Earlier this week, the members of the 2022 Somerset Patriots received rings to honor the Eastern League championship they captured last year. The Yankees’ Double-A affiliate finished off the Erie SeaWolves in spectacular fashion, no-hitting them in a 15-0 shutout. It was just the second season in the organization for Somerset, but the partnership with the Yankees has been greatly successful so far.
High-profile prospects contributed up-and-down to Somerset’s championship campaign. Anthony Volpe, Austin Wells, Everson Pereira, Elijah Dunham, Trey Sweeney, and Jasson Domínguez all pitching in on offense while Will Warren, Clayton Beeter, and Carson Coleman impressed on the mound. While some of these players should move on to Triple-A Scranton in 2023, others are lined up to return to Somerset to make another championship run. Here is a guess at who could break camp with the Patriots when they travel north for their home opener on April 6.
Once he has recovered from a rib injury, Austin Wells should return to Somerset as the primary catcher. He logged 55 games in Double-A last year and made defensive strides behind the plate while putting up terrific numbers offensively, so he would not be repeating the level due to a lack of success. It is likely, though, that since Wells is not on the 40-man roster, there is no need to rush him, and there are catchers in Triple-A the Yankees are rostering in case of emergency.
Somerset will not be hurting behind the plate while Wells is healing. Last year’s catching tandem from Hudson Valley, Carlos Narvaez and former first-round pick Anthony Seigler, should both see plenty of time for the Patriots. Narvaez has gotten a lot of playing time this spring with the big league club in part because the Yankees have been beset with catching injuries, but the number of reps he’s gotten also speaks to his defensive ability. The switch-hitting Seigler has been through a number of injuries himself, but he set his career back on track last year and is looking to build off of a solid 2022.
Anthony Seigler puts the Yankees ahead with an RBI single pic.twitter.com/5TliX7B6ex— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) March 10, 2023
Last year’s powerful Somerset infield that got great production from Anthony Volpe, Andres Chaparro, and Jesus Bastidas will be tough to top, but the 2023 group looks like it might be up to the task. Trey Sweeney, Tyler Hardman, and T.J. Rumfield should all be with the Patriots after playing together last year in Hudson Valley, and joining them in the infield will likely be Caleb Durbin, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Braves.
The probable alignment would have Rumfield at first, Durbin at second, Sweeney at short, and Hardman at third. Rumfield and Hardman both had successful stints in the Arizona Fall League in 2022, Sweeney is entering his second full season after a nice debut, and the organization is just getting to know Durbin, who was a solid player last year at two minor league stops. Backing up capably at second, short, and third should be Eduardo Torrealba, also up from a long run in Hudson Valley.
The first base position features a bit of a logjam heading into the season. Rumfield figures to get the bulk of the playing time, but with Spencer Henson possibly coming up from High-A, Eric Wagaman having finished last season in Somerset, and Mickey Gasper perhaps blocked from moving on to Scranton, there figures to be some sorting out before camp breaks. It would seem Wagaman and Gasper have a better claim on roster spots due to Wagaman’s offensive success and superior defense at first and Gasper’s ability to put on the catching gear if needed. With Wells missing time at the beginning of the season, having a third catcher active will be important. The organization seems to like Gasper, who is a productive lefty hitter, gritty player, and winning contributor.
Tyler Hardman ✖️ 2⃣@Yankees | @MLBazFallLeague pic.twitter.com/iWVwp6hPst— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) November 4, 2022
All eyes will be on the Somerset outfield, where prospects Jasson Domínguez and Everson Pereira are likely to roam. Domínguez is coming off a fantastic big league camp performance and will likely split time in center field with Pereira, though it won’t be surprising if Domínguez gets the majority of the time there. A big first half of the season will vault Pereira into the discussion of the next Yankee left fielder, and he could push his way to Scranton by July. The challenge for both players may be getting off to good starts if the weather in the northeast is as cold and rainy as it was last April, but given time and health each could be special.
Though he did enough last year to make the move to Triple-A in 2023, Brandon Lockridge may be back in Somerset this season due to a lack of space on the Scranton roster. Injuries and minor league contract opt outs could create some room, but if Lockridge is back in Somerset they could have speed everywhere in the outfield, especially when you consider Aldenis Sanchez could be backing up at every position coming off a 32-steal season in Hudson Valley. Aaron Palensky, also coming off a strong High-A season, is a right-handed hitter who could back up at either corner.
A nice diving catch from Yankees #5 prospect Everson Pereira! @FarmToFame_ pic.twitter.com/wlFLDrbqz0— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) February 25, 2023
Somerset pitchers led the Eastern League in ERA, WHIP, and batting average against in 2022, thanks to a strong combination of starting pitching and relief. This season looks to be no different, with an interesting group of pitchers likely headed to New Jersey this year.
The rotation could feature Yoendrys Gómez, who has pitched well this spring and looks like he may have rediscovered his stuff after a long road back from surgery, as well as Richard Fitts, who tore it up when he got to Hudson Valley last year. Fitts’ college background and electric stuff may well motivate the Yankees to start him in Double-A rather than send him back to the South Atlantic League. Also looking for spots in the rotation could be Blas Castano, Blane Abeyta, Matt Sauer, and Josue Panacual. Of the four, Sauer is solidly a starter, but it’s not out of the question that Castano, Abeyta, and Panacual are considered for bullpen roles in the future, whether that be this season or not.
The bullpen options will be plentiful for Somerset and will likely be a mixture of names coming up from Single-A, coming back from injury, and coming in from other organizations. Hudson Valley veterans Edgar Barclay, Alex Mauricio, Tanner Myatt, and Carlos Gomez should team up with Justin Wilson, who is coming back from injury. Daniel Bies, who hasn’t pitched in a game since 2019, could also find a spot in the Patriots’ bullpen. After a short stint in 2022, Kaleb Cowart may return to Somerset to work with Gray Fenter, Justin Maese, and Indigo Diaz, none of whom were in the Yankees’ organization last year. Diaz was acquired along with Caleb Durbin in a trade for Lucas Luetge, and while he has seen enough Double-A success to move up to Scranton, there may be no room for him at that level to start the season.
The same could be said for Nick Ernst and Steven Jennings, who both pitched well out of the Somerset bullpen in 2022, but may be caught in a numbers game this year and have to return. There are worse fates, since the Patriots look to be set up for another strong season in 2023.