The Yankees system has been for some time for its large number of live, low-level arms. While some of the familiar names are moving up the prospect rankings and graduating to the upper levels of the system, the Class-A levels in the middle of the Yankees system will continue to be well stocked with hurlers on the rise. Let’s continue our look at the Yankees’ minor league system by digging through the pitching at the middle levels.
Consistently ranked as one of the team’s top-10 prospects, Yoendrys Gomez is an exciting arm to watch this coming season. He showed a consistent 95 mph fastball that touched 98 during 2019 when he finished the season with Low-A Charleston. Complementing the strong heater is a potentially plus curveball that he will need to throw more consistently this coming year. Gomez is still working to refine his slider and changeup. His ability to develop those pitches will determine his trajectory. Gomez was added to the 40-man roster in November, despite only making six starts above the Rookie-ball level in his career. He recently made his spring training debut, and will likely start the season with Low-A Tampa.
Potentially joining Gomez in that Low-A rotation is the Yankees’ second-round pick from 2017, Matt Sauer. Sauer began the 2019 season at Low-A, but was sidelined after just two starts for Tommy John surgery. He has been throwing off a mound for over a year and would have seen game action in 2020 if not for the cancelled season. Sauer reportedly hit his pre-surgery velocity in bullpen sessions during the offseason. He will need to continue working on his curveball and changeup if he is to remain a starting pitcher.
With the 38th pick in the 2019 draft, the Yankees selected University of Missouri left-hander T.J. Sikkema. Known for changing arm angles and for his command, Sikkema was able to negotiate tough SEC Conference and NY-Penn League lineups in 2019 while putting up great numbers. He has generally worked off a low to mid-90’s fastball, mixing in a slider and changeup. Based on his high level college experience, it is likely that Sikkema starts the season with High-A Hudson Valley in 2021.
A few rounds after drafting Sikkema, the Yankees selected another college left-hander in the University of East Carolina’s Jake Agnos. He showed a potential plus fastball during his time with Team USA in 2018, but has a longer track record of working from 88-92 mph as a starter in college. The Yankees limited him to 12 innings pitched in his professional debut peaking at Short-Season A Staten Island.
In what is a familiar story for pitchers drafted by the Yankees, Barrett Loseke’s velocity ticked upward after coming on board with the the team in 2019. The pitch now sits around 95 mph with the late riding action that makes it play up. He also developed a better slider coming into 2020, but was unable to get that pitch seen in game action due to the cancelled season. Baseball America ranks him as the club’s 30th best prospect heading into 2021. He could pitch for either Low-A or High-A to start the year.
6-foot-9 Daniel Bies is another big arm in the system who could be on the move during this coming season. During a recent interview with Pinstripe Alley he said that he has added velocity to his fastball and is now hitting 99 mph after his extensive offseason work. Bies pitched 92 innings with a 3.33 ERA and 10.3 K/9 in 2019. He finished with High-A Tampa, and was then selected by the Yankees to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. Bies could start at High-A Hudson Valley, but also has an outside chance of pitching in Double-A to start the season.
Another tall righty, 6-foot-7 Tanner Myatt has one of the highest ceilings in the Yankees system but also some significant improvement to show. Myatt throws in the upper 90’s, routinely flirting with triple digits but has struggled with control, walking more than a batter per inning in 2019. When he is in the zone, opponents have hit just .173 off of him, and his three pitch mix is absolutely electric. Myatt spoke with Pinstripe Alley this offseason and has been working at a state-of-the-art pitching lab to harness his mechanics coming into this season.
Jhony Brito was another solid performer in Low-A Charleston during the 2019 season. Over 100.2 IP he kept the opposition off the bases with a 1.043 WHIP. Harold Cortijo briefly appeared on some of the top-30 prospects list following a strong 2018 season and will likely start the season with High-A Hudson Valley.
The Yankees also have several pitchers who were highly ranked prospects in recent years before injuries slowed their progress. Nolan Martinez was the team’s third-round pick in 2016, but has now just pitched 115 innings since being drafted. Freicer Perez was ranked as one of the team’s top-15 prospects by multiple sources following his breakout 2017 season. The 6-foot-8 pitcher was working through starts in the upper-90s with a solid changeup, but has not seen game action since early 2018. He was at the Yankees’ instructional camp this winter in the Dominican Republic and looks healthy heading into the season.
A few other promising young arms dot the system. Justin Wilson (not the major league reliver) struck out 34 batters in his 24.2 inning pro debut. Keegan Curtis struck out 20 in his first 15 pro innings, and has been approaching 99 mph during his offseason work. Bryan Blanton had a 13.0 K/0 rate in 2019 while reaching High-A Tampa.
The middle of the farm system continues to be well stocked with quality arms. Both Class-A levels should have solid pitching prospects with the potential to take big steps forward after the lost 2020 season. With any luck, a more normal 2021 will have the Yankees minor league pitching staff’s trending upward.