As the Yankees scattered for the offseason, absorbing a year that was nearly an across-the-board disappointment at the Major League level, one fast-rising member of the organization said that he didn’t believe his year could have gone much better.
On that topic, Drew Thorpe is probably correct. The 6-foot-4 right-hander turned in one of the most impressive debut seasons in recent memory, going 14-2 with a 2.52 ERA and 182 strikeouts in 23 starts for High-A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset.
“I’m a command guy; the changeup is my best pitch,” Thorpe said. “That’s my go-to, and it’s always in my back pocket when I need it. I’ve just always kind of been a command over velo guy, and I’ve continued to develop velo as I get older. I pride myself in being able to locate, whenever and wherever I need to.”
Rated as MLB Pipeline’s No. 99 overall prospect, the 23-year-old Thorpe posted a 0.98 WHIP and held opponents to a .200 batting average. He ranked among the Minor League leaders in wins (T-2nd), WHIP (2nd), ERA (4th) and AVG (6th). Thorpe was recently honored as MiLB’s Pitching Prospect of the Year.
“It’s great; good to hear,” Thorpe said. “I had a good year, and hopefully I just continue to build on that next year and keep the ball rolling.”
Three players who forced their way onto the radar this year
Clayton Beeter, RHP (Yankees’ No. 16 prospect): Acquired from the Dodgers last July in a trade for outfielder Joey Gallo, Beeter has proven to be much more than the return in a salary dump. Beeter, who turned 25 on Monday, was 9-7 with a 3.62 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) for Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Injuries were an issue earlier in Beeter’s career, but he represented the Yanks at the All-Star Futures Games in Seattle and is now just one step from the Bronx.
Chase Hampton, RHP (Yankees’ No. 4 prospect): Hampton made a huge jump this season, going from the sixth round of the 2022 MLB Draft to the Yankees’ top pitching prospect in less than a year. The 22-year-old Hampton posted a 4-3 record and 3.63 ERA in 20 starts for High-A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset. His fastball, curveball and slider all play as plus pitches at their best, as does a cutter that he has added since turning pro.
Everson Pereira, OF (Yankees’ No. 3 prospect): Pereira earned an opportunity in the big leagues late during the ’23 season, when he batted .151 (14-for-93) with 10 RBIs in 27 games. Those numbers represented a dip from the .300/.373/.548 slash line that the 22-year-old posted at Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Of Pereira, manager Aaron Boone said, “Ultimately, success in this league comes down to that you get fewer pitches to do damage with. You’ve got to take advantage of those.”
Two possible breakout players to watch in 2024
Richard Fitts, RHP (Yankees’ No. 12 prospect): Fitts is ready for a challenge at a new level after posting an 11-5 record and 3.48 ERA in 27 starts for Double-A Somerset this past season. A sixth-round selection in the 2021 MLB Draft who turns 24 in December, Fitts was honored as the Eastern League’s Pitcher of the Year. He is projected as a mid-rotation starter at the big league level.
Ben Rice, C/1B (Yankees’ No. 23 prospect): Rice put up a torrid .324/.434/.615 slash line at three levels of the organization this past year, belting 16 of his 20 homers for Double-A Somerset. The 24-year-old Rice was a 12th-round pick out of Dartmouth in the 2021 MLB Draft, showcasing a compact yet strong left-handed swing and good strike zone management.
One big question for next season: When will “The Martian” return?
Jasson Domínguez’s arrival provided a tantalizing preview of what his career could look like, including taking the Astros’ Justin Verlander deep on his first swing in the big leagues.
Unfortunately for Domínguez and the Yankees, their glimpse of a super-prospect (MLB’s No. 74) who has been compared to Mickey Mantle, Bo Jackson and Mike Trout lasted just eight games.
Domínguez underwent Tommy John surgery on Sept. 20, and the Yankees estimate his recovery will take 9-10 months. The hope is that Domínguez can resume swinging a bat before Spring Training, which would allow him to engage in baseball exercises by the time the club breaks camp. A best-case scenario would put Domínguez back in the mix by late June.
“I was fortunate to be in here and be able to play those games, really seeing how it is inside this clubhouse and in the big leagues,” Domínguez said through an interpreter. “It was a really good experience.”