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Keep an eye on these Rookie ball Yankees in 2023

Here are some players to look for while scanning the rookie league box scores.

MiLB: JUL 16 FCL Toronto Blue Jays at FCL New York Yankees
Luis Serna
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Florida Coast League (FCL) Yankees, the Dominican Summer League (DSL) Yankees, and the DSL Bombers began their seasons on Monday, June 5th. All three of those teams are considered “Rookie” level, and the players populating their rosters are either extremely young, have very little-to-no professional experience, or both.

Part of the excitement that surrounds those teams is the potential for players you’ve never heard of to emerge as prospects by the end of the summer, but right now they may have unfamiliar names. Hopefully in September this list will get longer as some players pop up with strong performances, but here are some names to follow in the Rookie ball box scores all year long.

FCL Yankees

SS Roderick Arias

One of the top players in all of the 2022 international signing class, Arias joined the Yankees for a bonus of $4 million. The switch-hitting shortstop could end up with four above-average tools, including a gun for an arm. He’s already ranked among the top prospects in the organization without having much playing time under his belt, and he’s off to a good start in Tampa after hitting a grand slam in his second game of the season.

2B Keiner Delgado

One of the more curious prospects in the Yankees organization, Delgado went bonkers in the DSL last year. The 19-year-old switch-hitter had an OPS of 1.010 in 52 games, had 30 more walks than he had strikeouts (58-28), had 23 extra base hits, and stole 34 bases. Numbers like those would rocket most prospects into public consciousness, but at 5-foot-7, 145 pounds, Delgado is still looking for believers. The Yankees seem to think enough of him to park him in the leadoff spot for the first two games of the season, indicating that he will be given plenty of opportunities to prove he is real in 2023.

OF John Cruz

Cruz has his believers, and the fact that he’s in the FCL at 17 years old means the Yankees are among them. At 6-foot-3 and swinging from the left side, there is athleticism and hitting ability to be developed here. Cruz got off to a rough start in his first two games, going hitless with five strikeouts in eight at-bats, but he’s definitely a name to follow through the summer.

RHP Sebastian Keane

A teammate of the soon-to-be-mentioned Cam Schlittler at Northeastern and a fellow 2022 draft pick, Keane was also on the development plan to add strength before getting into games. Reportedly, Keane is a good athlete at 6-foot-3 and 187 pounds, and if he can increase his velocity to go with his ability to throw strikes, the Yankees could have another starting prospect on their hands. He got off to a good start in his first appearance Monday, striking out six in 2.2 innings.

RHP Carlos Lagrange

One of two towering players on the FCL Yankees, the 6-foot-7 Lagrange brings his high-octane fastball stateside after a strong 2022 season in the DSL. He struck out 43 in 33 innings and allowed only 10 hits, and at 20 years old the arrow is pointing up. He got the start on Tuesday and allowed no earned runs in four innings while striking out six.

LHP Henry Lalane

Lalane is the complement to Lagrange, throwing from the left side at 6-foot-7 and 211 pounds. Now in his third professional season and still only 19, Lalane too is coming off of a good year in the DSL, where he had a 2.98 ERA and struck out more than a hitter per inning. He predictably throws hard and has the ability to spin a breaking ball, and he should make his stateside debut soon.

RHP Jordarlin Mendoza

Mendoza is stateside after an impressive 2022 campaign in the DSL. The mechanically-fluid 19-year-old struck out 77 in 55 innings last year, and according to Josh Norris of Baseball America “he pairs a low-90s fastball with a high-spin, low-80s slider.” At 6-feet and 175 pounds, he’s not one of the more physically imposing pitchers for the FCL team, but he is definitely one to watch.

INF Hans Montero

Montero received the largest bonus the Yankees handed out during the 2021 international signing period, but his professional career hasn’t gotten off to the strongest start. In two seasons in the Dominican Summer League, Montero owns a slash line of .193/.341/.256 and a strikeout rate around 30 percent, but he’s only 19, and the right-handed hitter will have an opportunity to prove himself in 2023.

OF Willy Montero

This 18-year-old has steadily improved since his debut in 2021, and the powerful, right-handed swing of this 6-foot-4, 202 pound athlete is starting to put up some impressive exit velocities. Montero hit third in the FCL Yankees’ first game, which may indicate his profile is on the rise.

RHP Cam Schlittler

The Yankees have been successful developing mid-round pitchers, and Schlittler was taken in the 7th round of last year’s draft out of Northeastern. He did not pitch after signing, so he is making his professional debut. Part of the plan with keeping someone like Schlittler out of action after being drafted is giving the development staff a chance to work on his body and his mechanics, so it will be interesting to see the results in games this summer. At 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, there is the potential for the physicality of a power starter to go with a fastball that could sit in the 93-to-95 range.

RHP Montana Semmel

Signed out of a Connecticut high school as a 36th-round draft pick in 2019 and now 21 years old, the 6-foot-4 Semmel has only appeared in 23 games in his career, with the 23rd coming on Tuesday of this week. He is still a curiosity, although his reputation indicates high makeup and potentially powerful stuff.

RHP Luis Serna

Coming into the spring, there was enough buzz around Serna that some considered him to be one of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects. A reported shoulder ailment kept him out of action in spring training, but his age (18) made it logical he would not break camp with a full-season team anyway. He’s listed as an active player on the FCL roster, so we could see him in action soon, and if he performs the way he did in 2022 we may hear his name brought up around the trade deadline.

INF Enmanuel Tejeda

Tejeda has appeared at third base and DH in his first two appearances of the season, but he saw the bulk of his playing time at shortstop in the DSL. He can play all over the infield, and the presence of Roderick Arias likely means he’ll see more time at third or second than at short. It’s Tejeda’s bat that may attract the attention this year, though, as he’s coming off a 2022 season where he had an OPS of .956 and walked more than he struck out. The Yankees usually indicate their feelings about a player in the minors by his position in the lineup, and Tejeda has hit fourth and fifth in his first two games.

C Engelth Urena

Baseball America aggressively ranked Urena the No. 17 prospect in the organization prior to the season, which indicates his exciting potential even though he’s barely gotten into any games. The 18-year-old homered in his first official at-bat last year, and he likely did it with a broken hand. That injury cost him most of his season, but he did return to hit two more homers in the final ten games of 2022. Urena is currently on the injured list to begin the FCL season, and it is unknown when he will begin playing, but he will be one of the more interesting players to watch when he returns.

DSL Yankees

OF Brando Mayea

Mayea has been in the Yankees organization for only six months, and he is making his professional debut after signing one of the largest bonuses in this year’s international class. Badler wrote that Mayea is “an exciting balance of athleticism, tools and hitting ability from a player who can play a premium position.” He has at least double-plus speed that sets him up in center field for the foreseeable future, and his name has a good chance of appearing on the lists of top Yankees prospects after this season.

RHP Jerson Alejandro

While he still signed for a healthy bonus, Alejandro may have flown under the radar to end up with the Yankees. It’s hard to miss him, though. At 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, the 17-year-old Alejandro has “the power stuff to match his frame coming from a sound delivery with efficient arm action. He pitches in the low-to-mid 90s, reaching 98 mph on a high-spin fastball that could eventually reach triple digits,” according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. He has a very high ceiling, and despite his physical development and stuff being advanced, it’s likely that he’ll spends the whole season in the DSL.

DSL Bombers

RHP Omar Gonzalez

Still 17 years old and with only six professional games to his credit, Gonzalez is already ranked the No. 24 prospect in the organization by Baseball America. This is due in part to his size (6-foot-4, 175 pounds) and his present stuff. He already sits in the low 90’s with his fastball, and he’s shown the ability to spin the ball at high rates with efficiency. Gonzalez’s brief turn in the DSL last summer was highly successful, but his youth likely kept him there again in 2023.

OF Gabriel Lara

Badler said that the 5-foot-9 Lara is an “80 runner,” which puts him at the top of the scale, and he has “a slasher stroke with occasional sneaky pop for his size.” That pop was on display this week when Lara hit a walk-off, three-run homer from the left side of the plate. He’s off to a good start, and having two DSL teams allows both Lara and Mayea to get plenty of innings in center field this season.

SS Juan Matheus

The switch-hitting, 19-year-old shortstop returns to the DSL a year after he put up a .914 OPS in the league. While he found success there last summer, the presence of Roderick Arias in the FCL made it difficult for Matheus to get a promotion. Nonetheless, there is a combination of offensive ability and speed here that make this a player to watch in 2023.

OF Richard Meran

Meran signed in January as part of this year’s international free agent class, and the 6-foot, 165 pound teenager has the combination of athleticism and baseball skills any team would covet. Norris called him “a strong defender in center field with an average arm and a smooth swing with plenty of bat speed and a good path through the hitting zone.” Meran is on the seven-day injured list, and he has yet to make his debut.

2B Gabriel Terrero

This 17-year-old switch-hitter will play second base out of the gate for the Yankees, and at 5-foot-7 he might stay on that side of the diamond, but Badler called Terrero an “offensive-minded second baseman with speed.” With perhaps a plus-plus run tool to go with his hitting ability and no need to platoon, Terrero should get a lot of at-bats atop the Bombers’ lineup this summer.