Minor Leagues

Yankees minor league update: pitching prospects

While many young Yankees, including Aaron Judge and Luis Severino, have powered the Yankees recent hot stretch, several more are coming. Greg Bird made a rehab appearance with High-A Tampa and is not far from returning, while Tyler Austin has been rehabbing with AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Austin homered in an appearance Thursday and should return to the majors soon. This week, however, we turn to the other side of the ball and will be highlighting four pitchers in the Yankees system. Some are relics from old trades the Yankees made, while others have been toiling in the system for a while, waiting for their shot. Regardless, Yankees fans should hope they see at least a few of these pitchers soon in pinstripes.

Chance Adams– SP- Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA)– Adams padded his reputation as one of the top arms in the Yankees system this week with a stellar start on Wednesday. Adams struck out 12 batters and allowed just one hit in six shutout innings. In 58 innings between two levels of the minors, the 22-year-old has posted a 1.24 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP, and 59 strikeouts. Adams has even improved his walk rate in AAA, bringing it down by over one batter per nine innings. The former 5th round pick has impressed at every level in the Yankees organization so far. With a fastball that can touch 98 mph and a consistent ability to keep his walk rate low throughout the minors, Adams may be able to make an impact similar to that of fellow prospect Jordan Montgomery, likely as soon as this summer.

Caleb Smith– SP- Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA)– Smith has taken a slower path up the minor league ladder than some of his fellow prospects, but Smith is making the most of his opportunity to play in AAA this season. After a brief stint in Scranton in 2015, Smith spent all of 2016 in Trenton and only made it back to Scranton in mid-April. Since the call-up, the 25 year-old has pitched to a 2.94 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 52 innings. Hitters are batting just .208 against the southpaw, who struck out nine batters and allowed five hits and two runs in six innings Thursday. Smith had been selected as a Rule 5 draft pick by the Cubs, but returned to the Yankees system after not making their roster. With a low-90s fastball and a changeup that helps him against righties, Smith may still swing between the rotation and the bullpen. Long term, he may not see a major league rotation apart from an occasional spot start, but he may help the Yankees bullpen in the second half.

Justus Sheffield– SP- Trenton (AA)– Sheffield, a supplemental prize in the Andrew Miller/Clint Frazier trade, has hit his stride lately. The 21-year-old lefty has allowed just two earned runs in his last three starts, including an outing Friday where he went seven innings allowing just one run. After striking out over one batter per inning last year, Sheffield has fanned hitters at a slower clip, with 49 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings this season. Making matters worse, despite a 3.04 ERA, the former 1st round pick has a 1.37 WHIP partly due to allowing more than one hit per inning. Fortunately, Sheffield, who has dealt with command issues since turning pro, is currently issuing free passes at a lower rate than he did last year. The young lefty relies on a fastball that can touch 96 mph, a slider, and a changeup. Despite his improving location and command, he may still be another year or two from the majors. On the other hand, if he makes it to the bigs, he profiles as a mid-rotation starter, with the potential for more.

Albert Abreu– SP- Tampa (A-Advanced)– Abreu was one of the arms acquired from Houston in the offseason deal for Brian McCann and he has had a rough time in the Yankees organization so far. After an impressive start to the season in low-A Charleston (22 strikeouts and a 1.84 ERA in 14 innings), Abreu has a 5.57 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP in 21 innings for high-A Tampa. Control has been an issue for the 21-year-old, who has nine walks in his time in Tampa. Despite the rough stretch, the righty may be due for a correction due to his .358 batting average on balls in play. Long term, Abreu has high upside, as his fastball sits in the mid-to-high 90s and he has several off-speed pitches. The young flamethrower still has significant work to do before moving up in the Yankees system and offers plenty of risk, but he could work out either as a starter or as a hard-throwing bullpen arm.

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