Just days into spring training, Yankees fans are already becoming familiar with the organizational depth chart as several pitchers have already hit the injured list. Last season the Yankees repeatedly reached beyond the 40-man roster to pull up players such as David Hale, Adonis Rosa, Brady Lail and Tyler Lyons. This season, several strong candidates from inside the organization have positioned themselves as options to make their major league debuts if the organization needs to test reach into its depth again.
Kaleb Ort’s path to the Triple-A level has been somewhat unconventional. Undrafted out of college after suffering an injury during his senior season, the 6 feet 4 inches righty found himself pitching in the independent Frontier League. Despite pitching to a 6.05 ERA, and a 1.705 WHIP in 2016, Yankees scouts noticed him and signed him just one appearance into his 2017 season.
Ort has shown the ability to strike hitters out as he has moved through the minor leagues, averaging 12.7 K/9. Unfortunately, he has been consistently hampered by his lack of control, as he brings a 5.4 BB/9 rate through his career with the Yankees organization.
The now 28-year-old is not the typical prospect, but after getting a late start on his professional career he still has the potential to continue developing and contribute. Ort’s high-velocity fastball reaches the upper-90’s, and a consistently high strikeout rate make him a prime candidate for a call-up. He has shown several steaks of sustained control during his Yankees career, and if he happens to be on one when the Yankees are looking for an arm, his stuff could be just what they are looking for.
Daniel Alvarez worked as the closer for the Double-A Trenton Thunder on their way to winning the Eastern League title this past season. In a bullpen that featured several very talented pitchers including Brooks Kriske — who has since been added to the 40-man roster — it was Alvarez who threw the last pitch of the season for the Thunder.
Since signing with the Yankees as an international free agent in 2014, Alvarez has steadily risen through the system. The organization converted him to a full-time reliever at the start of the 2018 season, and Alvarez has thrived in the role. Since the beginning of 2018, Alvarez has pitched to a 1.92 ERA, with a 12.4 K/9 and a 1.02 WHIP out of the bullpen while reaching as high as Triple-A Scranton. Able to work in the mid-90’s, the 6 feet 3 inches Alvarez is building a resume that may be hard to ignore if the Yankees need to reach beyond the 40-man roster.
James Reeves is another talented member from the 2019 Trenton Thunder bullpen who will be knocking on the door of the major leagues this coming season. Drafted in the 10th round out of The Citadel, Reeves is coming off an amazing season where he was the best pitcher in Trenton over the last six weeks of the regular-season and into the playoffs.
Despite putting together a solid season, the left-hander found himself demoted to High-A Tampa in early June. When he returned to the Thunder he put together one of the best runs that any pitcher in the organization had last season.
Starting with 4.2 perfect inning in relief of an injured Albert Abreu on July 23rd, Reeves pitched 24 innings allowing only one run the rest of the way. He built on that strong finish to the regular season with three appearances during Trenton’s playoff run. In 6.1 innings he allowed just two hits, no walks, and no runs.
Reeves was a starter for most of his college career, and was able to pitch successfully across multiple innings. Reeves has shown that he is more than just a lefty-specialist, as he pitched at least three innings in six of his last 13 outings including the playoffs, and could be called upon to help a tired bullpen if the situation arises this coming season.
The Yankees have built an incredible 40-man roster that is capable of absorbing injuries and still competing with the best teams in baseball. As the 2019 season showed us, many times the organizational depth from beyond the 40-man will be called upon, and these three pitchers could find themselves helping the big league club in 2020.