Skip to main content

New York Yankees Prospect Caleb Durbin Makes History in Arizona Fall League

Yankees infield prospect Caleb Durbin had an AFL season for the history books. Durbin stole 21 bases in 23 games. We recently sat down with him for an exclusive interview.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

New York Yankees infield prospect Caleb Durbin had an Arizona Fall League performance for the history books. 

The AFL reached its conclusion Saturday, with the Surprise Saguaros defeating the Peoria Javelina 6-5 in the championship game at Scottsdale Stadium. Two days earlier, Durbin played his final Fall League game, where he finished the season with a slash line of .353/.456/1.044, impressing tremendously. Durbin currently does not rank as a top-30 prospect in the Yankees farm system, according to MLB Pipeline, however his stellar play throughout the AFL earned him a nod to the Fall Stars Game.

Durbin undoubtedly impressed at the plate, but he also may have put together the finest season for a baserunner since the Arizona Fall League began play in 1992.

In just 23 games, Durbin swiped 21 bases. Durbin came just three steals shy of tying the AFL single-season record, set by Rick Holifield in 1994. Durbin's 21 steals ties him with Desi Relaford for the second-highest total in an AFL season. What separates Durbin's performance from that of Holifield's and Relaford's is the number of games Durbin played in.

The AFL used to play a 50-game schedule. It now plays a 30-game schedule. Holifield collected 24 steals in 42 games and Relaford's 21 steals came in 48 games. Durbin swiped 21 bags in 23 games.

Durbin, 23, slashed .304/.395/.822 across 69 games between Double-A Somerset and High-A Hudson Valley in 2023.

The Atlanta Braves selected Durbin in the 14th round of the 2021 MLB Draft, out of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Earlier this year, Durbin was traded to the Yankees.

I recently spoke with Durbin for an exclusive interview upon the conclusion of his final Fall League game last week. Durbin spoke about his experience playing in the AFL, his run at the AFL steals record, his breakout 2023 season, what it was like being traded, his time growing up in the northern suburbs of Chicago, his favorite pizza, and much, much more!

Jack: So, you went to Lake Forest High School?

Caleb: I did, my man.

Jack: I went to New Trier.

Caleb: No kidding! A Winnetka guy? Okay, small world, dude. I’ve met so many guys out here from the North Shore, it’s unbelievable.

Jack: No way! Seriously? Who else?

Caleb: Yeah. I met a reporter that graduated my high school in like 1992 or something.

Jack: Mike Ferrin. Play-by-play guy. I believe he graduated in 1994.

Caleb: It was unbelievable.

Jack: He was calling this game on XM tonight.

Caleb: Oh, no kidding! That’s awesome, dude. It’s fun being in Arizona, and seeing all these people from the North Shore area.

Jack: Fitz Stadler played at Glenbrook South. He’s a Blue Jays prospect. Isn’t there a guy on your Mesa Solar Sox team from Arlington Heights?

Caleb: Yeah, that’s (Brett) Harris. He went to Hersey.

Jack: That’s insane.

Caleb: I know. It’s bonkers.

Jack: How did you like growing up in the northern suburbs of Chicago?

Caleb: It was good, man. I can’t complain. Honestly, I got really lucky because our conference was pretty stacked with some good teams. Obviously, New Trier is a powerhouse, but like Libertyville, Stevenson, all those teams, especially Mundelein — they were really good too — and I had the opportunity to play on varsity as a sophomore and that was my first experience of playing with guys older than me. So growing up there and playing in that conference, I got pretty lucky.

Jack: Were you a big Cubs fan growing up?

Caleb: I wasn’t. So my dad’s from Pittsburgh. So I wouldn’t say I’m a big Pirates fan. I’m a bigger Steelers fan than anything else. When he moved to Chicago, he kind of became a Sox fan, so I was more of a White Sox fan growing up.

Jack: Okay, I’m a Steelers fan too.

Caleb: No kidding!

Jack: We’ve got so much in common. This is unbelievable.

Caleb: This is unbelievable (laughs)!

Jack: What do you think of the offense this year?

Caleb: Of the Steelers? Oh man, I have faith in Kenny Pickett. I think he’s the guy for the future. I like him. Me, personally, if I’m speaking the truth, I think the offensive coordinator – we need a change. We’ve been bottom-tier offensively for a couple years now. Some change has to happen, but I think we got the weapons. That’s the thing, I like our personnel a lot. I think we made some good improvements on the O-line, so we just gotta put it all together.

Jack: I agree with you. The defense looks great, too.

Caleb: Their defense is always great. They’re fun to watch. TJ Watt is the best player in the NFL. He’s unbelievable.

Jack: Another question about growing up in Chicago. Favorite pizza?

Caleb: Lou Malnati’s. I know there’s Giordano’s and maybe another one, but I’m a Lou Malnati’s guy. They have one down here in Arizona and a Portillo’s down here too. I’m in love with Lou Malnati’s.

Jack: Have you had any Malnati's since coming down here?

Caleb: Yeah. I’ve only had it once. One of my siblings came down and we had it one night. But that’s probably my favorite food altogether.

Jack: You going to get it again before you leave?

Caleb: I might have to. We’ll see. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the playoffs, so my mom’s down here. She’s going to help me drive back all the way to Chicago. We’re heading out tomorrow morning I think, so (we) ran out of time. It will be the first thing I eat when I get back, for sure.

Jack: You hit that home run tonight. Were you thinking at all about the steals record, coming in?

Caleb: Yeah, it was in my head the last couple days. It was hard not to be in my head, but when I’m in the box, the way I think about it like, stolen bases, you can’t really force them. You’re going to be put in the opportunity to get on base and steal, but at the plate, you gotta keep your approach the same. You can’t try to force a single or force a walk. Those things just come naturally.

Jack: How did you enjoy playing in the Fall Stars Game?

Caleb: Oh, it was a blast, man. They made it a big deal for us too, so it was really cool. They had the red carpet ceremony right when we got here, and then meeting all the players during BP and stuff and in the locker room, it was a ton of fun.

Jack: I’ve asked this to every player I’ve interviewed out here: What was your favorite show on Nickelodeon, growing up?

Caleb: Man, the first thing that comes to my mind is Drake & Josh. That’s just a classic. I watched that all the time.

Jack: One of the great episodes of Drake & Josh was the Foam Finger.

Caleb: Yes! (Laughs) The foam finger! So funny, man. There were a lot of classic episodes.

Jack: It was such a well-written show. How have you enjoyed playing out here in the Fall League?

Caleb: It’s been a ton of fun. It’s honestly pretty much what I expected. I heard a lot of good things about it from my Yankee teammates that played in it last year and they really enjoyed it. The ball flies a little bit out here with the air and being in Arizona. I used to vacation down here when I was younger, so I love Arizona as it is, but to come down here in the fall and play extra baseball, there’s nothing like it.

Jack: MLB Pipeline does not have you ranked as a top-30 prospect in the Yankees farm system. Is that something that you pay any attention to? Does it give you any extra motivation?

Caleb: Yeah, I don’t really pay attention to it too much. I kind of focus more on my relationship with the Yankees and my coaches and listen to what they have to say on getting better and development. Because at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to help me get to the next level.

Jack: Is there anything out here that you’ve really been wanting to work on?

Caleb: Yeah, really getting the ball in the air more. I definitely had on-average, probably more extra base hits, getting the ball in the air more than I did even during the season, so that was a big room for improvement. I hit the ball a lot harder this year than I did last year which was the main thing that the Yankees wanted me to improve on and now the next step is really just elevating it, it’s getting more results out of the hard-hit balls that I’m hitting.

Jack: You mentioned the Yankees organization. How much have you enjoyed being a part of the Yankees?

Caleb: It’s been a blast. I mean, you grow up and like, the Yankees are the team. I found out I got traded to them. Range of emotions are going on, but then you kind of settle in and you tell yourself, “Man, I get a chance to put on the pinstripes and play for the Yankees.” It’s a dream come true.

Jack: Is there something extra special about playing for the Yankees? This uniform is just so…

Caleb: It’s iconic.

Jack: It’s magical.

Caleb: Yeah, there’s definitely a little bit more to it. Obviously, I was super grateful to play for the Braves. That was an unbelievable opportunity for me. But yeah, you said, it. The pinstripes, wearing it, you take so much pride in it and it feels a little different.

Jack: What was the process like, being traded and coming over to a new team?

Caleb: It came out of nowhere, man. It was, like I said, a range of emotions. But they made it really easy for me. They were really quick to communicate with me on the things they thought I could improve on, and welcome me into the org and all that good stuff. So they made that really easy on me.

Jack: Who was your favorite player, as a kid?

Caleb: I think Jeter’s an easy one. I liked Pedroia a lot, too, and they’re obviously rival teams. But just that style of play, that kind of grittiness, and just really playing hard and trying to be good examples for their teammates.

Jack: Is there one Major League pitcher that you’d most like to face?

Caleb: I guess I’ll say, my boy Jasson Dominguez got to face him and did some damage on him in his first at bat, but Justin Verlander is obviously one of the best in the game. I’d love to get a crack at him.