At the major league level, fans will be watching closely to see how the playing time situation shakes out with DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres. The two players are coming off down years, and Torres is likely shifting back to second base after struggling defensively to handle the shortstop position that he manned for the last two seasons. In the minor leagues the Yankees second base depth took a hit last season when the team traded Ezequiel Duran, Trevor Hauver, and Josh Smith to the Texas Rangers in the Joey Gallo deal. Continuing our position-by-position look around the Yankees system, let’s take a look at the players manning the keystone across the minor leagues.
After a strong start to his professional career, Oswaldo Cabrera hit some tough years in 2017 and 2018 as the Yankees aggressively promoted him to the Class-A levels. After a strong finish to the 2019 season where he posted a 130 wRC+ over the final 77 games, Cabrera had to wait to build on that success due to the cancelled 2020 season.
Arriving to Double-A Somerset noticeably stronger, especially in his legs, Cabrera started out slow in 2021. After leaving the Patriots for a few weeks to participate in the Olympic qualifying tournament where he represented his native Venezuela, Cabrera caught fire. The switch hitter was especially proficient from the left-hand side of the plate and finished the season with 29 home runs, second most in the Yankees minor league system. Like many of the players we’ll discuss, Cabrera is not a dedicated second baseman, as he played significant time at both second base, shortstop, and third base for Double-A Somerset, before finishing the season with Triple-A Scranton.
Oswaldo Cabrera is having a grand time at Triple-A.— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) October 3, 2021
The @Yankees' No. 16 prospect crushes a grand slam, his fifth homer in nine games with the @swbrailriders. pic.twitter.com/Fwvx0w6Pow
In the fourth round of the 2021 draft, the Yankees selected Cooper Bowman from Louisville University. Bowman displayed strong bat-to-ball skills in college as well as quickness on the bases, where his 20 stolen bases led the Atlantic Coast Conference. Bowman continued running after the draft, as he stole 13 bases in 14 attempts during his professional debut for Low-A Tampa.
A few rounds later that same year, the Yankees selected Ben Cowles from the University of Maryland. Cowles took a big step forward in his final college season, hitting 18 home runs to lead the Big-10 conference. His performance in his professional debut was not as dynamic, but a .804 OPS in 35 games was both a small sample size and a sign that there could be more to come from his developing bat.
Ben Cowles went yard with another oppo in the @TampaTarpons playoff game yesterday!#ProTerps pic.twitter.com/pK9B6Ft4gj— Connor Newcomb (@ConnorNewcomb_) September 23, 2021
Eduardo Torrealba put together his best season as a professional in 2021, slashing .299/.367/.384 while playing at three levels and peaking with Double-A Somerset. He has a great ability to get his bat on the ball, striking out just 11 percent of the time in his 238 plate appearances. Originally signed by the Red Sox as an IFA, he was declared a free agent again after MLB found that Boston had violated international signing rules. He will turn 23 shortly before this coming season and will likely start the year with Double-A Somerset. His offensive profile is very similar to that of former Yankees prospect Diego Castillo, who broke out during the 2021 season with Double-A Somerset before being traded to Pittsburgh in the Clay Holmes deal.
Numerous players in the Yankees system found significant increases in their power production in 2021 compared to previous seasons, and Jesus Bastidas was one of them. After hitting just one home run in his first 606 career at-bats, Bastidas hit nine long balls in 177 at-bats for Low-A Tampa and Double-A Somerset. Pushed up to Somerset in mid-July, he had his best offensive display to date, hitting .278/.391/.511 over 110 plate appearances with the Patriots.
Here’s a two-run single from Somerset Patriots INF Jesus Bastidas the other day. Bastidas is hitting .333 since his promotion to Somerset last week, with 1 HR and 4 RBI’s. pic.twitter.com/cHkyFgkz8q— Eli Fishman (@elijfishman) July 28, 2021
Signed as a shortstop in the 2017 International Free Agent (IFA) period, Roberto Chirinos has continued moving through the Yankees system while shifting into a utility role for the team. He reached High-A this past season, slashing .255/.335/.429, with six home runs across three levels. He continued playing over the winter in the Venezuelan Winter League where he hit .304/.369/.457 for Caribes de Anzoategui, while playing alongside several current and former major leaguers.
The system had a handful of other players see significant time at the position in the last year. Oliver Dunn played for both High-A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset, where he posted strong on-base percentages due to his 17 percent walk rate on the year. Dunn however did not light up the other categories as he hit just .196 and slugged .368 on the year. The ability to get on base gives Dunn a valuable tool to work with, he will now have to find more consistent hard contact to maximize his offensive potential.
In the lower levels of the system Jose Colmenares posted an .811 OPS in limited action for the Yankees Florida Complex League team. Jared Serna’s .411 OBP allowed him to get on base frequently and steal 24 bases in 28 attempts in the Dominican Summer League. Acquired in the J.P. Feyereisen trade with the Brewers, Brenny Escanio posted an .843 OPS with six home runs in his professional debut in the DSL. He also played alongside Osmany Fleitas, who posted a 1.059 OPS with 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts in 30 DSL games. Fleitas also walked more times than he struck out on the season and could be an interesting name to see jump to stateside competition in 2022.
Jared Serna ¡LE DIO EN LA NAAAAARIIIIIIIZ A DOÑA BLANCA!— Charros de Jalisco (@charrosbeisbol) October 30, 2021
Se estrena el prospecto de los Yankees en el departamento de los HR en la @Liga_Arco.#LAMPxSKY #SkySportsMX pic.twitter.com/WXk8O4mFNX
The second base position is not often one that is drafted for or commands massive IFA signing bonuses. Many of the players on this list have played a significant amount of shortstop during their early years in the system, or in college leading up to the draft process. Oswaldo Cabrera is one of them, but had a breakout season serving in a utility role around the infield in 2021. Several other notable players surround him in a position that still has a lot of talent across the pipeline.