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The Yankees are prioritizing upside for pitching prospects

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After years of being "playing it safe" with pitching prospects, the Yankees appear to be aiming for pitchers with high ceilings.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees recently traded catcher Brian McCann to the Houston Astros for two hard-throwing pitching prospects, the latest in a series of deals that saw the Yankees moving veteran players. In exchange for McCann, the Yankees picked up Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman, two prospects who have been clocked in the upper 90's to triple digits.

In my extremely unbiased opinion, some excellent coverage of the trade can be found here. On a broader note, the acquisition of Abreu and Guzman could be indicative of a shift in philosophy in the Yankees front office. For years, the Yankees were considered to be conservative in their approach to finding pitching prospects. Draftees from Ian Kennedy to Ian Clarkin to James Kaprielian have all been described as pitchers who were selected for their high floors, rather than their upsides.

However, by taking chances on two high-velocity pitchers, the Yankees appear to be changing their attitude towards pitcher development. Abreu and Guzman aren't the only ones either. Earlier in the season, the Yankees acquired 2015 4th overall pick Dillon Tate from the Rangers, in exchange for Carlos Beltran.

Tate had struggled in his first full pro season, with a 5.12 ERA in 65 innings with Texas's Low-A affiliate. In acquiring Tate, the Yankees were hoping that the coaching staff at Low-A Charleston could help him regain his upper 90's velocity, which had diminished early in the season. Between Tate, Abreu, and Guzman, the Lone Star State has sent the Yankees three high-octane arms with significant upside. Potentially lost in all of the commotion is Domingo Acevedo, the 6'7" righty who has also touched triple digits.

The abundance of hard-throwing hurlers in the lower levels of the minors could symbolize the start of a new era for Yankees pitcher development. In 2015, the New York Mets showed the value of building a rotation around high-velocity pitchers, as their super rotation led them to the National League pennant. It is possible that the Yankees are trying a similar strategy. Even if just one or two of these young pitchers develop into viable options in the starting rotation, the Yankees would be in great shape.

The Yankees do not rebuild very often, so they will not always have the chance to hedge their bets by stockpiling so many prospects. It makes sense that they are using this rare opportunity to aim high, going for upside instead of prospects with higher floors. After all, all they need is for a few of them to pan out for the 2016 rebuild to be looked upon as a turning point for the organization.