In the wake of Aaron Judge’s demolition of both Marlins Park and the other mere mortals in the Home Run Derby, it’s easy to forget that our
lord and savior right-fielder is joined in Miami by four of his teammates. One of those players is the youngest full-time Yankee, 23-year-old right-handed pitcher Luis Severino. The man they call Sevy has already had his fair share of ups and downs as a Yankee but there is no doubt that he has earned his place amongst baseball’s brightest stars at the All-Star Game.
With each dominant start it becomes harder and harder to remember the pitcher Severino was just this time last year. After a strong showing in 2015, Severino was handed a rotation spot to open the 2016 season and was expected to be on of the Yankees’ best pitchers. He was anything but. Through mid-July last season Severino’s ERA sat at a ghastly 7.05 and a turnaround did not seem imminent.
While he still threw hard, Sevy walked 2.7 batters and allowed 1.9 home runs per 9 innings while striking out just 7.3. He looked like a pitcher shorn of confidence, command, and viable secondary pitches. Simply put, he was lost.
The second half of the season would see Severino demoted to Triple-A, only to return to the Bronx in order to pitch out of the bullpen where he was able to overpower hitters, affirming the belief that his lack of height and violent delivery meant he was destined for the bullpen.
Over the ensuing offseason Severino reportedly slimmed down and worked with Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez in the hopes of getting back on track. After having to win his rotation spot in a supposed spring training competition, Severino has looked like the pitcher we all hoped he could be as he shot through the Yankees farm system. After a rough first start, Severino has been consistently excellent.
In lieu of the struggling Masahiro Tanaka, it has been Severino who has led Yankee rotation throughout the season. He has corrected nearly all of his shortcomings and is clearly in the rotation to stay. Not only has he been the best pitcher on the Yankees, but also one of the very best in the American League.
By fWAR Severino ranks 5th among American League starters, just 0.4 behind second place Corey Kluber. He has already tossed 106.2 innings and ranks 4th in the AL with 124 strikeouts. His 97.2 mph average fastball velocity is the fastest among AL starters and ranks only behind the injured Noah Syndergaard league wide. By any metric he has been dominant with no signs of slowing down with a 3.16 FIP sitting below his 3.54 ERA.
It is the fastball that lights up the radar gun, yet it’s his emergent secondary pitches that have keyed Sevy’s resurgence. While Severino pitches off of his fastball (throwing it just over half of the time), it’s his slider that has emerged as a true strikeout pitch, generating whiffs at a rate of 18.74%. Severino’s changeup has yielded just a .200 batting average against and has developed into an effective weapon. This is especially true against left-handed hitters, where he uses his changeup a healthy 19% of the time.
Put together three quality pitches with improved command and Sevy’s 22.3 K-BB% places him 7th in the entire league and firmly within ace territory. Hopefully manager Brad Mills will give Severino the opportunity to showcase his filthy stuff in front of a national audience in tonight’s All-Star Game because he has certainly earned the opportunity.
In just two years, Severino has gone from prospect to bust to All-Star. In 2017 Severino has brought great stuff, a fearless mentality, and he has pitched like an ace. It has been a joy to watch a young, homegrown player come of age on the big stage. He is crucial to Yankees’ playoff hopes this year and beyond and it may not be long before we remove the “pitched like” and just start calling Luis Severino an ace.