Thursday, January 30, 2014

Depth Below AA:

Most of the Yankees pitching prospects have yet to reach AA, so part two of this feature will include bigger names, with a lot more potential. This section includes players who spent most of their 2013 season below AA.

The first name on this list is my personal favorite Yankee SP prospect. Luis Severino was one of the few breakout stars of the 2013 season.Severino started the year in the GCL, but quickly advanced all the way to A Ball before the season ended. His performance really raised his stock and now he is considered a top ten Yankee prospect.

Severino combines plus fastball velocity (93-96) with a good changeup, and a slider that shows plus potential. Severino has shown a knack for getting grounders, and the ability for striking people out.

Severino biggest strength is the fact that he attacks the zone. This aspect of his game really separates himself from other players in this category. For example, Byran Mitchell has always received praise from scouts for his enormous potential, but has consistently disappointment Yankee fans because he refuses to be more aggressive.

People believe his control problems are related to his maturity or mental game. This would make the problem correctable. In cases like these sometimes players just need to challenged. That seemed to have happened in 2013, as Mitchell reduced his walk rate significantly, and put up a 2.45 FIP in AA, while only walking 2.41 batters per 9.

While his success in AA was based off of a small sample size. It does match his capabilities. Mitchell throws a fastball, curveball, and changeup.While his changeup is still a work in progress, his other two pitches are rated as plus-plus by scouts. With his improved control and his present stuff, he should be able to reach his high ceiling.

Even with his past struggles no one has ever questioned Mitchell's ability to remain a starter or his upside. However that is not the case for the next high ceiling prospect on this list. Rafael De Paula, finally made his long awaited stateside debut last season. The beginning of Depuala's season went very well as he dominated Low A.

But he really struggled after his promotion; he had a BB/9 rate of 5.5. Furthermore he allowed almost 10 hits per 9 innings. His struggles have led to the suggestion of making him a reliever. People think the Yankees can speed up his progression if they move him to pen. But there really is no rush to get him to the majors. There really is no good reason to make someone a relief pitcher before he fails as a starter, and one bad half isn't failing as a starter.

Besides De Paula has the stuff to be a successful starter. He has a fastball that can reach 98 as a starter, a hard curveball and a promising changeup. De Paula may not have mastered his control or his secondary pitches, but he is still an inexperienced pitcher which has shown a lot of potential. The fact that he was thought to be a top 50 prospect at middle of the 2013 season shows that he has the ability to be one of the games best prospects.

Depuala isn't the only front-line starter in the Yankees system with question marks. As both Jose Campos, and Gabriel Encinas could've made the Yankees top prospect list if elbow injuries didn't slow them down.

Campos's injury occurred in 2012, when he was dominating Low A. Because of his injury, Campos had to start 2013 at the same level. More importantly it put a strict innings limit on Campos, so he wasn't able to reach A+ in 2014. The injury also cost him several miles off of his fastball.

While these setbacks are disappointing, Campos is still just 21 years old and has time to regain his velocity(92-95) and develop his secondary pitches. Campos throws promising but raw changeup and  curveball. Furthermore Campos has shown good command and control, so he may be able to pitch with reduced velocity(92-93).

Campos reportedly got stronger at the of the 2013 season, so it seems likely that he will get his velocity back. The fact that he played an entire season last year, and did well,  3.41 ERA, 2.87 FIP, and 77/16 K/BB in 87 2/3 inning, means that there is still reason to believe he is a good prospect. Campos should begin the year in Tampa next season.

 Like Campos, Encinas was dominating Low A before he succumbed to Tommy John surgery. However Encinas's dominance was a bit less expected than Campos's. For this reason the injury may have had a bigger effect on Encinas's stock.

Encinas is a three pitch pitcher(fastball, curveball, changeup), but is mostly a fastball pitcher.  Encinas had a velocity bump a few years ago and now throws 92-95 MPH. He only threw up to 92 MPH in high school so it took him some time to get used to the increased velocity. However he seemed to have gotten used to it last season.

In his first season in A Ball Encinas, put up an ERA of 0.77, and a WHIP of 1.086. He also struck out over 8 batters per 9, and reduced his walk rate to 4.1. If he had been able to replicate this success in A+, he would have probably made a lot of Yankees top 10 lists.
The Yankees have a couple more players who need to prove that they are top starters. In the past two years the Yankees used a first round to pick two high ceiling pitching prospects. Tyler Hensley and Ian Clarkin, may have not pitched much at all for the Yankees but they are still considered two of the Yankees biggest prospects.

Clarkin already has a good feel for three pitches. A fastball that ranges from 90-92, but reaches 94, a plus curveball, and a promising changeup. While he still has work to do on his delivery, he isn't as raw as most high school players.

The same can be said about Tyler Hensley, who missed the entire 2013 season because of a hip injury. Hensley throws slightly harder than Clarkin, and has reached 97 MPH. Like Clarkin, Hensley throws a good curveball but needs to work on his change.

Both of these pitchers have immense potential, but have yet to see many innings as Yankees. This will hopefully change in 2014 and the duo may be a part of a very strong Charleston rotation.

The Low A rotation may also include players like Brady Lail, Giovanny Gallegos, Rookie Davis, all of which have some decent potential. 


The first two sleepers are in some ways very similar. Both Dietrich Enns and Caleb Smith are left handed starters who have outperformed their draft day ratings. Additionally they have the same combination of pitches(fastball, slider, changeup), and are the same age (23).

In some ways both of their ceilings depend on how well they develop the slider and how they command their other pitches. At the moment Smith seems to be ahead of Enns in both regards.There is a good chance that these pitchers both start the year at Trenton this season.

Like the previous two pitchers Dan Camarena  is a three pitch lefty who has shown good potential. However, instead of throwing a slider Camarena  throws a curveball.Additionally some believe based off of Camarena's frame that he may end up throwing harder than he is now (87-79).

Camarena's season was a lot like Tracy's in the sense that Camarena  acted as if he was two separate pitchers. In his first half at A ball Camarena had an ERA over 6. He was much better in the second half and had a 2.89 ERA. Camarena should begin the year in A+, and even if he doesn't gain velocity he can become a viable big league pitcher.


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