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Top prospects headline the upper level pitching in the Yankees’ system

The Yankees have a trio of elite prospects rising to the upper levels of the system this coming year.

MLB: FEB 24 Spring Training - Pirates at Yankees Photo by Icon Sportswire

The Yankees’ system has been known its fleet of young power arms over the last few years. Those arms have worked their way to the upper levels of the system and are now routinely ranked among the team’s best prospects. Pitching alongside those top prospects are other arms with the potential to contribute to the Yankees in the near future. Let’s take a look at the upper level arms in the Yankees system.

Yankees fans have already caught a glimpse of Deivi García, Clarke Schmidt, Brooks Kriske and Albert Abreu as they made their major league debuts in 2020. Those players remain prospects and will likely contribute to the team again this coming year.

Behind those players are some of the best arms in the system. Luis Gil is the Yankees’ fifth-ranked prospect per MLB.com. Armed with what Baseball America calls the best fastball in the Yankees system, Gil could reach the major leagues this season. Gil has regularly touched triple-digits with his fastball and worked extensively with the Yankees pitching coaches on his slider during his time at the alternate training site in 2020.

Long known as a player with elite stuff and unworkable control, the narrative on Luis Medina has begun to shift. Medina’s control improved dramatically after the team helped him develop a shorter arm action in 2019. From that point forward, he has been nothing short of electric, with three elite pitches that give him the weapons to work against advanced hitters. After pitching at the alternate training site last summer, he continued to throw over the winter when he pitched in the Puerto Rican Winter League and was named the league’s pitcher of the year. The Yankees chose to have Medina pitch at minor league spring training rather than the alternate site this spring.

Another highly-rated arm that has pitched alongside Gil and Medina over the last few years is Alexander Vizcaino. The lanky right-hander has developed what is widely-regarded as the best changeup in the Yankees system. Vizcaino burst onto the prospect scene in 2019 pitching for Low-A Charleston when he routinely went deep into games, completing seven innings more times than any other Yankees prospect. The Yankees brought him to the alternate training site in 2020, giving him a chance to accelerate his development against higher-level hitters.

When the Yankees’ alternate site roster for 2021 was released, there were a couple of surprise names on the list. Brody Koerner and Braden Bristo both made the roster after not being part of major league spring training.

Bristo reached Double-A Trenton in 2019 and possesses elite spin rates on his breaking pitches. The spin rate on the curveball below would put Bristo in the 99th percentile of major league pitchers. Paired with a mid-90’s fastball. he has the potential to be an effective relief option in the near future.

Koerner reached Triple-A Scranton in 2019 but struggled at that level. The Clemson product has a strong track record and showed the Yankees enough potential that he will likely return to Triple-A.

A trio of pitchers currently at the alternate site who also saw limited action in spring training are Glenn Otto, Addison Russ and Trevor Lane. Otto was the Yankees’ fifth-round draft pick in 2017 but has battled injuries during his time on the farm. He is currently ranked as the 28th-best prospect in the system by MLB.com. The 6-foot-4 righty worked as a closer in college, but the Yankees have used him primarily as a starter. Armed with a good fastball and an outstanding curveball, Otto could develop into an impact arm as 2021 moves forward.

The Yankees acquired Russ in a trade with Phillies last year. During his last season of work in 2019 he recorded a 12.9 K/9 at the Double-A level. Elsewhere, lefty Trevor Lane is getting a long look from the Yankees this spring after a successful 2019 season where he pitched mostly with Double-A Trenton. He does not possess overpowering stuff, but he generates a lot of ground balls and keeps runner off the bases.

Another pitcher who has found a success in the Yankees system is Brian Keller. After being drafted in the next to last round of the 2016 draft, he steadily climbed through the system reaching Triple-A Scranton in 2019. Just prior to his promotion to Triple-A, he threw a no-hitter, allowing just one walk for Double-A Trenton. For his professional career he carries a 3.22 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP.

The Yankees’ 10th-round draft pick in 2018, Josh Maciejewski put together a great 2019 season while bouncing around the organization. The 6-foot-3 lefty pitched for four of the Yankees’ minor league affiliates stretching from Short-Season A Staten Island all the way to Triple-A Scranton. No matter where he pitched he was effective, accumulating a 2.33 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. After working in the lower 90’s in his first season with the Yankees offseason, Maciejewski has been working to build more velocity ahead of 2021 and could be a breakout name when the players again hit the field.

Acquired from Seattle in a trade for Ben Gamel in 2016, Jio Orozco was putting together a strong 2019 season before the injury bug bit him late in the year. He is healthy and back in minor league spring training. Also pitching with High-A Tampa in 2019 was Janson Junk. The strong arm righty struggled through the season as he constantly tweaked his slider but has potential to become a pitcher of note this coming year.

The Yankees are going to see some of their top pitching prospects reach the upper levels of the system this year. While some of their best young arms have already touched the majors, there are some more talented pitchers not too far away. It’ll be interesting to track their progress throughout the year, and see which arms prove capable of helping the Yankees in 2021.

Addison Russ, Brian Keller and Janson Junk all recently spoke with Pinstripe Alley. To find those interview and learn more about their path to the Yankees organization please check out Pinstripe Alley Interviews.