Here's a look at the Yankees' farm system
TAMPA, Fla. -- If young pitchers who can throw hard are your thing, then you should really head to Yankees Minor League camp.
It’s still too early to know exactly what they’ll become, but there’s some serious arm strength brewing at the lower levels of the system here. There’s a quartet of right-handers, age 20 or younger, in the top 14 of the organization’s Top 30 prospects list headlining a large crop of pitchers who can do some serious radar gun damage. The Yanks have 21 right-handers on their Top 30 list, which is seven more than the team with the next most and nearly twice the league average of 11.
“I don’t even know exactly who you’re referring to because there are so many guys,” Yankees senior director of player development Kevin Reese said. “Every day, you get the lineups and you see who’s pitching out there. Some of the scouts I’ve hung out with over the years, they say, ‘I’ve seen your system so much, I feel like I know every player.’ Then a guy comes in the game and he’s throwing 96, and they say, ‘Who is this guy? I’ve never seen this guy before.’
“There are a lot of young pitchers in particular with tools to work with and I think as a coach or somebody sitting in my seat, that’s what you want. You want the scouting departments to hand you guys who have tools and then you figure out how to make it work on the field.”
Getting them to sharpen those tools, going from thrower to pitcher, doesn’t take the same shape for all of them. Some took steps forward in 2018 and are looking to build off of that. Deivi Garcia has clicked more than the others in this talented group, showing polish and pitching his way to Double-A while just 19, rushing him up to No. 4 in this year’s Top 30.
“Deivi is definitely the exception,” Reese said. “He was bummed he didn’t break with the full season club; he worked his butt off when he was down here in Extended Spring Training. He got a chance to get out of here and everywhere he went, it was really good. The consistency, the athleticism, he didn’t have off days, low heartbeat, everything about him was good. He’s the type who is always going to push himself and make decisions difficult.”
On the other side of that coin is Luis Medina. He has louder stuff than Garcia, but with less idea of what to do with it. While Garcia was streaking up the ladder, Medina was scuffling, particularly with his command, in the rookie-level Appalachian League. There’s no question about the stuff, and he’s shown some signs this spring of beginning to understand how to harness it.
“Medina threw here the other day and he was lights out, with three plus to plus plus pitches, touching 99 mph,” Reese said. “This is what he could be. He just has to do it more consistently.”
Individualizing the paths for each of these arms, all while they are competing with each other to move closer to New York, is one of the things Reese and his staff relish each day in camp.
“It’s not as easy as throwing them out there and letting them figure it out,” Reese said. “There are some challenges. We spend a lot of time talking about those guys, about how we can get them to move to the next level and get over some of the bumps in the road they’ve seen. I think that’s what makes this job both fun and challenging.”
Don’t forget about the bats
The young guns understandably get a lot of attention, but this very young system has some exciting position players acquired via the international market over the last few years. None have played above A ball and most are still at the Rookie levels. Infielder Oswaldo Cabrera, a July 2015 signing, made it to full-season ball in '18. Shortstop Oswald Peraza was in the Appy League, along with outfielder Everson Pereira. Fellow outfielder Antonio Cabello was in the Gulf Coast League, and Reese says not to sleep on Raimfer Salinas, who missed a lot of 2018 with injuries. Pereira (No. 7) and Cabello (No. 9) are in the top third of that Top 30 list, and both showed off impressive skills last summer that are once again showing up this spring.
“They’re completely different body types,” Reese said of the outfield duo, with Cabello being more “muscled up” than Pereira. “Cabello played in the GCL last year and had a really nice season. We sent Pereira to Pulaski. He was just barely 17 and he really held his own throughout the season. He can run, hit, defend. There’s a lot to like with him.”
A pitcher and hitter in their first Yankees Spring Training have really opened some eyes, though they got here in different ways.
Right-hander Tanner Myatt was an 11th-round pick in last June’s Draft and got a bit over pick value to sign out of his junior college. He’s 6-foot-7 and can crank out a fastball that fits right in with those young arms discussed above. Myatt came to Tampa ready to go.
“He was touching some really big velos for us early in camp,” Reese said. “He pitched Monday. There’s a lot of life on his fastball; he was touching the upper 90s. He’s working on a changeup and a bigger curveball. The fastball right now is ahead of the other two offerings, but the curveball made some guys look silly on Monday.”
Outfielder Josh Stowers was acquired from the Mariners in the three-team deal that sent Sonny Gray to the Reds and prospect Shed Long to the Mariners. Seattle’s second-round pick in 2018, he came to New York with a reputation of having an advanced approach at the plate. Stowers has lived up to that billing so far this spring.
“He’s hit a couple of home runs the last few days,” Reese said. “He has a really even-keeled personality. You don’t see him get too up or down. His at-bats feed off of that. He has good strike zone knowledge and it seems like he knows when it’s time to let it fly and he knows when it’s time to sit back and put the ball in play, so that’s been impressive.”