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Pinstripe Alley Top 10 Yankees Prospects: No. 4, Luis Gil

Luis Gil set the MLB record for most consecutive scoreless starts to begin his career, cementing himself as the Yankees’ best pitching prospect.

Cleveland Indians v New York Yankees Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

When Minnesota signed Luis Gil out of the Dominican Republic on February 12th, 2015 for $90,000, it likely escaped notice for all but the most diehard Twins fans. They got their first look at the 17 year old in the Dominican Summer League that year — a 16-game sample that saw Gil pitch to a 4.63 ERA with more walks that strikeouts. He then missed all of 2016 with a shoulder injury before returning to pitch in the DSL in 2017.

That summer, Gil flashed a mid-90s fastball, catching the eye of Yankees evaluators. They were impressed enough to trade for the youngster, sending their 2011 sixth round draft pick Jake Cave to Minnesota. At that point, Gil was still considered nothing more than a lottery ticket, but thanks to his hard work over the last four years and the Yankees’ developmental staff, Gil has cemented himself as one of the consensus top prospects in New York’s system, with a real chance to lock down a major league roster spot this season.

2021 Major League Stats: 6 G, 1-1, 29.1 IP, 3.07 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 4.85 xFIP, 11.7 K/9, 5.8 BB/9, 1.345 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

2021 Minor League Stats (Double-A Somerset/Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre): 20 G (17 GS), 5-1, 79.1 IP, 3.97 ERA, 13.3 K/9, 5.1 BB/9, 1.311 WHIP

2022 Expected level: Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and MLB

Gil’s first taste of pro ball with the Yankees came in 2018, splitting time between Pulaski and Staten Island. In 12 starts, he sported a 1.96 ERA with 68 strikeouts and 31 walks in 46 innings. The next season, Gil started at Low-A Charleston before a July promotion to High-A Tampa, pitching to a 2.72 ERA with 123 strikeouts and 47 walks in 96 innings.

Then 2020 brought the cancellation of the minor league season, but Gil earned an assignment to the club’s alternate site, so the year wasn’t a complete loss. He began the 2021 season at Double-A Somerset and excelled in his first seven starts with a 2.64 ERA and 50 strikeouts against only 13 walks in 30.2 innings.

This earned Gil a call-up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with some struggles in his initial handful of starts representing an adjustment period to competing against improved opposition. In those five starts, Gil allowed 13 runs in 22 innings — good for a 5.32 ERA. Instead of panic, Gil pushed forward, leading to the start that eventually caught the attention of the major league team and earned him his debut.

On July 21st, Gil tossed six no-hit innings with nine strikeouts. Reggie McClain and Stephen Ridings pitched the last two frames to finish off the Railriders’ combined no-hitter over the Rochester Red Wings. This was just the prelude to one of the more impressive Yankees debuts in recent memory.

Gil received his big league call-up on August 3rd, debuting at home against the Orioles. He pitched six scoreless innings, giving up only four hits and a walk to go along with six strikeouts.

His next start came at home against the Mariners, and this one was a real gem — five scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. Nine days later, he pitched the second game of a doubleheader against the Red Sox, striking out four in 4.2 scoreless innings. In doing so, he became the first pitcher in MLB history with a scoreless start in his first three outings, and his 15.2 scoreless innings is the longest streak to start a career of any Yankee since 1961.

Despite this outstanding trio of starts, with Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery’s returns from the COVID-19 IL, Gil was optioned for a three-game stretch to Triple-A before being called back up the second week of September. This go-around in the majors was not as smooth sailing for the righty — in three starts he allowed 11 runs across 13.2 innings — though this could be chalked up to the career-high 106.1 innings on his arm. As a result, Gil was sent back down to finish the season and was left off the postseason roster.

Gil actually profiles quite similar to the prospect I profiled yesterday, Luis Medina. He’s got a high octane fastball that operates in the high-90s and can even touch triple digits. Like Medina, he has shaky-at-best command, walking roughly 15 percent of the batters he’s faced at every level. There are also questions about Gil’s ability to stick in the rotation.

That said, his fastball alone can take him far. At 96.1 mph it placed in the 88th percentile in MLB. Combined with 90th percentile spin rates in excess of 2,400 RPM, Gil’s four-seamer is elite when held up against any big-leaguer. And there are signals it could get even better. With only 85 percent active spin, he is not getting all that he can out of his heater. The higher that active spin creeps up, the more rise and late riding life the pitch will achieve.

The biggest hurdle for Gil to clear is finding a reliable secondary pitch. He throws a slider about 30 percent of the time, but struggles to find a consistent release point, leading to unpredictable location and pitch shape. He’s also flashed a changeup at times, but it’s nowhere close to being a dependable third pitch.

Scanning the various prospect ranking publications, it’s clear many were impressed with Gil’s dazzling debut. MLB Pipeline, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus all have him ranked fourth in the organizational standings — with Pipeline grading him at 94th in the MLB top 100 — while Keith Law places him fifth and FanGraphs the outlier at eleventh. All sources have Gil’s floor as a high-leverage reliever, with some believing him to be an ideal setup man or closer. It appears the Yankees still have designs on keeping him in the rotation, and the development of his slider and changeup as legitimate offerings will go a long way in deciding his fate.