Just one week removed from the end of the World Series, the stars of the future are making their mark in the Arizona Fall League. While New York Yankees catching prospect Gary Sanchez continues pace all hopefuls with a batting average above .300 and the league lead in runs batted in, his fellow Yankees farmhand Chaz Hebert is also having a strong showing in the fall league, allowing just one run in nine innings of work.
Hebert, a 27th round draft pick in 2011 out of Breaux Bridge High School in Louisiana, made his professional debut with the Gulf Coast Yankees a year later as a 19-year-old, striking out 10.8 batters per nine innings. After an impressive debut, reality set in for the young southpaw in his second season in rookie ball, as his earned run average climbed by nearly four runs after being moved to the starting rotation. His promise suddenly appeared bleak as his celling began to diminish as a late round draft pick.
For the first time in his career, Hebert dealt with frustration with limited margin for error. After a brief cameo with the Staten Island Yankees to close the 2013 season, Hebert reached Single-A the following year and regained his form. Using a developing cut fastball and changeup, success came easy once again with a 2.76 ERA between full season Charleston and high-A Tampa.
The 2015 season became a promising one for the majority of Yankees pitching prospects. For starters, Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Nick Goody, and Nick Rumbelow each made their big league debuts, while Eric Ruth, Brady Lail, and Rookie Davis each earned promotions late in the year. Another heralded pitching prospect Jordan Montgomery took a no-hitter into the 7th inning during a start for Class-A Tampa, but even he could not duplicate Hebert’s feat of becoming the lone pitcher in the system to make the jump from Single-A to Triple-A last summer. Making a spot start for Scranton Wilkes-Barre on July 30th, Hebert allowed just one run in six innings of work. Hebert made two more starts in Triple-A, pitching to a 1.06 ERA in 17 innings of work.
“Going to Triple-A, I just tried to pitch to my strengths, work in and out.”, Hebert told MiLB.com in August. “I had success, and that also gave me a boost of confidence. If I can pitch to these guys, I can definitely pitch to high-A guys.”
Armed with confidence and increasing success, Hebert earned an invitation to play in the Arizona Fall League with five of his fellow Yankees prospects. Familiarity and past experience against some of the top prospects in the game led to a Fall Stars Game selection after allowing a single run in seven appearances entering the contest. Hebert pitched a scoreless inning in the Fall Stars Game and continued to impress.
Unlike the higher touted pitching prospects in the pipeline, Hebert has not generated the same attention largely due to his draft stature. Sitting in the low 90s with his fastball, the southpaw uses his changeup, curveball and cutter to compliment his modest heat.
Hebert’s ability to command his secondary offerings both as a starter and in relief could earn either earn him a spot on the Yankees 40 man roster or leave him exposed to the Rule 5 draft. With just 17 innings under his belt above Single-A in his career, Hebert will likely start the 2016 with the Double-A Trenton Thunder and look to sustain his unexpected breakout.