The much anticipated 2021 Florida Complex League season begins on Monday, June 28th, with the FCL Yankees starting their season in Lakeland against the FCL Tigers East.
Here are a few highlighted members of the FCL team, plus the manager and coaches.
Manager: Tyson Blaser
Blaser was a former catcher in the Yankees’ MiLB system. Blaser made it up to AA Trenton Thunder in 2014 before he was released before the 2015 season. Blaser was scheduled to manage the former Pulaski Yankees team in 2020 before the contraction, and was previously on the SI Yankees in 2019, and was with the GCL Yankees East team in 2018.
Baserunning Coach: Julio Borbón
A former Major League center fielder, Borbón retired from baseball in 2019 to become a coach with the Yankees. The DR native previously played with the Texas Rangers, the Chicago Cubs and the Baltimore Orioles.
Hitting Coach: Rachel Balkovec
Balkovec enters her second year in the Yankees organization and her first as a full-time on-field coach with the Yankees. Balkovec holds 3 different degrees, including two Master’s degrees in human movement sciences.
Hitting Coach: Ryan Chipka
Chipka was expected to make his organizational debut in 2020 as the Staten Island Yankees’ hitting coach but instead will make his debut this year in Tampa as FCL hitting coach. Chipka was the Director of Program Development for the University of Michigan’s baseball team in 2019 and was an assistant coach for the University of Toledo (Ohio) in 2016 and 2018.
Hitting Coach: Aaron Leanhardt
Leanhardt is entering his fourth season in the Yankees organization. He previously served as the DSL Yankees hitting coach in 2019 and the GCL Yankees East hitting coach in 2018 and was supposed to be their hitting coach in 2020.
Defensive Coach: Lino Diaz
Diaz was planned to be the GCL Yankees West defensive coach, but with the shutdown and contraction, he will serve as a defensive coach in the sole FCL Yankees team. Diaz is a former manager of the Staten Island Yankees in 2018 and was also the defensive coach of the Trenton Thunder in 2017
Defensive Coach: Antonio Pacheco
Pacheco, a Cuban gold medalist in baseball in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, is entering his seventh season in the Yankees system, and his sixth in the GCL
Jose Chambuco threw 50.2 combined innings between DSL and GCL in 2019 and gave up 26 earned runs on 53 hits, resulting in a 4.62 ERA.
Between the two GCL teams in 2019, Denny Larrondo threw 32.1 innings, giving up 18 earned runs on 18 hits with an ERA of 5.01
Jarod Lessar, a BYU alum, has not yet played professionally as he was a UDFA in 2020, but in 2 years at BYU he averaged 4.43 ERA in 65 IP, giving up 32 earned runs in 73 hits.
In 2019, Nicio Rodriguez threw 23 innings between DSL and GCL, and combined for a 7.43 ERA, with 19 earned runs given up on 25 hits.
Former top international free agent Osiel Rodriguez is also among the pitchers on the roster, in the Dominican Summer League in 2019, he threw 9.2 innings and gave up 6 earned runs on 12 hits. He had an ERA of 5.59. Rodriguez is listed as having a fastball, a curve, and a slider.
Antonio Gomez has had a nagging left triceps injury the past year or so, but is still one of the Yankees’ top prospects. Gomez has double-plus arm strength, with pop times under 2 seconds. The 19-year old tends to pull the ball but has shown that his bat has some pop as well. Gomez has some highly coveted catcher prospects ahead of him in the lower parts of the Yankees minor league, with Wells in Low-A Tampa and Seigler in High-A Hudson Valley.
Ronny Rojas was signed in 2017 as the 11th best prospect of the class by Baseball America and MLB Pipeline. The switch-hitter is stated to have gap-to-gap power and is an average defender.
Sincere Smith, a 32nd round pick in the 2018 draft, was a shortstop and pitcher in high school, as well as quarterback, wide receiver, and cornerback, so his speed and arm strength should be showcased this year in GCL. We shot some videos of his performance in 2019, which you can watch here.
Part of a trade deal that secured Luke Voit from St. Louis, Alexander Vargas is a shortstop with consistent power now that he is filling out a bit. Scouts say he is a plus runner and fielder, along with good arm strength.
No preview is complete in 2021 without talking about Jasson Dominguez. One of the most hyped Yankees prospects in recent memory, Dominguez makes his US debut this week in the FCL, almost two years to the day that the Yankees signed him in the Dominican Republic. Dominguez is scouted as having exceptional power, exceptional speed, and an exceptional arm. It remains to be seen how the lost year of 2020 may have improved what he showed scouts in 2019. The bat power is what Yankees fans should be excited about, especially since he is a switch-hitter.
Kevin Alcantara also needs to be in the conversation along with Dominguez, as he is #12 out of the Yankees’ top-30 prospects list according to MLB. The 6’6″ outfielder is scouted as having above-average bat speed, but his speed in the outfield should be something Yankees fans can look forward to as well.
Ryder Green is listed as the Yankees #25 prospect according to MLB, but his power may speak otherwise. Scouts report above-average power that has been improving over time. His speed out of the box is average and fits better in the corners of the outfield.
D’Vaughn Knowles is a 2019 signing out of the Bahamas and is reported to have a good all-around package for center field. In 27 games in 2019, he batted .179 or 15-for-84.
Everson Pereira spent 2018 and 2019 in Pulaski and Staten Island respectively but had a shortened 2019 after some hamstring and foot injuries limited him to 18 games. In the 2 months (41 games) he played in Pulaski, Pereira batted .263, with 44 hits, of which 10 were extra-base hits, and 21 runs, of which 3 were home runs. Pereira is currently ranked as the Yankees’ #17 prospect according to MLB.
In 42 games of GCL baseball in 2019, Raimfer Salinas batted .270 (43-for-159), and is scouted as having greater defense than offense, but his offense is slowly improving.