Pitchers and catchers have already reported to Tampa to begin spring training for the Yankees. While most of the prospect intrigue lies with the Bombers’ position players yet to arrive, there are still plenty of arms to keep an eye on that could potentially help the Yanks in 2017, whether it be in the starting rotation or the bullpen.
We know about the battle that is set to take place this spring for the final two spots of the starting rotation. Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell or Luis Severino are the likely candidates who Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild will be keeping a close eye on once spring training games begin.
However, don’t count out some non-roster invitees who can emerge as dark horses and find a spot on the major league roster come Opening Day. Let’s focus on three possibilities who can find themselves in the Bronx come April if they have a solid March.
The fire rises. Many highly-touted prospects rose from the ashes of the Yankees’ fire sale in 2016, but Feyereisen lay relatively hidden behind Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield in the Andrew Miller trade. After a full season in Double-A in which he posted a 1.70 ERA with 78 strikeouts in just over 58 innings, the Yanks put Feyereisen in the Arizona Fall League to receive some extra work.
Feyereisen remained impressive in the AFL, striking out 18 in 14 innings. His fastball even touched 100 mph, which is always a nice asset for a bullpen arm. His fastball has improved immensely since his early days in the Indians’ organization, and now frequently stays in the upper 90s.
The big question for Feyereisen will be the development of his slider, which is what the Yankees will be paying close attention to this spring. A wicked fastball will blow hitters away in the minors, but won’t last in the majors if there isn’t an equally effective secondary pitch to keep hitters off-balance.
The slider and fastball command will be the focal points of his spring, but if the Division III product can continue to trend upward, he could be a lively arm to add to a Yanks bullpen. It’s likely to be an area of need as they will likely see a heavy workload due to the current state of the starting rotation.
Speaking of the rotation, Montgomery could find himself helping out the back end if the Cessa/Green/Severino experiment fails. Montgomery is another Yankee prospect who has seen a vast improvement on his fastball, and MLB scouts like what they are seeing from the 24-year-old.
Split between Double-A and Triple-A last season, Montgomery recorded a 2.13 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP in 139 innings. As Nikhil mentioned earlier in the month, Montgomery was playing in pitcher-friendly parks, but his ability to locate and his fastball uptick is a reason to be optimistic about his future.
A lot has to happen for Montgomery to make his way into the Yanks’ starting rotation. Not only does he have to pitch well, but the team’s main rotation candidates will likely have to be unimpressive in the spring before Girardi elects to go with Montgomery. If the Yankees find themselves with a desirable problem where multiple candidates post impressive springs, they will likely give the nod to the ones who have tasted the majors already (Cessa, Green, etc). Still, Montgomery is not someone to be overlooked for a long relief role if he turns heads in spring training.
So you’re telling me there’s a chance? Actually, there is. Adams isn’t exactly a dominating presence on the mound 6’ 0’’, but the right-hander dominated High-A and Double-A last season, while showing a promising array of off-speed pitches.
Brian Cashman named Adams as his pitcher to watch this spring, and went as far as to say that he may be the organization’s top pitching prospect. His 144 strikeouts to just 39 walks over 127 innings has to have Cashman excited about command and control, and Adams still has plenty of room to grow at just 22 years old.
Most signs point to Adams starting in Triple-A to start the 2017 season, but if he can wow Girardi and Rothschild this spring, he may find himself in a similar position as Montgomery and battle for a final rotation spot, or a long relief role to get his feet wet in the majors. Of course, this all depends on his spring performance, but the tools seem to be there.