Yankees Prospects: Updates on notable players at Low-A Charleston

Jeff Gross

Some updates on players at Low-A Charleston, including now-former RiverDogs Luis Severino & Aaron Judge, a promising Ian Clarkin, and the scuffling Gosuke Katoh.

The Low-A Charleston RiverDogs are about to wrap up their All Star Break, so with the time off I figured it was a good time to check in on some notable prospects on the team:

The Promoted

Luis Severino, 20, RHSP
14 games/starts, 67.2 IP, 2.79 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 9.3 K/9, 2 BB/9, 0.3 HR/9

Luis Severino came in, arguably, as the best pitcher for the RiverDogs, and he has certainly lived up to that billing. Even at just 20 years old, Severino throws in the mid-high 90's and has shown he can sustain that velocity deep into his outings. His primary off-speed pitch is a change-up that he can throw at any time and at any count; his third pitch is a slider which looks a little slurvy at times, but it's still a fine third offering.

Performance-wise, Severino more or less dominated the South Atlantic League. He finished 10th in ERA, fifth in FIP, and third in K-BB% (19.9), despite being all of 20 years old. As a result, the Yankees have decided to bump him up to High-A Tampa, where he'll get tested against more advanced competition.

Last season, Rafael De Paula, like Severino, dominated the Sally League and got a mid-season promotion, but has struggled rather badly since getting moved up. I would be very surprised if Severino went through the same struggles as De Paula, mostly because, from watching him, Severino seems to be the (much) more polished pitcher despite being three years younger.

Aaron Judge, 22, RF
65 games, 278 PA, .333/.428/.530, 166 wRC+, 14-BB%, 21-K%, .197 ISO

As a polished bat out of Fresno State, Judge was expected to handle Sally League pitching, and he did just that and then some. The power took a short while to show up, but from April 17 (the night of his first professional home run) through his final game with the RiverDogs, Judge hit nine homers and sported a tasty .242 ISO during a 53-game stretch.

With the All Star Break coming to a close, Judge will finally get that elusive plane ticket to Tampa, something I was hoping they'd do a month ago. Now that he'll be in Tampa, Judge will have two-and-a-half months to show that he can further dominate A-ball competition. If he comes even close to the production he showed with the RiverDogs, Judge will assuredly begin 2015 with Double-A Trenton.

More than holding their own

Ian Clarkin, 19, LHSP
9 games/starts, 41.2 IP, 3.67 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 9 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 0.86 HR/9

At just 19 years old, Ian Clarkin has made the Yankees look pretty smart for having him essentially skip both the GCL and Short Season Staten Island. He has shown athleticism and poise on the mound with the ability to pound the zone with strikes, which are very encouraging things to see from a kid still in his teens. That said, to take the next step, he'll need to do a better job throwing more quality strikes in the zone, which he did in fact show in his five-inning, two-hit performance against Lexington last weekend.

Brady Lail, 20, RHSP
13 games/starts, 69.2 IP, 3.49 ERA, 2.79 FIP, 9.2 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 0.4 HR/9

Lail was a project when he was drafted in the 18th round of the 2012 draft, but thus far the returns have been very, very positive. He works very quickly on the mound, and when right, he'll generate a bunch of weak ground balls and get swings-and-misses with all three of his pitches: fastball, curve, change. If the success, which netted him a deserved trip to the Sally League All Star Game, continues, you wonder if he could find himself up at High-A Tampa in the coming weeks.

A bump in the road

Caleb Smith, 22, LHSP
13 games/starts, 58.2 IP, 3.68 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 9.4 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9

Smith, a college arm selected in the 14th round of last year's draft, got off to a roaring start with the 'Dogs in his first 10 outings (including a 13 strikeout performance along the way), but has really hit the skids his last three starts. In those three starts, Smith has allowed 15 runs in 11 innings, with eight walks and three home runs mixed in. Despite this, Smith earned a trip up to the Sally League All Star Game. It'll be interesting to see what the Yankees will do with Smith: do they want to see if he can bounce back from his recent rough-patch, or could he soon get a bump up to Tampa, where he'll get further tested?

Sally League Struggles

Gosuke Katoh, 19, 2B
57 games, 217 PA, .190/.302/.315, 12 SB, 78 wRC+, 13-BB%, 35-K%, .125 ISO

Last year's second-round pick, Gosuke Katoh, burst onto the scene in the Gulf Coast League in 2013, posting a 170 wRC+ in 50 games. After skipping Short Season ball, Katoh has seen his production slip drastically in his first taste of full-season ball. From watching him, Katoh really seems to like to see a lot of pitches at the plate (not necessarily a bad thing), but a more aggressive approach at the plate could help him. With the Staten Island Yankees already underway (and with Abiatal Avelino eventually coming off the DL), there could be a chance he gets sent down to SI to face more favorable competition.

Miguel Andujar, 19, 3B
63 games, 256 PA, .212/.267/.335, 67 wRC+, 6.3-BB%, 18-K%, .123 ISO

Like Katoh, Andujar crushed GCL pitching in 2013 (though, unlike Katoh, it was Andujar's second go-around at the level), thus he was allowed to skip over SI and onto Charleston. Unfortunately, like Katoh, Andujar has struggled quite a bit this season at Low-A. While his walk and strikeout numbers aren't alarming, they sure could use some work; Andujar does have a tendency to get a little jumpy at the plate and chase pitcher's pitches out of the zone. This isn't atypical for youngsters like Andujar, but an improvement here in the second half could do him some wonders.

Rookie Davis, 21, RHSP
13 games, 56.2 IP, 5.08 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9

The struggles for Davis aren't as drastic as Katoh's (or even Andujar's), but so far Davis' 2014 has been a bit underwhelming. He certainly has the stuff to succeed: a fastball with downward movement that can get up to the mid-90's, a big 12-6 curve, plus a promising change and cutter; it's just sometimes he can look a little uncomfortable on the mound and let things get out of hand if the slightest thing goes wrong. If he can trust his stuff he should succeed here in the second half and onto High-A next season.

The Injured

Abiatal Avelino, 19, SS
29 games, 131 PA, .294/.349/.387, 11 SB, 108 wRC+, 7-BB%, 13-K%, .092 ISO

The 19-year-old Avelino got off to a solid start with the RiverDogs before pulling up lame running through the first base bag on May 10. Word is that it's a quad injury, and Mark Newman (via Josh Norris) said about a week ago that it could be a week-10 days for Avelino to return, so, he should be back here pretty shortly. Then again, we're dealing with Mark Newman timelines here, so don't be surprised if they wait a little longer. Better to be safe than sorry, I guess.

Anyway, Avelino is currently the best shortstop prospect in the system (well, maybe for now, unless Jorge Mateo provides a strong stateside debut) and it'd sure be nice if he can come back healthy (and stay healthy) so he can move up to the next rung on the minor league ladder in 2015.

Luis Torrens, 18, C
9 games, 34 PA, .154/.353/.269, 93 wRC+, 17.6-BB%, 20.6-K%

A then 17-year-old, Torrens made the big jump from GCL to Charleston after a solid, but not spectacular, 2013 campaign. Things were going OK for Torrens in the early going with the RiverDogs, but he has been out of action for over two months now, thanks to an arm injury. Thankfully, he should be back at around the same time with Avelino (which is hopefully here pretty soon), so he can look to make strides both at and behind the plate.

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