Spring training is finally here as pitchers and catchers report on Valentine’s Day this year. The Yankees did not add any more arms before reporting to Tampa, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t adding more pitching to their group of players in camp. The team announced on Monday that they have added left-handed pitcher James Reeves and right-handed pitcher J.R. Graham, upping their total to 65 players this spring.
Reeves is a former 10th-round pick from the 2015 MLB Draft, so this is a huge step up for him in no time at all. The 2016 season proved to be a big year when he got a chance to pitch in the rotation and received some prospect attention when people started to notice his funky pitching mechanics that awarded him elite-level deception. He moved quickly through the system, pitching to a a 2.22 ERA with a 10.8 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 97.1 innings while making stops in Low-A Charleston, High-A Tampa, and even reaching Double-A Trenton.
Side view of @TampaYankees LHP James reeves pic.twitter.com/n6P7m4pCHC— Steve Givarz (@SteveGivarz) May 18, 2016
A mid-80’s fastball/slider reliever in college with The Citadel, the Yankees saw him increase his velocity after turning pro. Given the chance to start in the rotation, Reeves has been working on his changeup as a third offering. He was eventually put back into the bullpen as the season went on, but it’s clear that the Yankees see potential in him, whether as a reliever or starter. The 23-year-old should start the season in Trenton, but his role is yet to be determined.
Graham, on the other hand, is already 27 and far more of a farmhand at this point. A former Rule 5 draftee, he had been a starter in the Braves system before the Twins transitioned him to a bullpen role. He spent the 2015 season with Minnesota before the Yankees acquired him in May of 2016. Graham pitched to a 1.65 ERA with a 9.9 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 32.2 innings this season, spent mainly in Double-A.
Neither Reeves nor Graham have much of a shot at making the Yankees out of spring training, but they will have a chance to impress evaluators in big league camp. While Graham is really just a warm body, Reeves is clearly being pushed. He could deserve some legit attention, depending on what he does with his time with the Yankees, and what he can do over the 2017 season. Reeves is more of a sleeper prospect at this point, but a lefty with a funky delivery could show himself to be a real asset.