What a difference having a direction makes! It may have taken too long and required a push from ownership, but the New York Yankees are playing their kids and it’s already paying off. After Friday night’s win in the Steel City over the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Yanks have won five of their last six games. They swept the Houston Astros and took three of four against the Boston Red Sox earlier this month. The Yankees are now out of the cellar and have climbed back above .500 since trusting their kids. These Yankee prospects are getting it done. Although it seems too late to affect a wild-card push, this is a positive sign that the Yankees are on the right path. They could be a force again in 2024 with a solid off-season.
According to sources, owner Hal Steinbrenner pushed for their prospects to get a chance, reportedly overruling members of the front office who were against the idea. Judging by how historically good 20-year-old Jasson Dominguez was in eight games before his UCL injury, it was the right way to go. This signifies, perhaps, a welcome change in Yankee philosophy.
This season’s struggles and terrible roster construction should show that the Yankees needed to be younger and more athletic. They needed speed, and power from the left side. All of which these young Yankee prospects have provided. Credit to the Yankee front office for building an emerging farm system, however.
Yankees Prospects Are Getting It Done
Oswald Peraza’s Hitting Streak
Peraza is now on an impressive eight-game hitting streak with his extended playing time. Peraza has a real opportunity to hold down the third base job for next year at this rate. Blessed with a superb arm and glove, he’s silky smooth playing short or third. He has speed, and his bat is coming around too. It always felt like a matter of time for Peraza to start to hit, due to his success in the minors.
Indeed, in his last seven games, he’s batting .300 with a .467 slugging %, a home run, and three RBI. His first home run of the year was a game-winner over the Green Monster at Fenway. It was a memorable moment for the young prospect, who showed his jubilation as he rounded the bases. He is an extreme pull hitter, but he went the other way in a single against the Pirates, showing his improving bat.
Peraza Power 💪 pic.twitter.com/kq5rDfsywi
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 15, 2023
Peraza is the premiere example of someone who should have been given the job earlier this season. Having batted .300 in his rookie audition last year for the big club, and playing well in the postseason, he was an obvious candidate for a larger role.
However, Cashman seemed to be the only person in the league who still had faith that Josh Donaldson would be a success in New York. He continued to give the sunk-cost trade acquisition every chance while having one of their top prospects Peraza linger in Triple-A. This is no disrespect to Donaldson, a former MVP, but at 37 years old, this is a sport trending toward younger players (just look at the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves). Relying on veterans to play to the back of their baseball cards when they’re clearly not the same player is less likely to succeed than giving hungry top prospects their chance to play. This is especially true given this Yankees team was slow and unathletic prior to moving in the younger direction with Peraza. It’s little wonder why the Yankees have started to win again since changing course.
Florial Getting His Chance
Despite Jasson “The Martian” Dominguez going down with a cruel UCL injury after his red-hot start, these young Yanks haven’t missed a beat. It’s a testament to their underrated farm system that they have talent coming through. Estevan Florial, as predicted in my previous article, finally got called up and he’s played well in center field. He has three hits, three walks, two runs, and two RBI in his five starts since being called up. For whatever reason, the Yankees haven’t given him a true look until now. At one point this year they DFA’d him, but reclaimed him once he passed through waivers. Florial hit 28 home runs in Triple-A this year, proving his power potential.
It didn’t make sense why the Yanks didn’t consider Florial until now. They’ve indicated to the media he strikes out too much, but that didn’t hold water considering most of the lineup strikes out too much. Plus, as a team, they are bottom five in MLB in OBP. At 25, Florial still has some upside in his favor. GM Brian Cashman preferred picking up the likes of Greg Allen, Jake Bauers, Willie Calhoun, and Franchy Cordero off the street with little to no long-term upside.
This is a noticeably divergent path from many GMs around the league who prefer to call up their prospects. It made more sense to try for a spark from within when the season was spiraling out of control. Florial would almost surely have fared better than the aforementioned names had he been given a real opportunity. At this stage, he’s probably auditioning for another team for next year, but it’s good to see him taking advantage of this opportunity.
Cabrera Turning It Around
Oswaldo Cabrera was revelatory last season as a utility infielder and regular outfielder in his rookie year. He provided a vital spark down the stretch to help the team clinch the AL East. He finished with six homers, 19 RBI, a .741 OPS, and 38 hits in 44 games, impressive numbers for the rookie. Unfortunately, he struggled in the big leagues for much of the first half of this season. He quickly became the forgotten man, shuttling between Scranton and New York without an obvious role.
However, he’s risen above the struggles and he’s been on fire since getting regular playing time again this month. Cabrera in his last seven games is batting .333 with an OPS well above .800. He went 3-for-4 with a clutch ninth-inning RBI against the Pirates Friday night. His smooth line-drive swing particularly stood out.
This is further evidence of how important it is to stick with prospects. Not all of them will excel from the jump, and some will struggle in their sophomore years too. It’s important to allow them to find their way with a defined role. As is the case with Cabrera, he’s overcome his early struggles and is back to making himself a serious candidate for a key utility role next year in the bigs due to his versatility. The 24-year-old has played every position on the field apart from catcher in his career to date. That is an invaluable skill set.
Two Other Call-Ups to Evaluate
Everson Pereira looks to be pressing so far in his big-league audition. He is batting .143 with a lowly .186 slugging. At just 22 years old, he shot through the minor leagues and mashed in Triple-A, earning a call-up for September. Expectedly, he’s squared up on fastballs in the bigs and has seven RBI. However, he still needs to work on hitting against offspeed pitching, as he currently has a .000 average against offspeed pitching according to MLB.com. This is part and parcel of learning to play in the big leagues. Teams will hone in on these struggles until he shows he can hit changeups. Cutting down on his strikeouts is the key for him moving forward.
On the plus side, he has all the tools to succeed: he’s fast, has a strong arm in the outfield, and has excellent bat speed. He’s one of the top prospects to watch out for down the line.
Austin Wells, the young catcher, has actually played well behind the plate. For instance, he linked up well with Carlos Rodon in his last start. Incidentally, the early scouting report was that Wells needs to work on his catching and his offense is league-ready. If anything, Wells’ catching has been turning heads in the organization, looking athletic behind the plate. Offensively though, he’s batting .103 in the majors, and .080 in his last seven games, so he still needs work in this department.
He did have one huge moment where he hit a standup RBI double off the wall in Houston back on September 3rd, showing off his power to right-center. Wells’ lefty bat is a huge plus to a righty-heavy lineup, and he hit well at all levels of the minors. He should have every opportunity to develop over the next few weeks to see if he has a platoon role next season for the big league team.
Yankees Prospects Getting It Done: Baby Bombers 2.0?
Overall, these Yankee prospects are getting it done, and propelling the Yankees forward. As expected, not everyone called up has hit the ground running. Still, the injection of youth has brought a vibrant personality to the locker room. Win or lose, the Yankees are playing with an energy not seen in a while.
From being a team that couldn’t win a game let alone a series for much of the summer, they are now racking up series wins against the likes of Houston and Boston. At times the Yankees, prior to the youth injection, mimicked something from a scene of The Walking Dead. Injured and playing without an ounce of effort at times, they stumbled through many embarrassing defeats. Now they are reinvigorated and playing with a purpose.
Of course, it’s not all the Yankee prospects’ doing; Aaron Judge is back from injury and mashing. Last year’s MVP has an obscene 32 home runs despite missing 3 months of the season. Also, Gleyber Torres has hit well all year. On the pitching side, Gerrit Cole is the favorite for the Cy Young Award. At least these guys are finally getting some help, and the team is better for it.
This hot streak has likely arrived too late to affect the Yankees’ wild card hopes. The front office should take this as a lesson to be more proactive when seasons go off the rails due to underperformance and IL stints. They appeared afraid to move off of their mistakes, and definitely afraid to play their prospects until September. Perhaps if they made a lot of these moves right after the All-Star break, it may have saved their season.
Nevertheless, this experience is invaluable for these Yankee prospects. The kids are showing the front office and ownership that they should be starting in 2024 and beyond. Volpe, Dominguez, and Peraza can help form a young, vibrant roster. With top-hitting prospect Spencer Jones also close to being ready, these are exciting times for the “Baby Bombers 2.0.”
Photo Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports