2014 Statistics: 2.18 ERA, 2.71 FIP, 7.6 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 1.93 GO/AO, 144.1 IP between Low-A, High-A, Double-A
2014 Level/Roster Status: Double-A/Non-40
What a perfect time to be talking about the season Jaron Long just had. He's the son of Kevin Long and as an undrafted free agent, his father likely got him a chance, but boy has he made the most of it. No matter what he showed the Yankees before they decided to give him a try. Everyone involved had to know just how unlikely anything would come out of this, but the right-hander is really proving himself to be someone to look out for in the near future.
He got his feet wet in 2013, seeming to be bullpen filler after an assignment to High-A Tampa, but 2014 was different. He started out in Low-A Charleston where he proved useful with a 1.64 ERA and 2.27 FIP. After throwing nearly 50 innings he was bumped back up to Tampa where he continued to impress with a 2.77 ERA and 3.08 FIP. After another 26 innings, this non-prospect already had a lot going for him, but instead of letting him continue what he was doing, the Yankees decided to take a chance and bump him all the way up to Double-A Trenton and let him start on a full-time basis. He rewarded them with another solid performance of 2.35 ERA and 2.80 FIP over 69 innings and 10 starts to close out the year. Overall, Long put up a 2.18 ERA, 2.71 FIP-season with a decent 7.6 K/9, but an excellent 1.4 BB/9 over three different levels to prove that he could be considered a starter at the upper levels.
What Jaron Long lacks in pure stuff, he makes up for with an ability to generate ground balls and keep hitters off-balance. His cutter and sinker, two pitches well known for keeping the ball on the infield grass, allowed him to pitch to a fantastic 1.93 GO/AO ratio in 2014. As he displayed in his interview with us back in June, his father has also imbued him with a vast knowledge of the game. He knows exactly what kind of pitcher he is and how he can use that to his advantage:
I am a command pitcher that works for groundballs. Since I am not overpowering I focus on working down in the zone and throwing a steady mix.
My greatest strength as a pitcher is my ability to command the strike zone with multiple pitches. I have good movement on my pitches so that enables me to keep hitters off balance.
Many pitchers his age are simply throwers instead of pitchers, but at 23 he already has a great handle on the game and how exactly he fits into it. Hopefully his craftiness and command will help him make up for his lack of velocity and make him a legitimate prospect at some point.
Now that Kevin Long is no longer a member of the Yankees organization, Jaron no longer has the protection of his father keeping him safe in the system. It would be a shame if they gave up on him now because of some silly internal politics when he just showed so much potential. Expect him to keep his rotation spot in Trenton next year and maybe he can continue to pull himself up to Triple-A. One scout said he could see him up in the majors in 2014, but that seemed a bit crazy. However, if Long does in 2015 what he did in 2014, we could be seeing him before we know it, even if it's in the bullpen. Regardless of how unlikely it is that he will succeed, he's getting results and that's always worth a shot. That's probably why it was so exciting to follow him this year; he's such an underdog and that's always fun.