The Yankees minor league affiliates are off to an amazing start this season. All four of the full-season affiliates are in first place eight weeks into the minor league season and the organization has the best overall winning percentage in the sport. On Monday the Florida Complex League (FCL) which was formally the Gulf Coast League (GCL) kicked off and the Yankees debuted what may be their most talented minor league team to date.
The offseason restructuring of the minors leagues affected the Yankees as much as any team in baseball. The Yankees ran one of if not the largest minor league system in baseball leaving the organization in a tougher spot than most when Major League Baseball (MLB) stepped in and restructed the sports developmental system. MLB eliminated both the NY-Penn League and Appalachian League where the Yankees fielded clubs in previous years. With a farm system that is often described as talented by young, finding the appropriate landing spots for all of their talented young players following a pandemic cancelled season became a serious challenge.
The issue was further complicated by the Yankees decision to field just one team in the FCL this year. In years previous the Yankees had two teams in the league but this summer they decided to have two teams in the Dominican Summer League, the lowest level of affiliated professional baseball.
That one team in the FCL has the potential to be exceptional due to the incredible depth of prospect talent that is currently on the roster. For a team that will play in front of almost no fans on the side fields of different organization's Florida training complexes it will boast11 players that are ranked among the Yankees top-30 prospects by either MLB.com, Baseball America or FanGraphs. Many of those players are ranked on all three list and were considered elite prospects from the moment they signed with the team.
Leading the way is the Yankees top prospect, centerfielder Jasson Dominguez. Signed for a record bonus in July 2019, Dominguez has impressed every scout who has seen his physcial tools on display over the last few years. In years past he would have been expect to debut for Rookie-Advanced Pulaski but with that option no longer avaialbe the FCL provided the landing spot for his professional debut on Monday. With plus-tools across the board Yankees fans have been anxiously waiting for over a year for real game results and video from the highest profile player in the FCL.
Around Dominguez is a crowded outfield of very talented players who will have to rotate in and out of the lineup on a daily basis as the team searches for enough plate appearances to go around. Talented centerfielders Everson Pereira will see significant playing time alongside 18-year-old Kevin Alcantara. Both players were among the top international free agents in their class when they signed with the Yankees in 2017 and 2018 respectively and are concencus Yankees top-30 prospects.
Pereira started the 2019 season with the now defunct Short-Season A Staten Island Yankees before an ankle injury sidelined him just 18 games into the season. Kevin Alcantara was playing in the Gulf Coast League before his 17th birthday in 2019 and was the youngest prospect in baseball playing stateside at the time. He improved as the season went on and often draws comparisons to a young Dexter Fowler based on his 6-feet 6-inches frame.
Signed a few months after Pereira, Raimfer Salinas is ranked as the Yankees 21st best prospect heading into the season by Baseball America. With elite speed and a strong throwing arm he is considered a great defensive prospect in centerfield but will likely be seeing a lot of time on the corners with Dominguez in the mix.
Also sharing time in the outfield are Ryder Green and Anthony Garcia. Both players were part of the Rookie-Advanced Pulaski Yankees in 2019, although Garcia’s season was cut short due to injury. In 2018 Garcia led the GCL in home runs as a 17-year-old and he has displayed elite raw power but also a troubling strikeout rate. Green showed significant improvement during the 2019 campaign in Pulaski and Baseball America considered him the 17th best prospect in the Appalachian League following the season.
On the infield Alexander Vargas is a highly regarded shortstop that FanGraphs currently rates as the 97th best prospect in all of baseball. He reportedly added significant strength during the pandemic after playing his first professional season at just 145 pounds. The Yankees pried him away from an earlier commitment to the Reds and made him their top international signing during the 2018 signing period. The young Cuban is viewed as having elite speed, defensive and bat to ball skills.
Playing alongside Vargas will be Marcos Cabrera at third base. He falls under the radar when many observers look at the system but the 19-year-old is ranked as the Yankees’ 30th best prospect by FanGraphs after a strong debut in the Dominican Summer League.
Behind the plate is a player with one of the strongest throwing arms and best defensive profiles of any player in the Yankees' system, Antonio Gomez. Gomez reached the Gulf Coast League in 2019 but was hampered by injuries and limited to just 14 games. He is a consensus top-30 prospect in the organization.
Gomez will be catching for pitchers Denny Larrondo and Nicio Rodriguez, both of who sneak into the tail end of FanGraphs’ top 30 organizational rankings. Larrondo was considered a candidate to sign as either a shortstop or centerfielder in the leadup to his international signing in 2018. In the end scouts saw a valuable pitcher and during a three game stretch in 2019 he did not allow a hit over 12.1 innings. Rodriguez has reportedly made big gains with his velocity over the last two years and has touched 98 mph in the leadup to the season.
The Florida Complex League Yankees team is stacked with many of the organizations best young prospects. While the Yankees other minor league affiliates continue to win at an astounding pace the most newsworthy team just may be playing to limited exposure and fanfare on the backfields around Florida while they prepare to move one step closer to the major leagues.
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