Domingo Acevedo | RHP
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.