Prospect Profile: Clarke Schmidt

(AP)
(AP)

Clarke Schmidt | LHP

Background
Schmidt, 21, grew up in the Atlanta suburb of Acworth, and he was one of the top pitchers in the state during his time at Allatoona High School. He struck out 100 batters and posted a 0.72 ERA in 55 innings as a senior, which earned him regional Pitcher of the Year honors. Schmidt’s older brother Clate played four years at Clemson and is currently a Tigers farmhand.

Despite his success at Allatoona, Baseball America did not rank Schmidt as one of the top 500 prospects for the 2014 draft, or as one of the top 43 draft prospects in Georgia. He went undrafted out of high school and followed through on his commitment to South Carolina, where he was teammates with current Yankees prospects Taylor Widener and Dom Thompson-Williams. Schmidt missed being Jordan Montgomery‘s teammate by one year.

As a freshman Schmidt threw 58 innings with a 4.81 ERA and a 55/20 K/BB across ten starts and eight relief appearances. Life in the SEC can be rough for a freshman hurler. After the season Schmidt played summer ball in the Coastal Plains League, where he made three starts and allowed 13 runs (eight earned) in 8.2 innings for the Florence RedWolves. Ouch.

The 2015 season was Schmidt’s breakout year. He threw 111.1 innings with a 3.40 ERA and a 129/27 K/BB as a sophomore and emerged as South Carolina’s ace. His first postseason start did not go well (4 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 8 K vs. Rhode Island) but the second was better (6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K vs. Oklahoma State). The Gamecocks lost both starts. The second ended their season.

Schmidt’s junior year was outstanding. He threw 60.1 innings with a 1.34 ERA and a 70/18 K/BB while pitching through a minor oblique issue, and was as good as any college pitcher in his country. Schmidt was so good he was named to the Golden Spikes Award Midseason Watch List, which is essentially a candidates list for the Golden Spikes Award, the baseball equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

Unfortunately for Schmidt, he left his April 20th outing against Florida with forearm tightness after throwing 84 pitches in 5.1 innings. Tests revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament. He had Tommy John surgery a week later — Mets team doctor Dr. David Altcheck performed the procedure — ending his college career. Schmidt went 15-9 with a 3.21 ERA and 254/65 K/BB in 229.2 innings at South Carolina.

Considered a likely first round pick before blowing out his elbow, Schmidt was ranked as the 32nd best prospect in the 2017 draft by Baseball America, and the 49th best prospect by MLB.com. The Yankees selected Schmidt with their first round pick, the 16th overall selection. He signed a few weeks later for an $2,184,300 bonus, well below the $3,458,600 slot value.

Pro Debut
Schmidt has not yet made his pro debut because of the whole Tommy John surgery thing. The last rehab update came in mid-September, when Schmidt told Brendan Kuty everything is going well. “Everything’s been great so far. I’m just excited to take the next step and to keep working,” he said. Schmidt told Kuty he started throwing three weeks prior to their conversation, so his rehab is right on schedule. (There haven’t been any updates on his rehab since, though that’s not unusual at all.)

Scouting Report
After sitting in the mid-to-upper-80s in high school, Schmidt gradually added velocity in college as he matured physically, and was comfortably sitting 91-93 mph and touching 96 mph before blowing out his elbow this year. His fastball is more of a running two-seamer than a four-seamer.

A hard mid-80s slider is Schmidt’s bread and butter and the reason he was drafted so high despite Tommy John surgery. He can vary the break on the slider — he can sweep it side-to-side or have it drop down out of the zone — so much so that it’ll sometimes look like a curveball. The slider was considered a big league out pitch before the elbow injury. Schmidt also throws a promising mid-80s changeup that was above-average on its best days.

There were two concerns about Schmidt heading into the 2017 draft. One, his delivery can be a little stiff and that will cause his command to waver at times. And two, he’s not the biggest guy at 6-foot-1 and 200 lbs., so there were questions about his durability. The Tommy John surgery means those questions will persist going forward.

Teams aren’t scared away by Tommy John surgery these days and one of the reasons the Yankees felt comfortable taking Schmidt is his makeup. He’s an absolute bulldog on the mound, and he’s drawn rave reviews for his work ethic and makeup for years. (He skipped summer ball in 2015 to be with his family after his brother was diagnosed with cancer.) The Yankees always target great makeup guys and Schmidt is no different. They were confident he’d work hard during his rehab.

2018 Outlook
These days teams give pitchers — especially young pitchers and prospects — closer to 14-16 months to rehab following Tommy John surgery. The days of a 12-month rehab are long gone. Given the timing of Schmidt’s surgery, it’s unlikely he’ll take the mound in an official minor league game until the various short season leagues begin in late-June. The Yankees will bring him along slowly in Extended Spring Training until then. The 2018 season will effectively be a rehab year for Schmidt. Get healthy, shake off the rust, and prepare to turn it loose in 2019.

My Take
I have trouble separating my opinion of Schmidt as a prospect with my opinion of the decision to use the 16th overall selection on an injured pitcher. Schmidt is a quality prospect, at least when healthy. I always worry about short-ish pitchers being home run prone, but otherwise he has a good fastball and a great slider, and the makings of a very good changeup. Add in his makeup and competitiveness and you’ve got a quality pitching prospect. No doubt.

I just didn’t love the decision to select an injured pitcher that high in the draft though, not with other perfectly healthy and equally talented college starters still on the board. (Florida righty Alex Faedo and Oregon lefty David Peterson were selected not long after Schmidt.) Based on various post-draft interviews with scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, it seems Schmidt was Plan B. The Yankees were originally targeting players who came off the board before their pick, and when they weren’t available, they went with Schmidt because they knew they could sign him below slot and spread the savings around.

I know Tommy John surgery has a very high success rate, and I know Schmidt’s rehab is going well so far, but elbow reconstruction is a significant risk. There can be complications or setbacks, his pre-surgery stuff might not fully return, all sorts of stuff can happen. The pre-surgery version of Schmidt was a very good prospect. Will he be the same guy after he completes his rehab? The Yankees believe so. I think it was too big of a risk at that point in the draft. It’s not like Schmidt was a consensus top five draft prospect they were able to steal. They took him about where he was expected to go when he was healthy, except he wasn’t healthy.

Prospect Profile: Stephen Tarpley

(Rick Ferry/Pinstriped Prospects)
(Rick Ferry/Pinstriped Prospects)

Stephen Tarpley | LHP

Background

Born in Los Angeles, Calif., Tarpley attended Gilbert High School in Arizona. The lefty was drafted in the eighth round (248th overall) of the MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians. He declined to sign with the Indians, instead opting to attend the University of Southern California (USC).

As a freshman, he pitched well for the Trojans. He didn’t allow any home runs and went 5-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 14 games (13 starts). He earned All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention and Freshman All-American honors.

Instead of remaining at USC, he transferred to Scottsdale Community College, closer to home in Arizona. In 16 games (15 starts), he had 2.35 ERA with 108 strikeouts in 92 innings. After one season at Scottsdale, he was able to re-enter the draft and was taken in the third round (98th overall) by the Baltimore Orioles. He signed for the slot bonus of $525,500.

Pro Career

He began his career with the GCL Orioles in July 2013, slowly building up to four inning outings (all starts) with escalating strikeout totals to boot. He was hit harder in later outings, but still strong peripherals with a 25-3 K-BB ratio in 21 innings with no homers. After the season, he was the Orioles’ 21st ranked prospect according to Baseball America.

The then-21-year-old was promoted to Aberdeen in the New York Penn League for the 2014 season. He allowed two homers (half of his season total) in his first game and had the reverse of his rookie season, slowly improving as the year wore on. He finished the year with a gem, going eight innings with 10 K and no runs vs. Lowell. He ended with a 3.66 ERA in 66 1/3 innings and was BA’s 16th ranked prospect in the O’s system.

The following January, Tarpley was dealt alongside reliever Steven Brault to the Pittsburgh Pirates for OF Travis Snider. Joining West Virginia in the South Atlantic League, he got his first taste of full season ball beginning in May 2015. For the year, he went 11-4 with a 2.48 ERA in 116 innings. Despite throwing nearly 50 more innings, he issued just one more walk and had two fewer homers. He maintained a strong groundball rate thanks to his sinking fastball. The southpaw even had a weather shortened no-hitter against his former teammates.

The No. 17 prospect for the Pirates after 2015, he moved to High-A in 2016. Unfortunately, his numbers were worse across the board. He didn’t begin his year until May with an oblique injury. He threw 20 starts for the second straight year, averaging just five innings a start. His strikeout rate remained level, but his walk issues crept back up while allowing eight home runs, two more than he’d allowed to that point in his professional career.

On Aug. 30, the Pirates dealt him as a PTBNL (with Tito Polo) to the Yankees for Ivan Nova. He made just one start for Tampa before his season ended and didn’t make a postseason appearance.

2017 Performance

For the second straight season, Tarpley missed the beginning of the season with an injury. In an interview with Pinstriped Prospects, Tarpley said it was “a little shoulder soreness.” The injury kept Tarpley out through June 10, when he made his debut with two scoreless innings out of the bullpen. That started a trend.

Pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in his career, Tarpley has excelled. In 14 games, he’s thrown 30 2/3 innings and has yet to allow a run. His groundball rate is an off-the-charts 66.7 percent while posting a career best strikeout rate of 13.3 percent, more than 10 percent higher than 2016. Despite an elevated walk rate, he still has the best K-BB% since Rookie ball and has a 2.50 GB/FB ratio. He even has an 18.8 infield-fly ball rate.

All but one of his outings has been for at least four outs and 10 of his 14 have gone at least two innings. He’s allowed just eight hits, thanks in part to a .129 BABIP and a career-best 5.3 line-drive percentage. Groundballs and weak fly balls are a heck of a way to excel and have helped him post a .082 batting average against.

It was just 30 2/3 innings in High-A (a level he repeated), but this is also his first experience as a reliever. As a plus, he has nearly identical numbers against LHBs and RHBs this year after posting reasonable splits in past seasons. In the interview with Pinstriped Prospects, Tarpley said “my two-seam has improved a lot, just overall my pitches in the zone have improved.”

The southpaw earned a promotion to Double-A Trenton this week and threw two shutout innings (No hits, 1 BB, 3 K) en route to a win.

Scouting Report

Tarpley is 6-foot-1 and weighs 185 pounds. He’ll be 25 next February. He works off a two-seam fastball that has solid sinking action. He has three off-speed pitches with a curveball, changeup and an improving slider. His fastball tops out around 94-95.

Here’s part of MLB.com’s breakdown of Tarpley prior to his trade to the Yankees last August:

He’ll run his fastball up to 94-95 mph at times and throws it with good sink to generate ground-ball outs. Tarpley has two breaking balls and likes to throw his curve more than his slider, though the Pirates feel the slider is better … He also has a good feel for his changeup, giving him a solid three-pitch mix he uses to pound the strike zone.

In their 2016 Prospect Handbook, Baseball America said Tarpley “profiled as a back-of-the-rotation” starter and was able to neutralize right-handed batters with the way he attacked the zone.

My Take

Tarpley is in Trenton for the stretch run and postseason, where he’ll get a new challenge, albeit in a pitcher’s park. That, along with a potential stint in the Arizona Fall League, should give the Yankees a better idea of whether he deserves a 40-man spot after being passed up for one last year.

A left-handed relief pitcher repeating High A can be a tough sell for a 40-man spot, but his dominance in Tampa could have made the Yankees think otherwise. He is, after all, a former third round pick and could be finally hitting his potential at 24. As the saying goes, they don’t check IDs on the mound.

As for a return to the rotation, his Rule 5 status makes this a tougher proposition. He’d likely need to repeat High A or spend a full season in Double A to return to starting. As my cousin, who first turned my attention to Tarpley, pointed out, his walk rate also doesn’t fit the profile of a starter.

If he can impress in Double A or the AFL (in his return back to Scottsdale perhaps), he’d be a potential shuttle reliever as soon as mid-2018 in the best case scenario. Otherwise, Rule 5 eligible for the second straight year, he’s shown enough to be chosen by another organization at the winter meetings.

Prospect Profile: Domingo Acevedo

(MiLB.com)
(MiLB.com)

Domingo Acevedo | RHP

Background

Acevedo was signed out of the Dominican Republic in November of 2012 for the bargain bin price of $7,500. And that price isn’t the most suspect aspect of the signing, either. Rather, what stands out the most is that Acevedo signed at roughly 18-and-a-half years old, two-plus years after we see most players signed via international free agency. There is precious little information out there as to why he was signed so late, comparatively speaking, but the simplest explanation is often the best – meaning that Acevedo simply wasn’t viewed as much of a prospect between when he first became eligible back in 2010 and when he put pen to paper. To wit, he never cracked Baseball America’s top-thirty international prospects, nor was he mentioned in any of their write-ups prior to making his professional debut.

Update – Commenter Chip found out that Acevedo did not start playing baseball until he was 16 due to family commitments. I suppose that means that I was technically correct in saying that he wasn’t much of a prospect prior to signing, if only because he wasn’t an actual baseball player for all that long.

Pro Career

Acevedo was already 19 by the time he made his professional debut in 2013, when he spent the entirety of the season in the Dominican Summer League. He was a few months older than the average player at the level as a result, and he performed like a men among boys. Acevedo allowed a 2.63 ERA (1.95 FIP) in 41.0 IP, with a 24.2% strikeout rate against just 6.2% walks.

The Yankees sent Acevedo to the Gulf Coast League in 2014, but it was essentially a lost season. He tossed just 15.1 IP across five starts due to a variety of arm issues (which may be best described as dead arm), missing the better part of seven weeks after the calendar turned to July. There were reasons for optimism nevertheless, as he hit triple-digits in that limited action, and posted a 31.3% strikeout rate and 2.14 FIP.

It was on the heels of the abbreviated 2014 season that Acevedo first started appearing in the consciousness of Yankees fans and writers, and it’s not difficult to see why; after all, he was a towering 6’7″ figure that could throw a baseball 100-plus MPH. That’s enough to, at the very least, pique one’s curiosity.

Acevedo was assigned to Low-A Charleston to open 2015, and made one appearance before injuries struck again. It was a simple matter of blisters, luckily, and he was back in action on June 24, albeit for Short Season State Island. He spent the remainder of the 2015 regular season at that level, pitching to a 1.69 ERA (2.85 FIP) in 48.0 IP, to go along with 27.2% strikeouts and 7.7% walks.

Acevedo was sent to the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost time, and continue to impress in yet another small sample size. He tossed 12.0 IP across seven appearances (all in relief), allowing a 2.25 ERA in the hitter-friendly environs of the desert and striking out 22.0% of batters faced.

For all of this, Baseball America named him the third-best prospect in the New York-Penn League following the 2015 season, behind Andrew Benintendi of the Red Sox and Victor Robles of the Nationals.

Acevedo headed back to Charleston to open 2016, where he continued to dominate. He made eight starts at the level, pitching to the following line: 42.2 IP, 34 H, 7 BB, 48 K, 1.90 ERA, 2.02 FIP, 25.0 K-BB%. The Yankees promoted him to High-A Tampa in June, and it was more of the same – plenty of strikeouts (26.0%), low walk totals (7.2%), and solid run prevention (3.22 ERA) in 50.1 IP.

All told, Acevedo finished the 2016 season with a 2.61 ERA, 45.3 GB%, 5.9 BB%, and 27.2 K% in a career-high 93.0 IP. The only blemish on the season was his continued injury woes, as he missed time with leg and back maladies.

Scouting Report

When Acevedo first signed, he was about 6’6″ and a slender 190 pounds. He now checks in at 6’7″ and around 220 pounds (depending on the source – estimates range from 200 to 240), having filled out his gigantic frame with a fair bit of muscle. And, as one would expect from a pitcher of his size, he sits in the 95 to 97 MPH range with his fastball, and regularly flirts with the 100 MPH mark. Some scouts have clocked him as high as 103 on the gun, which elicits all sorts of strange feelings.

The fastball can run a bit true when Acevedo is trying to hit his spots, but it usually has a bit of late run to it. He controls the pitch quite well on the whole, pounding the strikezone and challenging hitters at the letters. Regardless, it’s a true plus-plus pitch that several scouts have thrown an 80-grade on.

Acevedo’s best secondary pitch is his mid-80s change-up, which has very good separation from his fastball and a bit of sink. He throws it for strikes with ease, and manages to pick up swings and misses, as well. It’s a solid average offering that flashes plus when he’s on the top of his game.

And then there’s the slider. Acevedo’s slider is a staggeringly inconsistent offering, in terms of both its velocity and shape. The discrepancy may be the fact that most scouts label the pitch as a slider, whereas Acevedo calls it a curve – so it may be a classification error of a sort. At its best, the pitch sits in the mid-to-upper 80s, with a sharp break that is closer to a cutter than it is a curveball. As is the case with his fastball and change-up, Acevedo consistently throws the pitch for strikes – it just doesn’t always look the same.

There are questions about his ability to command his offerings, due to his big velocity and bigger limbs, but he has made steady progress throughout his professional career. It’s the typical ‘command vs. control’ issue, but it’s promising to see Acevedo hitting triple-digits and maintaining sterling walk rates.

It’s also important to note that Acevedo does a surprisingly good job of repeating his delivery. He can get unbalanced at times, especially late in games, but his mechanics are far more advanced than most pitchers of his size and age – comparing his delivery to that of Dellin Betances at the same age, for example, is night and day. Nobody would call his mechanics perfect, yet there is room for optimism here.

2017 Outlook

If the Yankees follow their usual M.O., Acevedo will likely head back to Tampa to open the 2017 season. However, with continued success and a fewer nagging injuries, I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up at Double-A Trenton by Memorial Day. Acevedo, James Kaprielian, and Justus Sheffield could spend time in the same rotation this season (probably at Double-A), which would be an absolute blast.

My Take

Acevedo has several hurdles to overcome to reach ceiling, which may well be as a second or third starter. The fastball/change-up combination, above-average control, and mostly strong mechanics are encouraging, as is his ability to shake-off rust. However, his lack of a third pitch and injury history – even if his arm has been mostly fine since he returned to action in 2014 – is disconcerting. And, for that, he’s a divisive prospect, as evidenced by his ranking 15th on Mike’s Preseason Top 30 Yankees prospects, and 79th on John Sickels’ Top 200 MLB prospects list.

In short, there’s massive boom or bust potential here. I’d give him every opportunity to start, and rest assured that he has the tools to be a dynamic reliever if it comes to that.

Prospect Profile: Giovanny Gallegos

(Robert Pimpsner)
(Robert Pimpsner)

Giovanny Gallegos | RHP

Background

The 25-year-old Gallegos was signed by the Yankees for $100,000 in January of 2011. As per Baseball America, he was a part of a “package deal” with the Mexico City Red Devils, alongside Luis Niebla (now a member of the Rockies organization). The deal itself received little hype at the time, as is the case with most signings from the Mexican League. Gallegos underwent Tommy John Surgery before making his professional debut with the Yankees.

Pro Career

Gallegos finally made organizational debut in June of 2012, as a member of the GCL Yankees. He appeared in 12 games (four starts), and pitched to a 1.67 ERA in 27 IP. That ERA may sell his small sample size dominance a bit short, as he allowed just 22 base-runners and one home run in that time, while striking out 22. Gallegos followed that up by pitching for his hometown Yaquis de Obregon in the Mexican Pacific Winter League (LPW), where he struggled to the tune of an 8.44 ERA (albeit in just 5.1 IP).

He moved up to the short-season NYPL in 2013, where he spent the entirety of the regular season in the starting rotation. Gallegos made sixteen starts, and pitched to the following line: 65.1 IP, 71 H, 14 BB, 43 K, 4.27 ERA, 4.44 FIP. It was an uninspiring line, to say the least, but it was a full, healthy season that was once again followed by a stint in the LPW (he put up a 4.26 ERA in 6.1 IP).

The Yankees continued to move Gallegos up the ladder in 2014, and he spent the season with Low-A Charleston. The result was another middling season, as he posted a 4.57 ERA in 88.2 IP, spread over 29 appearances (six of which were starts). A silver lining was beginning to show, though, as Gallegos posted a 1.93 BB/9 for the second season in a row, which played a large role in his much better looking 3.45 FIP. He wrapped-up the 2014 calendar year pitching in the LPW, cruising to a 1.69 ERA in 16 IP.

Gallegos broke out in 2015, the majority of which he spent at High-A Tampa. In 53.1 IP at the level (all in relief), he had a 1.35 ERA, 26.9 K%, 3.5 BB%, and a 2.13 FIP. He ranked in the top-five in the Florida State League in ERA, FIP, K%, BB%, and K-BB%, and he didn’t allow an earned run in his last eleven appearances (or 17 IP). Gallegos floated between Double-A and Triple-A, too, posting a 3.72 ERA and 5.0 K/BB in 9.2 IP in the upper minors.

He struggled mightily in the LPW that winter, with an atrocious 10.00 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in 9 IP. Thankfully, that did not carry over to 2016.

Last year saw Gallegos earn his place on the Yankees 40-man roster (thereby avoiding the Rule 5 draft), owing to his 1.27 ERA in 78.0 IP between Double-A and Triple-A. His overall numbers look somewhat video game-y, as he had more strikeouts (106) that hits, walks, and home runs combined (70). The lone blemish on his season was a 36.53% ground ball rate, which had precious little impact on the bottom line.

Scouting Report

Gallegos is a 6’2″, 210-pound right-handed batter and thrower, with a surprisingly well-rounded arsenal. His fastball sits in the 92-95 MPH range with a bit of run, and his above-average mid-70s curveball is his go-to secondary pitch. He’ll also throw a high-70s slider and low-80s change-up in longer outings, and both pitches can flash average when he’s on.

As one would suspect based upon his numbers, Gallegos has well above-average command and control. He attacks hitters within the zone, and does a fine job of painting the corners (particularly on the inner-half). That applies to all four of his offerings, as well, though upwards of ninety-percent of his pitch selection revolves around the fastball and curve.

Gallegos’ inability to find consistency with his slider and change-up led to the Yankees removing him from the rotation, and the results support that decision. And that doesn’t just apply to the numbers, either, as his velocity sat in the 87 to 89 MPH range as a starter, which simply isn’t enough without a ton of sink and a couple of plus off-speed pitches.

2017 Outlook

Gallegos is on the 40-man roster, and there’s every reason to believe that he will be afforded an opportunity to make the team’s roster in Spring Training. (He will play for Mexico in the WBC, however.) The bullpen may well have upwards of three slots open to competition, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t at least follow in the proud tradition of shuttle riders of Yankees past. I suspect that we’ll see a fair amount of Gallegos in the show this year.

My Take

If Gallegos ends up being a competent reliever, he may well represent a steal for $100,000 a half-dozen years ago. I don’t think that he has the profile of a light’s out reliever that could fill a set-up or closer role, but I do see him as more capable than the fungible sorts that the Yankees churn through with gusto. The fact that he has averaged better than one and two-thirds innings per outing as a reliever could prove immensely useful to this year’s team, too.

Prospect Profile: J.P. Feyereisen

(MLB.com video screen grab)
(MLB.com video screen grab)

J.P. Feyereisen | RHP

Background
Feyereisen, who turned 24 yesterday, grew up in River Falls, Wisconsin, which is about 30 miles from downtown Minneapolis. In his four years as a varsity player at River Falls High School, he was named to several All-State and All-Conference Teams, and was named the State Tournament Most Valuable Player as a senior.

Despite his high school success, Baseball America did not rank Feyereisen among their top prospects from Wisconsin — a state not exactly known for producing baseball talent — prior to the 2011 draft. He went undrafted out of high school and wound up at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, a Division III school.

Feyereisen made six starts and five relief appearances as a freshman, throwing 40.2 innings with a 2.66 ERA. He struck out 37 and walked 17. After the season he pitched for the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters of the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer league, where he allowed three runs in 8.2 innings.

As a sophomore in 2013, Feyereisen threw 77 innings across a dozen starts and one relief appearance at UWSP, striking out 59 and walking 28. He had a 2.69 ERA and was named the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year. The Pointers advanced to the Division III College World Series that year.

Feyeresen returned to the Rapids Rafters for summer ball, which is when he got his first exposure to full-time bullpen work. He saved eleven games and made the All-Star Team after throwing 31 innings with a 1.16 ERA and 38 strikeouts. Baseball America ranked Feyereisen as the eighth best prospect in the Northwoods League that summer.

During his junior season at UWSP Feyereisen made eight starts and four relief appearances, throwing 62.1 innings with a 3.75 ERA to go with 45 strikeouts and 13 walks. Baseball America ranked Feyereisen as the best Division III prospect in the 2014 draft class and the 464th best prospect overall. He was the No. 2 prospect in Wisconsin.

The Indians selected Feyereisen in the 16th round (488th overall) and signed him to an $80,000 bonus. He became only the third junior to be drafted in UWSP history, joining former Red Sox farmhand Cody Koback (tenth round in 2011) and two-time All-Star Jordan Zimmermann (second round in 2007).

Feyereisen was traded to the Yankees as part of the Andrew Miller trade last summer. Feyereisen, outfielder Clint Frazier, lefty Justus Sheffield, and righty Ben Heller came to New York in the four-for-one swap.

Pro Career
Cleveland never bothered to try Feyereisen as a starter. They grabbed him in the 16th round and moved him to the bullpen immediately. He made his pro debut with the club’s Short Season NY-Penn League affiliate, where he threw 17 innings without allowing a run. Feyereisen struck out 24 and walked one. Zoinks.

The Indians assigned Feyereisen to their Low-A affiliate in the Midwest League to begin 2015, his first full pro season. He allowed two runs in 16.2 innings while striking out 25 and walking six. Feyereisen was quickly promoted to High-A, and he finished the season with a 2.08 ERA (2.51 FIP) in 47.2 total innings. His strikeout rate (30.1%) was excellent, his walk rate just okay (8.1%).

Feyereisen opened 2016 with Double-A Akron and had a 2.23 ERA (3.04 FIP) in 40.1 innings that featured lots of strikeouts (33.1%) and lots of walks (11.8%). The Yankees sent him to Double-A Trenton after the trade, where he threw 18 innings. All told, Feyereisen had a 1.52 ERA (2.76 FIP) in 34.0% strikeouts and 11.3% walks in 65 Double-A innings in 2016.

The Yankees sent Feyereisen to the Arizona Fall League after the season for a little extra work. He allowed five runs (four earned) with 18 strikeouts and seven walks in 14 innings for the Scottsdale Scorpions last fall.

Scouting Report
Feyereisen is built solidly at 6-foot-2 and 215 lbs., and after working at 89-91 mph as a starter in college, he now sits 94-96 mph as a reliever and even touched 100 mph in 2016, according to Baseball America. PitchFX data from the AzFL says Feyereisen averaged 95.3 mph and topped out at 96.8 mph during his 14-inning stint. (That was at the end of a long season and fatigue may have been a factor.)

A mid-80s slider is Feyereisen’s second pitch. Despite his strikeout rates, the slider is not a reliable put-away offering yet. He’s still working to gain consistency with the pitch. He also throws a changeup but very rarely uses it. Feyereisen was sent to the AzFL specifically so he could continue to work on his secondary pitches.

Feyereisen is a strong kid with a good delivery that has some herky-jerkiness to it. His control is just okay and his command is below average. Feyereisen is very much a “here’s the ball, try to hit it” guy with a big fastball at this point, and to his credit, he’s fearless on the mound and a hard-worker off it.

2017 Outlook
After spending a full season at Double-A and having plenty of success, an assignment to Triple-A Scranton is in the cards to begin the upcoming 2017 season. The Yankees are bringing Feyereisen to Spring Training as a non-roster player and that’s not in any way a surprise. A Triple-A reliever is a call-up candidate, so the team is giving Joe Girardi and his coaching staff a chance to get to know Feyereisen this spring. He’ll be Rule 5 Draft eligible next offseason and it’s very possible he’ll make his MLB debut at some point this summer.

Miscellany
Relief prospects are unlike every other type of prospect out there. They put up ridiculous minor league numbers that make you believe they’re ready to be setup men and closers at the big league level, but the fact of the matter is most of them are airing it out for an inning at a time and dominating overmatched minor leaguers, many of whom won’t a) sniff the show, and b) face the pitcher again that series and have a chance to adjust. It’s hard to separate the stats from the potential, I know it is, but it’s necessary.

That isn’t to say Feyereisen isn’t a good prospect. He’s a solid relief prospect who will undoubtedly pitch in the big leagues at some point, perhaps as soon as this year, and I think he has a chance to carve out a nice career as a middle reliever. The velocity is great, but the lack of a reliable secondary pitch presently holds Feyereisen back from high-leverage work. Hopefully he improves his slider and proves me wrong. For now, I see a possible middle reliever who relies on his fastball, and considering he was the fourth piece in the trade, that’s a pretty nice return.

Prospect Profile: Nestor Cortes

(MiLB.com)
(MiLB.com)

Nestor Cortes | LHP

Background

Cortes (22-years-old as of December 10) was born and raised in Hialeah, the sixth-largest city in the state of Florida. He attended Hialeah High School, which is at least semi-well-known for winning back-to-back state titles in baseball in 2001 and 2002, and for being the alma mater of former Yankee Bucky Dent, the knuckleballing Charlie Hough, and Gio Gonzalez (who transferred after his junior season). Cortes was no slouch in high school, and was named a Louisville Slugger Pre-Season High School All-American and a Florida All-Region 1st Teamer by Perfect Game USA heading into his senior year, and winning the Most Outstanding Player award in the prestigious Sunshine Classic a few months later.

The Yankees drafted Cortes in the 36th round (1094th overall) in the 2013 draft, and bought him out of a commitment to Florida International. The best player drafted at that position is probably Mark Johnson, who batted .232/.338/.402 (95 wRC+) over parts of seven seasons, amassing 1.4 fWAR along the way.

Pro Career

Cortes made his professional debut at the Rookie-Level Gulf Coast League, and performed fairly well. He pitched to a 4.42 ERA (2.26 FIP) in 18.1 IP, allowing 22 hits and 5 walks while striking out 20. Cortes returned to the GCL in 2014, and improved across the board to the tune of 31.2 IP, 35 H, 5 BB, 38 K, and a 2.27 ERA (2.09 FIP). He appeared in just 21 games (five of which were starts) over those first two years, as the Yankees brought him along slowly.

It was in 2015 that Cortes first sprung into the consciousness of the more prospect-inclined Yankees fans, as he was borderline dominant in the Appalachian League. His 2.26 ERA was fourth among pitchers who tossed at least 30 IP, and his 63.2 IP were third in the league. He also racked up 9.3 K/9 against just 1.4 BB/9 and 6.8 H/9. As a result of his strong production, Cortes was named an Appalachian League All-Star after the season.

Cortes had what some would call a breakout season in 2016, splitting his season between Low-A and High-A, and making cameo appearances at Double-A and Triple-A. He made short work of the South Atlantic League, posting a 0.79 ERA (2.48 FIP) and 5.00 K/BB in 68.1 IP. The brilliance continued at High-A (albeit in just 28.0 IP), as he managed a 3.21 ERA (2.25 FIP) and 7.75 K/BB. All told, Cortes threw 108.1 innings of 1.53 ERA ball, with 4.79 K/BB.

Cortes also spent time in the Arizona Fall League in 2016, appearing in 6 games and throwing 7.2 IP. His 4.70 ERA and 7.04 BB/9 were ugly, but he struck out 10 batters in those innings, and didn’t allow a home run in the bandboxes and dryness of the desert.

Scouting Report

I won’t bury the lede here: Cortes is optimistically listed at 5’11” and 190 pounds. He is a solid, strong, and athletic 5’11” and 190 pounds – but it’s difficult for many to overlook his comparatively slight build.

Cortes works with a four-pitch arsenal, and is generally described as a ‘pitchability’ or ‘finesse’ southpaw as a result. His fastball sits in the upper-80s to low-90s range (reaching 93 at its best), and he has strong command of the offering. The difference between his fastball and his mid-70s change-up helps him pick up whiffs, as he does a good job of repeating his delivery and release point on both pitches. He also throws a low-to-mid 70s curve and a slider in the upper-70s.

It’s largely a command and control profile, but his fastball and change-up play up a bit due to the natural deception in his delivery. Cortes hides the ball well in his wind-up, which helps to alleviate the issues presented by his shorter frame. Preventing batters from picking up the ball for an additional split second or two mitigates the extra distance between his release point and home plate when compared to the average 6’2″ or 6’3″ starting pitcher.

2017 Outlook

Cortes will probably open the season back at High-A Tampa, though I wouldn’t be shocked if he was give a shot at Double-A; it may well depend on how he performs in the Spring. The Yankees willingness to bounce him to Double-A and Triple-A in times of need and his time in the Arizona Fall League may indicate that they’re going to be aggressive. Barring an injury or poor performance, he’ll end up at Double-A by the time the Summer roles around.

My Take

There have been some strange comparisons made with Cortes already, ranging from Manny Banuelos (both are short lefties, get it?) to Ramiro Mendoza (as he, too, bounced between starting and relieving – though Mendoza was a sinkerballer, and Cortes … isn’t). The truth is that Cortes is going to face an uphill battle finding success in the Majors, if only because the track record of success for pitchers of his build and stuff is minimal.

That being said, the Yankees are always in need of left-handed specialists, and prefer those that could handle righties in a pinch. Cortes’s deception should make him a nightmare to face for lefties, and his command and fringe-average stuff could help him be competent against opposite-handed hitters. The bullpen feels like his ultimate role, in short – but they should give him a chance to ply his trade against upper-level hitters nonetheless.

Prospect Profile: Jonathan Holder

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Jonathan Holder | RHP

Background
Holder, now 23, is from Gulfport, Mississippi, where he earned several All-State Team selections at Gulfport High School as a two-way player. He hit .383/.455/.723 with eight home runs in 30 games as a senior while going 8-1 with a 1.36 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 61.2 innings. Despite that performance, Baseball America did not rank Holder among the top 40 prospects from Mississippi or the top 200 prospects overall for the 2011 draft, and he went undrafted out of high school.

Holder instead followed through on his commitment to Mississippi State, where he took over as closer for the Bulldogs almost immediately. He started his college career with a 27.1-inning scoreless streak, longest in school history, and he finished the season with a 0.32 ERA in 28.1 innings. Holder struck out 30, walked five, and saved nine games. Not surprisingly, he was a Freshman All-American.

After the season, Holder suited up for the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League. He had a 1.99 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 22.2 innings against basically the best college players in the country. The Cape is for the cream of the crop. The best of the best. Wareham won the league championship that year.

With Mississippi State the following year, his sophomore season, Holder threw 54.2 innings with a 1.65 ERA. He struck out 90, walked 17, and tied the SEC single-season record with 21 saves. Holder was a First Team All-American and a finalist for the Stopper of the Year award, which goes to the best reliever in college baseball each year. He struck out a dozen in 9.2 innings with Wareham after the season.

During his junior season Holder saved seven games with a 2.22 ERA in 52.2 innings. He struck out 71 and walked nine. All told, Holder had a 1.59 ERA with 191 strikeouts and 31 walks in 136 innings at Mississippi State. He and Jacob Lindgren formed the best setup man-closer tandem in college baseball in 2014. (Lindgren was the setup man, Holder the closer.)

Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Holder as the 11th best prospect in Mississippi and the 286th best prospect overall for the 2014 draft. The Yankees selected him in the sixth round (182nd overall) and signed him quickly for a $170,000 bonus, below the $237,600 slot value.

Pro Career
Following the draft, Holder made a pair of quick tune-up appearances with the rookie Gulf Coast League Yankees before being moved up to Short Season Staten Island. All told, he had a 3.96 ERA (3.01 FIP) with 22.1% strikeouts and 8.4% walk in 36.1 total innings. Holder threw 89 innings between college and pro ball in 2014.

The Yankees, as they’ve been known to do with relief prospects, moved Holder into the rotation in 2015, his first full pro season. And he pitched really well too. In 118 total innings, almost all with High-A Tampa, Holder had a 2.52 ERA (2.85 FIP) with 18.7% strikeouts and 5.2% walks. It seemed like the conversion took, but alas.

Last season the Yankees moved Holder back to the bullpen full-time, and good golly, he destroyed the minors. He threw 65.1 innings while climbing from High-A Tampa to Triple-A Scranton, and in those 65.1 innings he had a 1.65 ERA (1.30 FIP) with 42.4% strikeouts and 2.9% walks. In his final Triple-A outing, Holder struck out 12 of 13 batters faced as part of a four-inning save that clinched a postseason berth for the RailRiders.

That performance — not just the four-inning save with Triple-A Scranton, the entire season — earned Holder a September call-up. He allowed five runs in 8.1 innings with the Yankees, striking out five and walking four. Not the best big league debut, but that’s okay. Last season was an overwhelming success for Holder overall. No doubt about it.

Scouting Report
Big and physical at 6-foot-2 and 235 lbs., Holder is a three-pitch reliever. He sits 92-94 mph with his fastball and will touch 96 mph, and the pitch has a little sink too. His cutter typically hovers around 90 mph. Holder’s put-away pitch is a big breaking mid-to-upper-70s curveball. The separation between his fastball and curveball is pretty substantial. Here’s some video:

Holder also has a changeup left over from his days as a starter, though he doesn’t use it much in relief at all. He’s a fastball/cutter/curveball guy nowadays. Holder is a classic bulldog on the mound and an extreme strike-thrower. His fastball command is quite good as well. He likes to pitch up in the zone with his heater to get swings and misses.

The Yankees pulled the plug on Holder as a starter not because of the results, those were excellent, but because his stuff backed up big time. His fastball sat closer to 90 mph as a starter and he couldn’t hold that velocity into the middle innings. Some guys are just made for the bullpen. That’s Holder.

2017 Outlook
It’s not often I write a prospect profile about a guy who has already played in the big leagues. Holder debuted last September and he’ll come to Spring Training with a chance to win an Opening Day bullpen spot. In all likelihood, he’ll ride the shuttle all season and go back and forth between Scranton and the Bronx. That’s how pretty much every reliever breaks into the show.

My Take
I love Holder relative to his draft slot, though I’m not sold on him as a high-leverage reliever at the big league level. These days 92-94 mph is not overpowering velocity, and he’s a max effort guy who puts just about everything he has into his fastball to get to that velocity. Also, the curveball is good but not great. It’s not a David Robertson curveball, for example. That’s okay! Holder is a big league caliber reliever and hey, once upon a time I didn’t think Robertson could be a high-leverage guy, so don’t listen to me. Either way, we’re about to see a whole lot of Holder going forward.