It’s been a pretty sweet week for Yankees fans. The acquisition of Juan Soto has the fan base buzzing, but it rightfully necessitated a king’s ransom, quite literally. Four young, talented arms went out the door in Michael King, Jhony Brito, Randy Vásquez, and Drew Thorpe.
King obviously is the centerpiece of the deal, and it hurts to lose him right when he’s unlocking his full potential and appears ready to make the leap to the rotation. Brito and Vásquez, too, flashed good stuff but also took their rookie lumps. Thorpe was on his way to being one of the top pitching prospects in baseball after a strong 2023 in the minors.
The Yankees used every bit of their pitching depth last season, and in doing so boosted the value of Brito and Vásquez, who showed they can hang with major league hitters. There’s suddenly a lot of room for ascension in the Yankees minor league system. Who might fill the chasm left by the departing of these four?
RHP Will Warren
2023 stats (Double-A and Triple-A): 25 starts, 129 innings pitched, 3.35 ERA, 149 K, 1.28 WHIP
In the aftermath of the Soto trade, the righty Warren has already received a boost to ninth overall prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline. Warren was drafted in the eighth round out of Southeastern Louisiana with the ability to hit 98 mph and not much else. Matt Blake’s development team went to work, and two years later, he boasts a much deeper repertoire including a sharp breaking ball that pairs well with his riding above-average fastball. Here’s that heater, well-located and firm:
Warren saw an uptick in his strikeout rate after a solid debut in 2022, and has held his own at every level including Triple-A. He’s not quite a finished product, and reports say his command tends to wane as his pitch count increases. A strong start to 2024 in Scranton could net him a promotion, and he could cut his teeth with a bit of relief work. Time will tell if he develops the stamina necessary to go deep into games.
RHP Clayton Beeter
2023 stats (Double-A and Triple-A): 26 starts, 131.2 innings pitched, 3.62 ERA, 165 K, 1.36 WHIP
We’ve heard nothing but good things since the Yankees obtained Beeter in exchange for Joey Gallo at the 2022 trade deadline. The Dodgers originally selected the righty from Texas 66th overall in 2020, but he had a rough start in pro ball. At the time of the trade, he had a 5.75 ERA and 35 walks in 51.2 innings. The Yankees bought low, and his command issues haven’t completely resolved, but his stuff is undeniable and he’s beginning to show significant development.
The stuff is what got him drafted high, and it comes as advertised with one of the best sliders in the Yankees system. His walk rate, current lack of a third consistent out pitch, and explosive stuff point to a future reliever role, where he could let his fastball rip into the high 90s.
RHP Chase Hampton
2023 stats (High-A and Double-A): 20 starts, 106.2 innings, 3.63 ERA, 145 K, 1.14 WHIP
A sixth-round pick in 2022, Hampton has the highest ceiling on this list, but he’s also the furthest from the big leagues, and 2024 will be pivotal in justifying his spot at number four on the Yankees prospect rankings. He impressed in his first season in the system after pitching in the Big 12 at Texas Tech, posting a 2.68 ERA in High-A Hudson Valley before an aggressive promotion to Double-A Somerset. The new level proved challenging, and Hampton’s ERA inflated to 4.37 in 11 starts, but that’s to be expected for someone drafted as recently as last June.
The organization will most likely start him in Double-A to begin the season. He throws a ton of strikes and stays ahead in counts, which will go a long way to smooth out his game at the higher levels. The Yankees player development team has done a fantastic job with Hampton, and they believe he’s just getting started.
The Yankees have done a good job molding minor league pitchers into tantalizing prospects in recent years, often flipping those prospects for major league talent, as they just did for Soto. If they want to keep that engine chugging, they’ll need the likes of Warren, Hampton, and Beeter to step up. History indicates they just might be able to do so.