We continue our look at who were the best players at each position in the New York Yankees organization in 2021 by diving into first base. When you look at the farm system objectively, first base is arguably the position that has the most question marks going forward in the system. There is more depth at the position in the lower levels as opposed to the higher levels.
Since the first base position has some question marks at the big league level with Anthony Rizzo being a free agent and whether or not Luke Voit is the first baseman of the future, this position will be under the microscope in future years and have some turnover in the minor leagues in 2022.
With that being said, there are some candidates for this honor who are very intriguing to watch. We already had our own John Brophy pick Donny Sands as the catcher on the Yankees All-Star team for 2021. So, how about we look at first base and the nominees for the best at the position in the past year.
After being drafted by the Yankees in the 12th Round back in 2014, Gittens finally got the chance to make his MLB debut in 2021 to the delight of many Yankees fans who liked seeing his hard work in the minors get rewarded.
At Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, Gittens appeared in 45 games and had a slash line of .301/.440/.644 with 14 home runs, 44 RBIs, and an .OPS of 1.084. While he only played in 45 games due to the big league call-up , the 27-year-old still hit the second-most home runs he had in any season in his minor league career.
Gittens will now get an opportunity to get more playing time with his next team as he recently signed with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan. The power was always a plus tool for Gittens and now he will get a chance to show what he can do on an everyday basis.
If you are looking for a player with the biggest power tool in the Yankees farm system going forward, it is arguably Anthony Garcia. The 21-year-old switch-hitter mainly played first base in 2021 with both the FCL Yankees and the Low-A Tampa Tarpons. Down in Florida, Garcia stood out for his ability to crush the baseball.
Over the course of 39 games, Garcia had a slash line of .306/.444/.678 with 14 home runs and 37 RBIs while posting an .OPS of 1.122. The improvements Garcia made from 2018 to 2021 was he cut down on his strikeouts (down from 88 to 50) and he improved his walk total (23 to 31). Plus, he showed a little speed in his game with 15 stolen bases.
Out of the players on this list, Garcia has the potential to skyrocket the Yankees system if the development continues at a linear rate. The question is did he play in enough games this year to win the honor of the best first baseman in the system in 2021? If he didn’t, you can best be sure he is definitely the favorite to win the award next year.
While Dermis Garcia is no longer with the Yankees organization (signed with Oakland Athletics on minor league deal), Garcia’s home run streaks at Double-A Somerset were fun to watch in 2021. Whenever his bat made contact with the baseball, it would travel a long, long way.
In 109 games at Somerset, Garcia had a career-high 31 home runs and drove in 67 runs while having a slugging percentage of .486. The most impressive thing that came from Garcia’a home run total is that the 23-year-old never hit fewer than five home runs and more than seven home runs in any particular month.
If there has been any flaws in Garcia’s game, it is the fact the Yankees could never really find him a true position in the field and his strikeout total was high. In the 87 games Garcia played at first base, he made 14 errors. As for the strikeouts, he had 168 in 109 games, which was up from the 109 he had in 75 games in 2019 for then High-A Tampa.
Like Gittens, Garcia will get a fresh start with a new organization and show what he can do with the A’s in the upper levels of their farm system. However, the power shows that he would put on in Somerset as our own Matt Kardos and Chris Jones could attest to was the highlight of a lot of people’s summers in New Jersey.
Hardman is a name that could be a candidate for first baseman of the year next year depending on how fast the Yankees want to progress him in the system. The 22-year-old was selected in the 5th Round of last year’s MLB Draft out of Oklahoma and was more well-known for his power tool.
In the 33 games Hardman played for the FCL Yankees and the Tarpons, he had a slash line of .243/.311/.421 with four home runs and 19 RBIs. While with Tampa, Hardman played mainly at first base (17 games), but the coaching staff did try him a little bit at third base as well.
The highlight of Hardman’s season came on September 9 against Dunedin when he went 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs. The three hits ended up being a season-high that he had in a game during an abbreviated season.
While it was closer than people would think as to who I would give this honor to, it has to go to Dermis Garcia. When you hit over 30 home runs in a season, it is hard to ignore that. While Anthony Garcia could win this award in any other year, Dermis’s full season in a small sample size is enough to get the honor here.