As previously written by my colleague, Milan Toolsidas, the 2021 Yankee season has been defined mostly by inconsistency. After taking two of three from the division leading Rays and sweeping the Marlins, the Yankees decided to come out against the 37-win Orioles and toss up a 7-1 loss. There is no reason ever to lose to the Orioles, ever, never-ever. I have full confidence that the Scranton RailRiders could, at MINIMUM, keep it competitive.
Enough about the Orioles. The point of this is, when Gerrit Cole was scratched with COVID from Tuesday night’s start, the Yankees turned to Luis Gil on short notice to stabilize the team. He absolutely dazzled. Yes, it was the Orioles who I just completely trashed. From pitch number one, though, Gil was absolutely electric. His fastball touched triple digits, his breaking balls were sharp, his location was dialed in. Luis Gil passed every part of the eye test that you’re looking for in a rookie making his first start.
Throwin' 99 for his first Major League strikeout 🔥
While his Major League career is only 6 innings and 0 runs deep, he has everything that it takes to be a long term staple in this rotation. He is currently the sixth ranked Yankees prospect, and the best pitching one not named Clarke or Deivi. Yankees fans, myself included, all complained when he wasn’t dealt on July 30 to bolster the current rotation but after Tuesday night, it’s pretty obvious why.
Gil works off of a three pitch mix – fastball, slider, change. He used all three relatively frequently during his debut, with a solid mix of 52.3%, 33%, 14.8% respectively. The poise that it takes to come out night one and throw all of these confidently and accurately should not be understated. There is a reason that he was the first Yankee to debut with 6+ IP and 0 ER in roughly 30 years.
Gils’s bread and butter. This is his highest graded pitch by scouts, rating at a 75/80. Averaging right at 96 mph, Gil’s fastball immediately enters the league in the top 25%. Moreover, his spin rate, which has been the craze of baseball as of late, sat at 2464. For reference, Gerrit Cole’s average Four-seam fastball sits at 2,467 – good enough to put him in the 90th percentile.
What impressed me most, though, was his ability to locate it. He showed the ability to elevate it accurately and efficiently. For younger guys especially, power pitchers can occasionally be reliant on speed more-so than accuracy. It was refreshing to see Gil trust his command and recognize that you can’t simply overpower hitters at this level. He had a few fastballs that he blew by guys in the zone, but more often than not, he was dotting the corners and mixing up his locations well. A good sign for future outings against better teams.
Relatively speaking, Gil’s slider was his least efficient pitch of the night. That being said, can you really be upset about a pitch that only yielded 2 hits and struck out 3? According to the scouting grade, the slider is actually Gil’s highest rated pitch behind his fastball – grading out at 55/80.
Going forward, look for the slider to become a wipeout tool for Gil. Much like his fastball, Gil has above average spin rate with the Slider at 2520. Again, he located it well, both in and out of the strike zone, and on any count. Another very good sign for the long haul.
While Gil only went to his change roughly 15% of the time, he was incredibly effective with this pitch. On Tuesday night’s game, he surrendered zero hits on the changeup and coupled that with a 20% whiff percentage. Interestingly enough, this is actually his lowest graded pitch in his arsenal by scouts – 50/80. Granted, a 50 grade changeup is still pretty solid, but not necessarily elite.
Staying consistent with our spin rate comparisons, Luis Gil’s changeup spin rate is actually higher on his changeup than Gerrit Cole – out spinning him 1,804 to 1723. Scouts and analysts most commonly refer to Gil’s changeup as “undeveloped”. If this is undeveloped, then I’m absolutely stoked to see what kind of damage he can do with a fully developed changeup down the line.
Boone announced yesterday that Gil is already in the plans for the time being on the Major League roster. Expect to see him out there in a crucial Wild Card matchup against the Mariners on Sunday and expect him to go as deep in that game as his stuff will take him.
With Cole, Kluber, and Sevy all on their way back by the end of the month, though, don’t expect to see Gil out there as an option going down the stretch or into the playoffs. A more realistic timeline on having him as an every fifth day starter is probably 2022 at the earliest. Because Kluber is aging and missed half the season, he seems like an unlikely candidate to be re-signed in free agency. If there is any way for one of the Yankees’ three pitching prospects in the their top six to crack the rotation, it is going to be by slotting into Kluber’s spot.
As of right now, the rotations sits as:
Expect this to be a battle between Gil, Clarke Schmidt, and Deivi Garcia. There is very little coming off the books in terms of free agents and the Yankees seem to be more focused on acquiring one of the premier shortstops as opposed to a pitcher. Combine that with an already solid rotation and Hal’s reluctance to go over the luxury tax, and you have all of the makings of an in-house option for the fifth starter. Whether Gil wins that battle this year or in 2023, expect to see him as a solid mid rotation arm for years to come.