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Intriguing arms populate the middle of the Yankees system

The middle of the system is where real pitching prospects often separate themselves from the pack.

2021 Arizona Fall League Headshots
2021 AFL participant Clay Aguilar
Photo by Michael Gonzales/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Yankees and baseball fans in general are always on the lookout for the next wave of prospects. On the pitching side many of those arms start to come into focus during their time in the middle of the system from High-A and Double-A. Let’s take a look at the promising arms in the middle of the Yankees system that will be looking to take the next step forward in 2022.

Beck Way hit his stride mid-season for the Low-A Tampa Tarpons, allowing just one run over his last five outings in Low-A from July 30th through August 22nd. That dominant stretch came as he found his control that had evaded him earlier in the season. After earning a promotion to High-A, he was hit hard in four starts despite striking out 38 percent of the batters he faced.

Way is considered to have a pair of plus fastballs that sit in the mid-90’s. He also has a slider that some scouts see as a plus pitch due to its great vertical break. For Way to take the next step, he will have to harness the control that he found in the last month of his Low-A experience. He will also have to continue to develop his changeup that often does not have enough separation in velocity from his fastballs. Way is an arm that could trend up quickly during the year if his control and secondary pitches come together.

When the Rule-5 draft was canceled, the Yankees likely dodged a bullet or two. They didn’t have to spend any 40-man roster spots to protect prospects, and one of the names that had drawn some attention was former second round Matt Sauer. Picked a round behind Clarke Schmidt in 2017, the 6-foot-4 Sauer went down with Tommy John surgery early in 2019. Following the lost 2020 season, there were questions as to what the Yankees would get from the young righty in 2021.

Sauer stood and delivered on the season, tossing 111.1 innings between Low-A and High-A. His 4.69 ERA did not jump off the page as elite, but scouts saw the raw stuff that made him a coveted draft pick back in 2017. He was able sit in the mid-90’s with his fastball and spin a quality slider. He will have to develop more command of his pitches as he continues to grow, but there are believers who can see him as a major league starter again after missing nearly two full seasons.

Mitch Spence was a name that started to stand out quickly as the Yankees moved him back into a starter’s role. Spence has four pitches with a potentially elite slider that he relies heavily on. His ceiling as a starter will likely depend on his ability to develop his changeup, but the top-notch slider with a solid fastball already gives him a strong chance to be a bullpen piece in the future.

Injuries plagued some of the more talented young starters in the system this past season. Selected 38th overall by the Yankees in 2019, TJ Sikkema did not get on the field in 2021 due to a lat muscle injury that kept him from ever getting started. He has been listed on the lineup cards for minor league spring training and will likely be ready to go from the start of the minor league season.

Selected several rounds after Sikkema, Jake Agnos underwent Tommy John surgery during minor league spring training in 2021. He will likely not be ready to pitch until mid-season, but the left-hander with a college pedigree should be able to reach High-A or even Double-A level this coming season. Agnos went down with his injury at almost the same time as talented right-hander Daniel Bies — a strong pitcher for Low-A Charleston in 2019 who earned a late season promotion to High-A that year. He was slated to start the season with Double-A Somerset before suffering his injury, and like Agnos he should be back on the mound mid-season.

Another arm that has high prospect rankings but will be out for a majority of the season is Yoendrys Gomez. The highly regarded prospect went down in August and did not return. It was later reveled that Gomez had Tommy John surgery, but it is not exactly clear when that took place. It is unlikely that he will see much action in 2022.

The Yankees sent a contingent of players to the Arizona Fall League who have the potential to move through the middle of the system in 2022. Tanner Myatt is an extremely talented arm who has battled control issues throughout his career. Opponents have hit just .169 off Myatt since the Yankees drafted him in 2018. He has a fastball in the upper 90s, and a nasty slider that is elite at its best. If Myatt can develop more control he could move quickly through the system.

Clay Aguilar was another arm who went to the AFL coming off a strong season. He excelled for Low-A Tampa and had one outstanding start for High-A Hudson Valley. The lefty showed good control and the ability to miss bats with a 12.3 K/9 rate in 2021.

Another lefty making noise in the middle of the system is Edgar Barclay, who is known for having one of the best changeups in the Yankees system. He had a 13 K/9 rate and has outstanding control. He will likely be in High-A and Double-A this coming season.

Two more intriguing arms that have worked out of the bullpen this past season are Derek Craft and Trevor Holloway. Both players had strong strikeout rates and solid control. They have the potential to move into the Double-A and even Triple-A level this coming season.

The Yankees have a strong crop of pitching prospects in the middle of their minor league system. That depth will be helped this coming season by players returning from injury. This is also the area of the system that saw tremendous gains from players such as Hayden Wesneski and Ken Waldichuk last season — players who are now routinely counted among the organizations top prospects. These pitchers could work their way into similar success this coming season.