The Rookie Advanced Pulaski Yankees, and the Short Season-A Staten Island Yankees fit the profile of the Yankees’ talented but young farm system. Both teams put together winning records, and had rosters full of high upside prospects. Here is a look at the players of note from Pulaski and Staten Island.
Pulaski finished the regular season 42-26, and their .618 winning percentage was the best of any Yankees minor league affiliate. This team was paced by a pitching staff that finished second in the Appalachian league in ERA (3.75), WHIP (1.20), and strikeouts (592). The offense led the league in home runs and always seemed to have one or two players on a hot streak to provide a big hit, and knock in a run. Leading the league in home runs was impressive considering that they lost Anthony Garcia, who had lead the Gulf Coast League in homers in 2018 only six games into the season. The strong performance on the field helped Pulaski set a single-season attendance record not just for the organization, but for the Appalachian League.
Jhonatan Munoz: 20-years-old, RHP
Munoz finished 2nd in the league with 68 strikeouts on the season. He recorded a 10.8 K/9 rate, while only surrendering 2.86 BB/9. Munoz pitched to a 4.13 ERA, but that was elevated due to one outing where he gave up 10 ER in 2.1 IP. In his other 10 regular season games, and 54.1 IP on the season, he pitched to a 2.65 ERA.
Ken Waldichuk: 21-years-old, LHP
The Yankees’ fifth-round draft pick overmatched his opposition in his brief debut season. Waldichuk pitched to a 3.68 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, with an astounding 49 strikeouts in only 29.1 IP. When called upon in the playoffs he put together a masterful performance with nine more strikeouts, and only one hit allowed in 4.2 IP.
Anthony Volpe: 18-years-old, SS
Volpe, the 2019 first-round pick for the Yankees, made his organizational debut and played 34 games for Pulaski this season. His season was the tale of two halves. In his first 16 games he struggled mightily hitting .125/.275/.232. But as the organization would hope with any young prospect, he quickly adapted to his level of competition. Starting in late July, Volpe turned it around and hit .292/.413/.462, good for 144 wRC+ over his last 18 games. Errors look like a problem as Volpe committed nine errors in 33 games, but evaluators feel he has the range and arm to stick at shortstop which is more important than the errors for a debuting prospect.
Ryder Green: 19-years-old, OF
Green paced the Pulaski outfield with a .787 OPS, and led the team with a .444 slugging percentage on the season. The outfielder showed progress in one of his biggest areas of concern, as he lowered his strikeout rate by just over 8% from his 2018 debut season in the Gulf Coast League.
Antonio Cabello: 18-years-old, OF
Just one season after leading the Gulf Coast League with a .981 OPS, Cabello struggled through the season with Pulaski registering a .610 OPS. More concerning was that Cabello’s strikeout rate rose nine percent to 30.7%, while his walk rate dropped over five percent. Cabello’s Gulf Coast League season in 2018 ended about a week early as he sustained a significant shoulder injury. It could be that Cabello was unable to get going due to the side effects of an irregular offseason recovering from injury.
Staten Island Yankees
The Staten Island Yankees finished 40-36 on the season, but that still resulted in a last place finish in a stacked NY-Penn League, McNamara division. Staten Island remained in contention for the entire season, and finished only 3.5 games behind both the division and Wild Card leaders.
Ezequiel Duran: 20-years-old, 2B
Duran struggled last season with Pulaski, but bounced back in a big way putting together a tremendous season where he led the NY-Penn league in home runs with 13, was second in total bases, and third in slugging percentage. His home run total was one shy of the Staten Island franchise record. The season did not start out well for Duran as he struck out multiple times in each of his first six games, resulting in 14 strikeouts and only three hits during that stretch. Duran did not just stabilize his season after that, he thrived as was able to get his strikeout rate under control while putting up well above-average offensive numbers.
Josh Smith: 22-years-old, SS
The Yankees’ second-round draft pick put together an exceptional season, and formed a potent top of the batting order with Duran. While Smith was limited to only 33 games after signing in mid-July, he was outstanding from the beginning hitting .324/.450/.477. He consistently put together quality at-bats and walked 25 times, against only 17 strikeouts on the season.
T.J. Sikkema: 21-years-old, LHP
With the 38th overall pick acquired from Cincinnati in the Sonny Gray trade, the Yankees selected T.J. Sikkema from the University of Missouri. After pitching a full college season, the Yankees limited the workload of Sikkema to only four outings and 10.2 IP. He was shut down from game action early on, but it was also reported that he continued to do his side work in order to adjust to a professional schedule.
Both of these organizations saw prospects take significant steps forward this season, and show that they are ready to challenge themselves at the next level of the minors.
Next week, we’ll recap the numerous players who took major steps forward with the Charleston RiverDogs.