The dawn of the Anthony Volpe Era seems to be the crest of a wave. Young players like Volpe and Oswaldo Cabrera are now Yankees regulars, while Oswald Peraza awaits at Triple-A Scranton, and Jhony Brito has entered the public consciousness by taking the place of Luis Severino in the major league rotation. Jasson Domínguez’s loud performance in spring training has reignited hope that his future will arrive faster than we thought, and Andrés Chaparro showed in the last month that his bat is not a fluke.
There is a special enthusiasm for young players right now, and the coming minor league season offers the opportunity for more players to join the party. After an offseason parade of prospect lists shuffled some familiar names, it’s time to think about who could emerge from off the radar in 2023 to make their names known as well.
It might be wrong to say Agustin Ramirez could come out of nowhere in 2023, since he has already attracted attention from evaluators for his right-handed bat. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs has Ramirez as the 13th-best prospect in the Yankees’ system, and he is by far the high man on him in publicly shared lists. It does validate Ramirez’s monstrous showing in the complex league last year, where he hit for power and average while getting on base and cutting his strikeout rate in half from the previous season.
The 21-year-old catcher has real pop, and he will get a chance to show that in a full season league for the first time this year. While Ramirez can’t be expected to put up the .892 OPS of 2022, a strong performance in Tampa will put his name alongside Austin Wells and Antonio Gomez as the organization’s best catching prospects.
Left-handed hitters Spencer Jones and Anthony Hall could both be roaming the Hudson Valley outfield this year, and they may receive the bulk of the attention, but Grant Richardson could make it a powerful trio. The 23-year-old showed last year that he could hit the ball out of any part of the ballpark while belting 16 home runs in 90 games between Low-A and High-A, with 10 of those homers coming in the last 35 games after his promotion.
The next step for Richardson is cutting down on his strikeouts after he had a 37-percent K-rate in 2022. If he can do that, the power begins to play up more and his outlook goes from good organizational player to legitimate prospect.
Alex Mauricio went off the radar by retiring from baseball in 2019. The Norfolk State product was selected by the Yankees in the 27th round of the 2017 draft, and five years later, he returned to the organization to pitch out of the bullpen for the Hudson Valley Renegades in High-A. His numbers weren’t eye-popping, but his stuff seemed to have taken a jump since he had been away. Mauricio’s appearances in spring training this year gave us a peek at his velocity and spin rates, and those measurements confirmed that his stuff is real.
Alex Mauricio was drafted by the Yankees in 2017 and pitched in 21 games before retiring in 2019. He recently decided to make a comeback, and signed a free agent deal with the Yankees. pic.twitter.com/KWOVOss77H— Eli Fishman (@elijfishman) March 15, 2022
Above average spin on a four-seamer that bumped 97 and well above average spin on a cutter that hit 91 would play in the big leagues, and those numbers indicate that Mauricio could be on the verge of a breakout. He needs to command the fastball and cut down on the walks, but the right-hander should get plenty of opportunities to refine his craft in Somerset this year.
Randy Vásquez pitched his way onto the 40-man roster with a wicked, sweeping breaking ball that could be hell on right-handed hitters. Carlos Gomez is not a starter like Vásquez, but he can throw a similar breaking ball from the right side and vary its shape. He used it to strike out 78 hitters in a combined 66.2 innings between Tampa and Hudson Valley.
Slider from Yankees' minor league reliever Carlos Gomez. No shortage of sweepers in the NYY system.— Lucas (@DBITLefty) May 27, 2022
Now 24, Gomez has reached the point in his career where a strong showing in Double-A can draw serious eyes in his direction, especially when he is spinning the heck out of the ball and making it easy to squint and see a big league reliever. He will need to improve his walk rate, however, as he gave out more than five free passes per nine innings last year.
With a walk rate similar to Gomez, Joel Valdez has to keep the ball in the strike zone more often as well. But Valdez is a different pitcher. He’s 22, he’s left-handed, he’s a starter, and he’s only been out of the complex league for 25.2 innings. That short stint gave a glimpse of what Valdez could do, as he struck out 13 hitters per nine, limited hard contact, and pitched to a 2.10 ERA.
A first look at Yankees LHP prospect Joel Valdez, who was acquired from the Phillies for Donny Sands and Nick Nelson this offseason. Looked really good on the mound yesterday. pic.twitter.com/SPDvm5tPZR— Eli Fishman (@elijfishman) March 17, 2022
At 6-foot-4 and 171 pounds, Valdez can pitch at 94 with angle and complement his fastball with an above average slider. There are traits here that can pop if his command improves.
Indigo Diaz has a memorable name, but it isn’t well known by Yankee fans, since he just arrived from the Braves this offseason in a trade for Lucas Luetge. The first thing to know about Diaz is that he strikes people out, and he has throughout his professional career. With 105 innings pitched to his credit, Diaz has punched out 161 in those innings, which is what you want to see in a relief prospect. Fans may have seen him pitching for Team Canada in the most recent World Baseball Classic.
Looking deeper, there is above average spin on a four-seamer that perhaps helps it play up, since Diaz won’t blow people away with the 93 he averaged in his brief spring training this year. This is yet another pitcher with walk issues, after he was over five per nine last year in Double-A, but at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds with apparent swing-and-miss stuff, he could push himself into the discussion of future Yankee relief options with a big 2023.
All it takes is one special season for a young prospect to make a name for himself. This could very well be the year for the players above.