Luke Voit’s arrival to the Yankees settled a first base position that had lacked stability since Mark Teixeira’s retirement. The Yankees saw promising prospects and veterans take a shot at the position, but fail to become significant contributors. Across the minor league system, the Yankees boast some familiar names but few who are considered top prospects. Let’s take a look at the first base position inside the Yankees’ system.
The farm is know for its young talent, with many prospects several years away from contributing in the bigs. The irony is that the one position at which the Yankees have few top prospects rankings is also the position that has the most depth ready to help at the major league level. Mike Ford, while no longer a prospect, retains two more years of minor league options and will likely be playing with Triple-A Scranton to start the season. He was leading the International League in OPS when he was called up in late-July 2019 and went on a tear for the remainder of the season. It is possible that regular playing time at Triple-A will spark his bat once again this coming year.
Chris Gittens will likely join Ford at Triple-A Scranton this coming year. Gittens has impressed in camp with a pair of monster home runs and a 1.346 OPS over 17 spring training games. He is coming off a Double-A Eastern League MVP campaign while posting a 164 wRC+ in 2019. During his time with Trenton, he was voted as the best defensive first baseman in the league by a Baseball America poll of coaches and scouts assigned to that level.
Also in the upper levels of the minors for the Yankees is Brandon Wagner. He was one of the best hitters in the Yankees system in 2018, cranking out the second-most home runs of any Yankees minor leaguer that season with 21 home runs in 124 games. Most of Wagner’s power production came while playing for High-A Tampa that season, and dropped off noticeably after his promotion to Double-A Trenton. Not just tied to first base, he has also played second base and third base when needed, offering interesting versatility. Wagner struggled offensively in 2019 playing in Double-A and Triple-A, but has exhibited a strong ability to get on-base over his minor league career.
Some of the best raw power in the Yankees system belongs to Dermis Garica. He was the prize signing in the Yankees’ high-profile 2014 international signing class. Signed as a shortstop, he has since moved to third base before moving again to first base in 2019 for High-A Tampa. Garcia hit 17 home runs in 75 games and won the home run derby at the Florida State League All-Star game before an injury ended his season. Garcia has struggled to make enough contact through his career, routinely striking out over 30% of the time. He is likely to get a shot at Double-A Somerset in 2021, but is going to have to make more consistent contact while facing better pitching to become a legitimate contender a major league spot.
A late-round pick in the 2018 draft, Mickey Gasper is a college catcher who is converting to a role in the field as he plays alongside highly-ranked prospects such as Josh Breaux and Anthony Siegler. Gasper produced very good numbers for Rookie-Advanced Pulaski the year he was drafted but was more pedestrian during his run with Low-A Charleston to start 2019. Promoted to High-A Tampa shortly after Dermis Garcia’s injury, Gasper played very well at the higher level, posting a .855 OPS over the last month of the season. The Bryant University product will be looking to continue his offensive production this coming year, likely back at the High-A level.
The Yankees selected Spencer Henson in the 9th round of the 2019 draft out of Oral Roberts University. Henson - who is currently basking in his alma mater’s unexpected NCAA Tournament run - produced out of the gate in the short-season leagues for the Yankees. He slashed .256/.378/.573 in his 24-game professional debut with six home runs. The 23-year-old will likely be in Low-A Charleston or High-A Hudson Valley to start the coming season.
The Yankees used another late-round draft pick in 2019 on Canadian Kyle MacDonald. After several seasons at Arkansas State University, MacDonald’s ability to get on base coupled with an impact bat gained attention. The Yankees assigned him to the Gulf Coast League, where he was one of the oldest players in the league but he performed very well. MacDonald hit .354/.448/.604 in his 15-game professional debut. Drafted when he was already 23-years-old, MacDonald is likely to be at the Class-A levels and will be one of the older players there, a stat generally held against players at those levels of the minors. He has hit very well in college and as a pro but will begin to face much better pitching this coming season.
The Yankees have not invested many high draft picks or big international signing bonuses in first basemen. Any look at the system’s prospect rankings shows depth up the middle but a lack of highly regarded prospects on the corners of the infield. Luckily, the Yankees do have players with the potential to contribute at the major league level this coming year, even if it is not their deepest position group across the system.