Bridgewater, New Jersey- The minor league baseball season has officially reached the halfway point, and the Somerset Patriots have made an impact during their inaugural season with the New York Yankees. The team is currently sitting in first place in the Northeast League with a record of 38-21, which is
Bridgewater, New Jersey- The minor league baseball season has officially reached the halfway point, and the Somerset Patriots have made an impact during their inaugural season with the New York Yankees. The team is currently sitting in first place in the Northeast League with a record of 38-21, which is the best record in all of Double-A. The team has come together from all sides to put together the season they have had so far.
The first player assigned to the Patriots was right-hander Luis Gil. The righty is the fourth-ranked Yankees prospect per Baseball America and can hit triple digits with his four-seam fastball. After spending 2019 in Low-A, he was placed on the 40-man roster before being assigned to Somerset at the beginning of the 2021 season. In his debut, he threw 3.2 innings with six strikeouts and led the Patriots to a win in their first game. Gil was promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre on June 15th after maintaining a 2.64 ERA in 30.2 innings.
Another big name in the Yankee system began his season in Somerset. Estevan Florial, the Yankees number 10 prospect made his impact felt in his very first at-bat. Leading off the Patriots' inaugural game as a Double-A affiliate, Florial crushed a solo home run. The center fielder hit four home runs in his nine games, including three that led off the game for Somerset. Florial was promoted to Triple-A on May 17th after his electric start. Florial also made a spot start with the big-league club on May 27th against the Toronto Blue Jays, where he went 1-3 with a double in a game the Yankees went on to win 5-3. With this call-up, he was the first Patriots player to reach the big leagues since the affiliation.
The entire Patriots' pitching staff has been one of the best in all of the minor leagues this season. At the halfway point, the team owns the lowest ERA of all full season minor league affiliates (2.90) and ranks second in WHIP and batting average against.
Right-handed starter Glenn Otto quickly made a name for himself after the lost 2020 season, winning the first MiLB Northeast Pitcher of the Week between May 4th and 9th. In his first start, the Texas native threw six scoreless innings with six strikeouts, setting the tone for the rest of his season. Otto won the award again for the week of June 28th to July 4th after he threw his fifth game with ten or more strikeouts. He is the first Double-A pitcher to reach over 100 strikeouts after his eight-strikeout shutout on July 10th. He also leads all Patriot starters with a winning record of 6-3 throughout his appearances.
In addition to Otto, outfielder Michael Beltre, infielder Diego Castillo, southpaw JP Sears, and right-handed pitcher Janson Junk have all received an award from minor league baseball. Beltre was named Player of the Week after having a .433 batting average with seven RBI, one home run, and 12 runs scored after the team swept the Yard Goats in May. Castillo earned his first nod from Minor League Baseball after a .500 average with three home runs the first week of June. That week the Patriots swept awards, with Sears being named Pitcher of the Week after a five-inning shutout where he fanned a career-high ten strikeouts. Junk was also recognized for the first time between June 15th and 20th after his six-inning start on June 18th lowered his ERA to 1.03.
The awards did not stop there; after an electric month of June, Castillo was named Player of the Month and Junk was named Pitcher of the Month. Castillo led the league in batting average (.378), hits (37), and total bases (71). He was third in doubles (10), on-base percentage (.419), slugging percentage (.724) and OPS (1.144). Castillo also collected eight home runs in the month along with 11 multi-hit games. The Venezuelan infielder currently leads the team with a .324 average, 17 doubles and 58 hits. Junk had a record of 3-1 with one save and an ERA of 1.33 throughout June to earn his title of Pitcher of the Month. He held opponents to a .135 batting average in his five appearances and allowed only 12 hits in 27 innings and collected 24 strikeouts. Junk is a clubhouse leader, with a minor league-leading ERA of 1.03 and a 0.82 WHIP for his cumulative stats.
An exciting part of being affiliated is how the team becomes a stop for rehabbing big leaguers as they work toward a return to the Yankees. The first Yankees star to make an appearance in Somerset was reliever Zack Britton. The lefty was rehabbing after getting a bone chip removed from his left elbow. Britton made three appearances with the Patriots from May 28th and June 5th. Over his time at TD Bank Ballpark, he struck out four batters in four innings and only allowed two runs. The second Yankee that came through Somerset was last year’s home run leader Luke Voit recovering from a grade two oblique strain. While here, Voit went 6-for-9 with two home runs and six RBI.
The Patriots have also hosted two Yankees' top prospects this year in Oswald Peraza and Luis Medina. Peraza, a right-handed infielder, is the Yankees number six prospect and number 98 overall and was touted as the best arm in the Yankees system. He is currently hitting .276 with 11 RBI. Medina is the number nine prospect and is a righty who consistently reaches triple digits. Scouts have said he has the “best pure stuff” in the organization with his easy-going delivery. He recently appeared in the 2021 All-Star Futures game and knabbed two strikeouts in his one inning of work.
With the newly announced minor league playoffs being between the two teams with the best record, the Patriots are a team that should be kept on the radar. If the team continues at the pace they are on now, fans should get excited to see them compete to take home a championship. The Patriots start the second half of their season tonight against the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
By Lexi Semanchik | SomersetPatriots.Com Beat Writer
Lexi Semanchik is a resident of Flemington, New Jersey and a rising senior at Emerson College majoring in Sports Communications.