his year:

His arm slot drifted significantly south and he got really slider happy, and in doing so he totally lost the fastball/curveball combo and command-and-control which made him a top prospect to begin with.

The good news is that Deivi is healthy and doesn’t turn 23 until mid May. Furthermore, he’s had an encouraging spring. Making anything about Grapefruit League numbers is a fool’s errand, but he’s throwing strikes and his fastball velocity is significantly up (roughly three MPH). That’s hard to ignore.

This is García’s last option year, so it’s pivotal that he gets past the mechanical issues from a year ago. So far, so good in camp. The next step will be to have this month’s performance carry into actual games in April and onward. Expect him back in Triple-A to start the year, but if things trend well, he could be back in the major league rotation mix before season’s end.

Clarke Schmidt

Can he finally stay healthy? The now 26 year old righty has pitched in just 15 games since 2020, although that’s partly due to the cancelation of the 2020 minor league season. That said, an elbow injury derailed his 2021 campaign, too. He seems healthy in camp, at least. This year could go a long way in determining his long term role in the majors. Here’s what FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein had to say:

Schmidt’s injury history (he had Tommy John surgery in 2017) and lunging, unathletic delivery have many wondering if he’d just be better off as a reliever, despite his deep repertoire. The Yankees, meanwhile, are just hoping his stuff can rebound to its previous level before they spend too much time considering his future role.

Good news: his stuff seemingly has rebounded. Schmidt starts again this afternoon, but in his previous outing, his fastball velocity was up to 96 MPH on average, which is three ticks higher than last season. That’s gotta be a sign his elbow is OK, right?

It looks like Schmidt is ticketed for Triple-A to start the year in the RailRiders rotation. As long as he remains healthy (and effective), there’s still a chance he can crack the Yankees’ rotation at some point this season. Moreover, even though he’s a bit older than most prospects, the Yankees still have two minor league options left, meaning that he could still go down to the minors in 2023 if need be. That buys some additional time for the Yankees to sort out his role, unless they decide to simply let him air it out in the bullpen since health has long been a concern.

Jasson Dominguez

It’s a bit ridiculous to say that a 19 year old who made his professional debut last year has something to prove, and yet, there are some concerns about what he displayed last year. Again, FanGraphs’ commentary:

While all of [the] attention led to what were surely unrealistic public expectations, his performance in Low-A disappointed to the point of creating some legitimate questions about his upside. Any conversation about Dominguez begins with his size, as he’s put on somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-plus pounds in the last 24 months, not all of which is muscle. He has a powerful swing and generates tremendous exit velocities for his age, but he also showed far more swing-and-miss than expected.

On the bright side, I think Dominguez slimmed down a tad. Granted, that’s just an amateur guess based on a couple of pictures and videos I’ve seen in camp, including the below:

If my eyes aren’t deceiving me, this is a step in the right direction, and perhaps will be something that will allow him to display all five of the tools that got everyone excited more consistently.

I don’t know if an improved physique will help with his bat to ball skills, but it’s important that he cuts down on strikeouts. A 31 percent K-rate in Single-A is a problem no matter how you slice it.

Austin Wells

Unless you’re the world’s biggest Ben Rortvedt fan, the Yankees don’t have a catcher of the future, at least not close to the majors. Apologies to Josh Breaux, but the Yankees didn’t protect him from the now canceled Rule 5 draft, so I can’t imagine he’s a serious contender. Additionally, Antonio Gomez is even further away. Anyway, Austin Wells could be that guy, but there are legitimate concerns about his ability to handle the position. From Baseball America:

There are few outside the organization who believe Wells can stick behind the plate. Those scouts point to a lack of twitchiness, struggles blocking pitches and well below-average arm strength that plays up a touch because of a quick release. Even so, Wells threw out just 13% of basestealers. Even if he moves off catcher, he has the bat to profile at either first base or left field.

There’s already been plenty of talk from within the organization about Wells’ improvements defensively, but we’ll need to see if third parties agree once the regular season gets underway.

Quick hits

There are a few other names I’d like to touch on:

  • Estevan Florial is still around, but his window as a prospect is closing, if it hasn’t already. How much longer can he justify a hold on a 40-man spot?
  • Is Luis Medina going to throw enough strikes to remain a starter? This is his last option year, so the Yankees may have to make a decision on his role soon.
  • What’s the status TJ Sikkema? He hasn’t pitched in two years, though apparently, he’s healthy again.
  • Is there anything Josh Breaux can do to force himself into the catching conversation?
  • Anthony Seigler, Alexander Vargas, Jake Sanford, Ryder Green, Ken Waldichuk, Hayden Wesneski, Randy Vasquez, Mitch Spence, and the aforementioned Sikkema are all Rule 5 eligible this offseason. Some are slam dunks for protection barring a collapse (Waldichuk, Wesneski, Vasquez), others look like non-prospects at this point (Seigler), while someone like Vargas may be too far away to protect. All of their minor league seasons will be fascinating to follow.

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3 Comments

  1. The Original Drew

    Anthony Siegler, oh how the mighty have fallen.

  2. Thomas Stanley

    My day is not complete without Eddard. Where you at?

  3. Did Florial’s pitch recognition issues improve last year at AAA?

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