When discussing the Yankees’ most prominent infield prospects before the season, everybody focused on three names: Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, and Oswaldo Cabrera. Well, most people thought the latter would be more of an outfield option, which has been the case so far.
However, there is a name that flew somewhat under the radar, probably because he was not as close to the majors as the other three. It’s Andrés Chaparro, who had an incredible performance in Double-A Somerset in 2022 and showed he was ready to be tested in Triple-A. That test got off to a monumentally poor start. Chaparro went hitless in his first seven games in Scranton. No hits. Zero. All he could muster were three walks in 30 trips to the plate, and he struck out an incredible 13 times.
After that point, however, it’s like something clicked for the slugger. Since April 8th, Chaparro has slashed a very cool .351/.411/.732 with 10 home runs and a 1.143 OPS (178 wRC+) in 107 plate appearances. Over that span, his strikeout rate has been a very manageable 18.7 percent.
With Chaparro, the quality of contact is not in question. He has 16 extra-base hits in just 31 Triple-A games, which is very impressive, and he can post some big boy exit velocities. In fact, his 114.2 mph max exit velocity this year in Scranton would rank 25th in MLB, just a few spots below Aaron Judge’s 114.4 mph. For reference, Giancarlo Stanton is third with 117.8 mph. He also lifts the ball, as he has a beautiful batted ball split with 30.7 percent liners, 33.0 grounders, and 36.4 percent flies with the RailRiders.
The amount of contact he makes is the biggest question, other than his ordinary defense. Over his minor league career, his strikeout rate usually ranges between 20 and 25 percent. It was 19.9 percent last year when he hit 19 homers in 271 trips to the plate in Double-A, and it’s at 23.1 percent overall this year in a more advanced level.
Yes, his strikeout rate is 18.7 percent in his recent hot streak, but we can’t just ignore the first seven games so let’s work with that 23.1 percent mark. If he were to play in the majors, chances are that rate goes higher than 25 percent, at least for some time. At least during his first few weeks (or months) as a major leaguer, punchouts figure to be a problem.
How much of a problem? It will depend on him, entirely. The most important takeaway is that Chaparro has shown the ability to make adjustments on the go. He looked overmatched in those first seven games, but he has been so good after that point that his overall line is a very solid .281/.351/.587 with a 127 wRC+. Sure, his 5-for-5 performance on Tuesday night, which included a double and a homer, definitely helps.
Perhaps Chaparro is ready for the majors as a hitter. Maybe not. But the fact is that if he doesn’t get a chance to show his talent in MLB right now, it will most certainly happen at some point later in the year. And they are looking like a team that could really use an offensive spark at some point.
Defensively, he can act as a first and third baseman, but isn’t particularly good at neither. He is best suited as a DH, with an occasional start in the hot or the cold corner. That might complicate his playing time prospects, but if the Yankees are so starved for offense — at least right now — that they may need to make sacrifices.
So, what do the Yankees have in Chaparro? In his preseason report, FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen ranked him 34th among Yankees prospects. He said he is not sure he would clear the lofty offensive bar associated with first base, but A) he has played more third than first so far in Triple-A, and B) that was before he reached (and thrived, so far) in Scranton.
Despite the seemingly low ranking, Longenhagen had several positive things to say about Chaparro. He stated that the 24-year-old “can hit” and “is much more athletic in the batter’s box than he is anywhere else.” He also highlighted an important ability: “Especially adept at getting on top of high fastballs, Chaparro blends contact and power to do (mostly) pull-side extra base damage.”
Here is the spray chart of his entire minor league career. Pure pull power:
He sure is looking like a .250-.260 hitter with a .330 OPS and a slugging percentage around .500 at peak. That’s not too shabby! Will he get to his ceiling? Will it happen in 2023? We will all find out eventually, but he appears to be a potential solution for the Yankees offensive woes this year if given enough time to adjust. The question is if the Yankees will pull the trigger on adding him to the roster, especially considering the logjam that presents itself should they ever be relatively healthy.