July 15, 2024

The Yankees are set to promote catcher/first baseman Ben Rice to the major leagues, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Rice will take over first base duties as Anthony Rizzo is sidelined for over a month with a fractured arm. The Yankees have an open spot on their 40-man roster, so no additional moves are required to make room for Rice.

Rice, 25, was a 12th-round pick from Dartmouth in the 2021 draft but has performed impressively in the minors. Ranked as the Yankees’ #14 prospect by Baseball America and #12 by MLB Pipeline, Rice progressed through three minor league levels in 2023, reaching Double-A with a standout .324/.434/.615 slash line over 332 plate appearances. At Double-A Somerset, he posted a remarkable .327/.401/.648 line, including 16 home runs in 48 games.

In 2024, Rice returned to Somerset, maintaining solid performance with a .261/.383/.511 line, 12 homers, and an 8-for-8 stolen base record in 218 plate appearances. Promoted to Triple-A on June 5, he quickly adapted, hitting .333/.419/.619 in his first 50 plate appearances. Despite the brief Triple-A stint, Rice’s offensive prowess has earned him a major league call-up.

Yankees prospect Ben Rice is forcing his way through the door

Defensively, Rice is more advanced as a hitter than as a catcher, prompting the Yankees to start transitioning him to first base in 2022. Although he has split time between catcher and first base, he is expected to primarily play first base in the majors due to Rizzo’s injury. Scouts have noted improvements in his blocking skills, but his ability to control the running game remains a work in progress.

In his initial major league stint, Rice is likely to see regular time at first base. Prior plans had Oswaldo Cabrera and DJ LeMahieu covering the infield corners, but Rice’s promotion may lead to a timeshare arrangement, with LeMahieu potentially facing left-handed pitchers due to Rice’s past struggles against them, as evidenced by his .217/.329/.317 line in 2023 against left-handers.

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