It’s pretty well documented that pitching prospects are my Achilles heal. The funny thing is, I like pitching, it’s the most interesting position in all of sports in my opinion. Why? Because, there’s so much that goes into pitching development. Which is why the likelihood of development stalling, or going off the rails, is so high. Pitching is both physical and mental, and almost to an extreme. Not only does your body need to be in sync, constantly moving your momentum thru the pitch, bending and shaping your arm, torso, and lower half in ways it’s not meant to bend. You also need to think about what you’re throwing and then trying to fit that pitch into a space of about 6 square inches. The margin for error is so much smaller. Think about it, if a pitcher is successful 70% of the time, he’s not good. On the flip-side a hitter with the same success rate is a superstar. So, when we evaluate pitching we need to keep in mind that these kids are not only mastering the spin on their off-speed stuff, but also figuring out when to use it. All this to say that the learning curve is much greater with pitching prospects. This is why, when they flash poise and advanced understanding of pitching it’s something to take notice of. Below is a list of arms that broke-out in Low-A, Short-Season, and Rookie Ball.
Possibly one of my favorite breakouts of the short season portion of 2018. Armed with a four pitch mix that features a mid-90s sinking fastball, two breaking balls, and a changeup he’s shown feel for. At 6’4 180 lbs, he has the build to be an innings eater in the future. It’s a matter of improving his breaking stuff, and staying healthy. Oviedo’s season ended after sustaining a back injury following his second Midwest League start.
Part of the Rangers return for Yu Darvish, the former 11th round pick has been an under-the-radar arm flashing promising stuff in 2018. Things really took off in the second half of the season as Alexy dominated the Sally League over his final 9 starts with Hickory, going 4-1 with a 2.32 ERA, 2.40 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, and an elite 24.8% K-Bb%. As Alexy’s control and command began to improve so did the tall right-hander’s results. He mixes a low-mid-90’s fastball, with a plus curveball, and a work-in-progress changeup. A legit two-pitch mix could be a weapon out of the pen, but the development of a changeup might allow Alexy to flourish in the rotation.
Roansy Contreras, RHP Yankees | Age: 18 | 0-2, 63.1 IP, 2.42 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 1.03 WHIP, 24% K%, 8.4% Bb%, .194 BAA
The Yankees love small righties that throw hard and so do I. Roansy combines a plus fastball, sitting 93-95, touching 97 when he needs it, with a plus curveball sitting upper-70’s featuring big spin, and two plane break. His changeup is a work in progress, but it flashes future average potential. His control flashes above-average potential, and he has the ability to spot his fastball and his breaker at the top and bottom of the zone. Though he’s prone to catching too much of the plate from time to time.
I discussed Deivi a few weeks ago, and why reinvent the wheel, if you didn’t catch it, here’s what I had to say. “You should all be following my good friend Jason Woodell on twitter @Jasonatthegame. He’s been an early advocate for the Yankees Deivi Garcia, and the talented righty is squarely in my wheelhouse. A diminutive righthander with big stuff, and an athletic delivery, Deivi pushed his way to AA Trenton in 2018. Making his debut at the level Sunday night, the 19 year old Dominican went five hit-less innings, walking two, and striking out seven. I watched some of the start Monday morning while I was preparing this post, and the movement of the fastball, and spin on his breaker really stood out. This is right in line with what our buddy Jason said about a week ago. Here’s Jason’s quick assessment; “Small frame but strong. Athletic delivery, repeats. Min eff.. Hides ball. FB gets on hitters quick. 93-94. CB is a hard breaker with some slurvy feel to it. High spin 77-78. CH is progressing. Flashes some fade. Good arm speed. Poised. Strike thrower.”
Luis Gil, RHP Yankees | Age: 20 | 2-3, 46 IP, 1.96 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 1.37 WHIP, 33.8% K%, 15.4% Bb%, .188 BAA
Acquired for Jake Cave back in March, Gil looks like another potential steal for the Yankees with nasty stuff. He mixes a mid-high-90’s fastball that generates easy velocity, with sink, and run, while his curveball flashes plus with two-plane break. His command and control have a long way to go, and he toes the line between, unhittable, and too nasty to consistently throw strikes. This could ultimately lead Gil to a career in the pen, though likely in a high leverage role.
Hans Crouse, RHP Rangers | Age: 19 | 5-3, 54.2 IP, 2.47 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, 27.3% K%, 8.4% Bb%, .208 BAA
Let’s just get this out of the way, since the first time I saw Crouse’s wild mechanics and theatrics on the mound I fell in love. A tall lanky righty, with some serious funk, Crouse had one of the best breaking balls in the 2017 Prep class, pairing it with an equally effective fastball. Many feel his mechanics cause his fastball to play down, and drives some of his command issues with the heater, but for the most part he limits the free passes, and hitters still have a hard time squaring up Crouse.
Joe Palumbo, LHP Rangers | Age: 23 | 2-4, 45.1 IP, 2.78 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 0.99 WHIP, 31.7% K%, 5.4%, .205
I’m willing to go out on a limb and make a bold prediction for next season. If healthy Palumbo will touch MLB, and be one of the more discussed breakouts in the first half of 2019. Fresh off Tommy John Surgery, a 30th rounder out of the Long Island prep ranks Palumbo returned to pitching this summer, and flashed improved stuff as well as control. He mixes a plus low-mid-90’s heater, with a plus curveball, and an average change. There are certainly some parrells to be drawn between Palumbo and 2018 breakout Chris Paddack. Keep an eye out for the injury rebounds.