I wrote about the New York Yankees yesterday, who are on the cutting edge of relief prospect innovation. They have instituted the large-scale policy in their system of pitching players that they identify as plausible major league relief candidates for 2-3 innings (depending on pitch count) every 3 days... The next generation of Yankee relievers may be able to pitch longer outings than their peers on other teams, or they may go down with horrible arm injuries.Mark Melancon is one of the more interesting examples of this. The Yankees drafted him in 2006, but he almost immediately had to undergo Tommy John Surgery. After a year of rehabbing, he entered the 2008 season healthy, and with all of his pre-surgery velocity and control. The Yankees immediately put him to work - defying critics who cautioned to proceed slowly with his surgery recovery - into long outings. He pitched 95 innings in 44 appearances between three minor league levels in 2008, or 2.15 innings per game. Melancon would often pitch well into the third inning of his appearances because he would get out of an inning with 8-9 pitchers. With longer appearances, Melancon needed to learn to throw economically. He did.
With Brackman, Betances, Melancon and Sanchez making progress, and with a slew of potential draft picks looming in June, this is a position the Yankees could soon share.
It's a good place to be, but I'm not ready to start moving prospects yet. We're not at the point of patching holes; this is still a major reconstruction process.