With the signing of Anthony Rizzo earlier in the week, it became apparent that Luke Voit’s time with the Yankees was coming to an end. After emerging as a breakout star late in 2018, injuries caught up with Voit limiting his effectiveness throughout the later part of 2019 and again in 2021. Voit is heading to the San Diego Padres, and in return the Yankees will receive 20-year-old pitching prospect Justin Lange. Let’s take a deeper look at what Lange brings to the table and where he fits among the pitchers in the Yankees system.
At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Justin Lange has the prototypical frame that scouts are looking for in a pitching prospect. As a point of reference, the top six vote-getters in the 2021 Cy Young voting for both the American and National league were 6-foot-2 or taller.
Lange was not only a pitcher coming through the amateur ranks. He was committed to play Division-1 baseball as an infielder, before seeing his velocity spike on the mound and becoming a strong pitching candidate. After topping out with his fastball around 93 mph as a high school junior, some scouts recorded triple digits on his fastball leading up to the draft.
His progress and potential led to Baseball America ranking him as the 50th best draft prospect in 2020, while MLB.com had him as the 57th. The Padres liked his potential even more than that and selected Lange with the 34th overall pick, just six picks after the Yankees selected Austin Wells. The Yankees have not drafted heavily out of the high school pitching ranks in recent years, generally preferring college arms.
Lange’s late dedication to pitching earns him numerous reviews that use the word ‘raw’ to discuss his overall pitching ability. It also leads many to believe that there is more ability to unlock as he gains experience and builds off the tools that he has. Despite being limited in his professional debut due to a sore knee and a shoulder issue, scouts have seen a slider develop that flashes the potential to be a plus pitch.
The analytics love Lange’s spin rate on his fastball as the velocity plays up due to the carry that the ball gets into the zone. Some reports also have him working to refine the natural cut that he has on his fastball to create a distinct cutter.
A comparable pitcher in the Yankees system based on their current development is fellow 20-year-old Tyrone Yulie. He has not made his presence known on many prospect rankings yet, but FanGraphs rates Yulie as the 33rd best prospect in the Yankees system. Both players have hit 100 mph with their fastball, and potentially have a plus slider, if they can deliver it consistently. They are also both 6-foot-4, with Yulie’s weight recently being updated by some sources to 220 pounds.
He not too far from a developmental standpoint from where Luis Gil was when the Yankees acquired him from Minnesota several years ago. Lange is also considered a plus athlete, who was heavily recruited as a middle infielder and outfielder and displayed plus speed while playing on the pre-draft circuit.
Last season, the Yankees saw a number of young pitchers take a significant step forward. As a franchise they saw Hayden Wesneski and Ken Waldichuk develop into serious prospects. Under the guidance of Sam Briend the minor league pitching program received strong reviews last year, and Lange give the Yankees another potential high-end arm to work with.
Baseball America recently rated Lange as San Diego’s 16th best prospect, and FanGraphs has installed him as the 17th ranked prospect in the Yankees system. It is obvious that Lange has a ton of potential and could develop into a serious prospect for the Yankees in the near future.
The Yankees are betting on Justin Lange’s potential and adding another high draft pick from just two years ago. His big-time arm could emerge as one of the best in the system if everything comes together for him over the next few years. In a world where “there is no such thing as a pitching prospect,” Lange is about as good a talent to start with as there is.