Yankees are still seeing elite results from the Hudson Valley Renegades’ pitching staff

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Back in 2021, the New York Yankees had a massive shakeup in their Minor League affiliations, announcing that the Somerset Patriots (AA) and Hudson Valley Renegades (A+) would become part of their farm circuit. Pitching had always been an issue for the Yankees, as the organization had struggled to take pitching prospects and improve them, seeing other organizations lap them on the data side of things. In the very same offseason where they onboarded two new affiliates, they also began a wave of hires that were headlined by Sam Briend and Matt Blake.

They’ve changed the reputation the Yankees have as an organization, becoming a hotbed for pitching talent over the years at the Minor League level in just a couple of years. Hudson Valley has been the place where a lot of these promising arms have seen their careers take place, and with a completely new group of arms, they seem to be doing it again, as a new class of pitchers is slowly beginning to generate buzz around the organization.

The Pitching Factory the Yankees Built with the Hudson Valley Renegades

Hudson Valley Renegades, Yankees
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Last season, we saw the trio of Drew Thorpe, Chase Hampton, and Brock Selvidge all emerge in Hudson Valley, with two of the three being listed on Baseball America’s top-100 prospect list. Thorpe, whom the Yankees selected in the second round of the 2022 MLB Draft, would find himself as a centerpiece for not just the Juan Soto deal, but the Dylan Cease trade as well. Some of the work that they did with his repertoire included honing the sweeping slider, a secondary pitch that has taken his arsenal to another level.

A strike-thrower with underwhelming velocity, he was considered a reach by some in that draft class, perhaps an underslot to save money for picks in later rounds. Instead, we saw Drew Thorpe emerge as one of the best pitchers in Minor League Baseball, a trend that has continued even with the Chicago White Sox this season. Chase Hampton, who is currently on the IL with a UCL sprain, is considered the best pitching prospect in the organization, and he dominated as a Renegade before being shuttled up to Somerset in June.

Brock Selvidge was one of the young arms promoted from Single-A that Hudson Valley Renegades would receive to replace the likes of Hampton, and after working on a changeup and slider in High-A, he’s become a popular name among those with high standing in the organization. In fact, Hudson Valley pitching coach Spencer Medick mentioned that his hot take for the season is that the left-hander will end up on top-100 prospect lists by the end of the year.

This year, Medick would have to find a way to have success without any of those three prized pitching prospects. Jack Neely, Danny Watson, and Bailey Dees were all reliable relief options for them as well, as they’d have to replenish a staff that led High-A in ERA (3.62). So, how have the Renegades fared in the early going?

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With a 1.62 ERA, the Hudson Valley Renegades have the best ERA at the High-A level again, and while there’s still plenty of baseball ahead of them, it’s a familiar place for this squad. In their home opener last night, great pitching stole the show as Baron Stuart, Ben Shields, and Leonardo Pastana held the Aberdeen IronBirds (Orioles’ High-A affiliate) to just two runs across nine innings. Trailing 2-1 in the ninth inning, a late-game collapse from Luis S├ínchez would allow the Renegades to work two walks with bases loaded and two outs to collect their sixth win of the year.

Before their trip down south to Bowling Green and Rome, I asked Spencer Medick about how you go about maintaining a level of excellence while seeing most of your talent depart:

“All of those faces were new last year too between Chase Hampton, Drew Thorpe, those guys so it’s more the same, and it really comes down to credit of the entire pitching department and the pieces our director Sam Briend have put in place, the type of people he brought in, and then our scouting as well…and then really focusing on development throughout the season too. There was a lot of buy-in with those players last year, I think there will be again this year.”

In the place of Drew Thorpe and Chase Hampton have emerged Brian Hendry and Cam Schlittler, who have combined for 16 scoreless frames with 20 strikeouts to open the season. Sebastian Keane and Jackson Fristoe are still getting their feet wet in High-A, and newcomer Kyle Carr is a name that plenty of scouts are excited to see progress after flashing some excellent stuff at the collegiate level.

Kyle Carr, Yankees
ORLEANS 7/01/22 Orleans starter Kyle Carr delivers against Y-D At Orleans Cape League Baseball

Equally as impressive as the rotation has been this bullpen, as there have been a plethora of names who have stepped up big-time in multi-inning relief roles. Undrafted free agents Trent Sellers and Ben Shields are starters converted into these long-relief roles, and they’ve combined for 14.2 innings of one-run baseball, striking out 21 batters faced and giving the Renegades much-needed length as their starters continue to build up.

I personally got to see Shields yesterday, and while he allowed his first run of the season on a solo blast from red-hot catcher Creed Martin, he still struck out four batters with that homer being his only blip on the radar. The left-hander is older than most at the High-A level (25), but his quick tempo and reliable arsenal could make him a fast riser who finds himself in Somerset sooner rather than later, and perhaps it could be in a starting role.

The only pitchers who have allowed more than one earned run on the season include Sebastian Keane (4) and Matt Keating (2), but what Keane told us on Media Day speaks to the mentality of this pitching staff:

“It’s a grind, you gotta balance it. I think it’s important to have a balance when you’re at the baseball field, take that jersey off, and leaving it at the field, going home, not thinking about it as much, and then going back every day and do the same thing.”

On Opening Day, Sebastian Keane allowed three runs in the first inning and ended up being chased out of the game before he could even finish his second inning of work. Walking three guys and allowing five hits is a demoralizing way to start your season, but he’d take that thought process he mentioned just a week before fire a brilliant start against the Rome Emperors where he walked just one of the 17 batters he faced and racked up seven strikeouts over 4.1 shutout innings.

This is a resilient pitching staff oozing with talent in the rotation and bullpen, mostly consisting of guys who are either making their professional debut or have barely pitched at High-A before. Since becoming the Yankees’ High-A affiliate, no team at that level has a better ERA (3.73), a lower WHIP (1.24), or more shutouts (40), and while the Somerset Patriots and Florida Complex League Yankees have more team success, the majority of pitching careers in the organization have started or taken off in Hudson Valley.

Renovations were done to make the ballpark an even better experience for the players and visitors as well, and these new state-of-the-art facilities should make their player development that much better. The Yankees pride themselves in being on the cutting edge of analytics and data, with two different Stuff+ models that they’ve developed to not only measure pitch quality but also factor in location and hitter performance.

From Will Warren to Brock Selvidge, many of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects have seen their road to notoriety begin at Heritage Financial Park, and as the Hudson Valley Renegades continue to oversee the development of arms in the organization, they’ll be a hot commodity for scouts and fans alike to watch the top pitchers of tomorrow.

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