Last year, I did a little bit of a dive into which pitching prospects in the Yankees’ system were well-suited to become the next homegrown relief ace. The list included Luis Medina, Luis Gil, and Greg Weissert. Medina is now in Oakland, as he was one of the prospects sent away at the trade deadline for Frankie Montas. Gil underwent Tommy John surgery and we didn’t get to see how he could contribute to the 2022 team. Weissert, however, dominated with Triple-A Scranton by striking 36.8 percent of the batters he faced while limiting the home run ball. His dominance earned him a late-season promotion, where we saw how well he can spin the ball.
I was prepared to feature a new group of faces in this piece, but it’s important to note that Weissert could very well take on this role this season, like we saw with Ron Marinaccio and Michael King at different points in the season. Weissert proved that he is an extremely uncomfortable at-bat for hitters in the 11.1 innings he had throughout September and October. Like others on the Yankees roster, Weissert possesses a robust seam-shifted wake profile. What exactly does that mean? Well, the short version is that most of the movement that he induces from his pitches comes from his use of the seams of the baseball and how they resist air as they travel to the plate. We’re seeing that type of pitcher be a perfect candidate to yield whiffs out of the zone and soft contact in the zone.
Now, with that addressed, there are two other relievers who deserve some attention from the Yankees system but aren’t superstar prospects. Both are starting pitchers right now, but I’m not sure that matters. King, Clarke Schmidt, and Jonathan Loáisiga were all starters at one point or another (heck, even Clay Holmes started four games for Pittsburgh in his rookie season), but their paths eventually led them to bullpen roles — although Schmidt still has a shot for spot starts here and there.
Anyway, I’ll start with Clayton Beeter. Are you familiar with him yet? Well, if you’re not, you should get used to hearing his name.
The fun fact about Beeter is that he came from the Los Angeles Dodgers in return for Joey Gallo. He was a prospect with legitimate stuff but struggling to throw strikes. The Dodgers trading this much talent for a few months of Gallo was pretty shocking, and the early returns suggest that they really messed up. Beeter was incredible for Somerset in just over 20 innings. He had a 1.99 FIP while striking out nearly 40 percent of the hitters who stepped in the box against him. He’s got a funky delivery with good velocity. Check it out:
Beeter’s success was always going to be dependent on how he could control the baseball. He simply needs to throw strikes. One glaring mechanical deficiency that somewhat worries me is how late his arm is. Ideally you want your arm to be at least at 45 degrees at foot plant, but Beeter’s is still working its way up. There’s a positive way to spin this though. That adjustment could not only help his ability to throw strikes, but it could also increase his velocity. Talk to NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Spencer Strider. It was one of the adjustments he made to get from the low-to-mid 90s to 100 mph. His stuff is promising, and he still has room for improvement. That sounds like a perfect candidate to be a relief ace.
The next potential relief ace is Jhony Brito. You may be even less familiar with him than you are with Beeter. He has been in the Yankees’ system since 2016 and is entering his age-25 season. His success in the last two seasons has convinced some that he could be a real back-end starter, or in this case, a reliever for the Yankees in 2023.
Every year, a name like Brito pops up for the Yankees. JP Sears is one example of an under-the-radar prospect who performed his way to the big leagues earlier than many expected and delivered quality innings. It’s not hard to see that happening with Brito as well. Here is an idea of what his stuff looks like:
Another highly deceptive arm action! I admire that about the Yankees’ ability to develop pitchers. Many of them have unique movements and mechanics, including Brito. While he may actually have starter promise, I suspect his stuff will play up even further out of the ‘pen, and also with a bit of a mechanical tweak. His fastball has good velocity, but to play out of the pen in the majors, he might have to add a tick or two. That could come from better utilizing his back leg. Brito looks like a pretty athletic pitcher, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that comes around with some time. He already has proven that he can make long-term adjustments. Why stop now?
While I fully expect Weissert to have the most impact on the 2023 roster, don’t be surprised if Beeter and Brito get a few shots at it too if they make their way onto the 40-man roster. It’s an exciting time for Yankees pitching development. There are big names, and other less known names, but to be honest, it’s becoming less surprising every time a random name pops up as legitimate MLB reliever. These three names are only a reassurance of that fact.