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The Yankees’ new prospect puzzle

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Yankees prospect Tanner Myatt flashed incredible potential during his time with Low-A Charleston last season, but can he harness his pitches enough to capitalize on his potential?

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Time and again Yankees fans have looked to the minor leagues and wondered if players would ever match their elite talents with the refined pitching skill required to succeed at the highest levels of the sport. Dellin Betances was once this type of prospect enigma, as fans weary of hearing about his incredible stuff debated if he had a future with the franchise. In recent years that label has fallen on Luis Medina, who has generated scouting reports with words like “ace,” and “top of the rotation starter,” while walking nearly a batter an inning or more. The Yankees now have a new pitching prospect enigma with an elite ceiling, and an equal lack of command and control in Tanner Myatt.

Myatt was drafted in the 11th round by the Yankees in 2018, out of Florence-Darlington Tech in South Carolina. That spring the 6’7” right-hander touched 99 mph on the radar gun, and showed the ability to sit in the mid-90’s through his outings. Over two seasons at the school he pitched 56.1 innings and only allowed 35 hits. While nearly untouchable with the bat, he also walked 36 batters in those limited innings, showing that he was far from a finished product.

When asked about Myatt after the 2018 draft, Vice President of Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer was quoted as saying “He has a big arm and is an extremely uncomfortable at-bat for right-handed batters. We believe he has a high ceiling.” The Yankees thought enough of Myatt to dip into their bonus pool, and go over the limit for an 11th rounder in order to sign him away from a commitment to Brett Gardner’s alma mater, the College of Charleston.

Arriving in the Yankees organization that summer, Myatt threw only 18.1 innings in his debut season while staying very much on brand. He recorded 22 strikeouts, but also nine walks in a limited short-season debut. That performance, and his obvious potential, was enough to earn Myatt a ranking as the Yankees’ 29th best prospect by MLB Pipeline heading into the 2019 season.

Following up his debut season, Myatt began 2019 pitching in Charleston, S.C., just for the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs, and not the College of Charleston like previously planned. Myatt worked as both a starter and reliever for the talented Charleston pitching staff that included many of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects.

One of the things that makes Myatt a bit of an enigma is outings like the one he had against Lexington on May 30, and then what followed. Coming out of the bullpen, Myatt dominated his three innings of work, striking out five while only allowing one hit and one walk. Over his next 11 outings, Myatt walked 30 batters in 20.1 innings. Despite his erratic pitching, Myatt remained nearly unhittable when he was in the strike zone as opponents hit just .157 against him on the season. He also faced 184 batters without allowing a home run.

The obvious culprit for Myatt’s 4.24 ERA was his control as he walked 10.04 BB/9 in his 40.1 innings pitched. Myatt would have thrown more innings, but was frequently pulled due to his struggles with control. He also saw his season cut short due to injury in early August, but is expected to be at full strength heading into this season.

Tanner Myatt will be coming into the 2020 season with a lot to prove. Depending on his offseason progress, he could begin the season once again with Low-A Charleston or even bump up to High-A Tampa. Much like Luis Medina, who still has plenty of doubters after just a half-season of improved performance, Myatt will have to show sustained command and control to convince scouts that he is ready to move through the system.