One never knows exactly how things will turn out, but we like the latest move Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made.
That would be the trade of reliever James Pazos, who was a personal favorite when he played at Trenton because he was a fun guy with a funky delivery. He had the speed, but in shots with the Yankees, not the location. So the swap of Pazos to the Seattle Mariners for 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander Zack Littell.
“The Yankees look like they have gotten a good one,” said a scout from a National League East team. “He really seemed to put things together last year.”
That the native of Mebane, N.C., who just turned 21 Oct. 5, did, putting together a 13-6, 2.66 mark in 28 appearances (27 starts) between Class-A stops Clinton and Bakersfield in the Mariners system. He threw an impressive 165.2 innings with a strikeout/walk ratio of 156-34. We have not seen much of the Midwest League up close, but it must be stated 8-1, 2.51 in 12 appearances (11 starts) is impressive in the hitter-friendly California League, with many ballparks at high altitude.
Scouts were impressed with Littell’s ability to mix a fastball that tops out at 94 with an effective curve and a developing change, which is not at the level of his other two pitches. In 68 innings, he struck out 61, many with bis curve, and walked just 13.
What is impressive is, entering the 2016 season, Littell’s 8-17 career mark did not even rank him among Seattle’s Top 30 prospects according to Baseball America. By the one of the season, he was ranked by Baseball America as having the best curve in the Seattle system and gathering notice.
He credits hard work and good defense behind him with helping him get it all together. The keys were the development of his curve and ability to work quickly with excellent command. He also felt the Mariners’ approach to his development put him on the right road.
Littell will likely start 2017 at Class-A Advanced Tampa, likely joining Double-A Trenton sometime during the season if all goes well in the Florida State League.
Maybe Littell will someday be a No. 3 or 4 starter in the Yankees rotation, maybe not, but we have to like what Cashman is doing. The talent has been building in the Yankees system over the past several years – though many failed to notice until recently – and not all prospects will play for the Yankees.
Cashman traded Pazos, who has a lot of upside, for a future possible starting pitcher. Pazos is just one of many Yankees prospects other teams are interested in.
If the combination of infielders Jorge Mateo and Rob Refsnyder, maybe with another prospect, brings the Yankees a solid starting pitcher, Cashman ought to pull the trigger with the likes of Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade, Kyle Holder and Wilkerman Garcia around.
In getting to know prospects in the Yankees system well, many realize they may play in the majors with a team other than the Bronx Bombers. The hope is each gets his shot somewhere and somehow.
Outfielder Ben Gamel and Pazos were expendable. All three players Cashman brought back in the two trades were pitchers – righties Jio Orozco and Juan DePaula for Gamel and Littell for Pazos.
Acquiring starting pitching simply makes sense.