Every year, I look into what young pitchers in the Yankees’ organization are strong candidates to be the next homegrown relief ace. It’s a fun and interesting thought exercise. The nature of it means understanding the Yankees 40-man roster position, pitcher performance, and opportunities for development. There are multiple layers, and it’s tough to hit the nail on the head.
Heading into 2022, the three players included were Luis Medina, Luis Gil, and Greg Weissert. Medina was one of the pitchers sent to Oakland in the trade for Frankie Montas. Luis Gil was electric in his debut, but has missed significant time due to Tommy John surgery. Weissert went on to be the International League Pitcher of the Year in 2022 but was traded away recently in the Alex Verdugo trade. Before 2023, Weissert remained on the list and was joined by Clayton Beeter and Jhony Brito. Beeter, who currently sits on the 40-man roster, had a decent but volatile 2023. Brito was one of the key players moved in the Juan Soto trade. The main theme across these players is that they’re wanted by other teams and it’s difficult to crack the Yankees’ roster with consistency.
None of them have become relief aces (yet), but I don’t think it’s good reason to overhaul the process here. I’m generally looking for players who have proven they can go multiple innings, have an electric pitch or two, and are close to the majors. There has been a bit of bias towards Latin born pitchers in the past because they have less time than their American counterparts to develop in the minor leagues due to 40-man timeline restraints. This year, that trend holds at the top. Let’s start with Triple-A starter, Yoendrys Gómez.
Yankees #8 prospect Yoendrys Gomez sits down Mets #4 prospect Alex Ramirez on three pitches. pic.twitter.com/l9hshoW1Ia— Eli Fishman (@elijfishman) July 27, 2022
Gómez is a talented pitcher, listed at number 22 on FanGraphs’ Yankees prospect list. He dealt with injury in the beginning of 2023 – which probably explains his unusually high walk rate – but was effective in Double A throughout 65 innings. After some uncertainty around whether his injury would yield him a fourth option year, it was reported that he would indeed get that extra year. It gives the Yankees a bit of flexibility keeping him stretched out in a starter role.
However, there is no question Gómez will likely work out of the pen at some point this upcoming season. As to why he is included here, well for that, you can credit his four-seamer. It sits around 94-95 mph, but his long arm action and low release height let him maintain an ideal angle to miss bats at the top of the zone. If I’m looking for a relief ace, fastball shape is a main variable. If his velocity can play up a bit in shorter stints, there may be something here. Now, let’s get onto the next one.
Yanks No. 13 prospect Clayton Beeter gets two outs in the Futures Game including a nasty strikeout on a breaking ball pic.twitter.com/54UIo4Trl8— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) July 9, 2023
Clayton Beeter has forced his way back onto this list, but perhaps not for good reason (depending on your view point). 2023 was a chance for him to cement his status as a starter, but his mechanics and release — which still scare the hell out of me — showed the same inconsistency they typically have. When he debuted at Triple-A, he walked the house and did not pitch well. He’ll get another shot in 2024, but his plus breaking ball profile makes him an appealing short outing option in the bullpen. Like Gómez, a velocity uptick might take him to another level.
Sean Boyle missed almost the entire 2023 season with injury. It’s not exactly clear as to why, since the reporting is tough to find. But either way, signs are that he will be healthy heading into 2024. He was Rule 5 draft eligible and was not protected, making it clear the Yankees were prepared to lose him. However, this is a guy who was a top-20 organizational prospect just a year ago. He has been jumped by Will Warren and Chase Hampton in the future starter pecking order, but because of that, the organization may be more willing to freely move him up and down depending on need. His side-arm, east-west mentality has been a doozy for minor leaguers. It’s the type of seam-shifted wake arsenal that has become popular across the league in recent years. He screams multi-inning reliever type. If his slider is the plus pitch that it appeared to be in 2022 and he proves healthy, look out for him as an under the radar guy in 2024.
For the first time in a few years, the Yankees have significant opportunity in their bullpen for in-house players. With Michael King, Jhony Brito, Randy Vásquez, and potentially Wandy Peralta all out of the org, there are a bunch of innings to make up for. One or multiple of these players will get their shot and have a chance to secure their spot in the majors.