Every season there’s a prospect that seemingly comes out of nowhere to break out and emerge in the Yankees’ organization. Stemming from young players who get a shot at full-season play and flourish to Minor Leaguers who just click and find something in their swing or pitch mix that allows them to perform at a much higher level.

This season, we’re seeing the latter occur in Somerset, as infield prospect Benjamin Cowles has burst onto the scene in his first year at Double-A, seeing a dramatic increase in contact rates and putting together an all-around excellent year.

He’s a versatile weapon who can play multiple spots in the infield, and after being known as a high strikeout bat who wouldn’t have his success translate at the higher levels of the Minor Leagues, he’s torn up the Eastern League.

Benjamin Cowles Could Soar Up the Yankees’ Prospect Ranks


In Benjamin Cowles’ first year at the professional level, he posted a .375 OBP and 130 wRC+, showing an ability to hit for a solid average (.272) but struggling with his contact rates. It wasn’t as if he was a huge power hitter either, posting a .156 ISO and hitting just seven home runs across 93 Minor League games that year, but the 29% strikeout rate was a massive red flag given that he had yet to play above High-A yet.

Last season he spent nearly the entire season in High-A, where he had a modest 109 wRC+ but still struck out over 27% of the time, an indication that he might not be ready for Double-A yet. With the aggressive promotions the Yankees made late in the year however, the Scranton RailRiders would need Cowles to give them some at-bats, and in three games he struck out five times and posted a measly 4 wRC+.

He’d spend the offseason working diligently to improve his game, heading to the Arizona Fall League alongside fellow infielder Caleb Durbin in the hopes of getting more action. He launched four home runs in 20 games with a .956 OPS, but the 28.6% strikeout rate showed that there was still plenty of work to be done. So far, the hard work has paid off, as while Cowles is generating more game power (.610 SLG%), the biggest change comes from his strikeout rate.

Down to just 18.3%, the improvements have been staggering, and he’s gone from an afterthought in the organization to someone who could get to Triple-A in a hurry. The Yankees’ infield situation is very unstable, with multiple key players on the injured list and the future of various positions in the air as well. Benjamin Cowles has a 191 wRC+ and 11 XBHs in his first 17 games at the Double-A level, and considering what he can bring to the table, improved contact rates would be massive.

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It’s unclear when DJ LeMahieu will return to the Yankees after being shut down from baseball activities earlier this week, and Gleyber Torres is an impending free agent. While the organization has stocked up on outfield and pitching talent, the hot corner has remained a question mark for not just the present, but the future as well. Caleb Durbin can play the position but likely fits a utility role a lot better, and Tyler Hardman is still recovering from elbow surgery.

Jorbit Vivas, who is on the team’s 40-man roster, profiles more as a second baseman, so there’s not much of a future for him as a third baseman in this league. Benjamin Cowles however has played the majority of his games at shortstop and third base, and could be an option on that side of the infield if he continues to mash. It’s not going to happen this season most likely, as any upgrades the Yankees make there would likely be with a proven veteran and not a first-year rookie.

We’re looking ahead into 2025 when it comes to Cowles, who could be a late-bloomer who provides some value to an infield that doesn’t have much clarity. Rule 5 eligible at the end of the 2024 season, the Yankees are also going to have to decide on whether they trade him or roster him in the coming months. If he can be part of a deal that brings an impact player to the Bronx that’s a massive success as well, especially in a year where the Yankees look like they’ll make the postseason.

I was certainly surprised to see such a dramatic improvement for Benjamin Cowles since most prospects don’t just drop their strikeout rate by 10% when they make the jump from High-A to Double-A. When I asked Caleb Durbin in the offseason about a prospect who stood out to him

“He can be versatile on the defensive side of the ball and be a really good defender at second, third, and short…in the Fall League was able to put it all together, he was a top-10 hitter in the Fall League, it’s not easy to do.”

– Caleb Durbin on Benjamin Cowles

Mar 23, 2024; Lakeland, Florida, USA; New York Yankees third baseman Caleb Durbin (87) bats during the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Durbin, who is rocking a cool .412 OBP and 127 wRC+ in his first go-around at the Triple-A level, played with Cowles in the AFL, and it’ll be interesting to see if they’ll become teammates again in Scranton. What we know right now is that despite it being early, some key skill progressions are being made by the Maryland product, and if we can continue to see his game power hold up as the strikeout rates stabilize, then we’re going to see plenty of buzz surrounding him this season.

There’s a massive question mark at third base in the Yankees’ organization, but Benjamin Cowles is on a mission to become the answer.