The 2019 Draft could end up being quite productive for the New York Yankees in the long haul, if some of the top guys keep developing. Shortstop Anthony Volpe has made huge strides and is still very young, at 20 years old, while Josh Smith and Jake Sanford remain promising offensive players, especially the former.
Ken Waldichuk has been extremely impressive on the mound and earned a promotion already, joining Hayden Wesneski in pitching their way into Double-A. Meanwhile, compensatory pick T.J. Sikkema has been on the 60-day injured list with a lat injury and unable to pitch thus far in 2021.
Here is how some of the 2019 draftees are doing so far in the 2021 season:
Round 1: Anthony Volpe
Position: Shortstop (drafted 30th overall)
School: Delbarton HS (NJ)
Few prospects have taken a more sizable step forward this season than Anthony Volpe. The Yankees’ first round pick in 2019, he was viewed by some as a bit of a reach at the moment of the selection, but he’s making those who said that look foolish with his 2021 performance.
In 2019, he hit a modest .215/.349/.355 in 34 Rookie-class games, covering 150 plate appearances. His hard work has paid off in 2021, however, with an amazing .309/.452/.635 in 48 Low-A games, with more walks than strikeouts. The most impressive skill change has been his power: Volpe has 11 home runs and a .326 isolated power (!), and he’s added 20 steals for good measure. The Yankees may challenge him with a promotion to High-A soon.
Round 2: Josh Smith
Position: Second base (drafted 67th overall)
School: Louisiana State
Middle infielder Josh Smith has done nothing but rake since he was drafted in the second round by the Yankees in 2019. That year, he hit .324/.450/.477 with a 177 wRC+ in Class-A (short season) Staten Island, with more walks than strikeouts in 33 games.
He was placed in Low-A Tampa to start 2021, and hit .333/.480/.795 with a 226 wRC+ in 11 games, earning a promotion to High-A Hudson Valley. In that stop, he has hit .333/.439/.622 with a 186 wRC+, although his strikeout rate went up from 12.0 percent to 23.4 percent.
Between the two levels, Smith has nine homers and 15 stolen bases in 35 games. It’s fair to say his season has been very positive.
Round 3: Jake Sanford
Position: Outfielder (drafted 105th overall)
School: Western Kentucky
Sanford is a 23-year-old corner outfielder that has had an okay season with the Low-A Tampa Tarpons, hitting .296/.371/.425 with five homers and a 120 wRC+ in 47 games. His groundball tendencies (2.08 grounders for every fly ball) have limited his power output (.129 ISO).
Sanford is also old for his level, so he will need to move quickly as he is just four months shy of his 24th birthday. Still, MLB Pipeline had him ranked as the 29th-best prospect in the system entering 2021.
Round 5: Ken Waldichuk
Position: Pitcher (drafted 165th overall)
School: St. Mary’s (CA)
Waldichuk has been one of the most impressive performers in the Yankees’ system so far in 2021. The talented left-hander is already in Double-A Somerset after he earned a promotion by virtue of an immaculate 0.00 ERA in 30.2 innings at Hudson Valley.
In High-A, he struck out 16.14 hitters per nine frames, and so far in four Double-A starts, Waldichuk has fanned 13.95 batters per nine innings. The problem is that his control has been faltering in Somerset, where has given 6.30 walks per nine. Although his Double-A FIP is high at 5.30, his 3.15 ERA is much better. It’s evident he still has work to do before being an option for the big leagues, but if he makes strides with the Patriots and keeps progressing, he is in play to be called up next season.