The Yankees selected Brady Lail in the 18th round out of high school in 2012. Lail quickly distinguished himself from the glut of other 18th rounders when he turned in a 2.33 ERA in the Gulf Coast League in his first full year as a pro.
Lail made the jump to full-season ball in 2014, and fared very well in the Sally League. He pitched to a sparkling 2.99 FIP in 18 starts with Low-A Charleston, which was enough to earn him a mid-July promotion to High-A Tampa. Lail held his own in Tampa, but saw his strikeout rate plummet from 24% to 16% and walk rate creep up (4% to 6%) following the promotion.
KATOH, my prospect projection system, is mildly optimistic about Lail's future, projecting him for 2.8 WAR through age 28. Although he managed an impressive 3.20 FIP as a 20-year-old in A-ball, KATOH's not sold that he'll be able to keep up the pace as he climbs the minor league ladder. The reason? Lail didn't miss many bats. Lail's more of a control guy, who's performance was mostly driven by a low walk rate. Limiting your walks is obviously a good thing, but a pitcher's strikeout rate is more predictive of future success. Here's a look at Lail's odds of reaching certain WAR thresholds through age 28. You'll notice that the odds of him accumulating more than a few WAR are very slim.
Lail's stuff isn't overwhelming, which likely explains his low strikeout numbers. Nonetheless, he has a very deep arsenal for a 21-year-old, and his ability to command and mix those pitches been enough to fool A-Ball hitters. Long term, Lail's upside probably looks a lot like Chase Whitley or David Phelps: A guy with three or four average-ish pitches, but none that are decidedly better than average. Put differently, his arsenal lends itself to starting moreso than relieving, but isn't quite good enough to make him a good starter. Lail has a decent chance of becoming a usable back-end or swing man, but is unlikely to be anything more than that. He's a low ceiling prospect, and is still at least a couple of years away from having any impact whatsoever.