The 2015 Yankees farm system has been devastated by injuries. The team has gone the entire season without four top prospects, in Ian Clarkin, Tyler Hensley, Domingo German and Luis Torrens. All three players are thought to have very high potential, and while their absence is significant the Yankees system is still managing to impress people. That’s because the Yankees have great minor league depth, and have productive players at the highest minor league levels. Being that’s the halfway point of most of these leagues seasons, we should review some of the systems progress thus far. This article will look at the relievers on the AAA squad.
The AAA Yankees began the season with one major strength; that being their bullpen. Their offense was thought to be okay, and their rotation was very thin, but their pen had several major league options. Some of these options have already gotten a cup of coffee in AAA.
The pen mainly consists of Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow, Caleb Cotham, Chris Martin, Jacob Lindgren, Jose Ramirez, Tyler Webb, James Pazos, Diego Moreno, and Danny Burawa.
Pinder, Rumbelow, Martin, Ramirez, Moreno, and Burawa have already made their major league debuts, and the rest of these players have a chance to make the majors in the foreseeable future. However this piece will focus primarily on these prospects AAA numbers.
The most surprising relief prospect in this group is Cotham, who has really broken out this year as a reliever. Cotham has a FIP 1.74, an ERA of 1.17, and a WHIP of .85. He is striking out 10 batters per 9 innings, and is barely walking anyone (1.17 per 9). His K/BB rate of 8.50 is the best in the international league (min 15 innings).
With that said there are caveats to Cotham’s great numbers. One is his workload; he only has 15 innings in AAA this year. 26 of his innings this season have come in AA, because he was pushed there in the beginning of the year due to the AAA roster depth at his position. It should be noted he dominated AA as well, but you still would want to see more innings at the highest minor league level.
The second caveat to Cotham’s stats is his age. He’s 27 years old and will turn 28 late this year. He isn’t really young enough to be called a prospect. He might technically be age appropriate for AAA, but generally prospects are younger than leagues average. Of course as a reliever there’s still a chance for him to surprise people, but overall it’s unfair to say he’s a prospect.
Another player mentioned above that’s not a prospect but has potential is Chris Martin. Martin’s stuff was so impressive during spring training that the Yankees were essentially forced to put him on the opening-day roster. Initially that move paid off, but eventually he began to struggle, and had gotten injured. So now he’s back in AAA.
His overall AAA numbers are not very impressive; he has a 4.41 ERA, a 3.24 FIP, and a WHIP of 1.35. His k-rate is 8.27 per 9 and his walk rate is 3.31 per 9. Of course some of his struggles are due to his rehab, and one or two really bad appearances. Recently he has been much better, as he currently has thrown 8 consecutive scoreless innings. With that said his age he’s more of a good project than an actual prospect.
The final non-prospect of this team is Diego Moreno. Like Cotham and Martin, Moreno is on the older side (27), and has had his fair share of injuries in his career. Moreno came to the Yankees via the Pirates as a part of the AJ Burnett trade. At the time he was considered a lottery ticket. As we saw from his time as a major leaguer, he is a three pitch reliever with a power fastball, which can reach 96 MPH, and a slider and changeup.
He struggled in his short-stint in the majors, but as a minor leaguer his numbers have been pretty good. He has a 2.50 ERA, a 2.80 FIP, a WHIP of 1.12, a K/9 of 7.09, and a 2.76 BB/9 in 45 innings. Calling him a non-prospect doesn’t mean he doesn’t have potential, and with a 96 MPH fastball he will get another opportunity to prove himself down the road.
With that it’s time to talk about the actual prospects, starting with the Yankees 2014 second round pick. Jacob Lindgren came into the year as a top-10 prospect in the Yankees system, and as a player the Yankees knew would be major league ready right away. Lindgren didn’t do all that great in the majors, but considering the sample, and the realistic possibility he was injured that really isn’t a big deal.
Lindgren dominated AAA, and was only second to Cotham in statistical dominance. Lindgren has a 1.23 ERA, a 1.90 FIP, a WHIP of 1.18, and a K/9 of 11.86. He was wild with a BB/9 of 4.09, but overall you could see why he was regarded as one of the Yankees best prospects.
Again his major league numbers weren’t that great, but it’s worth noting that he placed on the minor league disabled list the second he was sent from the majors. Considering the timing of the DL stint, and the fact that he isn’t on the active rosters disabled list it makes sense to assume he was injured before being called up. That’s a shame because there was a chance he would’ve stuck with the team for the rest of the year. His stuff would make him an elite lefty reliever.
Another injured lefty prospect is Tyler Webb, who doesn’t have Lindgren stuff, but is still a decent prospect. The 24 year old Webb has a2.84 ERA a 3.25 FIP, a 1.34 WHIP, a K/9 of 9.71 and a BB/9 of 2.61. According to Kiley McDaniel Webb “works 90-93 and hits 95 mph with a solid average slider and fringy changeup from different slots” Kiley also reported that there is some debate whether or not he will be more than a lefty specialist.
James Pazos is another interesting lefty prospect, whose upside is probably somewhere between the two previous mentioned players. Pazos is a hard throwing lefty with a changeup and slider which show some potential, and can be above-average pitches.
Pazos started the season off with an injury, but has made it to AAA, and has done well there. The 24 year old has a 2.78 FIP, a 1.76 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, a k/9 of 8.80, and a BB/9 of 4.11. Pazos only has 15 innings at the level, but there’s no reason to think he won’t be major league ready by the end of the year.
The only question with Pazos is if he is too wild to be successful major league option. The same could be said about Danny Burawa as he has a BB/9 of 3.86. Burawa has always had trouble walking people and with staying healthy which is primarily why the 26 year old isn’t a major league regular yet.
With that Burawa has done well this season with a 2.12 ERA, 3.62 FIP, a 1.11 WHIP, and a K/9 of 7.14. He’s currently on the 40 man roster and will probably get another chance in the majors at some point this year.
Former LSU closer Nick Rumbelow and Jose Ramirez could also see some time in the majors this year. Rumbelow has the better peripherals of the two as he has recorded: a FIP of 2.99, a k.9 of 10.37, a BB/9 of 2.17. His 4.78 K/BB rate is one of the best in the league, and at 23 he is age appropriate for the level. Rumbelow might have the best combination of stuff and command of any reliever in this group.
Stuff-wise alone Ramirez might be the Yankees best relief prospect. His stuff is so good he was considered a top-100 prospect as a reliever in the past. However his performance and injury history has since lowered his prospect status. This season the 24 year old has an ERA of 3.38, a FIP of 2.80, a K/9 of 10.58, and a BB/9 of 4.73.
The final reliever I will mention is Pinder, who currently back in the majors. Pinder has an ERA 3.41 ERA, a 3.28 FIP, a 1.24 WHIP, a K/9 of 9.31, and a BB/9 of 2.38. He has also has decent numbers in the majors, though his K rate is much lower than he is capable of at around 5 per 9.
In addition to the above mentioned players, Nick Goody and Mark Montgomery have both done very well in short stints with the Yankees.