Yanks' prospect Vrieling having bounce-back season

May 2nd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Bryan Hoch's Yankees Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

You may notice an extra hop in 's step each time the young Yankees prospect dashes to the mound for the Double-A Somerset Patriots. It is rooted in the right-hander’s appreciation to be back doing what he loves.

The 23-year-old Vrieling is rated as the Yankees’ No. 22 prospect by MLB Pipeline. A third-round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft from Gonzaga, Vrieling has been shining for Somerset this year after being sidelined for most of last season by injury.

“You just treat it as a simple game. Baseball is baseball, no matter where you’re at,” Vrieling said recently. “It is a little bit different, being at the Double-A level versus college, because I didn’t get to pitch at all last year.”

Fully recovered from the stress fracture in his pitching elbow that stalled his professional debut, the Lewiston, Idaho native has pitched to a 3.41 ERA through his first five Double-A starts.

His finest outing thus far saw him fire 7 2/3 hitless, scoreless innings with six strikeouts in a victory over the Hartford Yard Goats on April 19, an effort for which he was rewarded by being named the Eastern League’s Pitcher of the Week.

“I was just like, ‘I’m going to go out and pitch,’” Vrieling said. “Wherever I end up, I end up. They decided that I was fit enough to be in Double-A, so it wasn’t really up to me. But it was exciting to be able to make my debut in Double-A, for sure.”

Vrieling said there is “always something to learn” from each start, and one of his takeaways thus far is that his fastball, slider, curveball and changeup all are good enough to play against pro lineups.

He credits getting ahead in the count as a primary focus, noting, “Putting them on their heels a little bit is always a tactic that seems to lead to success.”

It may turn out that those seemingly lost summer months of 2023 will pay dividends for Vrieling. The Yankees instructed the 6-foot-4 Vrieling to focus on adding strength after signing, and he packed on 20 pounds in advance of his anticipated debut; he’s officially listed at 200 pounds, but has said he weighs more.

But when he was unable to pitch, Vrieling focused on the mental side of the game, using his hours at the club’s development complex in Tampa, Fla., to tap into the minds of his coaches and teammates. Vrieling also benefited from his experience in the Arizona Fall League, carrying that into this season.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Vrieling said.

Down on the farm
Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: Right-hander Clayton Beeter fired 5 2/3 scoreless innings of two-hit ball on Wednesday at Jacksonville. Beeter walked four and struck out nine. He’s 3-1 with a 2.74 ERA through five starts in Triple-A.

Double-A Somerset: Infielder Benjamin Cowles leads the Patriots in batting average (.338) and on-base percentage (.426). With three homers, eight doubles and two triples, Cowles’ 13 extra-base hits pace the Eastern League.

High-A Hudson Valley: Infielder Jared Serna hit three homers in a 13-10 win over Wilmington on Wednesday. The infielder drove in six runs in the performance. In 21 games, Serna is batting .231/.351/.474 with five homers and 17 RBIs.

Single-A Tampa: Shortstop Enmanuel Tejeda has been one of the Tarpons’ most consistent offensive performers, batting .304/.353/.370 (28-for-92) with three doubles, a homer and 14 RBIs through 23 games.