Overall, the minors are a mixed bag. Of the full-season affiliates, two of the four, High-A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset, had winning records and they also clinched the playoffs as a result of winning their respective divisions. Somerset was the best performer of the 4 teams with a 42-26 (.618) record, with Hudson Valley coming in second with a 39-27 (.591) record, Tampa came in third with a 31-35 (.470) record and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in last with a 34-40 (.459) record.
In this installation, we’ll explore the tropical environment of the rookie leagues in the Dominican Republic and Tampa, Florida. Statistics are current as of publication on June 28, 2023.
The rookie, short-season leagues just got started a month ago and we’re just getting a feel for prospects that are sticking out. That said, it’s much too early to see any trends in the DSL since there’s really no eyes on players short of what scouts see.
DSL NYY Yankees – 13-3 & DSL NYY Bombers – 8-9
2023 IFA top prospect Brando Mayea is batting .294 with a .763 OPS through only 9 games this season with the DSL NYY Yankees. He experienced an injury trying to slide into 3rd base during the season opener on June 5 and experienced a week and change away from play. In the next 3 games after Mayea returned, he batted 6-for-15 (.400), but since then has batted 3-for-18 (.167). Mayea has yet to record his first professional home run.
The DSL NYY Bombers don’t have a prospect that necessarily stands out like Mayea does as far as Top 30 status, etc., but RHP Chalniel Arias has been impressive through 21.1 innings of work in 4 games. Arias has thrown an impressive 1.69 ERA and has a K/9 of 14.77 (anything over 10 is considered excellent). He leads all DSL pitchers in strikeouts with 35.
FCL Yankees – 10-7
Given they are essentially two combined rosters from the DSL last year, the Florida Complex League Yankees (FCL Yankees) have quite a roster. This is similar to the case we saw last year, and I’ve been fortunate to catch a few of their matinee games under the stiflingly hot Florida sun.
INFs Hans Montero, Enmanuel Tejeda and Keiner Delgado have been garnering looks from scouts and fans alike, although Roderick Arias is the name most Yankee fans know because of his Top 30 status. Data heads are attracted to what John Cruz has been doing, but his approach at the plate isn’t as refined as that of Delgado and Arias. Delgado is sort of a sleeper prospect in my opinion, as he’s not on MLB’s Top 30 Yankees prospects list.
I’ve had a number of people ask about bonus baby Roderick Arias. I imagine this is because he was signed for $4 million dollars last year, and Yankee fans want to know where their chicken bucket and branded merchandise dollars are going.
Arias is a tall, thin build that stands upright at the plate as opposed to a traditional crouch. He has a leg kick with a swing similar to that of Andres Chaparro or fellow SS Trey Sweeney. This video will help you visualize this much better.
RBI single for Roderick Arias gets the Yankees on the board to tie things up in the 6th pic.twitter.com/ZRDc8GTvPN
— John Brophy (@jbrophybaseball) June 19, 2023
Arias has been chasing pitches a bit more than I’d like (27% K rate so far), but in fairness he’s reached base 13-of-14 games played. He did slump to .135 on June 16, but has improved to .224 as of June 27. In his last 5 games, he’s batting 8-for-25 (.320). It’s a small sample size, but it shows the improvement over what he began the month with.
It’s hard to truly describe how impressive Arias’ fielding has been, but I think his defense and arm are the tools that stands out the most of the 5 he could be scouted on, and in my opinion are 55/above-average and 60/plus, respectively.
Getting more into what Keiner Delgado has been doing, he’s been much more impressive to watch at the plate than really anyone else in this lineup. Maybe it’s his 5-foot-8 size, but he’s really blown me away despite being named an organizational All-Star last December.
Delgado leads all FCL players in stolen bases with 13 and has only been caught stealing twice. He’s also ranked second in the league in hits with 22; Delgado is currently batting .328/.451/.507/958 through 16 games. Delgado has an excellent 17.1% BB rate (14 BB in 82 PA) and an equally better-than-average 13.4% K rate (9 K in 67 AB). His defense isn’t as spectacular as that of Arias’ but is average if not slightly above average.
RBI single for Keiner Delgado drove in Yankees run #6, he’d then go on to steal 2B and 3B and get driven in by an RBI single by Roderick Arias. pic.twitter.com/IaIwv1QbgR
— John Brophy (@jbrophybaseball) June 19, 2023
Edinson Duran is the biggest surprise of the regular lineup. First let’s start with his size. Duran, the regular catcher for the FCL Yankees, is 5-foot-6, or “El Chiquitito” (the little one) as his teammates call him. Duran has struck out only TWO TIMES in 33 at-bats, what translates to a 3.6% K rate. It gets better. Sure, he’s only played in 11 games, but he’s slashing .455/.514/.667/1.181. He hit well over .300 last year too in the DSL, so Duran is another potent catching prospect. Duran is a solid framer, but his size means more wild pitches escape his reach compared to someone 6-plus-feet. I recall having his pop time at some point but can’t seem to find the video where I’d had it but do remember it being impressive. Not quite Antonio Gomez elite, but better than that of Austin Wells or any other top catching prospect in the system.
I’ve fielded a few questions about John Cruz, who apparently has elite bat speed, but is also striking out ¼ of at-bats (17 K in 56 AB). The data may be impressive, but I’m not entirely sold on him just yet. Felix Neguéis had ridiculous towering homers last year that had some eyes on him, but he’s batting less than .100 this year in full-season Single-A.
College arms are much more well known than international arms, so a brief shout-out to the likes of 2022 7th rounder Cam Schlittler (5.19 ERA through 8.2 IP), 2022 11th rounder Ryan Harvey (2.38 ERA through 11.1 IP), 2022 12th rounder Jackson Fristoe (1.13 ERA through 8 IP) and 2022 18th rounder Sebastian Keane (0.82 ERA through 11 IP).
As far as international arms go, new faces Henry Lalane, Allen Facundo and Steven Fulgencio have been impressive early. Lalane only began the season yesterday after experiencing an injury during Extended Spring but threw 2 perfect innings in his debut.
Allen Facundo has been the most impressive of the new pitchers coming over from the DSL. He allowed his first run just a few days ago in Clearwater versus the FCL Phillies but has otherwise thrown 9.2 innings with a 0.93 ERA. Facundo has some of the best command of any reliever I’ve seen in a while and I’m excited to see him move up through the system into full-season ball.
Steven Fulgencio seems like he has good stuff, but I’ve gotten some mixed signals from him in a way. He had one very bad outing where he allowed 4 runs, 3 earned in 0.2 IP which really messed up his stats, but if we were to ignore that outing, he would have a 3.38 ERA. But we can’t ignore it, and he has a 7.94 ERA. That said, Fulgencio has a 12.71 K/9 (remember that anything over 10 is excellent), and a BB/9 of 3.18 which is less than ideal (aim for 2 or less). But considering many of his teammates have BB/9 stats over 5, 3.18 isn’t that terrible all things considered. I expect that will improve over time.
Osiel Rodriguez is frustratingly still in the rookie leagues after a cup of coffee with Single-A Tampa last season. Rodriguez has a 1.69 ERA through 10.2 innings of work, continuing on his success at the end of the 2022 season. He also has the highest K/9 of any pitching prospect here: 15.19. Rodriguez’s command is unlike any other pitcher at this level, and is worthy of a promotion, hopefully soon.