In the seventh round of the 2018 draft the Yankees selected Daniel Bies, a right-handed pitcher who reached High-A Tampa at the end of the 2019 season. Daniel recently took the time to talk with Pinstripe Alley about his path to the Yankees organization and why he feels better than ever about the upcoming 2021 season.
Bies is not the first professional athlete to come from his family. His grandfather, Don Bies played years on the PGA and PGA Champions tours, winning nine events. Having another professional athlete in the family has given Daniel a resource to lean on for advice.
“He’s actually been a huge help to me, giving me a base for my mental game,” Bies said. “Golf and pitching are very similar. You are the one man walking up the course and you have time to think about your shot, or to think about your pitch. I mean everything that happens after you throw the pitch is nothing like golf, but leading into that is comparable. Talking with him about how he approached the game has really helped me. My dad is a very good golfer and we’ve talked mental game stuff too. It is easier to listen to my grandpa than my dad.”
Bies played golf early on in high school, but spent his summers playing baseball. Heading into his senior year he needed Tommy John surgery, but never waivered on his desire to pitch again.
“I’m a pretty positive person overall, so I don’t think I ever seriously considered the possibility of not playing baseball again,” Bies said. “When he told me that I was going to be getting the surgery I was like ‘OK, lets get it done as fast as we can, so I can be ready for my senior year of baseball.’ My first outing after Tommy John was eight months and three weeks after the surgery, which is so early... I was an incredibly competitive person which probably led to Tommy John in the first place because I never wanted to not take the ball... I remember there were youth tournaments in particular where I had a six out save, then another six out save, and then a four inning start, all three games in the same day. That is just how my youth career was, I was a rubber arm and I always wanted to be pitching because I felt like that was our best chance to win the game.”
Never an elite pitching prospect in high school, Bies feels that the surgery actually helped him with college ball.
“What was great about it was that the surgery kind of allowed me to get into college baseball,” Bies said. “Rather than being a guy who kind of sucks, it was here is a guy who kind of sucks because he had Tommy John surgery. It was like ‘oh, he is just rehabbing.’ So it kind of gave me a little shroud of mystery. They essentially said lets just give him some time to rehab.”
Professional baseball was not on Bies radar, as he was just hoping to pitch during his senior year of high school and then make the Gonzaga team.
“I was a true walk-on at Gonzaga, I showed up two weeks before classes and walked onto the team,” Bies said. “I got cut my first year, but made the team the next year. I came back and I was throwing 89-91 mph, touching 92 or 93 every once in a while. But I still had zero idea that was going to play professional baseball. The first time I had any idea that I might play professional baseball was when a scout reached out to me and wanted to interview me, during the fall before my junior year in college. I was just so happy to be playing at Gonzaga. Coming out of high school it didn’t look like I was going to be able to play baseball again. Making the team at Gonzaga I was happy.”
Entering the pros is another massive jump for Bies, but the biggest adjustment that Bies has faced so far came in the form of a request from the Yankees to develop a new pitch.
“I would say the biggest adjustment was just with the Yankees, who were trying to force me to throw changeups to develop the pitch,” Bies said. “I never really had much confidence with the pitch, and it just didn’t work for how my arm works, so we were just forcing something that just wasn’t there.”
In his time with the Yankees there have been significant changes in the coaching and training staffs, something that Bies sees in a positive light.
“There has definitely been some major changes,” Bies said. “It was not only with the pitching, but with the strength and condition with Eric Cressy coming in. The strength and conditioning we are doing makes a heck of a lot more sense. The stuff we are doing on the pitching side, they are just a lot more thorough with our pre-throwing routines and our post-throwing routines. Just making sure we are taking care of our arms and they are not keeping us in the dark as much as they used to. They are trusting us with data a little bit more than they used to which is nice. It allows us to know ourselves better and make improvements. Its more open with communication. I did actually love Danny Borrell and he is doing big things now with Georgia Tech. I think that we are better off right now with pitch design and all that other stuff.”
The pitching coordinator and coaches had several specific tasks for Bies to improve on over the last 10-months since spring training shut down.
“They were wanting me to focus on my velocity,” Bies said. “They want me to get around big-league average velocity for my fastball. The movement profile and everything else plays up. So they are just trying to get me where I’m competing more with the big leaguers as far as actual velocity for the pitch. Then they’ve been working a lot on my curveball as well, so that I can have three above average pitches with my fastball, slider and curveball.
“We’ve got a pitching group with the Yankees and it feels like all the guys are hitting PRs with their velocities right now, across the board. My velocity program that I’m in right now, the highest I’d ever hit was 96, I topped out at 96 mph in spring training and then I just hit 99 mph last week in that program. I’m hoping it translates to the mound completely. Hitting 99 is great, but then we have other guys who are hitting 102, 101 and 100... Its just fun to compete against the other pitchers.”
Following the recent announcement that spring training for Double-A players and below would be delayed, Bies has kept his standard positive attitude towards the situation.
“I think its going to be a great opportunity to continue outworking other people,” Bies said. “I’m pretty confident with the work I’m putting in on a daily basis. I’m excited to keep doing that. The way I see it, the longer we are away from the facility it gives an opportunity to the guys who are hard workers to pass the guys who are not hard workers. Once we are at the facility, everybody’s kind of doing the same work load because the Yankees are managing it and everyone is given the same.”
Daniel Bies will likely start 2021 with High-A Hudson Valley or possibly with Double-A Somerset. A strong season could put Bies in position to contribute to the Yankees as early as 2022.