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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 5/26/23

Bombers promote Randy Vásquez; Cortes’ late-inning struggles; Kiner-Falefa adjusting to outfield duties; LeMahieu reflects on recent slump; Observations on Yankees’ top pitching prospects.

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MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Philadelphia Phillies Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

MLB Trade Rumors | Darragh McDonald: As a result of Domingo Germán’s 10-game suspension handed down after he was ejected following a foreign substance check, the Yankees find themselves light a man in the starting rotation, with the rules prohibiting them from replacing their suspended starter on the active roster. Therefore, the team has announced it is calling up Randy Vásquez and handing him his MLB debut tonight against the Padres.

He joins Jhony Brito as the second starting pitching prospect to debut for the Yankees this season. He throws a mid-80s breaking ball with elite spin as his best weapon, backed up by a mid-90s fastball, cutter, and changeup. My colleague Marcus had a more extensive breakdown of the young pitcher over the spring, so be sure to check it out here. In nine starts at Triple-A, Vásquez is 1-5 with a 4.85 ERA, 4.68 FIP, and 50:23 strikeout to walk ratio in 42.2 innings.

New York Post | Andrew Crane: The Yankees’ eight-run meltdown in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s 9-6 loss to the Oriole was one of the most alarming occurrences of the season, and Nestor Cortes was at the heart of it. Expected to prop up the middle of the rotation following his All-Star campaign of 2022, Cortes instead has looked more like the pitcher designated for assignment by three different teams between 2017 and 2019, with a bloated 5.30 ERA in 10 starts. The pattern is simple — he pitches well enough in the first four innings of starts, but rapidly falls apart from the fifth inning beyond. The 28 year old southpaw has no explanation for his struggles, only offering that he expects his numbers eventually will return “back to normal.” | Bryan Hoch: The writing was on the wall for Isiah Kiner-Falefa when the Yankees announced an open competition in spring for the starting shortstop job — a competition which Anthony Volpe won resoundingly. Rather than lament his fate, IKF put in the work to learn how to play the outfield, a role which he may see expand following Aaron Hicks’ DFA. So far, he has graded out as a neutral defender on the long grass, and has even experienced a bit of a power surge of late, with three home runs, a double and a triple in his last six games.

NJ Advance Media | Randy Miller: DJ LeMahieu has been scuffling a bit of late, with a 27 wRC+ across his last 12 games. The veteran infielder admitted he was at a bit of a loss for this two-week slide. He’s making consistent hard contact, has cut down his chase rate, and most importantly claims he feels fully healthy. That being said, he did identify an increase in swing and miss and strikeouts as a potential culprit, though at the end of the day he doesn’t sound overly concerned that this is anything more than a minor blip one tends to get over the course of a long season.

The Athletic | Brendan Kuty (subscription required): Vásquez isn’t the only Yankees pitching prospect who has caught evaluators’ attention through the first months of the 2023 season. Kuty spoke with Yankees minor-league pitching coordinator Sam Briend about guys we should be paying attention to, and he spoke glowingly about a handful of young prospects.

Will Warren, ninth on Keith Law’s top Yankees prospect list, was recently promoted to Triple-A, where the Yankees hope facing tougher opposition will help him find the two of the missing pieces — cutting back on walks and better execution with two strikes. We’ve spoken already about Vásquez, though Briend did emphasize how he’s remastered the breaking ball following an initial adjustment period to the smaller seams of an MLB-regulation ball in Triple-A. Drew Thorpe was the Yankees’ second-round pick last year and places 16th on Law’s list. The Yankees, impressed by his competitive makeup, were aggressive in promoting him to High-A, where he has a 3.55 ERA through seven starts.

Chase Hampton was recently identified by Baseball America’s Josh Norris as a fast riser on their midseason prospect list. His fastball is up to 98 mph thanks to an offseason velocity program, no doubt a contributor to the sky-high strikeout rates he’s running at High-A. Finally, we have an update on Deivi García’s transition from the rotation to the bullpen. This role will allow García to be more aggressive in the zone with a fastball that has also gained significant velocity, rather than have to pace himself across an entire outing.