As the minor league baseball season moves past the early stages of the season new information is becoming available to scouts and evaluators. With that information prospect evaluators are tweaking their rankings and adjusting their outlooks based on offseason developments. One look at the Yankees list and an interesting and promising trend emerges, showing where the Yankees have found success in the draft and how continued success in that area could be a key to helping the team in the long-term.
The Yankees are finding tremendous success over recent years developing and moving pitchers selected from the fourth to eighth round of the amateur draft. Jordan Montgomery is an example of a player who can come from a college background and be pushed quickly through the minor league system. Injuries stalled Montgomery once he reached the majors and just over the past few seasons, he has become a stable rotation piece. Now Sam Briend, the Yankees’ pitching coordinator, has put a system in place that is reaping major rewards for the organizations as more players selected outside of the top-three rounds are developing into top prospects for the team.
The most notable arms now moving through the system have reached Triple-A and they have done so quickly enough that they will only be required to be placed on the 40-man roster this coming November in order to be protected from the Rule-5 draft. Pitchers who can put themselves in contention for major league playing time that quickly offer the team improved roster flexibility, since roster spots are not well-utilized on talented players who are far from major league ready.
Hayden Wesneski was a sixth-round pick of the Yankees in the 2019 draft, but has quickly outperformed many players taken ahead of him. The Sam Houston State University product made his professional debut that summer, but then like all of his minor league peers lost a season due to the COVID pandemic. Wesneski excelled when he retuned to the field in 2021. After starting the season with High-A Hudson Valley, he earned a quick promotion to Double-A Somerset and then finished the season with three outings at the Triple-A level.
He returned to Triple-A Scranton this season and has excelled early in the season with a 2.31 ERA through seven starts. He uses a five pitch mix with scouts especially loving his two fastballs, and a slider that plays well off of a developing cutter. Wesneski is firmly in the mix for a promotion to the majors this season and could find work there as either a starter or in a long relief role.
Four strikeouts in five innings for Hayden Wesneski, who has retired 13 in a row and 15 of 16 for the game.— Conor Foley (@RailRidersTT) May 14, 2022
RailRiders lead this one, 2-1. pic.twitter.com/Rz1YJcpxXV
Drafted a round prior to Wesneski in the 2019 draft, Ken Waldichuk is following a similar path to his fellow pitching prospect. His recent performances have earned him a lot of attention and a promotion to Triple-A, where he will make his first start later this week. The left-hander started this season with Double-A Somerset and struck out 46 batters in just 28.2 innings pitched.
While Wesneski and Waldichuk are examples of success from the 2019 draft, there are more players who fit the Yankees recent pitching success draft profile at High-A Hudson Valley. Beck Way is ranked as the Yankees’ 12th overall prospect by Baseball America. Selected out of the junior college ranks in the fourth round of the 2020 draft, Way has been progressing through the Yankees system. More than a few scouts feel that he has the best stuff on the High-A staff, and although he is coming off a brutal start just a few days ago, the overall reviews have been strong for Way this season.
Will Warren is another name who is quickly gaining attention in the Yankees’ system, and pitches besides Beck in Hudson Valley. Warren was an eighth-round pick in last year’s draft, but the Yankees saw enough progress in him following that he made his professional debut this season at the High-A level. He has continued to impress scouts with his high velocity fastball and nasty slider. Warren has the look of a fast mover who could finish his first professional season at the Double-A level.
Frist K on the Day from Will Warren— Hudson Valley Renegades (@HVRenegades) May 18, 2022
We head to the Top of 3 Still Scoreless pic.twitter.com/6uRsU2Hpvb
The success of these players to develop and move through the system quickly is key for the organization as a whole. If pitchers taken after the first three rounds are developing into legitimate prospects, it allows the Yankees to focus their attention early in the draft on high ceiling hitters. Since the 2018 draft, the Yankees have used nine of their 12 picks inside the first three rounds on hitting prospects. Some of those players like Anthony Volpe and Austin Wells have developed into top hitting prospects in the organizations. Others like Josh Smith and Trevor Hauver became pieces of trades that the Yankees used to bring in major league talent.