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Yankees Prospects: Week five minor league review

Hudson Valley hitters are putting up big numbers, and a prospect may be re-emerging in their midst.

MiLB: JUL 09 Florida Complex League - Yankees v Tigers
Alexander Vargas
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Hudson Valley Renegades are the brightest star in the Yankees’ galaxy right now, reminding us what offense can look like from a baseball team. They were a fun watch last week, but Somerset is rolling along and Tampa is starting to come to life with the bats as well.

Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

Record: 10-17 after losing four of six to the Worcester Red Sox

Run Differential: -28

Coming up: Six games back home against the Rochester Red Wings (Nationals) starting on Tuesday, May 2

There wasn’t much going on for the RailRiders after Wednesday of last week, as they lost the last four games of their series in a row. Shining a light on the standouts in the lineup is a difficult task, as there wasn’t a lot of offensive production to begin with, but catchers Rodolfo Durán and Mickey Gasper can feel good about their contributions. Durán hit two homers and slugged .733 for the week, and Gasper had a .429/.500/.500 line against the Red Sox.

On the pitching side, starters Tanner Tully and Randy Vásquez combined for 10.2 innings without surrendering an earned run and struck out 14 between them. A sharp start from Sean Boyle yielded a no-decision, but he whiffed eight in five innings. Barrett Loseke was the star for the bullpen, recording four strikeouts in 4.1 innings without allowing a run.

Players of note (stats are season totals):

3B Andrés Chaparro: .772 OPS, 8 HR, 14 RBI

OF Estevan Florial: .905 OPS, 3 HR, 16 BB, 7 SB

OF Elijah Dunham: .247/.373/.376; 8 2B, 14 BB

SP Randy Vásquez: 26.2 IP, 18 ER, 18 BB, 33 K

RP Aaron McGarity: 13.1 IP, 2.03 ERA, 18 K

RP Deivi Garcia: 16.1 IP, 3.86 ERA, 17 K

Double-A Somerset Patriots

Record: 12-8 after winning four out of five in a rain-shortened series against the Harrisburg Senators (Nationals)

Run Differential: +22

Coming up: Home to take on the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets) for six games starting Tuesday, May 2

A successful week often depends on the quality of the starting pitching, and the Patriots benefited from the strong outings of Blane Abeyta, Clayton Beeter, and Will Warren. The outing of the week belonged to Richard Fitts, as he threw six innings of three-hit, shutout baseball for a win on April 26. The bullpen was led by lefty Michael Giacone, who didn’t allow a run in four innings while striking out five over two appearances.

Offensive contributions continue to be spread out for the Patriots, and this week outfielder Brandon Lockridge, first baseman Eric Wagaman, and outfielder Jasson Domínguez were especially productive. The trio was a combined 15-for-36 with 9 extra-base hits, nine runs scored, and eight RBI.

Players of note:

SS Trey Sweeney: .234/.342/.344, 4 2B, 5 SB

OF Jasson Domínguez: .140/.380/.340, 20 BB, 9 SB

UT Max Burt: 1.235 OPS, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 6 SB

C Carlos Narvaez: .861 OPS, 2 HR

SP Will Warren: 17.1 IP, 4.15 ERA, 29 K

SP Clayton Beeter: 20.2 IP, 1.74 ERA, 23 K

High-A Hudson Valley Renegades

Record: 14-7 after taking four out of six from the Greenville Drive (Red Sox)

Run Differential: +56

Coming up: Back home for six games against the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Nationals) beginning Tuesday, May 2

It was a bit of a strange series for the Renegades this past week, in that they lost back-to-back games by a combined score of 26-5 in between winning four other games with scores adding up to 49-14.

There were hitters providing highlights all week, and it is a take-your-pick situation for where you might focus the attention among Aaron Palensky, Spencer Jones, Spencer Henson, and Ben Cowles, but maybe the most pleasant development came from the performance of shortstop Alexander Vargas.

After a disappointing year with Low-A Tampa, it was becoming debatable as to whether he was still a prospect. The athleticism was still there, the defensive tools were still present, but the swings didn’t look good and quality contact came too infrequently. After this past week, it may be time to start looking at Vargas as a prospect again. The numbers are encouraging across the board, and after he went 8-for-21 with 3 home runs against the Drive, he has his walk rate up to 10.9 and his strikeout percentage at 25. Both of those show improvements over last year, and he’s passing the eye test too. His at-bats look better, the swings much improved, and he’s showing some ability to manipulate the barrel and adjust to pitches. Here’s hoping that continues.

Players of note:

C Ben Rice: .341/.559/.523; 2 HR, 10 RBI, 18 BB

2B Caleb Durbin: .447 OBP, 14 SB

1B Spencer Henson: .990 OPS, 5 HR, 15 RBI

OF Spencer Jones: .939 OPS, 13 XBH, 7 SB

SP Drew Thorpe: 22 IP, 2.86 ERA, 29 K

SP Zach Messinger: 21 IP, 2.14 ERA, 26 K

RP Danny Watson: 11 IP, 20 K

Low-A Tampa Tarpons

Record: 8-13 after after losing four of six to the Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlins)

Run Differential: -14

Coming up: At home to face the Bradenton Marauders (Pirates) for six games beginning Tuesday, May 2

The Tarpons’ bats are beginning to come alive. As a team they have 14 home runs on the season, but they hit eight of them last week. Three of those came off the bat of Ronny Rojas, who had been almost invisible for three weeks and now has an OPS near .900. Jared Serna, who is arguably the best position player on the roster, was 7-for-16 against the Hammerheads and walked three times, meaning he was on base over half the time last week. The Tarpons had nine players hit over .300 for the week, and four broke the .400 barrier. It’s a small sample, but for a team that has struggled to score runs or even rack up base hits, these were positive signs.

The problem was keeping the Hammerheads off the scoreboard. The pitching staff couldn’t do that enough to win the series, but there were some bright spots in the starts of Hayden Merda and Brock Selvidge and Shane Gray’s work out of the bullpen. Merda struck out seven in 5.2 innings of work while allowing two earned runs, and Selvidge nearly matched him, picking up a win by allowing two runs in 5 innings. Gray pitched 4.1 innings over two appearances and struck out five while allowing only one run.

Players of note:

OF Nelson Medina: .296/.371/.537; 13 RBI leads the team

2B Jared Serna: 18 for 58; leads the team in hits; .412 OBP, 6 SB

1B/3B Ronny Rojas: .879 OPS, 3 HR leads the team

C/1B: Omar Martinez: .264/.400/.434; 2 HR, 15.4 BB%

SP Justin Lange: 14.2 IP, 26 K

SP Brock Selvidge: 19.2 IP, 3.66 ERA, 20 K, 1.17 WHIP

Prospect of the week: Aaron Palensky

If you are a Greenville Drive observer and know nothing about the minor league players of the New York Yankees, you probably left this past week with the impression that Palensky has to be one of their top prospects. Palensky was 7-for-12 against the Drive, hit four homers, doubled, drove in nine, scored seven times, had three walks, and stole two bases. This was all in the span of three games. For the season, Palensky is now sporting a .404/.500/.957 line in 54 plate appearances, and that comes with seven homers, 20 RBI, and seven steals. He probably shouldn’t be repeating High-A, being that he has previous experience in Double-A, but the roster crunch game sent him back to Hudson Valley. Some room may need to be made for him as an everyday player somewhere if the right-handed-hitting outfielder even approaches this level of performance going forward.