TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees system has cranked out one potent bat after another in recent years. Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres have placed in the top three in American League Rookie of the Year balloting during the last four seasons, and Sanchez, Judge and Torres have earned multiple All-Star Game selections.
New York hasn't had the same success with pitchers, getting just six starts from purely homegrown arms on their 103-win club in 2019. Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery were the Yankees' two best starters in 2017 and Severino made his second straight All-Star Game appearance in 2018, but Montgomery had Tommy John surgery that June and Severino had it in February.
The loss of Severino was another blow to a big league rotation that already saw James Paxton undergo back surgery that's expected to sideline him until at least May. Adding Gerrit Cole to a $324 million free-agent deal gave New York a much-needed ace, and the system also is ready to provide some reinforcements.
Two of the Yankees' three Top 100 Prospects are nearly-ready right-handers, Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia. Schmidt, who had Tommy John surgery a month before the Yankees made him a first-round pick in 2017, can flash three plus pitches and looked sharper than ever when he got to Double-A last August at age 24.
"Clarke trusted his stuff and challenged hitters more in Double-A," Yankees farm director Kevin Reese said shortly before Spring Training was suspended. "I think it was a combination of being further removed from Tommy John surgery and his confidence building up. A lot of our guys have gone over to big league camp this spring, and Clarke is the most talked about."
Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $200,000 in 2015, Garcia lacks physicality at 5-foot-9, but owns one of the best curveballs in the Minors as well as a high-spin fastball that reaches 97 mph. He moved from Class A Advanced to Triple-A last year at age 20 and would have topped the Minors in strikeout rate (13.3 per nine innings) if he hadn't fallen two-thirds of an inning shy of qualifying.
"Deivi isn't the most physically intimidating pitcher but he has great stuff," Reese said. "He works so hard but doesn't fatigue. He might be a little closer."
Another right-hander, Michael King, doesn't get the same hype but possesses the best control and command among New York farmhands. After coming from the Marlins in a deal for Caleb Smith and Garrett Cooper in November 2017, he ranked second in the Minors in ERA (1.79) and third in WHIP (0.91) in his first season with his new organization. A stress reaction in his elbow delayed his encore until last July, though he did make his big league debut in September.
"It's great to have Michael back," Reese said. "He's one of the smartest pitchers I've been around. He has good stuff too."
If all goes according to plan, Schmidt, Garcia and King will represent just the first wave of in-house pitching help. Class A Charleston featured one of the best prospect rotations in the Minors a year ago, a group that included right-handers Luis Gil, Alexander Vizcaino, Yoendrys Gomez, Luis Medina and Roansy Contreras. They all rank among the system's best arms and could make an impact in New York in a couple of years.
"That rotation was the talk of other teams' scouts and our own guys," Reese said. "That was the place everyone want to go to see that staff. Everyone was pumping in the mid-90s. We hope they continue to develop."
As Reese mentioned, Schmidt was the most impressive prospect in big league camp. He struck out eight while allowing two earned runs in seven innings, and manager Aaron Boone noted that he was quite advanced considering his relative lack of pro experience.
On the Minor League side, catcher Josh Breaux showed off his usual impressive raw power and pure arm strength, as the elbow problems that dogged him in 2018-19 appear to be fully behind him. The 2018 second-rounder from McLennan (Texas) CC has played just 81 games in two pro seasons, including just 45 behind the plate, so his receiving has lagged behind the rest of his game. But he made strides with his defense this spring.
"Josh looked very good at the plate and behind the plate," Reese said. "We have a new catching coordinator and a new Major League catching coach, so we're changing the way we do things, and Josh really took to it. He hasn't played a ton or caught a ton in the past, so just getting some reps has been beneficial for him."
Prospect we'll be talking about in 2021
Shortstop Oswald Peraza signed for just $175,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2016 and has batted .267/.350/.346 through three pro seasons. He held his own as a 19-year-old in Class A last summer, however, and has some of the best all-around tools in the system. He's a plus runner and defender, who also produces some of the highest exit velocities among New York's position prospects.
"Peraza has looked good," Reese said. "He's put on some muscle and he's growing into his body. I think he's got a huge ceiling. I think he has at least average power in there and the upside to be above average offensively and defensively."
Something to prove
Part of the Brian McCann trade with the Astros in November 2016, right-hander Albert Abreu has perhaps the best all-around stuff in the system, but also a hard time staying healthy and harnessing it. He pitched just 222 2/3 innings in his first three seasons with the Yankees while battling shoulder, elbow and biceps issues as well as an appendectomy.
When he's right, Abreu can sit at 94-98 mph and touch 100 with his riding fastball and back it up with two more well above-average offerings in his power slurve and fading changeup. But he also got hit harder than ever in Double-A last year at age 23.
"You can see three plus pitches and he holds his velocity really well," Reese said. "But he hasn't stayed healthy enough or performed to his scouting reports. This is his third year on our [40-man] roster, so it's an important year for him."