Major League Baseball recently hosted a number of young players virtually for its annual rookie program. The event, which is designed to help players from every franchise transition into the major leagues, involves speakers on a variety of topics. The Yankees sent four players to the forum including Clarke Schmidt and Brooks Kriske, who have already made their major league debut and are very likely to figure into the Yankees mix of players this coming year. It is also notable that they provided a vote of confidence to Alexander Vizcaino and Luis Gil, two players who have yet to pitch above High-A, by including them in this event.
Included in the event are guest speakers with lessons on dealing with the media, clubhouse situations, drugs in baseball and financial planning. CC Sabathia was among the guest speakers this year, and Schmidt said that he was paired in a small group with 11-year MLB veteran Jon Jay to help provide guidance on many topics of concern for young major leaguers.
It is no surprise that Schmidt was selected to represent the organization, as he made his major league debut in 2020 and is one of the Yankees’ top prospects. He will likely be competing for a spot in the rotation during spring training and no matter that result he will certainly be high on the Yankees depth chart for this coming year.
Brooks Kriske is far less hyped than Clarke Schmidt, but also had a taste of the major leagues. Kriske struggled with his control during his 2020 season going up and down on the Scranton Shuttle. With two minor league options and a fastball that gained velocity by the end of his time at the alternate training site, he will certainly be a part of the Yankees roster puzzle moving forward into 2021.
Neither Luis Gil nor Alexander Vizcaino have pitched an inning above the High-A level due to the cancelled 2020 minor league season. Both started their last season with Low-A Charleston before being promoted for short stints at the High-A level in 2019. While both are highly regarded prospects, it is a big jump from half a season of High-A to the majors.
Gil and Vizcaino were both part of the Yankees alternate training site last season. Their time there had the potential to be a developmental windfall as they received close attention and customized situational feedback from the coaching staff.
Already armed with a high-90’s fastball that can reach into triple digits, Gil and the Yankees pitching coaches focused on his slider and changeup during his summer in Scranton at the alternate site.
“The off speed changes and command were our big focuses for him at the alt site,” Yankees pitching coordinator Sam Briend said when recently discussing Gil. “We really started seeing some changes right there at the end.” The promising assessment could foretell a promising 2021 for Gil.
After joining the Yankees as an unheralded prospect in 2017, Alexander Vizcaino has emerged as one of the best arms in the system. He comes armed with a plus fastball and the best changeup in the Yankees minor league system according to Baseball America. The pitch has gained rave reviews and he routinely worked deep into games in 2019 — especially with Low-A Charleston.
Despite their continued development at the alternate site in 2020, both Luis Gil and Alexander Vizcaino are likely heading to either High-A Hudson Valley or Double-A Somerset to start the 2021 season. That starting position still puts them a long ways from a regular role in the majors. There are a lot of good prospects who do not make the jump from High-A to the major leagues, but the Yankees have given Gil and Vizcaino a strong endorsement with their inclusion in the 2021 MLB Rookie Program.
Major League Baseball and the MLBPA have an interest in helping young players succeed upon reaching the major leagues. By sending some of their younger pitching prospects to the MLB Rookie Program, the Yankees have hinted that Luis Gil and Alexander Vizcaino are in their plans not just for years down the road but possibly for the near future.