Yankees' No. 17 prospect refining 5-pitch arsenal to get back to Majors

April 18th, 2024

Yoendrys Gómez’s heart felt like it was beating out of his chest, but completing his warmup routine soothed him. He tuned out the crowd at Toronto’s Rogers Centre as he made his way from the bullpen to the mound. The right-handed pitcher was making his Major League debut.

“There are no words to describe all of it,” Gómez said in Spanish. “When they told me I was going to enter the game, it was something else.”

The journey Gómez took to get him to that point prepared him for making a successful first appearance for the Yankees. Two scoreless innings later, he had punched out four while allowing one hit in a 6-0 loss against the Blue Jays on Sept. 28, 2023.

The Yankees’ No. 17 prospect first started playing the game with adults in Venezuela before moving on to Little League at age 12. His talent quickly caught the attention of MM Baseball Academy in his native country. That's where Gómez showcased his skills on the mound to scouts looking for the next generation of ballplayers.

Impressed by his talent and potential, the Yankees signed the right-hander as an international free agent in 2016 for $50,000.

“It changes your entire life,” Gómez said. “It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of -- to be in the big leagues.”

The 6-foot-3 righty was off to a promising start. Over his first two seasons in the Minors, Gómez compiled 83 strikeouts in 82 2/3 frames. He broke onto the team’s Top 30 Prospects list in 2019 at No. 27. In 2020, he earned a spot on the 40-man roster and was one of four players the Yankees protected from the Rule 5 Draft. Clearly on an upward trajectory in his development, Gómez cleaned up his mechanics and control. He added 5 mph to his fastball, topping out at 97.

The now-24-year-old was on the right path – until COVID and injuries set him back.

Gómez appeared in only nine games in 2021 due to shoulder issues and a torn UCL. He underwent a UCL repair with an internal brace in August 2021 and was limited to playing catch for parts of three straight seasons. Naturally, frustration set in.

“When they told me I had to get surgery, it was hard because you know you’re going to be out a long time,” Gómez said. “Thankfully, I had the support of my family and of all the people around me.”

Shoulder tendinitis sidelined Gómez for the first two months of the 2023 season. He made adjustments, working out a little less to give his body more time to recover. It worked. He learned to pay attention to his physical needs without letting frustration take over.

Gómez spent the majority of last season at Double-A Somerset, starting 19 games. He struck out 78 batters in 65 1/3 frames while posting a 3.58 ERA, solid numbers that put him on New York’s radar. The Yankees rewarded Gómez with his first big league callup in late September.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone was so impressed by the first frame Gómez threw in The Show that he sent him back out for a second inning. And he responded by striking out Matt Chapman, Daulton Varsho and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“He’s definitely a guy with a lot of talent and somebody we’re excited about,” Boone said after that game.

After getting a taste of the big leagues and being around the Yankees' winning mentality, Gómez is more determined than ever to return and stay there. He began the 2024 season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he has been refining his arsenal -- fastball, slider, changeup, cutter and curveball.

“I’ve been working more on my slider, trying to throw it for more strikes,” Gómez said. “I would also like to use my changeup more because I don’t use it a lot. ... I’ve never played here in Triple-A, so I am going to continue developing my abilities on the mound to get better so they call me up again.”