The Yankees farm system is having a franchise year, prospects are flourishing, here are five prospects you may not have heard of.
While the big-league team underperformed, The farm system has had numerous success stories this year. We’ve all heard about the Jasson Dominguez and Anthony Volpe’s of the world, but what about the unheralded prospects? From top to bottom, numerous players have had productive seasons, quietly improving the quality of the Yankees reserves. Here we will dive into 5 prospects who flew under the radar this season.
Waldichuk entered the season outside the Yankees top 30 prospect’s list, but quickly rose to number 9 in this year’s edition. The Yankees selected the 6’4 southpaw in the 5th round of the 2019 draft. He hails from Saint Mary’s, a place that has produced pitchers such as Corbin Burnes, Kyle Barraclough, and Tony Gonsolin. The 23 year old started the year in High-A, pitching for the Hudson Valley Renegades. He dominated in High-A, where he didn’t allow a single run over 30.2 innings. He boasted a stellar .82 WHIP, before being promoted to AA Somerset. He ended the year 4-3 in Somerset, with a 4.20 ERA over 79.1 innings. His 1.29 WHIP was a career high, but produced an extremely solid season.
After averaging a high 80’s-low 90’s fastball in college, Waldichuk’s velocity increased dramatically, averaging 96 as a pro. Combined with a slider and curveball, Waldichuk is able to fool hitters by switching arm slots. His long frame and extension hides the ball well, making seeing the ball extremely tough for lefties. While his command is still lacking, Waldichhuk’s ability to mix off-speed with his fastball makes him an interesting pitching prospect to watch.
The 20 year old Pereira had a productive season in the minors this year, being promoted 3 times in 2021. The Yankees signed the then 16 year old in 2017 out of Venezuela, for $1.5 million. Across the three teams in 2021, Pereira batted .303, with an OBP of .398. His 20 HR were a career high by a mile, as he ended the season with a .686 slugging percentage. While being productive at the plate, Pereira’s defense could easily be his best trait. He covers ground well despite putting on more muscle, and boasts one of the strongest outfield arms of the farm system. Worrying is his strikeout rate, which was 33% to end the season. This mainly shows his immaturity as a professional, and the Yankees expect this to normalize once he becomes accustomed to older pitching. Pereira’s elite hand-eye coordination and quick swing allow him to drive the ball to all areas of the field. With the increased muscle, Pereira’s home run ability has increased tremendously. It will be hard for Pereira to stand out in a loaded pool of outfield prospects, but his consistent growth is a promising sign for the future.
Despite being a member of one of the best infield prospect crews in decades, Cabrera has been a shining star for the Yankees. With Volpe and Peraza stealing the headlines, Cabrera has become a legitimate major league option for the Yankees. Another unranked prospect in 2020, Cabrera worked his way to number 16 in this year’s rankings. The 22-year-old Cabrera has been in the farm system for 5 years, after being signed out of Venezuela in 2015. Cabrera spent the majority of the season in AA Somerset, wherein 109 games he batted .256. He had an uncharacteristically strong season with the long ball, hitting 24 HR and 29 doubles. Originally known for his defense, Cabrera made a statement at the plate this season, adding to his aforementioned elite defensive skills. The switch-hitting Cabrera adopted a more aggressive approach at the plate this season, striking out 127 times in 118 games. As the season approached the end, Cabrera was promoted to AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Cabrera seemed to have no problem adjusting to the higher level, raking in the 9 games he played. In 30 AB, Cabrera batted .500 with 5 HR as he drove in 11 baserunners. Ending the season on such a tear is extremely promising for the young infielder, as there is a chance we see him in the majors next season as a utility player.
The second outfielder on this list, Lockridge wreaked havoc in the minors across High-A and AA this season. The 24-year-old Lockridge was selected in the 5th round of the 2018 draft out of Troy, where in 3 seasons he become the second-highest position player drafted in school history. Originally a second baseman, Lockridge transferred to outfield his junior year, flourishing at the position. He climbed two spots in the rankings, going from 21 to 19. He spilt his time evenly between Hudson Valley and Somerset, batting .298 with a .352 OBP. He hit 13 HR, one more than his previous career-high set in 2019. While Lockridge had a very solid year at the plate, his most impressive quality is his speed. One of the fastest players in the draft class, the Yankees view Lockridge as the type of player they seem to have lacked in years past. He gets to first place in less than 4 seconds, being graded a 75/80 for speed by MLB. While still learning the nuances of stealing bases at a professional level, Lockridge’s speed allows him to play elite-level defense. His arm is lacking, but his speed more than makes up for it. If he harnesses his hitting ability, he could very well become a 20 HR per year player, while causing chaos on the basepaths.
Perhaps the most interesting player on the list, Sears made a statement this season. Unranked and 2021 and unranked in 2021, Sears is due for some recognition. Drafted in 2017, the Mariners selected Sears in the 11th round out of The Citadel. The Yankees acquired Sears later that year, trading 2013 seventh-round pick Nick Rumbelow for a couple of minor league pitchers, right-hander Juan Then, and left-hander JP Sears. The Yankees flipped Then in exchange for Edwin Encarnacion a couple of seasons later, but they’ve held onto the unheralded Sears. Starting the season in AA Somerset, Sears posted a 3-2 record with a 4.09 ERA. But he really started to flourish once he was promoted to AAA. In Scranton Wilkes-Barre, Sears went undefeated, ending the season 7-0. While records don’t mean much, he had a 2.87 ERA, with a WHIP of .98. He had a K/9 rate of 11.0, compared to a BB/9 rate of 1.9. The lefty doesn’t boast intimidating velocity or out of this world movement, but succeeds by using a deceptive delivery. His ability to disguise the ball out of his hand makes him unexpectedly dominant. Sears has been far from the spotlight during his professional career, but the 25-year-old could be turning a corner in his career. After an extremely impressive 2021, Sears could see himself thrust into the competition for a major league spot, if he continues to dazzle in AAA and Spring Training.