The annual international free agency period is defined by high profile prospects inking seven figure signing bonuses on the first day the newest class is eligible to sign. Those players are generally 16-year-olds, as most players older than that are passed by and garner little attention. Those players who sign later often can turn into signings that look like steals as they develop into quality players. The Yankees have such a prospect in Randy Vasquez, who signed with no fanfare or attention but is now rocketing up the prospect ranking after a dramatic in-season improvement in 2021.
Vasquez signed with the Yankees in May of 2018, near the end of the 2017-2018 signing period. In a period where the Yankees signed five individual players to seven-figure signing bonuses, the then 19-year-old Velasquez received just a $10,000 bonus to start his professional career.
Following the lost pandemic season, Vasquez did not register among the Yankees top prospects per all public prognosticators. FanGraphs mentioned that he was a “spin rate monster” but also was very cautious about his upside. Despite having some of the highest spin rates on his curveball in the organization, he also battled with his control, causing much of the concern among scouts. In 2019 he had a 4.61 BB/9 rate, something he nearly matched at his first stop in 2021.
Starting the season on a Low-A Tampa team that included many of the Yankees’ top prospects, Vasquez flew under the radar as players like Anthony Volpe, Austin Wells and eventually Jasson Dominguez took the spotlight for the high-powered Tarpon team.
Over the course of the season, Vasquez found something that clicked, and he has dramatically improved his control from where he started at the beginning of the campaign. The major improvement started with his June 18 start when he did not allow a walk for the first time all year. Since that outing, he has just a 2.12 BB/9 rate and has grown comfortable working in the strike zone. Trusting his nasty breaking pitches and a good fastball, Vasquez has a 12.12 K/9 rate in that span that has allowed him to catch the eye of not just the Yankees but scouts around baseball.
The Yankees themselves have aggressively promoted Vasquez since he found his control in mid-June. He was moved up to High-A Hudson Valley in the middle of July, and after just six starts at that level he was promoted again to Double-A Somerset in late-August.
All 11 of Randy Vasquez's strikeouts yesterday. Since his promotion to Hudson Valley, he has a 2.74 ERA over 23 innings, with 38 strikeouts and only 5 walks.— Lucas (@DBITLefty) August 9, 2021
(Also, he's now struck out 8 in his first game with the team, 9 in his second, 10 in his third, and 11 in his fourth) pic.twitter.com/omfEPT3Nc1
The results have not suffered from his rise up the minor league ladder. He struck out 53 batters in just 36 High-A innings and is off to a strong start in Double-A.
There is still a lot of speculation that Vasquez will end up in the bullpen over the long run. He has an elite curveball and both a four and two-seam fastball that rate as average to above average pitches. The development of his changeup could determine his path in the long run. Standing just 6-feet tall, he does not have the traditional starter’s build, but could also force his way into consideration with continued strong performances.
Vasquez is eligible for the Rule-5 draft after the season and has become a slam dunk candidate for the Yankees to protect with a 40-man roster spot when that decision has to be made in November. His success at the Double-A level positions him with a chance to contribute to the Yankees as soon as next season in either a starting or relief role.
Some filth from Randy Vasquez in the first! pic.twitter.com/yyfWdyBsHO— Somerset Patriots (@SOMPatriots) August 28, 2021
Randy Vasquez has emerged from an unknown international prospect to one of the better pitchers in the Yankees minor league system. Few prospects in the Yankees system have done as much to help their cause as Vasquez this year, and he is now in a great position to help the Yankees as soon as 2022.