Yankees' prospect duo taking Somerset by storm

August 17th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Bryan Hoch’s Yankees Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

It was a banner week for a couple of Somerset Patriots prospects, as right-hander and catcher/first baseman  were named the Double-A Eastern League Pitcher and Player of the Week, respectively, for Aug. 7-13.

Thorpe made his Double-A debut on Aug. 11, striking out nine while permitting just two hits over eight scoreless innings in a dominant victory over Binghamton.

“Obviously, you want to see how your stuff plays at higher levels,” Thorpe said. “I’m just going to continue to do my thing. I know my strengths, and I’ll go at them with that.”

A second-round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, Thorpe is ranked the Yanks’ No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline, leading all Yankees Minor Leaguers in ERA (2.62), wins (11), strikeouts (138) and WHIP (1.02).

The product of St. George, Utah, owns one of the best changeups in the organization, also featuring a fastball between 89-92 mph and a low-80s slider that generates swings and misses. He said that he considers Max Scherzer one of the pitchers he admires.

“Just the way he went about his game and his mentality going through everything, he was probably the biggest influence,” Thorpe said.

Thorpe has called the changeup “my bread and butter,” noting, “I’ve thrown it since high school, and it kind of got me through college. I’ll always have it in my back pocket when I need it.”

Thorpe was twice named the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week earlier this season, most recently for the week of July 17-23, when he set a High-A Hudson Valley franchise record with 13 strikeouts over eight scoreless innings.

The Patriots’ rotation features five of New York’s Top 30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline. In addition to Thorpe, Somerset is also starting Richard Fitts (No. 12), Yoendrys Gómez (No. 26), Matt Sauer (No. 25) and Chase Hampton (No. 4). Thorpe said his goal for the rest of the season is “just continuing to get better every day.”

“All the stuff they have for us and everything they do for us is really great here,” Thorpe said. “If you’re not getting better, that’s kind of on your own.”

As for Rice, he went 12-for-23 (.521) for the week with two homers, nine RBIs and seven runs in six games, all while splitting time as a catcher, first baseman and designated hitter. Since joining Somerset on July 18, Rice has slashed .342/.422/.696 in 20 games.

“I think the thing that helps me most is my bat-to-ball skills,” Rice recently told The Trentonian (N.J.). “I make a lot of contact, don’t swing and miss very much. That’s the biggest thing with me, so I know that if I’m smart during my at-bats and work the counts that I’ll get a pitch to hit eventually, and I’ll be able to put a barrel on it.”

A 12th-round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, Rice was recently added to the Yankees’ Top Prospects list by MLB Pipeline, ranking No. 23.

“We’ve got so many great catchers, and it’s just awesome,” Rice said, referring to fellow backstops Josh Breaux and Anthony Siegler. “It makes everyone compete that much harder with each other, and you just push each other to be better. So it’s nice to have good numbers right now.”