Yankees are seeing young flamethrower progress as potential long-term starter

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees
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Luis Gil made his second start of the season last afternoon, as the Yankees were able to pick up an 8-3 win over the Blue Jays to secure their third-straight series win. It wasn’t always pretty, but the young right-hander was able to limit Toronto to just two runs across 4.1 innings pitched, and all of the damage inflicted came off of walks, not getting hit around the ballpark. Something that we’ve seen with the Yankees in recent years is that they’ve started to embrace a youth movement, and Gil could break through as their next young starter.

It’s certainly early, but the initial signs are mostly positive, and it feels like we’re just a few tweaks away from Luis Gil becoming a mainstay in their rotation.

Another Tantalizing Outing From Luis Gil Has Yankees Excited

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees
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What the New York Yankees have been able to do with Luis Gil is encouraging, as they’re pushing him enough to let him get into and out of jams, but they’re not jeopardizing his health unnecessarily either. There’s no sugarcoating the command issues, Luis Gil has walked over 18% of batters faced through his first two starts, but a lot of it seems to be the early-season nerves that come with being an inexperienced starter.

He’s avoided throwing his secondaries much despite using his changeup frequently in Spring Training, and while the fastball is dominant, the ability to generate chases is dependent on the ability to execute a changeup or slider out of the zone. The misses have been ugly, but when he’s somewhere in the strike zone, batters have had a hard time trying to tag the pitches he throws for hits, as he has a .176 xwOBACON allowed and 18.8% Hard-Hit% through these two outings.

If Luis Gil can get the walk rate around 12-13%, then we’ll see a version of the right-hander that can dominate hitters across the league, similarly to how Blake Snell won his Cy Young Award last year.

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mlb: miami marlins at san diego padres, blake snell, yankees
Aug 22, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) walks to the dugout during the middle of the fifth inning against the Miami Marlins at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

He walked 13.3% of batters faced last season, posting a 2.25 ERA with a 95 Location+ across 180 innings pitched, and while that can tax your pitch count, it can also help you avoid damage contact. Hitters can change the tide of a game by just doing damage on one swing, and yesterday’s game serves as an excellent example of it. Luis Gil, who has a 121 Stuff+ this season, was able to get into a bases-loaded jam, walk in a run, and still strike out a batter to hold the damage to one run.

Bowden Francis on the other hand has a 103 Stuff+, and when he started walking batters and getting into trouble, he didn’t have the overpowering stuff to get Giancarlo Stanton to whiff, allowing a grand slam. The Yankees took a lead that they would hold for the rest of the game, but the goal for Luis Gil should be to just slowly chip away at that walk rate, something that has always bugged him at the professional level.

What he does have now however is a strong third pitch, as the changeup is a marvelous weapon he can throw to righties and lefties in any situation.

Having elite-level stuff is a huge part of being a good pitcher in this league, and while Luis Gil doesn’t have the command to become an elite-level starter, the potential is certainly there. He’ll need to dial back the waste pitches, there are simply too many uncompetitive pitches that he throws in a count that both hurt his pitch count and his walk rate, but those are things he can iron out over time.

The four-seamer is as hard as it’s ever been with over 17 inches of Induced Vertical Break, whereas the changeup and slider shapes have slowly improved with more comfort throwing them. As a team, the Yankees have struggled with command, which seems to have more to do with the early season being cold and some of the pitchers coming off of long layoffs with injuries and other variables.

MLB: New York Yankees at Arizona Diamondbacks
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The guys who have had the best command are Clarke Schmidt and Marcus Stroman, coming off of seasons where they were able to throw over 100 innings, whereas Luis Gil, Carlos Rodon, and Nestor Cortes have struggled with their location as a result of their lengthy rehabs. Command takes a while to return for pitchers coming back from injury, but the stuff has been there for the Yankees, who rank second in Stuff+ (108) from their starters this season.

As Luis Gil begins landing sliders and changeups in parts of the zone where he can consistently get chases, we’ll see the numbers improve, but the early returns have been great. The Yankees should be extremely excited about what he can give them if the 26-year-old can stay healthy, as the talent and stuff are top-of-the-line.

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