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Yankees minors update: overlooked arms

August has been a relatively quiet month in the Yankees minor league system. Roster moves slow down as the season winds down, with the organization focusing more on its September roster moves and offseason plans for its prospects.
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In this edition of the Yankees minors update, we’ll jump right in and delve into a few overlooked pitchers in the lower levels of the minors working their way to the major leagues.

Trevor Stephan- RHP- Staten Island (Short-Season A)– All the way down in Short-Season ball, the Yankees’ 2017 third-round pick is making a name for himself. Over his last two starts, the 22-year-old has not allowed a single hit. In that same span, he has gone eight innings with nine strikeouts, two walks, and—as expected—no runs allowed. His outing on Saturday keyed a shutout win for Staten Island, in which the club carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning.

In 27 2/3 innings as a professional, Stephan has struck out 34 batters, walked just six, and pitched to a 1.63 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP. His MLB.com scouting report indicates he sits between 90 and 95 miles per hour with his fastball and has a delivery conducive to adding some run to his pitches. Baseball America also noted in their evaluation of the University of Arkansas product that he improved his slider and changeup, turning the former into a swing-and-miss offering. Both scouting reports are available here.

Freicer Perez- RHP- Charleston (A)– The 21-year-old Perez has consistently been making it work in Charleston this season. The 6’8” right-hander is 10-3 with a 2.88 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, and 107 strikeouts in 112 2/3 innings this season. Perez tossed a gem on Saturday, hurling five shutout innings while allowing two hits, walking nobody, and striking out six. He has walked just two batters in his last 15 innings pitched, an encouraging sign for a pitcher who is averaging nearly three walks per nine innings.

Perez has turned heads thanks to a fastball that can flirt with triple digits and the potential that he will add more strength to his 190-pound frame. MLB.com ranks him as the number 11 prospect in the Yankees system and he has natural upside as either a starter or a reliever.

Taylor Widener- RHP- Tampa (A-Advanced)- The 22-year-old Widener has moved quickly after being selected in the 12th round of last year’s draft. In his first full season as both a professional and a starter, Widener has held his own in High-A, striking out more than a batter per inning—121 K’s in 113 1/3 innings— and posting a 3.57 ERA. In his last three starts, the right-hander has allowed just one run over 14 innings and struck out 19 batters over that span.

Control has been an issue for Widener, as he has walked 48 batters this season. Nevertheless, his underlying statistics suggest that he has made substantial improvements. According to FanGraphs, he has a 3.13 FIP and a 3.51 xFIP, which point to his success coming from more than just good luck. If he can continue refining his command, he could join his fellow University of South Carolina Gamecock Jordan Montgomery in the big leagues within a year or two.

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