Luis Gil. That’s a name I’m sure you’ve become familiar with by now. If you haven’t, well, you should get to know more about the 23-year-old flamethrower. He burst onto the scene in early August, making his first career MLB start against the Baltimore Orioles. He hurled six shutout innings, recorded six strikeouts, and hasn’t looked back since.
Since then, he’s made two more starts, one against the Mariners and one against the rival Red Sox. He has yet to allow a single run in his first three starts and has continued to impress in big spots and against good lineups. He’s also put himself in good company in the history books. As a matter of fact, he stands alone in the history books. He’s the first pitcher in the Modern Era to not allow a run in each of his first three starts of his career.
Gil's here and he's historic. @thegil81 pic.twitter.com/B3L30vXoeW— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 18, 2021
However, before the 2021 season began, many probably weren’t too sure who who Gil was or what he was about. Deivi García was the team’s top pitching prospect. The full expectation was for García to carve out an important role in the rotation at some point this year. That has not gone to plan, to say the least.
García has only thrown 8.1 innings in the majors this year for the Yankees and has struggled immensely in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His 7.08 ERA is the worst among all RailRiders pitchers and the sixth-highest in all of Triple-A (min. 60 IP). His 51 walks and 18 home runs given up are also the highest among all RailRiders pitchers. It’s been a disaster season for the once-top prospect, particularly given that he was expected by many to be a contributing member of the 2021 Yankees.
Gil has seen the exact opposite progression. Yes, it’s only been three starts, but Gil has demonstrated what he can do to challenge big league hitters right now. He’s mainly a two-pitch pitcher as he throws his fastball and slider, but also sprinkles in a changeup every so often. His fastball is filthy, sitting on an average of 96 mph and is in the 89th percentile for its spin rate. Batters are hitting just .182 against his heater:
His slider is his secondary option, which generates plenty of swings and misses as well. He has nine strikeouts with that as his put-away pitch, along with a 26.3 percent whiff rate. His walk numbers have gone up each start thus far, but it hasn’t hurt him yet, though we know it eventually will if he doesn’t tighten up his location a little bit. As mentioned before, Gil does have a changeup, but doesn’t throw it all that much—only 9.2 percent of the time in his three starts. If the plan is to have him as a starter for the future, Gil might need to work on that third pitch in order to broaden his arsenal. If he can’t, the bullpen could be where he’s better suited in the long run.
In all, Luis Gil has been a surprisingly vital piece to this rotation, at a time where the team was hit with a ton of IL stints in the starting five. He’s essentially filled the role that García played last year, when García came up midseason and impressed over a short span when the likes of James Paxton went down. Moreover, as García was expected to reprise his role of prominent, young starter that could perform needed, Gil has ably filled those shoes.
If I had told you back in March that a right-hander at the start of his career would be successfully flitting in and out of the rotation midsummer for a competing Yankees team, well, you’d have been forgiven for assuming the wrong one had managed the feat.