Backfield Banter - Yankees Camp 9/19/18

Sunshine and an unseen yet palpable shroud of humid air enveloped a quiet Yankees camp. A fan— who’d heard “Chapman may be around”—and I were the only non team personnel in attendance. A security guard let us in through the gate on the north side of the complex. Several members of the Yankees staff acknowledged me either by way of a cap tip or physically coming over to say hi and asking what I was up to, something that I was mildly surprised by. Another security guard Charlie snagged me a bottled water, a simple gesture that instantly endeared him and the Yankees staff as a whole to me.

The time was ten past ten and infielders had begun taking grounders on Field 3, which occupies the southwest corner of the quad. My first impression is this position group is not an area of strength for the Yankees, particularly in the low minors. However, Wilkerman Garcia stood out as a slick defender; I liked his infield actions and the hands were smooth. He looked like a lock to stick in the middle infield. Also worth mentioning is Dermis Garcia’s physique. He’s a strong and athletic kid, very muscular with a built frame. The Yankees instructs roster lists him at 6’2”, 238 lbs which is a far cry from Baseball Reference’s 6’3”, 200 lbs (his listed figures from when he signed in December 2014). The new weight is good weight, and I like the body.

Upon completion of standard IF drills, the group moved to Field 1 for what I am calling “Bunt-a-rama”. Oddly, this drill elicited a mental comparison to Madden 2009’s dynasty mode, in which you could use offseason drills to boost a player’s attributes on a specific skill. Two hula hoops were placed roughly 20-25 feet from home near the first and third base lines. Pitching machines fired baseballs and coaches called out which of two hoops the hitter should aim for. It was a test of reactions and bat control. Matt Pita, the Yankee’s 12th round selection in 2018, looked to have good touch and soft hands. PFPs occurred simultaneously on Field 2, but how could I take my eyes off something this much fun?

Practice wrapped up with BP around 12:20; this was the main attraction. Anthony Garcia impressed. He’s a physical specimen, listed at 6’6”, 234 lbs on the Yankees instructs roster. Having just turned 18 on September 5th, Garcia is not done growing and his frame looks capable of supporting more weight. The body is long-limbed, which adds length to his swing, but the bat path is fairly direct, and I like his bat speed. He sets his feet wide in his base stance, and Garcia’s load will supply ample power. Double-plus raw power is inevitable. Garcia was well-coordinated in my brief look, but his 41% strikeout rate on the season suggests pitchers were able to take advantage of his long levers. This is an elite athlete who I expect to adjust to his body with time.

AG’s BP group included fellow prospects Stanley Rosario and Canaan Smith. The latter has a massive chest and thick upper body. Smith was the Yankees 4th round pick in 2017 out of Rockwell-Heath HS in Texas. The swing plane was too linear but contact was also hard; I think he could benefit from slotting his hands lower. Having said that, there are things to like about the swing. Smith’s swing is balanced, and he drives through the ball with substantial force. Stanley Rosario rounded out this loaded BP group. He looked unrefined compared to Garcia and Smith. His swing mechanics were inconsistent, at times chopping down at the ball. However, his athleticism was evident. The ease of his swing and his body projection foreshadow future performance.

Speaking of an easy swing, that is exactly what Everson Pereira has. The Yankees invested $1.5mm in Pereira during the 2017 J2 period and challenged him with an aggressive assignment to Pulaski in 2018, completely skipping both the DSL and GCL. He sprayed line drives to all fields in BP and displayed a quiet swing that looks primed for better contact rates going forward. The swing features a small load and quiet pre-slot hands. Pereira already repeats his mechanics well. His raw power did not stand out, but when you consider his age (17.44), I am not worried about it at all. This kid has immense potential, and I now understand why the Yankees were so high on him.