MLB teams are continually looking for the next high-leverage reliever to join their bullpen. That search has made them realize that sometimes, these types of arms are actually in their own system, and to spot them, a change of some sort is required. It can be as complex as modifying the arm slot, standing closer to a base while on the mound, or toying with the pitch mix.
However, sometimes it is as simple as changing a pitcher’s role. A sizable portion of the best relievers in baseball, as veteran southpaw Andrew Chafin once let us all know, are failed starters. Speaking of the Yankees currently on the roster, Michael King was a failed starter. So was Clay Holmes, not to mention Jonathan Loáisiga and even Wandy Peralta.
With this in mind, the Yankees do have a potential relief weapon in minor leaguer Clayton Beeter. Acquired from the Dodgers in the Joey Gallo deal at the deadline, Beeter’s stuff and current situation make him a candidate to contribute from the bullpen at some point in the second half, even though he hasn’t yet reached Triple-A.
First, let’s discuss the pitcher. As our own Marcus Zappia recently wrote on his scouting report on the No. 10 prospect, Beeter’s calling card is his fastball, one that could be considered “double-plus.”
Since he was acquired in the Joey Gallo trade, #Yankees prospect Clayton Beeter has a 2.13 ERA with 41 K in 7 starts with @SOMPatriots pic.twitter.com/IVzN9CXsyu— Max Goodman (@MaxTGoodman) September 17, 2022
Despite the rising popularity of breaking pitches, the four-seam fastball remains the single most important pitch in baseball. A hurler with a good fastball has a higher floor that his peers, and this appears to be the case with Beeter.
Here is what Marcus wrote:
“A look at Beeter’s stuff quickly explains the attraction. Sitting between 93 and 96 mph, and occasionally bumping a tick higher, Beeter has plenty of velocity, but there is more than just speed to his fastball. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs wrote that Beeter’s “fastball has big carry thanks to its back-spinning axis,” and Prospects Live added “Beeter’s highly vertical arm angle helps translate that spin into the appearance of ride, boasting the metrics and feel of a double-plus fastball.”
Having said that, the right-hander also boasts a plus curveball. It is a mid-80s, 12-6 hammer that gets plenty of whiffs. Since Beeter throws both pitches from a high arm slot, hitters have a hard time making contact.
The excellent fastball-curveball combo gives Beeter, a starter throughout his entire minor league career, a chance to be a dominant reliever even with some control and command issues. He will need to improve in that last area to be an asset as a multi-inning relief weapon, but his brief time with the Yankees showed he can, indeed, make adjustments.
With the Dodgers, Beeter had a 14.3-percent walk rate in 51.2 frames at Double-A. When he landed in New York, he got that number down to 10.6 percent in 25.1 innings at the same level. Granted, the sample size is not too big in any case, but it represents progress nonetheless.
With his 2.13 ERA in those 25.1 innings, his elite 39.4 percent strikeout rate, and his 1.99 FIP, one would think that Beeter could be challenged by starting the year in Scranton. If that’s indeed the case, the path to the Bronx likely depends on him keeping the control gains he showed with the Yankees organization in 2022. The Yankees thought highly enough of rookies Ron Marinaccio and JP Sears to make them contributors on the pitching staff last year, and Beeter may well be on the internal short list to do the same this year.
If Beeter continues to look sharp while pumping up the K’s and limiting walks, the Yankees would have little choice but to make him a major leaguer—likely at some point in the second half—knowing he could be really, really helpful for a stretch run. He has the potential to be a multi-inning weapon out of the bullpen one day (if not a starter, but that is a discussion for another time), and that day could come in 2023.