The Yankees secured their second base position at the major league level when they signed D.J. LeMahieu to a long-term deal in January. Behind him in the system are known names such as Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada who have already seen a lot of time in the Bronx, but failed to put together the type of production that makes fans and the organization breathe easy when they get their time in the lineup. Knowing the immediate depth, let’s dig deeper and look at the what the Yankees system has to offer at the second base position.
The top second base prospect in the Yankees system is Ezequiel Duran, who played for Short-Season A Staten Island in 2019. Duran led the NY-Penn League in home runs in 2019 with 13, and the Yankees were very happy with his offensive progress across the board. Using improved plate discipline he was reported to have an average exit velocity of 91.9 mph that season. Duran is at spring training with the Yankees as a non-roster invitee but has struggled so far in game action. He is consistently ranked as one of the Yankees top-30 prospects and FanGraphs rates him as the 130th best prospect in baseball on their expanded list.
Heading into the 2019 season there were questions about Duran’s ability to remain at second base moving forward, as scouts thought he would have to move out of the middle infield long-term. That narrative mostly changed during the season — multiple reports now state that he could not only remain at second base but might even be athletic enough to cover shortstop on occasion. During a recent Yankees spring training game Suzyn Waldman mentioned that the Yankees were hoping to have Duran take reps at shortstop during spring training and potentially in a game moving forward. Duran is likely to start the season with High-A Hudson Valley.
The Yankees used their third round pick in the 2020 draft on Arizona State University’s Trevor Hauver. Over the course of his Sophomore and abbreviated junior season the lefty-swinging Hauver hit 18 home runs in 74 games with a .441 OBP. It was not a surprise that he was a third-round pick, but what did catch some observers off guard is that the Yankees announced him as a second baseman.
Defensively the Yankees are taking a chance that Hauver can move back to the infield, where he hasn’t played regularly since high school. During his time at Arizona State he played mostly in left field to accommodate a team that had three infielders drafted in 2020, including two of the first 37 picks. Since high school Hauver has only played a few games on the infield, but the Yankees think he can handle the position. Hauver will likely start the season with Low-A Tampa.
Closer to the major league level is Hoy Jun Park, who manned second base for Double-A Trenton in 2019. Park has shown a consistent ability to get on base in his pro-career with a .356 OBP, but does not create much impact as his ISO has been below .100 the last two seasons. Despite the lack of power in his game he has produced above league average results during his last two seasons in the minors with a 122 and 120 wRC+ respectively. There is a chance he could head to Triple-A Scranton for 2021 but he may also head back to the Double-A level this coming season.
Since the Yankees have talented shortstops such as Oswald Peraza, Anthony Volpe and Alexander Vargas in the system there is a belief that other shortstop prospects could be moving to second base or third base this coming season. The most prominent name on that list is Josh Smith, the Yankees second round pick from 2019. Smith slashed .324/.450/.477 during his professional debut with Short-Season A Staten Island while playing shortstop everyday. Smith would become one of the Yankees’ best second base prospects should he move regularly to the position.
Roberto Chirinos is another talented shortstop who may see more time at other positions moving forward. He played a number of games at second base in 2019 for Rookie-Advanced Pulaski, and was a well above average hitter over the last month of the season.
Oswaldo Cabrera led High-A Tampa in games played at both second base and third base in 2019. Cabrera really turned on the offense during the season and produced a 130 wRC+ over his last 77 games of the season. Seemingly being groomed for a utility role, the switch hitting Cabrera should be playing all over the diamond for Double-A Somerset in 2021.
The Yankees saw enough in Jose Colmenares to bring him to the Gulf Coast League as a 17-year-old. Playing against generally older competition he walked 11.8% of the time and recorded a .319 OBP. Cuban infielder Carlos Verdecia was able to record a 143 wRC+ in the Dominican Summer League behind his impressive .415 OBP in 2019. Both players are likely to start 2021 in the Gulf Coast League.
A player that has yet to see a game for the Yankees will also be in the mix for reps at second base in the lower levels this summer. Hans Montero received the top signing bonus from the Yankees in this year’s international signing period (So far). While the Yankees signed him as a shortstop, FanGraphs sees him as a future second baseman.
The Yankees have an interesting mix of talent at the second base position across the system. There are a number of players with solid major league ceilings and more talent could see significant playing time there this summer. By next year there could be multiple young prospects knocking on the door from Double-A and Triple-A for a major league backup role, or perhaps even ready to fill in should injuries hit the big league club.