When you look at the New York Yankees farm system, one of the things that you will find is many starting pitchers turning into relievers in order to move up in the organization. One example of that is right-handed pitcher Jordan Foley.
Foley was drafted in the Fifth Round by the New York Yankees in 2014 out of Central Michigan University. He was originally selected in the 26th Round back in 2011, but elected to go play for the Chippewas.
As a junior, he went 6-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 15 starts and had 81 strikeouts to 28 walks in 97.2 innings. He was third in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) in strikeouts, had a pair of complete games, and his walks per nine innings went down from 4.37 in 2013 to 2.58 in 2014.
Foley started off in professional baseball getting some starts but has since made the transition to the bullpen as a full-time reliever. With the Class-A Advanced Tampa Yankees in 2017, he was 1-1 with a 2.32 ERA and even got the chance to close (six saves in seven chances).
As for his pitch arsenal, Foley has the ability to reach the mid-90’s in velocity with his fastball to go with a changeup and a slider. But, despite the good speed on his heater, the 24-year-old gives up close to the same amount of groundballs (40.9 percent) as flyballs (36.4 percent) according to Fangraphs.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the journey Foley has had in the Yankees organization up to this point:
After making two appearances with one of the two Gulf Coast League Yankees team, Foley went up to Short-Season Staten Island for the rest of the year on June 26. While with the Baby Bombers, he made a few starts as the team liked to use two starting pitchers a night to piggyback each other.
In his 11 appearances (five starts), he went 0-2 with a 4.46 ERA and had 37 strikeouts to 14 walks in 44.1 innings. Despite not recording a win, Foley did have five or more strikeouts on five different occasions (two of them in starts).
One of those starts came on July 17 against the Williamsport Crosscutters. In that start, he went 3.2 innings, gave up two runs on five hits, and struck out seven batters against a lineup that featured current Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins.
Foley got the chance to increase his innings workload for the Class-A Full Season Charleston Riverdogs in the South Atlantic League. Over the course of 84.1 innings (17 starts), he went 3-7 with a 2.88 ERA and had 93 strikeouts to 36 walks.
On that Riverdogs staff, he was fifth in strikeouts and was one of six pitchers to throw 80 or more innings.
In the second half of the season, he had a 2.43 ERA over a ten start stretch and he had 63 strikeouts in 55.2 innings. On August 25 against Greenville, Foley gave up one run on two hits, walked three, and struck out ten over five innings.
Despite picking up over 90 strikeouts, the walks were still a bit of a concern. He had three or more walks in six of his outings (three starts with four).
Now, Foley did get a chance to move up to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre for a relief appearance. On July 5, he went two innings, gave up two runs on two hits, struck out, and walked three on 51 pitches.
2016 marked the beginning of a new role for Foley as he made the full-time transition into the bullpen.
As a reliever, Foley went 4-0 with a 3.06 ERA and had a pair of saves in four chances over 25 games. Once again, he had a strong second half finish to his season as he had a 2.01 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .196 batting average over the final 17 games of the season.
Foley’s 88 strikeouts over 64.2 innings were the fourth most among Tampa pitchers and the most of any reliever on the team. On the other hand, the walk rate did not go down in his new role as he had 4.5 walks per nine innings.
Like the season prior, Foley got to make a cameo appearance at one of the advanced levels of the New York Yankees system. On July 24 against the New Hampshire Fishercats, he pitched 2/3 of an inning and walked a batter on 12 pitches.
2017 did not start off well for Foley as he had to miss the first two months of the season due to an injury. While his season did not begin until June, the right-hander did have a 2.32 ERA in his 25 appearances.
While he did have 18 walks on the season, it is important to note that four of those walks came in one outing (July 1 against Clearwater).
Back on August 26 against Dunedin, Foley threw two scoreless innings, gave up one hit, and struck out six batters in a non-save situation. As for his saves, he was second on Tampa in that category (Dillon McNamara had eight).
When you are reliever in the Yankees organization, there is always an opportunity to move up and eventually be a part of what has been known as the Scranton shuttle. Foley won’t be on that shuttle yet, but he has a chance to be in the Double-A Trenton bullpen this April.
If he has success at the advanced levels of the system and continues to cut down on his walk totals, he has the strikeout stuff to be successful out of the bullpen.