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Hoy Jun Park, Diego Castillo and Oswaldo Cabrera. Photo by Matt Kardos

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Previewing the Yankees 2021 MiLB Free Agent Class

The New York Yankees have 11 minor league players becoming free agents at the end of the 2021 season, some of which have made great impact at the minor league level during their tenure with the Yankees.

Players becoming free agents include:

  • FREICER PEREZ: Right-handed pitcher from Santiago, Dominican Republic
  • JEFRY VALDEZ – Right-handed pitcher from Hato Mayor, Dominican Republic
  • CARLOS ESPINAL – Right-handed pitcher from Santiago, Dominican Republic
  • JASON LOPEZ – Right-handed Catcher from Valencia, Venezuela
  • JUAN DE LEON – Right-handed Outfielder (Right fielder) from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • FREDERICK CUEVAS – Left-handed outfielder (Left fielder) from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • WILKERMAN GARCIA – Switch-Hitting Shortstop from Maracay, Venezuela
  • DERMIS GARCIA – Right-handed Infielder from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • HOY JUN PARK – Shortstop from Seoul, South Korea
  • PABLO OLIVARES – Right-handed Outfielder (Center Fielder) from Ciudad Ojeda, Venezuela

We break down each prospect and the impact they’ve had on the organization below.

TAMPA, FL. MAY 21: during the Florida State League game between the Florida Fire Frogs (Braves) and Tampa Tarpons (Yankees) on May 21, 2019 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL. (Mark LoMoglio / Tampa Tarpons)

  • FREICER PEREZ: Right-handed pitcher from Santiago, Dominican Republic

Perez, currently assigned to Hudson Valley, but on the 60-day list, has been with the Yankees organization since he was signed to a minor league contract in 2015. He has spent the last three seasons in High-A, but has spent the majority of those seasons on the injured list. He has not played in a regular season game since 2018 with the Tampa Tarpons.

Over the course of his career, Perez is 19-14 with a 3.66 ERA. He has given up 241 hits and 110 earned runs over the course of 270.2 innings pitched. He has struck out 254 and has a WHIP of 1.28.

Freicer Perez underwent surgery to remove bone spurs in his shoulder on Thursday. (Robert M. Pimpsner/Pinstriped Prospects)

  • JEFRY VALDEZ – Right-handed pitcher from Hato Mayor, Dominican Republic

Valdez is currently assigned to High-A Hudson Valley. He has been with the Yankees organization since November 2018 when he was traded to New York as part of the trade that sent right-handed pitcher Jordan Foley to Colorado.

Valdez spent the 2018 season with short-season Staten Island and then bounced between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa in 2019. He was assigned to Low-A Tampa in 2021 before being promoted to Double-A Somerset in May. In June he was reassigned to High-A Hudson Valley where he is currently assigned.

In 2019 between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, Valdez was 4-5 (2-2 in Low-A, 2-3 in High-A) with a 4.82 ERA (2.81 in Low-A, and 6.98 in High-A). Valdez showed more success in Low-A recording 30 strikeouts over the course of 32 innings pitched in Charleston. He recorded 22 strikeouts over the course of 29.2 innings pitched with High-A Tampa.

So far this season, Valdez is 2-1 with a 3.65 ERA over the course of 24.2 innings pitched. He has 20 strikeouts and a 1.34 WHIP.

jefry Valdez pitching for the Somerset Patriots on May 9, 2021 (Chris Jones)

  • CARLOS ESPINAL – Right-handed pitcher from Santiago, Dominican Republic

Espinal is currently assigned to High-A Hudson Valley, but is on the seven-day injured list.

He was signed by the Yankees to a minor league contract in February 2015 and has been with the Yankees organization since.

Espinal has spent time in every level of the minor leagues and was assigned to New York during Spring Training 2020. He has spent the majority of the 2021 season with Hudson Valley, but also spent time with Double-A Somerset this season. He was placed on the seven-day injured list on June 18.

During the 2019 season with Low-A, full-season Charleston, Espinall was 1-2 with a 2.41 ERA over the course of 59.2 innings pitched. He gave up 45 hits and 16 earned runs, striking out 75. He had a 1.02 WHIP in 2019.

This season with Double-A Somerset, Espinal is 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA over the course of 16 innings pitched. He has given up 18 hits, 12 earned runs, and has struck out 20. He has a WHIP of 1.81 this season with the Somerset Patriots.

Carlos Espinal. Photo by Matt Kardos

  • JASON LOPEZ – Right-handed Catcher from Valencia, Venezuela

23-year old Jason Lopez has been with the Yankees organization since July 2014 when he was signed by the Yankees to a minor league contract. He has sense spent time in Low-A, High-A, and Double-A.

Lopez spent the 2018 season between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa and the 2019 season with High-A Tampa. In June 2019, Lopez was selected as a Florida State League North Division All-Star.

In 2019 he batted .276/.327/.604. He hit 14 doubles, four home runs, and accumulated 25 RBI’s in 71 games appeared in with the Tarpons.

Lopez was then assigned to Double-A Somerset for the 2021 season. This season he has batted .163/.281/.245, with a .526 OPS. He has eight hits (one double and one home run) with two RBI’s and six runs scored over the course of 15 games he has appeared in.

The Yankees are stacked with catchers and with the recent off-season draft of catcher Austin Wells, you have to imagine it will be a battle for Lopez to make it to the major leagues with the Yankees. He has played well, but has a lot of competition within the organization.

Jason Lopez of the Somerset Patriots on May 6, 2021 (Chris Jones)

  • JUAN DE LEON – Right-handed Outfielder (Right fielder) from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

De Leon, 23, is currently assigned to Low-A Tampa. He has been with the Yankees organization since they signed him as a free-agent to a minor league contract in 2014. He hasn’t had much success working himself up through the ranks as he’s made it at best to the High-A level.

Over the course of his career, De Leon has hit .221/.332/.367 with a .698 OPS. He has accumulated 171 hits: 36 doubles, seven triples, and 21 home runs. He has 104 RBI’s and 116 total runs scored.

So far through the 2021 season, De Leon has batted just .176/.294/.388, with a .682 OPS with Low-A Tampa. He has 15 hits: four doubles, one triple, and four home runs. He has accumulated 20 RBI’s and 17 runs scored through 26 games played with Low-A this season.

Juan De Leon hitting a 468 foot home run (Photo by John Brophy/Pinstriped Prospects)

  • FREDERICK CUEVAS – Left-handed outfielder (Left fielder) from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Cuevas, a 23-year old outfielder from the Dominican Republic has been with the Yankees since he was signed by the club to a minor league contract in 2014. He is currently assigned to High-A Hudson Valley, which is the highest level the left-hander has progressed to since being with the organization. He also spent a good amount of time on the injured list throughout the 2019 season with Low-A Charleston.

During the 2019 season with Charleston, Cuevas batted .226/.278/.321, with a .600 OPS. He had 57 hits: 19 doubles, one triple, and one home run. He accumulated 24 RBI’s and 28 runs scored over the course of 72 games with Low-A Charleston in 2019.

So far throughout the 2021 season with High-A Hudson Valley, the outfielder is batting .235/.340/.361, with a .702 ERA. He has 28 hits: nine doubles and two home runs over the course of 38 games played. He has accumulated 13 RBI’s and 22 runs scored.

  • WILKERMAN GARCIA – Switch-Hitting Shortstop from Maracay, Venezuela

Garcia, a 23-year old switch-hitting shortstop from Venezuela has been with the Yankees organization since he was signed to a minor league contract with the Yankees in July 2014. He has played at all levels of the organization throughout his tenure with the organization and spent time with the Yankees in March 2020.

Garcia began his season with Double-A Somerset but was assigned to High-A Hudson Valley and placed on the 60-day injured list in May.

Garcia started the 2019 season with the Yankees’ Gulf Coast League before progressing to Low-A Charleston for 19 games. During those 19 games at the Low-A level he batted .268/.291/.451, with a .742 OPS. He had 22 hits: six doubles, three home runs. He accumulated 13 RBI’s and 13 runs scored.

During the 2019 season with High-A Tampa, he played 43 games. He had 42 hits: four doubles, one triple. He accumulated 15 RBI’s and 17 runs scored with the Tarpons.

Garcia has not played a game yet in 2021 due to injury and being on the 60-day injured list.

Wilkerman Garcia went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and drove in a run in Game 2 (Photo by Martin Griff)

  • DERMIS GARCIA – Right-handed Infielder from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Garcia is a 23-year old infielder from the Dominican Republic. He has been with the Yankees since he was signed as a free agent by the organization in 2014.  Most recently, Garcia spent the 2019 season with the Tampa Tarpons. He was assigned in 2021 to Double-A Somerset.

During the 2019 season with then High-A Tampa, Garcia batted .247/.296/.491, with a .787 OPS. He had 67 hits: 15 doubles and an impressive 17 home runs. He accumulated 54 RBI’s and 35 runs scored with High-A Tampa.

So far through the 2021 season with Double-A Pensacola, Garcia is batting .182/.274/.461, with a .735 OPS. He has 28 hits: four doubles and 13 home runs already. He has 27 RBI’s and 20 runs scored at the Double-A level.

Garcia’s impressive OPS is a result of the power he has the ability to produce. With the Yankees struggling so far this season, Garcia is a player who, if he keeps peaking and hitting well, could help out the Yankees lineup in a year or so if not sooner. They need players who can get on base and produce runs, and so far, Garcia is proving he has the ability to do just that.

Dermis Garcia. Photo by Matt Kardos.

  • HOY JUN PARK – Shortstop from Seoul, South Korea

Park, a 25-year old from Korea is a player who is making a name for himself in 2021. He has been with the Yankees organization since he was signed to a minor league contract in 2014.

Most recently, Park spent the 2018 season with the Tampa Tarpons, the 2019 season with Double-A Trenton, started the 2021 season with Double-A Somerset and was promoted in May to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where he has impressed this season.

Park was named a 2017 SAL Mid-Season All-Star with Low-A Charleston, 2019 EAS Mid-Season All-Star, and the Yankees’ 2019 MiLB.com Organization All-Star.

During the 2019 season with Double-A Trenton, Park batted .272/.363/.370, with a .733 OPS. He had 113 hits: 20 doubles, six triples, and three home runs. He accumulated 41 RBI’s and 60 runs scored. He was walked 57 times and had 20 stolen bases.

As mentioned above, Park has been with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre since May and he has been impressive. He is batting .320/.457/.551, with a 1.008 OPS. He has 47 hits since May: eight doubles, one triple, eight home runs. He has accumulated 27 RBI’s and 38 runs scored. He has been walked 36 times and has eight stolen bases. Park has a great ability to get on base and once he’s on the base pads, his natural speed makes him a dangerous threat to run on pitchers.

Though he’s making a name for himself, a statement made by Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman on Thursday didn’t exactly give a vote of confidence for Park to stay with the Yankees.

“There is no place to play him here right now,” stated Cashman who said he doesn’t feel like brining up Park would make a difference. But to others, Park is a prime candidate for being called up with the way he’s performing this season in Triple-A.

This has been a breakout season for Park and it will be interesting to see how he continues to progress and if the Yankees decide to call him up or even keep him after the season. With as well as he’s playing, there is a chance teams could be looking him up once he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.

Hoy Jun Park. Photo by Matt Kardos

  • PABLO OLIVARES – Right-handed Outfielder (Center Fielder) from Ciudad Ojeda, Venezuela

Olivares is a 23-year old outfielder (center fielder) from Venezuela. He has been with the Yankees organization since 2014 when he was signed to the team as a free agent to a minor league contract.

Olivares spent the 2019 season with then High-A Tampa, where he batted .250/.358/.306,with a .663 OPS. He had 99 hits: 15 doubles, two triples, and one home run. He accumulated 31 RBI’s and 60 runs scored over the course of 117 games played with High-A Tampa. He was walked 47 times and had 20 stolen bases.

The 23-year old has spent the 2021 season with High-A Hudson Valley. So far this season he is batting .221/.329/.309, with a .638 OPS. He has 15 hits over the course of 20 games played in: three doubles and a home run. He has three RBI’s and nine runs scored. He has 10 walks and two stolen bases this season.

TAMPA, FL. MAY 22: during the Florida State League game between the Florida Fire Frogs (Braves) and Tampa Tarpons (Yankees) on May 22, 2019 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL. (Mark LoMoglio / Tampa Tarpons)

  • DIEGO CASTILLO – Right-handed Infielder from Barquisimeto, Venezuela

Castillo (23) is a player who has impressed at the minor league level the past few season. He has been with the organization since December 2014 when he was signed as a free agent to a minor league contract, but has really broken out and made a name for himself since 2018. He spent 2018 and 2019 in High-A and in 2021 was promoted to Double-A where he is currently assigned.

Castillo was named a 2018 Florida State League Mid-Season All-Star and was a top star of the 2018 Florida State League All-Star Game. He was also named the Yankees’ 2018 MiLB.com organization All-Star. In June of 2021, Castillo was named the AA Northeast Offensive Player of the Week for the week of June 6, 2021.

Castillo in 2018 with High-A Tampa  batted .260/.307/.324, with a  .631 OPS. He had 122 hits: 20 doubles, two triples, and two home runs. He accumulated 51 RBI’s and58 runs scored. He walked 30 times and stole 11 bases in 2018.

In 2019 with High-A, he hit .248/.310/.329, with a .639 OPS. He had 103 hits: 18 doubles, two triples, and four home runs. He accumulated 33 RBI’s and 52 total runs scored. He was walked 33 times and stole 13 bases.

So far this season with Double-A Somerset, Castillo is batting .348/.397/.630, with a very impressive 1.028 OPS. He has 48 hits: 12 doubles and 26 RBI’s. He has accumulated 26 RBI’s and 28 runs scored. He has walked 11 times and stole four bases.

Castillo is another threat in the organization to hit for power and to get on base. Once he is on base, he is also known for his speed and ability to steal bases and score runs.

If Castillo continues to bat the way he has so far this season, he is another prospect that could soon find himself at the Triple-A level.

Diego Castillo playing for the Somerset Patriots on May 9, 2021. (Chirs Jones)

Wrap Up:

The Yankees’ farm system is one that is deep with talent from Triple-A down to Low-A. Park and Castillo are two names to keep an eye on as free agency looms at the end of the season. If the Yankees choose not to keep them, they could be prospects that find themselves on other teams in a year; but they are both players the Yankees could find use for if they hold on to them. The Yankees bats have been struggling and both of these players are ones that could benefit the Yankees to keep.

Hoy Jun Park, Diego Castillo and Oswaldo Cabrera. Photo by Matt Kardos

 

Written By

Alexis Farinacci is a baseball beat writer and social media editor for the Pinstriped Prospects. Follow Alexis on Twitter & Instagram: @alexisfarinacci .

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