Yankees: Four top pitching prospects and nowhere to put them

Yankee Stadium in the rain (Photo: Brad Mangin)

Somehow, while we were sleeping, the Yankees have restocked their minor league pitching talent. Too bad, they have no use for them.

The Yankees have only themselves to blame. They work their butt off trying to re-stock their evacuated minor-league pitching talent, and then they throw a wrench in the process by bringing in James Paxton and Gerrit Cole in back-to-back years.

With spots in the rotation reserved for Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino, competition for the final spot is a battle between Jordan Montgomery, J.A. Happ, and Domingo German, who is awaiting resolution of a domestic violence charge by MLB.

I believe that adds up to seven proven major league starting pitchers, begging the question – what are the Yankees going to do with what many consider to be ready for the big leagues minor league prospects?

Oh sure, go ahead and say it. You can never have too much pitching.

Though, unless the Apocolypse is coming, yes, you can. The Yankees can probably slough it off this year using the fall-back rationalization; they all need some fine-tuning, and the minor leagues are the best place for each of them to be.

In theory, the Yankees can make room for these youngsters by trading J.A. Happ, assuming they can find a team willing to absorb the $34 million owed to him for this year and next.

The Yankees can also not extend James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka, both of whom will be free agents in 2021 and moving German to the bullpen.

But why in heaven’s name would they do that?

Yankees: A ripening crop on the way

These are the talented young players composing the problem.

  • Deivi Garcia  Small in stature (he’s just 5’9″), Garcia took the minors by storm in 2019, striking out 120 batters in only 71.1 innings as he stormed through High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.
    Yankees prospect Nick Nelson (Photo: MLB)
    Yankees prospect Nick Nelson (Photo: MLB)

Garcia will be rightfully placed at Triple-A Scranton to begin the season, but a strong possibility exists he will outgrow that assignment before long.

  • Nick Nelson  A name probably not too familiar to Yankees fans, the 24-year-old had a strong 2019 season, with a 2.81 ERA and 1.28 WHIP with 114 strikeouts in 89.2 IP (17 starts, one relief appearance).

The Yankees will continue to groom Nelson as a starting pitcher, adding to the three promising starts he made at Triple-A Scranton to close out the 2019 season.

  • Michael King  As the only name listed here currently on the Yankees 40-man roster, King is first in line to get the call from the big club should a need arise.

Injuries held the right-hander back last year, and King will need the first half to regain his form and arm strength.

Called up to replace Domingo German last September, the options back to the minors start to add up, a problem the Yankees need to watch closely.

  • Clarke Schmidt  Another right-handed starting pitcher, Schmidt, was selected by the Yankees in the first round (16th overall) of the 2017 draft out of the University of South Carolina.

Schmidt has already completed the equivalent of baseball’s hazing routine with the successful completion of rehab stemming from Tommy John’s surgery.

Scouting reports indicate a low 90s fastball he can run-up to the mid-90s. Nice changeup. But really, it’s his breaking ball that made him one of the best prospects in the ‘17 draft.

Schmidt will begin the season with Triple-A, an appropriate placement given the need to see him in action for a full season.

Yankees and the pendulum

These things go in cycles. And it wasn’t long ago the Yankees were the subject of ridicule for stockpiling position players, later to be known as the Baby Bombers, instead of starting pitching.

The Yankees Clubhouse (Photo: Newsday)
The Yankees Clubhouse (Photo: Newsday)

The tide has changed, and the need for starting pitching, together with an already highly regarded bullpen, or pitching, in general, is not as dramatic as it was once was.

This gives leverage to Brian Cashman in the trades arena if he wishes to go that way.

Recall, for instance, Justus Sheffield, once the Garcia of the Yankees farm system, was the prime piece used by Cashman to get James Paxton.

Nevertheless, it seems the Yankees are “safe” for the 2020 season. They can park all of their prospects at Triple-A, letting the season and their performance there play itself out.

Without projecting “the who” of it’s going to be, that string of luck will likely run out by this time next year – and some weighty personnel decisions will be forced on the Yankees…

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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.