Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, and MLB Pipeline have all published their 2022 Yankees top prospect lists. FanGraphs (top 38) and MLB Pipeline (top 30) go deeper into the system, while Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus stick to a top 10 list (with mentions of others who missed the cut and would be top 30 guys anyway). Today, I’ll take a look at these lists and make note of a few things that caught my eye. Let’s get right to it.
The obvious choice at #1: Anthony Volpe
All four sites agreed that Volpe belongs at the top of the organization’s list, and for good reason. In spite of not being the toolsiest prospect in the organization, “Volpe might have had the most impressive all-around performance of any prospect in 2021” according to Baseball Prospectus’ Jeffrey Paternostro. No kidding: the 20 year-old shortstop hit .294/.423/.604 (170 wRC+) in 513 plate appearances in stints with Tampa (Single-A) and Hudson Valley (High-A).
Volpe did just about everything well last season. He walked aplenty (15.2 percent), didn’t strike out too often (19.7 percent), posted big power numbers (27 homers and a .311 ISO), and swiped 33 bags in 42 attempts.
Defensively, there are mixed feelings about his ability to stick at shortstop. His arm strength is just OK, but all publications raved about his instincts which could allow him to stay put. At the very least, it sounds like he would take to second base just fine. And that would work out well for the Yankees if they sign one of Carlos Correa or Trevor Story post-lockout. Or, if Oswald Peraza becomes the long-term answer at short (he grades out very well defensively).
Something to prove: Jasson Dominguez
Before 2021, the hype machine got a out of control when it comes to The Martian. The Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout comps were always ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean folks won’t get excited about those names getting thrown around. Dominguez ranked no lower than sixth (Baseball Prospecuts) on anyone’s list, but only MLB Pipeline kept him in the second spot behind Volpe. Keep in mind that MLB Pipeline is league owned, so there’s incentive to keep the hype going.
FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein noted the following on Dominguez:
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.
Indeed, The Martian struck out in 31 percent of his plate appearances in Tampa. He didn’t lift the ball nearly enough either (50 percent ground ball rate). Elite exit velocities won’t matter if he can’t make enough contact, or when he does, hit too many grounders.
Dominguez turns 19 in a few weeks, so by no means is he a lost cause. His professional debut definitely raised some concerns, but many of the raw tools are still omnipresent. Namely, the bat speed and raw power. Maybe bulking up a bit too much hurt him in 2021. In any case, consider me concerned but far from out on his long-term outlook.
Falling fast: Deivi García
Talk about a fall from grace: García placed no higher than 10th (FanGraphs) on anyone’s list. BP and MLB Pipeline pegged him the organization’s 11th-best prospect, while BA left him unranked (expect him in their top 30). This came after Deivi placed no lower than third on any site’s list in 2021, and even garnered top 100 leaguewide prospect love.
Shield your eyes: García posted a 6.85 ERA in 90.2 Triple-A innings in 2021, including a brutal 15.6 percent walk rate. Two starts in the big leagues didn’t go well either. What a frustrating performance from the young righty who seemingly broke out in the majors in 2021. What went wrong? Here’s what BP’s Jarrett Seidler has to say:
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 proof of concept for him as a frontline pitcher already exists, but it’s not going to happen as long as he’s missing the zone.
Deivi’s posted some high walk rates before (11 percent in 2019), but balanced it out with plenty of strikeouts. That was not the case at all this year, and it’s now clear why things fell apart. Hopefully, the organization can get his mechanics back into shape. He’s still just 22, but this season will be his last with a minor league option. He needs to right the ship as soon as possible, otherwise, the Yankees may have to move him.
A few prospects that the sites are split on
Vasquez made 21 starts in 2021, beginning in Single-A Tampa before ascending to Double-A Somerset for his final four starts of the season. All told, the righty dominated: he posted a 130/38 strikeout-to-walk ratio and surrendered only 4 homers in 107.1 innings. He was one of the many pitching prospects to make a significant stride last year. And yet, only one publication (BP) really pushed him up the board.
He ranks as the Yankees’ third-best prospect at BP, behind Volpe and Peraza. That makes him the organization’s top pitching prospect in their view. Meanwhile, FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline peg Vasquez no. 20, and Baseball America did not rank him (again, likely will be in their top 30).
Vasquez’s calling card is his elite high-spin curveball, which has exhibited RPMs north of 3,000. His two-seamer and four-seamer are weapons as well. FanGraphs notes that the righty added some velocity, but may be more of a relief profile without a third distinct pitch.
The 20 year-old catcher checks in at 9th on FanGraphs’ list, but was not included at BA or BP. MLB Pipeline places him as the org’s 25th-best prospect. He’s barely played above the Complex League level, so it’s no surprise that there’s some dissent here. Nonetheless, FanGraphs put him in its 45+ future value tier, making them the most optimistic publication. Longenhagen and Goldstein liken Gomez to Austin Hedges at this stage of his development, though Gomez apparently has better plate discipline.
If you’re unfamiliar with Hedges, the point FG is making is that Gomez is going to stick at catcher, and that’s huge. He has an 80 arm, blocks well, with potential to hit enough to have an everyday catcher ceiling. Granted, Hedges hasn’t hit well at all in the majors (57 wRC+), so that may not be an exciting comp, but keep in mind that Hedges was a pretty well regarded prospect and Gomez still has time to improve his offensive game.
This time it’s Baseball America as the high website. BA ranked Wesneski 6th, while no other site placed Wesneski above 15 (MLB Pipeline). We don’t know BP’s ranking, but they did note him as a prospect “On the Rise”. Back to BA: only Luis Gil ranks ahead of Wesneski in terms of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects, which is high praise considering the presence of Luis Medina, Ken Waldichuk, and Randy Vasquez in the system, among others.
Wesneski was one of the org’s quickest risers last year, and it really didn’t happen until the latter part of 2021. Through July, the righty owned a 4.18 ERA in 14 starts split evenly between Hudson Valley and Somerset. The peripherals were fine, but nothing otherworldly. But from there on other, Wesneski dominated and reached Triple-A by season’s end. The numbers from his last 10 starts: 2.12 ERA, 31.5 percent K-rate, 6.0 percent BB-rate, and only five homers allowed in 59.1 innings.
Wesneski’s appears to be another mid-round college pitcher draftee success story for the organization. He’s improved his body and motion since getting drafted and sits in the mid-90s. Based on the video above, it looks like he’s developed the nasty “sweeper” the organization has emphasized.
While BA (5) and MLB Pipeline (6) still hold Wells in high regard, FanGraphs (15) and BP (unranked, but in the “Because you’re going to ask” grouping) have some concerns. The former first round pick may offer the lefty power that the Yankees crave, but his defense is a problem.
Wells’ 135 wRC+ in his professional debut is nothing to sneeze at. However, he’ll need to maintain that level of offense because publications like FanGraphs and BP are effectively out on his ability to stick behind the plate. FanGraphs even lists him as a right fielder on its list. Meanwhile, here’s what BP’s Ben Spanier has to say:
He is probably athletic enough to handle first base or a corner outfield spot, but either of these options puts more pressure on the bat and makes this a more difficult big-league profile. The bat is interesting; the approach is strong and the power is real and plays to all fields.
It’s not like BA or MLB Pipeline disagree on Wells’ defense. Rather, it seems like those sites are simply more confident in his offensive profile being able to play elsewhere. MLB Pipeline noted that some scouts outside the organization believe he’s on a Kyle Schwarber path. That certainly would work out well in left field or at first base.
- I don’t have too much to add on some of the other big name prospects in the system like Oswald Peraza, Alexander Vargas, Luis Medina, Everson Pereira, or Trey Sweeney. Likewise for some of the high floor/low ceiling names such as Oswaldo Cabrera and Ken Waldichuck. Rather, what I’d like to get across is that there’s some solid depth in the organization from top-to-bottom. Generally speaking, 2021 was a fantastic year down on the farm thanks to numerous breakouts, both on the hitting and pitching side. Very few prospects fell short of expectations or disappointed.
- BA was the lone site to leave Clarke Schmidt out of its top 10. That said, it still notes that he has the best curveball in the organization. Considering Schmidt’s difficulty staying healthy over the years, it’s hard for me to disagree here. He turns 26 next month and badly needs a full year’s worth of pitching.
- BA will have the organization’s top 30 in the 2022 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, but you can expect to find Schmidt, Estevan Florial (best athlete, best defensive outfielder, best outfield arm), Ron Marinaccio (best changeup), Stephen Ridings (best fastball), and Anthony García (best power) somewhere in the top 30. Others too that you’ll already find on FG or MLB Pipeline, albeit in a different order of course.
- I’m legitimately perplexed by FanGraphs ranking Deivi García ahead of Luis Gil. Ditto Schmidt and Gomez ahead of Gil. This ranking is evidently based on a reliever profile, but I’m not sure I understand how his expected big league impact is behind Deivi, Schmidt, and Gomez at this point. Hey, everyone has different opinions. This just surprised me.
- Credit to FG for providing an update on TJ Sikkema, the team’s 38th overall pick in 2019 who didn’t pitch this year. He didn’t pitch this year due to a nagging lat injury. Hmm.
- Whither Estevan Florial? BP and FanGraphs did not rank him, though in fairness to BP, they did not post an extended list so he very may well be a top 30 organizational prospect in their eyes. In any event, I’m surprised to not even see him in the 20s or 30s at FG. MLB Pipeline pegged him 21st, for what it’s worth. Look, I personally don’t think Florial is much of a prospect at this point. He had an awful 31 percent strikeout rate in Triple-A with poor results otherwise, but the tools do seem present for a fourth outfield profile. I don’t want to come across as too harsh on FG considering my comments on Gil earlier, but I did find it odd that Florial got absolutely no mention.
- Where does Roderick Arias fit in? Couldn’t tell you, but I presume somewhere in the top ten. Arias was arguably the top international amateur free agent signing this year. The Yankees used the majority of its bonus pool to bring Arias aboard.