The Yankees could see potential breakout seasons from 3 pitching prospects

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel
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With the Yankees being graded universally as one of the 10 best farm systems in baseball, they have plenty of talent at the Minor League level. From the Dominican Summer League to Triple-A, they have a bevy of prospects who fans and media alike will want to keep their eyes on, but as with any system, there are hidden gems as well. The Yankees have an excellent track record with developing prospects, and with some of the more under-the-radar arms in their system beginning to report to Tampa, we’ll get to see who made tweaks over the winter.

Predicting breakout seasons at the Minor League level can be hard due to the lack of data available, but we’ll take our best guess with three pitching prospects who can greatly boost their stock in the 2024 season.

Brock Selvidge Could Be On the Yankees’ Radar

Drafted in the third round back in 2021, Brock Selvdige had a meteoric rise last season from Single-A to High-A, posting the best-qualified FIP of any pitcher in the Yankees’ organization last season (2.98). His arsenal is excellent, sporting a solid four-seam fastball that he saw an uptick in velocity on, sitting 93-94 with it as the season carried on. It doesn’t possess excellent vertical ride, but his command of the pitch and the cut-ride nature of his four-seamer make it a unique offering that can play to both right-handers and left-handers.

Selvidge relies on his cutter primarily for right-handed batters and his sweeping slider for lefties, but he’ll mix in either offering, depending on the situation. The cutter is a tight bullet-spinning pitch that also saw an uptick in velocity, and the sharp drop allows it to play well off of his four-seamer and get whiffs and soft contact. As for the sweeping slider, it gets double-digit horizontal sweep and is a knockout pitch against lefties, but he can throw it backdoor to righties and get some ugly swings in those situations.

There’s a chance that we see Selvidge open the season in Double-A based on how aggressive the Yankees can be with pitchers they truly believe in, and that would be the springboard for him to fly up the organization. Having a fastball-cutter-slider helps the profile plenty, and as he looks to find a better feel of an offspeed pitch such as a changeup, he could see big strides. Having a young and inexperienced arm with notable MiLB success through High-A is impressive, and this could be the next left-handed pitching prospect we see crack the team’s MLB roster.

While the Yankees have a myriad of exciting pitching prospects, most of their upper-level MiLB talent is right-handed, as Chase Hampton and Will Warren have made headlines due to their mesmerizing pitches. Henry Lalane is the best left-handed pitching prospect in the Yankees’ system, but he’s still got growing to do and is yet to pitch above the Complex League. Brock Selvidge lags behind the more hyped arms in the organization, but his command and solid repitoire deserve way more attention.

All it takes is a strong campaign in Double-A for Brock Selvidge to force himself into the Major League equation in 2025, and the Yankees will certainly keep tabs on his development.

One of the Hidden Gems in the Dominican Summer League

Sabier Marte is a little-known pitching prospect with a lanky frame at 6’5 that leaves you gushing about what his velocity could climb to as he continues to get a better feel for his size. One would expect a teenager who stands at that height to have trouble with remaining consistent mechanically, but he’s displayed an advanced feel for throwing strikes and has the distinct ability to command a fastball, breaking ball, and offspeed pitch effectively. We rarely see command and a deep pitch mix for a prospect with no experience beyond the DSL, and Marte could pop in 2024.

Through his 71 innings of professional action, the 19-year-old has a mere 5.3% walk rate with a groundball rate exceeding 55%, which bodes extremely well for damage prevention. His changeup is his best offering, as it has sharp tailing action, and he has a great feel for pronation on the pitch. It’s hard to develop an offspeed pitch, and having a great one can be tricky, but when you also possess a strong slider and a fastball with armside run to play off of the changeup, you have plenty of movement profiles to go to with varying speeds to deceive hitters.

Yankees, Sabier Marte

His crossbody-like delivery gives him a lower-slot release as well, and those funky arm angles and excellent command could be flat-out devastating if he can fill out his frame. Sabier Marte is listed under 170 pounds, and if he wants to flourish at the upper levels of Minor League Baseball down the road, he’ll need to bulk up and grow into his frame. He turns 20 this upcoming February and was only born in 2004, so there’s time for him to add some weight and climb towards the mid-90s on the radar gun.

We’ll likely see Marte in the Florida Complex League this upcoming season, so he’s still far away from the Major Leagues, but the tools he already possesses are hard to teach, especially at such a young age. The lack of experience at a level above the Dominican Summer League creates a ton of volatility in his profile, but when you’re collecting groundballs above a 50% clip while ranking in the 83rd Percentile in Swinging Strike Rate (35.9%), you’ve got a pitching prospect who can turn heads with a healthy season.

Can the Yankees Work Magic in the Sixth Round Again?

In 2022, we saw the Yankees convert a sixth-round pick into Chase Hampton, who is considered the Yankees’ top pitching prospect, and this year, they selected another right-hander in Cade Smith. In his final season with Mississippi State, the 21-year-old struggled with a 5.23 ERA and 28 walks in 43 innings, but those are the same traits that Hampton had coming out of college as well. Smith possesses excellent stuff, throwing a fastball between 91-95 MPH with over 20 inches of Induced Vertical Break with a lower-slot release.

His breaking pitches need work, but he has a sweeping breaking ball and a gyro slider that he can lean on depending on the situation, and that’s something the Yankees would certainly try to polish. Drafting pitchers with solid fastballs that need work with their breaking balls has been their strategy in the middle or late rounds, as they have a great track record of developing strong breaking pitches and know that they can elevate a pitcher’s profile. Cade Smith has huge strikeout potential due to his movement profiles, and we might see him fly up prospect boards in 2024.

Cade Smith possesses all of the traits of a starting pitcher who the team can develop well, and with a fastball that has plenty of life, we could see him explode onto the scene. Depending on how he does in instructs and Spring Training, we might see him in High-A, similarly to how we saw Chase Hampton, Will Warren, and Drew Thorpe open their careers up in Hudson Valley when they were drafted. It comes down to their evaluation of the pitcher and their health, but I think there’s a lot of reason to believe he could open the year with the Renegades.

The Yankees have also consistently gotten more velocity out of college pitchers, and while a lot of this is about what the team can improve in Smith’s arsenal, the foundation for his success is already there. You can’t just teach a pitcher to throw a fastball with 20 inches of Induced Vertical Break from a lower slot, but you can teach a pitcher to refine their mechanics and use different grips and seam orientations for their breaking balls. The skills he has are hard to teach, and the ones he needs work on are ones the Yankees have been excellent at refining.