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State of the Yankees’ System: Starting Pitchers

The Yankees need to replenish the depth of starting pitching in their system, and there are many candidates to make that happen.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees Workouts
Jhony Brito
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The seven Yankees minor league affiliates played a total of 717 regular season games in 2022. That many games requires an organization to employ a lot of starting pitchers, and using a standard five-man rotation implies that at any given time, there are 35 active starters in the system. Numbers like those make it difficult to believe that the Yankees, or any team for that matter, wouldn’t just constantly churn out starters they’ve developed, but most fans could count on their fingers the impact, homegrown pitchers they’ve seen come out of the New York system.

It is very difficult to simply make it to the big leagues as a starting pitcher, let alone being effective enough to stay there. Unfortunately, injuries take their toll on some starting pitching prospects, others are moved to the bullpen, and some just can’t seem to make it through the upper levels of the minors. In that sense, pitching depth in a system is a virtue.

The Yankees traded starting prospects Ken Waldichuk, Hayden Wesneski, JP Sears, Luis Medina, Beck Way, TJ Sikkema, and Chandler Champlain around last year’s deadline. That’s a lot of pitching depth to move in one season, and it will be important for the Yankees to develop more starters to replenish that depth. Here are the pitchers who could make that happen in 2023.

The 40-man guys

Jhony Brito is one of the newest members of the 40-man roster, and his name keeps coming up in the discussion of pitchers who may impact the Yankees’ rotation this year. Brito’s athleticism and repeatable delivery can help him control the baseball, limit walks, and keep the ball on the ground. He’ll likely be a member of the Triple-A Scranton rotation for his age 25 season.

Deivi García is a familiar name, and because we’ve seen him be successful in the past, we can believe his ability is still there after two difficult seasons. He’ll turn 24 this year, and his future with the Yankees is cloudy at the moment. He is out of options, so either he makes the major league team (unlikely) or he must pass through waivers to stay in the organization — and that’s if he’s not traded. García is in trouble.

Luis Gil is still recovering from last year’s Tommy John surgery, but he remains a strong prospect while he rehabs. Looking back on his 2021 debut, he’s had strong starts in the big leagues already, and it is likely he returns to a rotation once healthy. But there are the makings of a power reliever in Gil if starting proves misguided.

Matt Krook also could be utilized as a reliever, and with his somewhat-funky left-handed delivery, he could be a difficult matchup to same-side hitters. He’s an older prospect at 28, but that won’t matter if he can keep the walks down and the strikeouts up. He’s a longshot to make the Yankees, but he should see the Bronx at some point in 2023.

Randy Vasquez likely moves into the Scranton rotation this year after finishing 2022 with eight no-hit innings in Double-A Somerset’s championship clincher. Vasquez’s nasty breaking ball could be used out of the bullpen to terrorize right-handed hitters if the 24-year-old is called upon for that role.

Yoendrys Gómez enters his last option year and is the only 40-man starter on this list likely to start the season in Somerset. He has taken time recovering from an arm injury, and after a full offseason of training the Yankees are hoping to see Gómez return to the promise he showed before he got hurt. There is still a power starter here if it comes together.

The veterans

Sean Boyle, 26, got a non-roster invite to spring training this year, a recognition of his rock-solid work while climbing through each level of the minors since being drafted in 2018. His secondary pitches are graded higher than his fastball, and he has outstanding control, so don’t be surprised if at some point in 2023, Boyle’s name is called for a start in the Bronx.

Matt Sauer had high expectations as a second-round pick in 2017, but health and a pandemic shutdown have impeded his progress. He reached Double-A for the first time in 2022, and he announced himself with a 17-strikeout game in his third start at that level. He still has a big fastball, above-average slider, and a great pitcher’s frame, so a big year in his age-24 season at Somerset would put the big leagues in sight.

The upper-level performers

Clayton Beeter, 24, will be one of the more interesting names to look for when the minor league rosters come out. He has done enough to move to Triple-A, but if the Yankees plan to him in a rotation he will likely go back to Somerset. Having arrived at the trade deadline in the deal for Joey Gallo, the Yankees may need to see more from him before they make a decision on his future role. Beeter is a potential wipeout reliever with his fastball and breaking ball combo.

Will Warren put himself squarely on the prospect map in his first full season in professional baseball. He spent the majority of his year at Somerset, and while he didn’t dominate, he acquitted himself well in Double-A. It stands to reason that the Yankees could return the 23-year-old to the Somerset rotation and let him push his way to Scranton as things shake out in the first half of the season, and it also wouldn’t be surprising to reach the big leagues as a member of the bullpen in the future when you consider his ability to spin the ball.

The lower-level potential

Richard Fitts closed out last year with five dominant starts at Hudson Valley, looking like the pitcher who was once considered a potential first-round draft pick. The Yankees got him in the sixth round from Auburn in 2021, and the improvements he made during his first full professional season were very encouraging. His power fastball and slider are ahead of his developing changeup, and he could continue to feature them in High-A this year or be challenged in Somerset for his age-23 season.

Sean Hermann finished last season with four starts in Tampa, and he should return there for 2023. Only 19, Hermann is not overly physical and succeeds with a well-rounded pitch mix and above-average control. The righty is a good bet to occupy a spot in the Tarpons’ rotation.

Osiel Rodriguez is a Cuban who as an amateur showed some flashes of his countryman Orlando “El Duque” Hernández. He pitched at different arm angles and showed an advanced breaking ball, but he’s only made four starts since he debuted in 2019. He still has the potential for four above-average pitches, and he could finally be ready to grab a spot in the Tampa rotation.

Justin Lange came over from the Padre organization as the return in the Luke Voit trade, and his 2022 season in the Complex League did not go well. He walked over seven per nine innings and had an ERA over six, but he did put up good strikeout numbers with his power stuff. Lange was selected 34th overall in the 2020 draft, so the talent is there, but it is not clear where he will pitch in 2023. He could go back to the Complex League or, with a good showing in spring training, move up to Tampa for his age 21 season.

Brock Selvidge is 20, and the Yankees would love it if he demonstrated in spring training that he’s ready to pitch in the Tampa rotation. After being taken in the third round of the 2021 draft, Selvidge has pitched in the Complex League each of the last two seasons after he came out of high school, but the 6-foot-3, 205-pound lefty may be ready for the full-season challenge.

Tyrone Yulie is a big, physical righty with at least a plus fastball, but he has really struggled with control. He’s pitched in Tampa during the last two seasons, and he’s still only 21, so he may be challenged at High-A Hudson Valley this year or go back to Tampa to keep working on cutting down the walks.

Juan Carela’s time in the Tampa rotation last year was perhaps the most successful stretch of his career, and it earned him a promotion to Hudson Valley to finish the season. He should return there for 2023, where he can continue to develop his power stuff as he fills out his 6-foot-3, 186 pound frame. Carela, in particular, is a starter who could move faster as a reliever.

Zach Messinger is a big guy at 6-foot-6 who came out of a strong Virginia college program. He will undoubtedly pitch for Hudson Valley this year after starting and relieving for Tampa in a 2022 that saw him fan 31 percent of opposing batters. Messinger is a pitcher who could really raise his profile in 2023.

Joel Valdez came over from the Phillies’ system before last season, and the 6-foot-4 lefty saw his strikeout numbers take off with the Yankees. He also has walk numbers higher than you’d like to see, but considering his relative lack of experience, Valdez could make a name for himself in his age-23 season at Hudson Valley.

Josue Panacual will pitch this season at 21, but he has already started 10 games for Hudson Valley. Expect him to return to the Renegades in 2023, as the smaller righty tries to make good on the potential the Yankees obviously see in him. It’s a good sign they promoted him to a High-A rotation when he was only 20.

The 2022 draft picks

Drew Thorpe was drafted in the second round after a dominant junior year at Cal Poly. He featured a potential double-plus changeup in college, and the Yankees likely think they can help the righty throw harder as he develops. They’ve seen success with that in other pitchers, and Thorpe followed that plan by training rather than pitching after signing. He may be advanced enough to debut in High-A.

Trystan Vrieling was taken in the third round out of Gonzaga, and he has a four-pitch mix that the Yankees surely feel they can develop into a strong starter’s repertoire befitting his almost ideal 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame. Vrieling also did not pitch after signing, and it will be very interesting to see his stuff early in the season for Tampa.

Eric Reyzelman pitched out of the bullpen at LSU, and his fastball was up to 99 as a reliever, but the Yankees saw the potential for a starter when they took him in the fifth round. He expressed interest in starting, and there is no reason not to see if he can develop the secondary pitches to get him through a lineup multiple times. It is possible he begins 2023 in the Tampa rotation or pitches bulk innings piggybacking another starter.

Chase Hampton, 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, could be a power starter with control drafted in the sixth round out of Texas Tech. The Yankees may have gotten the righty later in the draft than his talent would warrant, and they are hopeful he can establish himself in the Tampa rotation at 21 years old.

Cam Schlittler was taken in the seventh round out of Northeastern, and he may be another sleeper who the Yankees’ development team helps into notoriety. He could see his stuff tick up to go along with the strong intangibles he showed in college, and he should debut with Tampa at age 22.

The teenagers

Luis Serna is only 18, but the right-hander from Mexico pitches like a seasoned veteran. He pitches with poise and control, has hit multiple top prospect lists already, has a four-pitch mix that features a changeup some scouts have rated as double-plus, and has already shown he can carve up hitters who are inexperienced. Even at his tender age, it would be a surprise if Serna didn’t begin the year in the Low-A Tampa rotation.

Omar Gonzalez pitched in the Dominican Summer League as a 16-year-old last year, but he has the look of someone older with some development time under his belt. The Panamanian already shows an above-average fastball and breaking ball, and he has some competitive moxie to go along with his stuff. It would be wise to proceed with caution when it comes to a pitcher so young, but Gonzalez should be ready to move to the Florida Complex League in 2023.

Angel Benitez will miss his age-19 season as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery, but his ceiling remains huge, as does he. Benitez is 6-foot-7 and flashed power stuff in his brief 2022 debut, and he could end up with an above-average fastball, changeup, and slider when he’s healthy. He reportedly throws from a lower slot, which may or may not return when he comes back, but at his size and with his stuff he would be a nightmare for right-handed hitters.

Henry Lalane is another towering 6-foot-7 teenager coming out of the Dominican Summer League, but he throws from the left side. He repeated the rookie level in 2022 as he tried to harness his long levers, and the results were very encouraging. He drastically improved his walk rate, increased his strikeout rate, and didn’t surrender a home run. He should move to the Complex League as an 18-year-old.

Carlos Lagrange is the third 6-foot-7 starter in the group, but he will leave his teenage years behind in May. He posted big strikeout numbers in the DSL and big walk numbers to go with them in his first professional season, but he caught some social media eyeballs this winter by posting video of his fastball hitting 100, and he is still early in his development as he likely comes stateside this summer.

Jordarlin Mendoza, 19, also repeated the DSL in 2022 and saw noticeable improvement. He’s an even six-foot righty who puts up big strikeout numbers thanks in part to his ability to spin the baseball, and his starter’s repertoire should be on display in the Complex League in 2023

Jerson Alejandro has yet to throw a professional pitch, but he’s already been included in Baseball America’s list of the top 30 prospects in the Yankees’ organization. The Yankees believe they got one of the best players in this year’s international amateur market by signing Brando Mayea, and they also feel like they got one of the best pitchers in Alejandro. He’s a physical kid, reportedly has a big fastball, and throws a “now” changeup not typical for a teenager.

Don’t forget about Brendan Beck

Yes, let’s not forget Brendan Beck. After being taken in the second round out of Stanford in 2021, the 24-year-old has not thrown a pitch for the Yankees because of Tommy John surgery. Before the draft, Beck had the look of someone who had the maturity physically, mentally, and in his pitch mix to move through the minors quickly. He should be ready to start the season on time.

State of the System Series:

First Base
Second Base
Third Base
Starting Pitchers
Relief Pitchers

Also see:
PSA’s Top 10 Yankees Prospects