Sizing Up the Relief Pitching Prospects; Pt 2

PinstripesPlus.com analyzes the Yankees relief pitching prospects. Which relievers are the 'sleeper' prospects? Which ones have to start moving quicker? Which ones is the jury still out on? We discuss this in part two of our two-part series.

The "Sleepers"

RHP, Sean Charley: Being a 14th round pick immediately puts one into potential 'sleeper' realm but it becomes doubly true after posting a 5.48 ERA in your debut season like Carley did last year. Considering the former West Virginia University hurler was throwing some real gas late in the year, sitting 93-96 mph, and developed a slider with plus potential, with his innate strike-throwing ability he has pushed himself squarely on to the 'sleeper' map. He still has to prove he can be productive but stuff-wise, mechanically, and makeup-wise, there are some tangible signs that he could be a real quick mover through the minor leagues in 2015 and potentially become an impact relief pitching prospect, one who could wind up being one of the better ones in the farm system.

LHP, Dietrich Enns: Yo-yo'ed back and forth between starting and relieving since his 19th round selection in 2012 out of Central Michigan University, Enns has proven two things in his time with the Yankees; not only does his stuff play up coming out of the bullpen but he is extremely more effective in short-inning stints. He owns a miniscule 0.81 ERA as a reliever his past two seasons compared to a 5.58 ERA in the starting role. He averages mostly 90-92 mph as a starter but the velo plays up to the 91-94 mph range out of the bullpen, and he can downright electric with his vastly improved slider. He is recovering from Tommy John surgery right now but don't be surprised if he finds himself right up there with the likes of Jacob Lindgren, James Pazos, and Tyler Webb as a power left-handed reliever once he returns.

RHP, Jordan Foley: Another Central Michigan University product, last year's fifth round pick had a solid but unspectacular debut with the Staten Island Yankees, posting a respectable 4.46 ERA shifting back and forth between starting and relieving. The temptation will be to keep him initially as a starting pitcher so he can harness all of his pitches, three of which show long-term plus potential, but his entire game is predicated on power and movement, the kind of game that could wind up finding a permanent home in the back-end of a bullpen. A Danny Burawa-Branden Pinder hybrid of sorts, if his slider can make similar progress he too could find himself a realistic chance as a potential impact reliever someday, one whose ceiling is that of a big league setup man or closer.

VASTLY UNDERRATED: Vargas has stuff and command. (Photo: Patrick Teale)
RHP, Cesar Vargas: This Mexican native had always shown a high level of pitch-ability with pretty much average to slightly above average stuff as a starting pitching prospect and the on-the-field production was solid as well [never having a season ERA higher than 4.10}, but the ceiling wasn't very vast. The Yankees tried moving him to the bullpen last year and the results were a little more to their liking. Not only did he post a combined 2.58 ERA with more strikeouts than innings pitched coming out of the bullpen, but his velocity spiked up to sitting in the 92-94 mph range and his quality breaking ball became a lot more effective only having to face guys one time through the lineup. There isn't closing potential here but solid middle relief and perhaps even some setup potential does exist.

RHP, Philip Walby: This 12th round pick in 2013 out of San Diego State University is arguably the closest thing to a Tyler Clippard type pitcher currently in the Yankees farm system in regards to the 'funk' in his delivery and the deception in his release. Batters have an extremely hard time barreling up his above average stuff as evidenced by his .191 opponent's batting average so far in his career and the one lone home run he's served up in a little more than 87 innings. He sits mostly 92-94 mph and shows two quality secondary pitches. Where the Clippard comparison ends, however, is in his strike-throwing ability. Walby has walked 72 batters in those 87 innings and that's not going to get it done. If he could learn to pitch more frequently ahead in counts and dramatically cut down the walks he could be even more effective and that alone is a scary proposition given the peripheral success he's had thus far.

RHP, Phil Wetherell: Drafted in the eighth round in 2011 out of Western Kentucky University, Wetherell falls more in lines with Walby as a pitcher whose stuff should dictate a lot more on the field success than he's shown thus far. He'll sit anywhere from 93-97 mph with his four-seam fastball and he has one of the best splitters around. It's the kind of combination that screams big league closer upside. However, the slider has been and remains a work in progress from a consistency standpoint and he only began introducing a two-seam fastball last year. The career 3.95 ERA isn't anything to write home about but the pitch-ability has slowly gotten better and it's tough to bet against his stuff. If the slider ever came around consistently and he threw more strikes he could become a powerful impact reliever.

Need to Make Their Move

RHP, Andury Acevedo: This former Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop prospect is absolutely one of the most intriguing pitching prospects in all of baseball given the fact he's essentially a submariner, employing a lower than slide--arm slot, and can average 94-97 mph with a sinking two-seamer. Throw in a devastating slider and his 6-foot-4 frame, he is about as uncomfortable to face in the batter's box as there is in the game today. However, like Walby he can walk the ball park and at 24 years old he has all of 12 long-season league innings under his belt. The time is now to challenge him in sink or swim fashion.

LHP, Rony Bautista: If Acevedo isn't the most uncomfortable pitcher to face it very well could be this gigantic 6-foot-7 Dominican southpaw. Like Acevedo the heat is absolutely legit, sitting anywhere from 92-97 mph now that he's pitching out of the bullpen and the slider can be overpowering, but just like Acevedo pitching ahead in counts and limiting walks has been and continues to be a problem. Now 23 years old and about to enter his eighth minor league season, and with just 11 long-season league innings to his credit, he has to start moving immediately to have any sort of big league chance.

LHP, Omar Luis: Another plus stuff guy who has very little idea where the ball is going, this former top International signing and Cuban defector can be extremely frustrating. Stuff-wise, he's armed with four above average to plus big league pitches that should absolutely mow down lower level batters but he simply can't throw enough strikes even after the Yankees moved him to the bullpen last year. At 22 he's younger than Bautista and Acevedo so he theoretically has more time to develop, but after walking more guys than he struck out last year he has a lot further to go in his development too.

RHP, Conor Mulle: Unlike the aforementioned names in this group this former 24th round pick in 2010 shows an advanced feel for pitching while boasting above average to sometimes plus stuff. However, a former shortstop in college, he is attempting to work his way back from three Tommy John surgeries and is about to turn 27 years old, and has barely 16 long-season leagues under his belt. It will be a pivotal year for him in 2015 -- he has to move up the minor leagues in a hurry to make up for lost time.

LHP, Evan Rutckyj: This former 16th round pick in 2010 has always had a tremendous ceiling given his size, stuff, and makeup, but like a lot of these players listed it's been the lack of consistent strike-throwing that hasn't allowed him to come close to tapping his potential. The Yankees moved him exclusively to the bullpen last season with some middling success [3.81 ERA, more strikeouts than innings pitched], but the control didn't improve at all [37 walks in 49.2 innings]. Time is running out for this now 23-year old to make any sort of mark.

RHP, Hayden Sharp: Part 'sleeper', this former 18th round pick out of high school in 2011 had one of the highest ceilings in the entire farm system at one point, standing 6-foot-6 and routinely hitting 97 mph with his fastball. However, perhaps frustrated with how slow his development had been going, he unexpectedly retired in 2013. He returned last season, however, and the stuff still remains above average to plus across the board. Invigorated by his move to the bullpen, it remains to be seen if he can find some success in his new role let alone finally get into the long-season leagues. Either way, he needs to start moving to make up for lost time.

RHP, Alex Smith: The jury could still be out on this 6-foot-5 hurler. Stuff-wise he's got more than enough to be a solid big league reliever someday, sitting anywhere from 92-95 mph with his fastball and showing two quality secondary pitches with his curveball and changeup. A ground ball specialist, he is part 'sleeper' because he doesn't rack up a ton of strikeouts [although he can average a batter per inning pitched] and theoretically should only get better the higher climbs as the defenses behind him should surely be better. And he's coming off of a fine performance last season, posting a 2.74 ERA for the Tampa Yankees. However, now 25 years old, he needs to work his way up closer to the big leagues soon.

The Jury is Still Out

RHP, Joe Harvey: Last year's 19th round pick out of the University of Pittsburgh had a fine debut season, posting a 1.96 ERA and a better than five to one strikeout to walk ratio in 13 appearances with the Staten Island Yankees. He has some quality stuff too, averaging 92-94 mph with his fastball that also shows good late-life and adding a solid slider as well. Throw in good strike-throwing ability he is a 'sleeper' candidate. He is probably going to need to develop a better strikeout secondary pitch [most likely his slider] to get upper-level batters out more consistently, however, and that remains a wait and see proposition at this point.

RHP, Joey Maher: This former 38th round pick back in 2012 had one of the better sinker-changeup combinations in the entire farm system and therefore had an intriguing ceiling as a starting pitcher [he still does]. He had a bone spur removed from his elbow last season and then pitched out of the bullpen upon his return just so he could get some innings in. He looked good upon his return but it remains to be seen if he will stick in the bullpen long-term or switch back to starting. The ceiling is still considerable but there are far too many question marks at this point, including his immediate short-term role in the organization.

RHP, Angel Rincon: Vargas got a lot of the headlines as a former starting pitching prospect who found a groove in the bullpen last year but this Dominican native chipped in with a really underrated season in Charleston last year, posting a solid 3.01 ERA and pitching in some tight spots for the club. He once flashed three plus pitches but the fastball has actually regressed somewhat despite the shorter inning stints, sitting more in the 90-93 mph range. There's still a chance he could have a Vargas-like impact in 2015 and getting a tick or two back on his fastball would surely help. It's not unreasonable to think he can accomplish that but for now the jury is still out.

RHP, Matt Wotherspoon: Like Harvey, Wotherspoon, last year's 34th round pick out of the University of Pittsburgh [they were college teammates] had a fine debut season too, posting a solid 1.97 ERA for the Staten Island Yankees. He averages mostly 91-93 mph with his fastball so it is a quality big league pitch. It's not nearly as overpowering as Harvey's but Wotherspoon shows good pitch-ability with a rather extensive bullpen repertoire. He's 23 years old already, however, and he'll need to prove he can have similar success against more advanced batters going forward.


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