The New York Yankees drafted Taylor Widener in the 12th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft with the 368th-overall pick out of the University of South Carolina.
The 6-foot-tall right-hander played three seasons for the Gamecocks from 2014-2016, where he primarily pitched out of the bullpen. Over the course of 128 innings pitched, Widener wrapped up his collegiate career with an 8-7 record along with a 3.59 ERA, 150 strikeouts and a 3.00 K/BB ratio.
After signing his entry-level deal with the New York Yankees on June 21st, 2016, Widener was assigned to the Staten Island ‘Baby Bombers’ to begin his pro career. In 15.1 innings pitched in Staten Island, the South Carolina native was nearly perfect, scattering just two hits and leaving a goose egg in the earned run column while recording an impressive 25 strikeouts and just four walks in six appearances, one of which was a start.
On July 30th, 2016, Widener was assigned to the Charleston RiverDogs to finish out the minor league season, where he continued to impress. In 23.0 innings hurled in the South Atlantic League, Widener pitched to 0.78 ERA with 34 strikeouts and three walks for the RiverDogs. He also converted three saves in four save opportunities and held opposing batters to a .188 batting average.
Before being drafted, Widener was ranked the 258th best prospect in the country and the seventh best draft product in the state of South Carolina by Baseball America. His fastball sits in the low-90’s, but he’s capable of hitting the 97-98 mph range at times. His best pitch out of the bullpen has been his hooking slider, which sits in the mid-80’s.
Taylor Widener had an outstanding rookie debut, scorching to a combined 0.42 ERA (1.41 FIP) with 65 strikeouts and seven walks in 42.2 innings pitched between Staten Island and Charleston. The Yankees might be tempted to try and fast-track Widener through the pipeline, especially if his control continues to improve. With their revamped farm system, the Yankees main focus has been experimenting with collegiate relievers and stretching them into starters in pro ball, most notably Jonathan Holder and Chance Adams. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the course they take with Widener in 2017.