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Yankees claim Bubba Thompson, sign Cody Poteet

A pair of depth moves ring in the New Year in New York.

Texas Rangers v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

We’re four days into the New Year and the Yankees have completed their first additions of 2024. In the span of a few minutes, the team claimed outfielder Bubba Thompson off waivers from the Reds before signing pitcher Cody Poteet to a major league contract. There were two open spots on the 40-man roster, one of which is immediately filled by Thompson; Poteet will likely follow shortly whenever the deal becomes official.

Thompson was selected by the Rangers in the first round with the 26th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. He climbed as high as the fifth-ranked prospect in the Rangers system in MLB Pipeline’s 2019 ranking and placed as the 48th overall prospect in baseball on Baseball Prospectus’ 2019 preseason list.

Thompson’s development was delayed by a broken hamate bone in his left hand in 2019 and the cancellation of the minor league season during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, though he did earn Fall League All-Star honors following the 2019 season. 2022 was his most productive season in the minors, batting .303 with 13 home runs, 49 stolen bases, and a 105 wRC+ in 80 games at Triple-A, earning his major league debut on August 4th, where he recorded his first big league hit, a bunt single off Johnny Cueto. Four weeks later, he clubbed his first big league home run off Framber Valdez.

Thompson is a burner on the basepaths, registering the second-fastest sprint speed of all major league batters (30.4 ft/s) and the eighth-highest stolen base percentage (18-for-21, 85.7 percent) in the AL. He has played all three outfield positions, primarily staying in left, and has graded out as a roughly league-average defender in a small sample size. 2023 was a lost campaign as he batted just .170 with a 38 wRC+ in 37 games, leading the Rangers to designate him for assignment on August 11th. He was claimed off waivers by the Royals where he’d finish the season at Triple-A before being claimed off waivers by the Reds at season’s end, only to be DFA’d two months later.

Cody Poteet was taken by the Marlins in the fourth round of the 2015 MLB Draft and made his MLB debut in a start against the Diamondbacks on May 12, 2021. Miami used him mostly as a reliever in 2022, and he experienced some initial success with a 3.86 ERA across 12 appearances totaling 28 innings, only to have his season cut short in August by Tommy John surgery. He was outrighted to Triple-A at the end of the season but elected free agency two days later. Using most of 2023 to recover from the procedure, Poteet made just one scoreless appearance for the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate before being released in December.

Poteet possesses a five-pitch mix of four-seamer, changeup, slider, sinker, and curveball. His fastball averages around 95 mph, but it’s the changeup that’s the real weapon. The pitch owns a lifetime 35 percent whiff rate and .143 batting average against, leading Poteet to make it his most-used pitch ahead of the four-seamer in 2022.

Both of Poteet’s breaking pitches (slider and curveball) possess intriguing movement profiles, exhibiting well-above-average horizontal sweep, so it will be interesting to see how those pitches synergize with the Yankees’ pitching philosophy.

Poteet is expected to compete for both the rotation and the bullpen, while Thompson provides some major-league-tested depth behind a crowded outfield. Neither players moves the needle for the major league club, but are still valuable depth pieces to accrue following the offseason subtractions from free agency, trade, and the Rule 5 Draft.