Teams around baseball are constantly looking for in-house answers for their pitching staff. Very few pitchers instantly reach the Yankees system with a refined arsenal and the necessary command to harness it against big league hitters. Over the past several years, the Yankees have revamped their pitching coaching staff under the guidance of Organizational Pitching Coordinator Sam Briend. Players like Hayden Wesneski, Ken Waldichuk, and other showed significant improvement coming out of the lost pandemic season and are now considered among the team’s top prospects.
Below them in the system lies another wave of players with the arm talent to make a similar mark, but those names were still lacking the refinement to their game the last time they stepped on a field. This week, we are continuing our look around the Yankees’ minor league system by reviewing the arms that pitched in Rookie ball and below in the Florida Complex League (FCL) and the Dominican Summer League (DSL) this past year.
With their third-round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, the Yankees selected left-handed high school pitcher Brock Selvidge. Pre-draft scouting reports noted that heading into his senior season, some thought he had the potential to land in the first round of the 2021 draft. An inconsistent spring put a damper on that speculation but did not scare the Yankees away from taking him in the third round and paying him a well-above draft slot signing bonus to keep him away from college powerhouse Louisiana State University. Once in the system, Selvidge pitched just 3.2 innings in the Florida Complex League across three games. Selvidge has the potential to be a starting pitcher in the future if he can develop. His first steps in 2022 will likely involve working on his command while improving both his curveball and changeup. Depending on his progress, the Yankees could hold Selvidge back in extended spring training to start the season as a means of working on his stuff and controlling his innings at the same time. He will likely see time in the FCL with an opportunity to pitch in Low-A by late in the summer.
A big-time arm who garnered a lot of attention this past summer was 6-foot-4 right-hander Tyrone Yulie. The 20-year-old hit 99-100 mph in some of his starts this season, impressing numerous scouts in attendance. After a solid start in the FCL, Yuile earned a promotion to Low-A Tampa, where he struggled with his adjustment to the automatic strike zone being used around the league. His walk rate spiked, and he did not find the same success against the higher level of competition in the league. In order for Yulie to avoid having the reliever label put on him, he will have to improve his command dramatically, a familiar story for young pitching prospects.
Another pitcher who pitched his way up to Low-A this season was right-hander Alfred Vega. He posted a 1.64 ERA in 33 FCL innings and finished with a four-inning, one-run outing for Low-A Tampa. The 6-foot-1 prospect turned 21 in January and has displayed a nasty curveball in game action.
Denny Larrondo was a center field and shortstop prospect as an amateur in Cuba before signing as an international free agent and focusing on the pitching side of the game. He is a projectable athlete who has similar elite spin rates in his arsenal as fellow Yankees prospect Randy Vasquez, who broke out in a big way this past season and ranked No. 3 on the Baseball Prospectus Top 10 for the Yankees system.
Considered by some to be the Yankees’ top-rated prospect in the 2018 international free-agent class, Osiel Rodriguez has struggled to stay healthy and make his mark in the organization. He has thrown just 18.1 innings in two seasons as a professional. Nonetheless, he only just turned 20 He just turned 20 and is still an arm to watch, based on the potential he showed pitching prior to signing with the Yankees.
While Vega earned the call up Low-A, another arm big on potential, Yarison Ruiz, pitched his way stateside to the FCL after starting in the DSL. The 6-foot-4 righty came out throwing 93-96 mph with a big-time curveball. This resulted in 49 strikeouts over 30 innings between the two leagues. Unfortunately, he also posted a startlingly high walk rate of almost a batter per inning, giving the team a clear objective that they will have to improve.
As Ruiz pitched his way stateside, the Yankees also saw several strong pitching performances in the DSL this past season. Allen Facundo the lefty recorded a 15.5 K/9 rate through 48.2 DSL innings this past season. After early struggles with control, his walk rate improved throughout the summer until a rough final start. He will likely start next season in the FCL with a chance to bump up to Low-A if he continues to strikeout players at a rapid pace.
Righty, Jan Pena stood out from his peers with the ability to locate multiple pitches for strikes with his fastball and a developing slider doing most of the work. He is only pitching in the high-80’s now, but with a tall 6-foot-4 frame, he is projected to see his stuff tick up with more time in the Yankees system. Another tall pitcher, Henry Lalane was born in the Bronx before moving back and forth the Dominican Republic several times. His father played Division I basketball in the United States before joining the Dominican Republic national team, while his mother played volleyball for the country as well. The 6-feet 7-inch lefty can throw his fastball in the low-90’s right now, but has a large, athletic frame that really makes one think that there is more velocity and strikes coming as he continues to develop. Lalane will probably start the season in the complex league next summer.
Luis Serna was another effective pitcher for the Yankees in the DSL this summer, and at age 17 no less. The righty tossed 40 innings this past summer and showed better control than many of his peers as he walked just 3.8 BB/9. He also struck out over a batter an inning and has an outstanding changeup that has drawn notice from evaluators.
The Yankees have a lot of strong-armed pitchers at the lower levels of the minor leagues. As is the case with many players who are just getting their first taste of full-season ball, these players still have a lot of progress to make before they are considered among the organization’s best prospects.