Two days prior to the start of the minor league season, the Yankees released the rosters for their four full season minor league affiliates. Missing from the rosters were a handful of well regarded prospects that many fans expected to see but who were held back in minor league spring training or dealing with injuries.
Many of the players profile to the Low-A level and will likely see time there at some point this season. This makes it more surprising that even without some of the top prospects in the Yankees system, the Low-A Tampa Tarpons still exploded out of the gate, scoring 77 runs across their first five games. In waiting, the Yankees have close to a full roster of legitimate prospects who will be competing for their turn at the higher levels of the system as the year goes on. Let’s take a look at those players who will still be coming through the system.
The first name many fans undoubtedly looked for when rosters were announced was prospect Jasson Dominguez. A jump to Low-A for any 18-year-old prospect would have been a major step up in competition. In the end, those looking for Dominguez’s name were searching in vain as the team has assigned him to extended spring training, where he will be playing in modified games with little press or pressure. The team’s senior director of Player Development Kevin Reese summed up the logic for the teams decision by saying that “he hasn’t played in a ton of games.”
Giving Dominguez up to four or five weeks in extended spring training will allow him to continue getting his feet wet while stepping up in competition. It would not be surprising if Dominguez makes his Low-A debut around the time that the short-season leagues that were eliminated over the offseason would have traditionally begun in early June.
An experienced player who was pushed quickly during his professional debut is also being held back several years after skipping the two lowest levels of rookie ball. Everson Pereira impressed the Yankees enough as a 17-year-old to earn a promotion to Rookie-Advanced Pulaski in his first pro season. He followed up with an injury shortened season in 2019 at Short-Season A Staten Island. Heading into the 2021 season, the question seemed to be if he would start in Low-A Tampa or with High-A Hudson Valley. When Pereira is clear to hit the field in official games, he will do so as one of the organization’s top position playing prospects.
More centerfield talent has also yet to be assigned to a full season team. Kevin Alcantara and Raimfer Salinas both played in the Gulf Coast League during the 2019 season and in the past would have likely ended up in extended spring training before they jumped to either the Rookie-Advanced or Short-Season A level. Those no longer exist, and now it looks like both players could be ticketed for a return to the Gulf Coast League this coming year.
Alcantara is the 12th-ranked Yankees prospect per MLB.com, while Salinas is the Yankees’ 21st-ranked prospect according to Baseball America. Alcantara was the youngest player in the Gulf Coast League during his time there in 2019. He improved as the season went on and finished on a hot streak. Salinas received the top signing bonus given out by the Yankees in the 2017-2018 international free agency class. Scouts still love his tools and think the 20-year-old could still be a major leaguer before all is said and done.
Another player that has the potential to arrive in Low-A this coming year is shortstop Alexander Vargas, ranked as the team’s 13th prospect by MLB.com. He received very strong reviews following the Yankees instructional camp that they hosted in the Dominican Republic this fall. Vargas has the potential to be an elite defender, and his offensive projections improved when he arrived in instructional camp and spring training with a significantly stronger body.
Another outfield prospect in the mix is the Yankees’ third-round pick from 2019, Ryder Green. Green showed significant improvement in many areas during the 2019 season with Rookie-Advanced Pulaski. He is ranked as the Yankees’ 25th prospect by MLB.com.
Catching prospect Antonio Gomez battled injuries in 2019 and also faces a crowded position group behind the plate. The Yankees currently have three other top-30 prospects assigned to the two Class-A levels, which means there is no rush to push Gomez’s development. The 19-year-old prospect is known as one of the best defensive catchers in the system and could be the team’s best catching option in the near future.
While the information has not been released on all the prospects, we do know that middle infielder Josh Smith is battling a thumb injury. When Smith returns, he could find himself assigned to either the Low-A or High-A level. The 2019 second-round pick of the Yankees was an extremely productive shortstop with Short-Season A Staten Island in 2019.
On the pitching side, the Yankees’ 2020 fourth-round pick Beck Way has yet to be assigned to a roster. Way pitched 40 innings in 2020 before the COVID pandemic shut down his Junior College season, which is more than many players in the Yankees system were able to throw competitively. In the past, the Yankees have held numerous talented but young arms back to limit their workload. It is likely that Way will reach an affiliate in early June.
The Yankees’ Low-A affiliate is out to a strong start behind an electric offense. Making it more surprising is that many of the team’s top prospects are either still in extended spring training or battling injuries. It is promising for the Yankees and their that they can look down the line and see a system over-flowing early on with strong performances and big-time talent.