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Yankees Prospects: Keith Law scouts the Charleston RiverDogs

Keith Law scouts Yankees prospects Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Abiatal Avelino, and Gosuke Katoh

Jeff Gross

Keith Law recently went to go see the Yankees' Low-A affiliate, the Charleston RiverDogs, take on the Phillies' Lakewood BlueClaws. He wrote up some scouting notes about prospects from both team. The Yankees players received mixed reviews.

The RiverDogs started Luis Severino, who has a 1.93 ERA and 2.13 FIP in 14 innings across four starts. He already has 19 strikeouts (12.21 K/9) against only 5 walks (3.21 BB/9) and has yet to give up a home run. He throws a 91-95 mph fastball, a plus changeup at 81-83 mph, and an 82-85 slider that Law describes as more of a hard slurve and his weakest offering. While he mostly worked down in the zone, Severino still had some trouble commanding the slider.

Law believes Severino has the ceiling of an above-average starter with a fastball that can hit 97 mph, but he's going to need to make a few adjustments for that potential to be unlocked. Right now the right-hander's delivery seems to be more suited for a reliever:

He doesn't use his lower half, he barely rotates his hips, and he gets minimal extension out front...lengthening his stride and getting him to use his lower half might give Severino more consistently above-average velocity

Law isn't advocating that Severino should be transition into a reliever (a welcomed change from what many evaluators say about Yankee pitching prospects), but he does believe a change needs to be made.

Keith Law on the Yankees 

He also took note of a few other Charleston players:

Aaron Judge, one of last year's first-round picks, has so far been a juggernaut in his first professional season. He has hit .339/.473/.458 in 17 games, while accumulating 15 walks and 15 strikeouts. If he keeps this up over another month, he might find himself in High-A Tampa pretty quickly. On this particular day, he walked twice, singled, and tripled off the center-field wall. Law took interest in the way Judge stood at the plate:

[He] stands well back of the plate in the box, giving him better coverage on the inner half, and for a guy with long arms and a little bit of a bat wrap he's still quite short to the ball, with good hip rotation and loft in his finish for line-drive power.

Originally billed for his light-tower power potential, Judge often displays monstrous home run ability in batting practice, but in games Law has noticed that he goes for "hard line-drive contact rather than trying to pull everything out to left." In the short sample of games he has played, Judge only has one professional home run and three extra base hits, so some added power would be nice. With his large frame and long arms, he's shown that he will strikeout a lot, but he can also still make contact with how he sets up at the plate.

Law liked what he saw from shortstop Abiatal Avelino in the field, commenting that he had smooth actions with a plus arm, but he also thought he looked largely overmatched at the plate with below-average speed. Just 19 years old, Avelino has a .286/.366/.381 batting line in over 15 games so far this season. He's struck out almost twice as much as he's walked (13/7), but so far he has a 121 wRC+. As a teenager, I'm sure he has some kinks to work out, especially when he's almost two and a half years younger than the average player is at his level, but to say that he's overmatched just doesn't add up. At least not yet. He's also stolen eight out of 11 tries, so he does have some speed too.

If you want to say someone is overmatched, it might actually be 2013 second-rounder Gosuke Katoh. He's hit only .149/.328/.213 in 15 games and has already struck out 26 times. Law isn't very convinced in Katoh's physical projections, believing that he can't possibly fill out anymore over his incredibly slender frame (just look at this post's picture!). Seeing how he has performed so far this season, Law says he'll have to develop at least some strength in his wrists and forearms so he can turn on high-velocity pitches.

It's nice to hear some good things about Yankee prospects for once, but seeing as how this team is supposed to be the hotbed for talent in the system, I would have liked a few more rave reviews. The biggest positive I take out of this is that Severino isn't, at least not yet, projected to be a future reliever like so many prospects before him. Everything else seems to be observations and conclusions based on one game, so take it with a grain of salt.