There is a good chance the first time most Yankees fans heard the name Jhony Brito was when he was added to the 40-man roster on November 10th. There is also a good chance you won’t find his name on a list of top Yankees prospects anywhere else. But if you are listening to some of the important voices in the organization, then you may be realizing there is a good chance that Brito’s name could become familiar in the Bronx sooner rather than later.
In an interview with YES Network’s Meredith Marakovits, Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake named Brito as someone we don’t know yet but who could make himself known in 2023. Vice President of Player Development Kevin Reese likewise offered Brito’s name to a similar question from Marakovits in a separate interview. “He’s somebody to be excited about. He can pitch out of the bullpen. He can start. I think he’s going to affect our roster this year,” Reese said about Brito. Yankees Director of Pitching Sam Briend, in an interview with Brendan Kuty of NJ.com, was effusive in his praise of Brito. “Absolute workhorse,” Briend said. “Can’t say enough good things about him.”
All of the glowing words come on the heels of consecutive successful seasons for Brito, both in terms of development and performance. Brito, 24, progressed from High-A to Triple-A, started 48 games, threw almost 230 innings, and had a combined ERA of 3.27 in 2021 and 2022. He also limited hard contact and kept the ball in the ballpark, allowing well under a home run per nine innings. Brito’s fastball velocity jumped thanks to tweaks the Yankees’ player development staff had him make to his delivery to make better use of his lower half.
Brito hasn’t burst onto the scene in the Yankee organization. He’s made a steady climb after debuting in 2016 after signing out of the Dominican Republic, dealing with a Tommy John surgery that kept him out for part of 2017 and most of the 2018 season, and then missing all of 2020 during the COVID-canceled season. But since the beginning of 2021 the arrow has been pointing up. Moving from Hudson Valley to Scranton within two seasons is not necessarily a sign of a valued prospect, because sometimes players are called upon to make spot starts or temporarily fill in for injured players at a higher level, but Brito’s promotions have been merited.
What makes Brito an exciting prospect is not his ceiling; it’s the likelihood he will reach it. The justification for including him among the organization’s top prospects comes in part from his proximity to the big leagues, but also from a work ethic that makes it easy to believe in his ability to maximize his potential.
That’s not to say there aren’t traits to feel really good about. Not overly physical at a listed 6’2’’ and 160 pounds, Brito is strong and athletic, which helps him to repeat a simple delivery. The athleticism and repeatable mechanics have a lot to do with Briend calling Brito the “absolute best command guy in our organization” in his interview with Kuty.
Brito has a starter’s repertoire, throwing both two-seamers and four-seamers, an above-average changeup, a breaking ball that could be a slider or cutter, and a pitch MLB Pipeline described as a softer curveball. The velocity on the fastball ran up to 98 mph this year, and Brito routinely worked at 94-96 according to Pipeline, who named him the Yankee organization’s pitching Prospect of the Year. Briend said about Brito’s stuff, “(His) changeup is an absolute above-average major league pitch. The sinker dominates.” Pounding the strike zone with four pitches that keep the baseball off the barrel is a good way to put yourself in line for a major league promotion.
Arguably, but realistically, Jhony Brito may be the eighth starting pitcher on the Yankees’ organizational depth chart right now. With the trades of Ken Waldichuk, JP Sears, and Hayden Wesneski at this year’s deadline, Brito could have made his major league debut in 2022. Instead, he is poised for a call-up should the need arise in 2023.
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