The Yankees have a lot of prospects in their top 10 who aren’t expected to contribute at all in the 2022 season. Hayden Wesneski, however, has a chance to be in the Bronx in the summer if the team needs him, provided he can keep making strides with his command and refine his secondary pitches.
With a very good 2021 campaign as a starter at three different levels (High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A), the right-hander showed he has a nice floor: he won’t be an ace, but Wesneski knows how to pitch and has developing weapons to take big league hitters out eventually. Some scouts see him as a backend starter, while others see a mid-rotation ceiling.
2021 Minor league stats (High-A Hudson Valley/Double-A Somerset/Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre): 11-6, 3.25, 25 G, 24 GS, 130.1 IP, 151 K, 1.12 WHIP
2022 Expected minor league level: Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Major league ETA: 2022
Wesneski, a sixth-round pick back in 2019, has two fastballs: he mostly throws a two-seamer with a lot of movement, but added a four-seamer that touched the mid-90s consistently in 2021. He also throws two different breaking balls, per FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen: a firm, mid-80s cutter and a slow, low-80s slider. Both are considered good, certainly better than his developing changeup. There is some discrepancy on how evaluators see his breaking ball, as The Athletic’s Keith Law calls his a curveball.
Wesneski is 17th in FanGraphs’ list of Yankees prospects for the 2022 campaign, and 15th in MLB’s 2021 list (the 2022 edition hasn’t been released). The Athletic, however, places him sixth (subscription required), ahead of high-profile names such as Clarke Schmidt, Deivi García, Everson Pereira, Austin Wells, Trey Sweeney, Antonio Gómez, Randy Vásquez, and Oswaldo Cabrera. Baseball America had Wesneski in the exact same spot as well.
Why is Law so high on him? He says Wesneski looks “the part of a mid-rotation starter”, with a repeatable delivery, and a good chance to get there since the Yankees helped him tighten up his curveball. “He has the out pitch and above-average to plus control, with the right build, so I’d let him continue working toward that league-average starter upside,” he also said while also pointing out that he could hit 100 mph in a relief role.
With the Yankees’ help, Wesneski has made some changes since entering the organization almost three years ago, as Longenhagen explains:
“Wesneski, who was an awkward, low-slot slinger at Sam Houston State, has remade his physique and now has something more akin to a typical starter’s delivery. His upper back almost folds together behind him like a properly-held slice of pizza as his arm circles back, a trait many Yankees pitchers share.”
With many weapons at his disposal, including two good fastballs, Wesneski started with the High-A Hudson Valley Renegades in 2021. There, he was brilliant: with a 1.49 ERA in seven starts and 36.1 innings, he struck out 11.64 hitters per nine frames while handing just 2.23 walks per nine.
Wesneski made the jump to the high minors and started 15 games for the Double-A Somerset Patriots. There, his home run rate climbed a bit (0.5 in High-A to 1.2 in Double-A) but he was solid, with a 4.01 ERA that matched his 4.00 FIP, 10.0 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. He made two starts and one relief appearance in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before the end of the season, pitching 11 innings of a 3.27 ERA (2.54 FIP), 9.8 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9. It’s obvious the Yankees have something to work with here.
Here at Pinstripe Alley, we like Wesneski quite a bit, so we ranked him eighth in our collective evaluation of the Yankees’ system. If he doesn’t start long-term (he very well could), he can be a high-leverage reliever. Not bad for a sixth-round pick.