Newly appointed Somerset manager Dan Fiorito draws his first assignment in the upper-levels and he will do so with a roster that is packed to the gills with high-impact prospect talent. On Monday the Yankees announced initial break camp rosters for all of their full-season minor league affiliates and the headliner for the Patriots is the organizations consensus top-prospect. Anthony Volpe.
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The Yankees drafted Volpe out of nearby Delbarton High School with their first round pick back in 2019 and the 20-year old will make his upper-level debut from the confines of his own backyard in Somerset. After a lost 2020 season due to COVID-19, Volpe used that time to got stronger and worked on approach and swing decisions and it showed once he took the field for his first full-season last year. His approach is quite advanced for a hitter as young as he is; after slashing .294/.423/.604 to go with 27 homers and 33 stolen bases between Low-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley, the stock of Volpe has risen to rival the few elite chips in all of baseball.
Southpaw Ken Waldichuk, the organizations sixth ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, showed flashes of dominance in his breakout 2021 season between Hudson Valley and Somerset. The Yankees drafted Waldichuk in the fifth round of the 2019 draft and aside from a brief showing at Pulaski that summer, 2021 proved to be his first full-season. In 23 games last season, the 6’4″ lefty fanned 163 batters in 110 frames while posting a 1.15 WHIP an holding the opposition to a .193 batting average. Waldichuk faced some struggles once coming up to Somerset last season, but it was clear he began to settle in and refined his command as the season grew older. He is likely a victim of a crowded roster a Triple-A Scranton and should move up fairly quickly once a spot opens there for him.
Right-hander Luis Media returns atop the Somerset rotation after making 15 appearances for the club in 2021. Ranked as the ninth best prospect in the system by Baseball America, the 22-year old Dominican-native fanned 133 batters in 106.1 innings and posted a 3.39 ERA in 22 cumulative appearances between High-A and Double-A. Medina flashes premium stuff but has been plagued in the early part of his career by sporadic command issues. The organization is most certainly looking for Medina to iron that out and display more consistent command before deeming him ready to move up to SWB.
Another strong cog in the opening Patriots rotation figures to be right-hander Randy Vasquez. The 23-year old hurler touched three levels of the system in 2021, ultimately concluding with four starts for Somerset. Ranked as the 16th best prospect in the system by MLB Pipeline, Vasquez fanned 130 batters in 107.1 innings and posted a combined ERA of 2.52. This assignment figures to be a good test for Vasquez, who posted a much higher 4.22 ERA once he got to Somerset late last year.
Outfielder Brandon Lockridge returns to the Patriots after an impressive 43 games initial showing in Bridgewater last summer. The 25-year old Lockridge was left unprotected by the Yankees over the winter and would have been a prime candidate to be selected by another club had Major League Baseball not cancelled the Rule 5 draft following the lengthy lockout. After being promoted to Somerset last summer, Lockridge slashed .328/.382/.557 with 10 homers, 10 doubles while going 13-of-14 on stolen base attempts.
Lockridge will be joined in the Somerset outfielder by another speedster in newcomer Elijah Dunham. The 23-year old was inked by the Bombers as an undrafted free-agent and proved to be an incredible revelation to the organization in 2021. The University of Indiana product slashed .263/.362/.463 with 13 homers and 25 doubles while swiping 28 bags in 33 attempts in his first season as a pro between Low and High-A. Following that impressive showing, Dunham was selected by the Yankees to represent the team in the Arizona Fall League where he hit .357/.465/.571 over 23 games of action while earning an all-star nod during league play.
Another key newcomer entering the fold for Somerset figures to be infielder Andres Chaparro. The 22-year old Chaparro has versatility to play both corner infield spots and is coming off a career year offensively in which he .267/.381/.468 with a career-best 15 homers, 21 doubles and 73 RBI between Low and High-A.
The Patriots are slated to open the season on the road this Friday as they travel to Reading for a quick three-games set with the Fightin’ Phils before opening up their home slate with a six-game homestand against the Erie SeaWolves beginning on Tuesday, April 12.