As we continue our look at the top prospects at each position in the New York Yankees organization, our focus shifts over to the starting rotation. For any organization, building a strong starting rotation is priority number one to establishing success.
At the major league level, the Yankees only have one homegrown starter in the rotation in Luis Severino. However, they have plenty of arms at the lower levels that have the potential to make it all the way up to the big show.
When you look back at the 2018 season, it was defined by plenty of surprises where players jumped up the prospect rankings throughout the year. In fact, there is one player on this list that was drafted by the New York Yankees back in June.
As we get into this list, one thing to keep in mind is while there are many pitchers in the organization, these five are ones that have the most potential to stick as a starting pitcher as they continue their development and move on to the major leagues.
So let’s start the countdown with number five and that most recent draftee:
In the Fourth Round of the 2018 MLB Draft, the Yankees selected North Florida right-hander Frank German. While Logan Gilbert was the talk of the draft as the best pitcher in the Atlantic Sun (Stetson), German’s results were right up there.
In 14 starts, the right-hander went 8-3 with a 1.58 ERA and had 108 strikeouts to 14 walks over the course of 91 innings. That success led to the Yankees drafting him and he had a successful first professional season.
After making one appearance in the Gulf Coast League, German was promoted to Short-Season Staten Island on June 28. The 21-year-old was part of both the rotation and bullpen for Staten Island, but he thrived in whichever role he was in.
Over the course of ten games (four starts), German was 1-3 with a 2.22 ERA and had 38 strikeouts to six walks while not allowing a home run over the course of 28.1 innings.
One of German’s best outings of the season came out of the bullpen. On August 20 against Lowell, he went three innings, allowed one hit, and struck out seven. Due to the high amount of innings German had in college, it limited the workload he could have in his first professional season.
With that being said, his talent was on full display in a small sample size. He has a fastball that is usually between 94 and 96 miles-per-hour to go with a circle changeup and a slider.
During the draft, I had the chance to talk to German’s college coach, Tim Parenton, and he talked about how the man from Queens was having success in his senior year locating his fastball:
“PITCHING WITH A FASTBALL MORE AND LEARNING HOW TO THROW IT TO ALL FOUR CORNERS OF THE PLATE. THAT’S THE ONE THING THAT GAVE HIM A LOT OF CONFIDENCE.”
After one strong season of command at the professional level, German’s success in ’19 will be interesting to watch in Single-A Charleston as his workload increases as a starter.
If there was one pitcher that got the most attention in the organization this year, look no further than King. He was able to jump all the way up from Advanced-A Tampa to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre during the 2018 campaign.
Over the course of 25 games (24 starts) across the three levels, the 23-year-old went 11-5 with a 1.79 ERA and had 152 strikeouts to 29 walks in 161.1 innings. In fact, he went six innings or more in any start after May 20 and he allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his final nine starts. ‘
In the Florida State League, King had a 1.79 ERA over his first seven starts before being promoted to Double-A Trenton in May. Once he got to the Thunder, King went 6-2 with a 2.09 ERA in 11 outings and had back-to-back double-digit strikeouts games on June 30 and July 6 respectively.
On August 4, King got the promotion to Triple-A and the right-hander thrived in the International League. He went 4-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his last six outings and had 39 strikeouts in 31 innings of work.
King was a steal for the Yankees as they acquired him from the Miami Marlins in November 2017 when they dealt Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith to Miami. His fastball is around 91-93 miles-per-hour in velocity and it goes with a changeup and a slider.
This year, King is going to be in Triple-A to start the year and he is not the 40-man roster right now. However, don’t be surprised if King gets a chance to make his MLB debut next year if the results continue to be what they were last year for the Pinstriped Prospects Breakout Player of the Year.
At just 19 years old, Garcia was able to end last season at Double-A and ended up playing a small part in history during 2018. Like King, Garcia ended up pitching at three different levels as he was with Single-A Charleston, Advanced-A Tampa, and Trenton.
Over the course of 14 starts, Garcia went 5-4 with a 2.55 ERA and had 105 strikeouts to 20 walks in 74 innings and he held opponents to a .189 batting average.
Garcia began the year with Charleston after making one start with the Tarpons. In the Riverdogs rotation, he went 2-4 with a 3.76 ERA in eight starts. He struck out ten batters in his first South Atlantic League start on June 11 against Asheville. He had seven or more strikeouts in every outing, which included a 12-strikeout performance against Augusta on July 25.
Shortly after that start, Garcia was promoted back to Tampa on August 6. In the four starts he made that month, he allowed a grand total of only three runs. On August 6, he threw seven perfect innings and struck out 12 against Clearwater. Tampa did lose that game despite throwing a no-hitter, but it brought Garcia’s numbers into full focus.
On September 2, Garcia joined the Thunder for one regular season outing. He threw five hitless innings in that outing, struck out seven, and walked two in a win.
In his pitch arsenal, Garcia has a fastball that is in the low 90s in terms of velocity, but it can get up to 96 miles-per-hour. He uses a curveball and a changeup to go with his fastball with the breaking ball being the strong second pitch.
When you consider that Garcia only threw 90 or more pitches three times, you have to be impressed with how efficient he was able to be in his outings. The right-hander will get his chance at the upper levels of the farm system during ’19 as he continues to rise up the prospect rankings.
After not pitching in 2017 due to Tommy John Surgery, Schmidt was able to make his professional debut in ’18. Despite pitching in eight games, the 22-year-old right-hander showed a glimpse of why the Yankees took him in the First Round of the 2017 MLB Draft.
In those eight games, Schmidt went 0-3 with a 3.09 ERA. He had 30 strikeouts to six walks in 23.1 innings of work as the Yankees continue to monitor his workload after the surgery.
Schmidt’s season began in the Gulf Coast League as he appeared in six games and pitched for both the East and the West teams. Then, on July 30, he was called up to Short-Season ball to pitch for the Staten Island Yankees.
While Schmidt made just two starts for Staten Island, he gave up only one run in 8.1 innings of work and he struck out ten batters. The fastball was at about 93 miles-per-hour in velocity, but his curveball, changeup, and slider are major factors in why he can have success as he moves up the system.
Schmidt will likely begin the ’19 season with Single-A Charleston as he will pitch in his first full professional season. As the innings continue to pile up, Schmidt’s talent will be more on display.
Contreras is another pitcher that ended up bursting onto the scene last season as the 19-year-old right-hander had a breakout year in the 12 outings that he had. With Staten Island and Charleston, he went 0-2 with a 2.42 ERA and had 60 strikeouts to 21 walks in 63.1 innings.
The season began for Contreras in Staten Island and he had seven or more strikeouts in three of the five starts that he made. Back on June 24 against Tri-City, he threw six shutout innings for the first time in his career. He allowed two hits, struck out ten batters, and walked one.
One month into his year, Contreras was promoted to Charleston. He had a 3.38 ERA in seven outings and allowed two runs or fewer in five of those seven starts. His year ended on August 31 against West Virginia when he threw six shutout innings, allowed two hits, struck out six, and walked three.
Contreras is one of those pitchers that does a good job of attacking the strike zone and locating his fastball to get hitters out. His heater is in the mid-90s in velocity and he uses a changeup and curveball to go with it.
While with Staten Island, Contreras showed efficiency with his pitches. In that aforementioned June 24 start against Tri-City, he did not throw more than 17 pitches in an inning and his stuff caught the attention of the other team for sure. Here is what manager Lino Diaz had to say after that game:
“HE WAS INCREDIBLE. HIS FASTBALL WAS GOOD. HIS CURVEBALL WAS GOOD. YOU KNOW THAT IT IS GOOD WHEN THE PLAYERS FROM THE OTHER TEAM COME UP TO YOU AND SAY OH MY GOD, HE’S NASTY.”
In a talented Staten Island rotation, Contreras’ arsenal was a treat to watch and he will get the chance to show that in Charleston to start the year.