TRENTON, N.J. – Luis Severino, the flashy right-hander who earned elite prospect status in 2014, has been compared to another equally flashy native of the Dominican Republic.
The Yankees’ No. 1 prospect’s ability and fastball-changeup-slider combination have many feeling they are seeing a young Pedro Martinez. And, at Tuesday’s Trenton Thunder Media Day, it was noted Severino, who turned 21 Feb. 20, had changed his uniform number from 11 to 45, also emulating Martinez.
“I just want to be healthy and pitch well here (in Trenton) this year,” said Severino. “There is talk of me moving up, and that is exciting, but I’ll let the Yankees take care of that.”
“Last year, even though I didn’t pitch a lot of innings (113.1 among Charleston, Tampa and Trenton), I learned a lot. When I wasn’t pitching, I watched a lot of games and that helped me for this year. I had no issue with how many innings I threw last year because I know the Yankees care about me and my pitching.”
Severino, who was a combined 6-5, 2.46 at his three stops last season, striking out 127 and walking just 27, will make his first 2015 Double-A start April 13 against the Akron RubberDucks, a Cleveland affiliate, on Buckeye State turf in Canal Park.
Out of a drop-and-drive delivery, Severino’s moving fastball, which sits at 94-97 and has been clocked at 99, sets up a changeup that baffles hitters with its late movement. He showed the tendency last season to fall in love with that offering and throw it two or three straight times to hitters.
As a result, the Yankees want him to work on his third pitch, a power slider which usually sits in the 84-86 range.
“Luis’ fastball has really looked great, that’s his go-to pitch,” said Trenton pitching coach Jose Rosado. “His changeup is excellent as well. We need to keep developing the slider.”
With two highly effective pitches, the third, not quite as advanced, is the key for Severino, who will need it both in the Eastern League and naturally at higher levels. While he his moving closer and closer to the majors, he is not yet a finished product.
“I am focused on what I have to do, and what I need to develop,” Severino said. “I really feel like I am going to have a good year.”
Some have expressed the opinion Severino could help the Yankees rotation as soon as sometime this season. That depends on how that slider improves. Severino did pitch in a pair of Grapefruit League games for the Yankees, throwing 2.2 innings, allowing six hits, three runs (two earned), striking out five and walking just one.
It was yet another learning experience Severino can put into his days as a pitching apprentice.
“It was an honor to face some of those hitters, and I’m thrilled that I got that opportunity,’ Severino said. “I learned, in those situations, to pitch the same whether my team is ahead by a lot of runs or behind by a lot of runs. Just pitch.”
In six 2014 Eastern League starts, Severino put together a 2-2, 2.52 mark. He allowed 20 hits in 25 innings, walked six, struck out 29 and averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings at the Double-A level. At this point, the 6-foot, 195-pounder is a slider away from the majors, where he likely will be in 2016.
Severino is an example that not all International signees who have the potential to be major-league stars cost millions up-front. He was signed by scout Juan Rosario for $225,000. Compared to some recent contracts that have been offered, that’s a bargain for a pitcher who has a legitimate shot of emulating a staff ace such as Martinez.