Entering the sixth round of the 2021 MLB Draft, the Yankees selected three infielders and two pitchers with their first five picks. The balance returned in Round 6, as they chose Auburn right-handed pitcher Richard Fitts with the 183rd overall selection.
The 21-year-old Fitts was considered a first-round talent earlier in 2021, as he had a 2.77 ERA and 11.1 K/9 in six outings as a sophomore reliever in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. Baseball America wrote that he later impressed in fall ball and paired a mid-90s fastball with a “buzzsaw” slider, but a foot injury sustained in spring 2021 threw his season into shambles. The final results weren’t pretty. Fitts pitched 13 games (8 as a starter) and posted a 5.88 ERA, 1.282 WHIP, and much-lower 8.9 K/9 in 41.1 innings. Fitts would occasionally look excellent, but definitely struggled with consistency.
BA had Fitts 222nd overall, while MLB.com listed him higher at No. 149. In the pre-draft write-up, MLB Pipeline complimented Fitts’ arsenal while also noting some potential red flags:
After operating with a low-90s sinker as a reliever, Fitts began employing a four-seam fastball as a starter. He showed the ability to sit at 93-95 mph for several innings and reach 97 with quality vertical life on his heater last year and has mostly held that velocity in 2021. He has two promising secondary pitches, with his upper-80s changeup with some splitter action currently a more reliable option than his improving mid-80s slider, but both have regressed this spring.
Fitts will have something to prove as he joins the Yankees’ organization, but really, the sixth round is not a bad spot at all to take a roll of the dice on a potential first-round talent. If he successfully recovers from the injury to even become a good reliever (with the chance of starting as well), then that’s a fine sixth-round pick.