2019: Top 5 Left-Handed Pitching Prospects

Welcome to top prospect month at Pinstriped Prospects.  Throughout this month we will be bringing you the top five prospects at each position, leading up to the release of our top 100 Yankees prospects list.

The Yankees organization is one of the deepest minor league systems in baseball.  Especially on the mound, but that depth is mostly right-handed.  On the other side of the pitching rubber, the Yankees are not as deep but still have quality pitchers who could contribute to the team’s success whether in 2019 or beyond.

Phillip Diehl (Matt Bufano)


Phillip Diehl

Initially drafted by the Yankees in the 27th round of the 2016 draft, Diehl has put together a solid minor career under the radar of most prospect watchers.  In 82 career minor league games he owns a 16-6 record with a 2.78 ERA and 250 strikeouts over 194 1/3 innings of work.  He routinely pitched more than an inning in each outing, averaging 2 1/3 innings an outing throughout his career.

Diehl is a three-pitch pitcher but mostly uses his fastball and slider.  His third pitch is a changeup.  His fastball is in the low-90s, usually in the 92-93 miles per hour range and touches 94 on occasion.  Combine that with great command he becomes a weapon out of the bullpen that could contribute to the major league club as soon as 2019.

New York Yankees reliever Stephen Tarpley pitches during a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

Stephen Tarpley

Yankees fans already know of Stephen Tarpley, the lefty made his major league debut for the Yankees in 2018 and outside of Aroldis Chapman he is the only left-handed relief pitcher on the 40-man roster.  When the Yankees first acquired him from the Pirates, he was a starting pitcher, but injuries forced him into the bullpen where he has thrived.

In 115 career minor league games, 60 starts, he has struck out 396 batters over 419 innings earning a 34-17 record with a career 2.92 ERA.  The last two seasons he has worked exclusively out of the bullpen where he has averaged just over a strikeout per inning.

Tarpley’s primary pitch is a fastball that sits around 94-95 miles per hour with good sink.  He follows it up with a curveball, slider, and changeup.

Nestor Cortes (Cheryl Pursell)

Nestor Cortes

Cortes, 24, has been one of the most solid minor league contributors to the Yankees farm system since being drafted in the 36th round of the 2013 draft.  The Hialeah, Florida native owns a career 31-20 record with a 2.50 ERA and 443 strikeouts in 439 1/3 innings pitched in six seasons.

He has worked in any capacity the Yankees needed him to, whether it was as a starting pitcher or as a reliever.  His success saw him taken by the Orioles in the rule 5 draft in 2017 but ultimately return to the Yankees after appearing in four games with Baltimore out of the bullpen in the regular season.

Cortes possess a fastball that is anywhere between the high-80s and low-90s and topping out at 93 miles per hour.  He locates his fastball well compliments it with a changeup that sits between 75-70 miles per hour, a curveball in the low-mid-70s and a slider that is in the high-70s.  He works mostly down in the zone and moves it well to either side to keep hitters off balance and get outs.

Dalton Lehnen (Zach Bland/Charleston RiverDogs)

Dalton Lehnen

Lehnen, 22, was drafted by the Yankees in the sixth round of the 2017 draft out of Augustana University.  He made his professional debut in the GCL, throwing two innings in one game, before heading to the Appalachian League where he was 1-0 with a 4.31 in 10 starts, striking out 42 in 31 1/3 innings.

He started his 2018 season with the Charleston RiverDogs, earning a 6-3 record with a 2.67 ERA and striking out 73 batters in 70 2/3 innings over 13 games, 11 starts.  He was promoted to the Tampa Tarpons on June 30 and struggled, going 1-3 with a 5.09 ERA over 10 games, nine starts.

Lehnen is a four-pitch pitcher, with a fastball that is usually 92-95 miles per hour, topping out at 96 at-times with late life.  He also possesses a curveball, changeup, and a slider.  His second-half struggles in 2018 can be contributed to a dip in his velocity and spotty command.

JP Sears gave up one hit over seven innings in a no-decision for the Charleston Riverdogs (Photo by Martin Griff)

JP Sears

The Yankees acquired left-handed pitcher JP Sears from the Seattle Mariners along with righty Juan Then in November 2017 for right-handed reliever Nick Rumbelow.

Sears was drafted by the Mariners in the 11th round of the 2017 draft out of The Citadel.  In 28 career minor league games, 10 starts, over two seasons he has a 2-7 record with a 1.98 ERA and 105 strikeouts over 81 2/3 innings.  His 2018 season was cut short due to a shoulder injury, but he showed some promise as a starting pitcher in his first season with the Yankees.

Sears is not a flamethrower by any means, his fastball is only in the high-80s to low-90s, topping out at just 93 miles per hour.  He relies on deception and above average spin rate to get batters out.  His secondary pitches include a curveball and changeup; both considered average pitches.