The trade deadline heated up in a big way Wednesday night for the Yankees, leading to a deal with the Texas Rangers for All-Star outfielder Joey Gallo and left-handed reliever Joely Rodríguez. The team followed up the next day by landing one of the better first baseman in baseball over the last eight seasons in Anthony Rizzo. In the final deal of the trade period the Yankees acquired Andrew Heaney from the Angels. In total the Yankees moved eight prospects to bring in two veteran lefty bats and a left-handed pitcher.
The prospects were pulled from the strengths of the team, which are up the middle positions of shortstop, second base, right-handed pitching and centerfield. The team also swapped out several players who were either already on the 40-man roster or needed to be protected in the Rule-5 draft following the season. Let’s take a look at the prospects the Yankees are sending to the Rangers, Cubs, and Angels and how their loss impacts the Yankees’ minor league system.
Headlining the deal to Texas is shortstop prospect Josh Smith. Since being drafted in the second-round of the 2019 MLB draft, Smith has done nothing but hit during three minor league stops. He has produced a .324/.449/.569 across parts of two seasons and reaching the High-A level. This season he displayed newfound pop in his bat as he belted nine home runs in just 39 games, while still hitting .324 on the season.
He is a solid defensive player, but many scouts have speculated that he would eventually move to second base or a utility role full time.
Nifty defense by @josh_smith8 and a nice stretch from @K_Macdonald29 pic.twitter.com/QXDTLNI2vr— HV Renegades (@HVRenegades) July 28, 2021
Joining Smith in the deal is the player who has been his double-play partner for most of his time in the Yankees organization, Ezequiel Duran. Duran exploded onto scouts’ radars after the Yankees signed him in 2017 when he hit .393/.415/.754 with recorded exit velocities over 110 mph as an 18-year-old in the Dominican Summer League.
He struggled while facing tougher opposition in Rookie-Advanced Pulaski in 2018 but really broke out in the NY-Penn League in 2019. After a slow start to the season, Duran found his power and led the short-season league in home runs with 13. His average exit velocity numbers continued to jump off the charts as he consistently hit the ball very hard. FanGraphs had rated him as the 122nd best prospect in all of baseball heading into the 2021 season.
Ezequiel Duran's 10th of the season pic.twitter.com/lkz5WD0HRR— Dan Kelly (@Dan_KellyPSA) July 21, 2021
Questions surrounded his ability to remain up the middle, but in 2021 the Yankees have routinely played him at shortstop where he has showed improved range, a solid arm and the skills necessary to play the position and not be a total liability. He would have been Rule-5 eligible following the season and put the Yankees in the spot of having to protect a player on the 40-man roster who is likely still a full season or two away from the major leagues.
Right behind Duran on the organizational depth charts at second base is second baseman Trevor Hauver. The 2020 third-round pick from Arizona State was surprisingly announced as a second baseman after playing outfield during college. Reports on his defense have not been conclusive but Hauver has put together a very strong offensive season so far this year. No player in baseball was hotter to start the season — Hauver introduced himself to professional baseball by hitting six home runs in his first six games of the season.
While he slowed down from his electric start Havuer has still continued to walk at a 21.4 percent clip on the season, and recently tapped back into some of his power with a flurry of doubles and home runs.
Another player who broke out this year was pitcher Glenn Otto. The Yankees’ fifth-round pick from 2017 has battled injuries during his professional career, including a blood clot in his shoulder that cost him most of the 2018 season. Prior to this season, Otto also battled his control as he routinely had a five BB/9 rate and higher.
Coming off the pandemic healthy, Otto was a force in the Double-A Somerset rotation this year, striking out 14.19 K/9 — he also walked under just 1.93 BB/9. In five of his 11 games at the Double-A level he went at least five innings without allowing a run. He was recently promoted to Triple-A, and while the results have not reached the same levels, he has continued to pitch well. Otto would have needed a spot on the 40-man roster following the season and could have even made himself a potential option for the Yankees down the stretch this year.
In the deal to acquire Anthony Rizzo the Yankees moved right-handed starting pitcher Alexander Vizcaíno. Signed as an 18-year-old out of the Dominican Republic for a small signing bonus, Vizcaíno blossomed in 2019 as one of the Yankees top pitching prospects. Despite pitching in a rotation with Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Roansy Contreras and Matt Sauer he was able to stand out among the crowd. No pitcher in the Yankees organization completed seven innings more times in 2019 than Vizcaíno as he carved his way through Low-A lineups before his promotion to High-A.
Armed with the best changeup in the Yankees system and a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball, Vizcaíno has a strong chance to remain as a starting pitcher with some improvement on his breaking pitches. He was rated as the Yankees 12th best prospect by Baseball America when they reviewed the Yankees system just prior to the trade. Despite suffering a shoulder impingement this spring, Vizcaino was pitching in short outings for the High-A Hudson Valley Renegades recently as he worked his way back to the team.
Joining Vizcaino in the move to the Chicago Cubs is 19-year-old centerfield prospect Kevin Alcantara. The 6-foot-6 Alcantara reminds many evaluators of Dexter Fowler from the same point early in his career. He was playing for the Yankees Florida Complex League team and was a candidate to earn a promotion to Low-A at some point during the season.
The Yankees have tremendous prospect depth at the centerfield position — players like Jasson Dominguez, Everson Pereira, Estevan Florial and Brandon Lockridge are all manning the position and ranked among the teams top prospects. As a player still at the complex level of the minor leagues, there is a lot of risk and reward with Alcantara at this point in his career.
One of the biggest breakout prospects of the Yankees’ minor league system this season has been right-handed pitcher Janson Junk. Junk battled an inconsistent slider throughout the 2019 season, but with the 2020 minor league season cancelled he went to work on rebuilding his pitch arsenal. He described some of the key players in his offseason work in an interview with Pinstripe Alley during the offseason.
Armed with a refined slider and improved command of his pitches, he has been one of the best pitchers in minor league baseball this season, recording a 1.78 ERA and 0.96 WHIP across 65.2 innings pitched. Originally drafted in the 22nd round of the 2017 draft, Junk was already Rule-5 eligible but passed over during last year’s event. He massive step forward this year would have made him a slam dunk for the Yankees to have to protect with a 40-man roster spot following the season. MLB.com rated him as the Yankees 27th best prospect in their most recent rankings of the Yankees system.
Also heading out of the Yankees system is right-handed relief pitcher Elvis Peguero. Peguero has been in the Yankees system since 2015 but saw a big increase in his velocity during the 2019 season. He now sits in the mid to even upper 90’s and has recorded a 11.57 K/9. The Yankees have a number of strong armed relievers in the upper levels of the system such as Stephen Ridings and Greg Weissert.
The Yankees cleared up some of the 40-man roster decisions and log jams in their minor league system. Just prior to the trade I wrote about the log jam at the High-A level in the organization, and with their most recent draft picks getting ready to start play the battle for playing time at their designated positions was only going to grow. Even after dealing away Smith, Diego Castillo, and Hoy Park this week, shortstop remains one of if not the deepest position in the Yankees system. The position is headlined by top-100 prospects Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe, who are both rapidly climbing prospect rankings this season.
Otto and Duran were also going to have to be protected on a crowded Yankees 40-man roster after the season. Other names mentioned in various reports last night such as Clarke Schmidt, Randy Vasquez and Everson Pereira also would have made sense for the exact same reasons. Schmidt is already a member of the 40-man while Vasquez and Pereira’s recent play have put them in the discussion for a roster spot at year’s end.
The Yankees jumped into the trade deadline on Wednesday night and swung a deal that looks good for both teams involved. They moved quality prospects for established major league talent who can fill an immediate need. The Yankees have a deep farm system and they avoided trading their truly elite prospects. They still have quality depth across the system, and elite prospects like Jasson Dominguez, Anthony Volpe, and Oswald Peraza will be the backbone of the system for the foreseeable future.