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Underrated Yankees prospects who came up big in 2023

These six players may not see their names on prospect lists, but their performances this season should push them into the conversation.

2022 Arizona Fall League Headshots -
Yorlin Calderon
Photo by Barry Gossage/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Several of the Yankees’ top prospects have drawn a great deal of attention of late as they broke through to the big leagues, and during the offseason we’ll be able to read about the highly-regarded players who are still on the way. Part of the fun of each minor league season is also seeing players hit or pitch their way onto prospect lists as their tools translate into performance and production. This year alone we’ve seen players like Chase Hampton, Agustin Ramirez, Ben Rice, Zach Messinger, and Danny Watson arrive among the best thirty prospects in the organization according to Another group of players are finishing up excellent seasons that should bring their names into winter conversations, but for now they remain in the background and underrated. Here are six players who have made a case for more attention after having terrific years.

Jesus Rodriguez

All Rodriguez has done in his career is hit. In the 21-year-old’s 201 games as a Yankee prospect, he has a stellar slash line of .315/.405/.474, but the question for any young player is whether he can continue to perform that way as he is promoted. So far, so good. His numbers this year look an awful lot like the ones he’s put up in the short-season leagues, but he has done the damage in Low-A and High-A instead, and his production has ticked up since his promotion to Hudson Valley.

With a sound swing from the right side, Rodriguez is one of the more interesting prospects in the system, and his well-above-average offense has come while splitting time among third base (50 games), first base (15 games), left field (11 games), and catcher (29 games). That defensive versatility is coming from a 5-foot-9, 182-pound athlete who has also stolen 19 bases.

Omar Martinez

The Yankees suddenly have a deep group of interesting catchers in their system, several of whom can feel good about the numbers they’ve put up in 2023, and one of them is Martinez. Though he hasn’t received a promotion from Tampa this year, and he is a year older than Rodriguez, the lefty-hitting Martinez has consistently shown on-base ability and power throughout the season. He can lift the ball to the pull side, which he has done to the tune of 18 homers and 16 doubles. He can play first base when he isn’t behind the plate, and that offers the chance for his bat to advance and play should he lag behind other catchers in the organization defensively. His career on-base percentage of .379 points to a hitter with sound strike zone judgment, a necessary trait for a legitimate hitting prospect.

Yorlin Calderon

The Yankees not only saw fit to promote Calderon from Tampa to Hudson Valley, but they decided to stretch him out as a starter after he had made 34 relief appearances this year. It looks like a good decision so far. The right-handed Calderon has been just as effective in the rotation as he was out of the bullpen, and he now has a combined 3.10 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 81.1 innings at his two stops this season. Calderon doesn’t have a big fastball, but his sharp sinker plays well with an excellent changeup and a breaking ball that changes shape. The 22-year-old is listed at 6-foot-3 and 155 pounds, so he can still add strength to get a tick or two on his fastball and continue to develop as a starter. The Yankees thought enough of Calderon to send him to the Arizona Fall League last year, and he rewarded them with a strong 2023.

Jack Neely

At 6-foot-8, Neely somehow manages to seem taller as he comes over the top with his delivery. He works north and south with a high-velocity fastball and breaking ball, and he racks up K’s along the way. In a combined 65.2 innings between Hudson Valley and Somerset, Neely has an absurd 98 strikeouts. His 2.19 ERA is indicative of his excellence this year, and he’s only given up 38 hits all season. Eight of those hits have been home runs, which is an area to improve upon for the 23-year-old righty. It will be no surprise if Neely is knocking on the door of the big leagues by this time next year.

Bailey Dees

In only his second full season, Dees is making the adjustment to Double-A after dominating in Hudson Valley for much of the year. Seemingly hidden behind relievers like Neely and Watson, Dees has numbers that stack up just fine. He has a combined ERA of 2.48 in 58 innings, where he has allowed only 32 hits and struck out 75. At 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, he has a simple delivery that produces mid-90’s velocity and a slider and change that can both be sharp. There is a kit here to make an excellent big-league reliever, and Dees has done nothing to make those hopes unrealistic.

Luis Velasquez

Velasquez, 22, is not an imposing figure at 5-foot-10 and 155 pounds, but that doesn’t mean minor league hitters have had any luck hitting against him this year. In 36 games and 62 innings pitched out of the bullpen, Velasquez has allowed only 28 hits (.132 average against) while striking out 77. His four-seam fastball rides while his breaking ball has diving action, and he mixes in a changeup for strikes as well. His 1.74 ERA between Tampa and Hudson Valley makes him an interesting prospect to watch in 2024.