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Yankees 2021 Roster Report Cards: Rookie Pitchers

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Regression from many of their top pitching prospects leaves the farm system in a tricky spot.

Minnesota Twins v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Heading into the 2021 season, excitement surrounded the group of Yankees pitching prospects. Headlined by top-100 overall prospects Deivi García and Clarke Schmidt, one could dream on a future rotation built of homegrown arms. However, a year later and the group looks a lot less promising. Whether due to injury or stalled development, the Yankees’ pipeline of young pitchers looks to be in its worst shape in years.

Overall Grade: D+

Luis Gil

2021 Statistics (MLB): 6 games, 29.1 IP, 3.07 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 4.85 xFIP, 11.7 K/9, 5.8 BB/9, 0.4 fWAR

2021 Statistics (minors): 20 games, 79.1 IP, 3.97 ERA, 13.3 K/9, 5.1 BB/9

2022 Contract Status: Remains in first year of pre-arb

Putting aside the doom and gloom for a moment, Luis Gil was one of the lone bright spots among all the rookie Yankees pitchers to appear in the majors in 2021. He electrified the fanbase starting his career with 15.2 scoreless innings — the best mark for a Yankees pitcher since 1961 — and set an MLB record becoming the first pitcher to start their career with three scoreless outings.

There’s obviously a lot of rawness to Gil’s game, evidenced by the elevated walk rates across all levels. He possesses only two pitches that he trusts — the four-seamer and slider — and had trouble achieving any sort of consistency with the latter pitch. As Josh detailed in September, Gil struggles mightily repeating his delivery, causing the command to disappear for stretches at a time. Because of that, Gil might be best served with another year of seasoning at Triple-A before becoming a major league regular.

Deivi García

2021 Statistics (MLB): 2 games, 8.1 IP, 6.48 ERA, 4.85 FIP, 6.47 xFIP, 7.6 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 0.1 fWAR

2021 Statistics (minors): 24 games, 90.2 IP, 6.85 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 6.8 BB/9

2022 Contract Status: Remains in first year of pre-arb

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Deivi García. After exceeding expectations in his first taste of MLB in 2020, García took a nosedive in 2021, throwing his status as a viable pitcher into question. He struggled at both Triple-A and in the majors, seeing his strikeout totals fall while his issue with the free pass reared its ugly head.

The most troubling aspect of García’s season came from Keith Law, who detailed how García’s delivery got completely screwed up — causing him to lose all the deceptiveness on his fastball and depth on the curveball — with no clear path to fixing things. This constitutes one of the gravest developmental disasters for the Yankees in recent years, as the once top-100 overall prospect plummeted out of the organizational top-10 rankings. Alongside fellow former top-100 prospect Clarke Schmidt — who appeared just once in the majors in 2021 thanks to injury — the pair of once-promising potential rotation-mates now look closer to busts.

Stephen Ridings

2021 Statistics (MLB): 5 games, 5.0 IP, 1.80 ERA, 1.57 FIP, 2.98 xFIP, 12.6 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 0.2 fWAR

2021 Statistics (minors): 22 games, 29.0 IP, 1.24 ERA, 13.0 K/9, 1.2 BB/9

2022 Contract Status: Signed to minor league contract

Ridings made his debut in 2021 and lit up the big stage in his limited appearances. The former substitute high school teacher grabbed our attention with his all-arms-and-legs 6-foot-8 frame, bright red hair, funky delivery ... and oh yeah, routinely hitting triple digits. In addition to his high-octane fastball, Riding possesses a filthy breaking pitch (or several that Statcast has yet to discretize) that induced an 80 percent whiff rate.

Although an elbow injury kept Ridings from pitching again after August 15th, the Yankees were confident enough in him to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. He was added to the 40-man roster on November 19th. I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of the hard-throwing righty in coming seasons.

Nick Nelson

2021 Statistics (MLB): 11 games, 14.1 IP, 8.79 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 5.31 xFIP, 13.8 K/9, 10.1 BB/9, 0.1 fWAR

2021 Statistics (minors): 29 games, 52.0 IP, 3.81 ERA, 10.7 K/9, 5.0 BB/9

2022 Contract Status: Traded to Phillies, entering second year of pre-arb

Another high-velocity Yankees pitching prospect who the team hoped could graduate to the starting rotation, Nick Nelson instead laid an egg in 2021, leading to his eventual trade to the Phillies to clear 40-man roster space. His 10.1 walks per nine was the third-highest mark among MLB pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched. If he can find even a semblance of command, he may go on to have a successful career, but the Yankees apparently had neither the time nor patience to get to that point.

Brooks Kriske

2021 Statistics (MLB): 12 games, 11.1 IP, 14.29 ERA, 11.11 FIP, 6.20 xFIP, 8.7 K/9, 4.8 BB/9, -0.7 fWAR

2021 Statistics (minors): 25 games, 29.1 IP, 3.68 ERA, 13.2 K/9, 4.8 BB/9

2022 Contract Status: Free agent, pursuing international opportunity

One could make an argument that Brooks Kriske was the worst pitcher in MLB. Between 2020 and 2021, he owned the second-worst ERA (14.40), FIP (10.38), and home run per nine rate (4.8) of any pitcher with at least 10 innings pitched. In a season of many weird Yankees moments, Kriske’s lowlight involved uncorking four wild pitches in one inning on a disastrous night of extra innings in Boston.

The Yankees eventually designated Kriske for assignment on September 14th. The Orioles claimed him off waivers, and after brief spells in MLB and Triple-A, he was released, becoming a free agent (though he may have a lead on a deal in Japan).