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Yankees prospect Luis Medina is starting to control the situation

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Luis Medina has dramatically lowered his walk rate over his last seven starts, and now the most electric arm in the Yankees system is poised for a major step forward.

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Luis Medina’s reputation took shape shortly after signing with the Yankees during the 2015 international signing period. His fastball velocity spiked into the triple digits shortly before the July 2nd start of the new international signing period, making it look like the Yankees might have landed him as a bargain during a time when they faced international signing restrictions.

More scouts saw him following his signing, and reports of an above average curveball came in, along with a developing changeup, which landed him high rankings on numerous prospects list. Despite the big hype, Medina has yet to fully tap into his physical tools due to a complete lack of ability to locate his pitches. Signs are starting to emerge that Medina is taking a serious step forward, however, and may be turning a corner in his development as an elite pitching prospect.

While Medina’s velocity and pitches do fill up the scouting reports, he has yet to provide consistent results to match the hype. Medina can sit 95 to 100 mph in game action, touching 102 mph, but all that velocity comes with an astounding 8.2 BB/9 rate for his career. His lack of control peaked at 11.5 BB/9 during Medina’s 2018 campaign with the rookie advanced Pulaski Yankees.

Even with this incredibly high walk rate, scouts still listed him among the best Yankees prospects. Jason Woodell from Prospects Live said on his postseason review of Yankees prospects that “He’s going to be the number one pitching prospect in baseball... an Ace, number one, top of the rotation, on a playoff team stuff.” That is remarkable praise, especially for a pitcher who just finished a season in rookie ball with a 6.25 ERA and more walks than innings pitched.

The Yankees would have been justified holding Medina back in extended spring training after his difficult 2018, but they showed their faith in his progress by assigning him to the Low-A Charleston Riverdogs. Early on, it looked like more of the same as Medina recorded a 10.5 BB/9 rate through his first nine outings. When he did get the ball in the zone it was very hittable, and his ERA sat at 9.28 in early June.

Then things started to change; on June 7th Medina walked two hitters while setting a new career high with nine strikeouts over five effective innings. The next time out he threw six no-hit innings, again only walking two. Medina’s newfound control has stretched over a month now. It spans performances where he again raised his career high for strikeouts with ten over six innings. Medina’s most recent performance saw him not walk a batter for the first time since his one-inning professional debut in 2016. He has walked two or less in five of his last seven outings, and even with two poor control outings in that time frame, his walk rate is only 3.9 BB/9 since his June 7th start.

Should Medina stay in his newfound groove over the last month and a half of his season, he presents an interesting situation for the Yankees. A 2015 international signee, he is Rule-5 Eligible after the season. While the numbers suggest that the Yankees should not consider protecting him, the talent would suggest otherwise. It would be hard to see him walk out the door if a team with no interest in winning next season were to take him and stash him on the back end of their roster. This player is improving, and when performance meets potential, his is the type of arm a team doesn’t want to risk losing for anything.