If you want to find the strength of the Yankees’ farm system, you might have to look to the bottom. While many of the best known prospects like Clarke Schmidt, Deivi Garcia and Luis Medina have risen to the top three levels of the minor league hierarchy, there is loads of talent in the system in the low minors. Let’s take a look at some of the intriguing arms in the lower levels of the Yankees system.
The best blend of upside and current ability in the lower minors is 20-years-old righty Yoendrys Gomez. The lanky Venezuelan finished last season with Low-A Charleston. His fastball regularly sits in the mid-90’s with a high spin rate that makes it hard to square up. Gomez’s highest-rated pitch is his curve, which has the potential to be elite if he can command it consistently.
The Yankees invested heavily on pitching in the 2017 amateur draft, when they picked 11 pitchers with their first 14 selections. The team favored college arms, with exceptions being made in the second and 14th round when they picked Matt Sauer and Harold Cortijo.
After a solid 2018 season with Short-Season A Staten Island, Sauer succumbed to Tommy John surgery after just two starts for Low-A Charleston in 2019. With his Tommy John procedure occurring early in the season, he should return to the field in some capacity this summer. Prior to his injury, Sauer was making progress on his fastball, slider, changeup mix with all pitches having the potential to be above average.
With a full year in the system under his belt, the 6-foot-2 right-hander Cortijo pitched very well for Staten Island in 2018. He recorded a 2.63 ERA and 1.09 WHIP on the season, landing him on several public top-30 Yankees prospects rankings for a time. This past season, he faced more of a struggle with Low-A Charleston as his walk rate increased and his strikeout rate decreased. He’s still an arm to watch to see if he can rebound.
Low-A Charleston’s rotation was loaded with highly-ranked arms throughout the season, but that pitching staff leaned heavily on 6-foot-8 Daniel Bies. The Gonzaga University product started slow on the season but pitched to a 1.72 ERA and 0.85 WHIP over his last 14 appearances for Charleston. That performance earned him a promotion to High-A Tampa and an assignment to the Arizona Fall League.
Short-Season A Staten Island saw Anderson Munoz emerge as a steady presence in their rotation this season. The Yankees tweaked his arm angle and delivery after he was released by the Twins in 2018, and his velocity increased. He now uses his live fastball and emerging slider to keep hitters off balance. He may end up in the bullpen but his progress as a starter for now is very optimistic.
The Rookie-Advanced Pulaski Yankees put together the best winning percentage of any team in the Yankees minor league system last season. That rotation was led by right-handed pitcher Randy Vasquez, who has ridden his high-spin curveball to a 2.75 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP since making his professional debut in 2018. Also providing valuable innings for Pulaski was the Yankees’ fifth round pick, left-hander Ken Waldichuck. He blew through the competition, striking out 58 batters in just 34 innings including the playoffs for Pulaski.
Two players in the system showing top-notch arm talent but equally bad control are Tanner Myatt and Leonardo Pestana. Opponents only hit .157 off Myatt last season, but he walked more than a batter per inning. Pestana struck out 52 batters in just 39.1 innings this season for Rookie-Advanced Pulaski, but that promising figure was offset by 32 walks and 10 hit batsmen.
Osiel Rodriguez arrived with the Yankees organization as one of the best international free agents of the 2018 signing period. The young Cuban hurler struggled through his debut season as reports of a sore shoulder and diminished velocity proved causes for concern. Some of those concerns were allayed this spring, as reports emerged that his velocity had returned.
Before he unfortunately became the first Yankees minor leaguer to contract COVID-19, Denny Larrondo was a highly-touted international free agent. Considered one of the best athletes the Yankees have on the mound, it is likely that he could have signed as a professional as either a shortstop or center fielder. At one point during his debut in the Gulf Coast League, he pitched 12.1 consecutive innings without giving up a hit. He will have to improve his control, but he showed promise and the tools for future performance.
The Yankees have some extremely high-ceiling arms in the lower parts of their minor league system. These players all have several years of progress to make in their quest to become major league players. The Yankees development staff certainly has some great raw talent to work with as the organization tries to keep the pipeline flooded with pitching.