Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the upcoming season. Some compete for jobs in big league camp, while others vie for spots on Minor League affiliates. MLB Pipeline will visit all 30 camps this spring, and today we check
Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the upcoming season. Some compete for jobs in big league camp, while others vie for spots on Minor League affiliates. MLB Pipeline will visit all 30 camps this spring, and today we check in on the Yankees.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The New York Yankees' farm system understandably garners quite a bit of attention for its contingent of six Top 100 prospects, a group headlined by Gleyber Torres (No. 5 overall) as well as others, both hitters and pitchers, who are nearly ready to contribute in the Major Leagues.
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Yet, the true strength of MLB Pipeline's sixth-ranked farm system is pitching depth, as 20 of the Yankees' Top 30 Prospects for 2018 reside on the mound, including 18 right-handers, the most of any team. While that sheer quantity of arms alone is impressive, it's the quality of the organization's pitching prospects that makes the Yanks' farm so very promising, as seemingly every hurler boasts a plus fastball with a high-spin-rate breaking ball.
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"We are very fortunate to have very good scouts, internationally and domestic amateur-wise," Yankees Minor League pitching coordinator Danny Borrell said. "They're picking the right guys and bringing them in, and it makes us look very good. We're just trying to get them to the big leagues."
Outside of highly touted hurlers Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams and Albert Abreu, the Yanks have a host high-ceiling young arms that soon could soon join that trio as Top 100 prospects.
Perhaps no pitcher better fits that bill than 18-year-old Luis Medina. Signed for $280,000 out of the Dominican Republic in July 2015, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound right-hander showcased his enormous potential last season during his U.S. debut with Rookie-level Pulaski, where he pitched to a 5.09 ERA, but also held hitters to a .171 average while punching out 22 in 23 innings with an excellent ground-ball rate.
"Ceiling-wise, he's as good as it gets," said Borrell about the club's No. 7 prospect. "We're just going to try to keep him healthy and get him in the strike zone a little, and everything should take care of itself. We'll be conservative with him, hopefully we get 100-110 innings from him this year, and it really doesn't matter where he logs them."
Meanwhile, after an offseason in which he added 15 pounds, Medina has continued to make progress in developing his high-octane stuff this spring while performing well early in Minor League camp.
"In his second outing the other day," noted Borrell, "he struck out four guys in two innings and was 97-100 mph with his fastball, with a 90-91 mph changeup that had some bottom to it and probably a 55- or 60-grade curveball. He's special."
Right behind Medina on the Yankees' Top 30 list is No. 8 Freicer Perez, a 6-foot-8 right-hander capable of hitting triple digits with several promising secondary offerings and feel for pitching. He made greater strides than perhaps any Yanks pitching prospect last year in his first full season, as the then-21-year-old went 10-1 with a 2.12 ERA, a .184 opponents' average and 101 strikeouts in 101 2/3 innings across his final 18 starts with Class A Charleston.
According to Borrell, Perez's mid-May breakthrough last season was largely tied to the introduction of a slider to an arsenal already comprised of a 95-100 mph fastball, an above-average changeup and a promising curveball.
"We incorporated the slider about five starts in last year, and that's when he started to turn the corner," Borrell said. "He's a guy who actually feels the difference between two pitches. We, as an organization, usually don't have guys throw two breaking balls at lower levels. But had the feel for both and we'll certainly keep doing that this year."
"He's a great athlete and repeats his delivery quite well," Borrell continued, "and he proved he could throw strikes in Charleston last year. We'll push him to the next level this year and hopefully he'll do the same thing."
Yankees fans looking to identify the next international pitching prospect to begin making waves in the system should keep a close eye on Deivi Garcia, the club's No. 16 prospect. The 18-year-old right-hander pitched at three levels in 2017, beginning the season in the Dominican Summer League before advancing to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and then Pulaski. He piled up 85 strikeouts in 60 innings between the three stops, and opposing hitters produced just a .202 average against him.
Listed at 5-foot-10, 163 pounds, Garcia doesn't come with as much pure stuff or physical projection as Medina and Perez, though neither perceived shortcoming detracts from his ceiling.
"It's a lot of arm speed from a high slot," Borrell noted. "Deivi's kind of small, but at the same time he doesn't pitch like he's 5-foot-10. It's a 92-95 mph fastball with a nice changeup and a curveball spin rate that approaches 3,000 rpms, which puts him among the top five percent in baseball. He just goes after guys with his fastball and gets a ton of swings-and-misses with it."
The Yankees selected Clarke Schmidt with their first-round pick (No. 16 overall) in the 2017 Draft roughly a month after the South Carolina junior had undergone Tommy John surgery. Though part of the appeal was tied to Schmidt's willingness to sign for a discounted rate for his slot, thus allowing the organization flexibility to sign later picks, the Yanks also targeted the right-hander for his potential to pitch in a big league rotation.
Now throwing off the mound in Minor League camp, the 22-year-old right-hander and Yankees' No. 13 prospect is eager to begin his pro career in earnest.
"Clarke looks great," said Borrell, "but we're actually trying to hold him back a bit just because he feels so good and wants to let loose. But coming back from Tommy John, we want to make sure he's 100 percent healthy. Come June, we'll let him loose, and he'll probably do the same stuff he did at South Carolina."
Schmidt's bonus in turn allowed the Yankees to give Matt Sauer a well-above-slot deal after they selected the highly projectable right-hander in the second round out of the California prep ranks.
Ranked No. 12 on the club's Top 30 list, the 6-foot-4, 195-pounder has already made significant strides since entering the system, the extent of which has made him a standout early this spring in Minor League camp.
"He sat 95 mph in his first two innings the other day, which is significant considering we're talking about a kid out of high school who was 92-94 mph," Borrell said. "He's spinning his breaking ball at a high rate and has just done a really nice job overall."
Lastly, Borrell and the rest of the Yankees' player development staff have high hopes for No. 21 prospect Nolan Martinez, the club's third-round pick from the 2016 Draft. The 19-year-old righty moved from California to Tampa and spent the offseason at the Yanks' complex training and working out. That dedication to improvement has already yielded eye-opening results in spring camp.
"He's been up to 95 mph this spring, showing a plus curveball and a nice changeup," said Borrell. "We're trying to protect him, but at the same time we'll probably start letting him loose in the next year or so. All he needs is innings, and hopefully he can capitalize on those that we give him this year."
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.