I’ve been fortunate to have been granted access to Yankees Spring Training this year, and it’s given me a different take on how the minor leaguers that are invited to Spring Training games are treated by the media. That said, the media will only write about those top prospects like Anthony Volpe and Jasson Dominguez that will draw clicks and ad revenue, so they have reason to treat minor leaguers that way. But we like to discuss the lesser-known players here; we’ve been writing about many of the players noted here since they’ve been signed. After all, who knows if some 2022 UDFA that no one’s talking about now (except us, of course) will become the next Kyle Higashioka playing for the United States in the WBC in a few years.
In this article, I’ll go around the horn and pick 10 prospects (8 position players and 2 pitchers) that are exceeding expectations this year (and some you’ve probably heard a lot of). Today, we’ll discuss the 6-9 positions.
Shortstop: Trey Sweeney
Yes, I could have gone with Anthony Volpe here, or Oswald Peraza. But the conversation the past month has been almost completely on the battle who will start at SS on Opening Day. Although he’s gotten limited reps playing behind Volpe or Peraza, Sweeney batted 3-for-9 in 10 games, with a double, a home run and 2 RBI, producing an OPS of 1.278. Sweeney only struck out once and walked three times.
Yankees 1st round pick from the 2021 draft Trey Sweeney went deep today pic.twitter.com/4evrRM4pU6
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) March 4, 2023
He’s looked comfortable at SS and has turned a few really nice 6-4-3 double plays. The question remains what will happen with him with Peraza and Volpe blocking his path to the Majors. This season may be interesting to watch to see if he gets some games at 3B since there isn’t necessarily a clear 3B replacement for Donaldson. Looking through college and limited HS stats, Sweeney hasn’t played any 3B so sliding over would be a test for his arm. The Yankees’ 1st round draft pick in the 2021 draft will likely start the season in AA Somerset now that Peraza has been sent down to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with Volpe making the Opening Day roster. While this may not be as much of a conversation piece as it may have been previously, Sweeney has only played in 11 AA games and had 50 plate appearances. Sweeney hasn’t really put up a strong enough Spring campaign to motivate them to accelerate his progress, plus yet again Peraza is blocking his path.
Third Base: Tyler Hardman
Fresh from an outstanding AFL campaign a few months ago, Hardman is continuing with a solid offensive performance this year. The 5th round draft pick in the 2021 MLB Draft hit 3-for-13 in 11 games played this Spring, with 1 walk, a stolen base and 4 strikeouts. Hardman played the corners this Spring and also played them perfectly while contributing to 1 double play. It could be said that Chaparro plays 3rd base better than Hardman, but Hardman has quicker reflexes than Chaparro given their respective body shapes. Hardman struck out nearly 38% of the time in High-A Hudson Valley (which is off the charts poor), and worked a walk 9% of the time, which is average.
Yankees prospect, Tyler Hardman, had himself a day in Peoria!
Two homers and a web gem for the lefty third baseman 💎#AFL22 pic.twitter.com/9QLUilqj1P
— MLB's Arizona Fall League (@MLBazFallLeague) November 5, 2022
Hardman was promoted to AA Somerset at the very end of the season, only playing in 4 games, so it should be expected that he starts the season there.
Left Field: Everson Pereira
Many followers of the system were not surprised when Pereira was added to the 40-man roster last November, but others were thinking “who is this guy?”, as what happens with a lot of Yankees fans that don’t follow the system that closely. Pereira had a really strong 2021 campaign, which overflowed into 2022. Pereira batted .277/.350/.469/.819 last season between High-A Hudson Valley and AA Somerset hitting 14 balls out of the park.
Pereira has a relatively high K rate of about 30% and an average walk rate that hovers around 10%. He has a solid arm that plays well in the OF, but the Yankees placed him in RF for most of his opportunities. Speaking of, he had 16 opportunities this Spring to make contact, and he took advantage of 4 of those plate appearances, taking 3 walks. Pereira hit 2 doubles of the 4 hits, scored 3 runs, struck out 7 times and stole one base.
But the conversation shouldn’t completely be on his bat. Here’s why:
A nice diving catch from Yankees #5 prospect Everson Pereira! @FarmToFame_ pic.twitter.com/wlFLDrbqz0
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) February 25, 2023
Pereira’s defense really completes the package, but I think he does need a bit more speed to play in the large Yankee Stadium outfield.
Center Field: Alan Mejia
Now we’re really getting into the weeds of prospects you’ve probably never heard of. There’s gotta be a reason a kid who has only 25 games above Rookie ball is playing in MLB Spring Training, right? Mejia sports a more polished look than other international prospects at the lower levels, but he’s still no Jasson Dominguez. Compared to Dominguez in 2022, Mejia struck out more (35% vs 23%) and took less walks (10% vs. 13%), but a year prior that’s around where Dominguez was.
Am I saying Mejia is the next Dominguez? No, not at all. But Mejia is one to follow this season, especially as he should be expected to start the season in Tampa. I suspect the Yankees feel the same way I do about Mejia; not many of the guys that were in FCL this year played at all this Spring.
Mejia went 1-for-4 in Spring Training, only getting 1 AB per game, striking out in the other 3 ABs.
Impressive oppo double off the fence for FCL Yankees left fielder Alan Mejia today.
20-year-old Dominican born player who hasn't seen full season ball yet. pic.twitter.com/P37bO2NHyv
— Mike Ashmore (@mashmore98) June 20, 2022
Right Field: Tayler Aguilar
Aguilar doesn’t even have 100 plate appearances in the pros yet, but he was still invited to Major League Spring Training this year. Like Mejia, Aguilar went 1-for-4, but Aguilar’s sole hit was a 2-RBI double.
Never count the Spring Training Yanks out! pic.twitter.com/ZqRXDecDL7
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) February 28, 2023
Why might the Yankees be high on him? This play showcasing Aguilar’s arm could be a big reason:
Aaron Judge's RF job is officially on the hot seat pic.twitter.com/MCN9jSFMlq
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) February 28, 2023
The transfer isn’t the greatest, but Aguilar definitely has a double-plus arm as seen in that clip.
Defense aside, Aguilar took a good amount of walks last season, walking in nearly 17% of the 78 ABs he had last season. Aguilar also struck out in nearly 21% of those ABs, which is good for the organization that seems to be K heavy. In Aguilar’s Single-A debut, he hit homers in two of the four ABs of the game. Aguilar doesn’t seem like much of a power-hitter, but leans more on the extra-base hit; Aguilar hit 5 doubles and 3 HR in 2022.
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