When the Yankees traded three upper-level, well-developed pitching prospects for Oakland A's hurler Frankie Montas at the 2022 deadline, they believed they had the resources to regenerate arms and replace every single one of them -- and quickly.
While the Montas acquisition was a disaster for entirely different reasons (he was injured and bad), the Yankees weren't off base on this core tenet of their deadline maneuvering.
Sweeper artist Will Warren has stepped up, as predicted. 2022 draft picks Drew Thorpe (second) and Chase Hampton (sixth) have matured quicker than most believed possible (Thorpe, it appears, was born with that changeup).
Now, the generation behind them is already on the clock to fill in the next set of gaps still to come -- and the Yankees appear to have a teenaged trick up their sleeves for that purpose, too.
19-year-old left-hander Henry Lalane, recently ranked as Baseball America's No. 4 prospect in the Florida Complex League, is the ace of a Yankees minor-league team that rival evaluators pegged as one of the best at that level in history. According to the evaluators that BA's Josh Norris spoke to, there's widespread belief in baseball that Lalane could be one of the game's top pitching prospects next summer.
Not the best in the Yankees' system. The best in the game.
Yankees pitching prospect Henry Lalane could be one of MLB's best in 2024
Hopefully, Lalane being the Yankees' top 2024 pitching prospect means Thorpe has graduated. Wouldn't it be nice?
While the 19-year-old, 6-foot-7 lefty still has some kinks to work out in game action (4.57 ERA in a teeny tiny sample size of 21.2 innings last season), the opinion of a mess of evaluators matters a whole lot more than a small cluster of starts. Besides, Lalane did strike out 34 men with an 0.97 WHIP last season, showing remarkable control for his massive frame (along with the requisite power that comes with being absolutely huge).
While we couldn't cull all these evaluators ourselves, Baseball America editor Geoff Pontes' video footage of Lalane's raw stuff speaks for itself.
The fastball has good shape, the slider drops off the table, and the Yankees' trademark change represents a workable third pitch.
Lalane's full-season debut should come first thing next year, as the FCL Yankees' ridiculously talented class works its way to the upper levels as a unit. While infielders like Roderick Arias, Hans Montero and Keiner Delgado have gotten a significant amount of the shine (and Bowman Chrome love), perhaps it's really the 6-7 lefty with tree-trunk legs we should have our eyes on.