3 surprise Yankees prospects who are making strong cases for MLB debut

Off the 40-man roster, but in your hearts.
New York Yankees v Miami Marlins
New York Yankees v Miami Marlins / Rich Storry/GettyImages

The New York Yankees' electric 12-3 start to the 2024 season has allowed them to weather some of the criticism and minor-league wandering eyes thus far; even when things got a bit worse, the roster had enough of a cushion to satiate the middle ground of the fan base. The fringes? Never satisfied. But most folks, thus far, have managed to stay patient, knowing reinforcements are coming ... eventually.

Gerrit Cole? Take your time! Jasson Dominguez? Yeah, DH only if you have to. DJ LeMahieu? Make sure that foot's right. Don't want to bungle that foot.

Eventually, though, staring at the farm will be too tempting to avoid. There's simply too much interesting stuff going on down there. If fans don't shine a light on Spencer Jones' dropped hands and revamped stance, then who will?! That goes double for alerting other fan bases to prospects who haven't gotten nearly enough attention for their underrated exploits.

Whether it's in New York or elsewhere after the trade deadline (but hopefully in New York), these three semi-obscured Yankees are all making fairly ironclad arguments for more respect.

3 surprise Yankees prospects who've put themselves on MLB radar in 2024

Caleb Durbin

Please. Allow us to write about Caleb Durbin's grinder brilliance once again.

While the Yankees have an infield logjam developing at the big-league level, which will only "worsen" when Oswald Peraza completes his long-term rehab assignment, the 5'6" Durbin has ameliorated that somewhat by playing every position known to man this season.

Thus far, his resumé includes (clears throat) 12 games at second, seven starts at short, six starts at third, five appearances in left, and one nine-inning stint in center. He's also taken the DH reins a few times, because he hits like someone with a bit more heft than your typical utility guy.

Like always, the chronically overlooked Durbin is hitting .300ish (.297, as of this writing). Like always, he has an OPS well above .800 despite expectations of slap hitting and bunts (.878). Like always, he's swiped 15 bags and been caught once.

Like always, we're going to give him the recognition he deserves.

Trystan Vrieling

In 2022, the Yankees selected Gonzaga right-hander Trystan Vrieling in the third round to join their pitching factory. He didn't make his organizational debut until this season and, true to form, the Yankees made sure to start him slow so that -- I'm sorry, what? He debuted at Double-A Somerset?

So far, so good for the Yankees' aggressive promotion, as Vrieling has opened the year striking out 31 men in 29 innings, allowing 20 hits and 11 earned runs (3.41 ERA) across five starts. While he's still in back of names like Will Warren and Clayton Beeter in the pecking order, the Yankees need as many impressive pitching breakouts as they can get after depleting their system somewhat.

Depleting it for good reason! Don't get us wrong! But don't Google Drew Thorpe's stats while you're down there snooping. It just won't feel great.

Just 23 years old, Vrieling has officially turned himself into a non-40-man option to keep an eye on moving forward. While so many Yankees pitchers have been buried and succumbed to injury, it's refreshing to watch Vrieling shake off two full years away to reenter the fray so impressively.

TJ Rumfield

When pressed for a fellow underrated prospect who he believed deserved more shine, Durbin pointed at Rumfield while speaking with Yanks Go Yard. That endorsement would've been good enough for us even without the standout stats, but the buried Yankees first baseman/lefty bat has distinguished himself so far at Triple-A.

And that's tough to do, given that Ben Rice -- behind him at Double-A -- has taken a good deal of the spotlight for himself.

Rumfield, acquired silently in the Donny Sands/Nick Nelson 40-man clearing trade back in 2021 (goodbye, Rougned Odor and Clint Frazier, too), seemed like a complete unknown/potential organizational filler at the time. He was a 12th-round bat ticketed for first base with 27 Low-A games on his ledger; it was difficult, even for prospect enthusiasts, to drum up any emotions whatsoever about his arrival.

Rumfield plodded along in the system for two years, slugging 17 homers at Somerset last season, but failing to translate his hard contact into impressive surface numbers (he batted just .219 with a middling .758 OPS). Something's clicked this season, though, as the former also-ran has somehow transformed into a lefty masher. Through 26 games across Double-A/Triple-A, he's hitting .314 with an .849 OPS. The bulk of that work has been done in Scranton; Rumfield's accrued eight doubles, two homers, 13 RBI and a .311 average in just 19 games.

The strikeouts are a problem; 24 in 19 games is a tough sell, even for a Yankees team that doesn't seem to be too perturbed by whiffs. But something's certainly changed year-over-year for this lefty with impressive power, and any lefty who slugs is worth watching.