Prospects In Person: A trio of Yankees top prospects in Somerset

April 8, 2024

For teams outside of Triple-A, the season is finally underway, which meant there was an early opportunity to take a look at the Somerset Patriots, Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees.

Having recently taken over that affiliation from the Trenton Thunder, who now have an MLB Draft League club, the history of players the club has helped produce isn’t long, but is still impressive; Anthony Volpe has the potential to be a star for the Yankees, while Austin Wells should be a steady contributor in pinstripes for a long time to come.

The only player on Somerset’s roster with that type of ceiling is Spencer Jones, but the Futures Game standout didn’t play all weekend after being a late scratch from Friday’s Opening Day lineup with a stiff neck that kept him out all week.

Jones, the No. 2 prospect in the org. in Joe Doyle’s Yankees Top 30, is one of a handful of the team’s Top 30 on Somerset’s roster, but Chase Hampton is out with an injury, and prized lefty Brock Selvidge was held back to start on the road.

With that said, some more depth prospects were on display this past weekend, but there was still plenty to see.

Ben Rice, C (No. 16 Yankees prospect)

As is historically the case with Yankees catching prospects, Rice has a bat-first profile, but there’s enough there to where he could hit his way all the way to the big leagues. Still with plenty of athleticism with a well put-together six-foot-one, 215-pound frame, Rice provides value with a lefty bat that helped him break out of relative obscurity last year, as he skyrocketed up prospect charts after hitting .324 with 20 homers and 68 RBI between three levels despite missing time with an oblique injury.

Rice homered in his first at-bat of the season on Friday, as seen below in the front side view, and caught one of the three games as part of a platoon with Agustin Ramirez, who you’ll read more about shortly.

There’s a lot of talk about Rice eventually moving to potentially first base, and he’s already seen time there in the minors as the organization looks to keep his options open to ensure his bat can get into the lineup at multiple positions. He flashed a 1.9 in-game pop time, albeit with some pitchout-like mechanics as seen in the video below, and historically has had a low caught stealing rate behind the plate.

At 25 years old, there is somewhat of a sense of urgency to see exactly what’s here, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rice moved up to Triple-A soon rather than later, where he’d join another glut of catchers in a fight for playing time.

Agustín Ramírez, C (18)

Same as Rice, Ramirez is a bat-first backstop, but has significantly more natural power than his counterpart in a similar six-foot, 210-pound frame that feels a bit stockier than Rice’s.

Ramirez has worked to get more launch angle in his swing to unlock more of his power, and that showed this past weekend, where he homered in each of the three games he played in, including an opposite field blast on Saturday.

There’s a lot to like with the bat here in terms of an ability to do damage, and as a member of the 40-man roster, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that he could get a look to help the big league club in September.

Would have some concerns that he’d now be more susceptible to pitches at the top of the zone as he tries to create more launch.

Defensively, Ramirez remains a work in progress. The arm strength is there, but the mechanics behind the plate remain inconsistent, as seen in the video below.

Only 22 years old, his frame is continuing to develop, so perhaps there’s more of a DH/1B profile here down the road. But, if he can continue to show consistent in-game power, it’ll be hard to keep the bat down.

Trystan Vrieling, RHP (25)

Vrieling is the first Yankees arm in recent memory sent directly to Double-A for his full-season pro debut, having missed all of last year with an elbow injury, save for a handful of brief outings in the Arizona Fall League.

A six-foot-four, 200-pound righty who went No. 100 overall out of Gonzaga back in 2022, Vrieling looked sharp in his first outing on Sunday, sitting 90-94 miles per hour with his fastball while also using a curveball, slider and changeup.

He’s known as a big spin guy, and many feel that would translate well to the bullpen, which might potentially unlock a bit more of the upper echelon of his velo; he’s said to be up to 96 in his college days, where he began as a reliever. For now, however, he’ll start, and try to establish himself in the upper two levels in a group that features Selvidge, Zach Messinger, Yoendrys Gomez, Will Warren and Clayton Beeter as potential future big league rotation options.

Mike Ashmore
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