When the Yankees signed Jaron Long as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State back in 2013, it made waves for no other real reason than for the fact his dad, Kevin, was the Yankees' hitting coach at the time. The summer after graduating, he was dominating in the Cape Cod League when Yankees' amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer noticed him. He appeared in six games that summer between stints with the GCL and Tampa Yankees, pitching in just 10.2 innings.
In 2014, Long pitched impressively at each of the three levels he appeared in, doing his best to shake the label of being just "Kevin's Son." Starting the year at Class-A Charleston, Long pitched to a 1.64 ERA in 49.1 innings and exhibited strong control, issuing just eight free passes in that time. The Arizona native was used primarily as a reliever, but did start four games, foreshadowing his role in the organization later on in the year. Long was then promoted to Tampa, where he had made two appearances the year prior. Once again, it was a quick stop for Long, and after just six appearances, he was off to Double-A Trenton, where his campaign took off. In 11 games (ten starts), Long twirled a 2.35 ERA in 69 innings, winning seven games and relying on his strong command of the strike zone to mask his less-than-tantalizing repertoire of pitches (Interestingly enough, this was the same path throughout the organizational maze that Luis Severino took last year as well). One of the biggest issues for minor league pitchers is avoiding a drop off when promoted, but Long avoided that problem. His 1.012 WHIP and consistently strong ability to pitch in the strike zone without getting hit hard (just four home runs allowed in a total of 144.1 innings) stayed true with each progressive stint.
Long did not receive a non-roster invite to Spring Training, but that does not mean that his performance won't be closely monitored in 2015. Following up his great success in Trenton to end last season, the team's Double-A affiliate figures to be his starting point come April. However, should February and March go particularly well for the 23-year old, Triple-A wouldn't be out of the question either. Long throws a fastball, a curveball and a changeup, but none are considered a true "go-to" pitch. As he gets closer and closer to the Bronx, that could begin to fester as a problem, even though it clearly has yet to hinder his development. Long's breakout 2014 solidified his spot within the organization, and he can now continue to grow with his dad across town with the Mets. Look for the right-hander to do his best to prove the team wrong for leaving him off the Spring Training invitee list.