One of the breakthrough prospects in the New York Yankees farm system this season was Charleston Riverdogs outfielder Canaan Smith. Smith was voted by you the fans as the Riverdogs Player of the Year for the 2019 season. He received 816 of the 868 first-place votes (94%).
After injuries took away some of his production in 2018 down at Short-Season Staten Island, Smith’s hitting ability was on display in the South Atlantic League (Low-A). The fourth round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft had a slash line of .307/.405/.465 with 11 home runs and 74 RBIs in 124 games.
On May 12, Smith made history for Charleston when he hit for the cycle against the Hickory Crawdads. The SAL All-Star led the league in walks (74), was second in on-base percentage, tied for second in hits (138), third in the league in batting average, and seventh in RBIs.
While Smith didn’t get promoted during the season to High-A Tampa, expect the 20-year-old (turns 21 in April) to get a chance in the Florida State League as he continues to rise up the Yankees prospect ranks.
As for who finished in second in the voting, that would be right-handed pitcher Carlos Espinal (2%). The 23-year-old shined out of the Riverdogs bullpen in 2019. In 29 appearances, he was 1-2 with a 2.41 ERA, had 5 saves in 6 chances, struck out 75 batters, and walked 16 in 59.2 innings. Also, he held opponents to a .202 batting average.
Espinal did pitch mainly out of the bullpen, but it is important to remember that 13 of his 29 appearances were 2+ innings. His 59.2 innings were the most of any Charleston reliever that did not make a start during the season.
Throughout the season, Espinal’s strikeout totals went up as he had just 43 K’s with 3 affiliates in 2018 and had 75 this past season. He had nine outings this year of 4 strikeouts or more, including an outing on April 17 against Greenville where he threw 3 perfect innings and struck out 7 batters on 34 pitches in a save.
Espinal should be expected in the Tarpons bullpen in 2020 after pitching in Charleston each of the last 2 seasons. While the Riverdogs had a strong rotation headlined by Luis Gil, Alexander Vizcaino, and Roansy Contreras, Espinal’s production out of the bullpen did not get overlooked.