Bridgewater, New Jersey – The Patriots sit atop the Northeast division with a two-game lead over Binghamton after salvaging a series split with the Rumble Ponies on Sunday. While the first half proved to be just a two-horse race for the division crown, just three games separate fifth-place Reading from
Bridgewater, New Jersey – The Patriots sit atop the Northeast division with a two-game lead over Binghamton after salvaging a series split with the Rumble Ponies on Sunday. While the first half proved to be just a two-horse race for the division crown, just three games separate fifth-place Reading from first place with just 32 games remaining in the season. Somerset will hop on the bus and take the short trip over to Reading where they are slated to take on the Fightin’ Phils for six plus the conclusion of a suspended July 9 contest that originally got underway at TD Bank Ballpark during the team’s most recent matchup.
Before looking ahead to this week’s duel with Reading, here are some of the most prominent story lines and notes surrounding the Patriots heading into this week.
It’s About Time: The long-awaited and highly anticipated promotion to Somerset for right-hander Drew Thorpe has finally happened. The Yankees bumped up the organization’s top pitching prospect last week after a stellar pro-ball debut at Hudson Valley to open the campaign. The 22-year-old Cal Poly-product fanned 138 batters in 108 innings while posting an organizational best 2.81 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. Thorpe comes in ranked fifth on MLB Pipeline’s updated Yankees top-30 prospect list.
Clean Sweep: Speaking of Thorpe, the newest member of the Patriots rotation was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week on Monday after tossing eight shutout frames against Binghamton in his Double-A debut on Friday night. He scattered just two hits and struck out nine batters to earn his third POTW honor of the season. Thorpe now leads all of the Yankees system in ERA (2.62), W (11), SO (147) and WHIP (1.02).
Catcher Ben Rice was named the league’s Player of the Week after going 12-for-23 with two homers, nine RBI and scoring seven runs in six games against the Rumble Ponies last week. The versatile backstop who also sees time at first base, has certainly picked up the slack that many anticipated would be lost when Austin Wells was promoted to SWB. In 20 games with the Patriots, Rice has slashed .342/.422/.696 with seven homers and 25 RBI.
Martian Soaring: Jasson Dominguez admittedly had a slow start to the 2023 season offensively, but since July 1 has been on an extended hot streak that has really turned around his season. After hitting .309, the Martian is now slashing .333/.404/.471 over 12 August contests. The 20-year-old highly touted prospect was hitting just .186 on the season at the start of play in July, but his six-week torrid stretch has now raised his average all of the way up to .240. Dominguez leads the Eastern League in games played (103), runs (74), walks (74) and is third in stolen bases with 36.
Five is a Crowd: The Patriots roster is now equipped with five, yes five, catchers. Rice along with Josh Breaux, Anthony Seigler, Mickey Gasper and newly promoted Agustin Ramirez make playing time behind the plate tough to come by. Manager Raul Dominguez says that the key is for him to openly communicate with them about playing time, so they know the plan and expectations. Another key will be for them to develop some versatility at other positions. Rice, Breaux and Gasper have seen action at first while Seigler is now seeing some reps at second.
Injury Updates: Raul Dominguez met with the Somerset beat writers last week and provided medical updates on some of the Patriots players currently on the IL. It sounds like infielder Caleb Durbin is getting close to a return as the skipper says he has been doing fielding work and hitting while rehabbing with the team. Infielder Eric Wagaman is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a wrist injury. Dominguez says that he isn’t sure whether Trey Sweeney, TJ Rumfield or Tyler Hardman will be able to make it back on the field this season given the limited amount of time remaining on the schedule.
Knowing the Opponent: Reading lost a league worst 40 games in the first half of the season, but they are right in the thick of the fight for a postseason spot with five weeks remaining on the schedule at 18-20 overall. This will be the third and final series between the two clubs this season, barring any potential postseason matchups that could unfold. Both previous matchups were at TD Bank Ballpark and the Patriots have gone just 4-7 against them thus far with a suspended game pending completion on Tuesday night at FirstEnergy Stadium at 6:00 pm.
Right-hander Mick Abel is the Phillies second ranked prospect, and the 21-year-old has flashed signs of dominance in an up and down 2023 season. Somerset missed Abel during the teams’ last meeting when he left the team to go pitch in the MLB Future’s Game in July, but did face him in their first matchup back in May and managed to plate just an unearned run against him in five innings. The 15th overall pick in the 2020 draft has posted a 4.35 ERA, but he has fanned 96 batters in 80 innings and the EL is hitting just .201 against him.
Outfielder Carlos De La Cruz has been with Reading for the entirety of 2023 and has been their most potent bat. The Yonkers, NY native and Phillies seventh ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline has posted an .807 OPS with a .274 batting average. His 20 homers are third best in the EL over 93 games of action for Reading.
Former Yankees farmhand Oliver Dunn never had a defined everyday role with the organization, but increased playing time after landing with the Phillies over the winter has resulted in a career year for the versatile infielder. The 25-year-old had 13 homers his entire career, but has blasted 17 for the Phils while driving home 66 runs with a very strong .280/.397/.523 slash line.
Probable Series Pitching Matchup:
Tue: RHP Chase Hampton (1-2, 4.99 ERA) vs. LHP Josh Hendrickson (2-6, 4.99 ERA)
Wed: RHP Yoendrys Gomez (0-2, 3.26 ERA) vs. RHP Mick Abel (3-4, 4.35 ERA)
Thur: RHP Richard Fitts (9-5, 3.38 ERA) vs. LHP David Parkinson (7-4, 4.02 ERA)
Fri: RHP Drew Thorpe (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP Zach Haake (0-3, 4.32 ERA)
Sat: RHP Matt Sauer (2-3, 3.53 ERA) vs. LHP Matt Osterberg (1-0, 4.76 ERA)
Sun: RHP Blane Abeyta (7-6, 5.65 ERA) vs. RHP Adam Leverett (0-2, 3.12 ERA)
Matt Kardos | SomersetPatriots.com Beat Writer
Matt Kardos has covered the Yankees minor league system for over a decade and will spend his 11th season on the beat covering the Patriots for SomersetPatriots.com. Throughout his career, Matt has contributed to MLB.com, YES Network and Pinstriped Prospects. When he’s not at the ballpark, Matt enjoys traveling with his wife Kimberly, watching Jets football and collecting sports cards.