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The Yankees have changed the first base dynamic in their minor league system

After being considered one of the weaker positions in the Yankees’ system for several years, the Yankees now have a line of interesting first base prospects in the minor leagues.

Surprise Saguaros v Glendale Desert Dogs Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Yankees’ farm system has been built to be strong up the middle over the last several years. Few of the Yankees top picks or international free agents (IFA) have been players on the corners of the infield, leading to the lack of depth at the first base position at times. Heading into last year, first base was considered one of the weakest positions in the system. Then just a year later with a pair of position changes and a trade, the Yankees have a trio of interesting prospects who each possess the potential set of traits that could have them developing into legitimate prospects.

When the Yankees signed Anthony Garica as an IFA in 2017, he was already on the prospect radar due to his immense power from both sides of the plate. Garcia was billed as a corner outfielder and played that way during his professional debut and in limited action before being injured in the 2019 season.

When he returned to the field in 2021, the Yankees began using him at first base in both the Florida Complex League and again when he was promoted to Low-A Tampa. Garcia hit 14 home runs in just 121 at-bats during the 2021 season, while posting a 1.122 OPS at the two levels.

His overall production came as Garcia cut down on his strikeout rate and walked in close to 15 percent of his plate appearances. The switch-hitter has much better numbers from the left-hand side and has the best raw power in the Yankees minor league system according to almost every scouting report out there. There is a long path for a player with a high strikeout rate in Low-A to the major leagues, but his noticeable improvement and immense tools give Garcia a chance to continue thriving as he moves through the Yankees system.

Another player in the Yankees system who changed position and has started to thrive is Andres Chaparro. As a young prospect prior to the 2021 season, Chaparro was known as a third baseman with good plate discipline but also not much power. After bulking up some during 2020 offseason, Chaparro came back and began receiving reps at first base. He also start displaying more pop in his bat.

He really hit the stage front and center when the Yankees sent him to the Arizona Fall League and after some early struggles he began to thrive. Once Chaparro found his groove he caught the attention of scouts by registering at least three hits of 110 mph exit velocity or more. His 117 mph double caught the most attention as it would have registered among the hardest hit balls in the major leagues during the 2021 season.

Chaparro followed up that performance with a short but strong performance in the Venezuelan Winter League, and is now off to a fast start with Double-A Somerset. Since getting promoted to High-A Hudson Valley early last August, he has hit .280/.390/.513 with eight home runs and a 14 percent walk rate in 41 games with the Yankees affiliates. Over the last year Chaparro has gone from being a third baseman with moderate power, to being a strong offensive performer across the board with some of the hardest hit balls in the organization to his name.

The development of Chaparro’s power may be the exact tool that the Yankees were looking to get from TJ Rumfield when the Yankees received him as part of the return for Nick Nelson this past fall. Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 220 pounds, Rumfield looks like a player who can do some damage with the ball, but had yet to fully capitalize on the tool.

After walking more times than he struck out while playing for Virginia Tech University in college, Rumfield also pulled off the feat when he made his pro-debut in the Low-A Southeast last season. The concern with his professional debut was that Rumfield had just one extra-base hit in over 100 plate appearances.

Once he joined the organization, the Yankees hitting team went to work and Rumfield has shown up with more pop in the early going this season. Through six games he has five extra base hits, including two home runs. While it is still early, it is clear that Rumfield is tapping into some power that was not there last season, making him a legitimate prospect due to his previously displayed strong plate discipline and contact rate. He has room to spare when it comes to trading contact for power.

In the matter of a year the Yankees have seen a position of weakness in the system morph into what could be widely considered a position of strength by midseason. The development of Andres Chaparro, Anthony Garcia and TJ Rumfield gives the Yankees intriguing prospects at the first base position up and down the system. With long-term uncertainty at the position in the majors this wave players at the position will have a chance to insert themselves into the Yankees future plans with continued strong play.