The second base position has been a revolving door since Robinson Cano left the organization following the 2013 season. Some of the options have been good like Starlin Castro, Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu. Others have left a lot to be desired like Brian Roberts, Stephen Drew, Tyler Wade and a host of others who have filled the role in short stints. With Gleyber Torres penciled in at shortstop this season and DJ LeMahieu entering the last year of his contract, it is a natural time to look at what the organization has coming through the pipeline for the second base position.
The top rated second base prospect in the Yankees system is 21-year-old Ezequiel Duran. Signed as an 18 year-old by the Yankees he immediately showed his potential producing a 1.169 OPS in the Dominican Summer League. After struggling through a two level jump to Rookie-Advanced Pulaski in 2018, Duran showed again in 2019 why he may have a major league future.
Playing for Short-Season A Staten Island, Duran produced a 143 wRC+ on the season. He led the NY-Penn League in home runs with 13. He posted elite exit velocities averaging 91.9 mph, a number that would rank inside the top 20 at the major league level.
He also improved his defensive projections during the season. Heading into 2019 scouts had questioned if he would be able to remain as a middle infielder, but by the end of the season scouts saw enough range and arm strength to write that he could cover shortstop if necessary. FanGraphs rates him as a top-100 prospect, while some of the other rankings are more modest.
Hoy Jun Park entered the Yankees system as part of the vaunted 2014 international signing class. While he has yet to breakout in a big way, he has steadily risen through the system. Splitting time between shortstop and second-base, Park is likely to play this coming season with Triple-A Scranton (if a season happens, of course).
Known for his eye at the plate, Park has produced a .374 OBP, and a 121 wRC+ over the last two seasons. Working against Park is a lack of power that is unlikely to jump as he hits the ball on the ground over 50% of the time. This will limit him from taking advantage of the power jump that other prospects have seen once they were able to hit the Major League and Triple-A ball over the last season.
Park also contributed the decisive play during the clinching game Eastern League Championship series. With two out in the seventh inning of a tied ball-game, Park successfully stole home as Trenton’s weakest hitting was at the plate with two strikes. That run proved to be the difference for the Thunder’s championship.
HOY JUN PARK STOLE MY HEART— Trenton Thunder (@TrentonThunder) September 13, 2019
Park steals home and we have a 2-1 lead as we reach the bottom of the 7th in Bowie. pic.twitter.com/FltECJ1WEF
Oswaldo Cabrera has played a significant amount of time at second base on his way through the system. Cabrera’s bat came alive at the end of May last season and he hit to the tune of a 137 wRC+ over his last 77 games. The switch-hitter who had an electric debut season has struggled at times as the Yankees aggressively promoted him. He will be looking to build off his strong finish with either High-A Tampa, or Double-A Trenton this year.
One of the best debuts in the Yankees system last season went to Maikol Escotto in the Dominican Summer League. Escotto posted a .981 OPS, and was inside the top-10 of the league in home runs despite playing 15-20 less games than many of the other players on the list. Listed as a shortstop with all the tools to play the position, Escotto saw more action at second base last season.
It is very likely that the second base prospect of the future may already be in the system, just not playing the position yet. The Yankees have a wave of quality shortstop candidates like Oswald Peraza, Anthony Volpe, Josh Smith and Alexander Vargas who populate almost all of the Yankees top prospects list. It is not hard to imagine one of these players shifting around the diamond and becoming a solid second baseman.
The Yankees have worked to build middle infield depth in their system, but much of it resides at the shortstop position. While shortstop is considered the deeper position, the second base side is not completely barren of prospects. We will see if prospects like Duran and Escotto can maximize their physical tools and develop into elite prospects over the next few years. Players like Park and Cabrera have the potential to be valuable contributors as well if their play continues to improve.