The shortstop position is the crown jewel of the Yankees’ farm system. The team has used high draft picks, big international bonuses and strong player development to get to the point where their shortstop prospect depth is the envy of almost every team in baseball. Shortstop is at the top of defensive spectrum, and having top notch shortstops means you have coveted trade chips and athletes who can move all over the field if needed. Let’s take a look at the strongest position in the Yankee organization.
There is no way to start the Yankees list without discussing one of the best prospects in baseball, Anthony Volpe. Many thought the Yankees were reaching by selecting Volpe with the 30th overall pick in 2019, as most pre-draft rankings had him as mid-to-late second round talent.
Volpe’s doubters latched onto his first 16 games with Rookie-Advanced Pulaski, which confirmed their concerns as he struggled out of the gate. Few observers noted how quickly he turned it around, hitting well over his next 18 games before his season ended. With the cancelled 2020 minor league season, expectations on Volpe were limited.
Then, a real buzz started emanating from minor league spring training. Reports emerged that Volpe was a hugely improved player. That noise around his improvement carried into the season, and his performance on the field caused him to rocket up prospect rankings and catch the eye of everyone in baseball. By the end of the season, he had slashed .294/.423/.604 across two levels with 27 home runs.
While Volpe was taking off at Low-A, Oswald Peraza was creating his own noise just a level above. Peraza’s hype had started to grow as the Yankees aggressively promoted him to Low-A Charleston in 2019. Despite mediocre offensive numbers, he displayed well above average exit velocities for a player his age, and some of the best shortstop defense in the system.
Starting the season with High-A Hudson Valley, he hit .306/.386/.532 in 28 games for the Renegades. The high exit velocities also began manifesting into more power, as he homered in four consecutive at-bats across three games in mid-May.
Oswald Peraza with the glove! pic.twitter.com/AC61UQfg7e— Somerset Patriots (@SOMPatriots) June 9, 2021
Upon jumping to Double-A Somerset, he struggled out of the gate, but found his stroke by hitting .325/.370/.488 over his last 40 games of the season that included eight games at Triple-A level. He is starting the season at Triple-A and is on the 40-man roster, making him a strong candidate for an appearance in the Bronx before the end of the year.
With two thriving shortstop prospects in the system, the Yankees continued to double down on their shortstop depth during the July draft. Using their first pick, they selected Trey Sweeney, a strong hitting shortstop from the Eastern Illinois University. When he was drafted, some scouts questioned if he would stay at shortstop long-term, but has received stronger reviews on his defense since turning pro.
Not far behind Sweeney in the system is Cuban-born shortstop Alexander Vargas. Vargas has outstanding speed and defense, and should have no issues staying at the position in the long-term. The Yankees see signs that his offense will turn into the potent power-contact combination that several of their other prospects have developed over the last few years. Vargas will likely man the starting shortstop position in Low-A Tampa to start the season.
The depth of the organization continues at the rookie ball level. The team made waves in January with the long-rumored signing of top international prospect Roderick Arias. Scouts who have seen him play project that he either already has, or will develop, plus tools across the board. MLB.com has already installed him as the Yankees- 13th-best prospect before he has played an official game at any level.
Just one season ahead of Arias is the Yankees’ top signing from the January 2021 International signing period, Hans Montero. Montero struggled through his debut season in the Dominican Summer League, where he showed that he will need to add more strength and bat speed for his offense to take off. He is considered to have extremely soft hands and a glove that will allow him to be a plus defender moving forward.
There are several other players around the system who have not focused solely on the shortstop position but have the potential to see time there should the need arise. Oswaldo Cabrera is the most well-known of these players, as he found tremendous success around the infield and with his bat for the Yankees. Eduardo Torrealba played shortstop along with several other positions last season while making significant offensive progress. He is scheduled to start the season at High-A Hudson Valley where he will see time across the infield.
Roberto Chirinos has played multiple infield positions for the Yankees at a couple of levels. He then went to the Venezuelan Winter League and had a very strong campaign this past season. Jesus Bastidas looked like he was moving to Double-A as defensive depth when he made the jump in the middle of last season. He then proceeded to have the best stretch of offensive performance in his pro career. In 39 games, he posted a .902 OPS and was a strong offensive player. It will be seen if he can duplicate the performance in 2021.
In addition to Trey Sweeney, the Yankees also drafted shortstop Ben Cowles in 2021. After hitting just six home runs in his first two years and 69 college games, Cowles exploded offensively in 2021, leading the Big-10 conference with 18 home runs in just 48 games. He will start the season with Low-A and likely be playing more positions than just shortstop.
If there is any position that a team wants to be deep at, it is shortstop. The athletic ability, range, and arm strength required to play the position professionally places these players at the top of the defensive spectrum. The Yankees have built a very deep group of talented shortstops, and it bodes well for the system and team moving forward.