The minor league season is three weeks old and some players have rushed out of the gate already putting themselves in position for early season promotions. The system as a whole is playing well and several pitchers have really shown themselves to be a step ahead of their current competition. Let’s take a look at three pitchers who could be promoted to the next level in the very near future.
If you think it’s early for a top prospect to get promoted, there is recent precedent for it inside the Yankees’ system. Back in 2019, the Yankees promoted Deivi García to the Double-A level after just four games and 17.2 innings pitched to start the season with High-A Tampa. At the time, he was carving his way through the High-A competition recording a 16.81 K/9 rate.
The name generating some of the biggest buzz in the Yankees system right now is left-handed pitcher Ken Waldichuk. After four starts Waldichuk has an 18.21 K/9 rate and has yet to allow an earned run. The 23-year-old was the Yankees’ fifth-round pick in 2019 after a standout college career at St. Mary’s.
He burst onto the scene in his pro-debut for the Yankees by posting a 15.03 K/9 rate for the Rookie-Advanced Pulaski Yankees. During the year off he reportedly added both velocity and was able to refine his pitch arsenal. He received a lot of national attention when he struck out 10 batter in 3.1 innings during his third start. Like many of the Yankees pitching prospects, Waldichuk started the season with a low pitch count. He was held to 51 pitches in his first start but has now built up to 74 pitches in his last outing.
As good as Waldichuk has been, he might not be the first player promoted from the High-A Hudson Valley pitching staff. Luis Medina has been listed among the Yankees top pitching prospects for several years now. Scouts have gushed over his pitching arsenal that includes a triple digit fastball and breaking pitches that have been among the best in the minor leagues. Control has been the one trait that has held Medina back in his career.
Midway through the 2019 season, the Yankees changed Medina’s arm action and his control improved immediately. He has continued to refine that control over the winter while pitching in Puerto Rico. Through four games, Medina has tossed 18.2 IP with a 1.45 ERA and a 15.43 K/9 rate. It’s mildly concerning that Medina has a 4.34 BB/9 rate, but he has not seemed out of control while watching his starts. As the Yankees have stretched out his pitch count he has actually walked the last batter he faced twice while a reliever was already set to come into the game due to his extended pitch count.
Medina’s in-game performances have been electric and he looks like ready for the Double-A level. As a member of the 40-man roster, the Yankees may want Medina to face the upper-level competition that would come with a promotion to Double-A Somerset, as he could eventually be called upon to pitch in the Bronx at some point during the season.
RHP Luis Medina struck out 8 over 4 scoreless innings of work on opening night for the Hudson Valley Renegades. pic.twitter.com/apYkzz4Pru— NYYPlayerDev (@NYYPlayerDev) May 6, 2021
Already pitching for Double-A Somerset is another of the Yankees top pitching prospects in Luis Gil. Gil has excelled during his first four starts with a 16.43 K/9 rate over 15.1 innings pitched. In his most recent start he hit 100 mph multiple times with his fastball while locking up opposing hitters with his mid-80s slider.
That slider was a point of emphasis for Gil during his time at the alternate training site in 2020. While the strikeouts are eye-popping for the Double-A level, the 2.93 BB/9 rate might be the flashiest stat on Gil’s line — he has never recorded lower than a 4.3 BB/9 rate during his professional career. Improved control to compliment his electric fastball/slider combination could help Gil punch a ticket not just to Triple-A Scranton, but to the Bronx before the end of the year.
RHP Luis Gil tallied 6 Ks over 3.2 scoreless IP on opening night for the Somerset Patriots. pic.twitter.com/HgZwefLtaN— NYYPlayerDev (@NYYPlayerDev) May 5, 2021
Some of the most talented arms in the Yankees’ minor league system have come out of the gate strong and could be on the verge of a promotion to the next level. While other pitchers are performing well, notably Glenn Otto and Hayden Wesneski, the trio listed above have separated themselves from the pack early on and their performance is forcing the Yankees to consider moving them to the next step of their development.