As the New York Penn-League (NYPL) season kicks off on Friday night, the Staten Island Yankees have their rotation set for the opening Battle Of The Boroughs series against the Brooklyn Cyclones.
According to pitching coach Travis Phelps, the Baby Bombers are going with Matt Sauer on Friday night at Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George. Sauer was selected in the Second Round of the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
“He’s a competitor. He’s a big kid. He has a good fastball, good breaking ball and changeup. He’s not afraid to challenge guys,” said Phelps.
Sauer has a fastball that can get up to 97 miles-per-hour on the radar gun and it has some cut to it. He told our Lawrence Krieger that he has been working on his changeup over the course of extended spring.
For the final two games of the series, the Yankees will be going with right-hander Alex Mauricio in Brooklyn on Saturday and right-hander Roansy Contreras will take the mound on Sunday back in Staten Island. Both pitchers were in the Gulf Coast League last season.
Mauricio, who was selected in the 27th Round back in 2017 out of Norfolk State, made nine appearances last year out of the bullpen. Despite the small sample size, he showed good control on the mound as he struck out 16 batters and walked four in 17.2 innings. It will be his first start since his junior season with Norfolk State.
Contreras was signed in 2016 as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic. Between the Dominican Summer League and GCL last year, he went 4-4 with a 4.02 ERA in 14 games (11 starts). In 53.2 innings, the 18-year-old struck out 34 batters and walked 17. One thing to keep an eye on with him is his control as he threw 12 wild pitches last season.
While every team is different in the New York-Penn League, the Staten Island Yankees did lead the NYPL last season in ERA (2.64). For Phelps, he set the goal high in terms of his expectations for the upcoming season:
“We have a very talented pitching staff. We have high expectations. We had a great year last year and we expect to have one this year.”
One returnee from last season that is going into a new role is Drew Finley. Finley was a Third Round pick of the New York Yankees in 2015 and the 22-year-old right-hander is moving from the rotation into the bullpen.
“We have already had a conversation on that. I expect Drew to teach some of these young guys how to be professional, how to carry yourself, how to prepare… It’s going to take him a few weeks to get his feet wet and to find a routine, but he has done a good job right now with that transition,” remarked Phelps.
Another returnee, Juan De Paula, enters 2018 after a successful end to his 2017 campaign. Over his final six starts, the 20-year-old right-hander gave up a total of six earned runs over the final 33.2 innings of the season.
“We have not seen this spring what we saw from him at the end of last season,” replied Phelps about how De Paula looked in extended spring. “But, we know it is there. Once he gets under the lights and gets the competitive juices flowing, I think you will see that dominant pitcher that we saw last year.”
One pitcher to keep an eye on out of the bullpen is Aaron McGarity. McGarity was a 15th Round pick out of Virginia Tech in 2017. In a small sample size in the Gulf Coast League last season, he struck out five or more batters on three different occasions. McGarity told me his go-to pitch is his slider and here’s what he said about his pitch arsenal starting with his fastball:
“Heavily down and in to righties, away to lefties with the fastball, a lot of two-seam action and I throw a slider to put away guys late in the count.”
As of right now, this is a strong Staten Island Yankees rotation on paper. If they can consistently throw strikes, then they should be back at the top of the league in ERA once again.