Michael King has crossed the threshold of 45 days on the Yankees’ major-league roster and now graduated from MLB Pipeline’s top 30 prospects list. King finishes his time as the Yankees’ 26th best prospect. Let’s take a look at King’s path to the Yankees, and what the expectation are for him moving forward.
When the Yankees acquired King, the Marlins’ 12th-round draft pick from 2016 was a bit of an afterthought in the deal. More valuable, in the eyes of many, was the the International Bonus Pool money the Yankees acquired in the pursuit of Shohei Ohtani. In return, the Marlins received two players in left-handed pitcher Caleb Smith and first baseman Garrett Cooper, both out of minor-league options and had yet to establish themselves at the major-league level. Over the last few seasons, both have developed into solid big leaguers.
King came out of the gate fast with High-A Tampa in 2018, and many observers commented about how the Yankees had landed a capable arm in the deal. King posted a 1.79 ERA over 161.1 innings and was named the Yankees’ minor-league pitcher of the year.
After earning two promotions and finishing the season with Triple-A Scranton, King looked like he could be in contention for an early season promotion to the majors heading into 2019. That potential plan quickly changed when he experience a stress reaction in his elbow that sidelined for the beginning of the season.
Following his injury, he did not reach Triple-A Scranton again until August 16th, and only pitched a total of 46 regular innings in the minors for the year. King was added to the 40-man roster in late September of 2019 and made his two inning major-league debut on September 27th against Toronto, allowing an unearned run.
The Yankees brought King with the MLB club out of summer camp, and he saw action early in the second game of the season coming in for a struggling James Paxton. He worked as the swing man for Aaron Boone starting four times and coming out of the bullpen on five occasions. His numbers look ugly in both roles, as he has a 8.36 ERA in 14 innings of work as a starter, and 7.11 ERA in 12.2 innings out of the bullpen.
King’s struggles have really manifested his second time through the order this season. Opponents own a .350/.435/.525 line against King when facing him for the second time this season. The dramatic fall off is concerning as King broke out in 2018 as a pitcher who could go deep into games. That season he finished with 17 straight appearances of at least six innings. He has not been able to translate that success to the major league level.
The right-hander still has minor-league options, and the Yankees will have the ability to send him down to Triple-A if he cannot earn a roster spot in the spring. He has been passed on the starting pitching depth chart by both Deivi García, and Clarke Schmidt two of the Yankees’ top prospects who could be in contention for a rotation spot next season.
There is still a chance that King can develop the tools to become a backend starter, especially with a full minor-league season to help his development. He also could contribute out of the bullpen, even though he does not profile as a high strikeout pitcher. In a less optimistic scenario, King could be a pitcher in the role of Luis Cessa or Jonathan Holder who is outside of the “circle of trust” when it comes to high leverage-situations but still provides value to the team.
As King graduates from the MLB Pipeline prospect rankings, Beck Way, the Yankees’ fourth-round pick from the 2020 draft, steps in as the team’s new 29th ranked prospect. We recently conducted a two-part interview with him, that you can read in part one, and part two. Drafted out of Junior College, the Yankees were able to sign Way and keep him from going to Louisiana State University. The 6-foot-4 righty has a strong fastball that touched 97 mph early in 2020 before the draft. With the minor leagues potentially reconfiguring next season, Way could start the season either in the Gulf Coast League, or with Low-A Charleston.
Michael King has risen up and down the ranks of Yankees prospects since joining the organization prior to the 2018 season. After a strong organizational debut in 2018, injuries cost him much of 2019. He has shown the Yankees enough to stick on the major league roster for almost the entire 2020 regular season, but he still has significant progress if he is going to lock down a spot with the Yankees moving forward.