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State of the Yankees’ System: Relief Pitchers

Relievers can pop at any time, and the Yankees have some bullpen prospects worth watching in 2023.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees Workouts
Greg Weissert
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Among prospects, relief pitchers have to be considered the wild cards. Dominant relievers can fly through the minors, but they are seldom sought in the amateur draft and there is usually an attempt to develop pitchers as starters before they end up in the bullpen. There is a good chance that the next high-leverage Yankee reliever is currently a starter in the minor leagues. So it should not be a surprise if names like Matt Krook, Randy Vásquez, Clayton Beeter, or Will Warren take up residence in the big league bullpen during this season or next.

The Yankees’ system has a lot of effective relievers with great stuff and recent success who won’t be discussed at length in this list of prospects, but that doesn’t mean they can’t push forward this year and enter the conversation quickly. Many of those names will appear as an honorable mention below, but here are some standout reliever prospects to watch as the 2023 season approaches.

Greg Weissert already has 11.1 innings under his belt in the major leagues, and at 28, he is on the older side for a prospect, but since he has yet to cement his place in the Bronx, it is more useful to discuss his potential than performance in a small sample as part of the Yankees’ bullpen. Weissert has shoved his way through the minors since being drafted in the 18th round in 2016, and last year he dominated at Scranton en route to being named the International League Pitcher of the Year.

Weissert’s slider is his calling card, and it has been on the radar of scouts for a while. He throws it with high spin from the right side, and it can look like a Wiffle ball at its best. He pairs that pitch with a hard sinker moving in to righties, and a pitch to keep lefties at bay (a seldom-used changeup now) would help him earn multi-inning opportunities. Weissert has nothing left to prove in the minors, and he will probably end up a Scranton Shuttle reliever for the Yankees this year unless an opening emerges on the MLB roster.

Mitch Spence is another pitcher whose slider could be his ticket to the big leagues. It is cheating a bit to include him in a discussion of reliever prospects, considering 25 of his 27 appearances between Double-A and Triple-A last year were starts, but a move to the bullpen is likely in his near-future and that is his best path to the MLB roster. Spence has a plus slider with potential for it to grade higher, and his fastball sits in the low nineties. There is a chance his velocity ticks up in shorter stints, and the riding action of his fastball already complements his breaking stuff.

The Yankees showed they liked Spence by inviting him to big league camp this spring, and it is possible, after throwing 130.1 innings last year, he provides starter depth for now. The righty Spence will turn 25 in May, and he should return to Scranton in 2023.

Indigo Diaz came over from the Braves when the Yankees traded Lucas Luetge this winter. He’s a big 6-foot-5 righty who can dial his fastball up to 97 but typically sits lower than that. According to MLB Pipeline, his fastball plays up because it carries, and Diaz gets good extension throwing downhill. He has been a strikeout guy throughout his career in the minors, but last year his walk rate entered an uncomfortable area at over five per nine.

Diaz will pitch his first season as a Yankee at 24 years old, and he’s Rule 5-eligible at the end of the season, so a big year in Triple-A with improved control will put Diaz in line for a potential spot on the 40-man roster. If you’re watching the World Baseball Classic, tune into any games involving Canada because the North Vancouver native is on the team.

Carson Coleman signed with the Yankees as a free agent following the five-round draft of 2020. He burst onto the scene in 2022 with an electric year between Tampa and Somerset. The book on Coleman as an amateur, and even in his 2021 debut season, was that he struggled to stay in the strike zone, but he greatly improved his control this year and managed to raise his strikeout rate while lowering his walk rate in moving to Double-A. The right-handed Coleman pumps his fastball in the mid-to-upper nineties, and he throws the sweeping slider the Yankees like. He is the fashionable choice to become a future fixture in the big league bullpen, and improvement of his slider will make that a real possibility as he moves to Scranton this year.

Matt Minnick doesn’t light up the radar gun, but he just gets people out. Lefties who throw in the low nineties can have a fastball that plays differently than their righty counterparts, and evidently Minnick’s played just fine in 2022. He allowed only 50 baserunners in 61 innings pitched while striking out 63, and he quietly provided an outstanding performance for the league champion Somerset Patriots. A lefty with a high arm slot who commands the fastball and breaking ball has a chance, and Minnick continues to get better at age-26. He was promoted to Scranton at the end of the season and will likely return there in 2023.

Edgar Barclay is another lefty who doesn’t do it with fastball velocity, but he had a terrific 2022 statistically in a return engagement for High-A Hudson Valley. He struck out 11.5 per nine, kept his walk rate down, had a 1.74 ERA, and did not surrender a home run. Barclay’s best pitch is a changeup, but he also has a slider that’s a tick above average and he commands the ball well. He’s built a bit like Nestor Cortes and similarly will need some moxie to continue climbing the ladder. Barclay, 24, has been on MLB Pipeline’s list of the Top 30 Yankees prospects, he’s been named the best reliever in the South Atlantic League in a Baseball America poll of league managers, and now that he’s moving up to Somerset, his chances are getting more serious.

Jack Neely is a towering 6-foot-8 righty, and if he can back up his 2022 season with a similar performance at Hudson Valley this year, we will be talking about a serious prospect soon. Neely struck out 87 hitters in 50.1 innings last year, most of it spent at Low-A Tampa, and he does it with power stuff. The 11th-round pick from 2021 can run a high-spin fastball into the upper nineties, and he is in an organization that can help him complement that pitch with secondaries. Tall pitchers like Neely can have trouble maintaining the strike zone, but he has done a decent job of keeping the walks in check, although that will continue to be an area of improvement for the 22-year-old.

Here are some other pitchers to keep an eye on, with the highest 2022 level they reached (and different organization, if applicable) in parentheses:

RHP Steven Jennings (Double-A)
RHP Barrett Loseke (Double-A)
RHP Nick Ernst (Double-A)
RHP Derek Craft (Double-A)
RHP Tanner Myatt (Double-A)
LHP Lisandro Santos (Double-A, Braves)
RHP Justin Maese (Double-A, Braves)
RHP Gray Fenter (Double-A, Giants; also Indy ball)
RHP Bailey Dees (High-A)
RHP Carlos Gomez (High-A)
RHP Harold Cortijo (High-A)
LHP Ryan Anderson (Low-A)
RHP Leam Mendez (Low-A)

And here are some 2022 draft picks who could jump out in 2023:

LHP Will Brian
RHP Ryan Harvey
RHP Jackson Fristoe
RHP Matt Keating

State of the System Series:

First Base
Second Base
Third Base
Starting Pitchers
Relief Pitchers

Also see:
PSA’s Top 10 Yankees Prospects