The trade deadline is rapidly approaching, and the Yankees swung their first big deal of the summer, acquiring Andrew Benintendi from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for a package of three minor league pitchers. The Yankees traded from their organizational depth at the pitching position to send T.J. Sikkema, Beck Way and Chandler Champlain back to Kansas City for the American League All-Star Benintendi. Let’s take a look at the pieces the Yankees sent to Kansas City and the effect on the teams organizational depth.
The headline name in the trade was T.J. Sikkema who the Yankees selected with the 38th overall pick in the 2019 draft. The Yankees had acquired that pick from the Reds as part of the deal for Sonny Gray. Sikkema had been the ace for a University of Missouri team that had recently joined the Southeastern Conference and he went toe-to-toe with many of the best hitters in college baseball.
Known for his elite command and control, the lefty-pitcher was expected to move quickly through the Yankees system. After a full college season in 2019 before the Yankees drafted him, Sikkema was held back and only pitched in four games with a total of 10.2 inning thrown in his major league debut that year.
Plans were derailed for many minor leaguers in 2020, when the season was cancelled. The pause in his path towards the major leagues was derailed by several injuries including a lat injury that sidelined him for the entire season. Sikkema again started 2022 on the injured list, making his season debut in early May.
Once on the field this season, Sikkema has been outstanding. In 11 games he has a 2.48 ERA, with an 0.83 WHIP and .165 BAA. He recently tied together 11 straight no-hit innings across three outings and was looking very much like the pitcher who was worthy of a high draft pick and prospect ranking. But the lost season due to injury put the Yankees in a tough position as Sikkema would have needed to be protected from the Rule-5 draft following the season with a 40-man roster spot, when he still will likely have less than 100 professional innings pitched.
Sikkema was rated as the Yankees’ 23rd best prospect according to Baseball America, but most of his best work had come since that list was updated. The system is not deep on left-handed pitching, but they do have Ken Waldichuk and Brock Selvidge who are both ranked prospects in the system. It was reported that Sikkema was promoted to the Double-A level by Kansas City.
The next player going to Kansas City in the trade is right-handed pitcher Beck Way, who checked in as the Yankees’ 13th best prospect according to Baseball America. Way was the Yankees fourth round selection in the 2020 draft out of Northwest Florida State Junior College. The Yankees were able to sign him away from a commitment to perennial college baseball powerhouse Louisiana State University.
In 2021, the 6-foot-4 Way worked his way through Low-A Tampa and reached High-A near the end of the season. He started at that level again this year and had been especially effective over his last 10 games, posting a 2.45 ERA in 51.1 innings while allowing just 33 hits.
Way has all the tools to become a major league starter, or a very effective relief pitcher. Like Sikkema he was likely in a position to be promoted to Double-A in the near future based on his most recent results.
The third prospect that the Yankees traded in this deal was right-handed pitcher Chandler Champlain. Champlain was a very good draft prospect in 2018 when he was coming out of high school but decided to go to the University of Southern California. Things did not come together for him there as he struggled for several years, but the Yankees took a chance on his potential with a ninth-round pick in 2021.
Pitching for Low-A Tampa this year, Champlain has shown outstanding control to go with his mid-90s velocity but still struggles at time with giving up too many hits. He was rated in the mid-season update by Baseball America as the Yankees’ 29th best prospect.
This trade comes just days after the Yankees finished signing all 20 of their 2022 draft picks, which included 15 college pitchers. Pitching development has become a strength of the Yankees system over the last few years and numerous arms such as Waldichuk, Wesneski and Warren have emerged as outstanding prospects with the ability to contribute in the near future. Other arms such as Glenn Otto and Janson Junk took big steps forward before being traded last season. Trading three talented arms will not hurt the system depth, as there are plenty of reinforcements on the way.
The Yankees gave up several talented players to bring in help for their major league lineup. The Yankees dealt from a position of strength in their minor league system, as they have become known for their strong pitching development program over the last several years. Time will tell if this move has the impact that the Yankees are looking for, but they are making moves to improve the major league roster as they head towards the home stretch of the regular season.