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The Somerset Five: Patriots’ rotation represents the Yankees pitching future

Drew Thorpe, Chase Hampton, Yoendrys Gómez, Matt Sauer and Richard Fitts could be contributors in 2024.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 Yankees, in all likelihood, aren’t going anywhere. They just don’t look like a playoff-caliber team, and as it’s been speculated recently, perhaps it’s time to think about 2024, call up some of their prospects in the high minors, and get their feet wet.

The offense has been a problem all year. The Yankees lineup is old, unathletic, and injury-prone. Some of the contracts will be very difficult to move, but the organization needs to prioritize finding (or developing) young, athletic, and talented hitters with potential. It’s easier said than done, though.

Pitching doesn’t seem to be an organizational problem as much as the offense. Theoretically, entering 2024 with Gerrit Cole, a healthy Carlos Rodón, Nestor Cortes and Clarke Schmidt is not a bad situation, and there are plenty of potential candidates for the fifth spot.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, most of the Yankees’ quality pitching prospects were in the low minors. That’s not the case anymore, fortunately, and most of them have been brilliant with the Somerset Patriots (Double-A) in 2023.

In fact, you could say that most of the Yankees’ hopes for the future rest on five arms currently in Somerset: Chase Hampton (the team’s number four prospect), Drew Thorpe (number five), Richard Fitts (number 12), Matt Sauer (number 25) and Yoendrys Gómez (number 26). The Patriots rotation boasts the most impressive collection of pitching talent in the system right now. The 2024 Yankees can feed from it to get younger and better, not to mention shore up the organizational pitching depth with exciting prospects.

The team was forced to use the likes of Jhonny Britto and Randy Vásquez more than they probably would have wanted in 2022, but if just a few of those arms pan out, the situation can change next year. Let’s not forget about Luis Gil, too, who is working his way back from major surgery.

Having so many quality pitching prospects can actually help the Yanks bring in some impact bats in potential trade scenarios. Most of them will surely be in Triple-A or the majors by this time next years, barring injury.

Let’s take a look at all of them individually. Hampton, who turned 22 earlier this month and was taken in the sixth round of last year’s draft, was brilliant in High-A to open the year (2.68 ERA in nine starts and 47 innings, with a 16/77 BB/K ratio). That, of course, paved the way for his promotion to Somerset, where he has struggled a bit ERA-wise (4.77 in 54.2 frames) but keeps striking out over a batter per inning (62) and has a decent 4.01 FIP and 3.89 xFIP.

Thorpe was brilliant in High-A (2.81 ERA in 109 innings, with 33 walks and 138 punchouts) and his first start with the Patriots was brilliant: eight scoreless innings with no bases on balls and nine strikeouts.

Here is what he did in his second one:

He attacks hitters, has excellent command, a beautiful changeup, a solid, developing slider and a nice fastball; and the Yanks hope those weapons can result in a starter’s package at some point in 2024.

Fitts is a 2021 sixth-round pick who topped out at High-A last year but opened 2023 in Somerset. There, in 125 innings, he has a very solid 3.31 ERA and a 32/135 BB/K ratio. Here is MLB Pipeline’s report about his fastball:

“His 91-97 mph four-seam fastball features natural cutting and riding action, as well as quality induced vertical break that gives it tremendous carry up in the zone.”

That’s highly encouraging, since the fastball remains the most important pitch in the game. Fitts also has two variations of a breaking ball: a sweeping slider and a harder cutter. He also throws a changeup. There is definite starter potential in Fitts, who also boasts spot-on control.

Sauer and Gómez have been in the system for quite a while. The former was drafted in 2017 and the latter was signed in 2016. With a 3.53 ERA in 35.2 frames (and a 15/43 BB/K ratio) for the Patriots, the 24-year-old Sauer has taken a step forward this year as he returned from elbow and forearm issues in June. Control is a work in progress, but the fact he is healthy and performing well against Double-A hitters is significant.

Gómez, 23, also needs to cut the walks (he has 24 in 43 Double-A innings) but he has a big arm that has registered 51 strikeouts in that workload. His 3.14 ERA speaks well of him.

The odds say all five pitchers won’t pan out as hoped and turn into MLB starters. The Yankees hope most of them do, though, and there is still value in a young, hard-throwing reliever. This group actually, in a way, has the keys to the Yankees future.