The Hudson Valley Renegades are entering their third season as an affiliate of the Yankees in the High-A South Atlantic League. If you live even remotely close to Fishkill, New York and you haven’t been to a game at Dutchess Stadium, do yourself a favor and make plans to go some time in 2023. It’s a great venue, terrific atmosphere, and good baseball. Fans have been treated to some of the Yankees’ best prospects at the Dutch the last two years, with Oswald Peraza, Anthony Volpe, and Jasson Domínguez spending time with the ‘Gades. This upcoming season looks to offer more of the same, and here is a guess at who could be breaking camp with Hudson Valley to open up on April 7th.
There is an argument to be made that Antonio Gomez is the Yankees’ best catching prospect, but that argument would be based on unrealized potential. Gomez’s defensive tools, led by a cannon for an arm that has produced big-league pop times since he was a teenager, have outshined his offensive output thus far, but the right-handed power is still evident in this emerging hitter. He should be the primary catcher for the Renegades at 21 years old.
Batting from the other side of the plate is Ben Rice, who put up an OPS of .810 during a solid year in Tampa in 2022. Rice should also see a little time at first base in addition to splitting catching duties with Gomez. Juan Crisp, a 22-year-old prospect, could very well be the third catcher at Hudson Valley, though the Panamanian is coming off a season where he only appeared in one game. He has served as a backup for the major league team in spring training this year, so he appears to be healthy.
A two-run double off the bat of Yankees #18 prospect Antonio Gomez for @TampaTarpons pic.twitter.com/W5OsnjcaFN— Eli Fishman (@elijfishman) July 3, 2022
There are some toolsy infielders who could be suiting up for the Renegades this year, but none of them are coming off of strong seasons in Tampa.
FanGraphs once counted Alexander Vargas among the top 100 prospects in baseball, and the hope was he would add strength to his twitchy, ultra-athletic frame. So far that hasn’t happened, and he’s coming off of a .582 OPS in Tampa last season. Only 21, Vargas can restore some of his prospect shine with the reps he’s bound to get at shortstop in Hudson Valley.
Switch-hitting Anthony Garcia, 22, has the kind of power to produce memorable home runs, and he hit 14 of them last year, but that power came with an untenable 156 strikeouts in 298 at-bats. Despite his whiffs and low batting average, Garcia still had a .372 OBP in Tampa, so if he could get the ball in play more often he could be a special offensive player. He should see a lot of time at first base this season and perhaps play a little in the outfield.
Marcos Cabrera is perhaps a mixture of Vargas and Garcia — tall, lanky, athletic, and powerful, but with too many strikeouts. Cabrera, 21, should be the regular third baseman, and he will similarly be trying to get to more of his power by improving his contact rate.
Second base could be manned by Ben Cowles, a returning player to Hudson Valley who played 23 games with the Renegades at the end of 2022. Cowles had a nice offensive season in Tampa last year, and a repeat of that performance will have him pushing for a promotion to Double-A by midseason.
Backing up all over the infield could be two right-handed hitters in Roberto Chirinos and Luis Santos. Chirinos is the more powerful of the two, and he can even fill in at first base.
Yankees #17 prospect Alexander Vargas with home run #2 on the year to give @TampaTarpons a 6-0 lead in the second. pic.twitter.com/0HAfmDH8FE— Eli Fishman (@elijfishman) May 5, 2022
The star of the show for Hudson Valley could be last year’s first-round pick Spencer Jones, who should open the season in center field. Trey Sweeney, the Yankees’ first-rounder in 2021, began his season in High-A last year and played his way into a promotion at year’s end. That would be the ideal path for Jones, coming out of a major college program at Vanderbilt and having top-of-the-scale athletic ability. The 6-foot-7 Jones will hopefully acclimate quickly to his first full season in professional baseball playing a demanding position.
There is a chance the Yankees send Anthony Hall, last year’s fourth-round draft pick, up north to begin the season, but it may be more likely he starts the year in Tampa. If Hall is with Hudson Valley, he will be the right fielder, but if he’s not, flanking Jones should be Grant Richardson, who hit 10 homers in a 35-game stint with Hudson Valley last year, and some combination of Raimfer Salinas, Madison Santos, and Kyle Battle. Richardson is more of a corner outfielder, and he and Santos are left-handed hitters. Salinas and Battle are righties, and they can both play any of the spots in the outfield.
Nice day at the plate for No. 5 Prospect OF Spencer Jones pic.twitter.com/ZRoGVAHgKk— NYYPlayerDev (@NYYPlayerDev) March 17, 2023
With so many pitchers attending minor league spring training, and a high percentage of them having experience, it is difficult to predict which group will break camp on the active roster. However, it is predictable that Hudson Valley’s pitching staff will have an exciting group of arms.
Last year’s top two drafted pitchers, Drew Thorpe and Trystan Vrieling, may or may not be a package deal, but based on them both having significant college experience, advanced pitch packages, and the ability to control the baseball, it is likely they make their first professional starts in Hudson Valley. Also potentially debuting in the rotation is another high draft pick, Brendan Beck, who has yet to throw a pitch in a Yankee uniform because he has been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery since 2021. The other rotation candidates are interesting prospects in their own right, with Juan Carela, who finished last season with the Renegades, Zach Messinger, Joel Valdez, and Yorlin Calderon all in the mix to pick up starts.
Tyrone Yulie has been a starter in his career thus far, and that may continue at Hudson Valley, but his power stuff may play up in the bullpen and a conversion to relief may be in his future.
A huge number of diverse relievers are in play to open the season with the Renegades. There are power righties like Jack Neely, Leam Mendez, and Enrique Santana, and multi-inning lefties like Ryan Anderson and Michael Giacone. There are straight relievers like Nick Paciorek, Alex Bustamante, Shaine McNeely, Kevin Stevens, Danny Watson, and Bailey Dees.
Then there is a group of pitchers who pitched very little or not at all in 2022, namely Clay Aguilar, Evan Voliva, Connor Pellerin, and Leo Pestana, and any of them could find their way onto the Renegades’ roster. Considering Hudson Valley broke camp with seventeen pitchers last year, a lot figures to be determined in the pitching department during minor league spring training this year.