There is a certain mysteriousness about minor league spring training. Understandably, it isn’t covered the way the major league version is, so information tends to trickle out, if it even comes out at all. Fans get a peek at minor league players as fill-ins for the big leaguers during spring training games, and while that can be informative in regard to a player’s existence and potential, it does not reveal a player’s standing in the organization or even the condition of his health for the season.
The Yankees released their minor league “break camp” rosters this past Sunday, and that was on the heels of Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre beginning their season two days earlier. We now know who is playing where, and, maybe just as importantly, we know who won’t be playing. Here are some of the surprises and questions of the Yankees’ minor league assignments as the season gets underway.
What happened to the pitchers?
The most glaring omissions to the minor league rosters were on the pitching side. Well-known prospects like Yoendrys Gómez and Matt Sauer, anticipated youngsters such as Luis Serna and Trystan Vrieling, and potentially fast-moving relievers Carson Coleman and Edgar Barclay were all missing for reasons that were unclear. It was also hoped that former second-round pick Brendan Beck finally would be ready to debut after spending all last year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but he wasn’t listed either. Sleeper prospect Josue Panacual was thought to be on his way to Somerset this season, but he has been placed on the 60-day injured list for an unknown reason.
Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline has been able to fill in a bit of the information gap in a recently-posted online update. Carson Coleman has joined Panacual on the 60-day IL after undergoing elbow surgery that will keep him out most of this season. Callis called the surgery “less extensive” than the reconstruction of Beck, but we will be fortunate to see Coleman pitch at all in 2023.
Thankfully, none of the other pitchers mentioned above are down for the year at this time, but their injury statuses are concerns. After pitching quite well in major league spring training and looking as if he’d recovered the stuff that got him placed on the 40-man roster, Gómez is out with an unspecified shoulder injury. Vrieling also pitched briefly in big league camp, but his velocity raised eyebrows when sitting around 90 mph, and he is out with an elbow issue. Sauer has a forearm strain, which is always a concern and he already has a Tommy John surgery in his past. Serna, who at 18-years-old is one of the Yankees’ most intriguing prospects, is down with shoulder fatigue, and you can expect him to be treated with extra precaution.
Barclay’s condition is unknown, though he was placed on Hudson Valley’s 7-day injured list. The 7-day designation is possibly a good sign that we’ll see him relatively soon, while fellow reliever Derek Craft, who was expected to be in the Somerset bullpen, was placed on the 60-day IL with an apparently more serious injury. The names of Matt Minnick, Nick Ernst, Osiel Rodriguez, Leam Mendez, Montana Semmel, and Ocean Gabonia are all curiously absent from rosters as well.
Anthony Hall is not the only outfielder missing
Spencer Jones is beginning his season with Hudson Valley, as was expected, but there was a chance fellow 2022 draft pick Anthony Hall would join him. Hall isn’t with the Renegades and he’s not on Tampa’s active roster either, as it appears he is rehabbing his second injury since he signed last summer. Depending on the source, Hall either broke the hamate in his right hand in his first professional game and then suffered a wrist injury that required surgery, or it was the other way around. Either way, Callis said Hall should be ready to play some time this month.
Two other potential Hudson Valley outfielders didn’t show up on the break camp roster when the names of Grant Richardson and Madison Santos were missing. Richardson is now on the 7-day injured list for the Renegades, but it isn’t clear what happened to Santos. He struggled with Tampa last year, but players like Marcos Cabrera and Anthony Garcia were promoted with similarly ugly stat lines. Santos was on the spring training roster, so he may be injured too.
Christopher Familia had an .822 OPS in 190 at-bats with Tampa last year, and it was thought he would return there to start this season, but he did not appear on their break camp roster.
What happened to the draft picks?
The Yankees drafted and signed 20 players last summer, and all of them were college players, but only nine of them appear on full-season rosters out of camp. Trystan Vrieling is dealing with the aforementioned elbow, and it is unfortunately known that fifth-rounder Eric Reyzelman is on the 60-day injured list, which indicates a lost season due to an arm injury, but the rest of the players aren’t accounted for. Pitchers Cam Schlittler, Ryan Harvey, Jackson Fristoe, Kris Bow, Sebastian Keane, and Trevor Kirk were not assigned to a team, while infielders Brett Barrera and Beau Brewer are missing as well. Several of those players appeared on lineup cards as backups during major league spring training, so we will wait to see when they show up.
Meanwhile, Alex Bustamante and Mason Vinyard, undrafted free agents signed in 2022, are both members of the Tampa Tarpons to begin the season.
Northeastern RHP Sebastian Keane notched a new career high 10 K today in 7 IP.— Ian Smith (@FlaSmitty) March 27, 2021
Showed a quality four pitch mix lead by a low 90s FB and this filthy SL that he notched 8 of the strikeouts on ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/9yk5HwBnq2
Minor league free agent trickle-down effect
The Yankees signed a bevy of minor league free agents in the offseason to provide depth for the big league club, but when those players didn’t make the major league roster (though Ian Hamilton now has) they landed with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. That closed up a number of roster spots that may have gone to players who were with Somerset last year and may have logically taken the step to Triple-A this season. Starters Will Warren and Clayton Beeter and relievers Steven Jennings and Barrett Loseke all had reason to believe they’d be pitching for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this April, but they will be with Somerset instead. Brandon Lockridge and Jeisson Rosario both could have made the jump to Triple-A, but the presence of Willie Calhoun, Billy McKinney, and Michael Hermosillo means there will be more at-bats in Double-A for the two outfielders.
Having some pitchers repeat Double-A keeps reliever Carlos Gomez in Hudson Valley, while the signing of infielder Delvin Perez, who will play in Somerset, likely pushed newly-acquired Caleb Durbin back to High-A as well.
Two interesting names in Hudson Valley
There weren’t many surprise promotions coming out of camp, but Hudson Valley had two eyebrow-raisers on their roster. Chase Hampton, a sixth-round pick last summer, should now be viewed as a breakout candidate this year and will be a member of the Renegades’ rotation. He had an interesting pitch package and starter’s build coming out of Texas Tech, and his Opening Day assignment indicates some things are coming together early. Since he pitched in a spring training game with the big league club, we got a brief glimpse at some pitch data showing Hampton throwing four-seam fastballs and sliders with above-average spin. The fastball averaged 94 and bumped 96. With a somewhat aggressive assignment out of the chute, this is a pitcher to watch in 2023.
Another noticeable name on the Hudson Valley roster is Rafael Flores, a 22-year-old catcher signed as an undrafted free agent last year out of Rio Hondo Junior College in California. Flores had a brief but loud stint in the complex league after signing, with six hits in fourteen at-bats that included two home runs. With Antonio Gomez also in Hudson Valley, Flores should not be looked upon as the odds-on starter, but the organization’s evaluators clearly like what they see, and they wouldn’t send a player with this little experience to High-A so soon without thinking he would play quite a bit, whether that’s behind the plate or as a designated hitter. Keep an eye on this one.