It took until early February, but the Yankees finally released their list of non-roster invitees to the public last week. There were 26 names on the list, and earlier today, Jason ran through the position players. There are 10 pitchers on there as well, and while none of them are very likely to make the Opening Day bullpen, it would not be shocking to see some of them over the course of the 2016 season. There are also some pretty great prospects in this bunch, so it will be fun to see them with the big league club in camp!
LHP Richard Bleier
Age as of Opening Day: 28
2015 stats (WSN-AAA/AA): 28 G, 26 GS, 171 2/3 IP, 2.57 ERA, 3.4 K/9, 0.8 BB/9, 1.083 WHIP
A sixth round pick by the Rangers in the 2008 Draft, Bleier has bounced around a few different organizations and had his first extended look in Triple-A ball last year with the Nationals. He finds his most success pitching to contact with fastballs down and away and surprising hitters with changeups in fastball counts. Although that doesn't lead to high strikeout totals, he rarely issues walks and didn't allow a single homer in 68 2/3 Triple-A innings last years.
Major league teams have understandably felt uneasy about his chances though, as those strategies don't always translate in the pros. Even the craftiest of pitchers have a little more spark in their repertoires. Expect Bleier to start in Scranton; one would guess that arms like Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, and Brady Lail would probably be ahead of him on the depth chart.
RHP Tyler Cloyd
Age as of Opening Day: 28
2015 stats (KBO): 28 GS, 159 2/3 IP, 5.19 ERA, 6.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 1.428 WHIP
Another 2008 draft pick, the Phillies nabbed Cloyd out of the University of Nebraska in the 16th round, but unlike Bleier, he actually worked his way up to the big leagues. Backed by a breakout performance in 2012 with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley where he went 15-1 with a 2.26 ERA and a 1.006 WHIP in 26 starts, Cloyd made six starts with the Phillies at season's end. Unfortunately for Cloyd, neither they nor the 11 starts he made in 2013 went very well--he presently has a 5.98 ERA and 4.76 FIP in 93 1/3 MLB innings.
After a decent year in the Triple-A rotation for the Indians, Cloyd spent 2015 in Korea with the Samsung Lions. As the numbers indicate, it did not go well, which doesn't bode well for him since the KBO is roughly around a AAA/AA level. As Eric Longenhagen noted a few years back, Cloyd's fastball only hovers in the high-80s and aside from a fine cutter, his secondary stuff is "underwhelming." Provided he's still with the organization after camp, Cloyd will end up in Scranton, probably behind Bleier in their rotation.
RHP Domingo German
Age as of Opening Day: 23
2015 stats (NYY): Did not play (injured)
German was the unheralded prospect addition in last off-season's trade for Nathan Eovaldi. Signed in 2009 by the Marlins out of the Dominican baseball hotbed of San Pedro de Macoris for just $40,000, German worked his way up to Low-A Greensboro in 2014, where he had a 2.48 ERA and 8.2 K/9 in 123 1/3 innings, making a Futures Game appearance and ranking sixth in the Marlins' organization according to Baseball America by the end of 2014. Here's what Caitlin wrote abut German's pitch selection prior to his spring training invite last year:
Scouts consider German's arm speed to be good, as his fastball sits in the low 90s, but has the potential to reach the mid-90s. He also throws a mid-80s changeup, as well as a slider, which is considered to be his third pitch as the sharpness and shape tend to vary. If he hopes to stay in the rotation, German will need to focus on building up his secondary pitches.
German ended up needed Tommy John surgery before camp ended, forcing him to miss his first season in the organization. He's not quite a full year from the procedure yet so it's unclear if he will actually appear in any games, but whenever he returns to action, expect him in A-ball following a GCL rehab stint.
RHP Chad Green
Age as of Opening Day: 24
2015 stats (DET-AA): 27 GS, 148 2/3 IP, 3.93 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 8.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.433 WHIP
Green was the second of two pitchers acquired from the Tigers in the December trade for Justin Wilson (Luis Cessa is the other, and he is already on the 40-man roster). We already wrote about these players after the deal was complete--here's what we had to say about Green, an 11th round pick by Detroit in the 2013 Draft:
Green throws three pitches: a mid-90s fastball plus a mid-80s change and a mid-80s slider. None of them are particularly excellent. While Green has worked as a starter throughout the minor leagues, concerns about his ability to pitch deep into games might ultimately relegate him to the pen. Green's results have surpassed his stuff thus far. Of course, it's possible to pitch in the big leagues without electric talent but Green's lack of explosiveness gives him a narrower margin for error.
Green will probably slot in at Triple-A, and both he and Cessa seem like possibilities to get the call to the big leagues sometime in 2016. Brian Cashman previously alluded that they were acquired to add more names on the depth chart behind Mitchell.
RHP James Kaprielian
Age as of Opening Day: 22
2015 stats (NYY-A-/GCL): 5 G, 3 GS, 11 1/3 IP, 3.97 ERA, 11.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.235 WHIP
Easily the most exciting name on this list, Kaprielian was the 16th overall pick last year and considered a safe bet to make it to the big leagues in short order. The UCLA righty only made three starts in Staten Island last year, but it did not take long for analysts to glow about his potential. Here's Minor League Ball's Wayne Cavadi:
[Kaprielian] has become known for terrific command, being able to repeatedly land all four of his pitches for strikes. His fastball, was originally projected in the low-90s range (89 to 92). Ricky Keeler told me that recently he was hitting 94 to 95, which would be an incredible advantage to a pitcher whose off speed stuff has been described as nasty.
His curve and change are above average pitches and the way people speak of them, they seem to be well above average pitches. Both pitches appear to have picked up some velocity since his college days, coming across the plate in the low 80s as opposed to the high 70s they once did. Clint Logenecker over at Baseball America watched Kaprielian throw his curve three different ways in an outing for the Collegiate National Team: an 11-5 offering, and 12-6 offering and a three quarter break. That kind of control at a young age is certainly going to turn some heads.
The fact that Kaprielian's even in spring training should say a lot about what the Yankees think of him. He obviously won't make the team, but keep your eyes peeled for glimpses at a key figure in the Yankee rotation's future. Playing full-season ball in Charleston and Tampa will be the first big challenge of his professional career.
RHP Brady Lail
Age as of Opening Day: 22
2015 stats (NYY-AAA/AA): 28 G, 27 GS, 148 1/3 IP, 2.91 ERA, 5.2 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.240 WHIP
Lail is definitely a name to track in 2016 to see if he can build on his 2015 success. The 2012 draft pick shot up from A-ball to Triple-A by the end of the season, though perhaps that was always the plan since he made just one start in High-A Tampa. He doesn't blow anyone away, but his fastball sits 88-94 and combines with an effective curve, changeup, and cutter to "keep hitters off-balance," according to his 2015 MLB.com report.
Lail wasn't as sharp in Scranton as he was in Trenton, so he still has some work to do to prove that his repertoire can get advanced hitters out. For a guy who was an 18th round pick though, I'm sure he'll take it.
RHP Diego Moreno
Age as of Opening Day: 29
2015 stats (NYY-AAA): 26 G, 4 GS, 53 2/3 IP, 2.18 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 7.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 1.025 WHIP
Almost exactly four years ago, the Yankees gave up on A.J. Burnett and traded him to the Pirates for a little salary relief. They also received two very minor prospects; one was an outfielder beautifully named Exicardo Cayones and he was basically a non-factor. The other was Moreno, who defied expectations to slowly move through the system and eventually make his MLB debut in 2015. His 5 1/3 hitless innings on July 28th in relief of a badly struggling Chris Capuano provided much-needed bullpen relief. The Yankees came back from an early 5-0 deficit to wallop Texas, 21-5.
Moreno only made it into three other games before being shut down with elbow inflammation, which was caused by bone chips that required season-ending surgery. He's not as likely to make an impact as the other big Triple-A bullpen arms like Nick Rumbelow, Jacob Lindgren, and James Pazos, but as 2015 showed, you never know how many Triple-A relievers you need.
RHP Vinnie Pestano
Age as of Opening Day: 31
2015 stats (LAA): 19 G, 11 2/3 IP, 5.40 ERA, 6.56 FIP, 10.0 K/9, 6.2 BB/9, 1.971 WHIP
Pestano burst onto the big league scene with terrific seasons in 2011 and 2012 for the Indians, when he appeared in 137 games with a 2.45 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 132 innings. He even earned an intentionally-obscure reference on How I Met Your Mother. However, he suffered a quick decline and needed Tommy John surgery. Now he's just trying to keep his career afloat past 30.
Last year, Pestano split time between the Angels and Triple-A Salt Lake City. He had a 2.10 ERA and 0.757 WHIP in 35 Pacific Coast League games, no easy feat, but the majors were not nearly as kind to him. He's almost assuredly Scranton-bound.
RHP Anthony Swarzak
Age as of Opening Day: 30
2015 stats (CLE): 10 G, 13 1/3 IP, 3.38 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 8.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 1.650 WHIP
Swarzak, a pitcher and not a character out of a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book, was surprisingly a second round pick by the Twins a decade ago. It might have made sense then, but the potential did not pan out. He made 12 forgettable starts in 2009, and then didn't return to the majors until 2011. Swarzak had his best season in 2013, when he recorded a 2.91 ERA and a 1.156 WHIP in 96 innings of relief, but he cratered in 2014.
The righty actually spent most of 2015 in Korea with the Doosan Bears, pitching in the same league as Cloyd. He appeared in 20 games and 17 starts for Doosan, finishing with an ugly 5.27 ERA and 1.516 WHIP. It's unclear whether he will start or relieve in Scranton this year, but either way, it will be trouble if he somehow makes it into the major league roster.
LHP Tyler Webb
Age as of Opening Day: 25
2015 stats (NYY-AAA): 25 G, 38 IP, 2.84 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 9.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.342 WHIP
A 10th round pick by the Yankees in the 2013 Draft, Webb made it up to Triple-A by the end of his second season in the minors. He has hit somewhat of a road block there though, as his numbers are decent but not standout. Lindgren and Pazos are both lefties ahead of him on the minor league depth chart. It didn't help that his 2015 season ended in late June, as he suffered a tendon injury to his hand.
Webb did have high strikeout rates prior to 2015, and he will only be in his fourth season, so there will be many more opportunities for him to prove his worth. Good lefty relievers are always helpful to have in stock. Webb may very well still have a future in pinstripes.