The Yankees signed Luis Severino, a relative unknown from the Dominican Republic, for $225,000 back in 2011. The kid could throw in the low 90s, but his small frame – he's currently listed at 6'0", 195 lbs, which is bigger than he was when he signed – kept him from being very highly touted. In 2012, during his first pro season, Severino put himself on the map in the Dominican Summer League, and his stock has shot up like one of those giant test-your-strength carnival hammers ever since. Last year, the Yankees pushed him aggressively through the system, and, if they continue to do so this year, we might even see him in the big leagues this season, at just 21 years of age.
Severino does everything you'd want from a top of the line pitching prospect. His fastball sits easily in the low to mid-90s, and he can ratchet it up to 97 or 98 when he really gets going. His delivery is easily repeatable, which helps him command his pitches very well. He doesn't walk too many batters (just 54 in 221 career minor league innings), and he uses his fastball to set up his nasty mid-80s slider for a lot of strikeouts (9.1 K/9 so far in the minors). He recently developed a low-to-mid 80s fading changeup that he uses more and more as an out pitch these days as well. All of that adds up to Severino being ranked either first or second on pretty much every Yankees prospect list currently out there right now, and anywhere from 23-51 in major Top 100 lists for all of baseball.
Charleston/Tampa/Trenton (Low-A/High-A/AA) 6-5, 2.47 ERA (2.37 FIP), 113 IP, 127 K, 27 BB, 1.062 WHIP
Severino took the Yankees' system by storm last season, rocketing himself up the prospect rankings and wooing the hearts of fans and Yankees media in the process. He started the year at Low-A Charleston, where he made 14 dominant starts, pitching to a 2.79 ERA (2.70 FIP), with 70 strikeouts and just 15 walks across 67 2/3 innings. That earned him a promotion to High-A Tampa, where he continued his domination tour. He made just four starts there, but they were pretty impressive: 1.31 ERA (1.55 FIP), 28 strikeouts and only 6 walks in 20 1/3 innings. The Yankees decided to really test him out and called him up to Double-A Trenton to finish out the season. With the Thunder, Severino barely missed a beat, notching a 2.52 ERA (2.27 FIP), 29 strikeouts and 6 walks in 25 innings across six starts. You can see his full numbers at the top of this section, but you probably don't need me to tell you that they're pretty impressive, especially for a 20-year old kid in just his third professional season, and second in the United States.
Severino is expected to start the season back in Trenton. That being said, most experts believe that there's at least a chance we'll see Severino in the Bronx this season. I think the Yankees will give him every chance to prove himself at however many levels he can get through in 2015. When you take into account the injury bug that could potentially hit the major league rotation – Sabathia's knee, Tanaka's elbow, Pineda's everything – the Yankees might need a few minor leaguers to contribute this coming season. If Severino goes out and dominates in Trenton, he'll go to Triple-A Scranton. After that, he'll be one Sabathia misstep while covering first base (if he's going to actually do that this year) from stepping on the Yankee Stadium mound.
There is some long term concern that if Severino's secondary pitches don't continue to develop, he might not be able to stay in a major league rotation for his entire career. However, I like to keep things on the positive side. I predict Severino will make at least one emergency spot start in the second half this season – or a handful in September if the Yankees are out of the race – and be ready to compete for a full time rotation spot in 2016. I, for one, can't wait to see it.