RHP, Nick Goody: The 2012 sixth round pick was about as dominant a pitcher could be in his debut season that year, holding opposing hitters to a pathetic .177 batting average over three minor league levels. He had begun to mix in a wicked curveball and rapidly developing changeup this year to go along with his above average slider and above average fastball that topped out at 96 mph before he succumbed to Tommy John surgery in April. A high pitch-ability and stellar command hurler, he knows how to get batters out. He might not have the overpowering fastball some elite closers have but he's got the moxie, the four-pitch arsenal, and tremendous makeup to have that kind of ceiling once he returns.
LHP, James Pazos: A 'sleeper' in this article a year ago, this 13th round pick in 2012 really saw a significant jump in his stuff in one short year. He went from sitting in the 91-93 mph range with his fastball to now sitting anywhere from 92-97 mph and even topping out at 98 mph during the Arizona Fall League. And his slider, a pitch that flashes plus potential, got a lot more consistent too. Throw in a solid changeup he can throw for strikes and the Yankees could have an excellent left-handed setup man on their hands down the road.
Closest to the Majors
LHP, Jeremy Bleich: This former first round pick had a tremendous bounce-back season after returning from shoulder surgery two years ago. "Returning" is the key word too because his stuff is fully back, including a 91-94 mph fastball that topped out at 95 mph, a plus curveball, and a changeup that can be equally as effective. He ended the season as a starting pitcher and that could be his role in the short-term, but now that he has some experience relieving and doing so at the Double-A level he is inching his way closer to becoming a viable big league bullpen option soon.
|KEEPING IT LOW: Burawa allowed just one home run in 2013. (Photo: Patrick Teale)|
LHP, Fred Lewis: Part 'sleeper' and part 'highest ceiling', this southpaw is beginning to peak at the right time -- the highest minor league levels. A 47th round pick in the 2010 draft, he will sit anywhere from 92-95 mph with his fastball and top out at 97 mph, he shows an above average, borderline plus slider, and both his curveball and changeup are big league average. Double-A tested now, a little more confidence could have him in the big leagues sooner rather than later.
RHP, Mark Montgomery: It was a "down" year for this 11th round pick back in 2011, although most pitchers would take his kind of "down" year after he posted a 3.38 ERA for Triple-A Scranton, allowed less hits than innings pitched, and struck out better than a batter per inning pitched. His slider is simply one of the best in all of the minor leagues and his fastball, which did drop down to 88-90 mph in 2013, has shown to be an above average pitch in the past. If he can regain his 92-94 mph fastball velocity once again he could be a real bullpen weapon for the Yankees in 2014.
RHP, Chase Whitley: His nickname should be 'Mr. Underrated' because he gets little love in prospect circles despite having above average stuff across the board and continually posting consistently solid numbers year in and year out. His season ERA has never been above 3.09, he has never allowed more hits than innings pitched, and his 93-94 mph fastball and plus changeup combination are nothing to sneeze at. Throw in the fact he has pitched at the Triple-A level for two seasons now, he is already a viable big league bullpen option.
RHP, Nick Rumbelow: Last year's seventh round pick is true 'sleeper' because, despite boasting a 93-95 mph fastball, two borderline plus breaking pitches and an above average changeup, he gets overlooked by pundits because he didn't strike out better than a batter per inning pitched in his debut season with the Staten Island Yankees. Often compared to Nick Goody though not only because they both come from LSU but because both have great fastball command, like Goody he could become one of the top relief pitching prospects in the organization before long.
|QUICK MOVER?: Webb has stuff and command already. (Photo: Patrick Teale)|
Need to Make Their Move
RHP, Manny Barreda: Stuff-wise he's always had one of the higher ceilings. His fastball will routinely sit 94-97 mph and both his slider and changeup can be plus pitches movement-wise most days, but his command can falter for long stretches and he simply pitches behind in counts too frequently to be as successful as his stuff says he should be. He finally made it up to Double-A in his seventh season last year and now is in desperate need of a breakout season in 2014 to have any realistic shot with the Yankees long-term.
RHP, Zach Nuding: A starter through most of his minor league career, this former 30th round pick in 2010 was transitioned to the bullpen late last season in Double-A Trenton. The arm strength is certainly there, especially in shorter relief stints where he's been clocked as high as 98 mph, but the secondary pitches have been merely average and he hasn't missed enough bats to date as a result. The slider continues to make progress, however, and if he can keep that trending upward and miss a few more bats he could be a bullpen option, but he needs to make his move soon to keep up with some of the other candidates.
RHP, Branden Pinder: This former 16th round pick in the 2011 draft could easily fit in any category here, including 'highest ceiling' with his 97 mph fastball, 'the jury is still out' group since the slider remains an inconsistent pitch, or even the 'sleeper' category given that his stats have not accurately reflected his true potential. But throw it all together and he's a high-ceiling arm that simply hasn't developed his pitch-ability yet and he really needs to make his move soon in regards to throwing more strikes at the higher minor league levels.
LHP, Francisco Rondon: He's a left-handed version of Manny Barreda in that the stuff is really top-shelf, including a 95 mph fastball with great movement and two plus secondary pitches with his slider and changeup, but like Barreda the command is simply way too inconsistent and it gets him into trouble. He needs consistency throwing strikes earlier in counts in the worst way and like Barreda 2014 could be his final chance to develop that aspect of his game with the Yankees.
RHP, Graham Stoneburner: This former 14th round pick from the 2009 draft is part 'sleeper' too given his checkered injury history, none of which by the way were arm related. Yo-yo'ed back and forth between Double-A and Triple-A last year as both a reliever and a starter, he proved he could stay healthy and while the results were solid, the stuff varied depending on the role. He has proven he can have a plus fastball-plus changeup combination when he's going right, and to his credit the velocity crept back up to the plus range in the bullpen late last season, but, Triple-A tested, he has to get back to missing more bats before becoming a realistic bullpen option.
The Jury is Still Out
RHP, Andury Acevedo: This former shortstop prospect for the Pirates has completely reinvented himself as a pitcher with the Yankees. He has been a bit of a project to say the least but there's real potential here, including a 94-98 mph fastball from almost a side-arm angle and a breaking ball that can be effective at times too. He doesn't throw enough strikes yet though and walks far too many batters, but there is some real potential here if he can figure things out.
RHP, Philip Walby: This 12th round pick last year has some size and power to his game, including a fastball that sat 92-94 mph in Staten Island last season. Throw in a herky-jerky delivery that gives him some real deception, he has some long-term intriguing potential. However, like Acevedo he pitches too often behind in counts and walks far too many batters to be effective yet, and the slider remains a work in progress. He could be a long-term 'sleeper' but there is work to be done first.