Sizing Up The Starting Pitchers - Part One

PinstripesPlus.com analyzes the Yankees' starting pitching prospects. Which prospects are the ones that have the highest ceilings? Which are the ones that are closest to the Major Leagues? These questions are answered in Part One of our two part series on the Yankees' starting pitching prospects.

Highest Ceiling

RHP, Domingo Acevedo: Given his combination of sheer size, stuff, and innate strike-throwing ability, arguably nobody has a higher ceiling than this 6-foot-7 Dominican flame-thrower. He'll sit anywhere from 93-97 mph with his fastball and routinely tops out between 99-100 mph, and he isn't just about power either. He can pepper the zone with strikes with his fastball too. Throw in one of the best changeups in the entire farm system that only makes his fastball all that more effective, he can be downright overpowering with just two pitches. He flashes a breaking ball with plus potential but it is very inconsistent at this point. Should that pitch come sooner rather than later though, images of a Dellin Betances type without the mechanical flaws are not very hard to conjure up, albeit in a starting capacity.

LHP, Ian Clarkin: In a wild and uncommon twist, this former first round pick [in the photo above] has actually flown relatively under the radar despite pitching in the Yankee farm system and having some immediate success with three plus pitches. He posted a combined 3.12 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning pitched in his first full season last year. He's armed with a 91-94 mph fastball that could theoretically become a tick or two harder as he gets older, has two plus secondary offerings, average or better command, and tremendous makeup. He's got frontline starting potential all the way and yet he hasn't garnered a lot of national attention. That could and probably will change, possibly starting in 2015.

RHP, Austin DeCarr: Last year's third round pick out of high school already has one of the higher ceilings, thanks in large part to a 92-95 mph fastball and plus curveball combination. Those two pitches alone should give him a lot of immediate short-term success but his long-term value and projection will be mostly tied to the development of his rather average changeup [perhaps a tick below average right now]. If he can get that pitch close to the level of his breaking ball he could become a right-handed version of Clarkin given his excellent combination of frame, makeup, and advanced pitch-ability.

RHP, Gabe Encinas: His inclusion in this group is both warranted [given the plus stuff] and yet arguably the most precarious at the same time given the fact that he has a lot to prove now that he'll be entering his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. The plus stuff came back last year, including a fastball that sits 91-96 mph, a power curveball that is oh-so to returning to his pre-surgery form, and an above average changeup with long-term plus potential. Now 23-years old, however, and still looking to regain his better command, he has a bit more to prove in the immediate future. The ceiling is both vast and undeniable -- he just needs to be productive going forward in order to make filling that ceiling a bit more of a reality.

RHP, Ty Hensley: There are a lot of comparisons here with this former 2012 first round pick and Encinas. The plus stuff and great makeup scream immense long-term potential, the kind that could eventually find its way into the front-half of a big league starting rotation someday, but there are also some very realistic short-term question marks after a series of injuries have derailed his on the field progress. The 91-96 mph fastball and plus curveball combination are things that can't be taught but the fact that he's amassed a grand total of 42 innings in three professional seasons can't be ignored either. The vast potential is obvious but he needs to start delivering on some of that promise this coming season or else he'll start becoming another tale of untapped talent.

UNDERRATED CEILING: Lail has above average stuff right now but it could get better. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
RHP, Brady Lail: As it stands right now this former 18th round pick out of high school in Utah back in 2012 doesn't yet have the stuff to compare with the majority of the names is this grouping. He doesn't consistently hit 95 mph-plus like the other pitchers nor is his breaking ball a true wipeout pitch either. However, armed with five pitches that all grade out above average and boasting some of the best command and makeup, collectively his game consistently plays at a level much higher than a lot of the aforementioned names. While his current stuff grades out more as a middle of the rotation starter, there is the potential for a little more growth in all of his pitches so the ceiling here gets a little underrated.

RHP, Luis Severino: This Dominican native has almost everything one would want in a potential front-line starting pitcher; power, control, and a plus secondary pitch. He'll average anywhere from 93-97 mph with his fastball and routinely tops out at 99 mph, and his plus changeup is both a strikeout pitch and a complimentary pitch that makes his fastball that much more special. He even has a breaking ball that flashes plus potential but is still a little inconsistent right now to make it a true plus pitch. Throw in impeccable strike-throwing ability, the positives are huge positives. The only thing he's really lacking from being a prototypical 'ace' type starting pitcher is size. Standing just 6-foot-0, he'll need that consistent slider to help him become more efficient on the mound but the ceiling is still awfully special.

Closest to the Majors

RHP, Bryan Mitchell: Stuff-wise this former 16th round pick back in 2009 can easily slide into the highest ceiling category. He's armed with a heavy 94-98 mph fastball, a solid big league changeup, an above average cutter that sits 91-93 mph, and one of the best curveballs in the entire farm system. Assigned to the 40-man roster over a year ago, however, and now both Triple-A tested and somewhat big league acclimated, he's on the very short list of potential in-house rotation candidates should the need arise. He is hands down the best candidate to pull a Shane Greene in 2015 even if the command issues continue to be a work in progress.

RHP, Zach Nuding: Despite being armed with a power fastball and two solid average secondary pitches, there isn't a whole lot of swing and miss to this former 30th round pick's game. He once had a considerable ceiling given his 92-plus mph fastball but neither the slider nor the changeup have developed into strikeout pitches, and now the soon to be 25-year old's game is what it is, and that's just enough to be a solid innings eater should the need arise. There's some late-blooming bullpen potential if the Yankees decide to go that route but with very few current upper level starting options they probably will opt to keep him in a starting capacity.

RHP, Matt Tracy: The losses of Nik Turley and Jairo Heredia to minor league free agency this offseason, and the transitioning of Jose Ramirez to the bullpen last season, has pole-vaulted this former college outfielder near the top of what has become a very short list of potential in-house starting candidates from their player development program. Like Nuding he's armed with an above average fastball and rather average secondary pitches so the combination isn't built for a lot of strikeouts, but after compiling 151 innings last season [62.2 innings at Triple-A] he could help provide some length should the need arise. More of a ground ball pitcher, he could be helped out by pitching in front of a big league defensive infield.


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