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2023 is a pivotal year for Yankees prospect Andrés Chaparro

The young thumper could find himself hitting bombs in the Bronx down the stretch if he keeps proving himself against high minors pitching.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have four men on the roster capable of playing third base: Josh Donaldson, Oswaldo Cabrera, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and DJ LeMahieu. One of them will have to get the majority of starts at the position this season. Yet, none of them can be considered the “third baseman on the future.” LeMahieu and Donaldson are on the wrong side of 30, Cabrera will likely play a lot of left field in 2023, and IKF doesn’t have the bat to be considered as such.

Andrés Chaparro may or may not be that “third baseman of the future,” but if somebody other than Anthony Volpe and Oswaldo Peraza has a chance to come up and be a factor at least in a part time role that includes some starts at the hot corner, it’s Chaparro.

Even though he started 47 of his 64 Double-A games in 2022 at third base, it’s possible or even likely that isn’t his long-term home. He could profile better as a mashing first baseman. But everything seems to indicate Chaparro can hold his own there, and he has already had a successful stint at Double-A Somerset.

That means Chaparro, 23, is facing a pivotal year in his career. Whether he reaches the majors or not, 2023 will be crucial for him as the Yankees discover whether he can handle high minors pitching on a consistent basis, beyond a 64-game sample.

Over those 64 contests, Chaparro accumulated 271 excellent plate appearances. He was marvelous, with a .289/.369/.594 line, 19 home runs and a 158 wRC+. He is known for his big-boy exit velocities, as some of his hardest hit balls have reached as much as 117 mph.

He can expand the zone here and there, but Chaparro doesn’t have a strikeout problem. That’s ideal, especially for a guy with his kind of power. This past season with the Patriots, he had a 9.2 percent walk rate and an above-average 19.9 percent strikeout rate.

In many ways, Andrés Chaparro can be 2023’s Cabrera. He is not a highly-regarded infield prospect like Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza, he can play at least two positions, and he could have an impact during the stretch run with his power. He is obviously not as versatile as Cabrera, but has more power and a better bat overall.

But he will get tested in 2023. He will have to show that last year’s performance was no fluke. He could start back in Double-A this season, but even if he isn’t on Scranton’s roster at some point in the spring, he will eventually. And he needs to replicate his 2022 success at the more advanced level.

Defensively, he is somewhat passable at third, but probably needs to get better to be considered a real option to stick there long-term. Still, even without sizable improvement, there is a chance he earns a spot with the Yankees in the second half. He could be a part-time player making a few starts per week at third base, first base, or the DH spot. He will get as far as his bat takes him, similar to Cabrera last year.

Chaparro has already shown the drive required to succeed high levels. Whereas many prospects had the chance to rest on their laurels when the beginning of the pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor league season, others took the time off as an opportunity to rebuild their games or their physique.

Thankfully, Chaparro was on the latter group. As Dan Kelly pointed out last September, he was a different hitter when he returned to the Yankees’ system in 2021, with added strength in his lower half. He turned from a slap hitter to a huge power threat, and it showed in his performance.

For all we know, he can use that drive to will himself into a useful defender at third, or to keep improving as a hitter and reach the majors in 2023. If that’s the case, look out, because he has the kind of power that can be impactful in MLB games.