Pitching is the name of the game. Dominant starting pitchers or shutdown relievers are highly desirable players, and that fact is becoming more and more evident both in minor league ball and especially in the bigs.
Fortunately, the Yankees have plenty of quality arms in the farm system. The following list of potential breakout pitching prospects doesn’t include right-hander Deivi García, since he has already broken out. However, Yankees fans are eager to know which are the names that could make a similar jump through several levels starting in 2020.
Here are the five hurlers with the most breakout potential for 2020:
Contreras will begin the 2020 season at 20 years old. He had a solid, if unspectacular year with the Single-A Charleston RiverDogs, but given his raw tools and demeanor on the mound, he has the potential for more.
According to MLB Pipeline, Contreras generates high spin rates on his fastball and breaking ball. His heater now sits in the 93-97 mph range, with riding action up in the strike zone. He has an above average yet inconsistent breaking ball and a developing changeup, and has showed the ability to consistently repeat his delivery and throw strikes.
He spent the whole year with the RiverDogs and finished with a 3.33 ERA and a 7.69 K/9, but in his last eight starts, he was 6-0 with a minuscule 1.31 ERA and a 9.19 K/9 in 48 frames, suggesting that he is ready to start next season with the High-A Tampa Tarpons. He has the ceiling of a number three starter with a 2022 likely ETA.
Eight strikeouts over six shutout innings from Roansy Contreras yesterday. He's pitched to a 3.33 ERA in 24 starts in Charleston this year (his age 19 season). pic.twitter.com/BjpTmEdQ3t— Lucas Apostoleris (@DBITLefty) September 2, 2019
12-5, 24 G (24 starts) 132.1 IP, 7.69 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, 0.68 HR/9, 40.1 GB%, 3.33 ERA, 3.67 FIP (Single-A)
Schmidt’s 2019 numbers weren’t scintillating, but he more than held his own at High-A and closed the season with the Double-A Trenton Thunder. There, he impressed to the tune of a 2.37 ERA in three starts with a 19/1 K/BB ratio.
Now 23-years-old (2020 will be his age-24 season), this is Schmidt’s time to shine. He is projected to open the year in Trenton’s rotation, and if he dominates, he can find himself in Scranton come summer time.
He may not be an ace, but he has all the makings of a solid number two or three. He has a good four-pitch mix, highlighted by a low-to-mid 90s fastball that can touch 95-96 mph. He has a curveball and a slider that flash plus, but are lacking consistency. He also throws a changeup. He has better control than command.
Clarke Schmidt is scheduled to pitch for Trenton tonight in Game 1 of the Eastern League Division Series. Last time out, he pitched seven shutout innings with no walks and five strikeouts. pic.twitter.com/td9uZ4CJAt— Lucas Apostoleris (@DBITLefty) September 4, 2019
0-0, 3 G (3 starts) 8.1 IP, 15.12 K/9, 3.24 BB/9, 1.08 HR/9, 56.3 GB%, 3.24 ERA, 2.79 FIP (Rookie ball)
4-5, 13 G (12 starts) 63.1 IP, 9.81 K/9, 3.41 BB/9, 0.28 HR/9, 56.2 GB%, 3.84 ERA, 2.87 FIP (High-A)
2-0, 3 G (3 starts) 19.0 IP, 9.00 K/9, 0.47 BB/9, 0.47 HR/9, 44.0 GB%, 2.37 ERA, 2.01 FIP (Double-A)
The most important thing for Medina will be keeping the control gains he showed in an extremely small sample size with the Tampa Tarpons. He walked 6.48 per nine innings in 93 frames with the Charleston RiverDogs, but in his last six starts, he managed to drop the number to 3.09 BB/9, which earned him the promotion.
Given that he had a 2.06 ERA in those six final starts with Charleston and dominated in his two-start stint with the Tampa Tarpons, he figures to start 2020 there, in High-A, after years of running extremely high BB/9 rates in rookie ball.
If Medina manages to keep his walks under 4.00 per nine innings, look out. He may not be on the fast track to the majors, but once he shows he can have at least average control, he can be a frontline starter in a couple of years. He has a lot of work to do to get there, though.
MILB Yankees :— Miguel ® Ramos ™ (@leugimramos) August 23, 2019
Luis Medina 7IP, 2H,1BB,10 K's. Su salida la semana pasada. pic.twitter.com/LpgDd1XWaP
1-8, 20 G (20 starts) 11.13 K/9, 6.48 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9, 45.2 GB%, 6.00 ERA, 4.72 FIP (Single-A)
0-0, 2 G (2 starts) 10.13 K/9, 2.53 BB/9, 0.00 HR/9, 69.2 GB%, 0.84 ERA, 1.90 FIP (High-A)
A Tommy John survivor in 2017, Yajure was unleashed in 2019, and 2020 may be the year in which he cements his place among the best pitching prospects in the American League. He has a power fastball that sits in the mid-90s and even touched 97 this year, a plus hammer, an advanced changeup, and a usable cutter.
He has good control (fewer than 2.00 BB/9 for the season, which is impressive for a 21 year-old) and can locate his fastball on both sides of the plate.
If he maintains his velocity gains and masters the Double A level to open the year (he is projected to start there) he could gain a promotion to Triple-A over the summer. It is important to note, though, that Yajure is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, so he needs to be added to the 40-man roster in order to be protected.
Miguel Yajure's six strikeouts in his Double-A debut tonight. I see three curveballs, two changeups, and a fastball. pic.twitter.com/dttcbMFG72— Lucas Apostoleris (@DBITLefty) August 27, 2019
8-6, 22 G (18 starts) 127.2 IP, 8.60 K/9, 1.97 BB/9, 0.35 HR/9, 54.6 GB%, 2.26 ERA, 2.73 FIP (High-A)
1-0, 2 G (2 starts) 11.0 IP, 9.00 K/9, 1.64 BB/9, 0.00 HR/9, 35.5 GB%, 0.82 ERA, 1.72 FIP (Double-A)
Gil is somewhat similar to Luis Medina in the sense that they both have excellent fastball velocity but must work on command. Gil managed to keep his BB/9 under 4.50 in 17 starts with the Charleston RiverDogs, but failed to do so in three games with the Tampa Tarpons.
2020 will be Gil’s age-22 season, so he needs to start showing some progress repeating his delivery and harnessing his excellent stuff. However, if he takes a step forward in the control department, he can be in the Bronx in late 2021 or early 2022.
One thing is certain: his stuff is fantastic. His fastball sits in the high-90s and can touch triple digits, but the command is well below average. He has a good curveball and is working on a changeup, so if a couple of things break right, the breakout potential is evident.
The #Yankees Luis Gil is impressive. Mixing speeds. Struck out the side in the first. Mid-90s right now, but feel like well get some more. pic.twitter.com/vYvReDsZ6h— Wayne Cavadi (@UofDWayne) June 10, 2019
4-5, 17 G (17 starts) 83.0 IP, 12.14 K/9, 4.23 BB/9, 0.11 HR/9, 47.8 GB%, 2.39 ERA, 2.50 FIP (Single-A)
1-0, 3 G (3 starts) 13.0 IP, 7.62 K/9, 5.54 BB/9, 0.00 HR/9, 38.9 GB%, 4.85 ERA, 3.69 FIP (High-A)